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How The Legend of Mata Nui Was Found

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A few months ago, there was some discussion in the comments of this video about who found Bionicle: The Legend of Mata Nui.




The thing is, Bennet/mcdude451 isn't technically wrong, but the full story of how it all played out is long, messy, and kind of hilariously dumb. I definitely don't blame Liam Robertson for not knowing it. Since I'm pretty much the only person who both saw the actual start to all this, and has also been significantly involved in it to the current day, I feel like I'm probably in the best position to tell this story. Buckle up.


2001 - 2017: ROADS TO NOWHERE


People had been curious about LoMN pretty much ever since it was canceled. This would eventually turn into people outright trying to hunt it down.


In May 2004, an anonymous person only known as "Deep Brick" sent screenshots and other information about the game to Mask of Destiny. Deep Brick's copy of the game was the from the very end of development, and would be the closest look at the game we would have for years.


In 2010, Deep Brick recorded footage of the game (as far into it as they could get, before running into a softlock), and again passed it to the Mask of Destiny admin Mark/RedQuark for posting on YouTube. They also sent some small sample files from the game, but were afraid of sharing the entire game, should LEGO object to it. This was a wealth of new information, and the first time we'd seen the game in motion. People had wanted the game before, but now they really wanted it.


There were a lot of persistent rumors about the game. Common myths included there being 8 beta discs, sometimes said to be packaged in with sets, etc - none of which were true. Occasionally someone would claim to have the game, or otherwise fabricate some information about it, to get attention or just for the sake of trolling.


People tried contacting developers or other people who potentially had the game, but this usually led nowhere. Fans all-too-eager to get their hands on the game turned away people who actually may have had it.




For a good chunk of 2017, this forum was offline for maintenance, but had a shoutbox on the main page so people could keep in touch in the meantime. This shoutbox wasn't backed up or archived as far as I'm aware, but I have some screenshots.


July 17, 2017:




July 20, 2017:




















Darvell had also previously replied to someone on BZPower (though his name wasn't given), among many other people who'd approached him privately. However, his own copy - from October 10th, 2001 (the date the cancellation officially happened and many people were laid off) - remains lost to this day. We'll get to that later.


Months later, on September 22, 2017, Bennett again entered the shoutbox, this time claiming he had the game. Unfortunately I can't find full logs/screenshots of this, but I do have some reactions to it from a Discord server:



(somebody) 09/22/2017
amused by the dude in the rru chatbox claiming to have tlomn
i hope they actually do post a screenshot, it'd be incredible if they tried to fake one somehow

(somebody else) 09/22/2017
@(somebody) Is that the unreleased Bionicle game?
"you know, I'm not going to be sending out pictures right this moment but I will prove it and even if you don't believe me I know I have it which is all that matters"
I'll LOL'ing
This is great


The gist of it was Bennett was claiming to have the game, but when asked for any shred of proof (I recall asking at some point if he could even just screenshot the disc contents and/or installation directory), he refused to give it. That, plus how many times this sort of thing had happened before, led everybody to dismiss it as just another person lying to get attention.


On October 5th, 2017, Bennett entered the shoutbox again, but it went the same way as last time - people asked for any kind of proof, he refused to give it, and so he was dismissed as a troll. Again, I can't find any direct logs of this, but there was discussion of it in a Discord server:



(another person) 10/05/2017
So what's going on here? What this about a copy of LOMN in the mail?


(yet another person) 10/05/2017
Some kid trying to gain credit for a fabrication.
I've told him to shut it until he provides proof.


At this point, someone who was in Bennett's own Discord server posted some logs from it, before getting kicked. I'll post some snippets from them, since they give some more insight on the timing of things:



mcdude451 - 09/20/2017



(a person) - 09/23/2017
Our good Mcdude has procurred a CD, now in transit, that purportedly contains the last version of the game.


(another person) - 09/23/2017
Do we know who it came from?


(a person) - 09/23/2017
Yes, though I'd rather not say at present.
But it's from someone who worked on it.


(another person) - 09/23/2017
This is exciting


(a person) - 09/23/2017
Very much so



(another person) - 09/23/2017
rubs hands so when is that CD planned to arrive? Any ship tracking info? breathes heavily


mcdude451 - 09/23/2017
oh hey i didnt see these msgs


(a person) - 09/23/2017


mcdude451 - 09/23/2017
yo yo yoo
also @(another person) no tracking info but hopefully within a week or two which sounds long but this person probably has a life so i would assume shipping out is not their biggest thing rn(edited)
im just guessing he could have like shipped it out a day ago and it might be here tomorrow but again i have no idea and he's already sending it to me so i dont want to bug him and ask him because that would be super rude
im still trying to figure out what would be the best pc to get
windows 98/2000 era


However, I don't think most people actually bothered even reading those logs at the time - I know I didn't. Maybe if they had, they would've given it second thought, but then again, everybody was so turned off by how Bennett/mcdude451 was acting in the shoutbox that they dismissed it and moved on with their day. And for a long while, that was the end of Bennett's involvement, as far as everyone knew.




In late January 2018, a completely separate chain of events was kicked off. It's a story in and of itself, but not one I imagine some people would like me telling, so I'll cut to one of the things it resulted in: in early February, the BioMediaProject was anonymously emailed a link to a build of LoMN, Alpha 0.006, from July 24, 2001. It's unknown who it was that actually provided this build of the game, but at long last, it'd happened. It was a much earlier build of the game than the final build Deep Brick had shown, but this turned out to be a positive - much content had been cut or redesigned between the two builds, and if it were not for us getting this alpha build, we likely never would have known it existed. 


