Mike Rayahwk
Life's a Beholder
LEGO Universe Faction Banners - 2009
larger versions available at universe.lego.com

At some point early in the development of LEGO Universe, the design team at NetDevil discovered the big BrikWars painting and were leaning heavily on it for inspiration. I inexplicably resisted their recruiting efforts for years, but once I finally joined the team I found out I'd been built up like some kind of mythological figure. Half the slides in the orientation presentation were about me and my previous projects; for the first month or two people kept stopping by to tell me about myself in the third person. It was a surreal experience, and more than a little bit off-putting.

They gave me a desk and a Cintiq and no further instruction except to work some kind of magic. (Later on, once the game was released, I started getting specific marketing assignments like a normal in-house agency job, but for that first year or two my only mandate was to paint like crazy and generate inspiration.)

When I came on board, the game was getting pulled in three opposing directions by the directors at NetDevil (who were pushing for something like an online BrikWars), Gazillion (who wanted to cash in on a generic WoW clone), and LEGO (who almost to a man didn't know what an MMO was, but thought that Club Penguin seemed nice). None of the three were willing to cede control to the others, and so we were left spinning our wheels, story-wise. The only content we'd been able to get approved was bright, saccharine, inoffensive, and impossibly bland.

So, for my very first shot at painterly inspiration, I took what little content we'd been able to agree on (logos for four heroic factions, and the yet-to-be-finalized faction leaders) and set out to create something with a little more atmosphere. (From left to right: Hale Storm of the Venture explorer faction, Duke Exeter of the Sentinel warrior faction, Doctor Overbuild of the Assembly builder faction, and Vanda Darkflame of the Paradox rogue faction.) One way or another, these were a direction everyone could start to agree on, and they ended up becoming some of the central promotional images in the big push leading up to the launch of the game.

Life's a Beholder
LEGO Universe Faction Banners - 2009
We printed up these images in a dozen different sizes and aspct ratios for all the different tradeshows they were getting sent to, but these were the biggest. Eight foot by sixteen foot vinyl banners, these were hung from the ceiling around the NetDevil studio and used as navigational landmarks. (My desk was under the Venture banner.) The Photoshop files for these were ridiculous; I painted them at 12,800 x 27,200 pixels, keeping each image element in a separate file so my computer wouldn't choke itself to death while I was working on them.

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