PC lego-universe-beta

Published on April 25th, 2010 | by prime

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LEGO Universe – Beta

If there was ever a time when a toy truly made sense as a game, it was when LEGO Star Wars turned up on our screens. It brought the little plastic dudes to life, and melded silliness and charm with the greatest sci-fi legend of our time. It’s this kind of neat characterization the LEGO Universe is going to try and capture for the rest of the LEGO range. Leaping into LEGO Universe, you find yourself in a world populated by pirates, aliens, ninjas, rocketships, jetpacks, trains, buses, umbrellas, mad scientists, ambulances and superheroes – in fact, everything that the LEGO plastic toys have to offer. But there is badness here too. ‘Dark imagination’ means that players will have a struggle versus evil on their hands.

LEGO Universe is populated by ‘minifigs’, the standard LEGO toy characters, which are both the player-characters and the NPCs who will guide them on their way. They’re beset by corrupted evil minifigs too, the ones who are force. The quest the players have on their hands is to return the source of imagination – stolen by a malevolent spider – to the hands of responsible folks, and make the world harmonious once again.

The game is being developed by Colorado-based studio NetDevil, who have something of a patchy history. The first game, Jumpgate, is aminor classic of multiplayer space combat, which is currently being remade for Codemasters as Jumpgate Evolution. Previous to that, and LEGO Universe, they worked on Auto Assault, a vehicular-combat MMO that was, quite simply, terrible. NetDevil claim to have learned their lesson from this disaster – which was closed down just a few months after launch – and to have benefited from the not-inconsiderable vreative talent at LEGO. Nevertheless it seems that LEGO Universe will be sticking close to familiar models of fetch quests and mob-bashing.

Vive la difference

The big difference for LEGO Universe is that it’s going to include puzzle-solving. Not exactly building in a Second Life of Minecraft sort of way, although there is some scope for importing LEGO models, but puzzle-solving in a manner similar to LEGO Star Wars. There are going to be smashed LEGO puzzles to fix strewn across the lasndscape too, and players will often have to fix them up if they want to progress. On particularly tough quests, players will need to band together to fix these things, and go about the LEGO world collecting the parts that they need.

There are three types of building in total… Quick building, in which you solve a puzzle by simply throwing together a set that you find in front of you. Then there’s choice building, in which you move some bits around to figure out the build, and then custom building, in which you actually build stuff from pieces of LEGO. It’s been confirmed by LEGO that player’s own creations will be able to be featured in the game world as items, and it seems that this will feature as part of the end game. How that works has not yet been fully revealed by NetDevil and LEGO, so it’s tough to say how that is going to shape up. What we do know is that LEGO Universe is only going to use pieces that exist within the actual LEGO play materials. If it’s something that exists in LEGO Universe, then you can build it in the real world, with actual LEGO. You’re also going to be able to use web-based tools to make stuff on the LEGO site, and then import that across your LEGO identity into the game world. Ultimately, as we understand it, you’ll be able to mail order the things you design as packets of plastic direct from LEGO – it’s a game/reality crossover like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

Nevertheless, it seems something of a shame that LEGO Universe hasn’t tried to fall a little further away from the traditional MMO tree, and perhaps lure in a new audience. As it stands, it seems that the game wants to cash in on the perception that World of Warcraft created a wider audience for MMOs. Is that really true? Or did World of Warcraft simply create a wider audience for World of Warcraft? It certainly seems that games which are operating on the same model are struggling to make a dent in the millions of subscribers that big bosses want to see. Perhaps if LEGO Universe had focused on the purity of LEGO, or on the building, it might have been a welcome change.

As we understand it, you’ll be able to mail order the things you design as packets of plastic direct from LEGO

It’s you who’ll decide, of course, and the launch shouldn’t be too far off. The game is in closed Beta at the time of writing, and we can expect more waves of Beta – if not an entirely open test – before the game finally arrives with us at the end of the year.

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