Stop, Collaborate & Listen (Blog or Die! Entry #1)

Accepted entry for the “Article” category.

Author: Primus (Cam)

Word Count: 1522

Stop, Collaborate & Listen

 

At this very moment you may be thinking to yourself things like “Wow, they really will let anyone write for the Manifesto,” “I have no clue who this guy is,” and “I’m probably not going to care for what he’s writing about.” And, constant reader, you may very well be right, as I’m going to talk about something near and dear to my heart: Bionicle™ Collaborative Builds. Yes, you read that right, BIONICLE™ Collaborative Builds.

Basically, this past year a bunch of prominent Bionicle™ builders (or, as prominent as you can get for a Bionicle™ builder) have been posting creations based on a common theme.  You may have heard about these builds (unlikely) or you may have seen these as they flooded your Flickr stream (more likely, but still unlikely). At the very least, you may have read the Brothers Brick article about one of the collaborations, which (given the fact that you’ve stumbled onto this article) I think is a safe bet. I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in a few of these collaborations; therefore, I am a leading authority on them. At least, more of an authority than most people. Either way, let’s move on to the interesting stuff.

As far as I can tell, the first of these collaborations (or collabs as the cool kids call them) revolved around reimagining the Lego™ Bionicle™ Vahki™ sets in the styles of different Bionicle™ builders. Since that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, I’ll clarify slightly. The Vahki™ were a line of Bionicle™ sets (basically evil robot police) and apparently all prominent Bionicle™ builders have a style (bit of an assumption). As I’m sure you all know, there were 6 Vahki™ sets released in 2004. Thus, 6 builders were contacted by an anonymous person, given the prompt for the collaboration and a date when to post the MOCs. And that’s it. Pretty clandestine. Seriously. I don’t actually know who reached out to us. I thought it was pretty weird at first, but also a pretty interesting proposal, so I decided to partake in the experience.

The builders contacted were Djokson, Red, Cezium, Lord Oblivion, Felix the Cat, and myself (Primus). Definitely an eclectic assortment of Bionicle builders (all of whom I’m certain you’ve heard of).

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Even with this rather open-ended theme, the builders all managed to build MOCs that, once put side-by-side in an easier to understand picture, were all somewhat recognizable as reinventions of the original sets. My personal favorite of this collaboration was Red’s Bordahk (the blue one). If it makes you feel better, I had to Google that name, and I actually build with Bionicle parts.

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I think that he did an excellent job of recreating the shape of the original set while also making a very dynamic and menacing-looking MOC. It exudes power and looks like it could take on a tank. I sure wouldn’t want to be caught in an alleyway with that staring me down! To top it off, his parts usage was outstanding and he really demonstrated a mastery of color. Truly an impressive MOC from an impressive builder. All-in-all, I would deem this collaboration a success, as 6 builders were contacted and 6 people built something, and usually when something like this happens at least 1 person can’t make it.

The next collaboration had a similar theme. This time, as far as I can tell, the builders were tasked with reimagining the Bionicle Rahkshi sets (spooky robot suits for evil slugs). More builders were contacted (by the same person, I’d bet) and, given that they all posted on the same day, I assume a deadline was set.  For this build, Djokson, Cezium, and Red were contacted again, as well as The Chosen One, Sparkytron, Rhymes Shelter, and Gamma-Raay. To my knowledge, this is everyone that posted. From the looks of it, the direction given was a little clearer than last time as they even had a common naming scheme, “The Sons of Makuta.”

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Again, I feel that the builders really knocked this one out, showcasing a wide range of styles and techniques in the builds. I also think that these were a bit more cohesive visually than the previous build, as these are all pretty recognizable as Rahkshi, even before I put them side-by-side. Of these builds, Gamma-Raay’s Panrahk was my favorite (the brown one).

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In this build, he managed to recreate the look of the Rahkshi from the official Bionicle Mask of Light movie (another thing I’m certain you’re familiar with). However, what really made this build the standout to me was the construction of the spine and System integration in the torso. Really excellent shaping in those areas. His posing and photography isn’t too shabby, either, and added an air of menace to the creation. This collaboration was enough of a “success” that The Brothers Brick blogged about (most of) it, which I guess means something. Don’t really know many metrics for success when it comes to collaborative builds.

Assuming that you’re still with me at this point, constant reader, I’ll move onto the next collaboration. This is another one that I participated in and the theme was to build robot saints.  Well, Orthodox robot saints, to be specific. A bit of a departure from the last two collaborations. This time around, the directions were a bit more detailed. The builders were instructed that the saints should be obviously robotic, that there should be a brick-built background that incorporates a nimbus, and finally that the saints should be wearing robes (as saints tend to do). The date, time to post, and naming scheme were also provided and the builders were left to their own devices. The builders chosen this time were Red, Sparkytron, Cezium, myself, and The Chosen One. Red must have really liked this theme, as he ended up building a second saint.

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I found this to be a very peculiar theme to build for, and a pretty challenging one at that, as I had only ever worked with Lego cloth elements once before. However, it looks like some of the other guys had used them before, as they really did a great job with them. Of the builds, my favorite one was from The Chosen One (the one on the far right).

