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Will we ever see another "Bionicle"?

bionicle hero factory MNOG

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#1 Offline NickonAquaMagna

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 10:29 AM

What I mean by this is... will we ever see Lego pour the same passion and, well, budget into a toy line that could make it take off the way Bionicle did way back when, at least when it comes to construction figures?

 

Let's think about just how much Bionicle had going on when it began. Okay, so... you have the six main figures. All right, so we have our main heroes. Then you have the Turaga. Okay, now we have a source of exposition and myth-building, along with there now being twice as many masks as before. Then you have the "McToran". Okay, looking good! now the place feels populated. Then you have not only the main Rahi sets... but their combiner models. All right! That'll flesh things out a bit.

 

But then, on top of the actual sets, there were the comics, the CDs that came with the figures, AND probably most important of all... The Mata Nui Online game. In my opinion, this is what made Bionicle what it was. The guys at Templar studios not only made a fun game, but they managed to squeeze soooooo much lore into it, and they did a great job fleshing out the LIFE on the island, really giving Bionicle its identity. I must again refer to the McToran, who came in so many crazy color combinations that you were always meeting new faces. And some time later, came another very important contribution... the master builder 15-in-1 rahi set. This was a potluck of all the animals that appeared in the MNOG, along with a bunch of new ones, and this, along with all the previous Rahi, their combiners, the Toa, The Turaga, and the Matoran just made Bionicle EXPLODE. It was more than just a toy line, it was ALIVE. And in the years that followed, we'd see other stunning places like Metru Nui come to be, but I don't think such things would've been as likely to pass if Bionicle didn't begin the way it did.

 

Now, looking back... I don't think I've ever seen Lego produce anything else with that much life in it.

 

Well, to be fair, they do seem to have put a lot of passion into Legends of Chima... at least in terms of its world, if not the writing >shudder<... but in terms of buildable figures, well... I think you can see where this is going.

 

Okay, so, Bionicle- Toa, Turaga, Matoran, and a huge whopping pile of Rahi.

 

Hero Factory- Heroes, Villains, a hover ship, and a motorbike.

 

...Compared to the former, the launch of the latter was kind of a step down.

 

Granted, there was also a Hero Factory game, but all you really do in it is just shoot stuff over and over and over until the game itself loops. Aaaand then there's also the show, but... come on.

 

Iook, I don't want to give anybody the wrong idea. I don't hate Hero Factory. In fact, I really LIKE it as a toy line (most of the time. Brain Attack was.... ugh), but I could say the same thing about Bionicle. I could say the same thing about the Slizers, and the Roboriders. No matter what name they go by, I'll probably always enjoy Lego's construction figures. But none of them will resonate with me the way Bionicle did. And that's not just nostalgia talking. When you bought a Bionicle toy, you were also getting this whoooooole world to go along with it. It was an ADVENTURE! Compared to it, Hero Factory's world seems so small despite spanning almost as many planets as a Ratchet n' Clank game.

 

What I think made Bionicle resonate with kids of the time more than the Slizers did, and Hero Factory does now, is that it had a strong BASE. It had a great foundation to build upon, and that's why it sold, and GREW, as explosively as it did. Let's say it didn't have that... let's say it was just the six heroes, a few Rahi, no story, and that's it. Sure, the toys would've been cool, but the line wouldn't resonate like it did. It would be the same as the Slizers, Hero Factory and so on. Nifty toys, but that's it.

 

For some reason, the guys at lego just don't seem to have the same drive for the toys they're making now that they did at the turn of the millenium. I guess Bionicle was the sort of thing that could only happen once, and that's what makes it so enduring. That said, I think it's pretty safe to say Hero Factory won't go on forever. And whenever it goes, I hope Lego doesn't give up on buildable figures altogether. Not only that, but I hope to one day see them produce something that once again has that PASSION and life injected into it, something that really leaves a mark. And contrary to the title of this thread, I don't want it to be a Bionicle clone... just something that could stand as strongly as it did.


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#2 Offline Katuko

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 11:40 AM

The budget is about the same, I'd wager, due to the cost of writing stories and making new mold still being pretty much the same. What they seem to lack that BIONICLE had in its early run is, as you say, the sheer sense of mystery and discovery that the island setting brought with it; especially the online game, the Flash animations, and the slow lore expansion. There is just something "epic" about heroes with no past, wrapped in legend and controlling the very elements themselves. The powers in BIONICLE were pretty much "magic", despite the entire Matoran species being robots of sorts too. The powers in Hero Factory are "guns" and other forms of technology. It is cool, but has no real mystery surrounding it. In BIONICLE, even the character's faces were mysterious, always hidden behind the mask and being rather expressionless when the mask was off. Gali, as kind as she was, felt pretty intimidating when she stared right at the screen in MNOG, in the depths of Mangaia. I don't think the later CGI animations have managed to evoke that strange feeling I got from playing the MNOG.
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#3 Offline bohrokmaster

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 12:01 PM

I kinda disagree about Bionicle being enduring once. I think Lego, while they make great sets, should make a storyline with morals just like Bionicle. Lego chima was an interesting theme and when Lego released Chima for the very first time, in the beginning of 2013, I was very excited and thought this was going to be another big thing after Bionicle but there was no exciting story behind it.  While I loved all the human-like animal warriors with their motorbikes, weapons, gadgets and vehicles, it almost gave me the impression that LEGO Chima was Lego's version of Thundercats  (But there's nothing wrong with that, I still love Thundercats :P). I know Lego's goal was to only sell toys but they could have took inspiration from Bionicle and create a story with a real-life purpose (Friendship, Teamwork, trust, loyalty etc). I don't mind seeing Cragger (from the crocodile tribe) turn from bad guy to good guy. Afterall, not all crocodiles have to be the evil villain/Antagonist . :P

 

Chima's storyline doesn't have to go dark, just like Bionicle and Harry Potter when their story went dark, and there should be a build-up to their quest to search for the legend beasts (even though the Lion legend beast made an appearance in the TV series)

 

I hope Lego would take notice and follow their example with Bionicle, it would teach kids (or grown-ups) the importance of helping each other and overcome the dark forces of evil.

 

Hero Factory is also another 'Bionicle' with constructable and robotic heroes made at a factory and they have the same purpose as the Toa Nuva. Saving the world and the entire galaxy.


Edited by bohrokmaster, Dec 09 2013 - 12:57 PM.

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#4 Offline Lyichir

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 12:08 PM

In action figures, I don't know if we'll ever see a theme quite like Bionicle. Bionicle was ridiculously ambitious in its density, and was to a great extent a product of its time. Information-dense media was taking off with kids, with things like Harry Potter and Pokémon becoming mega-hits and the burgeoning internet making reference easier than ever. And Bionicle delivered on that sort of thing. The theme had a massive glossary which was practically required reading to fully understand the story (as well as the MNOG). The cast of characters was enormous, and contributed to a world that felt fully populated. The theme secured a massive, devoted fan base within a year.

The problems only arose later on. Bionicle's story started big and kept building on itself, to the point where the story became more and more inaccessible to newcomers. By the end, the theme was losing more fans than it was attracting, which wasn't helped by semi-reboots that ended up alienating past fans more than attracting new ones.

The primary reason why I'm unsure we'll ever see another theme like Bionicle is one of timing. Bionicle debuted at a time when Lego was struggling financially. Its complex story was in part meant to capitalize on the recent success of the then-new Lego Star Wars theme. Lego was pushing in every direction trying to find a new market, and Bionicle was one of the few successes of that era. And the Lego name was at that time so undervalued that it was relegated to a corner of the Bionicle boxes, rather than front-and-center as most themes had it.

Since then, Lego has restructured and is experiencing a new renaissance. Themes like Ninjago and Lego City are now massive successes, and the Lego name is something to be embraced. There's not as much need for something like Bionicle, which eschewed its playful Lego origins to try to attract a more serious audience. Bionicle's approach had some nasty side effects in retrospect. For instance, crossover from the Bionicle fandom back to regular themes rarely happened. Many fans enjoyed the deep story without paying Lego's dividends by investing in the real money makers, the sets. And its serious nature was not enough to shake the stigma that it was in the end, just a toy line, and the story existed primarily to sell the sets.

Modern themes like Ninjago and Hero Factory have fewer pretentions than Bionicle. They embrace the toylike nature of their characters as well as the playful values of the Lego brand. And they enjoy even greater success overall than Bionicle did. Considering that, despite how much I loved Bionicle in its heyday, I wouldn't be surprised if the time for themes like Bionicle is gone for good.

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#5 Offline NickonAquaMagna

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 12:11 PM

One thing I find sad is that there WAS a point where Hero Factory finally started to get some momentum. The Breakout line's story ended with implications that someone wanted to make a "villain" factory. THAT sounded  interesting. As shallow as Hero Factory is, there was a point where it was finally going somewhere!

 

.... but then they killed any momentum that might've had and are going back to endless non-storylines.

 

And with Chima... geez. I don't get why Lego just keeps shooting themselves in the foot, these days. They're playing it waaaay too safe.

 

I'd say Ninjago is just the right balance of playfulness and substance. Why they can't do the same for Hero Factory or Chima, I have no idea.


Edited by NickonAquaMagna, Dec 09 2013 - 12:14 PM.

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#6 Offline Sir Kohran

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 12:32 PM

Lyichir has more or less made the point I'd say in response to the question.

 

Yes, Bionicle had an extremely strong start with its simple storyline, intriguing location and sense of mystery much of which it owed to the wonderful MNOLG. But as the line developed and moved away from this, some considerable flaws became apparent. The story became more complex and the cast much bigger, and it became harder for Lego to work with. On top of that, the story only appealed to a small number of older fans whose interest in the actual products I'd bet was rather minimal. I'd also bet the disappearance of the MNOLG and movies was partly due to the difficulty of fitting such complexity into their compact formats (though I don't think that excuses the lack of it). Bionicle's sales stagnated because it no longer engaged many new fans. To have a full understanding of it almost required a fan to have followed it for years (and many older fans were put off by the line's changes). The 'unfolding complex story' formula just didn't work as well in the long run as it was hoped to.

 

Since Lego moved away from that with the end of Bionicle, their overall success has remained steady. The simpler, lighter approaches seen in the post Bionicle lines has worked better for them. Therefore they have no reason to try anything like Bionicle again.


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#7 Offline Aanchir

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 12:41 PM

Ninjago definitely has every bit as much passion and budget being poured into it as BIONICLE, I'd say. The story is complex and intricate, the world is exciting and immersive, the characters are diverse and engaging, and the sets are incredibly novel, packed with exciting play features and decked out in vibrant color schemes. There have been fewer sets lately, what with the spinners having been cancelled, but seven sets for the first half of 2014 isn't bad.

I'd also say Chima is getting every bit as much passion and budget poured into it. The question in that case is just how much of that translates into meaningful results. The sets are very exciting, and the books have a lot of charm, characterization, and world-building, but I was not impressed with the three episodes of the show I watched.

BIONICLE had its own unsuccessful media forays the video games were typically lackluster, and the first computer game failed so profoundly that it had to be cancelled. But it was lucky (and really, who can say if it was anything more than luck) that its core media (the books, comics, and movies) tended to perform so well at least up until 2009, and its only major disappointments before that tended to be in supplementary media.

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#8 Offline Geardirector

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 12:48 PM

This has always been one of the main reasons why I still, to this day, love Bionicle. You truly get the sense that Christian, Greg and the rest really cared about the story they were creating. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but you can tell right away that they poured their hearts into creating the incredibly vibrant and expansive science-fantasy universe we eventually ended up with.

