I loves me some LEGO.
As a kid, I owned a number of different LEGO sets over the years; Pirates, City, Forest, Space…the themes and designs put forth by the brick building company during the 90’s were the foundation of what we see today. Only now, licensing rights have taken the company by storm and now you can enjoy Star Wars, Marvel, DC and so many more characters and universes in LEGO form.
But when I was a kid, LEGO consisted of two things for the most part: bricks and imagination.
Sure, you had the aforementioned theme sets with instruction books and guides showing you what pieces to put where in order to produce the final, pictured product. But even when you did, the temptation was always there to demolish that castle or space shuttle and rebuild a fort or some other creation from scratch.
Today, LEGO is everywhere. It’s more than mainstream. Everyone knows what LEGO is and most seem to have some memory of it. Whether you’re a grown man with kids (like me) or you’re eight years old discovering LEGO for the first time, the company and its influence is felt in a variety of mediums, all over the world.
More specific to this conversation is LEGO’s role in video games.
In conjunction with the licensing partners they make millions of dollars with, LEGO leapt into the video game industry in a big way. As early as 1995, LEGO was releasing video games on Windows platforms and hit the console market in more mainstream fashion with LEGO Racers on the Playstation, Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Colour.
Video games have become a huge hit for LEGO. So much so that the company has an entire website dedicated to their home console, online and mobile releases.
At their core, these LEGO games depict the characters that were popular before they merged in partnership and were re-born in bricks. Batman didn’t need LEGO to become popular, but the two franchises will forever be synonymous with each other in some fashion due to their connection in film, literature and video games.
But…LEGO, in its simplest form, is about creation. Building structure from scratch and imagination. So why is it, in 2017, I don’t have a video game that allows me to do just that?
LEGO Worlds was released earlier this year for home consoles (PS4, Xbox One, Switch) and PC, and I had hoped that this would finally be the era that would allow me to embrace the technology in front of us and utilize LEGO the way it should be allowed to be enjoyed these days. The game’s fine, and sure you can build what you want, but…not the way you’d think.
The game states the following:
CREATE AND CUSTOMIZE YOUR OWN LEGO® WORLD
Build any world you can imagine using the brick-by-brick editor tool and prefabricated LEGO® structures. Modify terrain quickly and easily with terraforming tools as you turn mountains into plains and oceans into volcanos. Choose who you want to be from a wide variety of LEGO characters that have individual personalities, from an astronaut to a zombie.
Ehhh…kind of. But not really. It’s still limiting, which is part of the problem. I don’t want to be limited on what I can build. I want full control.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Using actual physical pieces of LEGO can never be replaced and the ability to build something and put it on display, or create a structure and have the opportunity to play with it as LEGO intended…there’s nothing better, and nothing could and should replace that.
But those that have enjoyed LEGO…how many times have you been building something and just can’t seem to find that one piece you’re missing? Or, you’d like to rebuild that pirate ship, but two essential pieces of the mast are missing or broken? Those pieces are next to impossible to replace, and if you did find the pieces online to order, you can’t order them separately; you need to order them as part of a set, and usually for astronomical prices.
You know what I want LEGO? What I really, really want?
A bottomless bucket of digital bricks.
Give me the opportunity to create from scratch and not be limited by missing pieces, misplaced plates and long-forgotten sets. I want full, customizable options to build anything I can think of, while re-creating anything from LEGO’s past, including the sets that I had as a kid.
Here, in brief form, is how my LEGO game would work:
IT’S ALL IN A NAME
The game is called, LEGO: Unlimited and it’s name describes everything the game is about. Unlimited bricks, unlimited imagination, unlimited creativity.
The game’s backdrop would be a table and a pile of bricks. Players would have the opportunity to choose any brick size and simply piece blocks together, or, start with a base plate (of various sizes) and build up from that.
With dual analog sticks, players would have full control to move the camera in full 360 degrees to see any brick, structure, creation from any angle and apply bricks as necessary or desired. Much like in real life, however, you’re only able to apply bricks to pieces you can see with the naked eye. If you need to add bricks underneath, you can remove and add pieces as you see fit.
Players can zoom in and zoom out at will, and can select and highlight pieces to apply, remove, etc. Analog sticks control the camera and view, while directional pads move brick pieces.
PUT IT TO THE TEST
LEGO would develop the type of in-game technology that would allow every structure built to be played with. For example, if I built a vehicle or something on four wheels, I should be able to drive that. Size and bulk would somehow be taken into consideration as to how fast a vehicle would be able to move, accelerate, etc.
Real world physics (or something of that nature) would also be included so that poorly built structures (such as vehicles) would break when running into something way too fast, or would be durable during a rollover if it was built correctly.
Vehicles are one example, but I think most can relate and visualize that in their own minds as to how it would work. Destruction wouldn’t be a huge issue, however. Like many LEGO games already employ, players would be able to rebuild their creations by simply pressing buttons to quickly rebuild as required.
A LITTLE HELP
The structures built are only as good as the environment they’re placed in. That’s why LEGO would build a number of worlds/maps/etc for players to play in. Building off worlds they’ve already created, users would be able to take their creations to Space, the Forest, the City, the ocean, or in whatever pre-built world provided by LEGO.
