Friday, December 4, 2009

What's Next?

I looked through my inspirational material and think I've lined up what my next build will be. I have my own sketch book that I've been slowly filling with concept art but I love looking at other people's art. Sometimes, I can still even sit down and build something with no inspirational images to work with at all. It's nice to have a blend of options to work with.

Anyway, I have no idea if I'll finish this next work. After my month-long challenge I started something and built it up for 2-3 days then promptly tossed it aside after I realized it would require almost a complete rebuild to get it the way I really wanted it. And I still have three other WIPs that are still sitting around and they are going on two years old already. Not to mention three others that are about five years old...I finally got around to tearing down the others.

When the fun turns into work, I just won't put up with it I guess.

Novvember II

Well, Nnenn's Novvember came and went. Not sure if there were more people or just more MOCs but I think I saw more models that impressed me less this year. Yeah, no one is trying to impress me, I understand that, but often people do it anyway.

I mostly sat out and watched from the sidelines, wishing I had the motivation to participate. Then, in the last week or so I suddenly had enough motivation to complete seven models. Brickshelf and CSF seems mostly unimpressed with my work, but Flickr seemed to enjoy some of it. I liked all of them. If I could, I would leave them all together to show off on a shelf.

The Twees poked some fun at the Vic Viper fad. Nnenn got blogged again. There was some drama about over one particular builder who was very exuberant and proved equally prolific, but some folks disapproved of his quantity over quality approach. Looks like he wasn't chased away though, sometimes it can take some thick skin to put up with the Lego community.

Anyhow, the Vic Vipers are fun. They are so simple to produce that you actually have to force yourself to do more than the requirements.

The Story of Chrome

This story is incomplete and put together with limited information. Corrections are welcomed.

It all began with the Lego Model Team line. Lego wanted to include awesome, shiny chrome parts into the line.

The problem
Chrome has to be applied to a part which increases the part's dimensions so that the part is no longer compatible with the rest of the system.

The fix
Lego made new, unique molds that were somewhat smaller to the rest of the system parts. The chrome application would be specific enough to only add enough thickness so that a chromed part is the same dimensions as the other system parts, thereby compatible.

The other problem
Now Lego had unique molds that were completely useless without the chrome application.

The "fix"
Lego begins to make slightly smaller molds of existing parts to be applied with chrome. Somewhat cheaper to digitally shrink an existing part rather than design a new, unique part from scratch.

The continuing problem
Lego is still creating molds that must have chrome applied to make them useful. Also, the company almost went bankrupt (chrome only being one of the many expensive issues that Lego needed to fix).

The new fix
No more chrome. Simple!

From time to time Lego still inserts a chrome grill tile or chrome round plate (maybe a light saber or two?) But for the most part, Lego has separated themselves from the chrome process except for rare promotional purposes. If Lego's current profit zen continues, we could see a return of chrome parts, but it is unlikely.


The large triple curve wedge is available in several drab colors. Only two bright colors are used so far, orange and white. I thought I saw a yellow one used on a leaked preliminary pic of an upcoming helicopter, but a more recent picture of that set uses a large sloped brick instead. I think I also saw a red one in an Atlantis set, so maybe there's hope for that. Otherwise, where are blue, green, and yellow? How about the other bright colors, lime and purple? This part was first issued in 2003. I don't think it has much longer to go before Lego either "fixes" the aging mold or scraps it altogether. It would sure be nice if we could round out the palette for this part.

We've been getting a few redesigns of common and very useful parts lately. Ideally, Lego will adjust or fix an aging mold rather than scrap it, but sometimes they choose to "improve" it altogether. In the most recent cases, Lego is on a mission to fix some clutch issues that current parts have shown. This has the unfortunate result of changing the way builders might use a part. Recent clutch improvements include the following:
From to
From to
From to a flame/wave without the tiny prongs but rather a "stabilizing" ring around the base. I didn't see an entry for the new part.

Colors that I think the Lego palette can do without:
All of the pearl colors
All of the mottled/metallic colors
All of the marbled two-tone colors
Trans-Sparkle colors
As far as chrome/silver goes, they should pick one and stick with it and dump the other attempts.

Purple is back. Either Lego fixed the problem of uncontrollable hues, or they finally came to terms with the fact that they can't seem to control the hues of ANY of their colors. So might as well bring purple back, people like it.

Toy Story line is a mixed blessing. Green soldier minifigs and three-eyed aliens and purple YAY! New exaggerated minifig parts to better represent the movie characters...BOOOooo!

Lego Space Police is a hit and will be making it's second round next year, YAY!
Lego Space Police year two will be white again, four years of white space ships...BOOOooo!

Bionicle no more, meh. New-"improved" Bionicle-like theme, meh. Consensus says that this new theme is Ben 10 Alien Force and I agree. Lego messed up by saying that the new theme would be based on an established third party license. There is a slim possibility that Lego has quietly acquired another, as yet unknown, third party license that the fans completely missed, but it is very unlikely. Anyhow, it's all a resounding "Meh".

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lego Atlantis

Hmmm...another day another leak.

As I've written before, I love Lego leaks.

So, as the discussion goes, this blurry Lego Atlantis picture shows a three-wheeled vehicle that happens to reuse the Power Miners wheels, therefore this is a blend of Power Miners and...something.

This is not true though. As was recently shared in a New York Times article via The Brother's Brick,

"The number of different bricks or elements that go into Lego toys has shrunk to less than 7,000 from roughly 13,000, and designers are encouraged to reuse parts, so that a piece of an X-wing fighter from the “Star Wars” series might end up in Indiana Jones’s jeep or a pirate ship."

A helpful Lego designer, Nabii, (aka Mark Stafford) popped into The Brother's Bricks comments section to clarify that quote,

"...this total includes colour variations! So a lot of this was achieved by reducing the number of colours any given element is available in at any given time."

My point here is that Lego Atlantis is NOT a Lego Power Miners mash-up theme. Since designers are encouraged to share parts between themes, it makes sense that the newest large wheels in the Lego warehouse would be used again in upcoming themes.

Someone commented on the photo praising the apparent return of trans neon green. What a horrible decision! Fans are crying out for trans red, trans yello, trans blue, trans green...they want classic transparent canopy colors. Space Police, with its trans blue windshields, gave fans hope that more classic trans colors might be on their way, but apparently not.

What this means is that we are about to see a deluge of trans neon green again. In order to produce these parts Lego had to order a large quantity of the insipid color (the more bulk, the better the deal). They fully intend to use those resources. However, there are some other possibilities. This pic could be of a prototype and a different wind shield color will be used before the sets go to retail. It could also be that Lego has had some neon green parts sitting in their warehouse that they decided should be used up once and for all (one can only hope).

As for the Atlantis line itself. Well, good for Lego. I like to see sci-fi lines from them. I'm thankful that they didn't use lime for this line. The figs should be interesting and the sets will likely be fun to look at. I wouldn't expect a lot of new parts though. Since a "new" part to Lego can also mean an old part in a new color, it would be foolish to expect much more than some new minifig stuff and old parts in new colors.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Macaroni Brick

So, Lego has improved the venerable macaroni brick and, of course, panic and rioting from the fan community has ensued.

In a nutshell:

Old brick- needed to be stacked alternately for stability. If stacked vertically and held sideways, a wall of macaroni bricks would generally fall for lack of clutch.

New brick- interior has been modified to add clutch. Now bricks will be stable if stacked vertically, but can not longer be stacked alternately and leaves gaps between bricks. However, a round plate was recently introduced that can be used to secure the new macaroni bricks if a builder were to stack enough for gravity to become an issue.

My take is simple. Who cares?

I mean, really, how many builders were trying to build with these things anyway? More importantly, when was the last time a plethora of creations appeared and wowed everyone with the sheer number of macaroni bricks stacked together? Sure, they're fun to have and almost every builder I know "intends" to do something significant with them someday. First they just have to obtain enough of them.

The change to this brick is an improvement. The one problem that will likely occur is when a builder legitimately attempts to stack a bunch together only to find that the securing plate is not available in the same color of macaronies being used. This is actually a legitimate problem, the introduction of incomplete parts series into the line. It is a problem that Lego seems to have no interest in correcting.