 

I've mentioned before how Bionicle was our generation's "great story", much like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings in years prior, along came a franchise that spawned an incredibly grand universe with an all-around "epic" feel to it that's lingered in our hearts ever since.


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#9 Offline Toatapio Nuva

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 01:06 PM

There may be another Bionicle-like product from Lego in the future, but they will have to work really hard for it.

 

Bionicle's success and greatness was a result of several factors, including the time it was introduced and luck. Undoubtedly the carefully conceived story is the core of what enabled Bionicle to become the "great story" of our time, as Dr. O put it. But the way that story was told was really important.

 

If you look at the amount of fan fiction Bionicle has spawned, it's unimaginable. This is because, as a concept, Bionicle was something completely new, not based on anything. Though fairly popular and having stories of their own, Ninjago and Chima are not the same because both use previously introduced concepts like human ninjas and talking animals. They don't have anything as original in them as Bionicle did. Sure, Bionicle borrowed lots of things from other stories, but the whole idea of biomechanical beings living inside a dormant robot was unprecedented.

 

Without the great reveal of 2008 and the fact that it had been planned from the beginning, I might not be a Bionicle fan today.

 

Anyway, the story being completely original is great and all, but not enough to guarantee success on its own. The media played an important part. The information and story was accessible to all, especially in 2001 and 2002 with the immersive games such as MNOG and online flash episodes and character bios. Anyone could, indeed, live the legend as Lego put it. This aspect of Bionicle suffered greatly in the Bionicle.com reform of 2004, but even up to 2010 the web material was a big plus.

 

The sheer amount of ways to follow the story was important to make Bionicle take off. Some children like reading books or comics, some enjoy computer games, some watch films... there was something for everyone! And I don't think I even need to mention how critical Lego's tapping into the growing importance of the internet became to Bionicle's success. I was practically introduced to the computer world by Bionicle. Bzpower inspired me to write epics, create my own stories, make comics and videos and so forth. I would not have learned so diverse computer skills without the passion for Bionicle making me try out all kinds of ways to create fan fiction.

 

In the earlier years of Bionicle, everything released also felt like it belonged together in one world. All sets had the mask function in 2001, even the Tohunga and the Rahi. That bound them into one universe. In 2002 the Krana were a new thing, but possible to attach to previous sets which also made them a part of the universe we had embraced in 2001.

 

As much as I hate Hero Factory, I must admit that it fits the current time well. It's making Lego money without the need to invest in a proper story or anything out of the ordinary. Just robot action figures fighting each other. It's a profitable solution. Lego is doing well financially at the moment (thanks to Bionicle, of course), so trying to make something ground-breaking is unnecessary. Bionicle's genesis was a result of financial trouble and the need to make something exceptionally original that would capture the attention of kids all over the world. And it succeeded, too. Lego is living a period of prosperity.

 

At some point in the future, Lego will experience another decline. Perhaps then they will have to think more about making something as great as Bionicle. Or then they will simply go bankrupt, who knows?


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#10 Offline fishers64

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 02:18 PM

It's possible.

 

If you look at the amount of fan fiction Bionicle has spawned, it's unimaginable. This is because, as a concept, Bionicle was something completely new, not based on anything. Though fairly popular and having stories of their own, Ninjago and Chima are not the same because both use previously introduced concepts like human ninjas and talking animals. They don't have anything as original in them as Bionicle did. Sure, Bionicle borrowed lots of things from other stories, but the whole idea of biomechanical beings living inside a dormant robot was unprecedented.

 

This. 

 

But right now Lego is fat, complacent, and happy. I'm not going to wish for Lego's doom here, but as long as they can make money on less-original stories like Ninjago and Chima, they won't reach for the stars.

 

Or will they? I don't know. Financial crisis was Lego's motivation for Bionicle, but is that the only motivation that works for the company? I'm not so sure.

 

I don't know - in the old days I wanted Bionicle sets because of the story behind them. These days I look for sets because of the innovation opportunities in the parts and the building system, not the story. I find the story to be disappointing, but I still get the sets I want with the parts I want. (But I still am more likely to get those with storyline elements that I like, like Stringer's speakers or the Lego movie. :P) So it may have less to do with story these days and more about set design - seems to be working well enough now.

 

But if that generation of kids comes along that demand information-heavy, mysterious story again, I think Lego will change and reach for the sky again, probably before the profits start falling. They will know the signs before disaster knocks, because they were there before. 


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#11 Offline Gengar

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 03:00 PM

I doubt it. If a big company leaves a product, it's gone for the greater good. Lego simpy won't bring back Bionicle for the sake of the other products, from what I know.


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#12 Offline Toa Varova

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 03:15 PM

I doubt it. If a big company leaves a product, it's gone for the greater good. Lego simpy won't bring back Bionicle for the sake of the other products, from what I know.

Well, Castle and Space-related themes are loopholes to this. The subthemes of these mentioned themes are pretty similar to one another, but you could have a point because Space and Castle are small bubbles that rarely have much influence.


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#13 Offline Gengar

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 03:26 PM

 

I doubt it. If a big company leaves a product, it's gone for the greater good. Lego simpy won't bring back Bionicle for the sake of the other products, from what I know.

Well, Castle and Space-related themes are loopholes to this. The subthemes of these mentioned themes are pretty similar to one another, but you could have a point because Space and Castle are small bubbles that rarely have much influence.

 

Yes, but there are a whole bunch of Space themed stuff in Lego, and they are all similar but different. There hasn't been a reboot of certain themes. HF is similar to Bionicle but it isn't the same, for example.


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#14 Offline Toa Varova

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 03:36 PM

 

 

I doubt it. If a big company leaves a product, it's gone for the greater good. Lego simpy won't bring back Bionicle for the sake of the other products, from what I know.

Well, Castle and Space-related themes are loopholes to this. The subthemes of these mentioned themes are pretty similar to one another, but you could have a point because Space and Castle are small bubbles that rarely have much influence.

 

Yes, but there are a whole bunch of Space themed stuff in Lego, and they are all similar but different. There hasn't been a reboot of certain themes. HF is similar to Bionicle but it isn't the same, for example.

 

Well, in some cases, Space Police III (the one from 2009-2010) is considered a reboot of Space Police I & II, but if this is the case, yes, a BIONICLE reboot does sound far-fetched.


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#15 Offline NickonAquaMagna

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 03:38 PM

I doubt it. If a big company leaves a product, it's gone for the greater good. Lego simpy won't bring back Bionicle for the sake of the other products, from what I know.

 

But I'm not talking about bringing Bionicle back. I'm just talking about something that's as... well, good.


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#16 Offline Aanchir

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 04:07 PM

If you look at the amount of fan fiction Bionicle has spawned, it's unimaginable. This is because, as a concept, Bionicle was something completely new, not based on anything. Though fairly popular and having stories of their own, Ninjago and Chima are not the same because both use previously introduced concepts like human ninjas and talking animals. They don't have anything as original in them as Bionicle did. Sure, Bionicle borrowed lots of things from other stories, but the whole idea of biomechanical beings living inside a dormant robot was unprecedented.

 
This. 
 
But right now Lego is fat, complacent, and happy. I'm not going to wish for Lego's doom here, but as long as they can make money on less-original stories like Ninjago and Chima, they won't reach for the stars.


But here's the question. Is a story as original as BIONICLE's really all that desirable in the grand scheme of things? I think the idea that BIONICLE was our generation's "great story" is a little bit preposterous. BIONICLE didn't reach nearly as many people as Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings. And of the people it DID reach, only a tiny fraction went on to become lifelong fans. Saying BIONICLE is our generation's "great story" is ignoring several epic stories from the same time period, including Harry Potter, compared to which BIONICLE was merely a drop in the pond.

BIONICLE was definitely very new and different. And there will always be a certain number of people who embrace things that are new and different. But there are other less flattering words that you could use to describe BIONICLE. It was weird. It was bizarre. It was alien. It was the sort of thing that a lot of adults could never really understand, and that many weren't even willing to TRY to understand. If you read reviews of BIONICLE comics and movies by non-fans, you generally don't see a lot of people proclaiming what an amazing story it is. Rather, for people who weren't willing to devote themselves to absorbing all the little bits of storyline spread across many different types of story media, it was confusing-as-Karzahni gibberish, and the parts of the story that were remotely decipherable to a non-fan seemed downright generic.

Even some of my real-life peers who were around my age and collected BIONICLE sets barely had a clue what the storyline was about. They saw cool robot action figures with interchangeable plastic masks or rubber brains and thought they were cool, but they couldn't remember most of their foreign-sounding names or what the figures were supposed to represent. Whenever I did try to explain BIONICLE to them, they could barely digest the amount of ridiculous factoids that were necessary to properly understand the story. And do you know what happened to these fellow BIONICLE fans? They "grew out of it". BIONICLE never managed to appeal to them on nearly as deep a level as it appeals to lifelong fans like us. To them, it was never much more than a toy, and the impenetrable depth of the story made actually understanding or following it on a deeper level than that not worth their while.

Even many existing, dedicated fans were driven off when the big reveal of Mata Nui's true nature took place. For them, it didn't matter whether it had been planned from the beginning or not. It was too unfamiliar, too different, too difficult to place in their cozy little definitions of BIONICLE's genre. Many of them preferred BIONICLE when it was nothing more than "primitive robots on a tropical island". That's pretty tame science-fantasy fare, all things considered. It's a Pacific island veneer over a science-fiction veneer over plain old swords-and-sorcery. Throw in that the island is itself camouflage for a giant robot that houses the entire universe the regular-size robots came from and that neat and tidy definition is no longer so neat and tidy. And a lot of people struggle to understand or appreciate things they can't define.

Really, there are plenty of stories that have a similar, almost alien level of complexity and foreignness to them. But many of these fail miserably at generating interest because they're just too bizarre for a lot of people to understand their appeal. Take, for instance, Jim Henson's "The Dark Crystal", which similarly created its own magical fantasy races without any direct analogues in real life or folklore. It was a good movie, but compared to it, BIONICLE's lasting success seems like a miracle of some kind. A lot of people are most comfortable investing themselves not in some strange and esoteric mythos but rather in the familiar, and it's important to remember that there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, that's the reason genres as we understand them even exist — writers and readers alike often want to take part in a large and firmly-established tradition like the medieval fantasy, or the space opera, or the western, or the murder mystery. There's nothing shameful about that.

With toys and media alike, it does nobody any good if the same qualities that get a small number of fans deeply invested in your story play an active role in driving away a lot of your other potential fans. And when there are so many people who will cling to anything familiar, what do you honestly have to lose by framing your story in a familiar genre?

That's another reason it's silly to compare BIONICLE to Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings but exclude Ninjago because it is not "completely original". The Lord of the Rings did not invent medieval fantasy, or elves, or dwarves, or wizards. Star Wars did not invent space opera, or space travel, or aliens, or laser guns. Like Ninjago, they were just taking part in traditions that had already been established. The reason they are remembered so fondly is that they revitalized and redefined those genres. They had that "hook", that little taste of something familiar... and that was all it took for them to draw in an audience that would have otherwise struggled to place those stories in any existing frame of reference.

