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How many rounds of kids did you have to go through, focus testing-wise?
RS: Oh, we've been through thousands of kids. It's interesting; we started with a group of 19 kids before we even had a line of code or a drawing on paper, brought them into our offices in Louisville, Colorado, and asked them, "Hey, what would you want from an online LEGO game? What do you think that would be? What would be cool to you?"
And the same group of kids, all of them -- they were about eight to 12 at the time, now are 12 to 16 -- are still coming back and testing it on a weekly basis.
So every week we have kids coming into the office, and of course the beta has tens of thousands of people playing, and that's been going on for over six to seven months now.
We've been gathering metrics and feedback on a weekly basis from that, so there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of kids who have played this game to give us feedback.
And you do not have PVP combat, right?
RS: Not day one. We have a great prototype we build almost a year ago that looks really promising. There's a lot of potential for the way you get specialty kits and all your abilities on the different factions for PVP scenarios, but what were trying to do is tie it to a piece of combat that makes the most sense.
We don't want to just slap it in there and say, "Hey! Here's PVP, but it doesn't make any sense!" We actually have some plans for some future play themes that are going to be integrated in that will make perfect sense, and that will be the introduction for that.
Do you envision your expansions being brand-oriented?
RS: A little bit of both. We wanted to establish a unique identity that was LEGO Universe by itself, because we could easily lose ourselves in things like LEGO Castle or any of their bigger, what they call "evergreen" themes that are always around.
Rather than do that, we came up with our own thing, the Nexus Force, the Maelstrom. We reference a lot of the stuff that's there, especially the legacy stuff, like you'll see in the Nexus Force world, you'll see classic pirate stuff going on in there, ninjas, and things like that. But none of them are 100 percent there.
As we go forward, we'll definitely be integrating very much one-to-one -- there will be entire worlds dedicated to certain play themes, but we'll also continue the Maelstrom story, the Nexus Force.
What I'm excited about is when we develop and get more of those play themes in, we'll be able to start doing mash-ups of them. For example, what happens if you take the Castle guys and put them with the Space guys? There's actually story and directed content built around that. It'll be very interesting, and I don't think any MMO has that opportunity, where you can mash things up and they will still make sense.
Are you going to be able to integrate those external licenses, like from the Traveller's Tales games?
RS: It's certainly on the table; we haven't really entered discussions with all the IP holders. That was another thing -- that would have further complicated what is already probably the most ambitious MMO I can conceive of.
We did specifically make a point to architect our fiction and our world structure so it could work. For example, you could have a LEGO Star Wars world or a LEGO Harry Potter world in LEGO Universe. We'll just have to take those discussions carefully one at a time with each of the IP holders and respect what they want to see as well.