And now it's time for another installment of Strange LEGO Statistics with DaveE. I'm your host, DaveE.
[insert theme music
A while back-- last year in fact-- I was building the UCS Slave I. And when I got to the end, I noticed that the final step of the instructions was #113
. That seemed kind of high to me. As in-- something felt strange about the number 113. It seemed bigger than usual for some reason. So I started wondering: what's the highest numbered instruction step in a LEGO set?
I figured the higher the piece count, the higher the step count (roughly, at least). Makes sense, right? So if I checked (say) the top 20 sets by piece count, and looked at their highest instruction number on each one, I'd have my answer! Simple! Well... not so much.
The Taj Mahal is still the recordholder for pieces, with 5,922 pieces. Its highest step number? 39. That's... low.
The UCS Falcon's at #2
, with 5,197 pieces. And its highest step? 97! Well... better. But the Slave I with less than HALF the pieces has a higher step number with 113? Hm.
Tower Bridge? 81. The Death Star? 193! That's promising! The old UCS Death Star? 35. The Eiffel Tower? 73.
But before calling a victory for the Death Star, I checked out some Technic sets, just in case they were systemically higher than other sets. Look at the 42038 Arctic Truck. It's got an alternate model in there with a step count of ... well, I didn't even believe it. It's only 913 pieces! About 1/4 the size of the Death Star. And... well... see for yourself:
Seriously? 257? WOW.
So, I kind of gave up for a while. If a set with less than 1,000 pieces could have a whopping 257 step number, then... I'd really have to check a LOT of sets to figure out the answer.
Well, here I am a year or so later, and I decided to investigate again. I had saved my stats from before, and figured I'd delve a bit deeper.
The more I dug, the more I wanted to dig. What started as an endeavor to catalog (say) all the sets with more than 1,500 pieces turned into cataloging the top 10 sets per year by piece count. Which turned into the top 20. Which turned into a mix of a whole bunch of things.
Anyway, I have now cataloged 774 different sets between 1990 and 2016-- mostly the bigger sets. It was interesting to see (for example) how piece count correlated to the highest step. There were definitely some patterns, although there were always outliers, and definitely trends with time as well.
Here's what they look like as a scatter graph by year:
So, that's graphing each set's highest step number against the year it came out, revealing a very interesting trend. LEGO step numbers have been increasing gradually.
That's not surprising, of course. Back in the early 1990s and before, LEGO did all their instructions by hand. They would photograph EACH step, and then have someone draft over it by hand so that it looked like a line drawing. This was pretty expensive and time consuming. So they did their best to cut down on the number of steps shown in sets. Plus, the sets weren't as big back then.
When rendered instructions started showing up in the later 1990s (I'm not sure exactly when the transition was-- even after doing all this checking, which I thought would help make it clear), it was cheaper. So they could afford to make more steps, adding fewer pieces at a time. Plus, it was probably (I'm guessing) easier for kids to understand that way.
But by the early 2000s, I'm pretty sure they were all rendered. So... besides making bigger and bigger sets, why has the step count continued to go up?
I don't really know. But it sure has. In 2016 this is mind-blowingly obvious. Most of the sets haven't even been released for 2016-- so I can't check their step counts. But 2016 is already WAY in the lead in terms of high step counts. The 42052 Heavy Lift Helicopter has #304
. The 70317 Fortrex has #295
. The 10251 Brick Bank has #267
. 60130 Prison Island has #260
. And we haven't even seen the instructions for the Bucket Wheel Excavator, the Porche 911, The Village, or bunches more. SOMETHING has changed in 2016 in the way instruction steps are numbered.
But getting back to the question at hand, because I can hear you asking:WHAT'S THE SET WITH THE HIGHEST NUMBER?
You can see it there in the chart. Step number SIX-HUNDRED.
I'm still in awe. It's the new 75827 Ghostbusters Firehouse:
So. I'm off to ask someone at LEGO exactly why this has had such a dramatic change. I'm expecting they'll have a thrilling and exciting answer, such as "Uh, I dunno. It was easier."
Tune in next time, and perhaps we'll finally uncover the mystery that seriously nobody has been interested in knowing, ever, except me, apparently.