I don't mean to say Ninjago is a great story on the level of Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings. That'd be silly and pretentious. I'm not going to say it defined a generation either, though I'm sure in ten to fifteen years there will be blogs and Facebook groups about nostalgia for the current decade that consider Ninjago a major childhood experience for this time period, just like Pokémon was for my generation. But elevating BIONICLE to that level is just as ridiculous. It was a good story, and it was a story that a lot of people enjoyed, and it was a story many years in the telling. But it is not cherished and remembered by NEARLY as many as either of those franchises. It has not had as many imitators, certainly not as many successful ones. Pretty much any swords-and-sorcery role-playing game or video game franchise owes a great deal to Tolkien, and there are hundreds of sci-fi franchises that have drawn inspiration from Star Wars. It has not even been long enough to see if BIONICLE will have a similar legacy. So let's not go elevating it on some lofty pedestal until it has actually had a proven impact beyond just fansites and fanfiction.

P.S.: A Google search for BIONICLE Fanfiction with no quotes brings up about 88,600 results. A Google search for "My Little Pony Friendship is Magic" fanfiction, with quotes around the franchise name, brings up about 11,400,000 results — over 128 times as many. BIONICLE began over thirteen years ago. "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" began about three years ago. Might be a sobering thought.

Edited by Aanchir: Rachira of Time, Dec 09 2013 - 04:13 PM.

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#17 Offline Gengar

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 04:30 PM

P.S.: A Google search for BIONICLE Fanfiction with no quotes brings up about 88,600 results. A Google search for "My Little Pony Friendship is Magic" fanfiction, with quotes around the franchise name, brings up about 11,400,000 results — over 128 times as many. BIONICLE began over thirteen years ago. "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" began about three years ago. Might be a sobering thought.

 

Though I agree with you on the rest of your post, MLP is newer. Most people prefer something newer, which tends to spread quicker, based on my own experiences.


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#18 Offline Geardirector

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 04:36 PM

I knew it was a silly thought to make that comparison right from the start, but I just had to say it.


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#19 Offline NickonAquaMagna

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 04:41 PM

Aanchir, I kind of understand what you're getting at, but... I just don't see how that's a problem. I don't see how the sheer weirdness of a story like this is somehow a bad thing. It doesn't tell me that Bionicle isn't that good. It just tells me that people are too narrow minded and timid to appreciate such material.


Edited by NickonAquaMagna, Dec 09 2013 - 04:42 PM.

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#20 Offline Toatapio Nuva

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 05:06 PM

Well, I have to admit that I agree with most of Aanchir's remarks... it's not like Bionicle reached the level of Star Wars or LOTR in terms of popularity.

 

It had a much better story though. :D

 

Yet, I think you're underestimating the amount of popularity Bionicle received. In its early years it was THE #1 toy for boys... at least in USA but pretty much around the world. Granted, it did lose a lot of fans with the whole Metru Nui thing (which is a shame cause that's when the story really kicked off), but it remained one of the most well-known products (in terms of toys) until somewhere in 2007.

 

Wikipedia says that pretty much most children knew of the brand and an impressive percentage owned the toys.

 

Not trying to elevate Bionicle on a pedestial it doesn't deserve. Its success was hindered by the fact that it was a toyline. On that field though, it ranks on the top. That's what we need to remember: Bionicle remains revolutionary and the great story of our time in the context of toys and children's things. It was never meant to compete with popular things of other categories like Star Wars.


Edited by Toatapio Nuva, Dec 09 2013 - 05:07 PM.

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#21 Offline Gengar

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 05:14 PM

Aanchir, I kind of understand what you're getting at, but... I just don't see how that's a problem. I don't see how the sheer weirdness of a story like this is somehow a bad thing. It doesn't tell me that Bionicle isn't that good. It just tells me that people are too narrow minded and timid to appreciate such material.

I wouldn't say "narrow-minded" or "timid", because those terms are a little too general.

 

Really, you only have to look at it on a different angle to see why this makes sense. I know it's great, awesome, whatever, but like Toatapio said, you can't get too much from a series of toys that lasted only 10 years. Sure, Hot Wheels succeeded. Sure, [insert some very successful toy here] succeeded. But those brands were around for a freaking long time. Bionicle wasn't. That's why it isn't so "appreciated".


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#22 Offline fishers64

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 05:16 PM

 

 

If you look at the amount of fan fiction Bionicle has spawned, it's unimaginable. This is because, as a concept, Bionicle was something completely new, not based on anything. Though fairly popular and having stories of their own, Ninjago and Chima are not the same because both use previously introduced concepts like human ninjas and talking animals. They don't have anything as original in them as Bionicle did. Sure, Bionicle borrowed lots of things from other stories, but the whole idea of biomechanical beings living inside a dormant robot was unprecedented.

 
This. 
 
But right now Lego is fat, complacent, and happy. I'm not going to wish for Lego's doom here, but as long as they can make money on less-original stories like Ninjago and Chima, they won't reach for the stars.

 


But here's the question. Is a story as original as BIONICLE's really all that desirable in the grand scheme of things? I think the idea that BIONICLE was our generation's "great story" is a little bit preposterous. BIONICLE didn't reach nearly as many people as Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings. And of the people it DID reach, only a tiny fraction went on to become lifelong fans. Saying BIONICLE is our generation's "great story" is ignoring several epic stories from the same time period, including Harry Potter, compared to which BIONICLE was merely a drop in the pond.

BIONICLE was definitely very new and different. And there will always be a certain number of people who embrace things that are new and different. But there are other less flattering words that you could use to describe BIONICLE. It was weird. It was bizarre. It was alien. It was the sort of thing that a lot of adults could never really understand, and that many weren't even willing to TRY to understand. If you read reviews of BIONICLE comics and movies by non-fans, you generally don't see a lot of people proclaiming what an amazing story it is. Rather, for people who weren't willing to devote themselves to absorbing all the little bits of storyline spread across many different types of story media, it was confusing-as-Karzahni gibberish, and the parts of the story that were remotely decipherable to a non-fan seemed downright generic.

Even some of my real-life peers who were around my age and collected BIONICLE sets barely had a clue what the storyline was about. They saw cool robot action figures with interchangeable plastic masks or rubber brains and thought they were cool, but they couldn't remember most of their foreign-sounding names or what the figures were supposed to represent. Whenever I did try to explain BIONICLE to them, they could barely digest the amount of ridiculous factoids that were necessary to properly understand the story. And do you know what happened to these fellow BIONICLE fans? They "grew out of it". BIONICLE never managed to appeal to them on nearly as deep a level as it appeals to lifelong fans like us. To them, it was never much more than a toy, and the impenetrable depth of the story made actually understanding or following it on a deeper level than that not worth their while.

Even many existing, dedicated fans were driven off when the big reveal of Mata Nui's true nature took place. For them, it didn't matter whether it had been planned from the beginning or not. It was too unfamiliar, too different, too difficult to place in their cozy little definitions of BIONICLE's genre. Many of them preferred BIONICLE when it was nothing more than "primitive robots on a tropical island". That's pretty tame science-fantasy fare, all things considered. It's a Pacific island veneer over a science-fiction veneer over plain old swords-and-sorcery. Throw in that the island is itself camouflage for a giant robot that houses the entire universe the regular-size robots came from and that neat and tidy definition is no longer so neat and tidy. And a lot of people struggle to understand or appreciate things they can't define.

Really, there are plenty of stories that have a similar, almost alien level of complexity and foreignness to them. But many of these fail miserably at generating interest because they're just too bizarre for a lot of people to understand their appeal. Take, for instance, Jim Henson's "The Dark Crystal", which similarly created its own magical fantasy races without any direct analogues in real life or folklore. It was a good movie, but compared to it, BIONICLE's lasting success seems like a miracle of some kind. A lot of people are most comfortable investing themselves not in some strange and esoteric mythos but rather in the familiar, and it's important to remember that there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, that's the reason genres as we understand them even exist — writers and readers alike often want to take part in a large and firmly-established tradition like the medieval fantasy, or the space opera, or the western, or the murder mystery. There's nothing shameful about that.

With toys and media alike, it does nobody any good if the same qualities that get a small number of fans deeply invested in your story play an active role in driving away a lot of your other potential fans. And when there are so many people who will cling to anything familiar, what do you honestly have to lose by framing your story in a familiar genre?

That's another reason it's silly to compare BIONICLE to Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings but exclude Ninjago because it is not "completely original". The Lord of the Rings did not invent medieval fantasy, or elves, or dwarves, or wizards. Star Wars did not invent space opera, or space travel, or aliens, or laser guns. Like Ninjago, they were just taking part in traditions that had already been established. The reason they are remembered so fondly is that they revitalized and redefined those genres. They had that "hook", that little taste of something familiar... and that was all it took for them to draw in an audience that would have otherwise struggled to place those stories in any existing frame of reference.

I don't mean to say Ninjago is a great story on the level of Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings. That'd be silly and pretentious. I'm not going to say it defined a generation either, though I'm sure in ten to fifteen years there will be blogs and Facebook groups about nostalgia for the current decade that consider Ninjago a major childhood experience for this time period, just like Pokémon was for my generation. But elevating BIONICLE to that level is just as ridiculous. It was a good story, and it was a story that a lot of people enjoyed, and it was a story many years in the telling. But it is not cherished and remembered by NEARLY as many as either of those franchises. It has not had as many imitators, certainly not as many successful ones. Pretty much any swords-and-sorcery role-playing game or video game franchise owes a great deal to Tolkien, and there are hundreds of sci-fi franchises that have drawn inspiration from Star Wars. It has not even been long enough to see if BIONICLE will have a similar legacy. So let's not go elevating it on some lofty pedestal until it has actually had a proven impact beyond just fansites and fanfiction.

P.S.: A Google search for BIONICLE Fanfiction with no quotes brings up about 88,600 results. A Google search for "My Little Pony Friendship is Magic" fanfiction, with quotes around the franchise name, brings up about 11,400,000 results — over 128 times as many. BIONICLE began over thirteen years ago. "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" began about three years ago. Might be a sobering thought.

 

 
First, to the P.S.: Bionicle fanfiction, including much of the stuff posted on BZP, does NOT always have the words "Bionicle Fanfiction" in it. Also a freaking ton of it was lost when the BZP Archive died. This is not to say that all Bionicle fanfiction was contained on BZP or that BZP has the vast majority of Bionicle fanfiction, but the rule still applies - Bionicle is older, and website failures and people taking it off their websites to make room for other stuff does not reflect the heyday of Bionicle's fanfiction generating. 
 
Also, keep this in mind too: 
 

 

I doubt it. If a big company leaves a product, it's gone for the greater good. Lego simpy won't bring back Bionicle for the sake of the other products, from what I know.

 
But I'm not talking about bringing Bionicle back. I'm just talking about something that's as... well, good.

 

 
Yarr. 
 

With toys and media alike, it does nobody any good if the same qualities that get a small number of fans deeply invested in your story play an active role in driving awaya lot of your other potential fans. And when there are so many people who will cling to anything familiar, what do you honestly have to lose by framing your story in a familiar genre?


]That's another reason it's silly to compare BIONICLE to Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings but exclude Ninjago because it is not "completely original". The Lord of the Rings did not invent medieval fantasy, or elves, or dwarves, or wizards. Star Wars did not invent space opera, or space travel, or aliens, or laser guns. Like Ninjago, they were just taking part in traditions that had already been established. The reason they are remembered so fondly is that they revitalized and redefined those genres. They had that "hook", that little taste of something familiar... and that was all it took for them to draw in an audience that would have otherwise struggled to place those stories in any existing frame of reference.

The essence of story is originality. If I pick a genre pattern out of a box, I have limited myself immensely in terms of story. Walking away from the genre patterns the way Bionicle did allows you to explore new possibilities that aren't possible with existing genre. If your story isn't different from any other story somehow, it's boring. 

