The empire of family-friendly fan-favorite games the TT Games has built is on the backs of small yellow-faced men and interlocking bricks. We are of course talking about the series of LEGO video games. With licenses like DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit empire, TT Games makes it look easy to churn out one or two of these games a year, but the teams working on them refuse to stop innovating.
With Fall 2014’s LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, they’re not looking to reinvent the wheel, but they might be expanding the base and putting on some slicker tires. With a space-spanning storyline that takes Batman, the Justice League, and over 150 total characters far (as the title says) beyond Gotham City, there are plenty of chances for change, from all-new space battles reminiscent of a PS4 hit to “BigFigs” as seen in other franchises and a whole lot more customization/selection than ever seen before in the entire LEGO series.
For more on what’s to come, including some brand-new story details and some teases and hints about some of those 150 characters (announcements are of course coming at Comic-Con International: San Diego next week), we sat down this morning with TT Games’ Associate Producer Sam Delaney at a press event in New York.
Newsarama: So Brainiac is the big bad this time around, right Sam?
Sam Delaney: Well, I can’t give it away! But he’s there on the poster. You see him there.
We actually wrote the story ourselves, with the help of DC Entertainment. It doesn’t follow any comic books or specific stories that have been told before, though. We’re continuing the story from LEGO Batman 2. If you played that, at the end, in an after-credits clip, you hear a voice that says “I’ve found them.” That voice is referring to the Lanterns and their various rings. So that voice is coming towards Earth, and the Justice League is alerted by the Watchtower, and they go to see what this threat is. That’s why we’re in space. We’ve left Gotham behind – we’ve done Gotham – and go into space. That allows us to go to these iconic worlds, these Lantern worlds, places where we haven’t seen Batman go before.
So it enables us to have over 150 characters from the DC Universe. It enables us to have our new Space Combat mode; going back to an old-school retro style we used to play as kids, it’s really fun.
Nrama: Yeah, I was wondering with the new space combat after playing it at E3, who on the team was a huge fan of Resogun?
Delaney: (laughs) Well, when you make a game today, it’s hard to not find another game that’s like it. But yeah, we love Resogun, it’s a great game, it’s superb. You can make a comparison to it, but our intention wasn’t just that, we wanted to make a great new section of the game. We’ve done space combat before, of course, in the Star Wars games, where you’re behind the ship; we just wanted to do something new for LEGO Batman 3.
Nrama: One of the most fun parts when Geoff Johns first introduced the rainbow of Lantern Corps in the comics was in Blackest Night, when some of the core heroes and villains were deputized and got different lantern rings temporarily. Is that something fans should be looking out for?
Delaney: (shifts around) Um… I mean… I’m not going to spoil the story for you. You’ll have to pick up and play it! But I mean… yeah, having that vast array of characters, we will have different Lantern Corps coming into it.
Having LEGO, it really enables us to have the free reign to mix characters up and do stuff like that. In Batman one, we got you playing as Villains, in 2 as the Justice League. I’ll have to save some of the story for you to play, though.
Nrama: Now when you’re designing these other Lantern worlds (Odym and Zamaron are confirmed) – how different will they each be?
Delaney: We worked very closely with DC Entertainment. Everything goes to DC, they look over everything and advise us. When you type “Batman” in Google, you get like fifty variations of Batman. That’s the same with Lantern worlds! People do different interpretations, their own style. So we went directly to DC and asked them how they wanted us to go with this, and they provided reference and showed us how they want them presented. So we’ll stay true to the comics, stay true to the fans. When a fan picks up the game, they’ll instantly see these and know what they are.
Nrama: What was the principle behind going so Lantern-focused for the story here? Was it just wanting to go out to space, and that was the natural way to get there?
Delaney: Yeah, when we wrote this story – we actually wrote the whole story at the start of LEGO Batman 2. So we always knew we were coming out to this with LEGO Batman 3. It was already written, and we knew we were going to do it. When we’re making a LEGO game we always look at what we can do that’s new. We don’t want people to pick up a game and say “Well I’ve just done this already.”
We’re also introducing a lot of characters that kids have never seen before. We’re introducing kids to these DC Franchises! They may know Batman and Robin, but they might not know Plastic Man or Atom, some of these characters that haven’t been in films before.
Nrama: Of course with various Lantern worlds, and various Lantern Corps, fans are going to want to play as some of these other Lanterns they haven’t gotten to play as in a video game before. Are we going to see some of the iconic Lanterns of the other corps playable, like Saint Walker, Atrocitus, and others?
Delaney: (smiles) Well, I can’t give you the full list of characters, but you can definitely play as different Lanterns. We have over 150 characters, and we’ll definitely have characters who DC Comics fans will enjoy and be excited about (with more announcements coming next week at Comic-Con). We got a great response when we just announced that Atom is going to be in the game.
Hopefully we have all the characters you want – we worked very closely with DC to get the final list of them. It was a long process. We were pleased!
Nrama: One of the other things you guys are bringing into this game are the “BigFig” characters that were prominently featured in last year’s LEGO Marvel Superheroes. What made that work and what do they bring to the gameplay?
Delaney: They were such a big success. The team do such a great job in animating those characters. (Pulls up Cyborg on the demo) So several characters now have the character wheel you can pull up, not just Batman and Robin anymore. Cyborg has different suits, and Lex Luthor has different suits.
So I can pull up the wheel and go to the big figure version of Cyborg. The BigFigs are amazing, and they do a lot to animate them for each individual character. Solomon Grundy is a zombie, so he walks around with his arms loosely in front of him. And they all of course have super strength, so those work differently in some puzzles.
Nrama: Now you’re developing for all major platforms, but what do the new generation consoles do for you specifically?
Delaney: Well the new generation is obviously a lot more powerful, in terms of loading times, the graphics themselves, the details and number of characters on screen – it opens the doors to all of those things.
Nrama: What’s one specific tease or character or little bit that you’re excited for fans to get their hands on in LEGO Batman 3?
Delaney: Well we just announced this week that Adam West is in the game. I can’t get into that much, but we are super excited to have him along.
DC has been really great, and LEGO has been great, about giving us pretty much anything we want. “Sure, we have Batman, but we want the Lanterns,” we said, and they gave them to us! They are both great partners, letting us do that. We want to tick all the boxes: We want the DC fans, we want the kids and the families, and most of all we want to make a great game.