Interview: TT Fusion On Building LEGO City: Undercover
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
NL: We understand that this is single-player. Was that an early decision, as co-op is a big feature in the licensed games?
Loz Doyle: Well, the thing is it’s just too hard (laughs) with this sort of game, if you’re always considering two players. We did actually consider two players for a long time: we had to think about how one player would start a story mission if the other player was at the other end of the city, would all of the vehicles have to have two seats? So, how do we re-design all of the vehicles so they still look cool? You’d have to have non-GamePad versions and a Wii Remote version, it didn’t seem like a natural fit for two player.
Lee Barber: Very messy.
Loz Doyle: Yeah. And we’ve got one strong lead character. If we had a second playable character who would they be? Player two would never want to play as a non-Chase character. It didn’t work on a lot of levels.
NL: Is DLC on the table as a potential idea, or do you consider the content on the disc to be the final product?
Loz Doyle: There are so many vehicles, characters and missions. There’s so much content in the game already – you’re talking 40-50 hours to get 100%, it’s difficult to imagine what we could put in. We wouldn’t rule it out, but it’d have to be the right thing to fit with the rest of the game.
NL: You mentioned 40-50 hours. Do you think gamers will naturally be diverted towards extras, or do you think they’ll blitz the story and then come back?
Graham Goring: It’s a bit like Fallout 3, you just get distracted.
Loz Doyle: Initially in the San Francisco area at the start of the game you’re really focused on the story, but as you get more abilities you’ll see things that had locked icons before that you couldn’t use, and now you can. That’ll encourage you to explore and use those different game mechanics and abilities.
Graham Goring: I was terrible for testing, very unproductive. Just because I’d think “no-one’s watching I’ll play this bit instead”! Getting distracted is very easy.
Lee Barber: There are so many different variables like that through the game. Whether it’s a side-mission or part of the main mission, you may get distracted and start smashing or building something, something that takes you away from the main point of what you were doing originally.
Whether it’s a side-mission or part of the main mission, you may get distracted and start smashing or building something, something that takes you away from the main point of what you were doing originally.
Loz Doyle: Once you start unlocking the red bricks, as well, it makes you want to get them all as there are some really good red brick “cheats”.
Lee Barber: It just gets silly and you just smile through it, it’s silly and funny.
NL: So red bricks are variable cheats? We haven't had the fortune of finding any!
Loz Doyle: Yeah they’re just cheats. And we knew that kids and everyone loves having cheats.
NL: Is this the game that perhaps uses LEGO in its most literal sense, more so than the movie games?
Loz Doyle: It’s more about building than the other games, with things like Super Builds. With all of the vehicles and the fact that you get studs for building, rather than breaking, which is neat and a different take for this game.
NL: Maybe one more for fans of actual LEGO than fans of a given movie, then?
Lee Barber: It stands on its own, it doesn’t need to be tied to a movie or franchise. It is a franchise, really, it’s LEGO’s biggest selling franchise.
Loz Doyle: It should appeal to both. As you’ve said there’s a lot more LEGO in there, and it’s that core LEGO franchise. But it also has the characters that should appeal to people.
Steve Bate: It’s also a game where no-one knows the story. The other ones, the IPs, you already know what Lord of the Rings is about, nobody knows in this; that adds another dimension, and that’s great having something to find out. It’s like watching a movie.
Lee Barber: The characters all have their own charm as well. With Chase, he isn’t Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark; he’s an ordinary cop, just like the player is an ordinary person, but they can now do extraordinary things, and they can save LEGO City. That’s something we can give to the player towards the end of the game.
NL: You’ve mentioned a camera in the game that allows you to take pictures and post them to Miiverse; is that auto-connected in the game or do you need to manually go to Miiverse?
Loz Doyle: If you’re online and signed in, you can just post onto Miiverse from within the game.
NL: Is that something that you’ll all be watching in the game’s community?
Loz Doyle: Oh yeah, it’ll be interesting to see what people are putting up there, what bugs they’ve found (laughs). But there are no bugs!
Steve Bate: From a LEGO designer’s perspective, there’s a rivalry to see which car gets posted the most!
Loz Doyle: Yeah, you can get some nice screenshots when you do boosted jumps.
