Develop 08: Traveller's Tales on making children cry

The developers share some of the lessons learnt in developing Lego Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Batman at the Brighton conference.

BRIGHTON--Presenting a session titled "How to Make Children Cry" at the 2008 Develop Conference & Expo, Traveller's Tales development director Jonathan Smith highlighted some of the ways developers make games that aren't child-friendly and explained how the Traveller's Tales team used children to help develop the Lego series. One of the driving factors for the team's decision to develop Lego games, according to Smith, was the unique feeling that is experienced when playing with Legos, coupled with a "passionate belief that play is intrinsically good," not just for children, but also for parents and society in general.

Children, the key audience for Lego games, were integral to the development process from the start of the Lego Star Wars project. Focus groups were used to make sure the game was the right fit for children of all ages--even disgruntled teens, who were shown in a video during the seminar.

Traveller's Tales found that children are "relentlessly and totally focused on finding the next thing," rather than discovering every last item on each level before advancing. Talking about the Lego Star Wars development team, Smith revealed that "originally, the secret levels [in Lego Star Wars] were for us," as the team had to play through the game continuously. Smith also found that children didn't like tutorials, which he likened to teachers who bully and moan, and he said that he doesn't play games with tutorials in them anymore. "You can teach people a lot of things without tutorials," he explained.

Talking to GameSpot UK after the session, Smith said the team is always considering options for future Lego games and didn't rule out the possibility of regular Lego games not based on existing IP nor on ideas from other games. He did qualify this by making it clear that such games would always be targeted with children in mind and not just at a mature market. Despite that, Smith conceded that the nature of Lego makes usually potentially violent content "amusing" and therefore more acceptable in a game aimed at minors than it might otherwise be.

Smith also emphasised the importance of emotional characters, such as those from the Star Wars universe. "We were lucky enough to be gifted by these characters, and thank goodness we did."

GameSpot UK will be bringing you coverage from the Develop Conference & Expo in Brighton over the coming days.

Written By

Former staff writer for GameSpot.co.uk, now marketing guy for a certain major online retailer....

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Discussion

83 comments
Biohazard4801
Biohazard4801

Lego Halo, Lego Gears of War....uhhh Lego Guitar Hero...and Lego Super Mario...o and Lego GH would come bundled with a build-your-own Lego guitar!!!!

mssrulez
mssrulez

lego resident evil, lego F.E.A.R, lego doom 3, lego quake and lego zelda would be cool lol

crazy666p
crazy666p

I love the lego games and I hope they'll make a lego spiderman game or lego james bond :D

thegame1980
thegame1980

LEGO Lord of the Rings: The Complete Trilogy! BAM! Perfect fun.

Killingspree303
Killingspree303

I really hope they change their gameplay a little. Lego SW was kickass fun, but the next LEGO game, Indiana Jones, was repetitive from the last game.

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Pete5506
Pete5506

Lego GTA, or maybe Lego Fable

bigjsd
bigjsd

Instead of Lego games based on movies or previous games I think Leog will want to keep the focus on current Lego themes. Some cool games could be made with the Caste theme, Pirate theme, Aqua Raiders theme, and even the Mars Mission theme. I believe a previous poster even mentioned the classic Space theme, which I agree could be really cool but unlikely since Lego would be more inclined to push sales of a current theme. A racing game based on Lego Racers would be cool of done correctly as well.

Absolutezerr
Absolutezerr

What's he talking abut? I remember finding every gem in all of the Spyro games back in the day...

wormri
wormri

I loved CheesemanMuncher ideas, Lego box sounds pretty. besides, expanding the lego universe to online coop (or just online) experience can be great, think about it, build in co-operation (Like Blockland, or Roblox) in graphics like Lego star wars', and with possebilities like Gmod? Lego Creator 2 might be awesome, Lego Fortress, Lego Tournament 2008 (Gore will now be accesible to children :P) and perhaps Lego Smash Brawl? Halego 3? Lego Worms? Lego James bond?! (I'm gettin' carried away)...

