Deep Plaid One guy trying to make some interesting decisions

My Super-Awesome Lego MMO Design

Posted on April 9, 2010

I've decided that whenever I come up with a game design that I know there's no chance in hell will ever get made, I'll throw that idea up here, in order to prove how awesome I am.

In this case I also get to prove what I've long complained about: I come up with every good idea about 5 days before someone else does.

It was around August of 2007 that I was walking my dogs and I said: to myself "Lego MMO." Then, I burped. Then, the design below sprung into my head. It was kinda painful.

5 days later, NetDevil announced that they were making that game. When I heard about it, I fell to my knees and cursed the heavens - which got me some odd looks at work.

But of course I was frustrated - they weren't doing the most interesting part of my design, which so far as I can tell is substantially different from theirs (and of course, infinitely more awesome)!

Here Is My Awesome Design

The elevator pitch: "Webkinz meets 'Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts' meets MMO meets Lego". Here's the design that makes that sound less like a train wreck of unrelated ideas:

  1. Special (physical) Lego bricks would be manufactured. They would have tiny microchips inside them; these microchips would hold an identifier of what kind of brick it was, and could also be able to connect to other such microchips. The bricks would have tiny electric connections on all the places on the piece where that piece could connect with other pieces (e.g. on the pegs of a brick, and on the slots on the bottom of a brick where pegs fit in).
  2. A special piece of equipment would be packaged with the game: a USB connector that had a standard Lego peg on it, and could thereby be connected onto any Lego piece.
  3. So. Let's say you buy these special Lego pieces, and you then build a spaceship out of them. Then you buy our game; you can simply set that spaceship next to your computer and plug the USB piece onto it, and the other end into your computer. Special software then sends a signal to the USB piece, which queries the microchip on the piece you plug it into, which then queries all of the pieces that it's connected to, and so on, recursively building a data tree of every single piece type used in the spaceship and where they are connected to each other!
  4. This information is sent to the computer, which recreates the spaceship on the screen with virtual bricks! Every piece is replicated, and in its proper place, in your software. You can view the spaceship in 3D, perhaps even modifying its color (charging for 'paint buckets' seems it might be good Microtransaction material).
  5. And now, here's the part that's so awesome it will blow your eyeballs clean out of your face. Some of the pieces (say, a spaceship engine piece) are functional in the game world! If it has an engine piece on it, then the spaceship can actually fly around. If it has a laser piece on it, then you can actually fire lasers. And it's all in a true physics engine - the weight of the pieces, the center-of-gravity, etc. will all have a huge impact on the movement and handling of your ship! All very similar to Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts - if that game was an MMO, and let you actually have a physical copy of your creations!

It looks like the actual Lego MMO might be doing some of #5, though I'm skeptical. As Jesse Schell pointed out in his Dice 2010 talk (which I finally watched yesterday, and found that it was very interesting up until the very end, which was oddly the part everyone talked about), people are currently extremely "into" virtual elements that have a solid real-world connection: WebKinz, the physical guitars in Guitar Hero, etc. This game has that in spades. I played with Legos a ton as a kid - and there's nothing I would have enjoyed more than finishing my awesome little creation, walking over to my computer, plugging it in, and actually playing with it in a game world, where suddenly it could fly around, the lasers actually fired, etc.

And of course financially speaking, this design is incredible because there are about a billion ways to make money from it. Don't have a piece in the real-world? Buy it in-game. Making people pay for individual virtual Lego bricks is like a corporate wet-dream, right?

Oh, of course I'm a little sketchy on what you can actually do with this stuff in-game. Actually upon reflection the game doesn't even need to be an MMO, though I would say that making it multiplayer in some way that allows you to play with your friends is incredibly important. (That would also help with "time to cock" issue that would be so prevalent in a kids' game with user-created content.) In fact, this could actually be a Wii game that used friend codes... can you imagine flying your self-created spaceship around by holding up your Wiimote like a paper airplane and tilting it this way and that? That's even more of the kinetic, real-world element that kids would love.

As you can see this design is a bit "hazy at the edges" and starting to become a bit vague - because I'm not going to take the time to think it all out, because it will never be made. But though the edges are hazy, the core is solid - I'm sure a great game could be made around this core idea. It's a game I would have killed to play as a kid, or even now for that matter. Too bad it will never be made!