Interview of Oscar Lopez Lacalle, Lead Designer on Lego Minifigures Online

What is LEGO Minifigures Online and what is its intended public?

Interview of Oscar Lopez Lacalle, Lead Designer on Lego Minifigures Online

LEGO Minifigures Online is a game about collecting loads of awesome LEGO Minifigures and taking them on epic adventures in fantastic LEGO Worlds battling all kinds of monsters, and doing it with your friends. The primary audience is definitely kids, but as with anything LEGO, there is definitely a lot for everyone to enjoy here and we've built in mechanics and content that we hope will appeal to a wide audience. We've received a lot of feedback especially from parents who are having fun playing it with their kids!


One aspect of the communication on the game is the possibility for children to play with their parents. I believe it would also be fun to play with friends. But to add someone we know as a friend ask for a lot of work and a bit of luck as it necessarily needs for the two players to join the same instance of the same area. Will the process be made easier ?

We are looking into ways to smooth the social mechanics of the game without giving up on customer safety, which always comes first. For example, we are implementing a feature that allows players to share a “friendship” code with other players outside of the game. Players can use this code to add each other to their respective friends list regardless of if they have met in game or not.


Moreover, we can't communicate with our teammates or friends as the chat is limited to the Members. Why such a strict restriction on the chat, a primary tool for MMOGs?

Because we know the game will attract a younger audience, we have to ensure that chat is safe and secure. Providing our players with fun and friendly social environment is very important to us. Our partnership with Crisp Thinking provides us with a very robust filtering and moderation system for chat that works in real-time. We also feel like people who invest in the game by becoming members will be less likely to abuse the chat system.


The game just entered its open beta phase and shall be released during next Autumn. Why so long when nowadays open beta are mainly made for stress testing and be a demo of the game?

We do a lot of iteration and development during our beta process. We are still working on some unannounced features and content, and we are actively looking at the feedback and statistics that we collect from the current beta. Our beta is not a demo or a publicity initiative; it is a real testing process that we rely on to improve the quality of the game and a golden opportunity for our players to be involved in the process of making the game as good as it can be.


The game is only available in English. Other localizations including French should be released during beta. Can you give us an ETA?

The game is being localized to multiple languages as we speak. That includes French. The plan is to have the game fully localized at launch.


Also, the game is only available on PC/Windows but will be available on other platforms. What those platforms will be? Will they be available for the release?

The game is available on the Windows PC at the moment, but we are working on clients for both Mac and tablets. We'll definitely let you know when we're ready to talk more about those and when you can expect to play them.


In the settings, the Help menu shows some controls but some others exist. Will we have on PC a more complete menu for controls with more shortcuts and the possibility to reassign them?

Moreover, I tried to play with a gamepad and discovered that it was partly supported - and this part was smoother than mouse/keyboard. Can we expect the gamepad to be fully supported soon or are there some technical issues preventing it?

We have gotten a lot of good feedback from our players about the control scheme and camera perspective. We understand that different players enjoy different methods of controlling their characters and everyone roots for their favorite, but not every method works well with the game’s perspective and gameplay design. We chose the game’s perspective and control scheme for a reason and have built the game’s core gameplay and assets around the choice that we made. But we're also eager to try out new control schemes, and we have been experimenting with optional WASD keyboard controls and have added them to the most recent beta builds, though it’s a rough first iteration. Gamepad “mode” is coming soon as well. The tablet versions currently under development already use touch controls. We will continue iterating on the control scheme options during the beta and see what kind of impact it has on the game.


Does the original idea for the game come from Funcom or from Lego? And have there been different designs before narrowing it down to the one implemented?

The idea for LEGO Minifigures Online came from Funcom. We have collaborated along the way of course. LEGO is a great company full of passionate and creative people, and it has been a great partnership working together on the game. The core game design has never really changed. Collect, battle, smash! In isometric view.


The game is centered on the Lego Minifigures. What are the pro and con of working with this parameter?

For the Pros, the Minifigure line is awesome, and there are so many great characters to choose from for the game. It’s a collection driven product so it really lends itself to a collection driven game which I think a lot of people enjoy. The LEGO Minifigure team at LEGO themselves are very cool and great to work with.

