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It seems like forever that Warner Bros.’ TT Games has been working on Lego video games. But Take-Two Interactive’s 2K label announced today that it is working on Lego 2K Drive, a brand new open world racing game in the world of Lego.
2K said the game is the first in a series of titles based on the Lego toy franchise, and the first game is being built by 2K’s Visual Concepts studio in Novato, California. I was able to visit the studio for a press preview and I was among the first outsiders to play the game recently.
The game features deep vehicle customization where you can work in a garage and be a Lego mechanic. It’s also got an open world with multiple biomes and lots of tracks, mini-games, quests and lots of Lego pieces. The biggest joy of the game is driving over all of the Lego pieces and destroying everything from giant mushrooms to lamposts. When you hit Lego people, they go flying into the air with a little yelp.
Then I did an interview with creative director Brian Silva. We talked about starting the game from scratch, the target market and how it’s different from titles like Mario Kart.
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Here’s an edited transcript of our interview. The game debuts on May 19. It’s a nice surprise for gamers.
GamesBeat: Have you been working on this for a while? What was it like getting started?
Brian Silva: Four or five years now. It’s a number of things. The team size has grown over the development process. Early on things moved slower. As we’ve built the team, we were very careful to build the right team. We didn’t just want to throw people at the project because we needed them. We needed to make sure everyone was the right fit. Once we got up to a relatively healthy size for the dev team, we were able to move faster. It was more of an exponential pace and process of development. Slower at first, but now we’re full speed ahead.
GamesBeat: How did you conceptualize this, thinking about how a Lego racing game would bring something different to the genre?
Silva: It seems like a great natural fit. Lego, racing, driving. And not only that, but we have a number of developers on our team that are very experienced with racing and driving games, myself included. We felt confident we could deliver something in the driving genre and combine that with Lego. We were excited to do that. Lego was very receptive to the idea as well. They were excited about it too.
GamesBeat: I’d guess it’s a very popular idea to just be able to run over everything, hear the clicking sounds and feel like you’re destroying things.
Silva: People love to build Lego, but they also love to break Lego. We’re very aware of that.
GamesBeat: How soon did you latch on to that as something that was satisfying to do?
Silva: Almost immediately. That was right away. Also, the transformation of your vehicle from street to off-road to water, that was right away. We have to do that. We have to break stuff. It was almost an obvious checklist for us.
GamesBeat: There’s that feeling that you never really have to step on your brakes, but then you run into buildings where they have right angles and you can get stuck there until you back out. Why did that particular design choice happen?
Silva: Yeah, you have to go reverse and back out. If you’re talking about why not everything is breakable, basically we had to draw the line somewhere. You can’t just destroy the whole world, although that would have been great. There’s a matter of performance with the game. Some things do need to be static and permanent. The way we decided on what’s breakable and what isn’t was a matter of scale. Once it got to a certain size and it looked like it probably couldn’t be broken, they we said, “Yeah, we’re not going to break that.”
GamesBeat: It does seem like there’s some skill in knowing what you can and can’t run into.
Silva: You learn pretty quickly. Inherently it’s like—yeah, that big building, those don’t break. I won’t crash into that. We have to have barriers and guidance throughout the game somewhere.
GamesBeat: It seemed like the quick turn button was a lot easier for me than drifting. Is there a difference in what you get from those techniques?
Silva: Yeah, it’s the player’s choice. The advantage of drifting is that as you drift, you gain boost fuel. Drifting is less precise and less immediate than the quick turn, but there’s a balance. If you quick turn you get exactly that. You can navigate more efficiently. But you don’t gain boost fuel on the way. If you can drift, though, it’s much better than just regular steering. It’s not as good as quick turn, but the benefit is that you fill your boost meter.
GamesBeat: What was the goal around storytelling for you? This isn’t like Star Wars, where you’re trying to tell a whole Star Wars movie in the game.
Silva: Yeah, there’s no story that it’s based on. With Star Wars you know what you’re getting from a Star Wars game because you’ve seen the Star Wars movies. These are all brand new characters, a brand new world. Everything is 100% original. That was such an incredible opportunity, to create not only new characters and a new story, but also create new Lego characters and a Lego story. That’s pretty unheard-of. The thought process for the story, the basic desire when it came to storytelling, was something light and wacky and ridiculous and stupid and silly and fun. Nothing heavy-handed.
GamesBeat: How did you adjust difficulty to make it so people would feel a challenge, but also not get frustrated and give up?