For example, I could build a four-wheeled structure and take it into the ‘Pirate’ universe, but unless that structure is on a small island, it’s going to sink. Likewise if I were to attempt to take a ship into Space. I could, if it was balanced enough to sit on a planet, but otherwise it tips over, floats away or is completely inept. (A pirate ship with rocket boosters is a game changer though)
And yes, if I want to take a pirate into space, he needs a space helmet. Pirates are cool, but they can’t breathe without oxygen or a mask.
At the end of the day, worlds could be combined with various structures, but because of the necessary components needed in each world (roads, space, water) these pieces would need to be added in order to function in specific worlds.
LEGO Unlimited would have, as stated, the ability to simply ‘free build’ with bricks and plates, but they could also dig into their deep library of theme sets and supply booklets for players to build from. This ability would allow an old LEGO fiend like myself to build the ‘Forestmen’s River Fortress’ that I had when I was younger, or the Blacktron Spectral Starguider that I got for Christmas one year.
Regardless, these themes would be available for players to access in some form or another, with users having the ability to access LEGO’s vault of sets.
But you know where I’m going with THAT…
THE GAME THAT KEEPS GIVING
Downloadable content is inevitable, but this might be an area where both LEGO and players could benefit. With these sets and themes that stretch a long history of builders, perhaps LEGO provides some of these booklets through DLC, in which gamers can access and purchase upgraded and ‘assisted building’ packs that allow them to build these sets with more ease.
DLC would allow players to purchase an enhanced, easy-to-read-and-follow instruction booklet, or (GASP) the ability to have the game construct said theme/structure at the touch of a button for the user to enjoy in seconds.
While it seems ludicrous to suggest having to pay for something that can be accessed freely online, it’s a feature I feel would appeal to many different people. ‘The Devil’s in the details’ as they say, but for the right price point, this might be a real nice revenue generator for LEGO, and a feature that some gamers may be willing to embrace.
It also provides a nice balance, as users wouldn’t need to purchase the DLC to build the same themes and structures because the game would be designed to allow for the freedom to create this all from scratch. At the end of the day, it’s win-win for the gamer and the company. Additional revenue outlet for the company, but nothing tied to a paywall, which is sure to please the user base.
And, as LEGO continues to develop sets and themes, they could continually add these to the game as additional purchases, if desired.
Of course. In today’s video game landscape, players demand to be online. Especially with creations.
The ability to visit other ‘worlds’ or share creations with others would have to be implemented in some way, shape or form. Given how DLC would be implemented, I’m not sure you could allow the opportunity to share creations through a ‘community downloads’ section of the game, but perhaps a ‘community showcase’ to show off what you’ve created with others. A full, 360 degree view in case players wanted to try and re-create what they’re seeing, but no ability to actually download the creation.
Again, this is the biggest element of gameplay I have really yet to consider and hash out, but I’m sure it would come together nicely.
THIS ALL BEING SAID…
The game would require a lot of work. And not only that, a lot of service. This game would need constant support, year-over-year, especially if you’re going to continue to support and add DLC opportunities. I’m not sure there’s any company or publisher that would want to continue and support servers and one specific game on an annual basis, but I think LEGO: Unlimited could be one that bucks the trend.
Because of the basic nature of the game, users could come and go without the need to ‘upgrade’. Constant improvements would be made to the game ‘on the fly’ so to speak, with constant and continual support. I know that’s laughable in today’s landscape with companies looking at annual releases to get big money buys…but, why would that need to happen with this title?
This game would have it all, and would consistently see additions. Again, that flies in the face of the video game landscape today, but LEGO might be one of the only companies to pull this off. They would still have annual releases tied to other LEGO partnerships (Marvel, Ninjago, Star Wars, etc.) in which story and movie based games would still get released. There wouldn’t be a need to release a LEGO: Unlimited title every year because what would you need to upgrade on? Maybe some additions are patched in, but the base gameplay would be simple enough that it wouldn’t need to be.
Sports games like Madden, NHL and NBA 2K see annual releases because companies are constantly pushing boundaries with graphical enhancements and improving technologies. One could argue, however, that outside of a small tweak and roster update, these games are no different year-to-year. The demand is always there, though. Realism, accurate simulation….
…but I digress.
The point is, LEGO: Unlimited wouldn’t require graphical enhancements or more realistic simulation efforts in order to improve the experience on an annual basis. It’s enhancements would come through the course of patches, downloadable content, and additional add-ons. Perhaps, LEGO would be able to bank on a large install base as a foundation for revenue generation, with smaller DLC revenues allowing for support year over year?
This is all a very convoluted pipe dream with a million holes and flaws that I haven’t addressed or probably even thought of. But the idea is something that gets me excited more than most other subconscious gaming fabrications these days. The thought of being able to build LEGO with an unlimited supply of pieces, parts and bricks is something that excites me the way no other video game entity could provide.
Regardless of whether 10-year-old Wally is constructing the Space Lock-Up Islolation set with his own two hands, or 35-year-old, present-day Wally is building a virtual Broadside’s Brig, I think LEGO could hit a homerun if an idea like this ever came to fruition.
And you’d better believe I’d be first in line with a sack of coins.