LEGO Universe Development Was Plagued By Penis Prevention Problems

LEGO Universe Development Was Plagued By Penis Prevention Problems

LEGO Universe News Header

Moderation team made to look at every creation to confirm their cleanliness.

Do you remember LEGO Universe? The short-lived massively multiplayer online game based on everybody's favorite building block barely got a chance, lasting just over a year in open release before shutting down in January of 2012. New tweets from a developer who worked on the project have provided some insight into one factor which may have contributed to its quick closure: the cost of keeping player prepared penises out of the world.

According to Megan Fox, who served as a senior programmer on LEGO Universe (first at co-developer NetDevil and later with LEGO Group itself), the development team was tasked with making "dong detection software" to prevent players from doing the first thing many do when faced with an user-generated content opportunity. Fox called the effort, "utterly impossible on any scale.

"Players would hide the dongs where the filtering couldn't see, or make them only visible from one angle / make multi-part penis sculptures. They actually had a huge moderation team that got a bunch of screenshots of every model, every property. YOU could build whatever you wanted, but strangers could never see your builds until we'd had the team do a penis sweep on it," Fox continued, noting that the expense of keeping the game squeaky clean was a major concern.

"It was all automated, but the human moderators were [if I recall correctly] the single biggest cost center for LEGO Universe's operational costs."

So, if preventing the very existence of wangs is a futile, cost-prohibitive endeavor, why bother trying to stop them at all? Fox points to LEGO's reputation among consumers:

"LEGO's brand is utterly trusted by parents. We had to uphold that trust. Which meant zero tolerance."

The comments come at a time when it appears that LEGO may take another crack at the MMO market. Advertisements for an as-yet unannounced game, titled LEGO Worlds, have started to appear in the instructions included with new building sets (notably, the "City Square" set released late last month). According to the ad, the game is in development with long-time LEGO partner Traveller's Tales.

Sources: Twitter, Eurobricks

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Calling it now: They are not going to make it.

It just doesn't seem feasible to create a piece of software that can detect every possible shape to depict a penis from every possible angle of a lego construction.

Should have used a different word for penis at every opportunity. I was thinking of the Monty Python Penis Song as I read this.

...

Wait, Megan Fox can program!? Oh, not that one. Never mind.

What an utter waste of time. This game was an mmo, to play an mmo you need an internet connection. What's on the internet? That's right lots and lots of dong.

Beside half the reason people put up dick in every construction game is because it's so heavily moderated. If you stop moderating it, it stop being fun for a lot of them and they'll move on.

-Dragmire-:
I was thinking of the Monty Python Penis Song as I read this.

I was thinking of it as I wrote it.

Our kids can't see Lego dongs or did I completely misunderstand the article? Worst thing that could happen would be hearing my son giggling like a mad man or evil overlord when building or viewing one. Are we that sensitive?

Might take up a new hobby "sneak the penis past the moderator". Yes, I am part of the problem.

subskipper:
Our kids can't see Lego dongs or did I completely misunderstand the article? ... Are we that sensitive?

Some people are that sensitive, for sure. Far be it for me to tell other people how they should raise their kids, or how developers seek to meet the concerns of parents. Even though I'm comfortable with the idea of an organ possessed by roughly half of the dominant species on the planet being seen by a child of mine, I can respect the wishes of others who may have a different idea of what they want their children exposed to. It's unfortunate that it wound up a barrier for the game, but them's the breaks, I guess.

Reminds me of how one of my friends made a great recreation of Game & Watch Fire on a LEGO Universe property. He scripted a numerical scoring system (rather difficult considering how crude LU's behavior scripts were), and the property was blocked by moderators because it had numbers on it, the reason being that numbers could reveal personal information.

Then again, the LEGO Universe behavior system was an absolute anus stain anyways with all of its broken server side physics.

How exactly could you make your own secret dong in a lego game? If my lego memory serves me correctly, lego pieces for people do not have any dong connections or parts and even trying to add one somehow would mess up their leg maneuverability.

Xsjadoblayde:
How exactly could you make your own secret dong in a lego game? If my lego memory serves me correctly, lego pieces for people do not have any dong connections or parts and even trying to add one somehow would mess up their leg maneuverability.

Now there's a visual.

