I didn't force all my BIONICLE MOCs to fit the universe, really. Some of my BIONICLE MOCs did not have identities within any BIONICLE universe real or imagined at all. But generally, those that didn't exist within some established universe barely had any identity whatsoever. My weird frog-person was just a weird frog-person. My black and gold Toa was just a black and gold Toa with no element and no personality.
This I do not understand - why anyone would feel a need to have a story framework or that something is better if it fits into a story framework. I can understand why having a story framework would lend meaning to whatever creation you just made, but why does it have to fit in that story framework? Why did you interpret Bionicle such that everything Bionicle you made/ told stories of/drew, etc had to mesh with the official story?
A creation that I build or write up doesn't have to fit in anything, unless its for a contest or something. It's mine - I can do what ever I want with it, I made it. Frankly, I've seen my share of alternate fanfiction that outright contradicts the official story - in fact, I wrote a few myself as a new member here, and some of my devious plans for future fanfiction stretch the bounds of possibility in canon. I don't check every minuscule detail of my work against the official story every time I want to write something - otherwise I would never stop searching the Greg dialogues.
Alternate universe fan-fiction never strongly appealed to me (at least as a subject for ME to write about) because it was rare that I had any ideas superior to the official storyline. As I mentioned, my Artakha and Karzahni storyline was completely contrary to the official nature of the Matoran Universe. If it were better than the official nature of the Matoran Universe, I'd probably have kept writing it that way, but I had a deep and profound admiration for the elegance of the official storyline. I had THOUGHT my explanation for how the Matoran Universe was structured was poetic, but to borrow an analogy from my last post, it didn't fit the machine as perfectly. The gears around it had already been screwed into place, and the gear that completed that part of the machine and made it run more smoothly than it ever had in the past was that the Matoran Universe was the robot body of the Great Spirit. A simple planet made up of domes and caverns would have been an absolute waste of all the hints that had been dropped from the very beginning to foreshadow the big reveal. Why write an alternate universe that does away with the elegance of the genuine article?
Even my human BIONICLE art tended to maintain the armor styles of the official sets to a fault. Sometimes I'd slightly redraw the armor for greater stylistic consistency but it still was based directly on the official sets, not based on realistic human armor from any place or time.
And when I did create a MOC or story that was supposed to exist within the official storyline but conflict with it in any way, the inevitable feedback was some form of the phrase "this is wrong". It's true, no franchise can completely prevent fans from getting negative feedback for their creations. But BIONICLE, in a sense, cultivated a strict sense of what was possible and what was not, and in doing so, cultivated that sort of feedback. A Lariska MOC that is not blue and green will always, always be criticized for that never mind that the character was reasonably easy to visualize well before there was any specificity about her colors. But the BIONICLE franchise cultivated a fanbase that could not function without specific rules and meanings about the most irrelevant things whether they be the mask powers of incidental characters who were not even able to use mask powers, the colors of a character who had appeared in visual media, or specific (yet, for the most part, arbitrary) meanings and origins for Mata Nui place names that had managed just fine without explicit meanings and origins for over half a decade.
You are perfectly correct that MOCs don't have to have a story when you're building them. But the reason LEGO themes have stories in the first place is to encourage creative play, building, and storytelling. It's supposed to enrich every aspect of owning the toys. If the potential for fans to create their own stories didn't matter at all, then TLG could pretty much get out of the storytelling business entirely. After all, the most successful LEGO theme for nearly a decade has been LEGO City, which has no rigid storyline or continuity and a grand total of one named character in the toys (Chase McCain). Why tell kids a story if kids are going to build and play with the toys with the same passion and creativity with or without one?
MoCing is an even broader category. Mostly I just build whatever, and then decide what story, if any, it will be in, and what role he/she/it will have. I usually have about 2-4 original stories or fanfiction type things in the back of my mind at any given moment, and so I just decide whether this thing I've built will improve one of those in terms of ideas, if so which one, how it can fit, etc.
No, an official story is the framework within which people build their own stories. If you leave that framework open, people can tell all kinds of stories. If you fill that framework in with elaborate and painstaking detail and leave only small gaps, you have placed enormous limitations on the ability for kids to build within that framework. It's fine to decorate a house before you sell it to new buyers. In fact, it's admirable. But if you bolt every bit of furniture or decoration to the walls or floor so that the new owners have to work around it in their own decorating, or tear down the house and build their own on the same land, you are not doing your buyers a service. Not all of Hero Factory's furniture is as pretty as BIONICLE's. Some of it is downright tacky. But there is plenty of open floor space, and of the furniture that is there, very little of it is bolted to the floor.
General Point (this is not directed at anyone):
Somehow, I think this all boils down to a difference in preference, but what's confusing me is what preference? Maybe a "preference group"?
This argument for limited story (IMO) seems to bite around and eat its own tail. For example, if you have a simple story, then everyone can build their own stuff and make their own story. But if their own story is what is keeping them engaged, why bother with an official story in the first place? You'll only contradict what they invented and make them mad, or you'll just be throwing money into a story that they ignore.
Hard fact here: People are going to move on to other things no matter what kind of story you tell them. That's the reality of the toy industry. "Lifelong fans" of any toy brand are generally outliers, and as Greg Farshtey and others never hesitated to remind us on BZPower, this was just as true of BIONICLE as of any other theme.
On the other hand, you can have people who want storytelling to be done well. They are not going to bother with your shallow, limited story. They will move on the Ninjago or the Bionicle or something else that's keeping that part of them engaged.
