Meet the friendly folk behind our apps!
Say hello to 57Digital, makers of cool companion apps
Jamie and Luke never actually meant to make a Minecraft app. Certainly not the official one.
“It was a couple of days after Christmas when I didn’t really have much to do,” says Jamie Chapman, one half of dev studio 57Digital. “I came across Minecraft, which looked pretty interesting, downloaded it for PC and, like most people, became hooked quite quickly – I was up until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning.”
Some amount of obsessive Minecrafting later, and Jamie realised he needed something - a way of quickly referencing recipes and other useful information, without alt-tabbing to the Wiki. And so, after inveigling his biz partner Luke Dixon into the scheme, the Minecraft Explorer app was born. Well, almost.
“I think we probably spent a week just playing the game and not making the app!” says Luke. “Every time a new update came out we’d dip back into the game ‘just to check it out’ and then half a day later we was still playing it. We had to start being a little bit strict and so we could actually keep up with the dev work!”
Both are still big fans of survival mode - “I like the satisfaction of knowing you’ve really earned everything in your house,” says Jamie - and they even used to run their own server until some of its moderators went rogue and trapped everyone in a prison when they respawned. “It just ended up as one giant mess,” Jamie recalls, laughing. “But it was a lot of fun.”
Luckily, their obsession with the game has paid off - to the tune of 10 million downloads for their apps to date.
“The information you get from the app is very, very succinct and to the point,” says Jamie. “The Wiki is still the place to go if you’re interested in the entire history of an item - but our focus is very much on a need-to-know basis, so you can do whatever you need to do very quickly.”
It’s pretty handy. So handy, that Mojang approved it as the official companion app. Since then, Jamie and Luke have released a few more official apps.
“The main app we have is the Minecraft Skin Studio,” says Jamie. “You can either design your own skin in the app by using the touch interface or you can download one of the existing community skins. We’ve got 1.4 million skins in there at the minute to choose from, so there’s quite a collection. And the variety is crazy; you’ve got all sorts of crazy creations and different takes on mobs.”
“Which kind of leads into our next app,” says Luke. “Papercraft Studio basically lets you to turn any of those 1.4 million skins into an actual Papercraft. It prints out onto cardboard or paper and then the user makes that into an actual model. You can do that with your own skin or any that are available on the platform. There are also mobs as well - so you can make pretty much any mob you like!”
Their latest app is still a work in progress: an editing tool designed to help you create Add-Ons for Pocket and Windows 10 Edition or resource packs for PC.
“We had the first release of Add-Ons Studio only a couple of months ago,” says Jamie. “It’s focused on making resource packs for entities, so, for example, you can change the texture of a Creeper in the game. We support between around 50 mobs, with more to come! The next step will be to start looking at changing the shapes of entities and also the behaviours. At the minute we have a 3D texture editor, so you can pan around the 3D model of a mob and draw on it directly. It feels quite natural to use, but we want to add loads more features - Skin Studio has a crazy amount of tools and we’ve not yet brought them over to Add-On Studio.”
It seems that the more Minecraft they play, the more ideas they get for apps. If there’s a better excuse to keep playing until 2am we’re yet to hear it.