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LEGO Universe: An MMO for everyone

LEGO Universe: An MMO for everyone


When I was told that I’d be sitting down with LEGO for a product briefing about LEGO Universe, I was a bit unsure of what to expect. I knew they’d been developing a subscription-based MMO, but with LEGO such a significant fixture within the youth demographic, I wondered how they would tackle a gaming niche currently monopolized by franchises like “World of Warcraft” which cater to an older player base. There has been a recent trend of kid-friendly MMOs–such as Sony’s “Free Realms”–which attempt to appeal to the younger crowd. The majority of those, however, have been free to play–so I was curious to learn more about LEGO’s content and target demographic, and how that would differentiate them. I was absolutely delighted with the answers I found.

At first glance, the game has a relatively simplistic structure. The premise is that a dark maelstrom wreaks havok in the world of LEGO and slowly begins to taint the denizens and environment. This can only be combatted with imagination–it is essentially symbolic of bad ideas and mental stagnation vs. creativity.  This theme is cute enough to appeal to a younger audience, but also relatable enough to be relevant to older fans.

The gameplay is instance-based and allows for solo exploration and questing if desired, but also strongly encourages cooperation.  There is an automated prioritization in the instance grouping process so that people in friends lists are preferred to strangers for parties.

Sure, you can have picnics!

Sure, you can have picnics!

LEGO Universe does not adhere to a leveling system, but instead focuses on a staggering amount of unlockable achievements. Stats are strictly gear-based improvements–and there is a dizzying amount of gear to be earned with the promise of constant additions to the game content.

I asked the developers if there was going to be any PvP aspect to the game, and the response was that it was primarily PvE based, but that users will have the ability to create whatever content they so desire–and here is where it starts getting interesting.

There is an enormous opportunity for customization within the game.  LEGO has referenced over 80,000 official building pieces from their archives for the game library.  There are a number of ways to unlock these pieces, and a variety of ways in which users may interact with them.  Each player has an “imagination” bar which is basically their mana, and this allows them to create anything from an impromptu bridge to cross a chasm to elaborate buildings. In one example we saw, players were even capable of rebuilding enemies once defeated, which turned them into turrets to aid you in combat. The only stipulation is that user-created design content must be initially approved before being viewable in-game, but this is done on a nearly real-time basis by proprietary technology as well as an actual human moderation team.

But you can also fight armies of undead LEGO warriors

But you can also fight armies of undead LEGO warriors

In a brilliant marketing move, LEGO has also decided to offer players the option of being able to purchase their own creations via tie-ins with the Lego Factory system.

Additionally, Lego has implemented a system of behaviors that users may assign to their creations.  The interface for this feature is extremely simple and self-explanatory, and reminds me of what image-based HTML coding would look like.  Players may string together any number of behaviors in sequence (i.e. jump, rotate, etc.) to suit their purposes.  Behaviors can also be applied to buildings, which goes back to my PvP mention–users have the ability to make them permanent or damageable.

I’d like to take a second to elaborate on the implications of this: Players can create their own instances and maps, similar to the “Unreal Tournament” or “Warcraft 3” engines.  This aspect is probably the most significant in the game for me, since it is what broadens the appeal and allows for it to have potential beyond just a children’s LEGO adventure. The only thing that I found lacking was the lack of a difficulty mode toggle.  While the user-based maps will allow for a good degree of customization, the base PvE content may still feel too juvenile for the more mature end of the player spectrum.

I could probably ramble on for a few more paragraphs about the fantastic assortment of minigames available, or the adorable subtleties of the animations, or the pets and their respective skills and utilities (they can even help you find treasure!).  However, I think I’ll conclude by asserting that LEGO truly has a winner on their hands–this game will be a phenomenal joy to both the young and the young at heart.


  1. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx holy CRAP this game looks so good!

    no grinding, build anything, your own fort, battling.... WoW killer.

    I just wish there wasn't a monthly fee to play :/
  2. primesuspect
    primesuspect you'll pay it. it's cheaper than beer.
  3. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx Have they specified a monthly price yet? Probably ~$15?

    I've never been willing to pay to play an MMO, because I don't enjoy them.

    This is the first time I have ever even began considering it.
  4. Gate28
    Gate28 What's the unlocking based on? Time? Or is it achievement based?
  5. Charshie
    Charshie UPSLynx - They have not specified any price point yet to my knowledge.

    Gate28 - It's achievement based, mostly. If you're referring specifically to the process of finding new gear, behavior options and building blocks, this can also be sourced from your surroundings - blocks can be drops from mobs, decorations in the landscaping, or earned once an achievement title is reached.
  6. kryyst
    kryyst That is very cool. My fear is that my imagination will be crippled by the games limitations which would ultimately feel disappointing.
  7. propedor
    propedor Looks like the game is being made by NetDevil, same developer that's been working on much-delayed Jumpgate Evolution...

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