Find out how we created a memorable LEGO minifigure experience for the masses.
Creating a fun storyline for a comic book is hard. An interactive comic-building experience with custom characters and 1,525,000 unique story possibilities? Near impossible. When The XD Agency asked PRPL to make this idea a reality for the LEGO booth at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), we put the pieces together in eight weeks and built lasting connections with LEGO fans.
Our goal was to build a system that let visitors build personalized comics in under 5 minutes; yet to accomplish this, we actually had to build a handful of programs.
Operating similarly to a video game character creation tool, our designer gave users endless customization options to create LEGO minifigures that served as the heroes in the comics they created.
We gave users the option to choose the universe in which their comic would take place: Batman, Spiderman, or Star Wars. Users answered a series of questions about themselves and their preferences to generate a personalized story.
The created stories were then sent to an on-site printer, where guests would receive a copy of their unique comic book to take home with them in just minutes.
To bring awareness to the booth and share information with visitors, we installed a social wall at the booth that displayed the most recently made minifigures. We used a custom Twitter account that linked to the builder via an API to make this happen. We emailed visitors the digital cover of their comic and notified them via SMS that their book was ready.
PRPL built an interactive 3D experience using WebGL to accomplish full immersion into your world of LEGO.
We had to devise a filing system that listened for new asset files. When added, the application parsed those new assets and copied them into the system cache for quick data access.
Each of the minifigure files had to be opened, processed and exported as a glTF file, essentially transposing 3D object data into a JSON format.
LEGO supplied PRPL with animation rigs, which we were able to process and export as separate assets that could be mixed in with the minifigure rig on demand for a seamless experience.
We needed to create a system that could handle multiple requests to design LEGO minifigures, generate comics with static and dynamic content, and then print those comics as fast as possible. To ensure our process ran flawlessly, we had to eliminate anything that could possibly interfere with our system.
We needed to ensure fast, secure communication between machines
We had to print, fold, staple, and package thousands of comics on-demand
We created a system that did not require an internet connection in case of outages
We had to optimize files to limit the load we put on the printer
Our tablets needed the power to render the character models without crashing
We had to design, code, and test our builder in 8 weeks with no room for error
We employed hundreds of LEGO assets and went through many revisions before finalizing our final catalog of customizations. Early on, it was apparent that writing code for each item would not only be time-consuming, but it would also be frivolous at times since the asset may be removed upon LEGO’s request.
We built a code generation pipeline that automatically added or deleted code to the system when an asset was altered. We could drag and drop assets into a folder and have our new code ready and waiting. We quickly realized the value of this move as it cut development time for us and cost for our client.
We engineered a system that was capable of designing a minifigure and printing a comic book for every single attendee in the span of a few days. When guests finished their minifigure, the data went to a server to generate a comic on-demand. Then our printer combined static and dynamic elements to print and package the guest's customized comic.
The challenges of a successful product build are compounded when there is a limited window for success. Luckily, our teams’ hard work paid off in a seamless experience.
An internet outage occurred during SDCC, which could have been crippling if we hadn’t planned for it. We used a local Wi-Fi network to exchange data during comic creation. LEGO visitors never experienced an interruption, and thanks to our queue system, visitors were emailed their custom comic’s cover once the connection was restored.
One of our teams’ most remarkable accomplishments was the planning and hard work that went into realizing this fan experience. The builder was experienced by thousands of users without a hitch, and the average total-time in experience from building to receiving your printed comic was under ten minutes. Incredible.
We helped LEGO lead visitors to spend a collective 23,000 minutes interacting with their brand. Our work caught the eyes of fans, other booths and media outlets, and we are already working on Comic-Con 2020 and introducing the 2019 experience to LEGO’s global website.
The result we saw firsthand, however, was the interaction between parents and children during the creation process. The convention center was crowded and loud, but parents tuned it all out and took the time to kneel next to their children, creating a comic true to them. These tender moments made late nights of coding, designing and troubleshooting worth every minute.
Comic books printed at Comic-Con
Minutes interacting with the LEGO brand
Average time per user session