LEGO, as we all know, is for everyone. And so are the LEGO games. The secret to their success is the wonderful co-op play: father and son, brother and sister, anyone and anyone together, smashing, building, puzzle-solving and laughing at those cutscenes.
Now, with Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter under its belt, developer Traveller's Tales turns its attention to Disney movie universe Pirates of the Caribbean. LEGO Pirates will tell the story of all four films – yes, four – it's due out alongside movie On Stranger Tides in May - and features over 70 characters – yes, 70. There are enough, apparently, to go around.
But, what can Traveller's Tales possibly do that's new this time? With LEGO Harry Potter something of a return to form, is there room for the adorable LEGO series to significantly evolve? And how will the Nintendo 3DS version make use of the handheld's interesting new features? Here, in an interview with Eurogamer, boss Jonathan Smith explains where LEGO is at and where it's going.
Eurogamer: How do you decide a license is right for the LEGO treatment?
Jonathan Smith: Whenever we meet anyone we say, 'What LEGO games would you like to see?' And they often give us the same answers. We talk to everybody who makes interesting stuff that's relevant particularly for our audience.
We are led a lot as well by the choices LEGO Company chooses to make about the worlds they go into with their play materials and toys, and the characters they feel comfortable with.
We're always looking to do new things. Pirates of the Caribbean is completely new for us. We're excited by that. We're always looking to move on from the gameplay we've done in the past. With each new title you've seen that - the free-roaming of LEGO Harry Potter. With each new game there are new innovations, gameplay systems, new twists and completely new atmosphere as well.
When we think about where to go with LEGO games, are worlds that have got powerful stories that emotionally engage people, that are colourful and full of different characters that are clearly varied - the idea of dressing up as different characters is meaningful for us – and that takes place in worlds with cool action – cool action is any easy thing to say, but action where you can undertake surprising moves one doesn't normally do in daily life, in a variety of locations.
Eurogamer: So Pirates fits the bill?
Jonathan Smith: Pirates has got so much more as well, with the supernatural abilities of some of the characters, which gives us cool affects. There's so much drama in the story set-ups. When you've got the maelstrom swirling, the sea, these pirates attacking villages – the locations are so intrinsically dramatic. So it's very well suited.
Eurogamer: Once you've decided you're making a LEGO Pirates game, what's the next step?
Jonathan Smith: It's entirely as you'd expect: the whole team has to immerse themselves in that world so you know what you're talking about and you get a sense of the atmosphere. That then influences every choice you make in the gameplay. You're deciding what gameplay features are going to be important, what to emphasise, what to build out, what needs to be developed new. And to make those choices correctly the starting point is, what's in, in this case, the movies?