LEGO Universe: The details begin to emerge…

luconcept.jpgThis time last year, I was kicking off a project for perhaps one of the coolest projects I’ve ever had the chance to work on: LEGO Universe. Literally the entire span of my time working at LEGO had some component that tied into pushing towards the idea of a virtual world built around the concept of “core LEGO”. Whether it was improving community relations, building out LEGO Factory, the Hobby Train project, or countless other projects, I always felt like they were somehow driving towards the integrated virtual world concept.

The game is apparently close enough to launch that my friend and project director, Mark Hansen, spilled some of the beans on the details at this month’s Game Developer’s Conference.

Tentatively set for release in 2009, LEGO Universe seeks to provide gamers with “a virtual extension of the real-world LEGO” gameplay, by allowing MMO fans a chance to virtually live among each of the thousands of LEGO sets that have been created over the years.

Most impressive in this quest is LEGO’s plan to integrate fabrication of objects directly into the title.

Any structure or vehicle you may construct out of the MMOs virtual blocks, you can also export to LEGO who will allow you to purchase traditional LEGO sets that are exact replicas of what you’ve created in-game.

The biggest hurdle to LEGO in creating LEGO Universe is the challenge of transitioning a toy designed to assist people in furthering their own creativity through multi-colored bricks.

To draw an analogue to the issue they face, it’s almost a plastic brick version of what Will Wright had to do to create every title since SimCity.

According to Hansen, though, the creation system is only half of the title’s design.

The game will also include a traditional MMO-style plot which reflects the barebones ideas presented in the firm’s real-world brick sets: LEGO Knights vs Dragons, LEGO Sailors vs Pirates, and so on.

The title’s release is roughly a year off, but Hansen did reveal the fact that the game’s key trailer should hit the ‘net near the end of 2008.

This is an amazing concept and is turning into an even more amazing game. I couldn’t agree more with Mark’s description that it’s “LEGO Star Wars Multiplied By A Million”. If you’ve played LEGO Star Wars, you’ll know why that’s a damn bold statement.

For years, every time we’d launch some new project that pushed us further down this path, the adult fans would complain (largely, rightly so) about something that should be improved or working better. But because I could only share so much about the longer term plans, I’d have to simply say: “Think about this launch in a much bigger context… what can your mind dream up?”

I wonder if this is how big they were dreaming…

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