 

And the hook is not something familiar. When I pick up a story, the "hook" that brings me into a story is the stuff that's different. If the story isn't different from what I know as ordinary real life by the third paragraph or the ten-minute mark, I'm gone.

 

This is not an insult to Ninjago - I watched the episodes and enjoyed them thoroughly.  But what got me into the story was not the fact that it was familiar - Kai is an kid blacksmith in the beginning of the story. That's not normal. Living skeletons that abduct your sister - is that normal? Ninjago is unusual.  But we have human characters in the story, ninjas are characters of japanese folklore/history, and the kids in the story act like kids, down to video-game playing and being told to do chores. This is not a bad thing. 

 

Star Wars - how many stories do you have with a father-son enemy thing with the father trapped in subservience to an evil overlord? LoTR - that's the first story I've read about elves and dwarves and hobbits wrangling over powerful jewelry...and the hobbit concept strikes me as totally new. 

 

Bionicle is more original than these, though. The characters aren't even human, with their own properties. Sure, there are human characteristics that the characters have, and there are cities and trees and stuff, but it's further away from the hum-drum than Ninjago is. And the question the OP seems to be asking is, can Lego embrace that much more originality again? Or are they going to stay closer to reality?

 

My thoughts are more on the lines of mystery - are they going to engage us with the complex world with the mysteries-within-mysteries thing again? From you I seem to hear that it's a bad idea, that it drives people away. I disagree - I  think it brings people into the story. I joined Bionicle in 2005, and the thought of all the story I could explore before the next year happened energized me. 

 

Could they do something like that again - completely original, out there - sure. Will they? It depends on if that is profitable and appeals to kids better than the shallow story of HF and the "closer-to-reality-but-still-far-away" story of Ninjago. 

 

I'm not sure that the "complex-exploring-mystery" method of storytelling is defunct. Ninjago still uses it to a degree, as well as many other TV series/films/books (many of which I have read). It just doesn't sell plastic toys so well anymore.


Edited by fishers64, Dec 09 2013 - 05:21 PM.

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#23 Offline Aanchir

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 09:04 PM

First, to the P.S.: Bionicle fanfiction, including much of the stuff posted on BZP, does NOT always have the words "Bionicle Fanfiction" in it. Also a freaking ton of it was lost when the BZP Archive died. This is not to say that all Bionicle fanfiction was contained on BZP or that BZP has the vast majority of Bionicle fanfiction, but the rule still applies - Bionicle is older, and website failures and people taking it off their websites to make room for other stuff does not reflect the heyday of Bionicle's fanfiction generating.

I don't think any of those things account for the disparity. Bear in mind this is a difference of over ELEVEN MILLION results. I don't know if BZPower has even had eleven million topics! The notion that website failures or poor web search optimization can account for that disparity seems ludicrous.
 

The essence of story is originality. If I pick a genre pattern out of a box, I have limited myself immensely in terms of story. Walking away from the genre patterns the way Bionicle did allows you to explore new possibilities that aren't possible with existing genre. If your story isn't different from any other story somehow, it's boring.

And the hook is not something familiar. When I pick up a story, the "hook" that brings me into a story is the stuff that's different. If the story isn't different from what I know as ordinary real life by the third paragraph or the ten-minute mark, I'm gone.

But my point is that if you can't even comprehend what something is, you won't even give it a second look. I don't know about you, but in my case, I often want to have a vague idea what something's about before I watch it. I don't want to go into a sci-fi movie expecting to see a western. And if the premise itself seems overly convoluted, that can drive people away. They want to go in with some sense that "this MIGHT be something I like", and if there ISN'T anything similar they like to compare it to it's hard to achieve that confidence.

You don't want your story to be COMPLETELY generic, it's true. But at the same time, you also don't want your story to be COMPLETELY alien.

I may be doing BIONICLE a bit of a disservice here. While explaining the premise of the series as a whole can be exceedingly convoluted, the premise of any one individual story year can be a bit simpler.The simplest to explain, naturally, is the 2001 story, since it requires no background information whatsoever. And it has plenty of those familiar "hooks" I was referring to. Its characters have elemental powers, like a lot of heroes from cartoons and video games. And their personalities are simple archetypes derived from those elements: the fire character is brash and hotheaded, the water character is calm and serene, the air character is a lighthearted "free spirit", the earth character is quiet and powerful, the ice character is cold and unfriendly, and the stone character... well, to be honest, I'm not sure how Pohatu fits into general "stone" stereotypes, but he contrasts from the others pretty well.

The setting for 2001 was a tropical island full of exciting scenery. The evil character was a mysterious and deceptive force of darkness. And the objective of the heroes — to awaken their people's protector spirit — taps into traditional mythology. So really, there WAS that sense of familiarity in the beginning. As the series went on and expanded, though, it became harder and harder to get into, because explaining what exactly the story was about became more and more complicated. It was no longer about the same heroes, or the same setting, or in some cases even the same enemy. BIONICLE became something a lot more amorphous in its scope, even if behind the scenes everything was tied together nicely by the "big story engine", the Mata Nui robot.
 

This is not an insult to Ninjago - I watched the episodes and enjoyed them thoroughly. But what got me into the story was not the fact that it was familiar - Kai is an kid blacksmith in the beginning of the story. That's not normal. Living skeletons that abduct your sister - is that normal? Ninjago is unusual. But we have human characters in the story, ninjas are characters of japanese folklore/history, and the kids in the story act like kids, down to video-game playing and being told to do chores. This is not a bad thing.


Ah, you see these are the sorts of things that made me like Ninjago as well. But I'm not talking about the things that make you LIKE a franchise. I'm talking about the things that make you give it a chance in the first place. What made me give it a chance was that it had a lot in common with things I had liked in the past. It was a fantasy martial-arts franchise, like Avatar: The Last Airbender or Xiaolin Showdown or Jackie Chan Adventures... cartoons I had grown up with. It played around with genres kind of like BIONICLE, blending myths and legends with machines and technology. It had characters who wielded and represented elemental powers, a trait it shared with several of those franchises. And, of course, it was LEGO. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't a big factor!

I still haven't watched the LEGO Friends TV specials or bought any of the sets. It's for girls and about messages of diversity and friendship, things it has in common with one of my current passions, My Little Pony. And of course it's a LEGO theme. But beyond that, at a glance it doesn't have anything in common with ANY of the series I've typically enjoyed. That hook is missing. Do you see what I'm getting at? It doesn't matter HOW good or unique your series is if the premise doesn't give people any sense that "this might be worth looking into!"
 

Star Wars - how many stories do you have with a father-son enemy thing with the father trapped in subservience to an evil overlord? LoTR - that's the first story I've read about elves and dwarves and hobbits wrangling over powerful jewelry...and the hobbit concept strikes me as totally new. 
 
Bionicle is more original than these, though. The characters aren't even human, with their own properties. Sure, there are human characteristics that the characters have, and there are cities and trees and stuff, but it's further away from the hum-drum than Ninjago is. And the question the OP seems to be asking is, can Lego embrace that much more originality again? Or are they going to stay closer to reality?
 
My thoughts are more on the lines of mystery - are they going to engage us with the complex world with the mysteries-within-mysteries thing again? From you I seem to hear that it's a bad idea, that it drives people away. I disagree - I  think it brings people into the story. I joined Bionicle in 2005, and the thought of all the story I could explore before the next year happened energized me.

Could they do something like that again - completely original, out there - sure. Will they? It depends on if that is profitable and appeals to kids better than the shallow story of HF and the "closer-to-reality-but-still-far-away" story of Ninjago.

I'm not sure that the "complex-exploring-mystery" method of storytelling is defunct. Ninjago still uses it to a degree, as well as many other TV series/films/books (many of which I have read). It just doesn't sell plastic toys so well anymore.


I agree, the mystery is a much more important factor in what made BIONICLE special than its uniqueness. Something can be completely unique and still incredibly bad, after all. I can't really name any examples because I tend to AVOID things that seem too weird and bad for me to properly give them a chance (and I don't want to make unfounded statements about series I HAVEN'T properly given a chance), but I'm sure a lot of people can think of some example of a series that has always seemed just stupid to them despite being radically different from any other franchise they've ever encountered. Sometimes a unique series can tell a rotten story, and conversely, a less unique series can be memorable and tell a great story, while being easier for people to relate to at the same time.

That's part of why I took issue with the notion that BIONICLE's uniqueness was what made it great. Its uniqueness was a major quality of it, but at times it was a flaw, and at times it was an asset. While BIONICLE was definitely a very risky and ambitious undertaking, risk-taking and ambition are not a foolproof recipe for creating something that will be wildly successful and fondly remembered. Nor are they an essential ingredient to every successful or memorable venture. And personally, I'm proud that these days the LEGO Group knows what they're doing well enough that they can create a successful, memorable story without it being a huge and desperate gamble. Especially since their experience with BIONICLE and the lessons they learned along the way are a big part of what earned them that self-assurance.

Edited by Aanchir: Rachira of Time, Dec 09 2013 - 09:09 PM.

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#24 Offline BobaFett2

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 09:33 PM

 

 

 

I doubt it. If a big company leaves a product, it's gone for the greater good. Lego simpy won't bring back Bionicle for the sake of the other products, from what I know.

Well, Castle and Space-related themes are loopholes to this. The subthemes of these mentioned themes are pretty similar to one another, but you could have a point because Space and Castle are small bubbles that rarely have much influence.

 

Yes, but there are a whole bunch of Space themed stuff in Lego, and they are all similar but different. There hasn't been a reboot of certain themes. HF is similar to Bionicle but it isn't the same, for example.

 

Well, in some cases, Space Police III (the one from 2009-2010) is considered a reboot of Space Police I & II, but if this is the case, yes, a BIONICLE reboot does sound far-fetched.

 

 

Space Police II was clearly a continuation of Space Police, but that was in a time when all Space and Castle themes were tied together.

 

Space Police III shares little with Space Police I and II other than the fact that it's about police in space. It's not a continuation or reboot.


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#25 Offline bonesiii

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Posted Dec 09 2013 - 10:00 PM

I understand that you're asking about buildfigs, which is why Ninjago isn't on your list for consideration, but you're also asking story vs. just sets, clearly.

 

So I'd say Ninjago is a clear sign that yes, they've still got that magic.
 

But will it strike again? If you say definitely yes, you may set expectations too high, or no, miss out. All I can say is "maybe."

 

 

The core problem with Hero Factory IMO is that the world just feels too "real world city boring", even though it's robots and everything. Which is weird because Ninjago has a city far more like the real world, yet somehow that works. I dunno, it's hard to pin down, but the Factory itself was just to cut and dried. It made a cool concept, and I don't mind having a break from "the magic" for it. But yeah, if you're looking for it to ever compare to Bionicle I don't think it can, because we just understand the whole basic concept too clearly so that there's not the same level of mysterious.

 

Breakout did hint that it could sort of go that route, but the world itself will still feel non-mysterious, IMO. Ninjago's world, even with skyscrapers on it, still feels more mysterious.

 

As for Chima, I'm liking what we've got so far, but it's only marginally about buildfigs.

 

Maybe the root problem is, how do you really have a world with robots, which Bionicle's sets looked like, and have it mysterious again? LEGO did that once. Can it even be done again? Or would any attempt just feel too cliche now?


