Bionicle: Mask of Power, a fan-made game based on the Lego toy line, is coming to Steam soon after receiving instructions from Lego. This 3D open world adventure predictably has a lot of work behind it and an even bigger plot.
Despite being a small fan project, it draws from some major influences. The developers of the quote game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nier: Automata, and Horizon Zero Dawn as inspiration for the project. While those may sound like some lofty aspirations, the developers believe that the slightly niche Bionicle IP is worth the effort. In fact, they believe Bionicle is as influential as the games the studio is drawing to a certain extent.
“Horizon Zero Dawn basically Bionicle without the branding,” Jocool, creator of Bionicle: Masks of Power, told Digital Trends.
Digital Trends spoke with two team members from the Kanohi Development Team – project creators Jordan “Jocool1231” Willis and Zachary “ASCII” Ledbetter, project lead – about the origin and details of the game. play for the fans, as well as the amount of work that has gone into it. Just like Legos, the game is the result of many pieces put together.
So how did the project come about? And how do you get a group together?
Willis: Okay, this is going to be a long story. So I’ve always wanted to make a game or do something related to Bionicle, but I never figured it out. My brother knows how to code, and I asked him to teach me, but he always had too many difficulties. In 2016, my family had a house fire and we had to move out of the house for a bit. During the months we lived at the hotel, I started collecting possessions and learning how to put things together with the Bionicle Toa. When we moved into a makeshift apartment, my brother eventually taught me how to code with the Bionicle game I wanted to create.
As of November 2016, TTV hosted the “Convergence of Chroniclers”, a large compilation of Bionicle projects in progress, and I submitted my video showcasing the game, which attracted a lot of attention. I basically made a call asking for help with the game and the team went from there. At the same time, a member of TTV, LJ, left and made a video showing the game on his big solo channel.
Ledbetter: I’d say that’s where things really changed because his videos appealed to a lot of current leaders for the project, myself included. When I first saw it, I was a game developer for a couple of years and was coming back to Bionicle, so I thought, “Yes, I can do something here.”
After the explosion of new project members, we realized that we had a lot of skills among people. Towards the end of 2017, we noticed a lot of fundamental problems stemming from Jo’s first-time programming experience… but all of them were fixable. [he laughs]. So we sat down and decided to basically restart the project with higher quality, and that’s basically where 2.0 started.
Willis: Now the timeline gets weird… 2.0 went through pre-production and I decided that I still wanted to work on something more than just document it. So I started working on Heritage version, basically the original version. My reasoning is that there is only one game that is constantly being updated for fans to play while we wait for 2.0. We accomplished that in May with a bunch of new features added like auto leveling, more item options, and carefully updated combat.
Ledbetter: Yes, and over the past six months, after a year and a half of preparing for the ultimate 2.0 vision, we’ve finished the document.
Has it been difficult to work with everyone online since the group expanded until now?
Willis: Yes, we are an international team and a lot of people have different schedules and different time zones. Like, there’s a group of people I call the “night crew” that are just Europeans and always come at night on my hour. So with them, we always leave messages like “I need you to do this, because I need it for something else I need to do” and just hope they do it. Plus, we’re all unpaid volunteers doing this in our spare time.
Ledbetter: Yes, it’s like writing a letter instead of an actual chat. So there’s a challenge there, but we make it work.
Are negotiations on using IP with Lego easy?
Ledbetter: Well, disclaimer, we never claimed that we got permission from Lego. We spoke to a manager at Lego about the release, and they couldn’t give us specifics, but they did provide rules and guidelines for how we present our products. So as long as we follow those, there won’t be any problems. They’re really comfortable about it as long as we don’t monetize or use logos and other things.
With how vast the Bionicle lore is, have you guys done a lot of research on the game yet?
Both: Oh, yes.
Willis: I’ve learned more Bionicle lore than I ever wanted to.
Ledbetter: We definitely have some Bionicle fans on the team and others are more fanatical about the vague mythology of this whole thing.
Willis: And some don’t even know what’s going on. They’re just here to make a video game.
Ledbetter: Yes, we certainly had to do a lot of research because when planning the missions we had to keep in mind the timelines and the order of events to know if it was appropriate. For every mission, we’re testing the timeline to see if it can work anywhere.
Are there any gaming inspirations you guys actually draw from?
Ledbetter: I would say that the inspirations that strongly influenced the project were Breath of the Wild, Nier: Automata, Monster hunter, and Horizon Zero Dawn.
Willis: Yes, Horizon basically Bionicle without the trademark.
Is there a problem with the scope of making an open world game?
Ledbetter: Getting the scope of the world is a bit of a challenge. But for now, we’ve got all the elements of size and range in place, so we’re pretty comfortable with it. It’s not small, not big, can’t say the details yet. But if you think Zelda 3D titles, we’re in that category.
Are you following pre-made stories or remixes?
Willis: With 2.0, we’re trying to stick to canon and piece everything together. With Bionicle 2001, the game is told through comic books, games, and plays. We’re trying to put that together while adding our own stuff to fill the void.
Ledbetter: Yes, Bionicle is a big multimedia IP, so not every material is consistent. We had to consider a lot before deciding on the presentations and implementations we had to go with. There are definitely some details that don’t make for a good game, so certain things have to be tweaked. First of all, we have to make sure that the game is fun.
You know there are 12 good masks with an established story of how Toa got them, but that still leaves 43 others, so….
Can you give us the scoop on any new exploration or combat additions in this release?
Ledbetter: We’re pretty tight-lipped at the moment so we can reveal the demo in advance. We will show some gameplay sooner than you think.
I would say that for gameplay, we wanted to focus on the design pillars of good combat, that’s where Nier affect. Join the platform, so Toa have great masking powers and mobility that allows them to get around in a fun way. We also focus on exploration and puzzle solving. It’s half the player’s ability and half your interaction with the environment.
Willis: There’s a lot of fun, puzzle and move wise things you can do with masks. Float, speed, illusion, mind control. Lots of interesting things.
Ledbetter: And like in Breath of the Wild, There are solutions to a lot of platform challenges and obstacles. We want to make choices in dealing with challenges.
Willis: If you want a little preview, you can play Masks of Power Legacy. It’s not representative of the quality this release will achieve, but it’s a good preview of what we’re trying to accomplish.
Ledbetter: Yes, at this point we consider Heritage as a demo of new technology.
You can check more on Mask of power, Download Heritageand find each game’s social media developer on Team Kanohi’s website. Be sure to enter the wish list Bionicle: Mask of Power On steam and follow the group on Twitter to update.