Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cuusoo User's Guide: Part 6: Creating Projects & Verboten Subjects

Welcome to the Unofficial Cuusoo User's Guide.

This is a Part 6 of a short series of articles about Cuusoo for beginners through super users.  It is derived from the presentation I gave at Brick Fiesta earlier this year.

Part 1: What is Cuusoo?
Part 2: Finding Projects
Part 3: Supporting a Project
Part 4: Comments, Reporting, & Feedback
Part 5: Monitoring Activity and the My Page
Part 6: Creating Projects and Verboten Subjects
Part 7: Creating "Successful" Projects

Creating Projects

The Basics

On the face of it, making a project is very simple:
  • Come up with an idea (the HARDEST part)
  • Go the My Page and click on the huge "Create Project" button
  • If this is your first project you need to confirm your understanding of the rules (which we will discuss here)
  • Enter a title to complete the creation of your Draft Project.
  • Click on the Edit button
  • Load an Image
  • Write a description
  • Press Submit
  • Wait for Cuusoo to Approve (or Deny) your project
There are certainly more nuances but that is the minimal activity needed to create a project

The Rules

Thankfully Cuusoo's rules are very simple.

  • Your submissions must be original & Your submissions are your own work and no one else's
    This means that you, or your collaborative group, is the creator of the model or idea that is presented.  You MUST have the exclusive rights to the model. 

    Here are some of the nuances of this rule:
    • You cannot use photos or recreations of someone else's Lego creations.  This is considered Plagarism.  If you submit a project with Plagarism, it will be deleted.
    • With rare exception, you MAY use photos and images of anything that is NOT a Lego creation regardless of the source.
    • You may use existing IP in your projects, for instance you may create a Cuusoo Project based on a Star Wars ship.
    • You may submit projects that are very similar to existing Cuusoo projects.  
  • You are at least 18 years old.
    This is in no way a statement about the skill level of the project creator.  TLG is well aware that minors can make stunning marvels of Lego creativity.  This is a legal issues.  A contract, which is what you are entering when you create a project, is void when it is attempted with a minor.  Parents/Guardians may create a project with their children however. 
  • You grant us the rights we need to commercialize your idea.
    This means that as soon as you post your idea, TLG owns it.  You are free to post and share your model, but TLG has the exclusive rights to manufacture, distribute, market, and sell your idea.

    Many people do not post on Cuusoo for this reason as they want to own their ideas and sell them.  When you post on Cuusoo however, Lego is publicizing your idea and, in the event that it does well, will also be investing resources into its development as a marketable product.  Thus TLG requires ownership to prevent legal conflict down the road.
  • You will receive credit and compensation for your original ideas.
    If your idea results in a product, you will receive1% of net sales.  If, however your idea is a part, then you will receive a one-time flat fee, to be determined by TLG.
  • You may collaborate with others, but only if we get specific permission from everyone.
    This is a bit complex so go check out this link if there is more than one person working on the project. 
  • There may be unintentional overlap between your ideas and our current product development.
    This is basically the catch all.  It means that Lego might have already had the idea and is working on it.  You have to trust them not to "steal" your idea if you are going to post on Cuusoo.


Acceptable Project Content

This covers what is acceptable and unacceptable to post.  Most of this is pretty obvious.
  • Keep it appropriate.That means no: 
    • Politics and political symbols
    • Religious references including symbols, buildings, or people
    • Sex, drugs, or smoking
    • Alcohol in any present day situation
    • Swearing
    • Death, killing, blood, terrorism, or torture
    • First-person shooter video games
    • Warfare or war vehicles in any modern or present-day situation
    • Racism, bullying, or cruelty to real life animals
  • Original work only.
    Any LEGO models, elements, or minifigures you post must be your own original work.
  • Projects should be product concepts.
    This effectively means your project must be able to result is something that can be bought or sold. This means no "petitions" to change Lego policy and no posting of pictures without a description of what the product is suppose to be.
  • Drawings and photos are OK.Yes, it is really ok to have NO Lego at all in your Cuusoo product. You must however provide explain description that explains how you would make the photographed item a LEGO product.
  • No projects to bring back old LEGO products.
    Please don't submit projects requesting we re-release or "bring back" discontinued LEGO products or themes. LEGO CUUSOO is for new and original ideas.

    Their appears to be a subtle line in this one.  You can create a project that re-interprets an old theme or set.  You just can't post a project just requesting a re-release.