I'm sure we'll all find a way to survive though, Lego builders are a durable breed.

Lego Company Feeling Good and Taking Risks

An article in the New York Times tells all about how the Lego company is suddenly a financial tsunami while the biggest toy companies in the world are doing nose dives.

Well, good for them!

Interestingly enough, rather than invest that new found wealth by providing more specialized parts that collectors and fans have been asking for, Lego has decided to repeat the past. The article is full of interesting information. Here are a few choice words found within:

“But five years ago, we were in the midst of a crisis, and now we’re in a growth phase. We are definitely taking bigger risks than we previously did.”

The number of different bricks or elements that go into Lego toys has shrunk to less than 7,000 from roughly 13,000, and designers are encouraged to reuse parts.

There is also some mention about how Lego has not lost any of its quality throughout its restructuring from near bankruptcy a few years ago.

I've written about the short-term memories of the Lego fan community before. The sickness also extends to the Lego company itself. There may have been a number of internal issues that helped to lead the company into financial duress, but a runaway thirst for licenses was certainly part of the problem also. Licenses are awarded based on how much a company promises to give the owner. To make up for this fee, Lego must increase the cost of the product or take a loss on it. Lego fans have often noted the higher-than-average cost of Lego Starwars sets and the even higher costs of the Lego Starwars Clone Wars line (where Lucas and Cartoon Network both likely take a cut).

So, here we are again, seeing Lego take on a multitude of licenses as soon as the money starts rolling in again. Maybe we don't need 13,000 parts again, but we sure could use more than we are getting.

I hope these risks pay off though. I also hope that Lego is very careful about how much they can actually handle. They are also branching off into other product lines once again, another nail that almost sealed their financial coffin not so long ago.

All in all, it's just business as usual, I suppose.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Lego Wishes

For a few years now Lego has submitted fan questionnaires to online sites. After a few financial questions and some product reviews they ask what fans of Lego would like to see in the future.

I've been given mixed blessings via these forms.

Things I have asked for:

An anime line...they gave us Exoforce. Not a horrible line, but many of the optional models were more like what I had in mind.

Aliens...they gave us Mars Mission and space pirates. Mars Mission aliens were awful, space pirates are kind of cool. Now if we could just get a proper Space line with our aliens we'd be all set. P.S. Three years of white space sets is too much white. Please don't let there be a fourth.

An ongoing line of cars reminiscent of Hotwheels...we have Lego Racers. Early Racers had minifigs (or in VERY early cases, just minifig heads) but few of the cars were noteworthy. Now we have noteworthy cars, but not to minifig scale. Sigh.

I also asked for some sort of architectual sets. I recall that lighthouses were being discussed at the time and I thought that would be pretty cool...we have a wide range of oddities. Some houses have appeared in the Creator line. A large wind turbine was released as a promotional with a scaled down version now available at retail. We also have an actual architectual line with sky scrapers and art deco stuff.

I think that is all I asked for.

In every case, Lego almost got it right. Be careful what you wish for.

Lego Toy Story

Well, someone shared some of their pics from another Toy Fair a few weeks ago. This time it was Toy Story and Persian...something or other. The Persian thing is basically just a historical theme with a story, so nothing really special there except maybe some new parts.

So, focusing on the Lego Toy Story license, I have to say I'm a little disturbed. First though, I am pleased to see the green soldiers and hope they don't change dramatically from what was presented at the show (often, the shows are riddled with prototypes that are subject to changes before release). We also get the little alien guys. What I don't approve of are the odd proportions and sculpted heads for the main characters. We are going to be getting longer arms and legs for some of those minifigs. I have no doubt that they are going to sell a lot of these sets, but for me it's just a reminder of how many AFOLs feared that the classic minifig was going to be replaced by the Jack Stone/ 4 Juniors figs several years ago. Sure, it won't happen this time either, but I'd much rather have these memorable characters as standard minifigs with round heads. Also, if the head gear is removable, there is a chance that it will not be supported by the standard minifig. We won't really know until the sets hit the shelves. Unless a Lego rep already answered that question somwhere.

They also showed the RC car from Toy Story and it appears to represent the character well enough, but it's nothing I'll be running through the store to get. It may be a prototype however, and perhaps we'll see some new parts on the official release.

Oh, the Persian thing has some new animals and hats. Watch out progressive Lego builders, your challenge is at hand!


It is just the way I am, I guess. Sometimes I can make blog posts daily for a few weeks, sometimes I have to make do with several at once after missing a month or more. Sure, it is exactly what blog tutorials tell you NOT to do, but that is what I am doing.

Sure, I have Google ads, but it's more because I wanted to go through the process as a learning experience than anything. I had, and still have, no real desire to make money off of something like this, I just figured "Why not?"

Honestly, I don't even know If I've made any money. I don't even remember where I need to go to find out. If I have made some money, would it be more than a few pennies even after all this time? I vaguely remember that Adsense pays out after a blog reaches a certain dollar amount and I have not received any checks from them, so I would assume the answer is a resounding NO.

Someday I might remove the ads and learn to place custom backgrounds on my blogs, but right now I just can't be bothered to do so.

And what about my Lego building? Have I maintained the proliferation as I wanted to? Nope, I have not. I have built a few "bots" and two starfighters and have started another ship of sorts, but it's taken me over a month to do that.

I have, on the other hand, begun to keep a sketch pad near me at all times. I've grown tired of looking for new places to find unique inspiration, so now I'm making my own. Yesterday I was supposed to sketch twenty unique designs, which would be followed up by a few more days of the same. I did twelve. Then I put the book down and played Combat Arms for an hour or so. Then I discovered some more introspective Lego blogs via twee effect. Now I've been inspired to add some posts to my own blog(s).

So, there it is, the life of an inconsistent AFOL, I guess.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Brickshelf Design

I have redesigned my Brickshelf layout.

I deleted the old Star Wars EIII Lego set images that have been taking up bandwidth since their release. Then I consolidated all of my old Lego MOCs into a single Archives folder.

The cool thing are the images I created for the "covers". One day I hope to master photo editing but I'm afraid I'm going to need to do some heavy reading or take a class. Still, for only picking it up in the last month, I'd say I've come a good distance.

The "Space" folder is empty but it won't be for long. I was going to start a new MOC tonight but it didn't pan out, however I'm confident I can at least start one tomorrow.

I'm curious to see how prolific I can remain after the cookie challenge. I feel confident about it. Sure, quality is more important than content, but I'm tired of having a half dozen WIPs at any given time with no new additions to my Brickshelf account.

So, my next unofficial challenge is to remain as prolific as I can reasonably be.

If you check it out, let me know what you think of my Brickshelf layout.

Nnenn Cookies Final

Here we have the entire month showcased, including the Torrent and the Boomer. Both of these Mocs pleased me. After I built them I was actually reluctant to end the challenge.

My over-all impressions of the month.

I'm proud of my efforts. It is difficult to impress people these days so it's important to make sure you're doing something like this for yourself and no one else. There are a lot of AFOLs who are only interested in MOCs that push boundaries and inspire them. To convince yourself that it doesn't matter what they think and that it is ok to produce a large quantity of less-than-spectacular MOCs is not an easy thing to do.

I went into this challenge knowing that most of the models would be less than impressive and that someone would say so.

The fact is that not everyone can be nnenn or Sandlin or Stafford...or any of the other great builders who only seem to produce awesome MOCs. Most of us are mediocre at best and will always be so. Some of us can get better, but unless you can build original designs as well as you can use current techniques, you will not ever be more than average.

It would be nice to be one of those awesome builders (it'd be nice to be a rock star or hollywood hunk also) but I'm satisfied with where I am at. The important thing to me is to be able to build the MOCs that I want to see. Sure, I like nnenn's work well enough, and Sandlin was my first inspiration, but they are only reminders that it is possible to build the stuff that I really want to see.

