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GDC08: LEGO Universe more than mere child's play

Chris Chester

When we first heard that NetDevil was beginning development tentatively titled LEGO Universe late last year, our minds boggled at the creative possibilities. After all, creativity is really what LEGO is all about, using one's imagination to take a mere thought or idea and recreate it with multi-colored blocks. Sure, the game is being aimed primarily at youngsters between the ages of 8 and 12, but that's never stopped me from enjoying or getting excited about the franchise before. The game's main mechanic will essentially give players more blocks to play with and more real estate to play with it the more of the game's colorful work they explore. They describe a world where one player can build a fortified LEGO castle and try and stop a friend from invading it. They make it sound so simple one wonders what's taking Warhammer Online so long?

What's perhaps more interesting is the clever merchandising tie-in being planned for the game that the team is talking about at GDC. According to their director for business development, players will be able to order real, packaged LEGO sets based on their virtual creations. While this has the potential to be extremely cool for savvy youths and eccentric adults alike, it also betrays LEGO's ulterior motive. Not content merely with fistfuls of money from software sales and further brand exposure, now they want to sell you stuff in the game too. Again, there is a potential for something really cool here, but only if their focus is on a fun MMO experience and not on working on a device that prints money. When your director for business development is described as the "guiding force" behind the game instead of a crummy old designer, you've already made the first step towards turning my LEGO-loving heart to stone.

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