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LEGO® Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin™ / Designing the Ninja Mechs - Part 1

Tim Spencer

Hey everyone! My name is Tim, and I’m a Level Director here at TT Fusion.

Jay and I sat down and had a long chat about his Electromech.

I’m here to talk about Mechs! Mechs (giant robots) are a huge part of the Ninjago universe. From the very first series there’s been a wide variety of Mechs that both the Ninja and their enemies have used to battle each other – and let’s face it: they’re super cool. Being super cool there’s no way we could leave them out of Shadow of Ronin, and today I’m going to take you through our design process for my personal favourite… Jay’s Electromech. That’s right: Jay’s Electromech is a playable Mech in Shadow of Ronin! As someone who loves Mechs, I was very lucky to be chosen for the job of designing the game play (and levels) for them.

So where do we start?
When we got to the point of designing the Mech gameplay (and Mech levels) we’d already had the toy set design and box art for the Electromech from the LEGO Team, so we knew how this Mech looked, but now comes the hard part: how do we design great game play for it?

Our approach starts with what’s called a “high level” direction – it’s something we can use to guide us, keep our vision in mind, and help us answer the design questions we’ll be asking about our ideas (the devil of design is *always* in the details!). At TT Fusion we apply this approach to our mechanics, our levels, and our game structure – high level direction guides everything we do.

How did we decide the direction for our Mechs?
 …this part was all about research. We looked in detail at every part of the Toy set: how big is it? How dense is it? What parts does it use? How is it built? Do any of the parts move? If so, then how do they move? We looked at other references: does it appear in the TV Show? How is it depicted in the box packaging? Has it been in any other games? Does it appear in a trailer for the toy set? We looked at other games: what works and doesn’t work in other Mech games? And we looked at the direction and structure of Shadow of Ronin: do we know what levels these Mechs are going to be in? If so, are there any specific features in those levels that will determine how best each Mech is used?

From lots of research, and considering the action packed game play of the Ninjas themselves: it was clear that we wanted the direction of our Mechs to be “an extension of the Ninja”.

So how does that help? Well, taking Jay’s Electromech… we start asking ourselves lots of questions:

How does it move?
 Determining how something moves will dictate everything it can do, so we start with that.

…as an extension of the Ninja themselves, it should be: fast, agile, and very mobile. Not a slow lumbering Mech like something from MechWarrior or Steel Battalion, but something fast like Gundam, Macross, or Titanfall.
 …and it should be able to jump and dash, just like the Ninjas can.

See how that high level direction is helped us answer questions? We’re now starting to form the ideas/image of the how the Electromech will play :-)

What does it do?
Now we know how the Electromech will move, what will it do in the level?

…as an extension of the Ninja themselves, it should have: swift melee attack combos using the spear blade it carries. Powerful long range attacks, using the blaster on its left arm. Jump attacks and dash attacks, just like the Ninjas.
 …all the attacks should be powered with elemental lightning, the same as Jay.
 …it should also be able to build (Mech sized) LEGO models, because the Ninjas can build LEGO too.
 …and because it’s powered by lightning, it should be able to charge up electrical generators, just like Jay can.

(The same can be applied to all our Mechs, but making sure we refer to our research on them instead.)

Also, we often get inspiration from other games, films, experiences, and music, and apply that to improve our design. For example, the ranged charge attack for Electromech - where it builds up a huge ball of lightning before firing it out - is similar to Megaman’s Charge Shot, combined with the Giant’s chest weapon from the Iron Giant. It’s often very useful to include references like this to explain to other members of the team exactly where you want a feature to go.

How does it look and sound when moving and attacking?
 This part is where the “cherries on top” start coming in to the design!

…as an extension of the Ninja themselves, it should have: huge, powerful, elemental visual effects (like lightning!) coming from its spear and blaster.
 …and as a huge Mech it should make the screen shake as it walks and attacks, with the sound of heavy motors whining and grinding as it moves swiftly, and huge booms and cracks of thunder as its elemental weapons land on enemies.

To be continued…..Check back next week for Part 2 of this blog

Chris Rose

LEGO® Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin™ / The Art of Spinswitchu

Steve Thornton

LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin /The Art of Spinswitchu

Hello, Steve Thornton again, Game Director of Shadow of Ronin. Any Ninjago fan will already know that one of the defining powers that the Ninja wield is the “Art of Spinjitzu” – an ancient martial art that allows the Ninja to turn into a rapidly spinning elemental tornado. And if you aren’t a Ninjago fan yet – you know now!