It's the same with anything else too. If you are unhappy with Hollywood, or the current sci-fi selection at the bookstore, maybe it's time to do some probing and see if you can produce the stuff you actually want to see or read (or hear, in the case of music, I make up my own music often when I'm sick of the same old tunes).

This challenge has taken me places in the Lego hobby I never thought I could get to. If this event has inspired you to do anything similiar, I would love to hear about it (and cheer you on!).

Nnenn Cookies, Week Four

I'm not so happy with Week Four. It's the most colorful week, but the builds are more heavily influenced by Nnenn's designs. I wasn't getting a start on the builds until late in the evening and was starting to race the clock, trying to get pics posted before the next day. Fortunately the builds and editing were only taking about 2-3 hours, but the clock still beat me by the end of the week. With so little time to think about the designs and tinker with them I had to go with as much simplicity as possible.

The Rampage is the most complex build of the week. Unfortunately, it's uniqueness is overshadowed by the poor color mix. The two colors actually look nice together, I just did a crap job mixing them on this model.

The Zort is my favorite of the week. Everything about it was fun, colors, name, and shape.

The Devil's Claw was a rehash of the Devil's Wing, but it just seemed perfect for the over-all concept. Someone pointed out that it seems a bit large for a cookie, but it's actually far smaller than it looks. The Talons that it carries are very minimalistic swarm fighters. The stand was the most difficult thing to put together and took the most time.

I thought this would be the end, but stopping at only 28 days just seemed too cheap, even for me.

Nnenn Cookies, Week Three

Two "duds" this week. Snapfire and Blitzwing just don't quite measure up to the jump in quality and uniqueness that the other five models take on.

I also was also gifted with an impromptu theme in the form of the Devil's Raiders. I haven't shared the name anywhere else yet but I hope to eventually flesh out the theme with ground vehicles and maybe some micro scale capital ships. I'm not a huge fan of micro scale, but I've seen awesome examples that I'm willing to give it another shot. I did some years ago and it would be nice to see if I can do it right.

The Starfire is one of my favorites for the entire month. It has a very simple shape and minimal details. It is very easy on the eyes. It has a slightly modified version of Nnenn's standard cockpit, but oddly enough, the Hammer (from Week Two) was actually more heavily modified (though it looks like all the others) to make it fit on top of the body of the ship.

The Hypershot is my only true assymetrical fighter for the month. It was also awarded with the most hits on Brickshelf, almost double of any of the other cookies. The lime engine "glow" was stolen from Dan Jassim's Starhawk.

The Invader received a shockingly lack-luster welcome on Brickshelf but was a huge hit on Flickr. It was the first of my models to be favorited. I also began to take on as many contacts as possible (I finally realized most Flickr builders had hundreds of contacts to my meager dozen or so, sometimes humility just doesn't get you anywhere) so I'm sure that helped. The Invader was supposed to be very losely based on Nnenn's Danielle but my designs kept falling apart (literally, they just wouldn't hold together) so I finally gave up and went with more of his design. I felt a little ashamed of myself, but you can't win them all.

The Devil's Fork...mmmm...did I say that the Starfire was my favorite? I'm not so sure...the smooth balance of the Fork shocked me. I swooshed it around a few times and had to ask myself if I really built it...YES I DID!

Nnenn Cookies, Week Two

Week Two was fun!

One might argue that if I wasn't having "fun" during the first week, why would force myself to continue? Because I did have fun that first week. However, there was also a certain amount of stress in the form of such things as a lack of confidence, fear of failure, fear of ridicule...etc. But in Week Two, I immediately began building stuff that I liked. The only real dud this week is on Day Thirteen with the Torque Fighter.

A lot of people liked Day Eight (Swoop) but I think they were more interested in the colors than the build (although a couple people say nice things about the integration of the engines into the wings). For a while, Swoop had the highest number of hits on Brickshelf, not that it really matters but it's fun to gauge such things (especially when other builders get over night hits passing a thousand, every little tick of the numbers seems momentous).

The Hammer is fun to look at but something seems very off about it. I don't know what it is, but something just keeps making me stare at it every time I go through my images.

The Gravity Gyro seems to be where things really begin to get interesting.

The entire week is just great to look at over-all. By now the MOCs are only taking a few hours to build, shoot and edit.

Speaking of editing. This week I began to learn basic editing skills. I have problems with layers even now, but it was a great relief to finally learn how to take out the garbage in a background. I also make my own backgrounds for the first time (with mixed results). They are complete rip-offs of Nnenn's backgrounds, but you have to start somewhere...

Nnenn Cookies, Week One

I thought Day Two (Double Header) was clever but it wasn't until Day Four (Thumper) that I was actually pleased with a build for the first time in years. Not just glad to have it done, but genuinely happy with the build.

By now the design ideas were coming more quickly and the actual builds were taking less time also. Day Six (Harrower) and Day Seven (Buster) were my first color experiments for the challenge.

I put this image up on Classic-Space Forums (CSF) and received a luke-warm response. In fact, some of the posts seemed to suggest that this challenge was a complete waste of time. I had yet to really define the purpose or "rules" of the challenge, so it was difficult to articulate what I was doing. The over-all message I was getting was that only a (more) skilled builder should do something like this. I dissagreed.

So, Week One was behind me, only a bazillion more MOCs left to build (that's how it felt at the time)!

Nnenn Cookies, Day One

I won't be doing a post for each day of the challenge, but I think it's important to set a couple of them apart from the rest.

Day One was a challenge in it's own right.

What should I build?

Where do I begin?

What colors should I use?

In retrospect, at least a bare minimum of planning would have made the first few days easier on me, but then that would remove one of the aspects of the challenge. Spontaneous designs was one of the things I was going for. Sure, some outside inspiration was going to be a part of the process, but day to day design needed to be unplanned.

So, Day One came with some panic. The stress was compounded by the realization that I only had enough quantity/colors of the key Lego element in the frame for two MOCs. We builders generally only purchase the parts we use the most (or intend to) and I had never really needed that bracket before. I placed my first Bricklink order of the month on Day One (actually I had to spread the order across several stores, as usual).

I also realized very quickly that more orders were needed unless I intended to build only in old grays, black, red, white,blue, and yellow. My color selection had been tragically neglected over the past few years.

All this was going through my head the entire day as I desperately worked out a design that vaguely resembled a starfighter. Finally, I thought I had found some success until I realized I needed to build a stand for it. I had not built a stand for anything in years. Thankfully I had ordered some extra clear Star Wars "lasers" some time ago (likely for building stands with, but I can't prove it). This took almost two hours.

It was also fortunate that I had purchased some white foam boards recently (to take pics of my Hot Wheels collection) otherwise I would have to use a white sheet (I don't see anyone doing that anymore, so I'm really glad I had those boards).

My digital camera and tripod are aging gracefully but are still functional so at the end of the day I was all set.

Day One was a successful disappointment. I finished my first Nnenn Cookie, but I wasn't much impressed with it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Why Nnenn Cookies?

The above pic is from Nnenn's Flickr photostream. The following is the text in full describing his idea of public standard starfighter cockpit frame.

"The obvious attribute of trainhead builds are their extremely limited scope of subject matter: a box on wheels... over and over again. But they continually manage to capture our interest (usually with detail and SNOT) within this format. I love variation on a theme, especially with constraints.

I also found it interesting when Tim Gould mentioned on that trainheads regularly use each other's sub-assemblies in their models; generating a sort-of community consensus about what looks/works best... which seems at odds with the rest of us who often strive to be completely original, all the time.

But the idea of building on your predecessors (forgive the pun) has certain advantages that I don't think encroach upon creativity. And I'd like to give it a go within an imagined theme: starfighters (of course.)

Peter Morris, with his plethora of same-class ships, reoccuring core frame, and detailed instructions, has provided me a good starting point. Here, I've taken his cockpit box and inverted the trailing bracket pieces... producing studs-down underneath. The design is more compact and gives me more style options.

