Lego Universe Interview: They’re Not Just Bricks
Questions by Vincent Haoson, OnRPG Journalist
Answered by Ryan Seabury, LEGO Universe Creative Director (NetDevil)
There has been buzz that the latest Lego game, Lego Universe is at its final stages of before its commercial release this coming October. Before that happens we got the chance to talk to Ryan Seabury the creative director of the game. Here’s what he has to say.
OnRPG: What exactly is Lego Universe? The trailer you guys have of the game didn’t show any gameplay videos so we’re mighty curious on what kind of game is Lego Universe really?
LEGO Universe is the first MMOG based on the LEGO play experience. Players build anything they can dream up, bring it to life and share creations with friends. LEGO Universe is not limited to one genre, though, as fans have a wide variety of options depending on how they want to engage with the game. Players will be able to explore the LEGO Universe, collaborate with other players in quests, embark on adventurous missions and uncover an original storyline as they fight to save Imagination.
OnRPG: How is Lego Universe connected to the Lego merchandize you have?
LEGO Universe is developed by NetDevil, published by the LEGO Group and distributed in mass retail by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The LEGO Group has been closely involved throughout the game’s development and LEGO Universe is an integral part of the LEGO Group’s overall digital strategy. Creativity is at the heart of the game, staying true to the essence of imagination and building, while bringing the brick online for fans to interact with it in new ways.
OnRPG: What’s the storyline the game is using in Lego Universe? How are players connected to the game’s story?
In LEGO Universe, players will be building, battling and playing to save Imagination from the chaotic Maelstrom. In efforts to accomplish this mission, players can acquire different powers by joining one of the four Nexus Force Factions. The Nexus Force is an alliance of four groups (Factions), composed of the bravest Minifigures in the Universe, and dedicated to protecting Imagination and eliminating the Maelstrom. The 4 Factions include: Assembly, Sentinels, Venture League and Paradox.
OnRPG: Your Lego Universe trailer showed various “worlds” like the medieval ages, the eastern and the technologically advanced worlds. Are they connected to the game?
LEGO Universe will bring LEGO worlds to life – past, present and future and all settings imaginable. We took great care to craft the fiction and game design mechanics to allow for any genre to co-exist with any other, because that’s one of the things that makes the LEGO play experience so cool.
OnRPG: In your trailer there seemed to be Dark Lego emerging, how did they come about?
The Maelstrom’s chaos can spawn many kinds of dark forces (called Stromlings) that are all trying to cause destruction and extinguish creativity. Technically, there’s no such thing as a “dark LEGO”, but players do fight Stromlings and other evil beings to save Imagination in the game.
OnRPG: Lego has a lot of genre’s covered (sci-fi, medieval, eastern etc.) how did you manage to put them all in one MMORPG?
Creativity and customization are at the heart of the LEGO Universe experience. We wanted to ensure that LEGO fans of any age could choose what genre they wanted to explore, whether that be building a spaceship or battling ninjas and pirates. So for our initial directed content set, we designed very carefully to not be too much of any one thing to set the stage right for future releases, when we will take deeper dives into specific play themes.
OnRPG: The Lego merchandize also covers a lot of popular culture icons such as indiana jones, star wars, batman etc. will you guys be including them in the game?
There will not be any licensed IP play themes in LEGO Universe at launch, for the same reason we didn’t really go 1:1 with any pure LEGO play themes initially, mainly because we want LEGO Universe to have its own identity to start with and not get carried away in any one particular theme. We are definitely exploring possibilities for future updates on all these ideas.
OnRPG: What’s the target age group of Lego Universe?
LEGO Universe has an ESRB rating of E10+ because we wanted children and families to be able to enjoy exploring the Universe together. However, the game offers both simple building missions as well as open-ended opportunities for more complex invention so that LEGO fans of all ages can find both fun and challenges throughout the game.
OnRPG: Do you think the game will appeal to the more hardcore MMORPG players?
Yes, we believe it can appeal to both hardcore MMORPG players as well as players who have never experimented with the genre. The world is fairly open-ended, letting players gravitate toward experiences that they prefer. There are delightful details within the game that will be revealed over time and players have the power to shape the constantly evolving landscape, providing countless hours of interaction and entertainment for all levels.
OnRPG: One of the basic elements of Lego is that people can create anything out of scratch, is that included in the game?
Yes, the game revolves around this central building experience, letting players design elaborate creations of all shapes and sizes. We provide players with several different ways to build with the LEGO brick so that players can enjoy any level of involvement, from simple building challenges within the storyline, to building rockets and race cars modularly, to building modular castles or houses or forts on your own property worlds, all the way to building anything from scratch and bringing your creations to life with “Behaviors”. The Behaviors system in LEGO Universe is, at its core, an easy to use, graphics-based programming language. This means players of any skill level can apply Behaviors to their LEGO models – making them move, react to other players and literally come to life in countless ways. It’s a pretty powerful tool that’s accessible and fun to use.
OnRPG: How customizable is the world or the characters in Lego Universe? Or is customization only limited to the player’s avatar and equipments, weapons, vehicles etc?
Customization is a central element in LEGO Universe. Beyond customizing your avatar, you can build anything on your property worlds! So you can create your own stories, make your own machinima movies, build your own games… And at the end of the day, because it’s all LEGO, once you get tired of one thing you can break it all apart and recombine it into something completely different.
OnRPG: What do you think is the game’s edge against other MMORPGs?
Simply put, LEGO Universe stands apart from the rest because it’s LEGO, and not just because we slapped a LEGO logo on it. We’ve taken creativity and added heroism to it in a way I’ve never seen done before, such that the very act of you building within LEGO Universe is literally saving the universe. This results in an open-ended “end game” that encourages experimentation, as players can build with LEGO bricks, bring their creations to life, and share these experiences with their friends.
OnRPG What can Lego fans expect from the game? Will they be experiencing the same Lego experience on other Lego based games?
In LEGO Universe, players explore different worlds, gathering bricks and other creative items, customizing their characters, and interacting with friends. Players can then use items and inspiration gathered in the game world to build and create their own Universe to share with friends. So while there are some similarities to other LEGO games, there are many new and unique experiences in LEGO Universe as well.
OnRPG: How’s the game’s Closed beta going? Can you give us an estimate when the game’s going Open Beta? Why did it take that long?
The beta has actually been running for almost a full year, which is quite typical for an MMOG of this scale. We’ve had a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the closed beta, and tens of thousands of fans are contributing new content to the game and giving us their feedback on a daily basis. In fact, the beta closes next week – on September 27th so the team can prepare for the LEGO Universe Founders release on October 12th – we’re almost there!
OnRPG: what’s in store with Lego Universe in the coming months ahead?
Launch is just around the corner! Starting October 12th, LEGO Universe will offer early access to fans who have pre-ordered the game through LEGO retail stores or online at LEGO.com. The Official launch will take place on October 26th in the U.S., and LEGO Universe will be available through mass retail channels then. We can’t wait to see you all in the game soon!