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Reboot vs. Continuation

Aanchir

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I made the following analogy in a BIONICLE-related Facebook group I'm in, and my twin brother Lyichir says I should post it here as well, so here goes.

 

Think of BIONICLE as horse racing. LEGO is betting on a horse race for the first time in five years. If they win, they will have enough money to bet on future races (future waves of the theme). If they lose, they give up on betting on horse races forever, because it's no longer worth their time and money. There are many, many horses (potential customers) in the current race that are young, fit, fast, and enthusiastic, just like past winners have usually been.

 

Then there are a small number of older horses that were regular winners years ago, but they were already getting old the last time LEGO bet on a race, and haven't raced at all in five years. They are by now becoming too old for racing, they run slowly (in this analogy, don't tend to buy sets as regularly), and they have every intention of jumping the track the minute they get the sense that they don't like how the race is turning out.

 

Which horses do you think LEGO should put their money on? Remember that this is their only chance to get this right. If they lose, they quit betting on horse racing (in other words, give up on BIONICLE) entirely. As Greg said on the LEGO Message Boards, this is something that LEGO only really has one shot to get right.

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Wait, you guys are twins? Learn something new every day.

 

Anyway, speculation is fun to a point, but I'm at the stage where I really don't care either way anymore. If they screw up the gender ratio again, I'll just do what I always do with terrible story decisions: Make Onua a vampire and ignore anyone who tells me otherwise. (Fanon is fun)

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Only problem I have with the analogy is where reboot vs continuation fits into it - it's a spectrum between the two and picking somewhere leaning far towards reboot with some continuation isn't betting against the obvious winner. It's not a discrete decision. Besides, are there really that many people out there arguing for a complete continuation? (I haven't seen many, but I think it's pretty easy to see that wouldn't be reasonable to expect. :P)

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I dunno, that's not a perfect analogy. Even if it was a "continuation" the story would still be updated, maybe even in a good way, and the sets would be entirely different anyway. So it would be like an old horse with cybernetic enhancements to make it stronger and faster, but the changes have caused him to be emotionally unstable during the race, so sometimes he breaks down (mentally, he'll be perfect physically) over his issues of the past.

 

:music:

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I agree with Adventurer that it's a spectrum. Personally, I'm hoping for a soft reboot: a few thousand years have gone by and all the characters are established in their new homes, so we don't have to address the past story. 

 

(I like the idea that the Toa Nuva/Mata have just been doing their thing now for a few thousand years--lava surfing, tunneling, swimming, etc.)

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I dunno, that's not a perfect analogy. Even if it was a "continuation" the story would still be updated, maybe even in a good way, and the sets would be entirely different anyway. So it would be like an old horse with cybernetic enhancements to make it stronger and faster, but the changes have caused him to be emotionally unstable during the race, so sometimes he breaks down (mentally, he'll be perfect physically) over his issues of the past.

Not really, not at all. In this analogy the horses represent potential customers, not the BIONICLE sets or storyline, so nothing LEGO does will change the behavior of the horses or the outcome of the race.

 

Reintroducing BIONICLE is a gamble, and while it's possible to "hedge your bets" by doing some things that appeal to older fans (like using characters and masks that appeal to nostalgia, something that most good reboots do), it has to be done in moderation. A lot of older fans are, to put it bluntly, picky and unreliable. Many of them are fully prepared to declare the new BIONICLE "ruined" if it fails to meet their expectations in any way — expectations they've had four years to reinforce. Some fans have even whined about the logo being too "kiddish" because it's slightly thicker than the old one.

 

I've heard lots of wonderful ideas for how a continuation could potentially work, but they all still have a significant risk of alienating new and old fans alike. The risk of pandering to fans who have already decided what kind of sets and storyline they are willing to tolerate before they even have a glimpse of them outweighs the reward. Not only are newer fans a more reliable audience for building toys in general, but they haven't been fine-tuning their expectations for years and so will be open to any number of ideas based on their quality, not based on how perfectly they mesh with an already imperfect precedent.

 

A time skip seems to be the most popular idea of how to get a "fresh start" even in a continuation, and it's an idea even I was somewhat fond of for a long time, but even a time skip would tie the hands of the writers and designers by forcing them to come up with new in-universe excuses for each and every change they make that contradicts the original sets and storyline. Example from the original storyline:

 

As an example, every single set of Matoran had to be given an excuse for why they looked different than previous Matoran. 2003? "Well, the 2001 Matoran were taught to rebuild themselves". 2004? "Well, the 2001 Matoran sets were shrunken versions of these, their natural forms". 2006? "Well, they were rebuilt into weird deformed versions by a mad genius (this example was particularly appalling, because like a lot of things in 2006 it took what could have become a bold new design standard — "Matoran don't all have to look alike" — and immediately treated it as weird and unnatural). 2007? "Well, the mutagen in the water magically cured their deformities". 2008? "Well, the energies of Karda Nui made the Matoran taller". As long as previous sets and story remained 100% official, the designers couldn't just treat new ideas as NORMAL, they had to come up with increasingly contrived excuses for why it was different.

