Pretty Polly Pixels

57 Digital spill their skin pack secrets!

Loyal, long-term readers of (those who send Marsh truckloads of fan mail and me ’WRITING FOR DUMMIES’) might remember this interview Marsh did with 57 Digital last year. Back then, they spoke about the cool companion apps the team made for Minecraft!

Now Jamie Chapman and Luke Dixon, the co-owners of 57 Digital, have started developing awesome content for the Minecraft marketplace as well!

Their speciality? Skin packs! They've got something for everyone, whether you want to play Minecraft as a bird, dog, cat, or - my personal favourite - burgers and fries!

Wait, what?

These tasty skins are from their new pack We Go Together Like... “That was a spin-off of [earlier 57 Digital skin pack] the Foodies pack,” says Jamie.

“That was something different that we’ve never done before, where we’ve tried to merge a pack into a different pack - combining elements of different skins.”

A lot of the fun of the pack is seeing the different combinations Jamie and Luke came up with. Coffee and Donut! Eggs and Bacon! Sorry if you're reading this article on an empty stomach!

“I think it worked pretty well,” says Jamie. “It looks pretty cool and Luke did a great job on those. His involvement on that was way more than mine.”

“You did the key art though!” interjects Luke.

“I did the key art, but he did the skins, which was most of the work!” Jamie insists.

Truth is, it's tough for 57 Digital to say who does what, because they both collaborate on everything. They're a two-person team making skins, adventures and all sorts for the Minecraft marketplace!

“We have a Trello board which is basically a huge ideas list,” Jamie tells me. “Then we go through it pack-by pack-and come up with concepts, do some design work, see how it feels. It grows from there.”

“The Doggy Pack, for example,” suggests Luke. “We would look online for the most popular breeds of dogs. We then look for images of those breeds, and then I’d start trying to create a skin - a rough example - to see how it looks in the game.”

“Then [there’s] a collaborative effort between myself and Jamie, of little tweaks that we could add to make it look more like the dog that it’s supposed to be.”

They constantly jump into Minecraft to see how the skin looks in-game, considering how the skin looks from different angles. I think it's a great pack and I don't even like dogs (send your hate mail to the usual address!).

With their food mash-up, 'We Go Together Like...', the concept for the skin pack started out very different. “The original idea was to do individual skins,” says Luke. “So Burger and Fries would have been two separate skins.”

“Originally, they were meant to be worn by two people,” explains Jamie. “So one person would be the Burger, one would be the Fries, and then that would be the concept. But not everyone plays together; some people play single player.” Thus the idea evolved into combined skins, ones you could enjoy without needing a friend.

Good idea! Because I can picture the potential problems now: Me wearing the cookies skin and Emily insisting on wearing the burger skin even though burgers and cookies don't go together, Emily, you culinary miscreant.

Jamie and Luke take how people play Minecraft into consideration when developing Marketplace content.

How people play Minecraft, with or without friends, is a big consideration when developing Marketplace content. “Because,” Jamie says, “everyone plays Minecraft differently. Some people play solo, [others] play two-player, [some play in] massive groups, so it’s always something to bear in mind.”

“A perfect example,” says Luke “is Doctor Splice's Lab Escape” This is a world 57Digital released on Marketplace in which you have to fight through the laboratory of the evil Dr Splice – and Jamie and Luke made it simple to play in both single- and multiplayer.

“If Player Two joined but the first player was on Chapter Two,” explains Luke, “they would have a button that would re-group everyone so everyone could continue from that point.” Perfect for drop-in, drop-out multiplayer. Easy! Now all you have to do is fight your way through Dr Splice's evil DNA-splicing experiments! Er, not so easy!

As a team known for their skin packs, Dr Splice's Lab Escape is a very different piece of content; a standalone narrative campaign in Minecraft. Can we expect more of these? “Yeah, definitely!” says Jamie. “We started out making Skin Studio which is how we got into the Minecraft stuff and obviously on the back of that we started making skins for the Marketplace.

“But we saw the cool and interesting things that everyone else was doing on the Marketplace. All these small experiences, mini-games, etc. So we wanted to try that and see if we could actually create something ourselves.”

“We really enjoyed doing it, and it’s really nice actually being back into Minecraft again,” Jamie continues. “Because, obviously, developing Skin Studio - our mobile app - we spent a lot of time out of Minecraft creating tools for other users, so for us to be back in Minecraft creating things with redstone and command blocks and all of that good stuff... it’s quite nice to be doing that again.

“We’ll definitely be doing a lot more of that, because it’s really fun.”

And what about skin packs? Can we expect more mash-ups of existing 57Digital packs? “I think we'll probably do some follow on ones from packs that have done well,” says Jamie. “But we want to keep it fresh and come up with new ideas.

“The list of ideas we’ve got is absolutely huge - there’s so much to get through, so we’ll keep working away at the list!”

You can find all of 57Digital's skin packs/worlds on the Minecraft Marketplace. Just click this link on your Minecraftin’ device to be taken straight there.

Written By
Tom Stone