LEGO® Digital Designer Replaced by LEGO BrickLink Studio as the LEGO Group’s official Digital Building App 

It feels a bit like The LEGO Group is tidying up the house in preparation for its 90th Birthday later this year: Last night we heard about the merging of Bricks and Pieces into Pick a Brick, and this was followed hours with news that LEGO® Digital Designer – a stalwart of many fans of digital building – is going to have support discontinued, to be replaced by ongoing development of LEGO BrickLink Studio, as the group’s officially supported digital building application.

Studio has been on the rise over the last few years, particularly with the rise of interest in LEGO building during the pandemic, its integration with BrickLink and the Bricklink Designers Program. On the other hand, LEGO Digital designer has been getting fewer and fewer updates with new elements over recent years.

Indeed while the LDD page will be closed from 31st January, the news that it is no longer supported is now apparent:

Whil historically, a version of LDD has been used in-house, I would think that many new designers will have cut their teeth on Studio, prior to joining the company

Indeed, Studio is now welcoming new users migrating over from LDD, in preparation for its shutdown:

At the end of January, there will be a special episode of the podcast ‘Bits N’Bricks’ celebrating the legacy of LDD and the Origins of Studio.

Here is the press release:

The LEGO Digital Designer website will shut down at the end of January. 
BrickLink Studio welcomes LEGO Digital Designer users. 

Billund, Denmark –  January 12th, 2022: Today, the LEGO Group announces that BrickLink Studio will replace LEGO Digital Designer as the official virtual LEGO building software going forward. The LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) website will close on January 31st, after which time LDD will no longer be available for download. While downloaded versions of the LDD application will continue to work, people are encouraged to download BrickLink Studio, import their LDD files, and use Studio for 3D LEGO building files, and use Studio for 3D LEGO building. 

LEGO Digital Designer was released in 2004 as the LEGO Group’s 3D building tool. LDD pioneered real-time rendering of LEGO bricks, virtual brick connectivity, and the compact LEGO Exchange file format (LXF) which made LEGO models built in LDD light and portable. It has played a prominent role in various offerings, from LEGO Factory, LEGO Design By ME, LEGO video games and movies. Now after almost twenty years since its conception and eighteen years in distribution, LEGO Digital Designer will retire and pass the mantle to BrickLink Studio as the officially supported and maintained 3D building application. 

“Our initial vision for LEGO Digital Designer back in 2002 was to make building on a computer accessible and fun for children – to play with and share their creations online.” said Ronny Scherer, producer of the first-generation LEGO Digital Designer. “I am so impressed with how the community of creators has evolved. Builders—enthusiasts and professionals alike—have used LDD in wonderful and unexpected ways. They took ownership and created the most amazing virtual LEGO models and have grown the virtual building ecosystem. I am so proud of the team behind LDD and the greater virtual building community. They have truly inspired a generation of digital LEGO creators.”  

Tormod Askildsen, head of AFOL Engagement for the LEGO Group, has been intrigued by digital building since using LDD to bring alternate model instructions for the LEGO Factory Hobby Train set to market in 2007. “When the LEGO Group acquired BrickLink,” Askildsen said, “one of the things that impressed and inspired us was their purposeful development of the Studio software. For digital-building to be not only a nice feature for some, but a meaningful part of many people’s LEGO building experience, it must be an integrated and useful part of both the design, the building and the sharing experience. The talented team behind Studio see this clearly and continue relentlessly to further innovate and improve the Studio experience”. 

In 2014, then-independent BrickLink created the BrickLink Studio software as a free virtual LEGO building tool. Studio was built on the industry-standard Unity gaming engine and is designed to integrate with the BrickLink Marketplace. Its .io file format is based on the fan community-developed LDraw standard with part connectivity data added to give digital bricks clutch power. Users can import LEGO models built in LDD, LDraw, and other popular tools. Studio includes useful features like model stability checking, built-in photo-realistic rendering, and an integrated instructions maker. 

“Studio was created because at BrickLink, there is a great belief in how digital LEGO building could unlock true potential of everyone’s creativity by lowering the entry barriers and motivating people to inspire each other,” says Casper Thingholm, Head of BrickLink. “Going forward, the Studio team will continue to focus on making digital building as intuitive as physical building, and encourage even more builders to share their creations to inspire and help each other.” 

Maintaining two platforms which serve similar purposes feels a bit redundant, and I can see that focussing efforts on Studio will have some definite advantages, particularly as they continue to develop features such as the mosaic maker, and element designer.

Coming hot on the tails of the news that the group will be bringing Pick a Brick and Bricks&Pieces together, it feels as though there is a bit of rationalisation going on.

Its just like that week before the big family celebration, when mum and dad start tidying up the house with extreme predudice, resulting in the hiring of storage units and mini-skips. I wonder what elese the group have in store…

In an ideal world, we might see other areas of redundancy that interfere with the fan experience coming together – such as the VIP programs for Certified Stores and LEGO Brand Retail becoming unified.

What do you hope to see? why not leave your thoughts below, and until next time,

Play Well!

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