Basic Project Quality Standards

These are basic to the point of being fully self explanatory so I copy them here for your convenience
  • Photos, renderings, screenshots, and drawings should be clear and well-lit.
  • Manipulated photos, composite images, and text on graphics should be clear and easy to read.
  • Your project title and description text should be clearly understood and in proper case. Do not use ALL CAPS, all lowercase, MiXEd cAsE, txtspeak, ch4tsp34k, heavy punctuation!!!!!!!, etc.
  • The images you use should match your title and description.


House Rules

These are not all the house rules, just a truncated explanation in regards to project generation.

  • Be respectful.
    Keep your project description respectful. Cuusoo will not tolerate any abusive language targeted at any of the users. 
  • Don't advertise, preach, or campaign.
    LEGO CUUSOO is not a venue for preaching or disseminating your political or religious views. It is also not a venue to advertise any business, non-profit, or charitable cause. Projects that intended to advertise, campaign, or promote a political/religious viewpoint as well as content intended to put down a political/religious belief held by another person or group of people will be removed.

    It is OK for a company to make a project based on its own "product" as long as it is clear that the true intent is to produce a Lego product, not advertise themselves. 
  • Keep it clean.
    LEGO CUUSOO is to be a good, clean environment. Don't create projects containing hate speech or related to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, politics, sex; or any kind of content containing realistic or extreme violence, or content intended to shock or disgust.

Verboten Subjects and Questionable Projects

"Forbidden" Subjects

Cuusoo is amazing in that they let you post projects with great freedom.  Sometimes however, projects are submitted to Cuusso that might not meet the brand standards or be legally viable.  Rather than keeping your project in Limbo waiting a verdict, the moderators will post the projects and allow others to opportunity to see your work.  Then, at some later date the questionable projects are reviewed and those that don't make the cut are removed from the site.

What follows is a list of the subjects that for one reason or another have failed to meet Cuusoo's needs for product viability.  I list them here in the hopes that you will avoid them in the future.  Sometimes a small tweak is all it takes to protect a project form premature deletion.
  • Any IP owned or effectively owned by Hasbro
Why: Hasbro has its own "Brick" company and would work through them instead of Lego

  • My Little Pony
  • Transformers
  • G.I. Joe
  • Wizards of the Coast (Magic: The Gathering,  Dungeons & Dragons, etc)
Solution: The same solution everyone has used form time immemorial, make something similar but        NOT actually the same.

Lego did this with Heroica, which has elements similar to Dungeons & Dragons.  Here is a great example of a shape changing Lego robot that is not brand labeled.  You can use the "Agents" line instead of G.I. Joe.  Making a horse based project is probably a little on the nose, but you never know.
  • Projects that are for Star Wars figures with no playset elements.  
Why: Hasbro has a contract granting them exclusive rights to selling Star Wars action figures.  A minifig or bionicle/hero-factory style figure is considered to be an action figure. 

Solution: If you propose a project with Star Wars minifigs, make sure you throw in a few bricks for a small vehicle or set piece.

  • Projects based on the following TV shows, movies, and comics have been rejected.  Some of these are more speculative than others as Cuusoo does not always make an public announcement when removing a project.  I assume that Cuusoo moderators took them down, but there is a chance they were deleted by the project creators.
  • Firefly / Serenity
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Gundam
  • Simpsons
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Penny-Arcade
  • Arrested Development
  • Two and a Half Men
  • Family Guy
  • Pycho
Solution: Make projects inspired by these subjects but with no direct link published within Cuusoo.  The Airport Stair Car is the best and saddest example of how this can be avoided.  The MOC is gorgeous and functional.  If this was submitted without the Bluth label it would never have had to live down all of the activity in "Arrested Development" that is inappropriate for young children.  Fans of Arrested Development still would have recognized and appreciated its connection to the franchise though and would likely have supported it, even without the "Bluth" branding.   

Unlikely  Subjects and Project Elements

The following are project concepts that do not have any official hurdles, but are none the less, very unlikely to make it to a product stage. This is based mostly on my own opinion and information I have learned by studying Lego business practices or talking with Lego representatives at conventions.   As a precursor, you should read Cheat Sheet: How to Pass the LEGO Review with Flying Colors published by Cuusoo.  It is very helpful and direct form the source.  .
  • Project with toy licenses already held by competitors
These projects are not dead on arrival but they have a lot going against them.  Licenses change hands all the time.  Megablock had a Pirates of the Caribbean line way before Lego did and Mavel Comics has alternated back and forth between the two companies.  When you add that to the fact that even the most popular Cuusso projects will take an average of 3 years* to make it to the review stage, well, who knows what the future holds.  Regardless, these projects concept are currently licensed to Lego Competitors:

  • Angry Birds
  • Star Trek   
  • Doctor Who
  • Mario Brothers
  • Random Minifig packs for Minifigs with IP not owned by Lego
This is based on economic principle.  Minifigs are, in general, the costliest element that Lego produces.  They have many assembled parts and almost always have printing.  Not to mention that their elements are very complex in comparison to general brick.  The return on selling a single minfig is very low for Lego relative to selling traditional Brick, therefore, Lego tends to sell minifigs WITH brick.  This is the same economic principle behind Fast Food companies trying to add a drink to your order.  Cola is very cheap for restaurants so they get a great return when they get you to add it to your meal. 

Once you add a Third Party license however, TLG will take an even greater hit because they have to pay a share of the profits or each figure back to the IP owners. 

Economically speaking it is very unlikely that we will ever see this. I could be wrong of course.  I do recommend that if you want this to happen you support one of the existing projects of this type rather than creating new, redundant projects of this type.

  • Sets with extremely high minifig counts relative to Brick
This is unlikely for the same reasons stated above and doubly so for sets based on Third Party IP.  If you follow these guidelines you will stay roughly within the parameters that Lego uses for its Minifig/Bricks distribution:
  • Up to 3 Figs for sets of less than 100 parts
  • 1 figure for every 100 parts for sets in excess of 200 parts
  • 1 in every 3 figs (rounding down) is "common"
Common figures are those that are produced in great quantities by TLG.  This includes such figures as Storm Troopers, Droids, and Primary Characters while they are in production like Harry Potter and Batman.  These are just guidelines, there are plenty of exceptions to these in real world Lego product, but if you want your project to succeed you should should not be designing towards the "edge cases" of the Lego catalog.

For a more detailed analysis of this you can check out this report on realistic minifig counts.

  • Sets requiring the creation of many new parts AND/or Chromed elements
This is documented in the Cheat Sheet but I feel the need to expand on it here.  I have heard from TLG representatives that it is extremely unlikely that even one new part will be created for a Cuusoo project.  So, one new part is in the realm of possibility but is unlikely.  A set requiring more than one new part is unlikely to pass review. 

Chromed elements are even a greater issue.  What most people do not realize is that when you chrome something, it actually becomes larger.  There are many sources for unofficial Third Party chromed Lego bricks, but Lego has extremely high standards when it comes to their parts.  When Lego creates a chrome part, they create a part mold of a thinner element. That way when the resulting element is chromed it WILL be the right size.  If Lego makes a 1 x 2 chromed brick, that is a brand new part mold, not the standard 1 x 2 brick mold.  So, this Chromed Naboo Royal Starship  would represent the creation of more than 20 "brand new" parts.

  • Trans-Clear minifigs
Lego parts are actually made of different types of plastics.  Some are more obvious than others.  Their is the basic brick, the rubber elements (wheels), branches (more flexible), soft headgear and vines, AND trans-clear.   There is probably more, but the point is that the plastics making up these parts are different and result in different properties.

It is my understanding that the properties of trans-clear plastic are not compatible with the mechanics of the arm sockets and leg sockets inherent in the minifig design.  Can they be built?  Certainly.  Will they meet Lego's standards?  No, not now anyway.       

  • Mature Audience Media
Lego's target audience is 6 to 11 years of age.  A set need not appeal to an 11 year old but any source material relating the the projects cannot be inappropriate for them.  When making a set that directly references an IP, the set has to live down the "worst" that the IP has to offer, even if the questionable content is not depicted in the set.  For this reason it is safe to assume that any project that references a movie with a Rating of R (or higher) or any Television series with even a single episode rated at TV-14 will not be accepted.  PG-13 is inherently suspect as well as, by definition,  it is targeted at audiences older than 11.

Lego has made sets that are based on PG-13 movies and Video Games rated Teen before, but that does not mean that such projects will be accepted through Cuusoo. 
  • Part Count is actually NOT a big deal.
This is, interestingly enough, a point that high part counts are OK.  I have heard plenty of people say "This has too many parts" or similar points.  The fact is Cuusoo has no part count restrictions in either direction and TLG representatives have publicly reiterated this point.

That is not to say that the part count of a project will not be changed during the review phase, but very large part counts is something the Cuusoo is willing to contemplate.  
* This is based on the reviewing the rate of every project with more than 250 support of projects of projects and projecting that rate out to 10k supporters, then averaging the number of days remaining for the first 50 projects projected to reach 10k.

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