lorbaat wrote:...although it is odd to read in books that certain themes (Blacktron, Black Falcons) are "evil" or "bad guys". I don't recall anything in either of those lines making that clear, so to me they were always simply other factions.
I don't think they thought about that in that way when they created them, either... I think this assumption could have been made later because in the later castle lines (Knights Kingdom I in particular) it was pretty clear that the Bulls were supposed to be the bad guys, in the latest Kingdoms line the Lions are again the good guys (at least, the dragon knights are shown to be the invaders) so maybe people just used the same 'logic' of the lions being the good guys in the old sets. Or maybe they just thought 'black' falcons and a darker colour scheme referred to evil.
As for the main question, I find it hard to answer myself (which is why I opened this topic) because of course I'm putting myself in between what I consider to be 'old' (to me, everything before Royal Knights) and 'new' sets (everything from KK II on). As far as design goes, I wouldn't underestimate the older sets though, as far as I can tell there's always been better lines and worse lines.
I remember in the KK I line or the old Star Wars models, there were always some alternate builds (without much instructions) to give you an idea of what you could do with them, and / or scenarios that weren't necessarily in the books. The best example would be the hilarious chase comic with a rebel pilot and darth vader in the Y-Wing set. I don't really know if that's still the case. Mill village raid shows pictures of the townsfolk fighting the dragon knights (a logical assumption) and with other sets, it does seem to me like the conflict is always pointed out more clearly.
Suffice to say that I think
kids will mostly just do what they want though (I remember reading about a dad who's kid thought the evil wizard was the coolest character in the fantasy franchise, so he always let him crush the crownies), but at the same time I remember trying to simulate stuff from stuff I liked with (like creating orcs when there were little parts to actually do so), building my own helm's deep or Gandalf rather than just buying him, etc... All in all, I do think Lego is creating clearer 'scenarios' for their sets (Jay has to get the kendo blade from bonezai-something!), but I don't necessarily think it's a problem because I can't imagine kids paying too much attention to this.