I'm going to build a bunch of boilerplate variations on this for a while and see where it goes... or if it improves. I'll consider anyone else's designs or iterations as well. Wish me luck. "

Nnenn is an enigma in the AFOL community. I don't know his real name (does anyone?), I've seen no pics of him (heck, he might not even be telling us any truth about himself at all, he might as well be a paraplegic transvestite for all we know (not that it should matter, but it sure would be interesting...)). He breaks all the rules and conventions that most AFOLs follow in their designs without blushing (go ahead and prove me wrong about the blushing). He dosen't care much about critiques, he's not even showing off his work for them. He's just doing it because he enjoys the build. If it ever stops being fun, he'll likely find something else to do (which might result in a change of names and the jump to a different forum/community, honestly, some people take their anonimity very seriously).

Anyway, his work caught my attention but it was his prolific output and positive energy that really grabbed me. Since most of my past influences pretty much went into retirement from the brick, I needed a new source of motivation. Someone who's skill could push me into new directions, not just the most recent flavor of the month technique or fad.

Then Nnenn decided to post one Vic Viper type of starfighter a day for one month. He succeeded. Beneath one of the daily pics, he posted these introspective words,

"I post my models simply to share... not necessarily for a critique either of them or, especially, me. Now, I don't mind feedback and welcome everyone's opinions: I read them all. However, please keep in mind the context before speaking: I am trying to imagine, construct, shoot, image, and post an original model everyday. And that within limiting visual parameters. Every. Day.

Try it yourself some time."

You would think after that even he would slow down, but he continued to be one of the most prolific builders even after the Novvember event.

Finally, he shared the above framework standard. Then for several weeks he only did starfighters utilizing that frame. He wasn't trying to push for new heights or open doors to mind-boggling designs, he was just taking it easy.

And there it was. The missing element to achieving some newfound motivation for myself. Just take it easy. A space MOC does not always have to include ubber detail and realistic functions such as opening canopies and descending landing gear. You don't have to work dozens of clever build techniques and ensure your MOC is of a new and refreshing form. Heck, you don't even have to like what you're building so long as you're having a good time doing it. Easily half of my Nnenn Cookies are utter crap in my own opinion, but I had a blast putting them all together.

So, that's how I came to the challenge.

P.S. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to research past Flickr posts/notes/photos?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lego Collectibles

People can make any Lego product collectible, but Lego has a few items that are intentionally geared toward collectors.

They first experimented with the collector's market with the Bionicle masks in the first line or two. Then they offered an exclusive train engine with a limited number of uniquely printed tiles (this might be more of a limited edition item, but collectors devoured the unique tile sets as fast as they could).

The next big collector's item was the gold chrome C3P0.

Now we have a black Mind Storms NTX and a black chrome Darth Vader.

In the case of the NTX, at least collectors can order the item for a limited time. However, the C3P0 and the Darth Vader are a different beast all together. These are not only very rare, but very difficult to get a hold of. I don't remember how the C3P0 was parcled out, but I remember the community did not like it. The black chrome Darth Vader is randomly packaged in a $40 dollar set. Multiple purchases, of course, increase your chances of "winning".

What is the point of these chrome Star Wars minifigs? If anything, the vast majority of Lego Star Wars collectors are only going to be mad at not having a fair shot at getting one. I'm all for limited editions and some hard-to-find collectibles but these items are insanely difficult to find. Just a few weeks ago I saw the C3P0 on Bricklink going for $300 at the low end. I've heard that the Darth Vader is already going for upwards of $75. Once the supplies are gone, that price will only go up.

Collectors are more than willing to pay reasonable amount of money for limited editions such as these. If Lego would produce more of them and offer them for $25-$30 on thier own website, I'm confident that they would make a profit. And, since they are willing to randomly put into production rare chrome colors, we could see an entire line of chrome minifigs. How about silver R2D2? White chrome storm troopers? Red chrome guards? Maybe some more ships with chrome highlights. And since were on the topic of collectibles, how about some trans blue ghost figures?

Maybe Lego can't sell the individual minifigures at all because of the Hasbro agreement with Lucas Arts, no problem! Just add a few bricks to each figure for a diorama pack. Lego is already doing that anyway to get around the agreement.

It just doesn't make any sense to go from the extremely common shelf items to the extremely rare chrome minifigs with nothing in between. The common collector is left to either drown in product or starve for it. Give them a fighting chance for crying out loud!

Afterall, since Lego has to make a new mold for any current part they intend to chrome over because of the added thickness that the chrome adds to the part, they might as well make a profit from the effort. Otherwise, it is just wasted time and resources squandered.

Space Police 3 (Part Three)

It's been a few weeks since the new Lego Space Police line was leaked, then announced at the Canadian Toy Fare. My emotions have since gone from a wait-and-see patience to a generic "Wow!" to my current "Meh." attitude.

I thought at first that I would surely purchase all of the new Space Police sets but I have since thought it through and decided that I will not. I may not purchase a single one.

As I have stated previously, this will be the third year in a row that we have been given a main color of white. The police ships don't even have the courtesy of a secondary color, just some trans blue highlights. The pirates vehicles are black. I've lamented already that I currently have more black parts than any other color.

So, what then is my incentive to buy any of the new Space Police line?

The aliens are cool, but I will be able to get them all from Bricklink for around $20-$30 bucks plus shipping. The trans blue canopies will be must-haves, but again, Bricklink will be far cheaper for my needs.

It's funny, because this very discussion happened several years ago at Classic-Space Forums. The question was put forth weather or not we would actually get anything new from a new space line that we weren't already getting from the rest of the Lego themes. Of course, us space fans cried, "Yes, we would get something new and even if we didn't we would buy the cool sets anyway!"

Most of that appears to have been true. But now I see why the question was put forth. For the most part, the new Space Police line offers me very little.

The current trend of Lego to include conflict-in-a-box leaves the individual models lacking in detail and density. The upcoming ships are hardly imaginative or unique (although the pirate ships are certainly more so than the police ships). A third year of white with no secondary colors. For me, this line is dead out the door.

Maybe my mood will change again when I see the sets on the shelf, after all, the toy fair selections were still in various stages of prototype.

One can hope.

Lego vs. Secondary Markets

When most of us "older" builders began, Lego sets fresh off the shelf was are main supply of bricks. If a new set came out heavy with a particular color, we jumped on it and purchased multiple copies.

As our collections grew, we became more appreciative of Bricklink. Now, instead of having to spend hundreds of dollars for sets, heavy with parts we didn't need and light on parts we were after, we could just spend that money on parts that we wanted. This of course, placed our money on the secondary market instead of the Lego company.

Now, it is obvious that the fan community has grown leaps and bounds. That means more money for Lego right?

Well, maybe not.

Us older builders have taught the younger and newer ones that they can get a bargain from the secondary market. Need a jump start on your collection? Buy a 10 lbs lot off of Ebay. Need some wedges in a rare color? Don't spend your money on high dollar sets for two wedges at a time, just go to Bricklink and snatch up as many as you want for half the cost.

So, I wonder how much "new" money is going into the secondary market rather than the Lego company.

On the flip side, maybe Lego is still benefitting. Maybe the secondary market is seeing record sales so they in turn purchase a record amount of sets to keep their inventories full.

Just some interesting things to think about.

Caving In

I finally made a Bricklink order. I snatched up about 900 1x2 (45 degree) slopes of various colors, inverted and stud-on-top. The total came to a little over $50.

That's a HUGE order for me. My largest order in 2008 was $30 with all other two-digit prices only in the teens.

I went over my Bricklink history and discovered that there was almost a three-year gap between 2005 and 2008 where I placed absolutely NO orders. I did purchase a lot of sets off the shelf ( a lot for me anyway) including most of the ExoForce line and some other odds and ends. There was a number of Star Wars purchases in that time and Ferrari as well.

I have a sizable collection, but never seem to have what I need for a project. I don't really build large MOCs, but they aren't really that small either, I suppose.

Early on in my parts-gathering, I focused on plates and 2xn bricks. Big mistake. What I really needed was slopes. Lots of slopes and 1xn bricks.

To make things interesting, I was getting a nice selection of light grey and dark grey slopes when all of a sudden Lego decided to give us new shades of grey and discontinue the old. At the same time, I had to cut back on my Lego purchases so I never really grew a good selection of the new greys.

