Roblox has a reputation for turning out blocky, Lego-esque creations that suit its name, but artist and designer Everest Pipkin (opens in new tab) has managed to create an ethereal aesthetic out of it.
The latest installment in Pipkin's Roblox Dream Diary (opens in new tab) realm doesn't look a thing like Roblox as most people know it. It's not a zany multiplayer game with a low-poly aesthetic, and it's genuinely lovely to look at. Not that Roblox is an ugly game by default, but as Pipkin rightly pointed out (opens in new tab), this kind of detailed art is rarely seen in the Roblox community. They were only able to pull it off thanks to a range of custom assets and settings built on top of the usual blocks and game modes, as they explained to GamesRadar+ over Discord.
"The Roblox editor is a remarkable piece of technology," Pipkin says. "Despite being quite easy to use, it still very much feels like a game editor along the lines of something like Unreal or Unity, but with an incredible array of considered built-in parts and tools that immediately allow you to construct spaces. These range from a voxel-based terrain generator, to dialog systems, to the 'toolbox,' Roblox's version of an asset store, which is full of decades of often-broken or buggy models, meshes and audio to play with - much of it originally made by hobbyists, casual developers, and children.
"However, the ease of use of the default tools in Roblox do push a consistent aesthetic, which tends to be toylike, low-poly, and plastic," they add. "This aesthetic has some interesting qualities in and of itself, but there is nothing that says you're stuck with it; digging into the depths of the editor (as well as scripting, asset import, and custom camera settings) allow you make games that feel like they are built in a wide variety of engines or alternative tools."
At first glance, I'd much sooner assume that Pipkin's Dream Diary was made in something like Dreams rather than Roblox, and not just because of one particular entry. The screenshots that they shared with us feature a range of aesthetics and environments, and none of them are crying out for a blocky man in a big hat.
This dream diary entry has been in the works since November, and surprisingly, Pipkin hasn't been working with Roblox much longer than that. They find that Roblox is more accessible than most engines or game creators, especially when building social or multiplayer games, since the platform itself handles most of the backend server-type stuff, giving creators more room to focus on how their game feels and allowing unique art styles like this to take center stage.
One downside of this arrangement is that games can't be exported off the Roblox platform. This makes it perfect for "short, low-stakes multiplayer worlds, built quickly and towards experiential joy with others," Pipkin says, but it also means that Roblox games will disappear if Roblox, which has yet to actually turn a profit despite its explosive popularity among younger generations, ever goes offline. In the case of this dream diary, however, Pipkin says that's almost a feature. "I'd be very wary of building something to last forever there," they say. "It feels like a good fit for the dream diary work, in part because those memories are already ephemeral."
Speaking of Dreams creations: this photorealistic jungle could pass for a PS5 game, if not a PS6 game.