So, Pirates of the Caribbean must have seemed a pretty natural fit for the next LEGO Video Game...
"Pirates of the Caribbean was absolutely the natural next choice as a LEGO game for us to make because it is full of fun and mischief and surprise, and it has great characters for us to fill a LEGO universe; colourful and highly differentiated characters with cool abilities having adventures in a wide variety of locations. Plus it's pirates."
It must have been quite a challenge to summarise four separate blockbuster movies into one game...
"We love having the broadest possible amount of content to draw on, but we are always looking to put more and more into each game. When we settled on the opportunity of making a LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean game, we obviously didn't want to settle on just one movie, full of action and incident and fun as that would be, so we settled on doing four movies. A lot of the early work in the design stage was about distillation [of the four narratives]. It was about accentuating the things and moments that work particularly well in LEGO form."
The recent LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars introduced strategic elements to the series; so what new ideas have you brought with LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean?
The characters can also swim, right?
"Yes, the characters can swim and dive and hide in barrels. They can use the air in the barrels to be able to walk under the water. We also have characters with their own particular quirks and abilities as well. Regetti (played by British actor Mackenzie Crook) can throw his eye, and there are not a lot of characters that can say that."
You also seem to have made an effort to make the characters look more like their inspirations, particularly Johnny Depp's Captain Jack, who flails his arms around madly when he runs...
"Jack Sparrow was such a great character to work with because the performance of Johnny Depp was so iconic and in many ways exaggerated, which works particularly well in LEGO form."
LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean's campaign is playable in both single and co-operative mode via drop in-drop out. The game is once again orientated around a central hub area, this time a port, which provides a launchpad to enter the levels and access additional content. The LEGO Star Wars team previously said that the hubs in LEGO Harry Potter and LEGO Indiana Jones got too big and confusing for some players. So how did you balance that?
"The game is structured around a main hub area, which is a port full of ships that grows as you unlock more areas of the game. The hub in LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean expands as you progress and collect gold bricks. There is also an area where you can control little ships, so there is extra content for you to access as you progress. It is sized so that there is a good amount of new content for you to unlock but you will also be able to navigate very clearly to your next objective."
"We see a wide variety of different play times because players of different interests play games in different ways; and LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is no different. Some players take several hours to go through a level while others will rip through it in half an hour. So it could be around 10 hours for some players, but it could be many more hours for other players. Particularly younger players like to spend a lot of time in a certain area, getting the most out of all the elements in there."
That's interesting, because you surely have to make a game with accessibility for younger players, but also enough of a sliding scale of difficulty to please the older gamers...
"Yes, certainly, and we do that by having a very clear path of progression through the story and make those puzzles very clearly signposted. They are challenging, but hopefully engaging enough for you to beat. But also we have around the periphery a range of extra stuff to tackle, which opens up more demanding content to take on."
And what about collectibles?
"All of our LEGO games are multi-layered and that is most apparent in the multiple layers of collectibles that you can find. Every player will be picking up LEGO studs which can be added to their bank to purchase and unlock characters and cheats. Players who are more diligent and imaginative in their exploration will also be able to track down secret hidden elements of ships in a bottle, of which there are 10 in each level and they are often quite hard to find. There are also gold bricks that enable you can use to unlock parts of the hub, and there are red bricks that can be used as studs to access cheats and level secrets. There is also a secret level that you will be able to unlock if you so choose."
The Nintendo 3DS came out in March, so what were the challenges of developing a 3D version of the game for the new platform?
How have you utilised the 3DS' StreetPass social connectivity function?
"Thanks to the hardware we have not only been able to deliver great graphics and visuals, but we have also been able to access the StreetPass function to engage with players in a social way via battling in sword fights. People love the fact that the game is alive in their pockets, even when they are not playing it. When they next check in they will be able to access new content. It's a wonderful mix of the virtual and real world."
So you have collaborated with Nintendo, but how closely have you worked with Pirates of the Caribbean producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the rest of the movie team?
"It's extremely exciting for the development team here in the UK to be working on a new movie that is still in development. It's also really exciting to hear that Jerry Bruckheimer has been playing the game, receiving his feedback and hearing that he really likes it. It's very energising. We were very pleased with the level of support we received from the entire Disney organisation. We approach stories with a sense of mischief and fun that requires a certain level of buy in from creators to let us get away with that, and we were delighted to be trusted with that opportunity by Jerry Bruckheimer."
> Hands-On: 'LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean'
LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game will be released on PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, 3DS and PSP on May 10.