Let's talk about LEGO games I have been enjoying the Bits n' Bricks podcast series, along with various articles, to learn about the journey The LEGO Group has taken to incorporate Gaming into their portfolio. It's a wonderful insight to understand the business mechanics and directions TLG has ventured into. My history of LEGO gaming is quite minimal, but for good reason, which I will get to. My first LEGO game was LEGO Island 2. Although not completely polished, it was a delight to play in an environment that represented one of my favorite toys. Most LEGO games were release while I was in my "Dark Ages", but I did play a couple titles that friends had, including the LEGO Star Wars prequel. These were enjoyable games, but something always felt missing to me. Fast forward a bit and the quick pace of life took me on a wonderful journey where I met my wife, we purchased a house and then I had my own space. I decided to get my old LEGO bricks and MOCs from my parents’ house. This concluded my “Dark Ages”, and I rapidly began building and collecting LEGO all over again. I specifically started rebuilding my childhood MOCs with my gained adult knowledge. Now that I had the advantage of being able to afford matching element colors, new pieces and sets that would have been out of my price range as a child, I could build more refined models. However, I wanted to preserve the original state of my childhood builds for nostalgia’s sake. This led me to discover Lego Digital Designer and Bricklink’s Stud.io. I rebuilt my models using these programs so I could always visit them digitally again. This returned me back to LEGO gaming. I stumbled upon a feature in LDD, in which I could import models into the game LEGO Worlds. Once again, not a polished process, but it was exciting to attempt to get my models into a 3D environment. There was much to be desired with this ability, but it started me down a path. I began using Stud.io as my primary digital building tool due to the parts selection and advanced building versatility. It too has exporting features which allowed me to import models into a game engine. For the first time, I realized the missing aspect of previous LEGO games that I always wanted was found. I was never interested in previous LEGO game titles for lack of building. Previous games always follow linear gameplay paths with common video game concepts. They all lacked the foundation of what LEGO is about: Build-and-Play. I must admit that I am a far cry from a game dev or even digital artist, but I immediately realized the massive potential TLG is missing out on by not having the core functionality of their physical brick in digital form. In creating my own LEGO Build-and-Play environment, it dawned on me that current LEGO game titles are merely LEGO branded games and only have a reference to the physical toy in looks only. For example, if you were to skin LEGO Batman with My Little Pony, the game instantly becomes My Little Pony Batman. The game play contains nothing inherently LEGO. LEGO Worlds does have a building component, but builds are static and not interactable. Not to mention the simplicity of game play as it is specifically targeted to a very narrow age range. A lot of talk has been made of trying to crack the code of the Holy Grail of Fluid Play between the digital space and the physical bricks. LEGO Dimensions attempted to solve this with USB NFC type functionality to incorporate physical purchases with in-game use. This presents problems with compatibility, required software, game specific physical sets and more. I feel the direction to force Fluid Play became its own downfall. LEGO Universe had in-game mechanics to bring builds alive, but they were limited to a defined ‘space’ and had preset programable rules with limited or unmodifiable attributes. Using this knowledge and reverting to the most simplistic form of LEGO play, a proper LEGO Digital Experience can thrive. I envision an entire Digital Platform on which builders and players can all engage. A space that encompasses the unique wide range of LEGO demographic with complete foresight of STEAM educational concepts so not only is it a Building Experience, but an immersive learning tool as well. Simple building mechanics for young builders, advanced physics attribute customization for advanced builders, and even immersive and interactive tasks and challenges for the traditional gamers. To sum up, a world where you can click together some wheels on a plate and drive around to explore your environment or create complex builds with fully functioning clips, hinges, wheels, and all the building elements of LEGO bricks in real life, including Technic pins, gears, and axles. Perhaps you’re a casual builder who would just like to enjoy building occasionally in a high render digital environment to unwind after a long day at work. I picture multiple game modes between single player, direct P2P and online lobbies to welcome all builders but cover the dreaded child safety topic. My take on Fluid Play would be the integration of current sets, and utilizing a user’s LEGO account to sync the purchased parts with available elements to be used in-game for online specific game modes. This encourages continual sales for easier access of available parts for the builder to use online. VIP points and game specific gift cards could also be used for digital brick packs and digital Pick-a-Bricks. This negates subscription-based play which turns away many gamers. There is no replacing the feeling and creativity we get from the physical brick, but I see massive potential for the added dimension of a properly done LEGO Digital Experience. As for my in-progress game concept, it's very slow going as I learn a whole new set of tools. But I must say, there is a special ‘Living Nostalgia’ I get when I am able to run around as a Minifig and fly one of my spaceships.
Tools and Technologies:
This is just a solo project in hopes I can inspire the fundamental creation of a proper LEGO Digital Experience. Building with LEGO should always come first, game-play should be secondary.