And, because I was conentrating on the greys back then, my other colors suffered.

Except for black. Somehow, though I wasn't trying at all, I ended up with more black than anything else, and I have no desire to build in black (or at least, minimum desire).

So, while I have a collection big enough to make many builders drool over, I simply don't have what I need to build what I want. I thought I did, but I've proven otherwise. And to make matters worse, recent build techniques recquire more bricks and slopes than ever.

Oh well, the parts are paid for, hopefully they will be enough to get me cracking. My WIPs are piling up, screeching for attention.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bricklink Temptations

The past few days I've been going through Bricklink with the intention of ordering some parts in colors that I am lacking.

The problem is that those colors are still somewhat new and so they are a little on the rare side. Also, because they are still somewhat new, lots of other builders are trying to build their rare color supplies as well. As a result, most American Bricklink stores are sorely lacking in these parts, creating a demand and causing an inflation of prices. Meanwhile, some foreign stores are swimming in these parts, which are more reasonably priced, IF you don't mind paying up to four times or more in shipping costs which, of course, would defeat the purpose of paying the cheaper price.

But I have ideas that I would very much like to build with those colors. But looking at various shopping carts that I have tabbed to compare my options, the costs are just too limiting. In some cases, only eight parts cost over $20.

To make matters worse, I'm not even sure what parts I will need or even want to use in my ideas. So I could easily find myself ordering parts that will never be used and be forced to place still more overly-expensive orders.

The proper thing to do is obvious. I MUST summon the patience to actually build the model(s) first as prototypes, THEN place orders for the actual parts in the colors I want.

In the meantime, I still have my other works-in-progress that I simply can't seem to find the motivation to complete. Maybe if I stopped watching T.V. for awhile I could do something more creative with that time.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lego Picks up Disney License

From Brother's Brick I stumbled onto this link below their Toy Fair pics.

My very first thought was, "How much of this will be Duplo?", specifically, I was concerned that Cars would be exclusive to Duplo as Thomas the Train was a few years ago.

Sure enough, reading through the article on the other side of the link, we find that Cars is exclusive to Duplo. While Toy Story have a mix of System and Duplo and Prince of Persia will be exclusive to System.

But as I think on it, I guess I'd rather not have dozens of the same car design with different Nascar and sponsor stickers. Still, I'd love to see some medium sized sets of Lightning, Mater, and some of the other characters. Would you buy a large helicopter primarily made of medium/light blue bricks? I think I would.

The sets from the three movies are slated for a 2010 release. So 2010 will be a huge year of licensed products for Lego. Unless, the current crop of licensed products is over. For instance, I've seen no new product pics for Speed Racer, Ferari, or Sponge Bob. So maybe Lego will only be producing an equal dose of licensed products from year to year. Which is good. Because a few years ago they clearly had too many licensed products with little to no return on the investment.

I might try to pick up a Buzz Lightyear mini fig from the System sets, but I'm not sure I'll bother with anything from the other Disney items.

One has to wonder if Lego might have actually wanted the Halo license. Maybe the profit margin was too small, maybe it was too violent or dark, maybe they were never offered. Oh well. At least we have Lego Space.

Toy Fair Stuff

Well, all of the high traffic Lego blogs and websites and photo hubs are sharing the Lego goodies from this year's New York Toy Fair.

It looks like the year will continue to be good for Lego. The early year release of the farm and construction city sets are already a hit. So is most of rest of the early year releases. But the summer releases look just as good, if not better. I even want to get my hands on the upcoming city sets although I am primarily a Lego Space fan.

I think the thing that struck me most is that I no longer look at the new Space Police line as a must have. In my earlier posts I lamented that the Space sets are mostly white again, for the third year running.

As much as I dislike lime, I am starting to believe that I would rather have a Space series with lime and trans purple rather than more white.

Oh well, I'll buy some anyways, the sets look good in spite of the white.

The city sets are really nice. Lots of trucks and even a detailed camper.

It is important to remember that when fans began to complain about the release of police and fire sets year after year that Lego responded. Unfortunately it takes up to three years or more to get an idea from design to shelf. So, here we are. We wanted more "life" sets, and now we're getting them. By this theory, next year's Lego Space line should be even better.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mega Bloks Wins Halo

The Brother's Brick was tipped off that Lego's number one competitor has won the license for Halo. Right away comments began rolling in about how it's no big deal and that no one is going to buy the sets.

I followed the link found in the comments and took a look at the sets and the first thought that came to me was, "Why couldn't these have been made by Lego?"

Which got me to thinking about the brand loyalty I've been adhering to all these years. Granted, Mega Bloks was initially just a cheap and poorly produced version of Lego. But over the years they have created an identity of their own. Their models are more realistic and detailed, the brick density in their sets is greater, and often their product looks much more fun than Lego. From my experiences with Mega Bloks, the only real quality difference seems to be that the bricks are softer. Some people have reported that the softness is an issue when constructing detailed MOCs. Also, while I am a huge fan of their highly detailed minifigs, I do not like that the gear is molded onto the figs rather than included as an accessory. This means that if you buy a pirate or Halo minifig from Mega Bloks, it will always be a pirate or Halo minifig. There is no swapping of gear or body parts to make original characters.

However, considering that many brick buyers are purchasing the license brands anyways, maybe this is not a big deal. Lego Star Wars collectors often do not take apart their sets once built, Princess Lea will always remain Princess Lea for them.

I understand the fear that some AFOLs might have that Halo, being a popular intellectual property, could take some sales from Lego. The fact that Mega Bloks even exists suggests that they actually do take some sales from Lego. How much more could they take? What if Mega Bloks had won the Star Wars license?

Halo collectors will buy the Mega Bloks Halo line. Lego builders who do not mind mixing brands will also buy Mega Bloks Halo line. Parents on a budget will buy Mega Bloks Halo for their children. Children who do not yet experience brand loyalty to toys will buy Mega Bloks Halo.

Mega Bloks does stand to make a good showing with this line. They could even force Lego to reconsider their weakening stance on violence even further.

With Lego's current quality issues, yet improving financial state, AFOLs have shown that we will buy product of a lessar quality.

The worse that could happen is that Mega Bloks will continue to gain ground and Lego will continue to drop restrictions and shed quality. Will it be enough to discourage AFOLs from continuing their hobby? I don't think so. The brand loyalty is simply too strong. Even Patrick Swayze still has fans.

My hope is that Mega Bloks will continue to improve their quality and Lego will continue to strive for the best but also cut costs. In the end, I believe the two companies will emerge on equal ground (for the most part) and people who enjoy building with plastic bricks will have more options and more parts to use.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Lego's Decade of Financial Upheaval

In 1999, Lego reported its first financial loss (experienced the previous year). I was unable to find an official financial report, but I was able to find an old news article here and here. Oddly, Lego financial report for 2002 and previous seem to be missing. I assume they are simply called something else, maybe some one else can find them. The 2005 report came up in my search but the PDF would not load.





2008 Prelim

The above links show that Lego's financial crisis that began in 1998 did not begin to really improve until 2004. From that point forward the Annual Statements begin with "It was a good year...".

From day one of Lego's financial crisis they began a policy of reconstruction for the entire company. They knew the problems: straying from the Brick, too many negative profit licenses, too much property in the form of factories, warehousing, and under-performing parks, and too many redundant people. To complicate matters even more, the cost of materials and even quality of the product was proving to be an issue.

In the years to come, Lego sold factories, sold parks, dropped licenses, slashed the work force, slashed the management, and sold warehousing.

In order to operate with less warehousing, Lego had to change how they thought about their business. Their policy became one of profit goals rather than expansion of the product into new markets. Even the basic brick line was cut so that they could use less warehousing. But the biggest change would be how they handled quality.