Steve Bate: Even with marketing stuff Ramon (a LEGO builder in the team) would come over and say “that’s one of yours, congratulations Ste”, which is nice as I only did about ten!
Lee Barber: That’s the thing with the free play element, going through the city in a car you’ve got jumps, like set pieces, everywhere. They’re such a joy to watch, so if you take a picture of that when it’s sailing through the air, the player can do that.
Loz Doyle: It’ll be interesting to see if player’s start posting pictures to say “this red brick is over here”, “the piranha plant is located here” and so on.
NL: Mini-walkthroughs, essentially?
The number of animations that are in there, it’s incredible how many they’ve done. The population all do all sorts of stuff; the content is immense, and I don’t think we could have done that on another console.
Loz Doyle: Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how that works.
Graham Goring: I’m genuinely looking forward to playing through the game. The weird thing is that with so much side-content, I’ve seen about 25% of the game, because I’ve been buried in making the story-line part. It’s unusual to come to the end of a project and genuinely want to play the game.
NL: So how big would you say the overall map is in this game, as we’ve not seen all of it in our time so far?
Graham Goring: It’s probably the density of it that’s the main thing. It’s probably smaller than some other open-world games in terms of square-footage, but it’s got all the gameplay packed in.
Steve Bate: Top to bottom it’s about 2.5KM, but that doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t sound big but it takes 10 minutes to drive from bottom to top.
Lee Barber: And clearly you’re going from island to island.
Steve Bate: The other good thing is that there are about 200 vehicles, and they all spawn in different areas. So certain ‘rich’ areas would have all the sports cars and downtown will have something else. That’s where the diversity comes in; you could be driving along supposed to do a mission and you go “I’ve not seen that, or collected it yet”, and you drive off trying to catch it.
Lee Barber: The main challenge is getting from A to B without being distracted by something. Even if it’s just smashing something, riding a pig or firing a pig out of a cannon, you’ll want to do it.
Steve Bate: The number of animations that are in there, it’s incredible how many they’ve done. The population all do all sorts of stuff; the content is immense, and I don’t think we could have done that on another console.
Graham Goring: The amount of animation we’ve got going on at one time is absurd.
NL: Are you keen on following this up on Wii U, has that been considered?
Loz Doyle: We’d consider anything! (laughs) I think the characters are so strong, that it does stand up on its own. It’s not something we’ve talked about yet.
NL: If you all had to pick one favourite moment (not at the end!), what would they be?
Graham Goring: My bit is a part where one of the characters, Frank, rides a horse later in the game. It leads to a slightly crude joke; it’s a really silly joke and I’m surprised it never got cut (laughs), because it’s a bit silly.
Steve Bate: All my favourites are around Frank Honey, he’s just a brilliant character. My favourite is where Chase gets his first undercover outfit and he turns around and a cop says “wow, that’s great”, while Frank says “is that Chase?”, even though he was standing there the whole time.
Loz Doyle: It sounds corny, but there are so many. The media circus joke is funny, quite early in the game.
Graham Goring: The performer really drew that line out, it was written really short. That was one of my favourite things, doing the voice recording sessions, they were great fun.
NL: You had some fairly big names, didn’t you?
Graham Goring: Yeah, we had Peter Serafinowicz [most famous as the voice of Darth Maul], he was great, Adam Buxton, and Josh Robert-Thomson. Though that was done in LA, and they didn’t fly me out there, I just had to do it over Skype!
Lee Barber: I like the bits with the squirrel in it, it’s really random. The squirrel’s just such an enigma, I still can’t fully understand what it’s about, why he’s a pivotal part of the story!
Graham Goring: Good for the voice recording as well… how do you do a squirrel?
At that point our time ended, with the enigmatic squirrel remaining a mystery. It was clear to us during this interview, and throughout the day, that the entire team are excited about their game being released and experienced by the gaming public. It's certainly an important title in a planned boost in Wii U sales, and what we've seen and heard to date is full of promise. With its arrival on 18th March in North America and 28th March in Europe, we don't have long to wait to see whether the full game delivers on its potential.
We'd like to thank the TT Fusion team for their time, as well as Nintendo UK for arranging the day at the studio and reimbursing our travel costs.