Hi there. If you are reading this, chances are you played LEGO Universe. I played as HappyPappy on Overbuild server but I was also a member of the LUP program, where volunteer LEGO geeks like me were lucky to be involved in the game’s creation in a very minor but fun way. The Universe is long since closed now, but I think about it a lot and wanted to share some memories. Thanks to Zipblock and The LUPrechaun for letting me post them here. This is part one of what (if I actually follow through) will be a six part log.
Stories, secrets and silliness from the LEGO Universe LUP program
Part one: “They’re making a what?”
Seriously? A LEGO MMOG? Woo-HOO!!
I can’t remember where I first heard the news. It was probably on Kotaku or somewhere like that. As with any LEGO related news, for several days I got emails about it from friends and relatives who support if not always understand my LEGO hobby.I really wanted to get involved somehow, and my first thought was testing. I had never tested before, so I talked to a friend of mine in the industry, asking for tips on how to apply and sound appealing. At the time, information on the “unnamed LEGO MMOG” project was very sparse, so I wrote a letter to NetDevil addressed to no one specific, and sent it to the public firstname.lastname@example.org address.I had to try, right? Surprise surprise, I never got a reply. Of course I hadn’t expected one.
…but that’s OK, because of what happened next.
It couldn’t have been more than a few days later at a VicLUG meeting when John – one of our members who is also a LEGO Ambassador – was talking about the recent MMOG announcement. He had been asked by LEGO to find out if anyone in VicLUG was interested to get involved…
“ME!!!! Oh OHHH me Me MEE!!!” (I actually fell out of my chair. True story. Ask Zipblock, he was there.)
“I just sent them a letter, yes yes yes I want to be involved!” I had no idea what John’s offer of “getting involved” really meant. I figured probably testing or something. Of course, what it was would eventually become the LUP/WBL program.
In the early days, like the game itself the LUP program had no name. John and I signed NDA documents and were given accounts on a secret forum site, then assigned to a team. There were five teams of about 8-10 people each, mostly Americans, but our team – the Beta Blockers – were all either Canadian or German. At the time we joined, the folks in Denver were already planning the first “Netfest”, a workshop event for the LUPs and we were all invited.
Through the forum, we were asked to build various things; lamp posts, benches, a system of fences and gates etc, and sometimes specific items based on concept art. We built in MLCAD using the LDraw parts library. I had dabbled with MLCAD before, but always felt like I was building with boxing gloves on, so I never stuck with it. Also, when I build for fun I ignore the Minifigs and build “scale models”, with the scale being dictated by the parts I choose. My first LUP models were all huge and overbuilt and looked ridiculous next to the diminutive Minifig. This was going to take some practice. My eureka moment came when I remembered an image that a friend of mine had made years before. He had taken a picture of a male model in a neutral vitruvian pose and warped his body until the proportions matched a Minifig. This humorous image was the reminder I needed to break away from literal scale and start seeing the non-scale, somewhat flexible toy world that the Minifig inhabits.
We had not been on board for more than a couple of months and it was time for Netfest. To date, I had only submitted a few models and was still struggling with scale issues, and the idea of being flown out to Denver to take part in a workshop seemed like an upfront reward for work not yet delivered. It was all moving so fast, and I was nervous. My work situation made it impossible for me to arrange time off of my choosing, but I got lucky with the Netfest dates and was able to go. What awaited John and me in Denver was an experience like no other, an experience that needs it’s own “chapter”…