Lego bigwig Mark Hansen has provided fresh details on forthcoming PC MMO Lego Universe at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
In his speech, titled 'Bringing the brick online', Hansen said there are three pillars to the game. The first is building - but you won't have to do too much of that if you don't want to. "Not everybody is a digital builder but people still like Lego. You'll be building to some level, but you're not forced," he explained. You'll have the capability "to build anything you want, within some constraints" - you won't be able to build a giant model made out of a million bricks, for example.
"Netdevil is developing this game, so it's not about user-generated content where you build whatever. We're trying to come up with tools for directed content development for a community," Hansen added.
He confirmed all the models players create will be moderated, so you can't go round constructing giant Lego winkies all over the place. You'll have the option to lock your creations to protect them, or leave them unlocked so other players can come along and smash them to bits.
The second pillar is socialising. "It's about the emotion of [your mini-figure]," said Hansen. "It can smile, it can wave, it can lay down, it can kick. It's about bringing that alive."
And finally - playing. "This is not just a social world. It is a game of play. You will be going for land, you will be competing, doing challenges, doing missions, getting coins, smashing things, building things." Put simply, if obviously, "It is a game."
There's a role-playing element so as you progress through the Lego Universe your character will advance and you'll get more accessories, weapons and tools. You can customise your Lego man or woman, choosing how both their face and body look. "You will not be able to change the shape of the basic elements, but there are infinite possibilities," apparently. You'll be able to design customised pets to follow you around, too.
There will be options to form or join guilds and teams, and there will be special events and structures to build for both solo and group players. "You don't have to be on a team, you could go it alone, but in teams you'll probably advance much faster," Hansen said.
He confirmed there will be storylines in the game - "There will always be a good side and a bad side" - and many different zones, or 'Planets', to explore. They will be based on existing and forthcoming Lego products, such as the pirate, city, castle, underwater, space and mech-themed lines. However, "It's not all going to be there on launch day." The world of Lego Universe will grow and expand as new content is added over time.
There's even a chance licensed IP could make an appearance. "There is no Batman or Star Wars IP in the game, but that doesn't mean it's not going to come," stated Hansen.
The game is aimed at kids aged eight to 12 but Hansen reckons everyone will enjoy it in the same way people of all ages play Lego Star Wars, and indeed ye olde bricks. "How many people here played with Lego on the floor when they were a child?" he asked the audience. Everyone raised a hand. "Lego Universe is exactly what you saw on the floor when you were a child... It's about that dream."
You will have to pay a subscription fee to play the game, but Hansen didn't say how much it will be. When asked by a member of the audience when the game is out he confirmed, "We're hoping to get the game out in the next couple of years." You funny old Dane. Seriously now: "It will be coming soon, I can say that."
But he can't say much more for the moment, it seems. Hansen didn't show anything of the game either, other than the Lego Universe trailer that's been kicking around the Internet for ages. If you haven't seen it, why not take a look.