Thursday, 3 April 2014

Playing to the gallery?

As you’re probably aware, LEGO have a project known as Cuusoo.  In a nutshell, people can submit designs, be they a finished model or an ‘artist’s impression’, and then anyone who has registered with the Cusooo website can vote for the creations that they like.
If a project gets 10,000 votes, then it’s reviewed by LEGO with a view to possibly turning it into a set for commercial release.

When you vote, you’re asked a few questions - how many copies of the set would you be likely to buy, how much would you be prepared to pay for it and so on.  There is, however, no commitment on your part.  You’re not handing over your credit card details and saying “Yup - I’ll definitely be buying some of these.”  You’re just saying “Looks interesting - I’d consider it.”

There are thousands of projects on the site at any one time, so if you’re just having a virtual wander around, then chances are you’ll find plenty of things that catch your eye and you might be tempted to vote for.
On the other side of the fence however, if you’re the designer of a set, then it’s unlikely that 10,000 people will just happen to stumble on your creation.  So there is a whole mini-industry built up around promoting designs.  Builders mentioning their set on various LEGO forums is an obvious one.  Chances are that they’ll have a blog, so that’s another avenue.  But plenty of other people have LEGO blogs / websites too, so often the creator goes on a charm offensive to try and get publicity there, and get that all-important link into the Cuusoo project published.

It also depends on what your design is of.  Currently, the artist and builder known as Glenbricker is feeling quite good about himself, and rightly so, as his Dr Who set has now reached the required 10,000 supporters.  Now while a good number of those voters were bound to be LEGO fans, it’s probable that many of them were in fact Dr Who fans, who have little or no interest in LEGO in general, but are interested in all things Dr Who.  


Glenbricker is also in the (to the best of my knowledge) unique position of being involved with a second design, created by designer Alatariel, which has also recently gained it’s 10,000th supporter.  This time it’s a set based on the TV Series ‘The Big Bang Theory’.
Again, while there will have been some support from the LEGO community, chances are that a lot of those votes will have been earned by plugging away on TV websites, geek sites and so forth.

I’ve watched the reaction of the LEGO fan community with some interest and, it has to be said, some wry amusement.

Because it’s got a lot of people’s backs up.

If you take a look at the proposed designs, both are a) based on TV shows that LEGO would presumably have to obtain some sort of licence for, before they could create a set, and b) contain some (or in the case of TBBT a lot of) minifigs.

“This isn’t right!”  people complain.  “This isn’t what LEGO design should be about.  This is just creating a toy for fans of a TV show.  They have no interest in LEGO.”

“Too many minifigs!”  says someone else.  “Not enough bricks.”

Then there is a clamouring among the purists for original designs, and indeed from that side of the room there was much cheering when Cuusoo set #006 was announced earlier in the year as Pete Reid’s ‘Exosuit’.  

Exosuit, designed by Pete Reid
(Image courtesy of LEGO Cuusoo)

The previous five had each been modelled on an existing ‘thing’.  #001, the Shinkai 6500 submarine, #002, the Hayabusa spacecraft and #005, the Curiosity Mars Rover were real real world objects, while #003 was based on the videogame Minecraft and #004 was the time travelling Delorean from the film ‘Back To The Future.  In other words, a recreation in LEGO of something recognisable, if fictional.

But the Exosuit was something new.  A creation rather than a recreation.

And this is going to seem bad form to some people…  but I can’t see the point!

I’d like to say, at this point, that I have nothing but admiration for Pete Reid’s work.  I’ve come across him once or twice on various websites and he seems like a thoroughly nice chap.  In addition I have a copy of the book ‘Lego Space’ that he created with Tim Goddard.  Indeed ‘Lego Space’ featured the Exosuit (or a variation thereof).

But I can’t help thinking, skilful build though it is… it’s someone’s MOC.  And I can’t see why LEGO would put a MOC into production, and indeed why anyone would buy it.

With a model of something that exists, be it an obscure Japanese submarine or the set of a TV programme, you can look at it, recognise it and appreciate the skill that has gone into recreating a real world (1) object.  

But with a MOC, if it looks a bit odd, then as far as you know, that’s what the builder wanted.

If you want an Exosuit, then have a rummage in your parts bin and build one yourself!  The whole point being, yours will be no more ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ than the Cuusoo set, because neither of them have any particular reference point.  If it looks good, then it is good.  

If you’re happy with it, then it’s a job well done.

For Pete’s sake (2) I hope the set is a success.  I have to confess that I won’t be picking one up, as it holds no appeal for me at all, but I do wish him the best.

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(1) Ok, Minecraft isn’t technically a real world object, but it is something that people are familiar with, and would recognise.

(2) No pun intended.