Interest then turned to fixing bugs and crashes in this build, to make it as playable as possible. While I initially wasn't involved in this, I eventually started poking at it around late Febuary-ish, and started making fixes myself. A team organically formed, and we kept hammering out dents in the game.


At some point, we got into talks with Liam Robertson, who decided to make a video about the game - the one linked at the top of this post. As part of his research on it, he started talking to some of its developers, including Darvell... Who, in April 2018, sent him the final build, from October 23d, 2001. Liam R then sent this final build to us.


Talking with Liam R, the decision was made to release this final build at the same time as Liam's video - it wouldn't take long, we could make some patches to make it more playable in the meantime, and it'd be a cool surprise. As it turns out, life happened, and Liam's video ended up taking about a month to create - which meant a month of us working on patching the final build in secret. It was all hands on deck, and a lot of fun, though we were all itching to release it to the world.


(An aside - during the wait, some folks on the team took it upon themselves to create a weird meme-y ARG teasing it - which I thought was a mostly bad idea, and it did indeed almost blow up in our faces once or twice, but it also gave me a chance to do this, so whatever lol)


Then on April 28th, 2018, 2 weeks before Liam R's video would end up being posted, Bennett/mcdude451 showed up in the public Discord channel. Remember, nobody outside the team knew we had the final/October 23rd build at this point.


All of these screenshots are from now-public channels in a large Discord server, so I'll leave usernames intact this time.












Now, here's what was happening in the (then-private) team channel...
















































Bennett/mcdude451 got a physical disc of the final October 23rd build in the mail from an anonymous developer, in October 2017.


He bragged about it on RRU, refused to show any proof, and got dismissed as a troll. He did, however, send a cue/bin disc image of the game to Darvell - one of its programmers, who'd lost his own copy.




The alpha build from July 2001 made its way to the internet in February 2018 through an entirely unrelated series of events. If Bennett had posted his October 23rd build online right when he got it, this wouldn't have happened, since people would've stopped looking for the game.


Liam Robertson later talked to Darvell in April 2018, and was sent the cue/bin of the final October 23rd build that he'd gotten from Bennett.


Bennett showed up again shortly before the final build was about to be released, finally showed proof of him having it, and we all died laughing as we realized what'd happened.


So, the chain is:


Anonymous developer -> Bennett -> Darvell -> Liam R -> Us/the BioMediaProject -> The open internet.


Bennett still owns the original, physical disc.




Most websites and articles, like the IGN article, simply say Darvell gave Liam R the build. Liam probably didn't know the full history of what had happened - even Darvell probably didn't. Darvell said he doesn't know much about all the players in this saga to get the game; that he'd been contacted by many people in various ways, and always tried to help them and tell them what he knew.


Darvell's own copy from October 10th - the day the project was officially canceled, and he left - remains lost. This is, strangely, another stroke of luck - if he had it, he likely would have posted it online far sooner than any of this. Not only would we have missed the alpha from July, we also would have missed the true final build from October 23rd - which had some extra work done "on the side" past the official cancelation, was burned to discs, and passed around to its developers (supposedly without clearance from Saffire management), so they would have something to remember it by.


As far as I know, Deep Brick hasn't ever responded to the game finally making it out to the internet. As far as we can tell, their copy is identical to what we have - one of the final October 23rd builds handed out to the devs.


I don't think Bennett is a bad dude or anything, he's just some LEGO fan who was excited to get the holy grail of Bionicle, and didn't really know what to do from there.


I guess if Darvell ever happens to find that October 10th build in his garage, we'll have 3, lol.

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  • 5 months later...
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lol username

Update - Darvell found his copy, though it turns out it's actually the final October 22nd/23rd build as well:





That I did! I was cleaning out my garage yesterday and found it in a small box from my condo in Las Vegas. I've been checking it out today, but I think it may be a build that you guys already have.

I thought I got it the day I left Saffire, or October 10, but the files are dated October 22, which I think is the same date as the build that's already known. But i found it. :)


The disc's contents are indeed an exact match for the previously uploaded final build, so in that sense it's nothing new, but it's cool to see the disc label, and for the mystery of his copy to be solved. :)

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LDD Mods

I mean I spoke to a former LEGO media/software team member who started contacting Devs involved with lomn in 2017/18 so who's to say I didn't have any involvement when I asked him if he had any early games ??

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@lol username Might be a dumb question, but would you be okay with me posting a link to this topic in that YouTube reply chain you screenshotted at the top of it? I mean, sure, odds are that barely anybody's going to be watching that video over two years later, let alone read the comments, but it's something I would never have found if I was not an RRU member, and it's also a really cool piece of BIONICLE's history.

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lol username
3 hours ago, TheDiplomat said:

@lol username Might be a dumb question, but would you be okay with me posting a link to this topic in that YouTube reply chain you screenshotted at the top of it? I mean, sure, odds are that barely anybody's going to be watching that video over two years later, let alone read the comments, but it's something I would never have found if I was not an RRU member, and it's also a really cool piece of BIONICLE's history.

Sure, go for it.

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  • 4 months later...
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lol username

Belated update - Darvell sent his physical disk to Vahkiti (who by sheer coincidence is also named Liam), one of the main folks involved in the efforts to recover + fix the game. As of now, he and Bennett are now the only two people known to own an original physical copy (aside from the anonymous person who owns the Alpha 0.006 disc).







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