How we make How we make Minecraft
The story behind Ask Mojang’s less-popular sister series!
Have you heard about our award-nominated (no, really!) series 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Minecraft? It’s been canceled? Drat, I was just about to write a hefty, intricate article about the making of it...
In that case, I just have to tell you the story of how we make How We Make Minecraft (be careful not to get lost in that sentence) – our all-new YouTube series about the development of our favourite sandbox game in the world. Admittedly we may be a little biased.
At the start of the year, The 10 things series was coming to an end, and we needed a new smash hit that wouldn’t involve making up ten lies every month. Since Minecraft is a game for everyone (except maybe Jens, he’s probably had enough goes now), we wanted to make a show for all players, experts, and newbies alike!
We’re always telling you how the game is made, whether it’s what we’ve added/changed in our weekly snapshots, running in-depth articles on this very website, or just babbling on about our part-time jobs. A new series that explained why we make certain design choices felt like the logical next step.
STEP ONE: CHOOSING A SUBJECT AND (UGH) ACTUALLY WRITING AN EPISODE
Did I say “all-new series” earlier? Er, I mean “sort of new series”. At the time of writing this article we’ve released four episodes with distinct topics: from adding new mobs and the crafting system, to art style and the sounds of Minecraft.
Topics are the initial ingredient in the creation of an episode. After picking one we think is interesting, researching it, and badgering the developers for enough sassy gossip to fill seven minutes, I then write the script. This is the worst part of making an episode because I actually have to do something.
After several days of staring at a blinking cursor on a blank document and alt-tabbing into Minecraft Dungeons for “research”, I then have to read the whole script to Adele Major – producer and friendly neighbourhood YouTube wrangler.
Adele gets all the scripts fact-checked, contacts other game studios about appearing in the show, sets up recording sessions for the voiceover, co-directs the voiceover, sets up meetings with the team, shoots down all my bad ideas (a full time job in itself), sends about eight billion emails, gets the episode approved with our long-suffering lawyer Courtney Cohen, and does thousands of other things that I’m forgetting. I’ve forgotten them because I’m a dope who can barely remember what this article I’m writing is about (ham? I hope it’s ham. Tom like ham). But Adele does remember everything that needs doing to make this show every month which is why she’s the producer and you wouldn’t trust me to produce a glass of water.
If Adele doesn’t laugh at a joke or like an idea, I cross it out and have to rewrite it. Here’s what a first draft usually looks like after that meeting:
We do a big rewrite, where Adele and I discuss how we can punch up jokes, remove dud scenes, and cut out all the expensive car chases. Eventually, we have a script that we’re so proud of that we can move on to the next step – the voice actor who narrates the show! He then improvises funnier lines anyway so why do I even bother. :(
STEP TWO: CASTING A NARRATOR THAT SOUNDS LIKE A NICE VERSION OF YOU
If you haven’t already heard the smooth voice narrating our episodes, we recommend you check it out, right here, right now (it’s okay we’ll be here when you come back). We deliberately cast a calming voice that makes for a relaxing juxtaposition with whatever horrifying nonsense we’ve somehow convinced him to say. Will we reveal where we found this narrator and what he looks like in the next two episodes? Perhaaaaaaaaaaaaps (picture me winking as you read this) (sorry if that’s putting you off reading this).
The narrator even sounds charming when he’s pointing out that something I’ve written in the script doesn’t make any sense. Which only happens occasionally. The toughest part is picking the best takes to put in the episodes, because he sounds consistently wonderful on them all, whereas I have a voice that sounds like I was born in an exploding helium factory.
STEP THREE: REVEAL MINECRAFT’S DEEPEST, DARKEST SECRETS
Irritatingly, I’m not allowed to give away all our development secrets. I’m not allowed to talk about B.R.I.A.N the terrifying rage-filled cyborg who we invented to make updates for us (current whereabouts unknown). I’m not allowed to tell you that Minecraft was meant to be called Minced Rafts and was a tasteless mix of white-water rafting racer and beef simulator. In fact, please go back in time and do not read this paragraph. You’re gonna get me into trouble.
If you were hoping to find out that making this show involves tears, fights, angry calls at 3 AM, tearful apologies at 4 AM, then round two of arguing at 5 AM, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed because I’ve signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement making the show is nothing like that!
TOM STONE (Writer, Definition of ‘Self-Indulgence’): It’s actually a really fun show to work on, right Adele?
ADELE MAJOR (Producer, Exhausted): Huh? Why did the format of this article suddenly change?
TOM: I thought I’d do it like an oral history! Those are popular, right? Plus they look much easier to write than a real article.
ADELE: I think it’s a horrible idea. Even worse than your idea to have Jens rap every episode.
TOM: FINE. We’ll be discussing this at 3 AM >:(
Once we’ve finished a script, we ask a Minecraft developer to fact check it for us. Thanks again to Agnes Larson, Cory Scheviak, Brandon Pearce, Jens Bergensten, Chi Wong, and even Jasper Boerstra for helping out, even though that means we’re wasting their time they could have spent working on the game. Does this mean that technically I’m responsible for every bug in Minecraft?
...Hey, let’s watch another episode!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also thank Marianna Graham and her studio Razzleberries who get all the glorious in-game footage for us. And never ask follow-up questions no matter how bizarre our requests are.
STEP FOUR: HAVE PEOPLE MAKE COOL ANIMATIONS FOR YOU
Now we have a script, a calming voice, and a bunch of angry developers because our facts were either made up or just completely wrong. What are we missing? Pretty pictures and awesome animation!
Enter Brikk, a Swedish animation studio. Technically they’re the reason Mobbo was born, but try not to hold that against them, because they’re brilliant. I fill my scripts with images of what I want certain scenes to look like. Sadly, I possess little artistic skill and a bizarre infatuation with Microsoft Paint. Is this why Jasper Boerstra, lead artist of Minecraft, won’t talk to me anymore? Luckily, the brilliant animators at Brikk (Philip Engström, Kristian Andersson, Josef Andersson, and their producer Sofia Bohman) change my "designs" into something that won’t make you wish you didn’t have eyes. Thanks again, Brikk!
Watch new episodes of How We Make Minecraft every month by subscribing to our YouTube channel. This month’s episode is either going to be about caves and cliffs, or about how much salt the developers like on their fries. I honestly can’t remember. Subscribe to the channel and let me know!