Karsten Lund, Creative Director of LEGO Builder’s Journey, on playing, adding and diversifying with bricks
Interview with Karsten Lund, Managing Director of Light Brick Studios and Creative Director on The LEGO Builder’s Journey
Founded by the LEGO Group in the hope of creating new and original virtual products, Light Brick Studios has set itself a mission: to create more popular video games around the iconic bricks of the company around the world. The LEGO Builder’s Journey by Light Brick Studios originally premiered on Apple Arcade and gained critical acclaim as it won numerous accolades throughout the 2019 awards season for mobile titles. Two years after its launch, the game finally broke its strings of exclusivity and made its way to both Nintendo Switch and Steam. Goomba Stomp had the chance to interview Karsten Lund, Managing Director of Light Brick Studios and Creative Director on LEGO Builders Journey, after launching the game’s latest ports. In our interview with Lund, the director touched on topics of diversity, creativity, LEGO brand loyalty, and more.
(Please note that changes have been made for brevity and clarity in the following interview.)
GS: The LEGO Company has always presented its products as a family experience, but what has been the main inspiration behind the story of LEGO Builder’s Journey? From the team’s free space, what is the story of LEGO Builder’s Journey really about?
Lund: The story is ultimately about play and the idea that we should spend more time playing together. When we play we are creative and imaginative, we invent new things and discover a lot about ourselves. It is healthy for people of all ages to play more.
GS: When I reviewed the game, one idea I brought up was that the characters in the game are both genderless and ageless. Although the characters look like a father and a son, they can truly be interpreted as anyone. The LEGO company has always strived to be as inclusive as possible in terms of gender and accessibility. Did Light Brick Studios think about this when developing the characters and storyline for LEGO Builder’s Journey?
Lund: We wanted to create a non-verbal experience where players interpret the layers of the narrative and get their own meaning. We designed the character to support the ideas of this story and let the player put their own emotions into it. The game is neither gender nor age, so hopefully players will immerse themselves in the story and reflect on the message of the game.
GS: How did Light Brick Studios ensure that LEGO Builder’s Journey remains concerned with keeping the brand’s key philosophies intact? Was there a creative challenge to make sure the game stays as accurate as possible for playing with real LEGOs?
Lund: We had to dig deeper into the actual choices you make when playing with bricks, not just the audio, visuals, and haptics, but also the choice of bricks and level layout. The challenge was to make it as intuitive as playing with bricks, with minimal guidance. We tested the game a lot to get the meditative feeling of flow in the game.
GS: The latest port of the game to Nintendo Switch and Steam comes with a few additional levels. Why add additional content to the game now? Are we these unfinished levels or did the team develop the game for some other specific reason?
Lund: We received so much positive feedback about the game, and we wanted to highlight certain elements of it and make it a stronger version of the story. Some levels are inserted into the original experiences and others are added at the end. We believe we have successfully improved the game without losing the essence of what Builder’s journey Was at the origin.
GS: Did the team have any particular LEGO sets or products that inspired some of the game’s levels and design choices? Do they have any favorite pieces that they couldn’t use?
Lund: We are inspired by all the master builders who use elements in new and creative ways. If you take a close look at the models in the game, you’ll notice a lot of cool uses for items, like sausages for tree branches and cherries as leaves. Building dioramas on this microscopic scale has really sparked our imaginations. Sometimes, creatively coercing yourself actually frees you. I think playing with LEGO bricks is like that. You use the elements you have to go where your imagination takes you.
GS: The LEGO Company works with dozens of different original and permanent intellectual properties that are known around the world. Does the team at Light Brick Studios want to tackle one of the properties they are working with for an adventure and puzzle game that looks like LEGO Builder’s Journey? Maybe Batman, Star Wars or even the City brand that has spread to other games (LEGO City Undercover)? Or does the studio stick to entirely original projects?
Lund: The Brick is the star of the show in Builder’s journey, and currently we have no plans for external IP addresses. We want to create original content and explore innovative ways to use the LEGO brick in new types of playful experiences.
GS: Can you tell us something about the Light Brick Studios sequel? Do you have a final message for our audience?
Lund: I can’t really go into details at this time, but I can say that we are working on some new games. We have a lot of fun with it and can’t wait to show you what we’re up to.
LEGO Builder’s Journey from Light Brick Studios is now available on Nintendo Switch and Steam. For our review of the Nintendo Switch version of LEGO Builder’s Journey, you can check out our review of the game here! Special thanks to Karsten Lund for taking the time to answer our questions.