Best Of GDC: Lego On Building Its Universe Brick By Brick

Continuing Gamasutra's 'best of GDC' set of previously unposted write-ups, The Lego Group's director of business development Mark Hansen discussed the Lego Universe MMO and a host of other issues in h
When Lego announced that it was developing an MMOG based on the ubiquitous brick, many people, young and old, were fascinated and excited at the prospect. Mark Hansen, The Lego Group's director of business development referred to it, in his Game Developers Conference 2008 lecture in San Francisco last week, not simply as a game but as “a premium play extension to the Lego product.” It combines both virtual assets and physical products to engage people's imaginations. In a list of milestones for the company, Hansen listed that Lego Universe is due to arrive sometime in 2009, about a decade later than some of the company's later technological jumps, like Bionicle and Mindstorms, and thirteen years after the company's first steps onto the web. Some of the company's recent offerings on the web include Lego Factory, which allows users to make their own custom creations and order them over the web, and Lego Digital Designer, which gives computer users an environment to design their own creations in a 3D environment. Hansen noted that the important thing with these offerings is that they allow Lego to see what it is that people are making and what they are interested in. The community has been very helpful to the brand itself, creating large amounts of content and distributing it, whether over the web, in events, or magazines like Brick Journal. “They give the Lego company content, but what's missing is the Lego play. They can create, they can share, but they can't play,” Hansen said. For the play that Lego Universe is shooting for, they need a huge amount of a content. The company went to their Lego User Partners, adult fans of the bricks working with them in both amateur and professional capacities. The Lego Group originally went to them to provide assistance with product development in the Mindstorm days. For Lego Universe, the company turned to the LUPs and their content in three phases thus far, with the most recent and largest phase encompassing 86 people. While it would be easy to simply have people create smaller types of Lego creations, The LUPs are actually relied on for larger design considerations, like overall aesthetics of areas and integrating organic architecture with all Lego brick areas. There are still a lot of questions to be answered as the game development moves forward toward its due date in 2009, but the company plans on continuing to leverage the support of their fan community.

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