Colors were a huge drain on profit. The old system required far too much warehouse space. So Lego cut the color palette down to a more manageable size. They also outsourced the color production to cut costs further. Outsourcing has proven to be a blessing as well as a curse. A wider profit margin at the cost of some quality control. It was not long before bricks were found to have several shades of one color in the same package. New and more cost effective production methods added to the problem by increasing the number of "bad" parts and in some cases making them more brittle and newer bricks also appeared to have a transparency that older bricks did not have. These quality issues, among other, were not welcomed by the adult fans of Lego.

In spite of growing quality issues and fan frothing, Lego began to emerge from its dire state in 2004. Since then the company has seen a mostly steady increase in profit right up to the end of 2008. By decreasing their assets and concentrating on profit rather than expansion, Lego has managed to see improved numbers even through the current global economy crisis.

I have read recent discussions where AFOLs claim that Lego has recently seen financial difficulties over the past few years. However, the above Annual Statements simply do not support this. Lego is still restructuring the way it does business and the numbers may not be quite where they would like them to be, but their current stability is far better than it was ten years ago. I suspect information is simply being scrambled between parties. When Lugnet was blosoming, it provided a central information cache. Recent members of the community were simply not there to see things unfold and many older AFOLs may have simply forgotten some of the details so they often do not correct the bad information that is floating around. Or maybe they just don't care.

In fact, it is quite possible that there is a repository online with all of Lego's financial history, but in my research I did not come across one, which helps to illustrate the problem. The information is there somewhere, but it is not easy to find.

So, the Lego company has had a rocky decade, but they are much improved. Their recent releases suggest that the company is feeling good about its position and are now more focused on what makes Lego a profitable and enduring entity.

Good job, Lego, and may the following decades be even better.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Go MINIMAN Go Needs to Come Again

Now that The Brother's Brick has announced the winners for this contest, I couldn't help but wonder at how awesome many of the entries were.

I have seen a number of nice dioramas over the years, but the Go Miniman Go contest seems to have struck a cord within the community. Unlike many contests, this one inspired builders to produce some of the most diversely characteristic MOCs I have ever seen. By asking builders to design themes around the minifig, rather than trying to drop a minifig into a scene, a wave of unparalled creativity and skill carried the community.

I understand that this was a 30th anniversay celebration of the Lego minifig, but that doesn't mean similiar broad contests can not be initiated in the future.

Here's hoping that the Brother's Brick folks weren't too burned out by this excercize and can do something like it again soon.

Lamenting the X-Pod

I was really stoked when the X-Pods first appeared. We suddenly had odd, but useful, packaging. The large discs were a godsend and proved to be very useful over the years. When the second round was released with different colored discs and even different trans colors for the pod itself, the AFOL community collectively drooled.

As far as I can tell, these things were flying off of the shelves.

So what happened? Why did Lego change the X-Pod packaging to match the mini Racer one?

There are still a number of colors that the X-Pod series could have used, the dark colors, some of the sand colors, the metallic colors, earth tones, grays, and the discs themselves could have even been given the trans treatment.

This is just one more example of something that Lego either almost had right, or failed to continue doing right.

I'm glad we got what we did from that version of the creator line, but I sure would like to see those X-Pods make a return.

Mid-Stride Changes

I'm sure I'm not the only one.

So, there I was actually building a project I've had ongoing for a couple of months and it suddenly dawned on me that it would look better with a different color scheme.

Unfortunately one of the colors is in short supply in my collection. So, off to bricklink! I was fortunate, I was able to find almost all of the parts I needed to reproduce the MOC with the new color. Although the color itself is not new anymore, it is still a recent addition to the Lego pallet. Fortunately, it isn't TOO recent and has had a few years to accumulate lots of parts.

Sometimes a MOC just sings its color preference to you in spite of whatever design you had intended for it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Space Police 3 (part two)

A Canadian toy fair has showed off some of the new Lego Space Police line, as seen at The Brother's Brick. At the end of the post there are links to more images.

All I can really say is, so far so good.

There is a note in the post that some of the sets and minifigs are still in prototype, so some of the sets pictured are subject to change between now and the actual release.

I am not going to fawn all over these sets. Yes, I like them. I am very pleased with the direction that Lego went with this line. The villains are mostly unique (there is an image of a box that highlights two of the same character, could be a prototype place-holder, or the character could be a clone, twin, or duplicate droids...etc.) although the heroes are kind of hidden and difficult to make out. Someone will do a review and drool all over the jail cell system and all of the other stand-outs in the line.

There is a problem though. It won't hurt sales or popularity. It's just something I've pointed out before in online discussions. The problem with Lego's current "conflict-in-a-box" philosophy is that models that could be really outstanding are just so-so because of all of the features that each set must implement.

For instance, there is the Space Police Container Heist. From the pics, I would assume that the pirates stole a container from some commercial long-haul vessel, then the Space Police were called in to retrieve it. The missed opportunity is that of a highly detailed space truck model with some pirates trying to "board" it. Instead we have a pirate vehicle with a container on the back that opens up to display a HUGE cannon. Those pirates certainly do work fast with their stolen goods, eh?

Conflict sells in America, there is no doubt of that. But really, Lego has gone from a policy of NO violence, to ALL violence at the cost of some potentially awesome models. Could we perhaps find a happy medium?

Don't get me wrong, I'm buying as much of this line as I can afford, or stomach. I just wish Lego would stop passing on more awesome possibilities.

Lego as a Collectible?

Nannan did a write-up for The Brother's Brick about how to break even on your Lego purchases by selling minifigs. He pointed out that this can only work if you sell the Lego Star Wars minifigs, because the other Lego minifigs are not really worth anything.

Lego dabbled with the collectibility of their product when they launched the Bionicle line. The first year was all about the Bionicle masks. Young collectors went insane over them. Lego answered the fantiscism by making sure collectors had to jump through some very imposing hoops to get them all. There were even masks molded in metal and masks that came with shoes. At the time the Pokemon meme "Gotta catch 'em all" was alive and well.

Lego slowly decreased the collectible nature of the Bionicle line until all that is left now are generic sets that fit within a theme. Sure, you can still "collect" them, but there is really no challenge in it.

Since then, the most collectible element Lego has introduced into their brand would have to be the gold chrome C3PO. There were other short-lived excercises, such as a train engine in which a specific number of online buyers would receive a unique numbered tile. Otherwise, Lego collectors have to settle for limited edition sets. Somewhat more challenging if you happen to live in the wrong region.

But, what if Lego were to embrace the collector's market?

A part of me has always wanted to see Lego do so. Another part of me remembers my experiences as a Hotwheels collector and shudders at the thought.

Collectors can be ruthless. Some collectors absolutely MUST have as many of an item as they can afford (it's strange, but some Hotwheels collectors have dozens of the same car and graphic with no intention of selling). Other collectors are desperate to complete their collection at all costs. Then there are those who stand to make a financial profit from the collector's market. In the case of Hotwheels collectibles, some of the collectors who meet in the toy aisle actually get into fist fights over the toys. I've never seen it happen, but I remember from time to time other collectors breathing down my neck as they scoured the shelves from behind me, possibly hoping to spot a hot item before I did. It never happend, but what if it had? Would they have pushed me aside? What I grabbed it first? Some collectors are not above yanking items out of other people's carts or hands and literally running to the check-out lane.

Yet, I did manage to build a Hotwheels collection that I am proud of. I have some rare items that could sell for a pretty penny if I was so inclined. Of course, what I consider a pretty penny might not fit your own idea.

One thing that collectors do for a toy product is to keep the product moving off of the shelves. I've recently read about a black chrome Darth Vader that could be randomly inserted into a Lego set. Be prepared to pay high dollar for that set on the secondary market as the collectors and scalpers clear the shelves as quickly as their money will allow.

My idea of a Lego collectible would be rare minifigs, rare minifig accessories, or rare color molds packaged randomly in a side line. Say, for instance, a pack of minifigs that might only be sold for six months (or less) in which the space fig has a special trans-color visor, the town person has a uninque hair mold, the construction worker has a unique tool...

Maybe there could be a points system where you collect UPC codes (or "tokens" with computer generated numbers) and mail them in or log their numbers online for limited promotionals.