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

arc_salvo
arc_salvo

I agree with Jonathan Smith's observation that Children don't like to search every last corner of a level for a secret before moving on. As a matter of fact, most adults don't like to either. Going back through redundant areas painstakingl searching for a hidden secret somewhere is -work-, not play, and that makes it inherently unfun for a lot of people, including myself. It's why I never play a game more than twice, usually. And if I get bored with the game, I ususally stop halfway through the second playthrough. I also almost never bother to finish collections and other stuff to get "100%" of all the achievements in any game. It just seems pointless to me, considering how boring it is to do that. I wish more developers would use focus groups and learn the same things that Mr. Smith did. They'd probably change the way they thought of designing games -really- fast.

CheesmanMuncher
CheesmanMuncher

The Lego games are some of the most fun I've ever played. You'd think that a combination of Lego and Star Wars, or Lego and Indiana Jones would be purely for those around ages 4 to about 9 but nope, I'm 17 and I find them a hell of a lot more fun than some games out today. The possibilities are nearly endless. Lego Tomb Raider? Lego Gear Solid? Lego Lost? The could even do a Half Life 2-esqe multi-game deal. The Lego Box anyone?

XNA-Game-Maker
XNA-Game-Maker

I remember back in 1999 when I was seven and first came to America, the games were hard even for those cheap as* apple computers. That is why when the year 2000 and the later years came they made them easy fore kids.

drummer131
drummer131

Lego Harry Potter wouldn't work that well, I don't think.

Nzilla
Nzilla

Lego Doom Lego Half-Life Lego Quake

tawagivercetti
tawagivercetti

Bring on Lego GTA : BlockCity and Lego Robot Chicken. lol

Hokkie
Hokkie

Lego Lego Batman....one block with a picture of batman on it

Blace_07
Blace_07

Lego Harry Potter would be freakin awesome.

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

All the effort really paid off... TT is making some seriously fun games that are accessible for people of all ages. A commendable feat. PS: A new installment in the Lego Racers series would be killer... and a game based on the Lego Pirates would be even better.

ivanfred
ivanfred

Killer2401: Lego Halo? Lego Naruto? Lego Little Big Planet? Lego Half-Life? Lego Spore? Lego Left 4 Dead? Lego Endwar? The list goes on and on.... =========================== Lego Showgirls, please.

Killer2401
Killer2401

Lego Halo? Lego Naruto? Lego Little Big Planet? Lego Half-Life? Lego Spore? Lego Left 4 Dead? Lego Endwar? The list goes on and on....

Treadstone71
Treadstone71

How 'bout the Classic Space Legos? I loved those settings when I was a kid in the early 80's...

SR71halo
SR71halo

Lego Lord of the Rings would be awesome, I hope they do that next.

Superdude475
Superdude475

Lego GTA FTW! It would be the fun of GTA without the sex, drugs, and violence!

GodsPoison
GodsPoison

a Lego Doctor Who game would be sweet.

Alex_Masterson
Alex_Masterson

With all the shows and movies to draw from, Star Trek would make a good series of Lego games. And I also think a LoTR would make a great Lego game.

DeuxHero
DeuxHero

I want to see a Lego game in an cross over between all of the original lego setings, would make for an intresting mashup.

Baseman28
Baseman28

@gonzalezj1 Not really. If the game is aimed towards "family" and the gameplay is centered around the fact the characters are now legos, it can be a very different game. Anyways, there should be a list where people could add what movies, books, games, etc. they wished were lego games... ...instead of typing them on the news comments. :P

gonzalezj1
gonzalezj1

Why do most people posting want a Lego remake of something that's already a game? Wouldn't it be the same game... only everything would look like Legos? That seems pointless to me.

Jigsaw9798
Jigsaw9798

Any Lego game with 100s of zombie legos on screen at once would be awesome.

-Phaz-
-Phaz-

Lego Gears of War could actually potentially be awesome... someone get cliffy B and traveller's tale on the phone together!!!!!!!!!

gandalf_storm
gandalf_storm

Lego (insert soap opera here) - Oh i forgot, theres no need, they are plastic enough.

Felkin_
Felkin_

Lego Avatar: The Last Airbender? I know they released a few Avatar Lego sets, and the show is popular with both kids and "big kids"... much like Lego itself. Plus, the Avatar style of elemental martial arts sounds like a good match for the "potentially violent content" mentioned in the article!

raverrozza
raverrozza

i agree that the kids games are too easy. need to teach the little rats that life is hard and brutal and only the fittest would survive!! get some old nes games into them and see them attempt to complete them!