Amazing Older Titles Have Become “Increasingly Tricky for Anyone to Play,” Says LEGO Dimensions Dev (Interview)

Among the last expansions for LEGO Dimensions, the Midway Retro Gamer Level Pack, aka the Midway Arcade Pack, features many of the Midway classic games with your protagonist "Gamer Kid" needing to beat various high scores on each cabinet. With the exception of Mortal Kombat, which wouldn't be appropriate for this kid-friendly game, the pack which is available now includes 23 games including Gauntlet, Joust, Rampage, Paperboy, and Defender.

Our resident LEGO Dimensions expert, Blake Peterson, interviewed Mark Warburton, Associate Producer at TT Games, about the challenge of combining two existing franchises together and some of the vocal criticisms that the game has received.

 


GameRevolution: If I recall correctly, LEGO Dimensions wasn't the first time TT Games has played around with some Midway titles, with a version of Defender appearing in LEGO Batman 3. Would you say the team has a fondness for that era of games?

Mark Warburton: We are all gamers first and foremost, so we all have certain titles that resonate with us. Our games have always been littered with nods and winks to our favorite games, movies, and books—that’s what makes them fun. Playing a TT LEGO game is sort of like a love letter to everyone’s childhood, even though most of us still haven’t grown up yet.

GR: It's interesting to imagine that some of the Midway Arcade games are games that Marty McFly or the Ghostbusters could have played when they were new. Is that something you guys think about during production on these level packs?

Warburton: It certainly came up, but I think the main focus was on introducing these amazing games to a whole new generation. Older games don’t seem to have much of a lifespan once their release console is no more. This is, of course, different to movies which keep on getting re-released. That means that it becomes increasingly tricky for anyone to play these amazing older titles. I truly believe that game design never gets old—a good game is a good game and can be enjoyed no matter how old it is. Kids can finally see the games their parents grew up with. And parents can school there children in how to get the high score.

GR: The Midway Arcade era was well known for being about trying to get players to part with as many quarters as possible. Have you guys adjusted the Midway Arcade games’ difficulty settings at all for the LEGO Dimensions’ all ages market?

Warburton: The actual difficulty remains the same as always. What we did was lower the threshold for challenge completion in the main story path. As you play through the main level you will be challenged to hit certain scores in order to progress. We balanced these scores so that people of all ages can enjoy the challenge, but should be able to progress. In the Midway Arcade Adventure World, we have the full game playable at any time. So after having a taste, they may decide that they want to play more and hop on in to reach the next level.

GR: Have you guys considered playing around with Midway's pinball licenses? I'd love to see Emmett Brickowski bounced around as a pinball (or maybe just his head?)

Warburton: Poor Emmet. What on earth did he do to deserve such a fate?

GR: Last year I interviewed Doug Heder way back at E3 about Dimensions, and he seemed to imply a roadmap for future LEGO Dimensions content beyond what had been announced, is there anything about that you can share with us?

Warburton: Right now we are just really excited to get the Midway Arcade Level Pack and the rest of the Wave 4 content out of the door. This has been a labor of love for us and we are very excited to see how people respond.

GR: You guys are quite new to the toys-to-life market and took a bit of a hit in the press for having some content restricted to purchasing figures that had been available as a normal part of prior Lego games. Do you view this as a cost of entry to the platform, or is this something you've considered changing? I know you added support for players to temporarily purchase some characters in-game, but if I recall it's slightly limited.

Warburton: Because we have been doing this for so long, everyone has an idea of what a TT LEGO game should be. When we alter or change anything, then people speak up about it. This is actually great, as we enjoy interacting with our fanbase so that we can shape our games to be the best experience possible.

With LEGO Dimensions we made every single character unique so that you could pick your favorite and have a great time with it. We wanted you to feel a sort of connection and ownership with the mini-figure as you played with him/her both in the game and physically. We added in the Hire-a-Hero option to showcase the different characters in the game. It helped us find the right balance between what the vision of the game was and what the fan base wanted.

GR: You guys have an intense degree of creative control over development of these franchises, considering how preciously controlled they are in other mediums. What is the process by which you approach a licensed property. Are those creative decisions based on what you guys want to do? What seems most financially potentially successful? Iconic?

Warburton: Because we have been doing this for so long people know exactly what we are about. They know we will make a fun game that pays respect to the characters but also with a cheeky wink from time to time. That makes having the conversations with these studios so much easier. Our office is littered with posters, comics, action figures, games, and films. We all have particular brands or characters that we love and that feeds into which type of games we make.

It all comes down to us wanting to make the games that we as fans want to play.

GR: Thanks so much for fielding these questions! I loved LEGO Dimensions, and look forward to pretty much every LEGO game release, to see how much you guys are subtly pushing the engine, your animations, and comedic writing.