My Last Word on CUUSOO and Project Supporting

Last night, after two months in total spent on it, I’d released the very first beta of Graduates and Gorillas: the Flash game on an isolated page on this site. I was too tired to celebrate in style, having spent many nights thinking about how to solve the various Flash-related issues that came up, but I was stoked. I’d done what I’d never been able to do before, all for the sake of helping to promote my CUUSOO project: create a working game.

But imagine how I’d felt when I woke up this morning to find some comments left in a Facebook LEGO group, saying in no uncertain terms that the game “sucks”. No suggestions for improving the game, no good points, no thoughts. In fact, they criticised the entire project as being a waste of time, and of course saying that nobody would buy it.

This is a great example of why I think the biggest factor in a CUUSOO project’s success is the general response from other AFOLs, and I’ve talked about some of the pitfalls project authors will come across when their project gets published. I won’t rehash what I’ve already stated, but I’m wholly convinced that the success of a project – an original one – is far more down to “the collective” than anything a project owner can really do.

I’m going to use my most recent project, CATAWOL Records Studio One, as a prime example of what’s going on.

What you may not know is that the model itself is over a year old; I’d designed and built it in 2010, a few months after the end of my “dark age”, and it’s been intact and unchanged ever since. I’d posted it on Eurobricks back then, and it was received very well (as well as SilentMode could expect!) – maybe the control deck wasn’t detailed enough, but one person mentioned I’d “captured the essence of a music studio”. That comment warmed me up, particularly as I’d never been inside a music studio.

Perhaps a few weeks before I decided to post the project on CUUSOO, I’d asked on both Brickset and Eurobricks what people would think of me doing so, and more importantly whether they’d support it if I did. Again, the model hadn’t been changed at all since it was first built. Not only did I not get much of a response (maybe three or four people on both sites combined, and nothing on Twitter), but one person claimed not to know what the model was of.

Obviously I ended up posting the project, thinking it would do a lot better than Graduates and Gorillas: the game and probably even the modular building, but it hasn’t yet happened. Instead the criticisms began to arise (outside of LEGO CUUSOO for the most part), and a few things became apparent.
LEGO themselves mentioned they would be unlikely to pass projects that required new moulds, yet I had people suggesting I displayed Brickforge guitars in the photos. Given that the model was 100% legal building with all-genuine parts I didn’t want to cheat by using third-party pieces – and besides, a makeshift keyboard and drum kit were shown in the photos.
From the newly-formed criticisms, the one thing I did try was adding minifigures. Right now on the project page you’ll see photos of the different rooms with figures in them, which – along with guidance from GlenBricker’s article on realistic minifigure counts – led to the idea for my Battle of the Acts poll. However, much like many “do this and you’ll get more supporters” suggestions, the new photos didn’t have much of an effect, if any.

What I’m getting at is that there’s an obvious world of difference between posting an MOC online and submitting an idea to LEGO for a product to actually be made. I guess with that comes the obvious difference between liking a model and being faced with the option to purchase it, and perhaps when money is involved it will make a few people uncomfortable – especially when a fellow AFOL is going to be making royalties. That’s why I’d initially made the argument that some people are looking at who is behind a project, as well as (or even instead of) what the project is.

It’s that difference that drives some people to take someone’s CUUSOO project – regardless of how hard they’ve worked on it – and disparage the crap out of it. They’ll say the whole thing sucks; that it will never be made; that LEGO would never pass it; that nobody would buy it. They want to shame you into taking the project down, but in the meantime will make sure (by keeping it secret) nobody else supports it.
That same difference drives some people to become apologists for their favourite projects as well as the current “system”, which in my opinion is no better than being a fanboy/girl. Bear in mind: it was no accident that Simon Pegg ended up promoting the Winchester, that actress from Firefly promoted the Serenity, or the majority of LEGO fan sites pushed the Modular Western Town; someone wanted to make sure those projects got made.

I’ve often asked myself if I’d be writing about these observations, or if I’d even notice these observations at all, if any of my projects had over 1,000 supporters. I’ve also considered the idea that I’ve been delusional: that I’ve thought my projects were good enough to buy (reworked by LEGO, of course), when in fact they’re complete ****. When you’ve done virtually everything you can think of to promote your own work, and you get little to no response, it’s incredibly discouraging and soul-eating.

Ultimately the truth is this: if you have an original idea as a project on LEGO CUUSOO, and especially if you’re not a highly popular and well-known figure in the LEGO community, you’re going to have to work at least a hundred times harder than those who’ve made projects based on licenses and recognisable people and items. There’s next to nothing in the way of guidance; you’ll have no idea where to turn for supporters, and those ideas you thought would work will mostly turn out to be fruitless – you’ll find that what works for other people won’t necessarily work for you.
Most importantly, you’re probably going to come up against a wealth of silent treatment and violent opposition. You’ll have people who call themselves AFOLs telling you to give up and throw everything away, or to change your project beyond recognition to suit the masses, which will result in you gaining, say, 5 more supporters.

I didn’t expect monumental support for any of my projects, simply because I’m SilentMode. I’ve certainly felt like giving up several times, and even now I’d be lucky to reach 100 supporters for a single project. What’s kept me going is belief in my ideas: I would not have put them on CUUSOO if I didn’t think they’d make good LEGO products, but it’s very discouraging to see a bunch of AFOLs completely forgetting that LEGO would have the final say on what the finished product would look like.

As far as Graduates and Gorillas: the game and the allegation that it “sucks” goes: if we were such a fan of LEGO we would know that LEGO Games can be customised and the rules of the game can be changed. Thankfully a couple of people had provided actual suggestions on how to improve the game, and thankfully my belief in the concept hasn’t been shaken.

That’s my final word on the state of project supporting in LEGO CUUSOO.