The Making of Diversity
How qmagnet made the legendary adventure maps
Dan “qmagnet” Lazenby is the master designer of two adventure maps that have gone down in Minecraft history. Diversity and Diversity 2 are great examples of tight design, ambitious vision and clever building, and as a result they’re some of the most popular maps ever made. In fact, Diversity 2 is holder of a Guinness World Record for the most downloaded map on Curse!
Despite all their success, qmagnet retired as a map maker soon after he completed them. How did a newcomer to the scene make such a splash, and why didn’t he want to keep his spot in the limelight? This is the story behind two of Minecraft’s truly classic maps.
It starts in spring 2013. Back then, qmagnet was fairly new to Minecraft. A new dad and working by day as a plumber, he was enjoying making videos on YouTube and started to look at custom maps. “It didn't take too many to realise there was so much talent in the community,” he tells me.
And that led him to play Jesper The End’s The Code. “It’s probably the best puzzle-adventure map ever made. I was amazed mostly how Jesper was able to take Minecraft and do such complex things with command blocks and spawners, to become something I don't think anyone had seen at the time.”
Being a plumber, qmagnet is no stranger to working with complicated technical things. ”I work with my hands every day,” he says. “Cuts, bruises, stiff muscles, all that fun stuff.” But though he took some computer courses during high school, he had no experience with programming. But, undaunted and personally encouraged by Jesper, he decided to create his own puzzle map, which he called Complex.
It took him just a couple of weeks, and once released it soon attracted lots of encouraging feedback from the community, immediately pushing him into thinking about his next project.
He began to play around with the idea of creating a new take on the ‘complete the monument’ map. “I wasn't a great visual builder and I never liked how those maps I saw were finished, having the player just place blocks in a row and say, ‘I guess I won.’ I wanted the map to decide the player won.”
"I never liked how the player just placed blocks in a row and said, ‘I guess I won.’ I wanted the map to decide the player won. "
And so work began on what became Diversity. Not that he had a fixed idea of what it would be from the start. Planning little, he describes himself as a ‘very organic map maker’. “Whether that's a good thing or bad thing, that seemed to be how I worked best.”
The new map would have a similar objective to typical CTM maps, of going and collecting distant items for a reward. But he started to wonder, what if you didn’t have to do the same challenge for each piece? What if it comprised different genres in one map?
The final map contains 10 different challenges, including parkour, a maze, a dropper level, survival and a boss battle. Wildly varied, they’re also each great examples of their type.
“I have always been influenced by other map makers more than anything else in Minecraft,” says qmagnet. “I had played so many different maps. I knew what I liked, and especially what I found frustrating. Anything I liked, I would try and emulate. Anything I hated, I would try and create gameplay that would change the approach towards something I'd rather play. So I suppose my maps were made for my tastes, but I had hoped others would enjoy them as well.”
After two months’ work, Diversity was done. Soon played by some big YouTubers, it quickly took off and requests for a sequel began coming in. “So naturally, I had to try and give players what they wanted.”
In December 2013, qmagnet started work on Diversity 2. And this time he was serious. “I needed to make something better and more mechanically inspiring above all else.” And if that wasn’t enough, he also wanted the sequel to be entertaining to watch and put more of a focus on cooperative multiplayer.
"I had to try and give players what they wanted. I needed to make something better and more mechanically inspiring above all else."
And yet qmagnet initially set out intending to keep things small and working alone. But in the face of his ambitions and knowing his weaknesses, he soon realised he’d need to take on the help of builders who could do what he couldn’t.
It was a good decision. Five builders worked on Diversity 2, and adding their minds to the mix naturally led to more diversity in the map’s levels. “I honestly could not have created that map alone,” qmagnet says. Jesper the End joined, as well as Adrian Brightmoore, ColdFusionGaming, GoldenTurkey97 and QwertyuiopThePie, each chosen because qmagnet respected their previous work.
But he worked with them in a way that might seem surprising. “I wouldn't let any of them see each other's work until the map was completed. Not because I was trying to be secretive, but because I wanted them to work towards a surprise end result. I wanted to make a project that had blind diversity, where they could express themselves with as much freedom and as little restraint as possible. Then I would fill in the gaps.”
They’d send him their work as a file which qmagnet would then paste into the master map and connect with his work. “Very few discrepancies came up, only failed mechanics which we spent hours fixing. I was blown away by what they contributed. I think they made some of their best for Diversity 2.”
Still, Diversity 2 took eight months to complete, four times longer than the original, and 16 times longer than his first map. qmagnet spent six hours each weekday and 10 hours on both weekend days working on it.
“At first, the idea of creating a massive challenge map with impressive mechanics seems like a fun adventure and learning experience. But after a while, the adventure becomes like a chore,” he says. He sacrificed a lot of his personal and family time to the project, but working with the team kept his motivation going.
When Diversity 2 was out, he could see that he’d achieved his goal. “I created something that I wanted the players to win against the map maker. They finish the map and they feel like they've accomplished quite a task,” he says. But he also enjoys the sense that Diversity 2 feels part of the community. There are custom heads of 650 different Minecraft players placed in the map, and he was invited to talk about it at Minecon 2015.
So why was Diversity 2 his last Minecraft map? “Well, I always said I would only make another Diversity if I thought it would be better. I appreciated the good reception and cherish the experience but I had a difficult time finding the balance between Minecraft, day jobs, free time, family life... So I stepped away.
“But I have passed the torch down to my kids. They watch Minecraft videos every day. And play the game constantly. Just Creative Mode. But maybe one day, they will become mapmakers too.”
For more on how qmagnet made Diversity and its sequel, check out qmagnet’s great development videos!