Meiam:
What an utter waste of time. This game was an mmo, to play an mmo you need an internet connection. What's on the internet? That's right lots and lots of dong.

Beside half the reason people put up dick in every construction game is because it's so heavily moderated. If you stop moderating it, it stop being fun for a lot of them and they'll move on.

Do you really believe that? You are a better person than I am, as I cannot seem to stir up the same faith.

I know on my old Minecraft server, even I had to clean up penis pixel art from time to time, and we only had 20-30 people on at any one time, and we were all typically over the age of 18.

Yeah, I can see the problem this could become.

Part of me wants to have a lego game where you can build whatever with no consequence, but part of me knows the child-friendly image lego has will make that impossible.

You can't even hide behind making it adults-only, because it's existence would still have a negative effect on Lego's image, and people would have a hard time taking it seriously anyway, if you make an 'adults only' Lego game, and assume you're just being weird, calling it that.

Sure there are 16+ recommended age lego sets, but that's largely complexity related, and while it might include some things that would bore kids (such as the architecture series), it doesn't contain anything you'd feel bad about showing a kid...

Conrad Zimmerman:

Xsjadoblayde:
How exactly could you make your own secret dong in a lego game? If my lego memory serves me correctly, lego pieces for people do not have any dong connections or parts and even trying to add one somehow would mess up their leg maneuverability.

Now there's a visual.

There are always the murky waters of fan art. Oh dear god, no! The brain may have just visualised too much

Sneaking penises past "dong detection software" and moderators sounds like a much more amusing game than some crappy Lego MMO. That's probably their entire problem right there.

Thank god woman are not obsessed as men are with theirs. lol.

Xsjadoblayde:
How exactly could you make your own secret dong in a lego game? If my lego memory serves me correctly, lego pieces for people do not have any dong connections or parts and even trying to add one somehow would mess up their leg maneuverability.

Well...in theory, you could probably do something similar to what they did with capes and similar neck things, putting it between the torso piece and the legs.

Xsjadoblayde:
How exactly could you make your own secret dong in a lego game? If my lego memory serves me correctly, lego pieces for people do not have any dong connections or parts and even trying to add one somehow would mess up their leg maneuverability.

Not on the people but Dong like buildings or cars and boats and such...

History textbook from 2103:
"The breakthrough in the creation of inteligent, setient AI systems occured during the painstaking research for an automated system that could analyze user-made structures and determine whether they contained any shape that human users could recognize as a penis shape."

Let me get this straight, there was a Lego game where we could actually make things out of Lego and it was an MMO?! What on Earth were they thinking? Can't we finally get a single-player/local multi-player Lego game with actual Lego building in it? Think of all of the dong-detection software that wouldn't be necessary at all.

the way i see it, if a kid is ignorant as to what a penis is, seeing a massive lego cock will only seem like an odd tower or skyscraper. if they DO know what a penis is, hiding the sculptures aren't going to change that.

i don't know, it seems overly simple, but i think we coddle kids way too much these days, especially about something as puritanical as body censorship.

Yes well, this has been a problem with the whole idea of Children's MMOs from the beginning. They tend to forget that kids aren't mature for one, and then try and keep things ultra-sanitized which makes them prohibitive and ensures nobody, especially the kids, wants to play. Not to mention that even very childlike IPs tend to attract adult players and for some reason that wierds people out.

Lego Universe, Disney's "Pirates Of The Caribbean MMO", and Disney's "Pixie Hollow MMO" all apparently met this fate. Concerns over content allegedly lead to the cancellation of both a "Disney Princesses Online" and general "Disney Universe" MMO as well but the last two were only projects people heard about being in development.

