Welcome to Imagining LEGO Universe!

In 2006 the vision of
bringing the iconic LEGO brick to the virtual world of MMO gaming - started some years earlier by key members of The LEGO Group - began to take shape with the partnership of a small and little known Colorado based video game development studio called NetDevil.

During the five-plus year journey of development, the team at NetDevil was faced with many difficult technical and design challenges in order to bring LEGO play to the virtual space. Working along side the designing minds and programming wizards, the LEGO Universe art team, lead by Art Director Phillip Atencio, molded a visual style unmatched in the world of MMO gaming, seamlessly melding existing LEGO themes with original story developed in-house by the minds of NetDevil developers who also happened to be life long fans of the timeless plastic toy.

The conceptual design team tasked with bringing the vision of LEGO Universe to life boasted some of the most incredible talent the video game industry has to offer. Lead Concept Artist Jim Stigall guided a team of seven concept illustrators during the life of the project. Along with the help and incredible visions of Jerry Meyer, Dave Kang, Brett Nienburg, Kyle Wheeler, Richard Tran, Peter Coene, Nathan Storm, and Mike Rayhawk many many worlds and literally thousands of drawings were explored to assist the world builders, animators, character modelers, and visual effects artists bringing the three-dimensional world of LEGO Universe to life.

Millions of fans logged in daily and assumed the identity of their Minifigure avatar, virtually interacting, building, and exploring with their friends in the LEGO Universe.

Sadly, in January, 2012, after little over a year since its initial public launch, LEGO Universe was closed for good.

This blog is for you, the fans. It is a place where we, the Concept Art Team from LEGO Universe, can share with you the passion and love that was put into this wonderful game - much of it never seen before, some never meant to be shown.

Please enjoy Imagining LEGO Universe...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Map Quest

Hello, Jerry again. One of my most favorite tasks in LU was the creation of detailed maps and environments that helped encompass broad areas of gameplay. These images tended to be helpful to the designers so they can, at a glance, see a large area of content and how the story/gameplay interrelates.


  1. Whoa, whoa, ok, my head is completely spinning at this point. A couple questions...

    1 - Ok, what the heck is Brick Mesa supposed to be? I've seen some of the elements of it before in other places - those flying robots appeared on the LEGO Universe website at one point, and the name of the world was still in the game's files - but we didn't have anything really showing what it was. And now that we do, I STILL can't figure out what it's based on, heh. It almost gives a Crux Prime-like vibe, but then there's those trees and giant bearded minifigure statue thing. What was that supposed to be?

    In short, what WAS Brick Mesa?

    2 - Going by the Space Police and Atlantis art, I'm assuming you guys were at least considering putting more LEGO playthemes in the game at some point?

    3 - I love that Vanguard castle art, some other concept art of that world has been floating around for a while but this map shows a lot more about the world's structure. Very nice. What was the world actually called?

    4 - Is that last image of Nexus City or something else?

    1. Hey Jamesster, Thanks for your awesome questions.

      1. So, to start off, Gnarled Forest, Avant Gardens, Nimbus Plaza and Forbidden Valley used to be part of a giant Disney-like theme park called "Wonderland." There were other areas that were developed, but just didn't make the cut. Wonderland was huge to say the least. In addition to the mentioned areas, there was a town called You Reeka (skunk infested) another forest called Creepy Crawly forest, a prehistoric zone called Tar-ranno Forest Wrecks, Gnarly Foothills, Spikes Peak which was a mining area with Trolls and Dwarfs, and Brick Mesa, the area you were asking about. Brick Mesa was designed to be an epic battle map with the opportunity to see the maelstrom face to face. Crux Prime, in a way, replaced this to an extent. This map had some wacky ideas that incorporated a different story line. Apparently one of the original 4 heros was named Prospero. He sacrificed himself somehow to allow Wonderland to be a safe place to be. I can't remember the whole story line, but he became huge and melded himself with the landscape. Prospero actually became a stone monument that you could explore. There was even a game play element in which you climb inside his head and play a giant pipe organ. I know...weird. This area involved some old castle elements, and even Blacktron--the old space set. So, the maelstrom obviously was not happy about what Prospero did, so it punches through the atmosphere at the edge of the land and sets the stage for an epic battle. The flying robots were one of the earliest concepts we did. They had a real cool retro-style to them. So this area would've been there big debut.

      2. Yes, we were always trying to figure out ways of incorporating product themes into the game. Unfortunately, LEGO moved way too fast for us to keep up. By the time we would get an area developed based on a product, the product line was already taken off the shelves. With Ninjago, however, we had plenty of prior notice to get that area launched at about the same time the product was introduced. We were almost to the point in which our processes were streamlined enough to keep up with LEGO's product schedule...sort of.

      3. The Vanguard Castle, or otherwise known as the Order of The Shield complex was our first area we tried to develop and present to LEGO what was called a "vertical slice" of gameplay. Unfortunately everything except the terrain was 100 percent LEGO. You can imagine the amount of geometry the computer had to process to get a scene to render out. This was actually an interresting time because this was when we really got to see the incredible models that the LEGO User Partners (LUPs) produced for us. The LUPs were all offsite LEGO modelers that would produce digital models, and then email them to us after we emailed them concept art.
      Vanguard was supposed to be the intro map for the game. An opening cinematic would show normal, happy life in a castle setting; and then suddenly a maelstrom projectile rips through the large castle building and creats a huge crater in the courtyard. Immediately you are thrown into a crisis situation. The story obviously changed quite a bit since then.

