Funcom now has the challenge of making the next online LEGO game: LEGO Minifigures Online, due out on PC and mobiles next year. It’s free to play, and also aims at LEGO’s young core market, with gameplay features that are familiar from TT’s take on the series. “The focus is on the minifigures and their adventures through fantastical worlds,” says Executive Producer Lawrence Poe. “The key aspect of the game is finding minifigures, learning to use their abilities in the best possible way, training your minifigures to become more powerful, and going through these cool worlds completing quests, defeating cool dungeon bosses and really just exploring and having fun. Building is also an important part of the game, and its primary function is to support the adventuring experience. You’ll come across piles of LEGO bricks that can be assembled into contraptions that can help you defeat a boss, a bridge that allows you to cross a river, a jump pad that allows you to reach a specific location and so on.”
Where LEGO Universe revolved around purchasing “game time”, and so was essentially a subscription service, Minifigures Online is free to play, and that’s what Funcom evidently hopes will help it avoid the same fate. “Accessibility is key for this game, so we’re trying to make it as easy as possible to get into the game and have fun. Obviously there will be a lot of younger players for this game so we are taking our time to ensure that we will provide the best experience for those young players and their parents both in terms of gameplay and the business model,” says Lawrence – though what that business model actually is remains a guarded secret right now.
It would be safe to assume that in-game purchases will revolve around the hundred-or-so different minifigures that will be present at launch, however. The game launches alongside LEGO’s new range of real-world minifigures, so it seems that the impetus here is for young players to collect them both in real life and in the game – as popularised by Activision’s phenomenally successful Skylanders franchise. Evidently you won’t have to buy the minifigs, as they can be found in-game, but each physical figure will come with a code for use in the game as well.
“Each [minifigure] will have its own unique abilities that really define how they’re played,” says Lawrence. “Each ability offers a different tactical approach to combat, and part of the fun is figuring out what minifigures and what abilities work best with certain types of enemies in different situations. If you’re in a dungeon, in a tight hallway, it definitely makes sense switching to the Galaxy Patrol, as his lasers will ricochet back and forth between walls.” The characters are all pre-defined up to a point – you won’t be playing with your own custom minifigure. !While players will be able to customize certain aspects of how their minifigures play, they won’t be able to change the way the minifigures look,” Poe explains. “The plumber needs his plunger, he wouldn’t be the plumber with a sword in his hand!”
It’s not just the business model that’s going to prove crucial to Minifigures Online’s potential success, though – it’s quality. TT has improved its core LEGO game series vastly over the past five years, and it seems Funcom has learned from that. “I think the thing that most stands out to us in regards to the TT games is that they have really dialed in on those core LEGO DNA elements of light hearted humor, shared play, and quality,” Lawrence muses. “We’re trying to build on that same core LEGO DNA and ensure we put out a product that lives up to that badge of quality that is the LEGO brand.”