When "Pirates" launched I tried it, and found it included some truly odd things, namely the fact that your pirate character could not shoot *people* with guns, you could only use your pistols on animals (crabs, etc...), apparently in response to all of the post-columbine gun fear. "Pixie Hollow" which was based on the Tinkerbell movies/universe allegedly attracted numerous adult players of both genders (some guys do like fairies and collect statues and artwork and such) and while that wasn't a problem it apparently lead to some creepy behavior including a lot of lesbian stuff not just among pervy guys, but apparently women trying to lure young girls, and of course some young girls themselves goofing off, but it wound up not fitting with the Disney image. Allegedly they wound up having mods combing all of the chat and message logs, considering dropping outfits from the game (which was an issue since collecting and/or buying them and stuff from your house was a big part of it), and all kinds of other stuff. Supposedly there were concerns over the same thing potentially happening with a full featured Princess MMO, and a general Disney themed MMO where you could visit various Disney worlds (similar to Kingdom Hearts) had similar concerns over content. One of their alleged examples was that if say the game lets a character crouch it's impossible for the mods to catch everyone to say wants to crouch their head into the crotch of another model and start typing or emoting "slurp, slurp" which is why Disney has sort of backed away from MMO development.

Personally I find it kind of sad, since I figure the whole "online interactions might vary" thing covers most of that and nobody is naïve about MMOs or The Internet anymore. You create an environment for kids to be kids and you need to expect immaturity to reign in particular.

That said while I did hear some allegations over moderation and content with Lego Universe (which is similar to other youth-based games I mentioned), I also heard that there was some concern over the rate at which the user base blew through the content, a typical MMO problem. Despite the release of a Ninjago expansion they felt there was no viable way to maintain the game and produce content fast enough, which was a problem since they apparently had the vision of this being a huge mountain of money waiting to fall on them with minimal work. Lego did upset a lot of people by pulling the game as well, I seem to remember letters from POed parents making their way onto the internet talking about how while they were a business that it's wrong to try and forge a relationship with children the way they went out of their way to do, and then scrap things for the most mercenary of reasons, not that Lego seemed to really care mind you.

Disney being at the helm has also kind of dashed my hopes of ever seeing another attempt at a Star Wars MMO. I really liked Galaxies (was there as Stryper Stormcrest... that's pronounced Striper by the way not Stripper, on Eclipse Server I think it was), and while I haven't played for quite a while I really enjoyed playing through a couple of the "Old Republic" storylines, I felt some way of combining the merits of those two games would be awesome, especially with the new movies coming out.... but Disney seems to be full of control freaks and I doubt they would tolerate even a fraction of the interactions I've seen in either game.

Nothing especially relevant in my rambling, just saying I've heard a lot of this before, and it's not an uncommon problem. Some people might be surprised to know that there were other cancelled games with allegedly similar issues. I've found most people don't even know "Pixie Hollow" was even a thing (and before you ask, no I did not play that one, despite liking fantasy in all it's forms, and even having some statues of fairies and such, though I did briefly try "Pirates" before deciding it was banal and quitting).

I think this just may be the greatest article title in the history of the Escapist.

Therumancer:
*big snip*

I'm getting a lot of Club Penguin vibes from this post. (see examples here)

soren7550:
I think this just may be the greatest article title in the history of the Escapist.

Therumancer:
*big snip*

I'm getting a lot of Club Penguin vibes from this post. (see examples here)

I have to admit that made me laugh, banned for saying "Lettuce" that's one excessive server filter.... makes me wonder how anyone ever manages to say anything. Most MMOs when they have a filter just replace the words with nonsense ASCII or something and give you the option to turn it off. :)

martyrdrebel27:
the way i see it, if a kid is ignorant as to what a penis is, seeing a massive lego cock will only seem like an odd tower or skyscraper. if they DO know what a penis is, hiding the sculptures aren't going to change that.

i don't know, it seems overly simple, but i think we coddle kids way too much these days, especially about something as puritanical as body censorship.

Well, I'm guessing it has to do with people trying to get kids to conform to the expectations of what everyone thinks kids should act like. Kids know swear words early on, but adults and parents still try and get them not to swear. That said when on their own kids will have filthy mouths, and pretty much do anything they aren't supposed to do. I'm guessing the companies feel the expectation is that the virtual worlds they are running is going to be similar to a group exercise in class. That said for the kids they pretty much act like when they are unsupervised with other kids so they want to swear, and do everything they have been told not to do. Making a giant cock in a game is just like drawing one on a paper and showing people so they will giggle, or putting one on the inside of a bathroom stall (which happens in elementary school). All the racial stuff someone showed in that Club Penguin link is probably mostly from kids just rebelling against the constant propaganda about it in school, saying and doing things they know they wouldn't be able to in general.