How about the action/adventure lines including limited characters. For instance, the Agents line might have a series of minifig packs with assorted villains and heroes but each one has a limited production run and the packs change out characters every 2-3 months. Or Lego could include additional characters in the sets for a limited time then remove the extras later in the production run.

People who just want to build do not need to be affected. The limited items would only appeal to collectors and the secondary market. Do it right, and there is only profit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nnenn's Divine Intervention

So, this is my first "review" of an AFOL MOC. Maybe it should be considered more of a commentary though.

This is Nnenn's first SHIP. The dimensions do not really matter, only that it qualifies, as he put it, for the "Real Man" club.

For a long time Nnenn's fans have urged him to build a SHIP. I have no idea why it took him so long except to think that maybe he just never wanted to build one. I am curious what it was that finally made him decide to do so. The most obvious answer would be "Well, I decided it was just time to do it." I suspect there was a little more to it though. I have the impression he is not the kind of builder to simply fold under pressure, but people have been on him for months to build a SHIP.

So, now that he has done so, everyone is dropping their jaws over the result. I must confess that at first glance I thought it was another typical "small" micro build of his. Even after reading his blurb I still have yet to experience the "Oh my God, look how BIG it is!" virus that the comments seem to be infected with.

The Divine Intervention is a very good build. I do not often comment on Nnenn's work because I know that he is going to see 10-30 positive comments from others. From time to time I have done so, but I feel as though I am only adding to a cluter of noise. But this SHIP, and his blurb are certainly worth some words.

From stem to stern, port to starbard, the entire centerline, are packed with just enough detail to keep all 100+ studs interesting. Nothing is over-bearing, nothing is too loud or too busy. The missle booms are obviously the main function of the Devine Intervention and the over-all build ensures that your eyes are drawn to them. Even the engine cluster has a uniquness to it that demands attention.

As great as this SHIP is, Nnenn is not very pleased. He states that he had a difficult time putting the interior frame together, and when he lifted the finished MOC something inside "broke" and began to roll around the interior. After spending two weeks or more on the Divine Intervention, Nnenn was very quick to disassemble the model. The over-all impression that I have from his blurb is that he simply did not have the usual fun he has come to expect from building with Lego.

Maybe that is why he waited so long to do a SHIP. Maybe he suspected it would be more work than fun. Nnenn has stated more than once that he builds for the fun of it. It is unlikely that he will build another SHIP.

What a shame.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Lego Star Wars Money Sink

I was scanning Ebay today and came across some interesting trends. They are not new trends by any means, I've seen it before, but never really thought about it. Lego has always been costly on Ebay and the smaller the lot the larger the shipping rate.

Example: A pink bucket of Lego that I was thinking about getting for my daughter. We decided to wait until after Christmas, but not the shelves are empty. So I dug around. At my local retail the box goes for $15 and some change. The first one I came across on Ebay...$22 plus shipping. Then I saw one for $13, but I know Ebay. I immediately looked at the shipping...$9.97. I did not bother to look at the details for either auction, the sellars could have been selling empty tubs for all I care. I look at the descriptions AFTER I find what I think could be a good deal.

The above example is normal for any Lego item. High price with medium/small shipping, or low price with high shipping. I saw a lot of TEN pink bricks going for $ thanks.

Now, take the above normal pricing activity and use that as your base for Lego Star Wars. Need a brown Ewok minifig? I saw one with a spear, he only cost $15 plus shipping. You can get the actual set he comes in, with more Ewoks, on Bricklink for $30.

How about some light sabers to arm your custom Lego Star Wars Jedi? I saw several lots with 10-12 light sabers each ranging from $15-$25 plus shipping. Even the $5-$10 sets come with a complete minifig and sometimes two or more light sabers.

In spite of the obivous money sink that Lego auctions on Ebay have proven to be, it does not stop these outrageously priced lots to attract several bids before the end of the auction. I also noticed that buy-it-now auctions do not last long either. With Lego Star Wars the bidding wars can become laughable.

I should consider selling a bin or two of parts that I don't use. Within a week or two I should be able to afford the Lego Star Wars UCS Millenium Falcon...

Magna Guard Starfighter Repackaged


If you were holding out on the Lego Star Wars Magna Guard Starfighter, you have just missed the boat. Unless you were able to stumble upon a location that put it up for clearance or one of those mythical Buy-One-Get-One deals (I don't get to see those deals around here).

No, it has not been pulled from production.

Instead, Lego came up with the clever idea of keeping the Magna Guard Starfighter around a little longer but in the new Star Wars Clone Wars package with the white border. However, they also decided that the packaging swap was worthy of a price hike.

I've seen some complaints about the Clone Wars sets being over priced. People seem confused. Chances are, that on top of the normal cut that Lucas takes from the Lego Star Wars line, the network that is hosting the animated Clone Wars series is also taking a small cut of the profits. If you recall, George Lucas was having difficulties finding a network that would take his animated Clone Wars series. Somehow he cut a deal with someone. A stake in the merchandising seems to have been the deal maker.

This is based on absolutely no research of my own. It just makes sense to me. You are free to correct me.

Currently, if I'm quick about it, I can get the Lego Star Wars Magna Guard Starfighter for less than $40 (plus shipping) from Bricklink, or I can just drop a wad of cash for the new $50 Clone Wars package.

If all I wanted were the minifigs, I could easily get them for approx. $10 apeice...for that price, might as well build the set for a few dollars more.

Short Memories (Part One)

It is easy to forget that approx. every 4-5 years the entire face of Lego's target market changes. The child who received his first Lego set at 6-7 years old is now five years older.

In my case, I became "serious" about Lego almost a decade ago. Those ten years have warped past me far too quickly.

I did not even have a family when I started. Now I have four kids, with one on the way, and a wife. I went from being able to afford virtually nothing, to having enough income to invest in digital camera and entire lines of Lego, to virtually nothing again.

The past ten years feels like nothing more than a snapshot, but it is packed with so many details.

Every time a Lego fan mentions Juniorization in relation to a current or upcoming set, I can't help but chuckle. If they had been around (or could remember) just before the first Lego Star Wars line was released, they would have far less to complain about now. Lego was on the brink absolute disaster when they took on the Star Wars license. They had seen red numbers in their books for three or more years. Juniorization was speculated to be part of the sales problem. Lego had decided to make the entire System line easier on little Johnny and Jane. Apparently, children had somehow lost the ability to read instruction manuals and could no longer manipulate multitudes of small blocks. So, Lego "fixed" this issue by making the blocks larger. They even introduced a new, larger minifig to fit into the larger philosophy. It just so happend, that as the new Lego philosophy was hitting the toy aisle, the Lego profit took a dip.

Now, if you can recall that Lego designs require up to three years to make it to the shelves, you might be able to see another part of the problem. Lego had made a mistake, but it would take at least three years to fix it.

Lego had invested a lot of money into researching how to make their Lego line more kid friendly. They had decided that there was an age bracket missing between Duplo and System. Enter: Town Jr., which escalated to 4 Junior, which became Jack Stone. The mission: fewer bricks, larger parts, easier builds.

Somewhere along the way, Lego realized that the System sets were their bread and butter (at least until they released Bionicle) and went back to more complex builds as quickly as they could. The turning point for Lego was the Designer line. It was a hit and quickly morphed into the Creator line which continues to please.

You really had to have been there to appreciate what we have today. If not for Lego Star Wars and Bionicle, the Lego company might have had to lock their doors ten years ago. They can still make mistakes though. Somehow that atrocious Mars alien (often called "jellies") should never have been produced. But, at least the sets were mostly nice. Can you imagine a Jack Stone Mars Mission?

Something About Leaks

I love Lego leaks. I can't get enough of them. I love trying out creative search criteria to see if I can find something that my normal sources of information has either missed or chose not to share. I enjoy the challenge of deciding if the pics are of final product or just place holders, moc-ups, or prototypes, or even a hoax.

I also enjoy reading through the discussions when the leaks are posted on popular blogs or forums. Generally it is just the same conversation I've read every year for about a decade, but it is interesting to see that almost every year the discussion is held by different people. Some of us can grow tired of such discussion within a year or two and it is easy to forget that every year new people discover the process of leaks for the first time.

