Sunday, April 27, 2014

Slowly but Surely

Three years gone by already.

That's when I posted my last finished build to Flickr.

I've built several WIPs since then but haven't been able to finish anything.

I have REASONS.

But the ball is finally rolling again. Last weekend I took several big steps to getting things going again. Cleaned up the build space in the garage. Fixed up the table. Built a table shelf and a wall-mounted shelf. Bought speakers for my laptop and wireless mouse and keyboard...just in case. Bought a chair. The chair is just a place holder until I get some carpeting on the cement floor. Need a nice rolling chair with armrests so I have more freedom of movement and can lean into my thoughts.

This weekend I bought some cleaning materials and more bins and drawer units. Then began sorting and cleaning.

I have over three years of resorting to do. My kids completely destroyed my organization. That's what happens when you stuff your Lego into a corner and don't maintain it properly for a long period. Some of the bricks are being thrown away...it's nightmarish thinking about what my kids put some of those bricks...and minifigs...through.

Lots of dust, cobwebs, even signs of rodents passing through. After I get everything reorganized and cleaned up, then I can finally start to sort through the past three years of Lego purchases that I've built and tucked away in large bins and boxes. Pretty sure I'm gonna have to get more storage before I'm done.

I think the most difficult thing about sorting a collection of this size is trying to figure out what to do with all the parts I have no intention of using. They have become scattered across several drawers and bins and will be consolidated into just a couple but what should I do with them? I have two drawers of Bionicle parts, a bin of plants, a bin of animals and several drawers of randomness. It's a silly question, really. I will keep them and mostly forget about them just as I've always done. Because once in a while, when rummaging through those drawers and bins of random, unused part, I find something useful for a build.

Not sure when I'll actually return to building. I surely have a few weeks left of sorting and cleaning to do first. Then I need a new camera. The one I was using three years ago has fallen into the hands of my kids...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Theory Crafting: Blizzard Blocks

As everyone knows, Mega Bloks was awarded the Blizzard World of Warcraft license. It came, it went...it fizzled out? The 2014 toy fairs have come and gone with no indication of new World of Warcraft Mega Bloks sets...perhaps in the coming Christmas season? Regardless of any forthcoming sets or not, Lego fans and many Blizzard fans, wanted Lego to have this license. Was Lego even interested in it? Is World of Warcraft kid-friendly enough for Lego? Did one party or the other bulk at the cost? Was accurate detailing a defining factor?

Lots of questions and no one is talking. I've tried to research this topic several times over the past few months and I just can't find any discussion at all. The only thing I can find are release notes from the first and second wave launches and some old discussion on the World of Warcraft forums...largely lamenting that Lego did not get the license.

So I have a theory...or two.

I think Lego wanted this license bad enough that they produced prototype molds. When the deal fell through, they reused the molds in the 2013/2014 line up.

The Lego Mixels have new tiny ball joints. Those ball joints turned up in a Chima mini line called Legend Beasts, which include minifigs...mounted on the small, highly posable beasts. A bird, an alligator, a gorilla, and a couple of felines, all offer themselves up as mounts for the minifigs. And as anyone in the know is aware, World of Warcraft is full of mounts for their characters to ride.

It is interesting to note that the ball joints that make these tiny mounts possible likely didn't exists until around the same time that Blizzard decided to shop around for a building block representation of their game elements. It wouldn't be the first time that Lego used something much later than the prototype was first leaked. I remember seeing a transparent skeletal horse a long time ago, then a few years later, I saw it in Lego sets with proper coloring. It takes time for a part or set to go from conception to shelf.

So, what if Lego had developed the ball joints for a World of Warcraft line, then needed to find something else to do with them? Another question might be, which came first, the Mixel or the ball joint? Perhaps the Mixel was just the result of a brainstorm session that Lego designers attended to figure out what to do with the molds from a failed product pitch to Blizzard?

When I look at the Lego Chima Legends Beasts, I see World of Warcraft mounts.

Likewise, when I see the Hero Factory Invasion From Below monster heads, I see World of Warcraft dragon heads. I suspect that with a little more investigation, we might find more recent molds that could have fit nicely into a World of Warcraft line.

