LEGO Universe: Want to work for the online LEGO game developed in Louisville?
A while ago, we profiled NetDevil, a Louisville game developer hard at work on LEGO Universe, a massively multiplayer online game based on LEGO bricks. LEGO Universe was a critical hit on its release late last year, but since then NetDevil's collapsed, leaving just a bare-bones LEGO Universe team in Louisville. The game is still going, though -- and if you've got the right skills, LEGO Universe is now looking to hire.
If the game is already out, you might be wondering why it needs new employees. That's because LEGO Universe, like most massively multiplayer online games, constantly requires new content -- new worlds, new challenges, new loot -- to keep players coming back into their virtual universe (and paying for the benefits in not-so-virtual money). Right now, for example, the company is looking to hire a senior game designer who's all about age-appropriate game play. So, if you have at least five years of game-design experience and can refrain from making penises out of LEGO bricks, it might be the job for you.
But is LEGO Universe really the right place to be working these days? After all, the Louisville operation is a shadow of its former self, and LEGO, which now owns the game outright, seemed to be signaling the game's struggling sales when it recently announced they'd be rolling out a free-trial version of the game.
A good person to be a judge of that is Stephen Calendar, an ex-NetDevil programmer who recently dished on the company's collapse on the website MMO Fallout. Calendar doesn't hold back on what he sees as the problems at NetDevil after LEGO Universe's release:
After Scott Brown left, the NetDevil founder who was president of NetDevil, we had an interim president sent from corporate, Stuart Moulder. Mr. Moulder (http://gamesauce.org/news/2011/01/05/stuart-moulder/) was actually pretty cool, very sharp fellow, but I have the feeling he most mostly a steward of the company without a ton of control to do anything. Lack of communication was a big frustration, as employees we never felt like we had a platform to submit ideas, criticism, feedback; and I know in particular Scott felt left out of the corporate loop and ham-stringed when he attempted to improve or change anything. We felt a little too much like just property instead of people.
Still, Calendar believes LEGO Universe is not about to be tossed in the trash like a broken toy -- as long as its corporate overlords at LEGO figure out how to handle it:
Actually, despite everything, I think LEGO Universe will be around for a while. Yeah, I guess I disagree with shrinking the team as much as they did, but there is still plenty of remaining talent to tackle whatever they set their eyes on. LEGO can certainly afford whatever they would like to build, their company is incredibly solid, they publish their numbers if you want to look and LEGO Universe is actually more affordable than most of the LEGO sets. Big hurdles I see in their path, they really need to ramp up their marketing - I do not understand why they have been keeping the project on the DL. The smaller team is totally capable, but do they have enough bandwidth to generate enough content and features to meet the communities demand?
Lastly, LEGO can be its own worst enemy, the best and worst thing about them is a complete obsession with quality and customer experience, seriously, it is stunning to witness. So how could that ever be a bad thing? Well a lot of the MMO market is this very test and react place, where for better or worst many people throw as much rough but playable content at their customers to see what they will respond to - then just give them more of what they seem to like. It is tough for most people to grasp that some things take a while for us to build, so we have to project what the market wants or will be trending months or years in advance - it is a huge investment of time and energy to risk to guessing.
In other words, working at LEGO Universe means dealing with some bureaucratic snafus. Still, getting paid a pretty penny to dabble in video games and LEGO bricks? Still sounds like a pretty cool gig to us.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Next Big Sound: Billboard's new "Social 50" chart powered by Boulder music startup." Follow Joel Warner on Twitter @joelmwarner.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.