Silva: Initially we hold your hand pretty tightly, at the beginning of the game. We teach you things. Then we slowly loosen that grip. As you play through the game you might not notice, but we’ve let go at a certain point and you can do what you want, go where you want, drive what you want. When you start out in the game you’re at class zero, class C. You gain XP and level up as you play the game. Everything is so incremental—it’s the frog in the slow-boiling pot of water. You don’t realize that you’re just naturally getting better at the game, at driving, as you play through. At the 15-hour mark, you’re an expert driver. But it’s a natural progression throughout that gets you there. Hopefully you don’t feel any kind of pain in the process of improving. It feels very natural. I’m hoping that comes through in the end.
GamesBeat: I felt it was easier to learn. I don’t know if it’s because I’m already familiar with things like Mario Kart.
Silva: Did you like the driving model? Did it feel familiar at first to you?
GamesBeat: Yes, I felt that was good. The part I had more trouble with was trying to run over the mushrooms precisely, or to line them up so that run over a bunch at the same time.
Silva: Did you use the quick turn during that challenge?
GamesBeat: I did, but sometimes that would overcompensate in either direction, going back and forth.
Silva: Yeah, there’s some finesse involved for sure. That’s why we present that early on, because it is more of a skillful, challenging mechanic in the game. We wanted to push that on the player early on in a safe challenge. Nothing bad can happen. If you don’t get the mushrooms, you can just try again. It’s not a big deal. But it’s one of those learning experiences you have in the back of your mind. “I’m going to get good at quick turn in the open world as well.”
GamesBeat: Running over lots of things all at once, is that demanding as far as performance? So many things are happening at once.
Silva: Yeah, yeah, it is. You have to be careful with things like that. When we run over a lot of props and they explode into the little tiny brick parts, there are tricks that we do. A lot of those things are instanced. You run over 100 trees, it’s basically just one tree that we have to process in that instance. We also will chunk the Lego builds together. If I run over a little building or a tower or a tank or a vehicle, we don’t shatter it into every single brick piece. They’re chunked together into specific pieces. It’s a bit more efficient to do it like that.
We also have to consider when we turn those pieces off. When they fly off the vehicle and scatter throughout the world, how long do we leave them in the world? The longer they’re in the world, the more processing they take up. What’s a good balance there? We need to turn it off at some point, but you don’t want to turn it off too soon, or else it looks weird. It’s not satisfying to the player. There’ a lot to consider.
GamesBeat: Who did you figure out likes these kinds of games? Do they appeal to almost everyone? Is there a certain demographic?
Silva: As far as who we targeted audience-wise for this game, the goal was to have broad appeal, just like Lego. Lego has broad appeal. It’s not as if Lego is only for kids. That’s totally not true. I loved Lego as a kid, but I still play with Lego. I know lots of old guys that play with Lego. You go to the Lego Store and you see adults shopping by themselves, pulling boxes off the shelf and taking those home. It’s a fairly wide range.
That’s what we are shooting for in this game. You can play the game as a beginner. You can play the game as an expert. It has a lot of depth. We don’t force that on the player, but if you’re interested in discovering that depth, it’s there.
GamesBeat: User-generated content is getting very popular. How did you think about that and how far to go with the customization?
Silva: The garage is a super powerful and complex tool. It takes time and effort to get good at the garage. You can slap some bricks on a chassis and drive it around and call it your vehicle, but if you put a bit of effort into, you can build something like what you see behind me here. You can build any of this stuff, brick by brick, and beyond that as well. It’s whatever you want to build. You could build a roll of paper towels. You could build a shoe. You could build a donut on wheels. You’re only limited by what you imagine you can create.
As far as UGC goes, yes, we’ll have a UGC mechanic in place. I can’t go into very great detail about that, but everything will have to go through an approval process before it’s submitted, for obvious safety reasons. That will be an important part of the game. People love to show off their creativity.
GamesBeat: Is there anything else you wanted to make sure we talked about?
Silva: One of the most important things that I like to impart is it’s not Lego Racers. It’s not Lego Racing. It’s Lego Drive. We call it “Drive” for a reason. It’s about driving. It’s not solely about racing. It’s so much more than racing. We do have races, but we also have challenges. We have mini-games. We have collectibles. We have quests. We have on-the-go events. We have exploration. So many different things within the game, and more things to come as well that we have planned. It’s a driving adventure game.
That’s also why you jump. I don’t know how much you got involved in jumping your vehicle, but I think that’s a real standout feature of the game. Not only the jumping, but the transformation from terrain type to terrain type. That helps the game stand out and be its own thing. It feels like a big adventure.
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