The Brother's Brick has announced that they will not share unofficial Lego leaks. Good for them. I think it is a rather silly thing to do on one hand, but on the other hand, one of their members is a Lego Ambassador. I am not trying to pull out a conspiracy or anything, but I don't see how politics would not play a part in the decision. Certainly The Brother's Brick is not a showcase forum for Lego leaks and they have every right to decide that they just don't want to bother with the discussions anymore. I applaud their efforts to make an attempt to maintain focus for their blog. It is far more than I will do here.

Lego leaks are a funny thing though. The discussion of them can bring out the best and worst of the adult Lego community. Over at Eurobricks, a discussion is ongoing that covers the recent images of the new Lego Space line. These images are purportedly of a banner that was mistakenly hung in a fan's local Lego outlet. The discussion has progressed to cover juniorization, recent Lego trends toward violence, similarities to other recent Lego lines, the cookie-cutter story that Lego regurgitates from one line to another (someone or something has something that someone or something wants)...

One of the more interesting topics within the discussion was that of a past line called Dino Attack. I remember when this line was released. It was released in conjunction with another line called Lego Vikings. Vikings was released "exclusively" to Europe while Dino Attack was released to North America. It was an experiment by Lego to see if they could (or should) release entire lines exclusively to regions. America likes violence while Europe, not so much. Both lines proved to have enough interest in both regions that Lego changed thier mind and made them available world wide. However, what I did not know until I read through the Lego Space leaks discussion was that when Dino Attack was released to Europe, the Lego company changed the name to Dino 2010 (or something) and left off the "Attack". They also removed the weapons and included different features.

So, yes, the discussion of Lego leaks can be repetitive, but sometimes intresting topics within the discussions can emerge. There are not very many open discussion forums available to adult Lego fans. It is not uncommon to see a simple, on-topic, discussion erupt into a mess of ideas and opinions that are sometimes completely off-topic. All it takes is the right catalyst. Sometimes all it takes is a Lego leak.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Solar Sails and Light Sabers

The Lego company often tells the adult fan community that its theme/System product is designed for children in the age range of 7-12 years (or so).

However, as every adult fan of Lego knows, the entire Lego Star Wars line is, at least partially, designed with adult collectors in mind. I understand that George Lucas is also somewhat responsible for the quality, as well as the price, of the Lego Star Wars line. Mr. Lucas takes at least some personal time on almost every licensed product based on his franchise, even if it only entails a cursory glance and a nod of the head.

However, when sets with price points up to $500 are available, who in their right mind would believe for an instant that the Lego Star Wars line is only designed with children in mind?

Yes, Lego is also keeping the adult collectors in mind. Why else would they invite adult collectors to the Lego HQ and go so far as to allow them to help design upcoming sets?

So, it boggles the mind when something like the new Count Dooku set comes along with less than 400pcs but with a price point of $60. Sure, it is a Toys R Us exclusive and that store likely had a say in the retail price, but seriously. The set does not even properly represent the ship from the movie. The main function of the ship is a giant, spidery array of solar sails, a feature that seems to be completely missing from the Lego model. There are a few "spines" that fold out, but they only make the ship appear to have a giant claw.

The only redeeming feature of this set is Count Dooku himself. He has only appeared previously in a $10 dollar set a few years ago. That set goes for around $30 or more these days because of the unique parts in the set: printed sand blue curved slopes, Count Dooku, and his curved chrome light saber hilt. The hilt can be found for $5 and up just by itself. This from what once was a $10 set.

So, here is a dillema then. Normally, if a rare part was featured in a new set, the part would drop in price due to the new influx of quantity. However, this rare light saber hilt comes in a set with a drastic price per part ratio. Also, the set is exclusive so there won't be quite as many produced as other sets and many people will not be able to find one on any toy shelf near them.

This light saber hilt will likely only go up in price, in spite of the new quantities produced.

So, who exactly was this set marketed to anyway? Not the kids at that price point. Not the collectors with its shoddy design and price per part ratio. Maybe the completists will give it a go. Completists are a different brand of collector. The MUST have every item that becomes available in their niche. Completists are willing to spend obscene amounts of money on their collection, no matter the quality or purpose of the product.

Lego has done better. They are still doing far better than they were a decade ago, but AFOLs should continue to keep a critical eye open to help prevent as many blunders as possible.

Remember, what we see today is approx. three years old from design concept to shipment. Who knows how many more blunders made it through the process?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Why Another Lego Blog?

I made this blog because it was suggested that I do so from a member of I already had a blog, but never thought to blog my individual interests. So, after a long debate with myself about whether or not I had enough to say to bother with a Lego blog, I went for it. Then it sat empty for few weeks.

I decided since I am already on a role today with this blog, to say a little about why I've bothered with it. There are, after all, hundreds of other Lego blogs out there. Some are very topical and have earned a dedicated following, and they deserve it.

This blog will be just another online journal for the most part.

I'll give my own reviews from time-to-time. I'll discuss what other people have done or said and try to remember to link back to the source material.

This blog is not an attempt to win friends or gain popularity. I could really care less about status. However, there currently no open Lego forum that allows for general discussion. The only one we had was Lugnet and while it is still operational, it has largely been black-listed by the community at large.

I will not pretend to know everything about what I might discuss but I can become passionate about a point. I am open to correction and debate.

I don't care if I'm right or wrong. But I will sometimes keep a discussion going until I am convinced that myself and some others are on the same page. I do not mind ending a conversation when people agree to disagree.

These are just some of the reasons I finally decided to do this. I hope someone enjoys it.

Power Miners

For Christmas, my boys received Wal-Mart gift cards from someone. This past week we finally got around to making a trip so they could spend their hard-earned cash. My younger son chose a small Power Miners set to along with his other loot.

When we got home the first thing he did was put the Lego set together. At seven years old this was his first solo Lego event. After every page of the instructions he proudly held up the model saying, "Hey, dad! Look at it now!"

The trans-blue rock monster was a hit. "The mouth opens so he can eat the crystal!" Much nom ensued.

The orange "jack hammer" thing on the front can smash through ANYTHING. And the trans-clear light on the side can become a devastating laser cannon at a moment's notice.

I have noticed that not a whole lot of attention has been given to the pre-fab dynamite, but maybe it's been lost somewhere already.

Oh, and the little guy has two faces. That is an important feature to my seven year-old and he makes it known whenever his younger sister has changed the face, then promptly makes things right.

As an AFOL I do not like the Lego Power Miner's line. I especially do not like the lime color. I think the rock monsters are cute and will be sure to get a few for my own collection just to have some. I can understand why Lego produced this line as it is. Kids like the action features and the bright colors. The rock monsters with their chomping heads is a special treat for them.

This line is going to sell very well all year long. I'll be buying some, but not for me.


I have a problem with distractions. I can't seem to stay focused on one thing for long. When I am actually building Lego models I quickly set one project aside and start another. I soon find myself with 2-3 models that need a nice rebuild or a serious touch-up and several skeletons of other projects.

Then another interest catches me. For instance, right now I'm giving World of Warcraft more attention than anything else.

My eyes are starting, once again, to stare at my collection. However, instead of considering what to build or finish, I'm considering yet another resort.


Space Police 3 (part one)

So, we finally have a glimpse of what Lego has in store for the Space community in 2009. My first impressions are as follows:

More black and white parts. This will make three years in a row that Lego has run with those colors. And this time it looks as though there will be no orange highlights. Hopefully there will be another highlight other than red or blue stickers.

Everyone is fawning over Squidman's "face". It is a nice part though. It has character but is not gaudy. The over-all fig is obviously just a place holder so the face could get some details added to it or a sticker before release

The coolest feature apparent in the blurry pics is the spacey hot-rod. I've been waiting for Lego to produce every-day-man future vehicles forever. Hopefully the entire line will go this route.

Lego Space 2009 is a nice departure from the Mars Mission line. It looks like it could very well be an improvement. I think we had too much Mars Mission but if this new Space Police line can keep up with these banner pics, then we could certainly use more than one release.