A Lego Minecraft game called ‘Brickcraft’ was prototyped and lit – here’s why it never happened


As Minecraft neared its full release in 2011, it was already clear that things were going well. Developer Markus ‘Notch’ Persson had many inspirations for the game, but one comparison people naturally make is with Lego: not necessarily in all of the elements of the game, but in its free-form structure and the sheer fun of building. Something.

Lego itself has been involved in several projects that appear to have subsequently taken inspiration from Minecraft, but in 2011 he was focusing on his own Lego universe. At the same time, Notch and Daniel Kaplan from Mojang were trying to get in touch with the Lego group: they had an idea.

As part of Lego’s 25th anniversary in video games, the company produced a podcast series called Bits’ n Bricks, and the first full episode was released today, focusing on the Lego-Minecraft collaboration that never taken off.

The podcast’s co-host, longtime games reporter Brian Crecente, sums up what the concept behind the game would be. “This idea of ​​Brickcraft, the first concept was basically taking the design and gameplay loop of Minecraft, then add the Lego brick aesthetic to it. And one of the key changes was to move away from that design one by one. So where Minecraft, if you were to convert that completely to Lego bricks, Minecraft wouldn’t be. that these bricks one by one, and what the Lego group and what Mojang wanted was something that included all that kind of eclectic and diverse mix of Lego bricks you can build with, which obviously makes the game a lot more complex. , but it gives you more resources and a variety of shapes, basically anything found in Lego bricks. “

Notch began to work on the basis of this idea. “It was the prototype,” explains Daniel Kaplan. “Like starting with a very, very few pieces and seeing if that works because we knew the Lego bricks were a lot more complex in terms of the placement of the brick units. And that’s something we found that was very stylish. with Minecraft, is that he was just bricks one by one, compared to the Lego Group’s rather complex and extensive brick library. And Markus actually built the first prototype entirely on his own with various Lego bricks as a model for the game. And he managed to create a prototype which generated a terrain with the different Lego bricks and an FPS control camera where you could run and place bricks in various places and have different options to place the bricks .

The code name for the project comes from Napoleon Dynamite, where the owner of the local dojo Rex names his location Rex Kwon Do. In fact, Notch tweeted about his work in 2011 and even shared a potato-grade tease.

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This prototype was given the green light and Mojang hired two coders to start working on it. In six months, it would be over. Lego did not unplug the plug: Mojang did.

Lego has the reputation of being a particularly demanding partner, hyper protective of its family image and of the nature of the blocks themselves. This means that working on a Lego project comes with a tremendous amount of back and forth as assets and ideas are scrutinized by the mothership.

“So our legal team focused on a lot of things that, in the grand scheme of things, wouldn’t matter,” explains Daniel Mathiasen, former employee of Lego and currently Managing Director of FRVR. “Looking back and seeing the epic nature of what Minecraft has become and a driving force in children’s culture in and of itself, like listing the obstacles that the LEGO Group put in place for this would be ridiculous. As strategically, they didn’t. wouldn’t matter at all. And that’s one of the things I am … when I look back on my impact on leadership and could I have done something different? Should I have insisted more on getting it through? But it was like little details that ruined everything and, in the end, it’s understandable, Mojang [thought] we just can’t waste our time on this, the opportunity cost of sitting down and discussing these things. We will never get to what is important, which is having great experiences for the children. “

Or as Kaplan de Mojang puts it, “at one point we felt more like consultants than the ones running the project.” He goes on to give an example of the kind of disagreement that made the game never happen.

“One thing we wanted to do was add scratches to the pieces, the Lego pieces. And that’s something that we had a lot of take back from the Lego group, they were like, oh no we didn’t. can’t show pieces being scratched. And we were like, but all the Lego pieces in every box are scratched. And they had this facade on how they want people to look at them that they were very eager to keep. ”And we wanted to try to represent the Lego bricks as it actually is in kids’ rooms wholesale, or any room, but they were totally against that.

“The questions I had for them, like, okay, when can we get the specs of the minifigs so we can implement them? And we wanted to try and make sure they were animated, like hitchhiking animations. -motion, basically like the Lego movies, you know, stop motion animation. Then you can, in your mind, see that someone was basically holding the Minifigs with their fingers and jumping with them. And we wanted to simulate that as well. in the game. “

As Daniel Mathiasen reminds us, finally all the legal absurdities have become too much. “The way a big company like [Lego] works, is that when the lawyers are in the driver’s seat, it’s really like you have to push really, really hard to get over that. So it became extremely tiring for them to sit in it. “

“I don’t remember all the details,” Kaplan said, “but it was in our office. And I think Notch just said we’ll end this project now. At the end of the day, I think. that Markus is just fed up with all the different rules that didn’t fit his take and our take on how we want to make games. It was just a very different way of looking at it. “

A Lego Minecraft set is not Brickcraft.

(Image credit: Lego Group)

The coda of this story is that after the collapse of the project, Lego briefly considered acquiring Mojang Studios. Microsoft’s interest and the eventual price tag of $ 2.5 billion deterred the company. Funny enough, Lego are now making Lego Minecraft sets (where the pictures in this article are from).

Ronny Scherer, senior director of Lego Games, Asia-Pacific, explains part of why the company decided not to make an acquisition. “Minecraft still wasn’t the success it became, so it was still emerging. And so, of course, there was no guarantee that it would end up becoming the cultural phenomenon that it was. has become. I haven’t and others haven’t. a pretty good job of conveying the potential importance and opportunity that would come with an acquisition like this. not a company with a long history of acquisitions, especially unsuccessful ones […] and it would have been by far the most significant transaction we have ever been involved in. “

There are more details and textures on the ill-fated project in the full podcast episode, which is well worth a listen.

While Brickcraft isn’t taking off, the ideas Mojang had for his future somewhat align with the direction Minecraft has taken with adventure mode. Different biomes would be themed around Lego bread and butter (cities, jungles, pirate ships) and players would go into story mode, or just play freely and create. It’s a shame that Brickcraft never existed. But sheesh: no wonder.


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