Staff shed at LEGO Universe dev NetDevil

What now for Jumpgate: Evolution?

MMOs LEGO Universe and Jumpgate: Evolution could be under threat after multiple reports emerged claiming developer NetDevil suffered crippling layoffs last night.

"Unfortunately a lot of talented folks lost their jobs as we have found out on Facebook!" reads a blog update from angry animator Toby Cochran.

"I personally think it's pretty terrible to find news out that way and not to be correctly notified. We all were receiving phone calls tonight and I just got mine about two hours ago.

"From what we've been told a handful of artists will be kept on board and continue working on LEGO Universe. But at the moment that will be a very, VERY small team. As the count continues to rise on FB, they've cut over 20 people."

An image doing the rounds on Facebook shows a tombstone with the words: "NetDevil RIP October 1997-Feb 2011."

NetDevil is owned by Gazillion, which is yet to confirm the layoffs.

In December last year publisher Codemasters filed a civil complaint in San Francisco against NetDevil and Gazillion for failing to deliver science fiction MMO Jumpgate on time.

Codemasters alleged NetDevil failed to meet contractual guidelines that stipulated Jumpgate would launch by 24th February 2009.

Codemasters wanted compensation for the $1.4 million it had spent on the game in the hope it would one day launch, but as an alternative it offered its share of interest back to NetDevil and Gazillion in return for all the money it invested.

Eurogamer last saw Jumpgate Evolution in May 2009, when Jim Rossignol went hands-on. "Jumpgate will enter beta testing soon, and I suspect it's going to prove a popular attraction, particularly for those who don't want the complexity and imagination-roasting depth of EVE Online," he wrote.

Two months later Codemasters Online announced that Jumpgate Evolution had reached 250,000 beta sign-ups across Europe and North America.

The MMO was originally down for release in 2008 before moving to - and missing - a June 2009 date. Currently, the official Jumpgate Evolution website features a greyed out box which reads, "Pre-order coming soon". It is still possible to sign up for the beta test.

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