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#26 Offline fishers64

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Posted Dec 10 2013 - 02:48 PM

 

First, to the P.S.: Bionicle fanfiction, including much of the stuff posted on BZP, does NOT always have the words "Bionicle Fanfiction" in it. Also a freaking ton of it was lost when the BZP Archive died. This is not to say that all Bionicle fanfiction was contained on BZP or that BZP has the vast majority of Bionicle fanfiction, but the rule still applies - Bionicle is older, and website failures and people taking it off their websites to make room for other stuff does not reflect the heyday of Bionicle's fanfiction generating.

I don't think any of those things account for the disparity. Bear in mind this is a difference of over ELEVEN MILLION results. I don't know if BZPower has even had eleven million topics! The notion that website failures or poor web search optimization can account for that disparity seems ludicrous.

 

Numeric slot record failure...
 
I'm sure other things account for the disparity, though. Especially since MLP has been around longer than three years. According to http://en.wikipedia..../My_Little_Pony, it started in 1983, which is a little older than Bionicle. Granted, it's popularity is somewhat recent, probably with the FiM thing that started three years ago and started the whole periphery "brony" thing, but it was widely known even before that. I remember a political commentator using the theme song for that show back in 2008 (when I followed that stuff closely, probably sometime around there). It's an evergreen kid's TV Show like Arthur, which is hardly comparable to a Lego toy franchise. 
 
A search for bionicle fanfiction gives me  About 141,000 results (0.30 seconds) , 
A search for ninjago fanfiction gives me About 187,000 results (0.14 seconds) 
 
I think the website fails, withdraws, etc can account for that discrepancy. 
 
Anyway...
 

But my point is that if you can't even comprehend what something is, you won't even give it a second look. I don't know about you, but in my case, I often want to have a vague idea what something's about before I watch it. I don't want to go into a sci-fi movie expecting to see a western. And if the premise itself seems overly convoluted, that can drive people away. They want to go in with some sense that "this MIGHT be something I like", and if there ISN'T anything similar they like to compare it to it's hard to achieve that confidence.


I must admit I don't know too much about this. I frequently "investigate" entertainment franchises to know what they are about based on recommendations from people. It's a frequent experiance for me to scan library shelves for titles that might be interesting. I am also willing to fight my way through the details of a story to "get it." You're talking to the person who dug through the BZP Library reading and reviewing for years before finally owning up to the fact that there was nothing to "get" at in the stories I was reading and that I was really not satisfied. (That's just the tip of the iceberg of the examples...:wince:)

But there is something to the 30-second premise, to be sure. Like the inside covers of books. If the inside cover sounds boring, then it goes back on the shelf - there has to be a sense of something different or unusual or something there, or it's a no sell.

But I'm not going to make comparisons right away to other stuff. Genre is not the first thing that comes to mind, and I would likely never walk into a sci-fi movie expecting to see a western, because I don't go into the movies to see sci-fis or westerns but rather what the movie is. (And if it did happen I would probably be very confused as to why they advertised it as a western, and probably make a bunch of theories about it, but whatever.)
 

You don't want your story to be COMPLETELY generic, it's true. But at the same time, you also don't want your story to be COMPLETELY alien.


I am actually fully confident that being completely alien is a fundamental impossibility. Even the characters of Bionicle had disputes, emotions, etc that are fundamentally human qualities. This is a common thread that runs through all fiction, that all characters are human or human-like to some extant. Stories frequently have a linear time structure, because that's what we know and it is impossible (as of yet :P) for us to get out of it. Even time-travel stories have linear time after travel. Humans are writing the story, therefore there will always be some link (whether obvious or not) to humanity in some form or fashion.
 

I may be doing BIONICLE a bit of a disservice here. While explaining the premise of the series as a whole can be exceedingly convoluted, the premise of any one individual story year can be a bit simpler.The simplest to explain, naturally, is the 2001 story, since it requires no background information whatsoever. And it has plenty of those familiar "hooks" I was referring to. Its characters have elemental powers, like a lot of heroes from cartoons and video games. And their personalities are simple archetypes derived from those elements: the fire character is brash and hotheaded, the water character is calm and serene, the air character is a lighthearted "free spirit", the earth character is quiet and powerful, the ice character is cold and unfriendly, and the stone character... well, to be honest, I'm not sure how Pohatu fits into general "stone" stereotypes, but he contrasts from the others pretty well.

The setting for 2001 was a tropical island full of exciting scenery. The evil character was a mysterious and deceptive force of darkness. And the objective of the heroes — to awaken their people's protector spirit — taps into traditional mythology. So really, there WAS that sense of familiarity in the beginning. As the series went on and expanded, though, it became harder and harder to get into, because explaining what exactly the story was about became more and more complicated. It was no longer about the same heroes, or the same setting, or in some cases even the same enemy. BIONICLE became something a lot more amorphous in its scope, even if behind the scenes everything was tied together nicely by the "big story engine", the Mata Nui robot.


This is the story of the giant robot that the Great Beings built to save their home planet Spherus Magna, and the Makuta who betrayed him from within. The beings who live within the robot must fight against him to save Mata Nui and allow him to accomplish that purpose.

I think that's 30 seconds.

Although it did take a few moments of thought, but the basic idea of it was conveyed nicely in the beginning of the MNOG at the telescope animation and in the first pages of the books. And while the story did get conveluted in the middle, the Mata Nui vs. Makuta idea was always there, although downplayed to throw the readers off in 2006 - 2008, which was bad. Anyway...

 

 

This is not an insult to Ninjago - I watched the episodes and enjoyed them thoroughly. But what got me into the story was not the fact that it was familiar - Kai is an kid blacksmith in the beginning of the story. That's not normal. Living skeletons that abduct your sister - is that normal? Ninjago is unusual. But we have human characters in the story, ninjas are characters of japanese folklore/history, and the kids in the story act like kids, down to video-game playing and being told to do chores. This is not a bad thing.


Ah, you see these are the sorts of things that made me like Ninjago as well. But I'm not talking about the things that make you LIKE a franchise. I'm talking about the things that make you give it a chance in the first place. What made me give it a chance was that it had a lot in common with things I had liked in the past. It was a fantasy martial-arts franchise, like Avatar: The Last Airbender or Xiaolin Showdown or Jackie Chan Adventures... cartoons I had grown up with. It played around with genres kind of like BIONICLE, blending myths and legends with machines and technology. It had characters who wielded and represented elemental powers, a trait it shared with several of those franchises. And, of course, it was LEGO. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't a big factor!

 


I took a chance on Ninjago because you guys recommended it...yeah, I just don't get the "similar to past stories" thing. But if those unusual things had not stuck out, I would have watched until something did, and if nothing did, I would have stopped after awhile.
 

I still haven't watched the LEGO Friends TV specials or bought any of the sets. It's for girls and about messages of diversity and friendship, things it has in common with one of my current passions, My Little Pony. And of course it's a LEGO theme. But beyond that, at a glance it doesn't have anything in common with ANY of the series I've typically enjoyed. That hook is missing. Do you see what I'm getting at? It doesn't matter HOW good or unique your series is if the premise doesn't give people any sense that "this might be worth looking into!"


No, I'll be honest. I don't get it. The only reasons why something would NOT be worth looking into would be a) lack of time (i.e. better things to look into), b) nothing unusual (it's boring), or c) it has inappropriate content that I shouldn't be watching (it's negative).

I don't understand this perspective. However, I understand that it does exist, and that it's not wrong. I just happen to have a different one. :shrugs: But you can't say that everyone else has your perspective (or the vast majority) without evidence.
 

Something can be completely unique and still incredibly bad, after all. I can't really name any examples because I tend to AVOID things that seem too weird and bad for me to properly give them a chance (and I don't want to make unfounded statements about series I HAVEN'T properly given a chance), but I'm sure a lot of people can think of some example of a series that has always seemed just stupid to them despite being radically different from any other franchise they've ever encountered.


For every one of those franchises, though, someone else could come along and like it. Maybe it's just because I have wacky tastes, but I often like stuff that people don't like, and people like stuff that I don't. Uniqueness appeals to different people in different ways.

And unusual doesn't always mean good. It's just that without an unusual premise, something that is different from the standard reality or standard genre or standard title, I'll just walk past it in the library, throw that TV Show rec out the window, and go think about other stuff.


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#27 Offline Aanchir

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Posted Dec 10 2013 - 07:16 PM

First, to the P.S.: Bionicle fanfiction, including much of the stuff posted on BZP, does NOT always have the words "Bionicle Fanfiction" in it. Also a freaking ton of it was lost when the BZP Archive died. This is not to say that all Bionicle fanfiction was contained on BZP or that BZP has the vast majority of Bionicle fanfiction, but the rule still applies - Bionicle is older, and website failures and people taking it off their websites to make room for other stuff does not reflect the heyday of Bionicle's fanfiction generating.

I don't think any of those things account for the disparity. Bear in mind this is a difference of over ELEVEN MILLION results. I don't know if BZPower has even had eleven million topics! The notion that website failures or poor web search optimization can account for that disparity seems ludicrous.

Numeric slot record failure...
 
I'm sure other things account for the disparity, though. Especially since MLP has been around longer than three years. According to http://en.wikipedia..../My_Little_Pony, it started in 1983, which is a little older than Bionicle. Granted, it's popularity is somewhat recent, probably with the FiM thing that started three years ago and started the whole periphery "brony" thing, but it was widely known even before that. I remember a political commentator using the theme song for that show back in 2008 (when I followed that stuff closely, probably sometime around there). It's an evergreen kid's TV Show like Arthur, which is hardly comparable to a Lego toy franchise.

I know full well that My Little Pony is a much older brand than BIONICLE. That's why I specifically used "My Little Pony Friendship is Magic" in quotes as my search term. That way it automatically excludes any results not related in one way or another to "My Little Pony Friendship is Magic", the 2010 reboot that spawned the brony community. Before production for that show began, the brand name "My Little Pony Friendship is Magic" did not exist.

And it wasn't an "evergreen kids' TV show". Before Friendship is Magic, the last full cartoon series for the My Little Pony brand was "My Little Pony Tales", which stopped airing in 2002. There were a handful of direct-to-DVD movies in the meantime, but as I mentioned, searching by the name of the current generation in quotes should exclude results that don't have any connection to the rebooted series.
 

A search for bionicle fanfiction gives me  About 141,000 results (0.30 seconds) , 
A search for ninjago fanfiction gives me About 187,000 results (0.14 seconds) 
 
I think the website fails, withdraws, etc can account for that discrepancy.

That's entirely possible. I'm not under any illusion that Ninjago has accumulated as many fanfics as BIONICLE in only a fifth of the time.

Anyway...
 

But my point is that if you can't even comprehend what something is, you won't even give it a second look. I don't know about you, but in my case, I often want to have a vague idea what something's about before I watch it. I don't want to go into a sci-fi movie expecting to see a western. And if the premise itself seems overly convoluted, that can drive people away. They want to go in with some sense that "this MIGHT be something I like", and if there ISN'T anything similar they like to compare it to it's hard to achieve that confidence.


I must admit I don't know too much about this. I frequently "investigate" entertainment franchises to know what they are about based on recommendations from people. It's a frequent experiance for me to scan library shelves for titles that might be interesting. I am also willing to fight my way through the details of a story to "get it." You're talking to the person who dug through the BZP Library reading and reviewing for years before finally owning up to the fact that there was nothing to "get" at in the stories I was reading and that I was really not satisfied. (That's just the tip of the iceberg of the examples...:wince:)

But there is something to the 30-second premise, to be sure. Like the inside covers of books. If the inside cover sounds boring, then it goes back on the shelf - there has to be a sense of something different or unusual or something there, or it's a no sell.