Retcons could be used to get around that, but they have their own share of problems, and to be honest, a lot of older fans would probably not be any more open to major retcons than to a complete reboot.

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A time skip seems to be the most popular idea of how to get a "fresh start" even in a continuation, and it's an idea even I was somewhat fond of for a long time, but even a time skip would tie the hands of the writers and designers by forcing them to come up with new in-universe excuses for each and every change they make that contradicts the original sets and storyline. Example from the original storyline:

As an example, every single set of Matoran had to be given an excuse for why they looked different than previous Matoran. 2003? "Well, the 2001 Matoran were taught to rebuild themselves". 2004? "Well, the 2001 Matoran sets were shrunken versions of these, their natural forms". 2006? "Well, they were rebuilt into weird deformed versions by a mad genius (this example was particularly appalling, because like a lot of things in 2006 it took what could have become a bold new design standard — "Matoran don't all have to look alike" — and immediately treated it as weird and unnatural). 2007? "Well, the mutagen in the water magically cured their deformities". 2008? "Well, the energies of Karda Nui made the Matoran taller". As long as previous sets and story remained 100% official, the designers couldn't just treat new ideas as NORMAL, they had to come up with increasingly contrived excuses for why it was different.

Retcons could be used to get around that, but they have their own share of problems, and to be honest, a lot of older fans would probably not be any more open to major retcons than to a complete reboot.

 

 

I don't know, couldn't we just decide not to care about that sort of thing? I tend to ignore all that anyway, especially now that I have some distance from the story.

 

I don't think it would be that big a deal, especially since a big time skip could have changed things in the interim. We wouldn't have to explain the Toa's current appearance, for example, if there are thousands of years of story between 2010 and 2015. For all we know, their Nuva transformation just wore off over time.

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I don't know, couldn't we just decide not to care about that sort of thing? I tend to ignore all that anyway, especially now that I have some distance from the story.

 

I don't think it would be that big a deal, especially since a big time skip could have changed things in the interim. We wouldn't have to explain the Toa's current appearance, for example, if there are thousands of years of story between 2010 and 2015. For all we know, their Nuva transformation just wore off over time.

I've heard this kind of idea a couple times and to be honest it makes the aversion some people have to reboots make even less sense to me. If you're willing to go without clear explanations for the differences between the old BIONICLE and the new one, and just imagine convenient excuses for those changes, couldn't you do exactly the same thing in the event of a hard reboot and imagine the two stories are connected?

 

The issue I see is that the people who are most adamantly opposed to the idea of a reboot that doesn't share a continuity with the old storyline are the people least able to "decide not to care" about whatever inevitable retcons and changes bother them. So many people go out of their way to present themselves as particular, demanding, and nigh-unpleasable and then expect the LEGO Group to cater to them instead of the fans and potential fans who are actually more relevant to the theme's future.

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I'm sure that, regardless if BIONICLE is going to be a continuation or complete reboot, it is going to be geared towards new fans. If it's a continuation (as it is looking to be right now), then TLG is also taking into consideration a lot of older fans. But it is virtually guaranteed to be easy for younger fans to hop on in.

 

I agree that bringing back BIONICLE is risky, but I think that you've overlooked the fact that that is true for everything LEGO does. You don't know if ANY theme is going to be successful. Why is BIONICLE different? Every theme only has "one shot." Yes, the reboot of BIONICLE is a little more complex than a brand new theme. But BIONICLE ended on a rather successful note. TLG may not know if it will be successful again, but they do know that it at least WAS successful, which is actually more to go on than new themes.

 

To use your horse race analogy, LEGO is betting on both new and old horses. They are investing primarily on younger horses, but aren't giving up on older ones. What's most important is that they're not making bets on odds any worse than they've always been.

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This was a great read. I think that everyone needs to view the new Bionicle with an open mind, regardless of it being a reboot or continuation. Lego isn't doing this for us, the older fans, they are doing this for a new generation who were not old enough the first time around. While we are important to the new Bionicle, the potential new fans are of even more importance.

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