But, what's done is done. If Mega Bloks is doing well, they will continue with the line for a few more years, if they failed, then Lego and Blizzard both would translate the failure to mean that there simply is not currently a market for Blizzard Bricks.

I'm happy with Mixels and Chima Legend mounts. But honestly, what could have been...might have been really awesome.

Monday, April 14, 2014

What has Lego Done Right Recently?

A lot.

Their minifigs are more detailed than ever before and include many more accessories than in the past. Their line-up is more robust than it has been in years. There was a time if you wanted city sets you better be satisfied with either fire, or police, or construction, or...but now things are different. I don't really care for most of the fire-fighter sets that are currently available but I absolutely loved the airport fire truck and purchased it. I may even buy another one or two copies. Most of the other first-responder type of sets and vehicles aren't my cup of tea right now, although their current coast-guard lineup looks interesting. But guess what...I've purchased a few of their city-themed trucks this year and plan to buy more. Lego's city theme is robust, full of variety.

The Ninjago line is packed with futuristic machines.

Chima is full of mystical animal warriors.

The classic-space revamps are still going strong, though a little sparse on the sets. We've had Space Police/Blacktron, UFO, and Insectoids with both UFO and Insectoids being mashed up together with a Futuron revamp in the form human defense units. What's next? Classic Space itself in the current movie line-up. Not much, but enough to give enthusiasts a chance to vote with every dollar they can.

Hero Factory looks very interesting and I just bought my first sets from that line. Too many interesting things in the sets to ignore it any further. Hero Factory  minifigs..."bugs"...hope they give us more of that.

Mixels are poised to change everything about Lego's small price-point sets. Give me a line of bots/mechs/alien beasts and I will keep buying them. I even have to put up a whole separate post just to illustrate the potential of the parts in this line.

Friends...my daughters love this stuff!

Of course the licensed themes are doing well, for the most part. Star Wars still going strong, Tolkien themes still selling, Super Heroes...why did this take so long?

The Simpsons, Cuusoo, Architecture, Technic, Mindstorms, Trains, Ultimate Collector's, Cafe Corner...so much to choose from.

It's not just that I like everything Lego is doing right now, because I don't, but there's so much to choose from and so much of it is fantastic, how can you decide what to buy? I certainly can't afford everything that I want from Lego.

Years ago, Lego was bloated beyond their means. Too many licenses that weren't paying off, too much merchandising that was unrelated to the brick, too many colors to maintain, more molds than could cheaply or efficiently store and maintain...it was a mess and they almost went out of business. But this time around, they've been more cautious and at least know what to do if they start loosing money and have to pull back a little: break some molds, discontinue some colors, cancel some themes, let some licenses expire...

Lego hasn't done everything right, but recently they've done a great job and I hope they can it up.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lego Misses the Boat

So, I recently read that Mega Bloks managed to snag a Blizzard license. I've seen pre-lim images of the upcoming World of Warcraft line and read that a Star Craft set was sold at the last Blizzcon event.

So now Lego has missed three of the biggest merchandising trends: Halo, World of Warcraft, and Star Craft.

We know it's not because of the violence or dark-toned themes inherent in the stories because Lego recently agreed to ten more years of Star Wars, in spite of the darkness and violence of The Clone Wars animated story.

So what happened? A Warcraft or Starcraft collectable minifig line alone would be enough to pay for the license fees.

At this point it must come down to politics. Maybe the license owners just don't like Lego.

Maybe Lego's turnaround wasn't what they wanted or maybe the level of detail in the product.

Whatever happened, Lego missed the boat. And so did Lego fans.

Lego vs. Violence

After watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars Umbaran story I have come to the conclusion that Lego can no longer claim to have an issue with violent or dark-toned properties. Long after those episodes aired, Lego agreed to ten more years of the Star Wars license.

The Umbaran story has it all: soldiers being crushed and cut in half or eaten, an execution, even a suicide bomber. One scene shows an enemy combatant struggling to breath through a cracked helmet and a Clone Trooper pointing a gun toward his head then pulling the trigger.