But I'm not going to make comparisons right away to other stuff. Genre is not the first thing that comes to mind, and I would likely never walk into a sci-fi movie expecting to see a western, because I don't go into the movies to see sci-fis or westerns but rather what the movie is. (And if it did happen I would probably be very confused as to why they advertised it as a western, and probably make a bunch of theories about it, but whatever.)


I guess we just think differently. I used to be the kind of kid who'd pull things off the library shelf if I thought the title was interesting. In high school I had too many traumatic experiences with books to really do that anymore. But even before that, I would want at least SOME kind of assurance that a book was "up my alley" before reading it... whether that be experience with the author, experience with the genre, or a recommendation from someone who knew me pretty well. After all, the way we decide what's "interesting" to us is often based on what's been "interesting" to us in the past. I wouldn't know stories about wizards or robots could be interesting if I'd never experienced any stories about wizards or robots.

You don't want your story to be COMPLETELY generic, it's true. But at the same time, you also don't want your story to be COMPLETELY alien.


I am actually fully confident that being completely alien is a fundamental impossibility. Even the characters of Bionicle had disputes, emotions, etc that are fundamentally human qualities. This is a common thread that runs through all fiction, that all characters are human or human-like to some extant. Stories frequently have a linear time structure, because that's what we know and it is impossible (as of yet :P) for us to get out of it. Even time-travel stories have linear time after travel. Humans are writing the story, therefore there will always be some link (whether obvious or not) to humanity in some form or fashion.

Yes, I can agree to this. But I'm still talking about a story's premise here, not about the story in full. It's true everyone can probably relate to any premise on SOME level, but if things like "it has characters" or "it has conflict" are the only ways a person can relate to the premise, they're not relating to it on a very deep level at all. They might as well be reading ANY story.
 

I may be doing BIONICLE a bit of a disservice here. While explaining the premise of the series as a whole can be exceedingly convoluted, the premise of any one individual story year can be a bit simpler. The simplest to explain, naturally, is the 2001 story, since it requires no background information whatsoever. And it has plenty of those familiar "hooks" I was referring to. Its characters have elemental powers, like a lot of heroes from cartoons and video games. And their personalities are simple archetypes derived from those elements: the fire character is brash and hotheaded, the water character is calm and serene, the air character is a lighthearted "free spirit", the earth character is quiet and powerful, the ice character is cold and unfriendly, and the stone character... well, to be honest, I'm not sure how Pohatu fits into general "stone" stereotypes, but he contrasts from the others pretty well.

The setting for 2001 was a tropical island full of exciting scenery. The evil character was a mysterious and deceptive force of darkness. And the objective of the heroes — to awaken their people's protector spirit — taps into traditional mythology. So really, there WAS that sense of familiarity in the beginning. As the series went on and expanded, though, it became harder and harder to get into, because explaining what exactly the story was about became more and more complicated. It was no longer about the same heroes, or the same setting, or in some cases even the same enemy. BIONICLE became something a lot more amorphous in its scope, even if behind the scenes everything was tied together nicely by the "big story engine", the Mata Nui robot.


This is the story of the giant robot that the Great Beings built to save their home planet Spherus Magna, and the Makuta who betrayed him from within. The beings who live within the robot must fight against him to save Mata Nui and allow him to accomplish that purpose.

I think that's 30 seconds.

Yes, but if you gave that premise to a person and then told them to read Mystery on Metru Nui, they'd think you had given them the premise to an entirely different story. Spherus Magna, for instance, had no role whatsoever in the BIONICLE story until the 2009 story made that connection, nor did a giant robot play any visible role in the story until the big reveal in 2008. Even a fan trying to jump into the story at the beginning of 2009 would have a hard time understanding how that premise relates to the story until reading far enough in the serials to have an idea of what "Spherus Magna" is or how a giant robot or the beings living inside it have anything to do with what's going on on Bara Magna, or who "Mata Nui" is. Using that kind of premise to introduce a new fan to BIONICLE would be like giving somebody a copy of "Jacob Have I Loved" by Katherine Paterson and telling them it was about World War II. It takes place DURING World War II, and the war has some impact on the characters at several points throughout the story, but it's not ABOUT the war by any stretch of the imagination.

Or to use another example, like giving a person the first book of A Series of Unfortunate Events and telling them it's the story of a war taking place within a secret organization to obtain an artifact known as the Sugar Bowl. This is true of the series as a whole, but fans won't have any idea that there IS a secret organization until book seven, even though its name was mentioned in Book Five with no explanation what that name belonged to, and won't hear about the Sugar Bowl until book eight.

Or perhaps one more people will be familiar with: the television series LOST. You could explain it as the story of people whose plane crashes on a mysterious island, but by a certain point in the story I believe most of the people have left the island. Or you could summarize the tangled web of mysteries and conspiracies that later emerged to someone, but if they start at the beginning they will not be able to understand how the events at the beginning relate to that premise.

This is perhaps one problem with a story that is fundamentally based on mystery. The premise of the story will change on a fundamental level as the story goes on, whether the answers to the mysteries are planned from the beginning or they make them up as they go along. This isn't to say this RUINS the stories by any means. But it's a serious complication for people who are just trying to get into the story partway through.

I still haven't watched the LEGO Friends TV specials or bought any of the sets. It's for girls and about messages of diversity and friendship, things it has in common with one of my current passions, My Little Pony. And of course it's a LEGO theme. But beyond that, at a glance it doesn't have anything in common with ANY of the series I've typically enjoyed. That hook is missing. Do you see what I'm getting at? It doesn't matter HOW good or unique your series is if the premise doesn't give people any sense that "this might be worth looking into!"


No, I'll be honest. I don't get it. The only reasons why something would NOT be worth looking into would be a) lack of time (i.e. better things to look into), b) nothing unusual (it's boring), or c) it has inappropriate content that I shouldn't be watching (it's negative).

I don't understand this perspective. However, I understand that it does exist, and that it's not wrong. I just happen to have a different one. :shrugs: But you can't say that everyone else has your perspective (or the vast majority) without evidence.

The first reason is usually the big one, but there's another you didn't mention. Time is indeed a valuable resource, but it is not the only thing that it takes to get into a series. Indulging in a story takes a certain amount of mental and emotional commitment. And some people don't have that to spare. I'm already following a number of different series (Ninjago, the Legend of Korra, My Little Pony, not to mention various webcomics), so even if there is time I'm not watching or discussing those, can I really invest not only my time but MYSELF in another series? And furthermore, even if I have both the time and the emotional energy, those are valuable, and spending them on something new is inherently a gamble, because you won't know if your time and energy would be well-spent until after you spend it. When something is familiar in some way, whether it's because you've enjoyed it before or enjoyed things LIKE it before, it's less risky. It's the difference between making an educated guess at something you might enjoy and throwing darts at a wall until you find something you enjoy.

And as I've mentioned, there's more to how entertaining a story is than whether it's unusual. A story can be INCREDIBLY unusual and still lame or boring if it's being told really poorly, whereas a story you've heard a thousand times can still be entertaining if it's told really well. That's one reason movies get remade and folktales get retold — sometimes a storyteller thinks they can tell a story better, or at least differently, than how it was told before. And people who enjoyed the story the first time will often listen to the new storyteller give it a try even if they don't have any reason to think it'll be out-of-the-ordinary.

I know not everyone has my perspective. At the same time, I also know I'm not the ONLY one who has this perspective. A lot of people DO need to have some kind of assurance that they'll enjoy something before they give it a try. And something being "different" or "unique" is not an assurance in and of itself, because different can be good OR bad.

Something can be completely unique and still incredibly bad, after all. I can't really name any examples because I tend to AVOID things that seem too weird and bad for me to properly give them a chance (and I don't want to make unfounded statements about series I HAVEN'T properly given a chance), but I'm sure a lot of people can think of some example of a series that has always seemed just stupid to them despite being radically different from any other franchise they've ever encountered.


For every one of those franchises, though, someone else could come along and like it. Maybe it's just because I have wacky tastes, but I often like stuff that people don't like, and people like stuff that I don't. Uniqueness appeals to different people in different ways.

And unusual doesn't always mean good. It's just that without an unusual premise, something that is different from the standard reality or standard genre or standard title, I'll just walk past it in the library, throw that TV Show rec out the window, and go think about other stuff.


I just basically explained my response to this in the last wall o' text, but to sum up: a lot of people don't have anything against hearing the same story twice, especially if there are different storytellers. Or to put it a different way, ALL stories are different and unique, and every TELLING of every story is different and unique. HOW different or HOW unique will vary from story to story and from telling to telling. Perhaps it's not the uniqueness OR the familiarity that makes a story enjoyable, but rather the interplay of the two. Familiarity gives you a sense of what to expect, which offers safety and security and confidence and comfort. And uniqueness keeps you guessing, which offers thrill and risk and adventure. You don't want too much of either one without enough of the other to balance it out.

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#28 Offline fishers64

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Posted Dec 11 2013 - 11:40 AM

@ MLP fanfic thing: I stand corrected. 

I wouldn't know stories about wizards or robots could be interesting if I'd never experienced any stories about wizards or robots.

Yes, but if you had never taken a chance on the fact that wizards or robots could be interesting, you wouldn't be familiar with the concept in the first place. 

 



I am actually fully confident that being completely alien is a fundamental impossibility. Even the characters of Bionicle had disputes, emotions, etc that are fundamentally human qualities. This is a common thread that runs through all fiction, that all characters are human or human-like to some extant. Stories frequently have a linear time structure, because that's what we know and it is impossible (as of yet :P) for us to get out of it. Even time-travel stories have linear time after travel. Humans are writing the story, therefore there will always be some link (whether obvious or not) to humanity in some form or fashion.

 

Yes, I can agree to this. But I'm still talking about a story's premise here, not about the story in full. It's true everyone can probably relate to any premise on SOME level, but if things like "it has characters" or "it has conflict" are the only ways a person can relate to the premise, they're not relating to it on a very deep level at all. They might as well be reading ANY story.

True enough. 


 

This is the story of the giant robot that the Great Beings built to save their home planet Spherus Magna, and the Makuta who betrayed him from within. The beings who live within the robot must fight against him to save Mata Nui and allow him to accomplish that purpose.


I think that's 30 seconds.

 

Yes, but if you gave that premise to a person and then told them to read Mystery on Metru Nui, they'd think you had given them the premise to an entirely different story. Spherus Magna, for instance, had no role whatsoever in the BIONICLE story until the 2009 story made that connection, nor did a giant robot play any visible role in the story until the big reveal in 2008. Even a fan trying to jump into the story at the beginning of 2009 would have a hard time understanding how that premise relates to the story until reading far enough in the serials to have an idea of what "Spherus Magna" is or how a giant robot or the beings living inside it have anything to do with what's going on on Bara Magna, or who "Mata Nui" is. Using that kind of premise to introduce a new fan to BIONICLE would be like giving somebody a copy of "Jacob Have I Loved" by Katherine Paterson and telling them it was about World War II. It takes place DURING World War II, and the war has some impact on the characters at several points throughout the story, but it's not ABOUT the war by any stretch of the imagination.

Or to use another example, like giving a person the first book of A Series of Unfortunate Events and telling them it's the story of a war taking place within a secret organization to obtain an artifact known as the Sugar Bowl. This is true of the series as a whole, but fans won't have any idea that there IS a secret organization until book seven, even though its name was mentioned in Book Five with no explanation what that name belonged to, and won't hear about the Sugar Bowl until book eight.

