The lights are on
The Lego Movie has been attracting a ton of attention – and rightfully so – but it’s hardly the first time the little plastic bricks have been entertaining kids on screens. Several of the company’s toy lines have been featured in popular children’s programming, including shows based on Bionicle, Ninjago, and Lego Chima. Warner Bros. Montreal has brought Chima to life through a recently launched MMO, too. The browser game has been out for a few weeks, and now the entirety of the experience is available to iOS players. I spoke with the game’s creative and design directors to learn more about bringing the game to smaller screens, building an MMO for young players, and more.
Lego Legends of Chima Online is a free-to-play MMO designed for younger players, 7 to 12 years old, and their parents. It’s an action-based RPG that plays like a nice blend of one of TT Games’ Lego games and a classic dungeon-crawling loot fest. After creating your character, you have a base to build, world to explore, and plenty of evil creatures to vanquish – turning those foes into cascades of Lego studs. And aside from the user interface, what players see on iOS and the brower-based counterpart are designed to be identical.
“Even though there are some differences on the UI side, it’s still the same code base,” says Louis Lamarche, the game’s creative director. “We compile one version and it pushes through to all platforms. When we release updates on the web, they’re available on iOS also.”
“If you play on the web and go to iOS, you’re not going to have this completely different game style,” says design director Bill Money. “The game is still the same fully 3D, action-adventure game. What we did with iOS was think about every interface element and how we could optimize for the space available. On iPhone screens, there’s way less space than on a PC, so we did things like have the interface elements slide in from the sides and from the bottom, so players can bring them into the screen and take them out when they need them. On the web, you have the backpack icon always on the screen, but on iOS, the interface options are on a slider, so you can slide in quickly and then hit the backpack. We optimized the screen space while still giving players the same experience.”
There’s one extra bonus for iOS players, too. If you buy toys in the Legends Beast line, you’ll get special touchcards packed inside. Those cards unlock exclusive content when placed on your iPhone or iPad, thanks to a special capacitive technology. Players can share the unlock cards with their friends, too; they’re not locked to specific accounts.
Email the author Jeff Cork, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.