Maybe some adults who used to be Transformers fans will go to see the Transformers movie, but most of them will not buy the toys. The best you can hope for is that they bring their kids to the movie and that they become Transformers fans. But then, for that to work the franchise has to bring in new fans consistently enough for a long enough time for it to still be around when the original fans HAVE kids of the right age. You don't do that by focusing your marketing money on frivolous efforts to keep old fans on board well beyond the toys' intended age range.
Here's the thing though. Not ALL of the Hero Factory story is bad. The foundations of the story, the blurbs that show up in the catalogs and on the website, are perfectly good quality. They aren't epic, but they don't have to be. Not every good story is an epic.
What's the point of having a story if it's not done well? The people that invent their own story will chuck whatever story you invent to the curb because there's is better, and the people who want a decent story will chuck whatever story you invent to the curb because it is shallow, unengaging, and not worth the time of day. (Unless they have friends who want to discuss it because they are bored after their Bionicle ended and they have nothing better to do!) In my mind, there is no excuse for poor quality work. And that's what HF's story is: poor quality work. The only reason those sets are selling is because they are innovative, they are amazing, and they provide more flexibility in Mocing than ever before. The story, I'll bet you dollars to donuts, has little to do with it.
Hero Factory's core media, the TV series, is rather shoddy. I wish it was better. But as we have seen, it doesn't really have to be. The foundation of the story is the foundation of the toy sales, and the media is just to supplement that. Any small way that the media helps flesh out the story makes a difference, even if all it does is lend movement, personalities, voices, and eye candy to the figures kids are going to see on store shelves. As long as kids like the idea of a factory that builds robot heroes, as long as kids like the idea of a fire-themed hero named Furno or giant monsters coming from underground, the media is just to help them visualize those things as more than plastic toys on a shelf.
I don't know what you expect me to do. I can't make you like the Hero Factory storyline and I never intend to do so. You seem to be convinced that the Hero Factory storyline cannot inspire original stories. I know from experience that you are wrong, and I'm pretty certain most of the Hero Factory creations by the theme's core audience are heroes, villains, and creatures to inhabit that theme's universe. Some of them will have elaborate stories, some will just have names, powers, and personalities. Either way, kids are expressing themselves creatively and rarely, if ever, will the official media or the fans be able to tell them that their stories are wrong or can't happen.
To invent a story with HF, as you claim HF "allows", I have to pull in outside ideas not directly inside to HF. The story does not make possibilities of itself. I can combine several Bionicle ideas in a new way, and new ideas will flow naturally from that recombination. I recombine HF elements and little happens. To tell a story of quality, I have to introduce outside ideas, because HF is not a quality, engaging story to begin with. To bring HF up to the level of quality I expect from myself as a writer, I have to introduce something new. And because the story is sooo lame, why should I even bother thinking up ideas to improve the story when I have 2-4 other much more promising concepts in mind to work on which are 200% more fun? Why should I even bother thinking up a story in the HF universe when the official story people aren't even going to put effort into it? If it's not worth effort from them, why is it worth my time and effort?
Why do you think both go unmet? The Hero Factory storyline does inspire ideas, and does provide kids with tools to express those ideas. It tells kids that there is a universe of robot heroes and villains built from pieces just like the ones you see in these sets, and that hundreds of those heroes perform important missions throughout the galaxy every day. The supporting media is mainly just to help kids better visualize the sorts of characters and adventures that are possible in this universe. But it doesn't force kids to create things outside that framework or inside tiny gaps in that framework to reconcile their stories with the stories they see in books or on TV. You can create as many new heroes as you want, but you don't have to create a new factory for them to come from because there's a finite amount of heroes in the old factory who already appear as sets. A lot different from BIONICLE, where creating a new type of Matoran in 2001-2003 basically meant creating a new island for them to inhabit and never letting them interact with the heroes of Mata Nui at risk of contradicting the story that had come before or the story that might come later.
Now, realistically, people don't neatly fall in those two groups at the top - they overlap. But even if those two things are in the same person - the view of Lego as tool to express your creativity and viewing Lego (and related storylines thereof) as a source of ideas - they both kinda go unmet at once. Which kinda, you know, is lame. Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame.
I just wanted to take a moment to show my appreciation for the posts of my twin brother.
To some people, he's known as a color master. To some, he's a MOCist. But to a lot of people, he's the guy who makes really long posts.
He does this for a reason. Both of us have Aspergers Syndrome. Both of us have struggled with communication all our lives. Not in terms of actually being able to communicate; we were both speaking and reading at an early age, unlike some people we've met with more severe Autism Spectrum Disorders. But we had difficulty with social communication: things like how to tailor your communication to an audience, how to fill someone in on a topic they knew nothing about, or how to avoid any chance of a slip-up or misunderstanding that could come back to bite us in the future.
The internet provides us with an environment in which we have all the time in the world to formulate our thoughts. And formulate he does. Those long posts he makes aren't that long because he wants to nag at you endlessly or because he can't articulate himself clearly. Rather, it's the opposite: he wants to make his position clear in no uncertain terms, to eliminate any chance of misunderstanding, and to make sure he hasn't omitted any fragment of his point of view.
So yeah, he may sometimes seem like he's belaboring a point or commandeering a conversation. But what he's trying to do is articulate his unique point of view as best he can, and sure enough, he's the most articulate person I know. Love ya bro.
Source: Hero Factory = lame!