Or perhaps one more people will be familiar with: the television series LOST. You could explain it as the story of people whose plane crashes on a mysterious island, but by a certain point in the story I believe most of the people have left the island. Or you could summarize the tangled web of mysteries and conspiracies that later emerged to someone, but if they start at the beginning they will not be able to understand how the events at the beginning relate to that premise.

This is perhaps one problem with a story that is fundamentally based on mystery. The premise of the story will change on a fundamental level as the story goes on, whether the answers to the mysteries are planned from the beginning or they make them up as they go along. This isn't to say this RUINS the stories by any means. But it's a serious complication for people who are just trying to get into the story partway through.
 

For the most part, I agree with this. 

 

But I argue that the attempts to explain the premise are what makes it more complicated. Bionicle started with the somewhat simple idea that Mata Nui was put to sleep by the Makuta and had to be awakened by the Toa. We spent ten years explaining who Mata Nui was, who Makuta was, why Mata Nui was asleep, and on and on and on. 

 

To use LOST, since you brought it up, we explain why they crashed there, who are the people there, what are the connections between the characters, etc. (I haven't finished watching the whole thing yet, but I'm pretty sure most of this will be explained by the end. :P)

 

In short, the premise is so out there that it has to be explained. And the story does that for you. 

The first reason is usually the big one, but there's another you didn't mention. Time is indeed a valuable resource, but it is not the only thing that it takes to get into a series. Indulging in a story takes a certain amount of mental and emotional commitment. And some people don't have that to spare. I'm already following a number of different series (Ninjago, the Legend of Korra, My Little Pony, not to mention various webcomics), so even if there is time I'm not watching or discussing those, can I really invest not only my time but MYSELF in another series? And furthermore, even if I have both the time and the emotional energy, those are valuable, and spending them on something new is inherently a gamble, because you won't know if your time and energy would be well-spent until after you spend it. When something is familiar in some way, whether it's because you've enjoyed it before or enjoyed things LIKE it before, it's less risky. It's the difference between making an educated guess at something you might enjoy and throwing darts at a wall until you find something you enjoy.

The problem is, something that has an unusual premise or something unusual is something I know that I will likely enjoy, thus if I pick up something unusual or out there, chances are I will enjoy it more. The fact that I enjoy unusual premises is something familiar to me, therefore if I pick up something unusual there is a good chance that I will like it. That fact is part of the hypothesis, not working against it. 

 

The other thing is, people make allusions to stuff all the time when they talk. Often I pick these up and "investigate" them so I know what they are talking about. That doesn't mean that I will like it - in fact I had someone recommend a show to me recently that I watched five episodes of and decided that it was incredibly boring and I had other things to do with my life. (That same person recommended two TV shows that were real winners, too, so I know it has nothing to do with people bias.) I just didn't like the show (it was missing the unusual premise, again!). 

And as I've mentioned, there's more to how entertaining a story is than whether it's unusual. A story can be INCREDIBLY unusual and still lame or boring if it's being told really poorly, whereas a story you've heard a thousand times can still be entertaining if it's told really well. That's one reason movies get remade and folktales get retold — sometimes a storyteller thinks they can tell a story better, or at least differently, than how it was told before. And people who enjoyed the story the first time will often listen to the new storyteller give it a try even if they don't have any reason to think it'll be out-of-the-ordinary.

I know not everyone has my perspective. At the same time, I also know I'm not the ONLY one who has this perspective. A lot of people DO need to have some kind of assurance that they'll enjoy something before they give it a try. And something being "different" or "unique" is not an assurance in and of itself, because different can be good OR bad.

Unfortunately, as I've explained above, uniqueness is part of that assurance for me. 

 

But I have experienced this in real life, to a degree. For example, I have a very well-worn copy of The School Story that's in my bookcase. It's the same, familiar story, but I read it over again every so often. Granted, it has an unusual premise, but each time I reread it I notice different details out of the story. I know it isn't out of the ordainary - I've read it at least twenty times - but it's different each time, because I'm different and I notice different things, but that's what pulls me into the story again. It's a form of detail loss syndrome. 

 

Recently, I have a friend who is going to retell an old story that I've known for years and years, and I'm going to read it. Because this writer has a very different style than the original author of the story, and he has a very different perspective on it, I think obtaining that perspective is somewhat of value. He's going to emphasize different details out of the story, and try to explain them out. It's different - I would even say unique. 

 

But I suppose this is again a matter of perspective. 

 

I just basically explained my response to this in the last wall o' text, but to sum up: a lot of people don't have anything against hearing the same story twice, especially if there are different storytellers. Or to put it a different way, ALL stories are different and unique, and every TELLING of every story is different and unique. HOW different or HOW unique will vary from story to story and from telling to telling. Perhaps it's not the uniqueness OR the familiarity that makes a story enjoyable, but rather the interplay of the two. Familiarity gives you a sense of what to expect, which offers safety and security and confidence and comfort. And uniqueness keeps you guessing, which offers thrill and risk and adventure. You don't want too much of either one without enough of the other to balance it out.

I would argue more that its a continuum between familiarity and uniqueness. How much familiarity and uniqueness each person requires is different. For example, I may require more uniqueness and less familiarity, whereas another person may require less uniqueness and more familiarity. To be honest, familiarity does play a role (for me) in story enjoyment, but it is a smaller role than the demand for the unusual.  


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#29 Offline NickonAquaMagna

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Posted Dec 11 2013 - 02:30 PM

Guys... sorry to make this comparison, but when you read something like the Hobbit, are you expected to have read The Silmarillion beforehand, and know about every little thing in the universe before actually getting into the story?

 

No? Well, that's how some of you make it sound with Bionicle. So what if most of the story is super complicated and  hard to understand if you try to process it all at once? Is it really too much to ask someone to just... start at the beginning and slowly work their way up from there? Like, play the MNOG, read one of the early books, and just keep going if that manages to get them hooked?


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#30 Offline BobaFett2

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Posted Dec 11 2013 - 03:00 PM

Guys... sorry to make this comparison, but when you read something like the Hobbit, are you expected to have read The Silmarillion beforehand, and know about every little thing in the universe before actually getting into the story?

 

No? Well, that's how some of you make it sound with Bionicle. So what if most of the story is super complicated and  hard to understand if you try to process it all at once? Is it really too much to ask someone to just... start at the beginning and slowly work their way up from there? Like, play the MNOG, read one of the early books, and just keep going if that manages to get them hooked?

It's not unreasonable to expect a fan who has ready access to the internet and is good at finding sources of information to start at the beginning and go forward.

 

It is unreasonable to expect young children to get into a theme which barely makes sense if you don't do extensive research. If I were 7 years old and introduced to BIONICLE in 2007, I would have trouble understanding what was going on.

 

I don't think I'll ever see a LEGO theme I enjoy as much as BIONICLE. Part of what I liked about it was what I like about Star Wars, which is all the expanded universe stuff. The theme has a lot of media associated with it. It's true that other themes do too, but as far as I know none do to the degree that BIONICLE does. I am also one of the people who loves the Rahi, and I don't think we'll see anything like that for a long time, if ever - and even if we do, they'd be shiny and smooth with weird molds instead of constructed with awesome functions. Oh, and the style of animation for MNOG (and 2002/2003) is my favorite, and we probably won't ever see something like that as the capabilities of computers get better and better.

 

That said, if you want an action figure theme with interchangeable/collectible something or others and cool powers, one could conceivably happen at some time, but it would probably look more like Hero Factory than BIONICLE (which would ruin it for me, as I am in no way of Hero Factory).


Edited by BobaFett2, Dec 11 2013 - 03:12 PM.

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#31 Offline Lyichir

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Posted Dec 11 2013 - 03:49 PM

Guys... sorry to make this comparison, but when you read something like the Hobbit, are you expected to have read The Silmarillion beforehand, and know about every little thing in the universe before actually getting into the story?

 

No? Well, that's how some of you make it sound with Bionicle. So what if most of the story is super complicated and  hard to understand if you try to process it all at once? Is it really too much to ask someone to just... start at the beginning and slowly work their way up from there? Like, play the MNOG, read one of the early books, and just keep going if that manages to get them hooked?

 

The problem with that was that for a lot of Bionicle's run it was extremely difficult to "start at the beginning". Sure, you could download the Mata Nui Online Game (at least for as long as it was available), and you could maybe find one of the early books in stores (although that was no guarantee). But there was no guide telling new fans where to start, and a new fan playing and liking the MNOG would make them want to buy the sets from it (which would no longer be available), not the ones from whatever the current year was (which in most cases looked nothing like the old ones). This was the issue with Bionicle's in-depth story. Lego couldn't afford to promote past story over the current sets, but it was hard to understand the role of current sets without a detailed knowledge of past story. The complex story started out as a novel way to attract new fans, but as the years went on you had to read more and more backstory to fully understand who the characters on store shelves were and what they were doing. In other words, it took more and more to get a new fan caught up, and that meant more and more time to pick a different toy that didn't demand as much from them to understand. The story didn't suffer all that much due to its complexity (in fact, it stands as one of the best stories Lego has ever crafted), but the set sales did suffer, and they always have been and always will be where the real money is for Lego. That's why I think we're unlikely to see another theme with the depth and complexity of Bionicle.


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#32 Offline Hahli Husky

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Posted Dec 15 2013 - 01:04 AM

Since this is talking more about LEGO itself and Bionicle as a whole, moving to Lego Discussion.


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#33 Offline Sir Kohran

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Posted Dec 15 2013 - 01:49 PM


Guys... sorry to make this comparison, but when you read something like the Hobbit, are you expected to have read The Silmarillion beforehand, and know about every little thing in the universe before actually getting into the story?

 

The comparison doesn't work because The Hobbit was written as and remains (by itself) a self-contained story. It does not pick up from any previous story and does not end by setting up a next story. Whereas each year of Bionicle featured characters from previous years and was a part of a huge unfolding story. To understand and enjoy it, you had to know the overall story.

 

Is it really too much to ask someone to just... start at the beginning and slowly work their way up from there? Like, play the MNOG, read one of the early books, and just keep going if that manages to get them hooked?

 

Yes, because this requires a huge time investment that many people in the digital era aren't going to bother with. (It hardly helps that so much story was in the books, which were no longer officially available after their year.) Plus most of the fun/excitement of Bionicle was following its story as it happened, not years after it had been and gone.


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#34 Offline Gengar

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Posted Dec 16 2013 - 03:50 PM

Guys... sorry to make this comparison, but when you read something like the Hobbit, are you expected to have read The Silmarillion beforehand, and know about every little thing in the universe before actually getting into the story?

 

No? Well, that's how some of you make it sound with Bionicle. So what if most of the story is super complicated and  hard to understand if you try to process it all at once? Is it really too much to ask someone to just... start at the beginning and slowly work their way up from there? Like, play the MNOG, read one of the early books, and just keep going if that manages to get them hooked?

There are always some people who are: a)don't know that there's an existing story b)don't care about the story c)know about it, but doesn't make it a huge priority. Little kids are pretty much any one of those.


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#35 Offline Pohatu: Master of Stone

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Posted Dec 16 2013 - 09:08 PM

 

 

If you look at the amount of fan fiction Bionicle has spawned, it's unimaginable. This is because, as a concept, Bionicle was something completely new, not based on anything. Though fairly popular and having stories of their own, Ninjago and Chima are not the same because both use previously introduced concepts like human ninjas and talking animals. They don't have anything as original in them as Bionicle did. Sure, Bionicle borrowed lots of things from other stories, but the whole idea of biomechanical beings living inside a dormant robot was unprecedented.