In the game the Ninja can earn Spinjitzu power rapidly by fighting enemies, and although I don’t want to reveal too much yet about how it works in combat – I can assure you that the tornado is a devastating attack that can take out crowds of enemies in a pretty entertaining way that even long term fans of the show will be surprised by...

When we started the game though, I knew we would need to find a way to use Spinjitzu not just as a powerful attack in combat, but to drive the level design and puzzles in a meaningful way. Such a core aspect of the show needed to be a core aspect of the game as well. During early design meetings one of the level directors (full credit: Christopher Wyatt Esq) came up with the idea of using Spinjitzu to manipulate special switches and platforms – and thus was born the art of “Spinswitchu”.

On the special Spinswitchu pads players will be able to use the pull of their tornado to take control, but that alone won’t be enough - they will also have to use their wits and timing to solve the games puzzles. We don’t want to spoil all the ways Spinswitchu can be used throughout the game as that’s part of the fun, but some of my favourite examples include moving platforms, powering machinery, cracking locks, charging jump springs, and drilling through rock. And because I can never resist any opportunity to cameo more LEGO in the game, Ninja-eyed fans will no doubt recognise the Spinswitchu pads as stylized versions of the popular range of Spinner playsets; we tried to fit in as many as possible to match with our various environments.

The final way that Spinjitzu can be used in the game is to form the powerful “Tornado of Creation”. As in the TV show, this requires all four of the Ninja to activate Spinjitzu at the same time and combine their powers into a single massive Spinjitzu tornado capable of ripping apart the nearby environment and using those parts to forge crazy new and massive LEGO objects.

As a designer I want to provide mechanics that allow players to interact with the game world in a meaningful and satisfying way – and think in terms of interaction Spinswitchu and the Tornado of Creation are amongst the most exciting mechanics we’ve ever added to the LEGO franchise. I can’t wait for people to see them in action and get their hands on it, because as much fun as you probably just had reading about it, it’s at LEAST twice as fun to actually use.

Thanks for reading,
- Steve

Chris Rose

LEGO® Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin™ / Introduction

Steve Thornton

LEGO® Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin™ / Introduction
Hello, my name is Steve Thornton and I am the Game Director of “LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin”. I hope you heard that in an epic movie trailer guy voice with an orchestral riff in the background, because that’s the way I said it. Shadow of Ronin is an extremely exciting project for us for a lot of reasons – but for all the Ninjago fans out there the biggest thing to get excited about is probably how it fits into the ever expanding Ninjago universe.

In the upcoming 2015 TV season the Ninja find themselves visiting a mysterious island where the even more mysterious Master Chen is hosting a martial arts tournament with a twist… all the entrants wield elemental powers. After the thrills, spills and revelations of the tournament the Ninja return to Ninjago Island, only to find themselves under attack from an all new villain: Ronin. And that’s when our game gets started. 

Our games story not only officially bridges the gap between the Tournament and the upcoming part of the TV season (sorry, no spoilers!) but it will introduce characters, weapons and vehicles that will go on to appear in the show and LEGO playsets later in the year, and even solve a few mysteries that were left unsolved in the show along the way. The whole game team has watched the show and we’ve worked closely with LEGO to ensure that fans will immediately recognise the feel and style of the series in the game, so that together we can contribute a vital and official part of the ongoing Ninjago storyline.

The game is also special because it is completely exclusive to handhelds – specifically the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita. Whereas usually our job on handheld is to try and recreate the feel of the console version on the small screen, Shadow of Ronin is a chance for us to develop a game that completely plays to the strengths and features of handhelds, with unique mechanics, levels and design choices. Our emphasis is on dynamic on-the-go gameplay, acrobatic movement and fluid combat, punctuated with traps, puzzles and vehicle missions. The huge range of dragons, jets, Mechs and land vehicles in the show and playsets meant that our game had to follow suit with a huge variety of gameplay types – not only will players get to hack, slash, flip and spin their way through levels, but drive, fly, stomp and slide as well. With over 25 official LEGO sets featured in the game, hardcore Ninjago fans should have no problem spotting their favourite toys and vehicles – including all the brand new 2015 sets that are coming out this year. Even I’m surprised with how much stuff we’ve managed to fit in.

Although every IP is fun to work with, it was immediately obvious that Ninjago’s massive versatile world, cool characters, flashy powers and stylish combat make it perfect for adapting into a videogame. You can anticipate a trailer in the near future, but in the meantime myself and other members of the Shadow of Ronin team will hopefully drop by with some updates over the next few weeks.

Thanks for reading,

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