Spring blocks


When we meet, Mårten Brügge­mann and Frida Sch­laug have just re­turned from GDC in San Fran­cisco – an odd place for a com­pany that doesn’t strictly make games, per­haps, es­pe­cially given the fo­cus on VR at this year’s event. The two come from very dif­fer­ent back­grounds: Sch­laug from cor­po­rate app de­vel­op­ment, and Brügge­mann from tra­di­tional game mak­ing (he was lead game de­signer at Mag­icka2 de­vel­oper Pieces In­ter­ac­tive). Both have had to make ad­just­ments to their ways of work­ing in the pro­duc­tion of Toca Blocks.

“We’re so fo­cused on the core ex­pe­ri­ence,” Brügge­mann tells us. “You can’t re­ally hide be­hind good graph­ics, be­cause the kids will see through it. In tra­di­tional games you have a lot of in­ter­ac­tion mod­els that you know work, but when de­sign­ing for kids, it might be the first time they’ve ever used an in­ter­face like this. It should be in­tu­itive and wel­com­ing, even for a per­son who’s never used a dig­i­tal toy be­fore.”

Toca Blocks cer­tainly does that. It’s snappy, sat­is­fy­ing stuff, and the bar of in­ven­tory icons – one with flick­er­ing colours, an­other slowly ro­tat­ing, oth­ers with blink­ing eyes – begs to be touched. The com­par­i­son with Minecraft is ob­vi­ous, but there’s a dis­tinct nod to Su­perMario

Maker too in what Brügge­mann de­scribes as sit­ting some­where be­tween a world builder and a level ed­i­tor.

There are also ref­er­ences to the phys­i­cal world. “I re­ally wanted a tac­tile feel to the blocks,” Brügge­mann says. “We worked a lot on mak­ing it fun to just play around with, mak­ing the ac­tions feel re­ally tan­gi­ble. You don’t re­ally feel it with other dig­i­tal toys – even Lego’s own dig­i­tal prod­ucts don’t cap­ture the feel­ing of snap­ping two Le­gos to­gether. It can be hard to trans­late it.” Toca Boca may have done so here, but else­where within the com­pany a team is work­ing on do­ing the op­po­site – turn­ing dig­i­tal toys into phys­i­cal ones.

While some com­bos in Toca Blocks have pre­dictable end re­sults, pat­terned blocks can be blended for­ever, pro­duc­ing a dif­fer­ent re­sult each time

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