The team at Funcom was able to meet with us about their new MMO at GDC. It was not crazed wizards and hardy barbarians, nor was it wild factions hiding magic in today’s society. It was LEGO. LEGO Minifigures Online captures what is so much fun about action RPGs and online worlds in a game that both adults and kids will enjoy. Executive Producer Lawrence Poe was on hand to explain working in the LEGO world, right before we got to go hands on with the title due out this Summer.
The game is faced-paced fun similar to other action RPGs that you can play with your friends. You can meet up in a common area and go off into different worlds and have different adventures. There are three main types of characters in the game, but unlimited minifigure potential thanks to the IP with over 100 available at launch. There is the defender style character which is kind of a tank. There is the striker which is DPS or ranged DPS. Then there is the builder which is a utility style mini but can still fight. The number of minifigures is endless from a green cyclops to the trend setter who attacks enemies with her selfies. All the characters can build structures in the game when they come upon piles of LEGO, but the builder excels at it and also works as support for the group.
LEGO Minifigures Online hosts several worlds at launch. The two we saw in the presentation were the Pirate world (which we also played) and the Medieval World. Lawrence said there will be more at launch and the ideas are endless in terms of what they can create.
Funcom showed us a video outlining how the game will play which Bill explains below. One of the great features about the game for kids is that you can play on your PC and your iPad in the same game. This works great as kids will likely be switching back and forth. For the demo we handled the PC version, but the UIs remain the same for each.
Our Hands-On Demo
LEGO Minifigures Online (LMO) is being built using the same Dreamworld tech that Funcom uses on Conan, TSW and so forth, but is played entirely in an isometric 3D view. Think Diablo, and you’re on the right track. In fact, that’s clearly the sort of Action-RPG MMO the team’s going for here. We each get a trio of minifigs we march into battle with, able to swap them in and out at will, and we can mix and match them based on their strengths and weaknesses. While there are larger shared regions of the world for players to hang out in, quest, and so forth, we got our hands on with one of LMO’s many player dungeons. Each one can be played with one to four people, so the lone wolves can even go it alone if they’d like, and the dungeons scale to match the number of folks in your party.
We played through the Pirate World’s main dungeon for our demo. It’s important to note that Funcom has the rights to all of the LEGO Minifigure worlds, and that doesn’t mean they can suddenly start playing around with DC Comics, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and so forth. Though Funcom told us those IPs aren’t off the table by any means, for launch and to get their boots on the ground they’re focusing on the Minifigures IP. And what an IP it is, the Minifigures brand is one of the best-selling parts of the LEGO world, with the little packets of mystery figures selling out in stores across the globe almost as fast as LEGO can put them out. To begin the game, LMO will have all of Series 12’s figures which haven’t even been announced yet, but also many of Series 11, and some from previous series as well. They’ll be adding more and more from all previous series, even #1, as the game’s life goes on. I’d bet we’ll see LEGO Movie characters show up at some point too, though that’s pure speculation.
It’s interesting to note that all minis can be found in the game, without ever needing to spend a dime. But you will also be able to buy a mini bag in-game for less than what a physical bag costs. However, if you’re a collector of the figures anyway, when Series 12 launches you may just want to buy them all physically first, because each one will come with a code that unlocks that mini in the game as well. Bonus! I snagged three Series 11 figures from Funcom’s room while I was at GDC… if only they were Series 12!
LMO plays a lot like any action RPG you’ve played in recent years. Left click for basic attack, right click for special attack. There is no mana system, although all special attacks are on a brief cooldown. With LMO being designed for kids and us adults who love LEGO, the goal is to make the game easy to pick up and play. It runs simultaneously across tablets as well, on the same servers and everything, so you’ll notice the UI is simplistic and catered for usage there. We played on the PC though, and it worked marvelously. The only real issue I had playing on their Closed Beta server was that hitboxes for the enemies seemed slightly off. I could be clicking directly on an enemy pirate, and my character would walk to the area instead of attacking. It’s a major problem for playability of an Action RPG, but it’s also likely an easy fix: just increase the size of the hitbox.
If you’ve played any of the recent LEGO games in other IP universes, the basic premise of LMO will be familiar. Hit bad-guys, use special powers, and build things in the world to complete levels. As we hacked and slashed our way through the dungeon, we broke chests, barrels, killed ghost pirates, skeletons, and even Crikey the Kraken, the final boss of the area. There are no real “quests” in LMO either, but as we saw while playing the dungeon, instead Funcom has chosen to have players trigger events that must be completed to move on. One example is constructing and holding two Tiki Towers while being assaulted by tribal enemies. You won’t find yourself running off to kill ten LEGO monkeys in this game, that’s for sure.
You’ll level up your account and get stars for currency in LMO, which you’ll spend on upgrading each and every one of your minifigures’ abilities. That’s right, like Marvel Heroes, you’ll be able to customize and improve every mini that comes into LMO. You can’t tweak their looks (for IP reasons as well as technical animation issues), but you will be able to tweak how well they do things. Each of them has three main stats, from offense to defense, and building. Characters with high building, can construct items faster which really aids some battles in more ways than one. There’s even going to be a sort of crafting system that allows you to collect special bricks and put them together for various effects in battle.
For my own part, I had Grandpa, The DJ, and The Roman Commander as my main rotation. But I also had access to Sad Clown, Revolutionary Soldier, the Librarian, and more. Each one of these characters has a “type” as well as specific special powers. The Roman Commander could send out phalanx of soldiers that pushed enemies back and did damage to them. The DJ’s main attack was a thrown vinyl record that ricocheted all over the map (think Captain America), but his special was a loud speaker that slowed enemies in its radius. Meanwhile, believe it or not, Grandpa was the beast. His special was a wooden duckling (coincidentally the very first toy LEGO ever released, showing Grandpa’s age) that moved slowly but exploded with a huge fiery blast. I switched frequently between him and the DJ for the DJ’s crazy main attack.
Overall the experience Garrett and I had with LEGO Minifigures Online was an absolute blast. This isn’t going to be anyone’s main MMO, but if you’re like me and looking forward to games you can play with your kids and not be bored by them yourself? Well, LMO is likely going to take the cake. What’s best is that I’ll have an excuse to buy Liam every single darn LEGO Minifigure and reap in all his doubles for myself. Now if he would just hurry up and age a little bit so he wouldn’t choke on the pieces… look for Funcom’s LEGO Minigures Online to ramp up beta very soon, with an Open Beta coming this summer.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.