I'm going to create a wall-sized, 8-foot wide screenshot of The Secret of Monkey Island's title screen out of 64,000 LEGO bricks.
Hopefully the video said it all, but the gist of it is that a couple of months ago, I used tiny rubber cubes to recreate a screenshot from one of my favourite video games of all time, Ultima V. The creator of the game, Richard Garriott, saw it on Facebook and thought it was pretty neat, and I got to fly out to Austin, Texas to meet him, and he signed it. It turns out he's even more awesome of a person in... person, than I had expected (and I already had pretty high expectations).
Originally, I wanted to make the piece out of LEGO bricks, but that was tricky for a couple of reasons. The biggest problem was the simplest: LEGO doesn't make enough colours. The second biggest problem is that it would have cost over six thousand dollars. So I settled on the tiny rubber cubes.
But I haven't given up on the LEGO idea, and I'm coming to Kickstarter to try to raise enough money to pull it off. I've chosen The Secret of Monkey Island to recreate with the LEGOs, because it can be made with the colours available, and more importantly because The Secret of Monkey Island is super, super awesome (and if you don't think so, you've probably just never played it).
I had a hard time coming up with rewards, because this is just a one-off project. Most other Kickstarters in the Art category offer a version of what the author/photographer/painter is trying to create (photographers offer one-of-a-kind photos and painters offer unique paintings). I'm also not a famous artist (or necessarily a good artist) so it seemed pretentious to offer 'signed photos' or anything like that. So I'm definitely open to ideas if you have any. :D
In summation, LEGO’s website is offering free shipping until Christmas, so if I can raise the money in time that will probably save hundreds. The total cost of supplies for the piece is $6,400. I’ve saved a thousand dollars, so I’m only asking for $5,400 on this Kickstarter (but the Amazon payments will take about $300 of that and so will Kickstarter, so I technically need closer to $6000).
And check it out! A cool chart provided by CanHeKickIt! Everybody loves charts.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The biggest risk is probably someone accidentally tipping the thing over once it's 90% done. :) But we'll be super-gluing large areas together, so that it will be able to break down into 2 ft. by 2 ft. squares for transportation.
Another risk would be LEGO just saying at the last second, "Sorry, we're just not going to package and send you 64 separate shipments of 1000 LEGO bricks each, during our busiest part of the year" and I'll lose the free shipping due to delays. I've asked an employee at a LEGO store in Austin, Texas, and also called the LEGO corporation to make sure it's ok that I place these orders, and so far the response has been unanimously positive and pleasant, but you just never know. If that were the case I'd just have to eat the cost of shipping.
Some of the rewards offer pixel art made with rubber cubes, and I said I would recreate anything from a CGA or EGA video game, to which my friend Rachel Moody asked “What is a CGA or EGA video game?”
That’s a good question. It didn't occur to me that if you’re not a huge dork like I am, you might not have any idea what that means. You see, hundreds of years ago, back in the 1980s, computers were fairly primitive. For simplicity's sake, we'll just say CGA games only had four colours, and EGA games had 16 (from a possible 64, technically; you can read more about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enhanced_Graphics_Adapter or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_game_console_palettes if you're really interested).
Basically there are only so many colours of rubber cubes to choose from, so they can’t be used to recreate modern video game scenes, which have anywhere from 256 to a million colours on screen at any given time. So without getting too technical about it, anything that could be displayed on an original Nintendo or Atari or a really old computer will work.
So I can recreate anything that uses 16 colours or less. The dimensions are different for the different rewards; the $25 reward is made with an 11 by 14 pixel medallion. The original Goomba from the NES Super Mario Bros. (known as Kuribo, or “Chestnut Man”, in Japan) is 16 pixels wide by 16 pixels tall, so the medallions unfortunately don't have a ton of real estate. But the $300 reward is 50 pixels by 40 pixels.
A lot of people have asked me why I don’t use more than one type of LEGO piece; for instance: 2x1 bricks, or 1x4. If I did that I could save a little money and it wouldn’t be as hard to build.
Originally, I had considered trying to write a script that would analyze the image and determine where I could “optimize” the LEGO build by using different shaped bricks, but immediately gave up on that idea because I realized I wasn’t anywhere near good enough with any scripting language to pull that off. A few days ago a programmer named Marco Burato emailed me to tell me he’d done exactly what I’d considered doing, he whipped up a program that determined that using other sizes of bricks would result in a LEGO piece count of only 32,000 or so.
The thing is, the difficulty is part of the fun. I want to do this specifically because it’s going to be hard, and the higher the number of pieces the cooler it will be to say, “It took 64,000 LEGO bricks to make this.” 32,000 just doesn’t have the same ring to it. It has about half of it, obviously.
Also, this is a recreation of a video game screen shot, so I like the idea that the number of bricks is analogous to the number of original pixels. Using anything but 1x1 bricks just kind of feels like cheating.
Well, I certainly can’t put words in their mouths, but both Ron Gilbert, the original director of the game, and Tim Schafer, one of the other two co-creators of the game, have not only both tweeted about it but are both themselves backers, which, is so awesome it kind of makes my brain numb.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Gilbert is responsible for such legendary computer games as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maniac_Mansion, obviously http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_of_Monkey_Island, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Annihilation, a real-time strategy game that GameSpy said was http://www.gamespy.com/articles/494/494673p11.html.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Schafer made http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Tentacle, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_Throttle_(1995_video_game), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grim_Fandango, and the insanely awesome http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychonauts.
Ron and Tim work together at Tim’s company called http://www.doublefine.com/, which had its own http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/doublefine/double-fine-adventure. It was the second Kickstarter in history to break a million dollars, and the first to do it in one day. It was also the first to reach two and then three million. Both Ron and Tim have agreed to sign the final product before it gets donated. Double Fine has also offered to reach out to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Grossman_(game_developer), the third creator of Monkey Island.
So to answer the question: I would have to guess they're ok with it.
The short answer is the item will be a part of a charity auction, with the proceeds going directly to help children. Both http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Gilbert and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Schafer, the creators of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_of_Monkey_Island, have agreed to sign the item.
The long answer is: it was my intention from the beginning to try to donate it to charity, and I'm extremely proud to announce that the original charity I had in mind has graciously agreed to accept it as an item for their charity auction. Now, it’s the official policy of this charity to not integrate themselves directly into crowd-sourced fundraisers, and I completely understand and respect their decision, so unfortunately I can’t tell you their name, and I can’t really tell you what they do, because you’d just immediately figure out who the charity is.
I can say it’s not any sort of potentially divisive charity—it’s not a gun control lobby, or anything to do with a woman's right to make a choice about anything or whoever that group that Chick-fil-A gives their money too, it's strictly a goodwill initiative that raises money to assist children, who are obviously some of the most deserving of our help.