On the flipside, 95% of LEGO is about building, but LEGO Minifigures is about collecting. This leads to confusion for people who are unfamiliar with the toy line as they see the word LEGO and think “Building” We also get a lot of questions about customizing the minifigures, and that just wouldn’t fit with the product line. We do have some building elements in the game, and there is more to come, but the main focus of the game will always be collecting minifigures, putting together your dream team and taking them out to do battle in awesome worlds.


Will it be possible to customize a Minifigure with elements of another one we also own?

No, the Chicken Suit Guy wouldn’t be the Chicken Suit Guy if you put him in Galaxy Patrol Armor. The Roman Commander wouldn’t be the Roman Commander holding the Waiter’s tray and bottle. The minifigures all have very specific looks and personalities that the LEGO team has created, and we want to stay true to that.


There are two Minifigures series present in game - 9 and 10. 11 series are already released plus series based on other licences. Can we someday expect to see those coming into the game?

There are currently no plans for that. We’re focused on the LEGO Minifigures line because frankly, it’s awesome. There are so many cool characters we have a hard time choosing which ones to implement. Series 12 will be in when we release and more to come after that. Because we started with series 9 we also have a giant backlog of series we can draw from which should be enough to keep players collecting and smashing for a long time.


Last three upgrades of the Minifigures are still in construction. Can we expect some kind of ultimate power?

We are iterating on the passive design and the power increase granted by the passive abilities and how the system connects with the endgame content. The plan at the moment is to make those last three tiers really awesome!


Why have separated increase in ranks and upgrades? It lacks intuitivity or a tutorial explaining it. In the menu, we can also discover a Bricks menu.

Like the power-ups, this feature is not introduced in the tutorial. Will it be introduced in a future version?

The main point of the upgrade system is to provide choice so players can customize their gameplay. We have recently added tutorials for both the upgrade and the brick systems and will keep on adding tutorials and mini-callouts during beta.


When we play with those bricks, we can guess their use through our experience in other games. But is there any way to link the numbers displayed with their impact in game?

Different color bricks provide different bonuses. Those bonuses apply to your whole team. The idea is that you can configure the bonuses of your team to compensate for your weaknesses or enhance your strengths. For example, you can choose not to equip a Defender minifigure and instead use the +Defense blue bricks to make all your minifigures “tankier”. With the last beta patch we added a visual connection between equipping a brick and the statistical increase you get from that brick which will improve the communication of the system.


For a game aiming to a wide range of players starting including kids, aren't some mechanics a bit harsh? For example, some powerful bosses than can kill a Minifigure in two hits or the cooldown for a "smashed" Minifigure that soon reach one hour.

We are working on the balance of the game throughout beta. Finding the right level of encounter difficulty is a delicate art and one of the focus points of our beta testing process.


PvP should come into the game later. Will it be during beta or later, after the release? And what format will it adopt?

We won't provide any details yet, but it will be after release. We look forward to talking more about this later.


What other content is planed for the game?

More content in the shape of minifigures, worlds, minigames and other exciting elements that we haven’t revealed yet that will extend and add depth to the gameplay systems. For example, we will be launching Mythology World during Open Beta and we have more worlds lined up to come afterwards.


What element of the game are you the most excited about?

I particularly enjoy exploring new minifigure teams. We have designed the ability system to be open to emergent team combos, and every time you get a new minifigure the possibilities multiply! For example, here is my one of my secret combos: Prepare with Fortune Teller’s “Wheel of Fortune” spinning cards combined with Mermaid’s slow moving “Tidal Wave”. Then throw their left click attacks and dash in with the Tomahawk Warrior’s “Hunter’s Dash”. With a bit of practice and the right timing, you can line up all those attacks to land at the same time. It’s awesome!


And what future element are you expecting the most?

Some of the unannounced worlds and locations are pretty awesome. The same goes for the up and coming minifigure series, which have some of my favorite minifigures in the whole minifigure collection. I can’t wait to be able to share more information with you in the future!


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