How To Be Featured On UNDERATED

I thought I’d stop by to give LEGO Ideas enthusiasts a good idea of how the projects I choose to be featured on UNDERATED (my monthly post promoting a handful of LEGO Ideas projects) get chosen. As someone giving a helping hand in promoting, no matter how little the impact, I have a responsibility to be somewhat transparent.

I particularly wanted to do this post because, pretty much since LEGO Ideas was CUUSOO, I’ve seen a lot of BS coming from other people about what it takes to get their vote, and even more so how to gain 10,000 supporters. A lot of it is BS, because I’ve frequently seen examples of people going against what they’ve said.

The general rules

The premise of UNDERATED was to help promote those great but overlooked projects on LEGO Ideas, whatever the reason might be. That’s why it’s restricted to projects that have 500 supporters or less, which is a round 5% toward the holy grail.

I also noticed a huge bias toward projects based on existing IPs, most notably Star Wars and Minecr..aft, while original projects – unless they had thousands of parts – were largely being ignored. My policy is to give those original projects priority over those based on famous IPs, because the bigger LEGO sites would naturally give the latter free publicity.

One thing you might not know is that I don’t consider Architecture style projects for UNDERATED. Whether or not it’s been a coincidence, or that ideas were actually being stolen, a number of projects based on the Architecture style were later released by LEGO as official sets, which in turn disqualified the project.

Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, UNDERATED has changed the game. GlenBricker deserves a mention for being an exception to the rule.

Here’s an insight into how I choose specific projects to promote on UNDERATED.

Be white.

Woah, just kidding! I’m making sure you’re paying attention.

I have no idea what ethnicity, race, sex, orientation or whatever denomination a project owner is, and I really don’t have any desire to find out, because it shouldn’t matter. Let’s be honest though: it does matter to some people, and we’d be lying if we claimed there wasn’t some correlation.

At the very least, we should be able to agree that projects created by certain people will fare a lot better than those by others.

The point of this point is that, as far as I’m concerned, the project is what’s being supported. It was exactly the same thing as when I did my reviews: the score was always based on the set, not the politics.

Whether or not I’d promote a project belonging to someone I don’t like is something else altogether, I can admit, but in my opinion if it’s good, it’s good.

Have a photo of an ACTUAL build.

Anyone can do LDD screenshots, Photoshopped graphics or fancy 3D renders of their projects. I can’t fault them for doing it, because it’s often the easiest, and probably only option for having something respectable to show. Photography can be very difficult, particularly if you don’t have the equipment, and people like to go on about how imagery is so important.

With that said, the following kinds of pictures (used as the main photo) are usually enough to put me off of supporting a project:

  • (basic) LDD screenshots. LDD is often associated with unrealistic projects (in terms of building and the kinds of parts involved), and by default the screenshots look too amateurish. I would recommend changing the settings to include part outlines and shadows for the best results.
  • Minifigures that “pop up to say hello”. You know, those pictures with a blown up minifigure to one side, posing for the viewer. Of course it doesn’t mean the project is no good, but personally I can’t stand these.
  • The promotional poster that doesn’t show a build. Though they’re somewhat effective in having people take a look at the project, this goes a bit too far toward misleading people for my taste.
  • A portion or extreme close up of a model. If the model can’t fit in the picture, it’s probably too big to be a LEGO Ideas set.

A lot of potential issues with a project are solved by having photos of actual models, which is why I generally prefer to see those. After all, these are ideas that might become real LEGO sets.

Don’t just copy a successful concept.

When The DeLorean Time Machine was announced, LEGO Ideas saw a sudden influx of projects based on Back To The Future.

When Ghostbusters Ecto-1 was announced, LEGO Ideas saw a sudden influx of projects based on Ghostbusters.

When the Exo Suit was announced, LEGO Ideas saw a sudden influx of projects based on Classic Space.

When the infamous Research Institute was announced, LEGO Ideas saw a sudden influx of projects involving exactly three small activity-related vignettes.

When LEGO Birds was announced, LEGO Ideas saw a small sudden influx of projects based on animals.

When Wall-E was announced, LEGO Ideas saw a sudden influx of projects based on movie robots.

When The Big Bang Theory was announced, LEGO Ideas saw a sudden influx of projects based on US sitcoms.

When Labyrinth Marble Maze was announced, LEGO Ideas saw a sudden influx of projects based on tabletop puzzles.

When Doctor Who was announced, LEGO Ideas saw a sudden influx of projects based on – you’ve guessed it – Doctor Who.

Whichever project is selected next, there’s going to be an influx of projects on LEGO Ideas with the same concept.

I for one can’t stand the fact there are so many copycat projects, if for no other reason than they’re lazy. There’s often no soul in them, and it’s obvious they’re just feeding off of someone else’s success – which ironically is a big reason why they don’t succeed.

If you’re going to piggyback off of an idea that had thousands of supporters, at the very least add your own spin. I’ll get into that in a bit.

Have a sense of balance.

One of my biggest gripes with LEGO Ideas is the disconnect between what people choose to support and what would make sense as an official set, based on the pricing and size of existing sets. This disconnect has led to the skewed promotion of certain projects by other sites, as well as which projects eventually reach 10,000 supporters – only for many of them to be rejected, as was the case with the last review.

As a general rule, I respect the pricing of LEGO Ideas sets (no more than GBP 50), as well as LEGO’s project guidelines. I wouldn’t feature a project that blatantly violates the golden price per part ratio, and I would also pass on anything that looks too much like a glorified parts pack, particularly those with very unusual part/colour combinations.

Convince me to support YOUR project.

Whether or not I’d actually buy the set is the biggest factor in deciding to feature a project. Right after I feature a project on UNDERATED I go and support it, as well as leave a comment – you can see for yourself.

Because this is the biggest factor, the one thing I tend to look for first is a reason to want to buy the set. Especially if there are numerous projects with the same idea (and this is where IP-based projects have a disadvantage), there has to be something for me to pick one over the other. This does not mean supporting just one project: a trap that many people, through over-simplistic thinking, have fallen into.

The good news is that a lot of what makes a project distinctive is in the build/design itself, particularly if the builder/designer employs their own style. Other things that can greatly help are having a variety of additional pictures, and including a video demonstrating the build (as with the marble run project featured in the last UNDERATED) if necessary.

Above all else, I consider the project description: I’m one of those crazy, antiquated people who likes seeing written content. Through the description I can get an insight into why a project exists, some of the inspiration behind the project, and a little about the person who created it. You might have guessed: I like backstories. A good backstory provides a way of really connecting to a particular project.

But that doesn’t mean…

  • …that I won’t support a project with thousands of supporters. Just as there are thousands of projects that probably don’t have the amount of supporters I think they deserve, there are popular projects that could use an extra push.
  • …that I don’t like projects I chose not to support. See above!
  • …that I’ll feature every project that comes across my desk. I don’t believe in promoting something I wouldn’t want to be part of, or that I wouldn’t buy. After all, not everybody I’ve asked for help has come through (*cough* Swapfig).
  • …that you should support what I support. In the years I’ve been an AFOL, I’ve realised my tastes are dramatically different to the majority of people. That’s okay though, because I don’t want an audience of people who can’t think for themselves.
  • …that you should ONLY support the projects I mention. LEGO Ideas isn’t “king of the hill”: it is possible to support more than one project. I would also encourage people to seek other projects to support, and to be a lot more proactive in spreading the word about the ones they like.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about the process behind UNDERATED. As always, I’m open to hearing about your LEGO Ideas projects, so get in touch if you have one you want to promote. I could also use some help with the new logo…