This article isn't about trying to get Lego to pull out of the license because of the violence, it's about the Lego company's hypocrisy.

Don't tell us that a military theme would be too violent, you already have that with the Clone Wars. You've had it for a while but this particular story is so extreme in its graphic depictions and dramatic effects that I wonder if kids should even be watching the show at all.

My point, perhaps not clearly written, is that if The Clone Wars is not too violent or dark for Lego, then I don't see how much of anything else could be either.

Lego is not allowed to use that excuse as a crutch anymore.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lego Space Issues (Part Two)

I hadn't planned on doing a series for this particular topic, but some more thoughts came to mind.

Earlier I mentioned that UCS-scaled ships outside of the Star Wars line might be cool, but what about larger space ships in general?

I'm looking around my Lego wall and there are several Lego Star Wars ships sitting around and they are all of a larger size than the general space-themed lines tend to get. I've complained before about the conflict-in-a-box issue. When you put resources into multiple vehicles and accessories, you take away from the main feature of the set.

What if, instead of forcing the blue viper ship into an $80 set (which was designed with a "jail", rover, and alien ship besides the main defense vehicle), the viper ship had been redesigned as a stand-alone $40-$50 set? I'm looking at my revamped Star Wars Arc Fighter and wondering why Lego thinks they have to force the main themes to have all that action packed into the box when stand-alone vehicles can sell very well on their own.

I understand that they've done their market research and that the main themes are designed with a younger audience in mind. I can't help but wonder why Lego won't add a few higher priced, stand-alone models into a few of their play themes...test the waters so to speak. They take so many more risky gambles that a couple of test sets couldn't hurt that badly if they failed to sell.

This train of thought is incomplete. It has a few holes. For instance the Mars Mission line went bonkers near the end of its shelf life and a few really cool things happened with it. On the other hand, the Space Police line sort of fizzled. The limo was interesting but really deserved a larger budget and the "transformable" police cruiser thing had a nice profile but turned out to be an abomination once built. There should have been a high-end police bus model in this theme instead of the shallow base (which had some really great parts but was otherwise rather pointless)

Obviously I'm speaking as a model builder of sorts. I can make my own stuff if I'm unhappy with what Lego produces. I'm just saying, "Hey, I actually like some of these sets as limited kit models and would like to buy more." I don't mind following instructions if I'm building something cool.

Just give me more cool.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lego Space Issues

I'm ready for something original.

So far we've had a revamped Mars line, revamped Space Police, and now revamped UFO. If they continue with this trend we are likely to see a revamped M-Tron next. Why M-Tron and not another theme? Because Mark Stafford has stated that M-Tron is one of his favorite classic space themes. And in one of the Brickjournal magazine issues there is mention of a spacy dumptruck that they can't show us yet.

I know that M-Tron (and the "M") was all about magnates, but I suspect that the theme could make a reappearance as a space-construction/mining theme. Or at the very least a resource management/gathering one.

Otherwise, we might see a new Ice Planet theme, lot's of fans have been waiting for one and were quite disappointed when Lego missed the campy tie-in with the actual year.

Blacktron was given a nod with the recent Space Police pirates, Unitron and Spyrius were kind of small and I am unfamiliar with their stories. Robo-force (or whatever) was also small and might work as a new mech line, but please, no classic-styled robots.

Insectoids? I didn't really like that theme though I bought some to boost my collection straight out of my dark age. Although I could see the theme working with Lego's new anything-goes attitude regarding minifigs. Give us an insectoid alien nemesis with some cool ships and vehicles (not insect-based, with the exception of a multi-legged mech or two). I think we might go for that.

UCS scaled space ships outside of the Star Wars line. That would be really cool. Would anyone buy them though? UCS works because its Star Wars. The Cafe Corner series works because the buildings are quality designs. So...a UCS-scaled space ship would have to been done right. What if it were based off a Classic Space design? Imagine a giant Uranium Search vehicle, or Alien Moon Walker...or FX Star Patroller? Something bigger? Why not?