April 19th 2003
Did you say "Lego"?
Lego sets were a big part of my childhood. I had a lot of them, 95% of which
were space-related sets. I never cared much for the town and castle series. My
favorite activity was building elaborate space ships and bases, and I swear,
some of my creations were good enough to be sold as official Lego products.
I've seen Lego make the jump to software some years ago, and I must say most
of the Lego-related games have been rather disappointing so far. In my humble
opinion, the main reason for this is that these games do not offer the one
thing that gamers really expect from a Lego game: The ability to build
things with virtual Lego bricks. The Lego company can't really be blamed
for this, since before now, only PCs could run such building-oriented games,
and chances are if you're old enough to own a PC, you're probably too old to
play with Lego bricks. Kids are more into video game consoles, and with the
power of today's consoles, it seems like we could finally have the kind of
Lego game that everyone wants to see.
The Microsoft X-Box, with its built-in hard drive and online capabilities,
could be seen as the platform of choice to support this kind of Lego game,
but I prefer to place my chips on the Nintendo Game Cube, mostly because
the Lego game I would like to see bares more than a passing resemblance to
an existing Game Cube game: Animal Crossing. Allow me to elaborate...
Introducing "Lego Master Builder"
I like to call this proposed game "Lego Master Builder", because it
pretty much describes the ultimate goal of the game: To become the Master
Builder of your Lego town. But it actually goes much farther than that, as you
will see. I haven't explored all the possible ramifications of this game
design, but I'll try to organize all my ideas coherently.
First, a little introduction: You live in a small and peaceful city on Lego
Island. The game begins with a mystery that is baffling the local authorities:
The town's Master Builder, Xavier Patterson, has dissapeared. He was under
contract with city hall to build a large bridge between Lego Island and the
main continent. Now the bridge has been left half-built, and no one in town
seems to have the know-how to complete it. Even worse, the mayor decided to
close off the island until mister Patterson has been found, so no one is
allowed to set foot on or off the island.
Seing how the local police is making no progress with the investigation, you
decide to take on the challenge of becoming the town's new Master Builder.
If you succeed, the mayor may let you finish the bridge that Patterson had
started building, and perhaps you will solve the mystery of Patterson's
dissapearance in the process. But becoming a Master Builder is no easy task!
You must prove yourself by building a good reputation, and by developing a
network of connections to help you speed up your work. Patterson was known
worldwide as a top-level Master Builder. Can you achieve the same level of
Opening your workshop
When you start the game, you can customize the appearance of your minifig
character by choosing from a large variety of Lego leg, torso, head and hair
pieces. The game assigns one or two random family members to you, and
generates a town using randomly placed buildings and roads.
Your first task is to build your own workshop. This is done by going to city
hall to buy a lot of land, and then going to the city library to pick up the
blueprint of your future workshop. Once this is done, you must go around town
collecting Lego pieces, in an effort to find all the pieces that the blueprint
requires. You'll be using this time to get better acquainted with your town
and its inhabitants, and once you workshop has been built, the real game will
At your service!
Your job as builder is to fulfill building contracts for a variety of clients
who live in your town. When a client drops by your workshop (this can happen
even while you're away) or makes a request via Legonet (which is the in-game
version of the Internet), he/she gives you a blueprint of what he/she wants
you to build: A piece of furniture, a car, a boat, even an entire house!
These blueprints work just like the step-by-step building instructions found
in real Lego toys. Accepting the contract and promissing to deliver the
requested item within a certain time limit is the easy part. The hard part is
finding the bricks and pieces listed in the blueprint, and that's what you'll
be doing during most of the game.
There are many ways to find Lego pieces. Here are a few of them:
Once you have acquired the necessary pieces, all you need to do is go back
to your workshop and build the item. You can do this manually (brick by brick)
using a cursor-based assembly interface, or if you want it done quickly, you
can ask the game to assemble the pieces for you automatically. When you do
manual work in your workshop, the game's timer is slowed town, so you won't be
too penalized for spending a lot of time building stuff in your shop.
- You can buy or trade them at "brick shops" in your city.
- Performing certain tasks for other people (or sometimes just talking to
them) may get you a piece or two. Some of these tasks are actually mini-games
you need to complete successfully.
- Walk around town, in the surrounding woods, the beaches, or on the
mountain on the northern part of the island, and you may find pieces lying on
the ground. You can even find pieces burried underground, or you can find them
while scuba-diving in the sea around the island.
- You can order or trade pieces via Legonet, or even buy rare pieces in
- You can "generate" Lego pieces using the Lego e-Machine (more on that
The client later comes to your shop to pay for the completed item, and your
reputation level increases depending on how much time it took for you to
fulfill the contract. Improving your reputation is the key to reaching the
next level of the game (more on that later).
Further details about the game
There are thousands of Lego pieces to be found in the game, and each piece
is available in different colors. Some pieces are quite rare (especially the
printed ones) and make certain blueprints hard to complete. On the plus side,
completing the more difficult blueprints gets you more money and greatly
increases your reputation meter as well. Some of the blueprints themselves
are hard to find: Finding such rare blueprints and building the items printed
on them can get you a lot of attention from all kinds of people.
Sometimes, clients will come to you to have something repaired. This usually
involves finding a few replacement Lego pieces, and then fixing up the
damaged item before giving it back to the client. These small jobs don't
give a lot of money, but they're good for your reputation, expecially if you
find the replacement pieces very quickly.
You can also get blueprints at the public library, and build the items on
those blueprints for yourself, given you find all the required Lego pieces.
You can store these completed items at your workshop and sell them to
customers, if they're interested.
