The Secret World developer Funcom is developing a new Lego MMO based around the best-selling Minifigures toy range.
The MMO will become a "prominent part" of the Lego Minifigures experience, Funcom has stated. It will bolster the toy range's current online offering, which includes Flash games, competitions and a way to track your own Minifigure collection.
Funcom is focusing on "maximum accessibility", and will develop the MMO to be "available to consumers in their online channels", a statement on the company's website read.
Arriving in LEGO Universe's charming, chunky, sparkling world, the game's message is pretty heartening. Here, it says, you are as powerful as your own imagination! It is your imagination that will protect you, your imagination which will take you on an adventure – and with enough imagination, you might just save the galaxy.
It's true, you know. That's because "Imagination" is, in fact, what LEGO Universe calls mana. Your character has an imagination bar, and your paltry supply of imagination is used whenever your character reaches something they can build in the world. You see a jumble of bricks, hold down a button, and your character flicks it all into a bridge, or a turret, or a launchpad, and it disintegrates after you've used it.
No actual imagination is required. If LEGO Universe teaches kids a lesson, it's that imagination is something to be hoarded while you steadily try to max it out, which is no kind of a lesson at all. I maxed out my imagination once in Amsterdam and it was unpleasant for all involved.
Nobody could accuse NetDevil of being unambitious. Three-and-a-half years in development, LEGO Universe is an attempt to graft the framework of a full MMORPG onto a plastic chassis designed to appeal to kids.
It opens, not with a whimper, but with a big bang. After designing your avatar using LEGO Universe's extensive character creator, you're thrust on to the bridge of a starship that's disintegrating in the maw of a gaping black hole. As your hull slowly peels off into the infinite, you have mere minutes to escape your fate, platforming your way around the ship to find enough rocket parts to build your escape vehicle.
Colorado developer NetDevil has been showing off LEGO Universe gameplay for the first time in San Francisco this week, and Eurogamer was there to see it in action.
An ambitious MMO that attempts to pull all the disparate themes of the LEGO System into one cohesive world, the game is pitched somewhere between Second Life and World of Warcraft, and has been in development for more than three and a half years. It's due for release on PC next year, with a console version a possibility.
It's clear that NetDevil has an epic story in mind - the game opens on the bridge of a starship that's in the process of being ripped apart by a black hole. The black hole has destroyed the LEGO Universe, and you've got to put it back together. The first order of business is constructing a rocket ship (the method of travel between all of the game's different worlds) to escape the gaping darkness.
It's been three years since NetDevil started work on its LEGO-themed MMO, but there still haven't been any opportunities to try the game out. Those hoping for a hands-on session at gamescom were disappointed - there was nothing to see but some new screenshots, concept art and trailers, including a rather good one parodying the Mad World promo for Gears of War.
"What is life like as a minifigure?" It's not a question many of us will have posed ourselves. Little plastic men with interchangeable body parts are normally our subjects, there to be manipulated and puppeteered by the all-too-visible hand of the play-god. Even in Traveller's Tales' phenomenally successful LEGO Star Wars, Batman and Indiana Jones, the minifigures exist only as a comedic vehicle for someone else's characters and stories. We don't generally try and empathise with them.
It's not often that a new publisher appears out of nowhere with seven MMOs up its sleeve. It's even less often that one of them is a high-profile resurrection of a canned title. Yesterday, Gazillion Entertainment announced that it existed, and was bringing back Marvel Universe.