Building BioShock In Bricks

Posted by 2K Staff

Imagine Rigney may be in his twenties now, but he’s been playing with bricks most of his life. It all started with a trip to the toy store. Even at three, a budding builder, he got a glimpse of the aisle that’d change everything. LEGO. After spending thousands of hours and stacking countless bricks, Imagine stumbled upon his calling – brick art.

Today, we’re talking with him about how he got started, how he builds and what drew him to BioShock in the first place. You see, Imagine also happens to be a huge BioShock fan. Some of his early, higher-profile builds depicted Rapture in amazing detail. He’s reconstructed the skyways of Columbia – and he’s going to share some new builds with us soon.

2K: First, we’ve got to ask, how did you get into the idea of brick art?

Imagine: From the very first time my mother showed me LEGO in a toy store, I got a glimpse into this wonderful world I could create. Of course at the time, I didn’t know how deep the rabbit hole would go. For many years after that, the fact that it was a possibility for me to build LEGO art for a living, had not even crossed my mind. It has always been first and foremost, a toy for me – and still is.

I grew up in Hawaii and had free use of the garage for me and all my friends on the block. It was dedicated to our own LEGO world. So I built for hours every day. My dog or cats would knock things over and I’d start all over again.

My mom likes saying by the time I reached age fifteen, I’d put in over 10,000 hours in building. It was after I’d posted my first larger build on Flickr, when I was fourteen, and got thousands of hits in the first day, that I thought it was possible to continue with it as an art form.

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2K: Years back, as you were working on some of your early BioShock builds – what called out to you about them? Was it the game? The world? More?

Imagine: Awww man. It was everything! I had been living on an island. I didn’t even have a computer connected to internet. I didn’t play BioShock for the first time until I moved off the island in 2010, and back to the mainland where I bought my first game console.

Once I finally got to play BioShock, I immediately fell in love with the premise and the world and the characters and the various twists and turns that came with it – the wonderfully claustrophobic environment! And those adorably creepy Little Sisters! And the marvelous Big Daddies! – which turned out to be the first BioShock design I decided to build out of LEGO – in about two days. My original prototype for the Big Daddy was promptly disassembled. It had three eyes. We don’t talk about that.

But once I had my, now easily-recognized design for him, he had no place to live. I had to build the world! Because what good is a cool LEGO Big Daddy if you don’t have a place to put him? I was also getting ready to attend Brickworld Chicago 2011. I’d been there before, but never had a chance to bring anything big to display since…did I mention I lived on a desolate rock in the middle of the Pacific? Before moving to the mainland, I couldn’t transport anything huge. Rapture took me two months to build start to finish.

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2K: So let’s talk about that Rapture build for a minute. Walk us through how you visualized it. What are the steps? What do you have to envision first?

Imagine: I kind of don’t visualize a final build. I sometimes do a very rough sketch for what I’m thinking I might want, but usually it’s nothing like the sketch when it’s done. I just get my hands going and let the bricks build themselves into what I’m seeing in my head. It helps to have the bricks sorted a little when I get started. It makes the building go faster.

I order a lot of parts online when I get started. And I sometimes keep ordering as I go. I remember having to order hundreds of 1×1 black and white tiles for Rapture to fill in that floor for the lobby area. I didn’t have any income then either. I was fifteen and so I had to beg my parents to give me more cash advances on my allowance so I could keep building.

The best part of that build was that once I posted photos of it on Flickr using my Mom’s laptop, I found out that in my isolation(aka. lack of Internet), that there were hordes of fans of BioShock that were stunned by what I’d done. About as stunned as I was to learn that there were people out there who cared as much about the game as I did.

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2K:  How many bricks does it usually take for one of your builds – like, for example, the first time you built Rapture?

Imagine: A lot. Probably more than a handful. Like any LEGO addict, I have plenty of bricks. But I always seem to need more for each new build. It’s a problem. But for a build the size of Rapture, it was something like 11,000 to 18,000 parts.

I had to order more than just those 1×1 tiles. With the amount of detail that Rapture had, it still didn’t approach the level of detail that The Bank of the Prophet had, which was nearly double that in parts quantity and cost.

In fact, the center tower for The Bank of the Prophet is actually the retro-fitted lighthouse that I pulled from the Rapture build. I just took the lighthouse, split it half and added windows, to make the tower on the Bank. I was running a little short on time and bricks to complete that build in time for Brickworld Chicago 2014.

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2K:  How many bricks does it usually take for one of your builds – like, for example, the first time you built Rapture?

Imagine: A lot. Probably more than a handful. Like any LEGO addict, I have plenty of bricks. But I always seem to need more for each new build. It’s a problem. But for a build the size of Rapture, it was something like 11,000 to 18,000 parts.

I had to order more than just those 1×1 tiles. With the amount of detail that Rapture had, it still didn’t approach the level of detail that The Bank of the Prophet had, which was nearly double that in parts quantity and cost.

In fact, the center tower for The Bank of the Prophet is actually the retro-fitted lighthouse that I pulled from the Rapture build. I just took the lighthouse, split it half and added windows, to make the tower on the Bank. I was running a little short on time and bricks to complete that build in time for Brickworld Chicago 2014.

columbia3

Speaking of large builds, Imagine has agreed to revisit Rapture (and Columbia) just like we’ve done for BioShock: The Collection. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing various mini-build instructions so that you can create your own Big Daddy – and more – at home. We’ll also be following along to see what else Imagine has in store for his next big build.

Would you kindly keep your eyes on the BioShock social channels? You’ll want to see what’s coming next!

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Written by
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