If you need money and have a lot of spare Lego pieces in your inventory, you
can go to your workshop and assemble random pieces together to make
abstract objects. You can then go to the city museum, and show them to the
museum's curator, who may buy these objects from you. He's a sucker for
abstract art. :-)
You can record your inventory of Lego pieces, as well as all the other game
progress data on a standard memory card. Unlike Animal Crossing, the
town doesn't continue "virtually existing" when you turn your Game Cube off.
When you resume a saved game, you continue from the point in time at which you
The e-Machine: Lego pieces on e-Cards
If you have an e-Reader and the GBA-to-GC Link Cable, you can use special Lego
e-Cards to manufacture Lego pieces as you need them. To do this, you must first
build the e-Machine, for which you can find the blueprint at the library.
The e-Machine requires some pretty rare Lego pieces, so building it will be a
challenge that you will only be able to complete much later into the game.
Once the e-Machine is built and ready, you can setup a link between the Game
Cube and the e-Reader, swipe in the e-Card with the pieces you need, and let
the e-Machine create the desired pieces out of thin air! You can make as many
Lego pieces as you want this way!
Here is an example of a Lego e-Card:
Each card has four long data strips (two on each side), and each data strip
contains four Lego pieces, for a total of 16 pieces per card. But the actual
number of distinct pieces you can make is actually much higher, because you
can select the color of each piece! The only drawback is that the e-Machine
cannot make transparent or printed pieces, so you'll have to find those the
old fashion way. There would be about 50 different e-Cards to collect.
The social variables
Searching for Lego pieces is only half of what this game is about. The other
main aspect is the quality of your relationships with the other characters
you meet and live with. The game actually keeps track of your social
interactions with each of the in-game characters, and this social data is
used to build a realistic evolution of the social model of your town.
Here are a few examples:
- Treat your family members nicely, and they might find pieces for you, or
put you in contact with potential clients. This same tip can apply to neighbors
of all ages, city employees (such as policemen) and also people you don't
- Having contacts in city hall can get you valuable contracts with city
officials. One such contract could be to build a helicopter for the local post
office, so that the mail from the continent can reach Lego Island. Fulfilling
this kind of high-profile contract will do wonders for your reputation, as
well as unlock new events in the game.
- Not everyone in your town is a good person. Some shady characters can come
to you and offer you contracts, and you are free to accept them, but if these
characters get arrested by the police for any reason, your reputation meter
might be negatively affected. On the plus side, these shady contracts can get
you loads of money, so it's a gamble.
A little competition never hurt anyone...
You are not the only building workshop owner in your town. There is usually
one other randomly-generated builder present, and you need to keep an eye on
this particular character because you will be in constant competition with
him/her, for both money and reputation points. If you allow your competitor
to gain too much public recognition, you'll get fewer and fewer clients until
you are forced to close your shop, which in this game means "Game Over".
So you have to stay on your toes at all times, and work to improve your
reputation and get more clients than your local competitor. If your reputation
level reaches the point where your competitor is forced to close his/her
shop, you will gain the title of Master Builder, and you will move on to the
next level of the game.
Level two: Finishing the bridge
With your title of Master Builder comes the responsability you've been
expecting: You have to finish the bridge between Lego Island and the main
continent. The mayor will provide the blueprint, and you will have to find
the necessary Lego pieces. Not only is this a huge job, but not all the
required pieces can be found on Lego Island!
You will therefore need to build a boat and travel to the main continent,
where you will visit three other towns on your quest to complete the bridge.
You will meet new people, including other Master Builders. Some of these
will be potential clients who will ask you to fulfill contracts for them
in exchange for some of the rare pieces you're looking for, or money which
you can use to progress in your quest. At this point, your reputation as
builder will be undisputed, but you'll still be tracking down lots and lots
of Lego pieces, as any Master Builder is expected to do.
You may also participate to special events, such as helping the Alpha Team
in a mission against the evil Ogel, or participating in large projects such
as building a passenger train. Completing these special events successfully
will usually get you valuable rewards.
Finish the bridge, and the mayor of Lego Island will throw a big party in
your honor, and that's where events will take a weird turn...
Level three: Time travel!
After the party, you will receive a visit from a strange and mysterious
professor, who will give you serious clues related to Xavier Patterson's
dissapearance, as well as the blueprints for a time machine! As soon as
you find all the pieces and build it, you will be able to travel to the
dinosaur era, medieval era, the pirate era, as well as the futuristic space
era. During your travels, you will encounter familiar castle, pirate and
space sets produced by Lego during the eighties and nineties.
Your main goal will be to find Xavier Patterson, who apparently built a time
machine of his own and got lost somewhere in time. As Master Builder, you
will need to talk to people in all those eras, find elusive Lego pieces and
build things with them, from old castles to space ships. You will notice that
some of the actions you perform in the past produce effects that change the
present and even the future.
If you manage to find Patterson, he will tell you what led him to build a
time machine, and as you learn the truth about the mysterious professor who
gave you the blueprints for your own time machine, you'll find yourself in
a race against the clock that will test all your skills as Master Builder!
Can you save the day?
I'm sure I could come up with several other interesting features for this
proposed game, but I think I've given enough details.
I think it would be cool to have the ability to link up with other players
online, via the Game Cube's modem, and trade pieces, blueprints, completed
items, and perhaps even brand new Lego creations built from scratch.
You might say that this game is an obvious clone of Animal Crossing,
and you would be right. But to me, this is poetic justice, because Animal
Crossing is a rip-off of the Fabuland
series made by the Lego company during the late seventies and early eighties!