LEGO MMOs: You’re Doing it Wrong

2 years ago by  

Remember LEGO Universe? When that game was announced the Game Rant team was excited at the potential. We were ultimately let down as LEGO Universe failed to offer the sort of creation we desire from LEGO, while at the same time struggled to define itself as an action-adventure MMO. After adding a free-to-play version of the game late last summer, the LEGO Universe servers were shut down in January.

In its wake comes a new LEGO MMO from Funcom, the creators of Age of Conan. This one is based on LEGO Minifigures – the LEGO characters we all customized, know and love, but we don’t know yet if this game will solve the problem inherent in all LEGO games to date.

The point of LEGO is to encourage and allow for creativity in two ways:

  1. Let players place blocks to craft whatever they desire.
  2. Use their creations in any way they desire.

The second point has limitations of course – you can’t build a cube and expect to fly with it, but you get what we mean.  To date, there hasn’t been a LEGO game that lets players do these things. And to see why, take a look at Minecraft – a better LEGO game than all of the actual LEGO games to date. For some odd reason, LEGO hasn’t pushed to embrace a similar design in any of their video game products. Because they can, and they can do it better if they wanted to. They have the money, the brand recognition and there a ton of Minecraft clones and mods to mine ideas from. Proof of concept:

Instead of LEGO games embracing the actual fun of playing with LEGO blocks, we have big branded licenses for Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. all being realized as super simplified adventure games by Traveller’s Tales with little to no actual LEGO building. These are fun co-op games for everyone in the family – and we play them a lot – but at their core, they’re simplified adventure games that use LEGO as a gimmick and a brand rather than embrace what LEGO is really about: creativity.

LEGO Batman 2 just came out, and Lego City Uncover – the upcoming game for the Wii U and 3DS – suffers the same problem. Both games and their predecessors put players in the shoes of a LEGO Minifigure character and throw them in a non-LEGO world.

And this is where LEGO Universe failed as well. Overlooking the extreme censorship of the game, while there was fun to be had exploring the themed worlds and using the brick-builder on your own lot, the game was very limited from a creation and gameplay standpoint. There were more blocks, more interactive items and more freedom in Minecraft, a game where players are not required to pay a monthly subscription for, and instead of going that route, LEGO games to date attempt to offer action-adventure experiences that don’t quite compare to the triple-A genre games out there.

Why isn’t the focus on creation? Why are the worlds of these games not made of LEGO? It doesn’t have to be if a LEGO game were to take the LittleBigPlanet route and make the LEGO Minifigures and bricks and place them in the real world to scale, but to have LEGO Minifigures the size of real people relative to their environment, but not have the environment made of LEGO entirely misses the point and prevents any interaction.

The press release for Funcom’s LEGO MMO emphasizes the family-friendly targeted demographic and reads that the product “will focus on maximum accessibility.” The world “accessibility” is a negative connotation for most core gamers and hearing keyword that combo’d with “maximum” when talking about LEGO – an already simple concept – hints that this game isn’t going to offer very deep gameplay or creation.

Instead, let’s imagine a world designed from actual LEGO pieces, where you can attach a bunch together in the water and float down the river to a LEGO castle loaded with LEGO knights fighting a LEGO dragon, or a LEGO town with bright red LEGO firetrucks putting out a LEGO house that’s on fire at the corner of the LEGO intersection. And imagine you could grab any of the blocks – from the dirt below your Minifigure’s feet to the stone walls of the castle – and build whatever you want to avoid the fire or help rescue the people inside the burning house.

Too dynamic? Why not embrace the Minecraft model with a randomized open world built on a new game engine where the player can collect blocks and build away. The cities in an MMO environment would build themselves. Look at Active Worlds as an example.

Everyone loves LEGO, not just little kids. Let the players build.

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

  • Eiffie

    Lego Creator actually let you build just about anything you wanted to and fly or drive it as long as it had the basic parts of a plane or car. The AI wasn’t really advanced in that game, it was more like a lego builder simulator but you could make cities or towns and populate them with mini-figures, iconic lego buildings from the classic sets as well as cars, trucks, planes and helicopters. The game never really ran that well on my old PC but if a newer updated version ever came out, I’d buy it in a second. It was the best non-game lego game if that makes any sense.

    • johnfilmsia

      I had that game too! It was a lot of fun, but after a while the limitations got boring. It was like Minecraft stuck in creative mode… which isn’t for everyone.
      If they could revamp it though, and actually ad some challenges (without totally ripping off Minecraft), I’d buy it in an instant!

  • LunoYoryiki

    ….roblox comes close….but you have to code everything yourself. that or just use models other people made and manipulate it……

  • Baqot

    Looks like someone has never heard of Roblox or Blockland

    • R530er

      But those are so slow paced and clunky :(

  • Joohing

    Hey, guess why lego dont make lego worlds? cause they were gonna need to make thousands and thousands of new bricks to be able to make that. And, why would they make a game where everyone can go around and pick up anything and build, when minecraft is there already? Why the @#%& should they copy minecraft??? LEGO Universe was awesome, and there werent anyone complaining about people not being able to build outside their property as it was called. LEGO Universe was the BEST GAME EVER.

  • -PEves-

    I should be able to chose to play as the joker and blow a whole in the side of a building which would blast lego blocks everywhere. That is how lego is played. I should be able to play as a pirate and build my own boat. I should be able to find instruction manuels as i play that i can look at to build new items, cars, buildings. etc. That is lego. All of these lego games lack that. Show me an MMO that lets me go on adventures to find Instructions to build new things that make me better with blocks and I will buy it in an flash. My character should be able to wear the pants of a pirate and the shirt that says octain on it while using the head of yoda if I decide to create him that way.

    I should be able to buy a plot of “land” and build whatever kind of structure I desire on it.

    I should be able to find gold buy stealing it as a pirate, or working for it as an honest every day person, Robbing banks, Being a police officer. Doing simple quests that require me to do all of these things. These quests should reward me with gold and I should be able to unlock new blocks and schematics as I play. The cherry on top would be doing all of this with friends in an mmo environment. It is possible and I want to see it happen! That would be the ideal lego game.

  • Alphamike99

    Hey umm I was a big fan of Lego universe, I played the game everyday all day!!! I was in tears when I heard it would be shut down, but when I heard about this I was excited but now, not really, I really liked the action in Lego universe and adventure you went threw, also leveling up your character and getting better gear, but this just sounds like building building building and building, this new game will lose a lot of people cause off that. What this game would need is some action in it, recreate Lego universe with all the things that were missing. That way everyone gets what they want and also maybe adding things like “pay 0.99$ and you get this speacial castle” or “pay 4.99 and you will earn in game cash” things like that, do not mess this up funcom, I’m counting on you.

    • R530er

      NO NO NO, I don’t know how much you know about game design but “Pay 5$ for 400 ingame cash” is NEVER a good idea. That is what is known as “pay to win”(PTW) (Not always, but it most of the time leads to PTW). from what i have seen this looks more action packed than LU, it’s basically lego diablo 3. But this game is probably, sadly, going to be dumbed down for the kids who will play this game. In my experience, games that are dumbed down for kids usually aren’t as good as originally advertised and also have a LOT of stupid and/or annoying children all over the text and/or voice chat.