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LEGO City Undercover dev says the team wanted to avoid making a GTA game, scrapped zombie mechanic talk

Posted on August 8, 2021 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch, Wii U

LEGO City Undercover may feature an open world, but it’s not overly comparable to Grand Theft Auto. It turns out that this was intentional.

During a recent episode of the Bits N’ Bricks podcast, lead animator Matt Palmer mentioned, “One thing we were keen to try and avoid was it becoming a Grand Theft Auto game.” Rather than being violent, the team “constantly stepped back from things and just made sure that we were looking at the fun and the funny element of what we could do.” That lead to elements like the grapple gun.

Palmer explained:

Palmer: One thing we were keen to try and avoid was it becoming a Grand Theft Auto game. It could very easily turn into, “Actually, this is far too violent for what the LEGO Group would like their IP related to.” So we constantly stepped back from things and just made sure that we were looking at the fun and the funny element of what we could do. It was a really, really interesting phase, actually, because there were certain things that you kind of go, here’s a character who’s holding this great big gun, and straight away it’s going to make you go, we can’t do that. What we did do was go actually this gun is the grapple gun. In one case, we made all sorts of test pieces of that using goo guns. So you were capturing the criminal element in the game with glue and goop, so you kind of make them stick to the floor. The grapple gun actually became one that you could actually tie people up with, so you could shoot it. There’s an early section in the game with the clowns where you shoot the gun at the clowns and actually tie them up in rope. Sit them on the floor. So it was the fun side of playing with all that goop is absolutely fantastic.

The same podcast also had some interesting discussion about a scrapped gameplay mechanic involving zombie hordes. Palmer, along with LEGO Group producer Darryl Kelley, shared the following:

Palmer: So the LEGO Group around that time started producing, I think it was the first few seasons of the LEGO collectible minifigures. So you go and get your blind packs from your local supermarket or your newsagents and you kind of go, “What have I got in it?” And they had produced a range, as I recall, that had a zombie in it. And the decision had been made to, as they release these, because they’re great little one-off characters, why don’t we start adding them into LEGO City? A lot of them just would suit being in that kind of environment. And one of the characters just happened to be a zombie. And we would tinker around with some settings to try and get something else working and managed to spawn in a crowd of zombies. (Chuckles) Because it was purely by accident that somebody loaded up the game, somebody committed something, I think, and somebody loaded up the game, and there was a whole swarm of zombies kind of coming toward. And everybody just went, “That’d be brilliant!” but then straightaway went, “But we don’t think the LEGO Group would go for that.” So it was just that. I think the zombie is still in there. I have seen a YouTube clip of loads of the characters that I know the zombie was in collectable sets, but unfortunately, there wasn’t the whole swarm of them.

Kelley: I remember looking at a couple builds, where some bonus levels or situations were actually created that went too far. I remember one specific example within the LEGO City Undercover development, we had talked about a bonus activity or just an unlock, where you could actually have the citizens of LEGO City Undercover become zombies. And they wouldn’t eat you, but they would just walk around and look like zombies. And it was hysterical and amazing to see, but yes, there was some concern about, you know, is that just going a little too far, is that going to scare children? Even though we would have like a zombie, or LEGO minifigure blind packs or things of that nature, but bringing a whole city to life of zombies maybe was too far. But amazing! I mean, the ideas that TT Games will come up with for these types of, you know, kind of unlock or side missions were never short of fun. That’s for sure.

That’s actually not all from Palmer and Kelley, as the two also discussed Nintendo’s involvement with LEGO City Undercover and releasing the game on more platforms after it was initially Wii U exclusive. Read about that here.

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