      4. And yes, that last image was an early concept for Nexus city. The idea was to incorporate every LEGO building theme into one melting pot of a city surrounding the tallest tower, or Nexus Tower. The wall surrounding the city was an extension of the Vanguard outpost--the forementioned castle. This was also where we would introduce a lot of the City play set elements. It seems like as many times we tried, we could never get the City sets into the game.

      Thanks for your questions. Keep 'em coming!

    2. Wow, now that's a lot of info. Thanks for the reply, made my day! And yeah, I've certainly got more questions.

      Now, some worlds got farther into development then others before being cut from the game, I'm assuming? For example, there's a bunch of screenshots and even some videos of YouReeka, it seems the world was quite complete before it got scrapped. I think the best example would be this video (though, oddly, it calls the world Nimbus Station at the end):


      But on the other hand, there's only a couple of 3D models in the game files for Tar-ranno Forest Wrecks (a Tarbucks coffee shop, a beehive, and some other stuff). Spikes Peak is even less known, the only remnant of it is an animated Yeti creature (which actually got spawned in the game itself a few times near closing time). We've got some concept art for Creepy Crawly Forest, but it's not direct scans, a LUP just used a camera to photograph a wall of art for it. And as for Gnarly Foothills, I haven't heard anything about that at all until you mentioned it here. Could you possibly give some short descriptions of what these worlds were about, what sort of content was planned for them? Or, even better, some concept art or maps, like you posted for Brick Mesa? That would be awesome if you had anything like that.

      Also, while looking at 3D models for some early prototypes of Gnarled Forest and Forbidden Valley, I noticed something a bit odd - all the early Forbidden Valley models were named like they belong in Gnarled Forest. Even an early world map for Forbidden Valley was called "GF Ninja". Were Gnarled Forest and Forbidden Valley once the same world, or considered to be in the same area of Wonderland?

      One last question... There's several folders and files for early worlds or areas in the game that are kind of strange. There's mission text and scripts for "Dead Man's Bluff" (seems to be an instance somehow tied to Gnarled Forest?), and a "Battlefield Crater" or something, which had a Vanguard/Sentinel NPC named Sergeant Maxx. Would you happen to know anything about these?

      Thanks again!

    3. Oh! I just remembered two other possible world names mentioned in the game's files - "Agents Isle" and "Daikon Rock". There's also mentions of "Planet Cira" and "Planet Eurus", any idea what those were?

      And that reminded me of one more question... When Starbase 3001 opened in beta testing, there was a strange launchpad to "MBL Station", which was closed. MBL Station is listed as a world in the game's files, but what was it going to be? When Starbase 3001 opened in the released game, the launchpad to MBL Station was replaced with the launchpad that led to the LUP worlds.

    4. Hey jamesster,

      Yeah, that's so true about You-Reeka. It was pretty close to being polished until someone--and I don't know who--said "I don't like the whole skunk thing." So the whole thing was redone. It eventually was whittled down to Nimbus Plaza; the area in which you talk to faction leaders and choose your faction.

      Tyranno had trouble getting off of the ground. That along with Gnarly Foothills, Spike's Peak and Brick Mesa. The scope of what we were trying to release was getting too big. To this day I'm still amazed at how often things would change, even when things went all the way up to production.

      I'll try to post some early maps of these areas when I get back on my other computer. They give a pretty clear idea of how things were layed out.

      Great observation on your part! Gnarled forest did encompass many areas including Forbidden Valley. At some point someone decided to make the true Gnarled Forest a pirate area, and Forbidden valley a Ninja theme. There was this underlying, non LEGO-related rivalry between Pirates and Ninjas that some people wanted to address in the game, while others didn't quite get it.

      As far as Dead Man's Bluff, Battlefield Crater, Agents Isle, Daidon Rock, Planet Cira and Planet Eurus goes, I'm a little rusty on what those were intended to be. If any of you other LEGO dudes want to chime in and refresh my memory, go ahead. Again LEGO has so many product lines that we could only address each one with one key visual, and than we would put all those key visuals on a giant chart and figure out which ones would be the most appropriate to take to the next step.

      On your final question about the Starbase 3001, the whole map must of come on board at a time when they realized that the game and our company was no longer sustainable, so the designers probably made some quick change with the launch pad. I'm not totally sure what happened there.

      Greate questions sir.
      Thank you again for your interest

    5. Thanks a ton for the replies, Jerry. Really interesting stuff. Can't wait to see some more maps, these are incredible. :D

  2. I agree with jamesster. Very cool stuff! I love that Youreeka art. The open plaza picks and the original Red Blocks are cool, as well as that Space Police world! I wish LU was still here. :(

  3. Jerry, can you upload a gameplay from Youreeka or Nimbus Park please? I mean not just a video, but a gameplay. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Oh dear Mythrans...

    You made my sucky day entirely better. I love all the ideas flowing from these concept arts, and trying to figure out what each 'evolved' into in the Game.
    Tar-Ranno Forest Wrecks gave me quite the laugh, since I never knew that 'Wrecks' was at the end.

    Also, what was Squire Square going to be? It's looks kinda like the Race Place (The car-shaped thing in the spire near the back, and the rocket on the same side as that Crux- like chunk) But it also looks like an addition to Nimbus when the Castle world was going to come out. Then theres that Club Door

  5. If anyone has some time, could you try to identify some of these concepts: http://legouniverse.wikia.com/wiki/User_blog:Nateh1997/Unknown_worlds. Thanks, it would be really helpful.