By now, we’re all very familiar with LEGO IDEAS, LEGO’s website for fans to upload their own designs for models in the hopes of it becoming a real set. Just cross your fingers for 10,000 people to vote for it, and maybe your design will be reviewed and be found worthy of joining the likes of 21312 Women of NASA, 21314 TRON: Legacy, 21320: Dinosaur Fossils and other truly stellar fan-submitted sets. Not every IDEAS set to hit shelves is a mega-hit, but there’s no denying that this has captured the imaginations of many would-be LEGO designers, and the hearts (and wallets) of plenty of people who wouldn’t usually buy LEGO. It does help, of course, that you can submit sets to IDEAS based on licensed IPs, but that doesn’t detract from the skill involved with crafting a set that at least 10,000 people would want to buy.
But what if your ideas stretches further than just one set? LEGO IDEAS doesn’t let you submit whole themes. In fact, if your submission or submissions states that they’re intended as a whole new theme, they might be removed from the site (something I discovered almost immediately when I tried submitting a series of “ancient gods escaping futuristic prison” ideas).
What if you want to build a whole new LEGO world for other people to enjoy, collaborate with, and perhaps to one day see realised?
LEGO recently published their answer to this very question: LEGO World Builder. In partnership with Tongal, a site they have run many stop-motion contests with in the past, LEGO are now offering fans the chance to show off their own theme ideas, while dangling the carrot that if they like it enough, they may transform the theme into a real one. Let’s take a closer look.
The basics of LEGO World Builder
Once you’ve made an account, you’ll see that you’re given three options, and frankly they’re both intuitive and easy to use. Both things that are pretty essential if you’re encouraging kids and adults alike to submit their theme ideas.
- About: The rules. They’re comprehensive but not too complex. It also has a detailed breakdown of what happens if your World is taken to Development, Production, etc, and how creators will be compensated.
- Discover: Here you can take a look at other peoples’ Worlds. There’s a wide variety already, from fans like you and me to well-known bloggers and animators like Brotherhood Workshop. Honestly, some of the work here is staggering, and I’ll be doing a future article looking at some of them.
- Create: The fun bit, where you can make your own World.
Even if you’re coming to the site intending to just Create, I would recommend browsing through other people’s’ work first, just to get an idea of the level of effort some people put in, and what kinds of emphasis are important to a successful LEGO theme. Seeing what’s popular on this site alone is a great metric for better understanding how to make a successful theme yourself.
So you’ve clicked Create, and now you’re faced with a page asking for a Creative Prompt, a World Name, a description, and a cover photo. These are all things you can come back to edit, so if you just want to set up the basics now and run through it in more detail later, you absolutely can.
Here’s an example from one of my themes, Super Warrior, based on a recent Collectible Minifigure. It’s a brief overview of the titular character, the threat, and the influence behind it. Equally, your description could just be focused on in-story elements, or why it could be a fun educational tool. It’s up to you.
Now you have your World! Pretty, isn’t it? Well, not yet – you still have to populate it! Underneath the banner where your cover and description now rest, you’ll see a big tab called Explore This World. Here you can populate your World with Elements: the characters, place, and other concepts that comprise your theme. The categories for elements are:
This is where the interface gets a little trickier: every title, overview and description has a character limit (50 and 500 characters respectively) and you can only upload a couple of images per element. That means your descriptions need to be concise but exciting, and your image must grab people’s’ attention!
You can add as many elements as you like, though you can’t change the order they show up in, and you also wouldn’t want to overload new readers. Other than that, you’re now free to have fun building up your new World!
But wait – there’s more! You’ll see in World Elements that there’s a section called Proposed Elements. This is because other people can suggest elements for your World, which you can then choose to either incorporate or ignore.
As the creator, you can choose what elements people can add. It could be characters, places, storylines, or something more material like a background, a prop, or even a video. You also have the option to edit anything text-based that anyone submits, either if you want to just tidy up some of their ideas, or fix some spelling errors.
While some might balk at the idea of letting random strangers into your carefully-crafted World like this, I actually think it’s a wonderful feature. Ask any creative professional, and they’ll tell you that collaboration is essential to building a polished, well-rounded final product – the input of others is important!
And let’s not forget that a lot of kids will be using LEGO World Builder too. It could be good for kids to be able to either work together on a fun project, or receive guidance from older and more seasoned hands. World Builder strikes me as being, for some, an extension of the LEGO play experience, and playing together is so very valuable.
Becoming a real theme
Here’s the bit a lot of you are probably clamouring to hear about, and understandably so. For any LEGO fan, having your dream set or theme become real is a lofty but much-desired goal. It was an unattainable panacea for years until IDEAS came along, and now there are several IDEAS sets released every year. Year in year out, at least four LEGO fan builders seem to have their creations realised.
I suspect World Builder will be a different story. Let’s break down their About page’s World Guidelines.
I mentioned before that, if their world is chosen, creators (or Architects, as the guidelines call them) are compensated for their work. If the world moves into Development, the architect gets $7,500. If the world goes into Production, the architect gets $37,500, and so on. Whether that’s fair compensation is an entirely different discussion, but it does show that LEGO is seriously considering using material that people submit on this site.
The issue is that a whole theme is a much bigger risk and a far larger project than a single set. We may get 3, 4, 5 or more IDEAS sets a year, but whole themes take more time, more research and a much larger investment to make. For that reason alone, I think we’re going to see a very low conversion rate of World submissions into real themes. If even one becomes real within the first 12 months, I think that would be a remarkable success.
What’s more likely, at least to me, is that LEGO will use Worlds for “Social Videos” (as they describe). Right underneath the details of what happens if a World goes into production, the site talks about LEGO using Worlds for individual videos or promotions on social media, and I think that if anything is likely to happen with a degree of frequency, it will be this. I hope this is the case too, as this would be a great way to inspire people to be creative with the bricks they have.
All in all, LEGO World Builder is a very exciting opportunity for fans of all ages. Whether you simply want to mess around with some minifigures and descriptions and have a good time, or you seriously want to craft a rich and storied theme in the hopes of LEGO making it real, World Builder seems like it has something for you. If nothing else, having a centralised place to share LEGO stories and continuities is special in itself, but I really do hope to see amazing things come from this new platform.
Next time, I’ll be taking a look at some of the worlds people have created, but until then, I hope you have fun creating your own.
Written by Jack Rizzo