Basically, my attitude is that if someone is running a game directed at little kids they should expect it to be really immature, I mean we know what adults do while goofing off in MMO chat, and if anything actual kids are going to be worse. I don't think MMO companies or parents for that matter should be naïve about this kind of thing.

Plus let's be honest, look at "Second Life" even Linden Labs freaked out when they provided a venue for human expression and eventually started putting all kinds of limitations on what could be done. One thing they apparently tried was to create a "kids" version of Second Life to shelter them from all the adult content, and apparently it was
an epic fail since without constant policing all the same stuff was going on. In almost all of the sandbox building environments you see people really warped and anti-social stuff. I mean heck, I vaguely remember some thing about a guy putting hundreds of hours in Minecraft into creating a solid gold penis tilted at an upward slant and a convoluted system by which lava could be made to flow upwards and out the tip at high pressure (the complicated part). The point is, love it or hate it, this is apparently part of humanity.

Personally I think the effort should be put more towards going after the real sickos than trying to filter offensive chat, immature behavior, and simply making giant dongs. That said primary responsibility still comes down to the parents not the game company, I mean if the parents have trouble with Junior making giant penises they should probably cuff him on the ear, make him delete it, and suspend his computer use for a few days. MMO companies should in no way feel obligated to act as a combination parent, teacher, and hallway monitor.

soren7550:
I think this just may be the greatest article title in the history of the Escapist.

Aw, shucks.

Please, will somebody think of the children!? щ(゚Д゚щ)

Their little brains are bound to implode by seeing schlongs made of lego! Next thing you know they'll be sucking dick in an allyway for ha'pennies!

Xsjadoblayde:
How exactly could you make your own secret dong in a lego game? If my lego memory serves me correctly, lego pieces for people do not have any dong connections or parts and even trying to add one somehow would mess up their leg maneuverability.

Not the lego people. Think about it.

Also please tell me I haven't just been baited.....

Lucane:

Xsjadoblayde:
How exactly could you make your own secret dong in a lego game? If my lego memory serves me correctly, lego pieces for people do not have any dong connections or parts and even trying to add one somehow would mess up their leg maneuverability.

Not on the people but Dong like buildings or cars and boats and such...

Oh I didn't know you could build your own buildings in it. Wouldn't that make it a more limited Minecraft then? And surely minecraft doesn't have any wang locating software, does it? I would imagine it has a similar target audience as Lego.

elvor0:

Not the lego people. Think about it.

Also please tell me I haven't just been baited.....

You have...not...been baited? No tackle here, sonny jim!

Xsjadoblayde:

Oh I didn't know you could build your own buildings in it. Wouldn't that make it a more limited Minecraft then? And surely minecraft doesn't have any wang locating software, does it? I would imagine it has a similar target audience as Lego.

They may be targeting the same demographic (at least, they are now), but LEGO has an established reputation to consider where Minecraft never had that. LEGO had something to lose.

Conrad Zimmerman:

Xsjadoblayde:

Oh I didn't know you could build your own buildings in it. Wouldn't that make it a more limited Minecraft then? And surely minecraft doesn't have any wang locating software, does it? I would imagine it has a similar target audience as Lego.

They may be targeting the same demographic (at least, they are now), but LEGO has an established reputation to consider where Minecraft never had that. LEGO had something to lose.

That does make a whole lot of sense. Also i'd say that Minecraft users only need purchase the game once, whereas Lego spans tremendous amounts of products including videogames now. Their reputation is firmly cemented in all places deep to the Earth's core. They still survived that Shell Oil / Green peace fiasco, coming out relatively squeaky clean. Business is business though.

Xsjadoblayde:

Lucane:

Xsjadoblayde:
How exactly could you make your own secret dong in a lego game? If my lego memory serves me correctly, lego pieces for people do not have any dong connections or parts and even trying to add one somehow would mess up their leg maneuverability.

Not on the people but Dong like buildings or cars and boats and such...

Oh I didn't know you could build your own buildings in it. Wouldn't that make it a more limited Minecraft then? And surely minecraft doesn't have any wang locating software, does it? I would imagine it has a similar target audience as Lego.

Well Lego let you build flying vehicles(I think never played to know for sure) too I think, but Minecraft only appeals to kids as well they weren't the only target demographic from the start.

 

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