 
This. 
 
But right now Lego is fat, complacent, and happy. I'm not going to wish for Lego's doom here, but as long as they can make money on less-original stories like Ninjago and Chima, they won't reach for the stars.

 


But here's the question. Is a story as original as BIONICLE's really all that desirable in the grand scheme of things? I think the idea that BIONICLE was our generation's "great story" is a little bit preposterous. BIONICLE didn't reach nearly as many people as Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings. And of the people it DID reach, only a tiny fraction went on to become lifelong fans. Saying BIONICLE is our generation's "great story" is ignoring several epic stories from the same time period, including Harry Potter, compared to which BIONICLE was merely a drop in the pond.

BIONICLE was definitely very new and different. And there will always be a certain number of people who embrace things that are new and different. But there are other less flattering words that you could use to describe BIONICLE. It was weird. It was bizarre. It was alien. It was the sort of thing that a lot of adults could never really understand, and that many weren't even willing to TRY to understand. If you read reviews of BIONICLE comics and movies by non-fans, you generally don't see a lot of people proclaiming what an amazing story it is. Rather, for people who weren't willing to devote themselves to absorbing all the little bits of storyline spread across many different types of story media, it was confusing-as-Karzahni gibberish, and the parts of the story that were remotely decipherable to a non-fan seemed downright generic.

Even some of my real-life peers who were around my age and collected BIONICLE sets barely had a clue what the storyline was about. They saw cool robot action figures with interchangeable plastic masks or rubber brains and thought they were cool, but they couldn't remember most of their foreign-sounding names or what the figures were supposed to represent. Whenever I did try to explain BIONICLE to them, they could barely digest the amount of ridiculous factoids that were necessary to properly understand the story. And do you know what happened to these fellow BIONICLE fans? They "grew out of it". BIONICLE never managed to appeal to them on nearly as deep a level as it appeals to lifelong fans like us. To them, it was never much more than a toy, and the impenetrable depth of the story made actually understanding or following it on a deeper level than that not worth their while.

Even many existing, dedicated fans were driven off when the big reveal of Mata Nui's true nature took place. For them, it didn't matter whether it had been planned from the beginning or not. It was too unfamiliar, too different, too difficult to place in their cozy little definitions of BIONICLE's genre. Many of them preferred BIONICLE when it was nothing more than "primitive robots on a tropical island". That's pretty tame science-fantasy fare, all things considered. It's a Pacific island veneer over a science-fiction veneer over plain old swords-and-sorcery. Throw in that the island is itself camouflage for a giant robot that houses the entire universe the regular-size robots came from and that neat and tidy definition is no longer so neat and tidy. And a lot of people struggle to understand or appreciate things they can't define.

Really, there are plenty of stories that have a similar, almost alien level of complexity and foreignness to them. But many of these fail miserably at generating interest because they're just too bizarre for a lot of people to understand their appeal. Take, for instance, Jim Henson's "The Dark Crystal", which similarly created its own magical fantasy races without any direct analogues in real life or folklore. It was a good movie, but compared to it, BIONICLE's lasting success seems like a miracle of some kind. A lot of people are most comfortable investing themselves not in some strange and esoteric mythos but rather in the familiar, and it's important to remember that there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, that's the reason genres as we understand them even exist — writers and readers alike often want to take part in a large and firmly-established tradition like the medieval fantasy, or the space opera, or the western, or the murder mystery. There's nothing shameful about that.

With toys and media alike, it does nobody any good if the same qualities that get a small number of fans deeply invested in your story play an active role in driving away a lot of your other potential fans. And when there are so many people who will cling to anything familiar, what do you honestly have to lose by framing your story in a familiar genre?

That's another reason it's silly to compare BIONICLE to Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings but exclude Ninjago because it is not "completely original". The Lord of the Rings did not invent medieval fantasy, or elves, or dwarves, or wizards. Star Wars did not invent space opera, or space travel, or aliens, or laser guns. Like Ninjago, they were just taking part in traditions that had already been established. The reason they are remembered so fondly is that they revitalized and redefined those genres. They had that "hook", that little taste of something familiar... and that was all it took for them to draw in an audience that would have otherwise struggled to place those stories in any existing frame of reference.

I don't mean to say Ninjago is a great story on the level of Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings. That'd be silly and pretentious. I'm not going to say it defined a generation either, though I'm sure in ten to fifteen years there will be blogs and Facebook groups about nostalgia for the current decade that consider Ninjago a major childhood experience for this time period, just like Pokémon was for my generation. But elevating BIONICLE to that level is just as ridiculous. It was a good story, and it was a story that a lot of people enjoyed, and it was a story many years in the telling. But it is not cherished and remembered by NEARLY as many as either of those franchises. It has not had as many imitators, certainly not as many successful ones. Pretty much any swords-and-sorcery role-playing game or video game franchise owes a great deal to Tolkien, and there are hundreds of sci-fi franchises that have drawn inspiration from Star Wars. It has not even been long enough to see if BIONICLE will have a similar legacy. So let's not go elevating it on some lofty pedestal until it has actually had a proven impact beyond just fansites and fanfiction.

P.S.: A Google search for BIONICLE Fanfiction with no quotes brings up about 88,600 results. A Google search for "My Little Pony Friendship is Magic" fanfiction, with quotes around the franchise name, brings up about 11,400,000 results — over 128 times as many. BIONICLE began over thirteen years ago. "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" began about three years ago. Might be a sobering thought.

 

This just in- type Bionicle fanfiction into google and you get about 142,000 results now. Do the same with MLP and you get a staggering 4,200,000 results. I find that completely odd.


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#36 Offline Primis

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Posted Dec 17 2013 - 04:46 PM


Is it really too much to ask someone to just... start at the beginning and slowly work their way up from there? Like, play the MNOG, read one of the early books, and just keep going if that manages to get them hooked?

 

Yes, because this requires a huge time investment that many people in the digital era aren't going to bother with. (It hardly helps that so much story was in the books, which were no longer officially available after their year.) Plus most of the fun/excitement of Bionicle was following its story as it happened, not years after it had been and gone.

 

 

You make a good point about the availability of the books, but you do realize that the digital age has made serialized stories more popular than ever, right? With essentially anything being available whenever you want it, it's made jumping into series easier than ever, and as such more and more series are adopting ongoing story arcs.

 

And while following a series as it's progressing is fun, it's ridiculous to say that it's no longer enjoyable once it's finished. A good story will always be a good story, the enduring popularity of some long since finished series should be proof enough of that. That's not even getting into series are actually better once they're finished.


Edited by Primis, Dec 17 2013 - 05:55 PM.

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#37 Offline Gengar

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Posted Dec 17 2013 - 05:57 PM

 


Is it really too much to ask someone to just... start at the beginning and slowly work their way up from there? Like, play the MNOG, read one of the early books, and just keep going if that manages to get them hooked?

 

Yes, because this requires a huge time investment that many people in the digital era aren't going to bother with. (It hardly helps that so much story was in the books, which were no longer officially available after their year.) Plus most of the fun/excitement of Bionicle was following its story as it happened, not years after it had been and gone.

 

 

You make a good point about the availability of the books, but you do realize that the digital age has made serialized stories more popular than ever, right? With essentially anything being available whenever you want it, it's made jumping into series easier than ever, and as such more and more series are adopting ongoing story arcs.

 

And while following a series as it's progressing is fun, it's ridiculous to say that it's no longer enjoyable once it's finished. A good story will always be a good story, the enduring popularity of some long since finished series should be proof enough of that. That's not even getting into series are actually better once they're finishedY

 

To top that off, there's always eBay or amazon or the B/S/t forum here for those who want sets.


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#38 Offline Aanchir

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Posted Dec 17 2013 - 06:52 PM


Is it really too much to ask someone to just... start at the beginning and slowly work their way up from there? Like, play the MNOG, read one of the early books, and just keep going if that manages to get them hooked?

 
Yes, because this requires a huge time investment that many people in the digital era aren't going to bother with. (It hardly helps that so much story was in the books, which were no longer officially available after their year.) Plus most of the fun/excitement of Bionicle was following its story as it happened, not years after it had been and gone.
 
 
You make a good point about the availability of the books, but you do realize that the digital age has made serialized stories more popular than ever, right? With essentially anything being available whenever you want it, it's made jumping into series easier than ever, and as such more and more series are adopting ongoing story arcs.
 
And while following a series as it's progressing is fun, it's ridiculous to say that it's no longer enjoyable once it's finished. A good story will always be a good story, the enduring popularity of some long since finished series should be proof enough of that. That's not even getting into series are actually better once they're finished.

What you say is true to a certain extent, but still, the difficulty in absorbing so many years of past story would still be a major obstacle to any fans who aren't prepared to make that commitment.

The BIONICLE story in 2001 was designed to appeal to fans in 2001. Asking new fans in 2006 to read a story that wasn't written with them in mind is a taller order than asking fans in 2001 to read a timely story that ties in DIRECTLY with the hip new toys they see on store shelves. Furthermore, the BIONICLE story's emphasis on mystery made backtracking less thrilling. Knowing the answer to a mystery before you know there was a mystery in the first place is like hearing a joke for the first time after somebody already told you the punchline. It loses a lot of its impact. While re-reading a story after you experience the resolution is great, reading the resolution to years of buildup before you've had any chance to experience any of the buildup doesn't have the same magic.

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#39 Offline Primis

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Posted Dec 18 2013 - 12:55 AM

What you say is true to a certain extent, but still, the difficulty in absorbing so many years of past story would still be a major obstacle to any fans who aren't prepared to make that commitment.


You're either interested in a story or you're not, "commitment" shouldn't be an issue. It's not like getting into a series means you have to absorb everything all at once. You don't have to read all of BIONICLE Legends at once, while also playing MNOG and watching Legends of Metru Nui.
 

Furthermore, the BIONICLE story's emphasis on mystery made backtracking less thrilling. Knowing the answer to a mystery before you know there was a mystery in the first place is like hearing a joke for the first time after somebody already told you the punchline. It loses a lot of its impact. While re-reading a story after you experience the resolution is great, reading the resolution to years of buildup before you've had any chance to experience any of the buildup doesn't have the same magic.


Spoilers are a risk you're going to have to take with anything, new or old. Just don't look up plot summaries and stay away from wikis and you should be fine.

Edited by Primis, Dec 18 2013 - 01:24 AM.

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#40 Offline bonesiii

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Posted Dec 18 2013 - 03:07 AM

I'm not really sure what the debate you, Primis, and the others here are having is really about (return or not? Or method of handling a return?), having skimmed some of the giant posts earlier (:P), but just wanted to note that it is not easy even for knowledgeable fans like us to figure out what order the story is meant to be followed in or to even know where to go. And many times in my life I have put off getting into a story franchise if I know it's complicated or long. I'm putting off several right now, in fact. So commitment does matter and starting fresh with nothing else required to get into something can be much better.

 

Plus a nitpick: it's almost oversimplistic just to describe Bionicle's story as a "series." It's more like a patchwork maze of random different types of broken mini-series. As much as I love it, from having lived it, it's the single most chaotic and complex (in terms of types of media and chronology) story I've ever followed, bar none. Of course, I kind of like that about it... but it has major downsides and we should be honest about that.

 

Also, don't new fans basically have to go to wikis (namely BS01 :P) or similar references sources (like posts here) even to find out what media was made to begin with? Don't take for granted your knowledge of what was put out since you lived it. :shrugs:

 

 

FTR, I'm firmly in the "hoping for a return but satisfied if we don't get one" camp. :)


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