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The subtle texture of the background, the shape of the head, and the inclusion of the “wiring” in the neck area were all great details that made this my favorite of the builds. I also liked how he was able to give the build more volume through the use of the second cape. I thought his execution was very clean and that it was a very well thought out concept. Really, this theme was a very thought out concept, if a bit odd.

To my knowledge, there’s only been one more collaboration this year, so we are nearing the end of this diatribe, constant reader, and I commend you for making it this far. Moving on, this most recent collaborative build, as far as I can tell, revolved around using older Bionicle/Technic parts to make up the bulk of the MOC. Given how they were posted, I would assume the directions were the same (whoever is organizing these is at least very consistent). There were fewer builders in this collab, though I assume that’s because higher education is a thing and there are a lot of final projects and exams occurring around this time. Unless I’ve missed someone, the builders contacted for this build were Djokson, The Secret Walrus, The Chosen One, Red, and Optimus Convoy (who has recently returned to the community from a dark age).

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I really liked the different directions the builders took with this theme. I especially liked how Djokson used the Technic blasters in the legs of his model and how Red used the Toa feet to create the neck for his lizard knight, but my favorite out of all of them had to be Optimus Convoy’s robot.

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For an old-school collaborative build, Optimus Convoy really hammered it home in my eyes. He built a robot that not only used old parts but also old techniques and styling. The teal/grey/trans-neon-green color scheme was very reflective of the time period, and the integration of Throwbot parts was a smart choice. This build might have been a little bit rougher around the edges, but I think that adds even more to its old school charm. Another interesting theme with some pretty intriguing results.

We have finally reached the end of this post, constant reader. I’m glad you’ve stuck with me this far and I hope you now know significantly more about the recent spate of BIONICLE™ Collaborative Builds than you did at the start of the article. Maybe you’ve even found a new builder or two to follow. Maybe you think you’ve wasted your time. Maybe you have questions like “Who is this anonymous person that organizes all of these builds” and “Why haven’t they asked me to partake” and “Why does Primus use so many questions?” But, perhaps most importantly, maybe you’ve really enjoyed reading about Bionicle MOCs for a change.

-Cam

18 thoughts on “Stop, Collaborate & Listen (Blog or Die! Entry #1)

  1. Mr. Primus,

    High five to you old boy!
    1. First out of the gate!
    2. Invoking Vanilla Ice! (Truly, you seem to possess of uncommon valor!)
    3. Excellent use of tragic humor: “I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in a few of these collaborations; therefore, I am a leading authority on them.”
    4. Skinny headed Lego saint-bots. That is something I had not seen before reading this excellent article.
    5. Excellent balance of photos and text.

    You obviously followed one of the first rules of writing: Write about something you know about. Your casual mastery of the topic is at once evident. But you also followed another solid rule: consider your audience. You are quite right to recognize the limited knowledge your audience has of the Bionical lexicon, and you offer periodic translations which I can only describe as “concise”. Look:

    “The Vahki™ were a line of Bionicle™ sets (basically evil robot police)”

    Ok, one time might be called a good decision…

    “the builders were tasked with reimagining the Bionicle Rahkshi sets (spooky robot suits for evil slugs).”

    But you do it twice… and that is just good writing style!

    You crazy mixed up Bionical guy! You put your best foot forward and in the process you make all the members of the Bionical cult look mo-bettah!

    One possible improvement I would offer… With a title like that? You totally need to include the link!

    Way to step up man! .

    Attack!

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    1. How could I forget the video?! Basically shot myself in the foot, there…

      Also I don’t think most of the members like it being called a cult, it’s more of an “ideological collective” 😉

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  2. “Thus, 6 builders were contacted by an anonymous person, given the prompt for the collaboration and a date when to post the MOCs. And that’s it. Pretty clandestine. Seriously. I don’t actually know who reached out to us. I thought it was pretty weird at first, but also a pretty interesting proposal, so I decided to partake in the experience.”

    So there is some anonymous Bionicle benefactor that is doling out collab challenges like “Mission Impossible” self-destruct messages? Or is it more like “Charlie” from Charlie’s Angels?

    I have an affinity for using Bionicle/Hero Factory parts for “fusion” designs, so it’s great to read this article from someone fully dedicated to the craft. We have a local “Bricks & Minifigs” store here, and I spend more time picking through the bulk-table of Bionicle parts than anything else (and as a consequence, I know of those “Throw-bots” that the tags speak of…).

    So some questions for you as a Bionicle bro”
    – Are there any Bionicle parts that YOU find useless?
    – What’s the biggest pain when building Bionicle? – Finding yet another cracked ball socket part?

    … And that “saints” project is the coolest!

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    1. My understanding is that it’s an anonymous guy a la Mission Impossible. As I understand it, he’s been reaching out to people on Discord, providing the collab “challenge” and then disappearing until the next missive. At least that’s what happened both times I was contacted. I haven’t been able to get a hold of him for comment at this time. I tried.

      As for the Bionicle related questions:
      – I wish we had a place near me like that! One of the nice things about Bionicle parts is that nobody wants them, so they’re pretty easy to get in bulk for cheap 🙂
      – I don’t think there are useless pieces, just pieces that haven’t found a proper use yet. I still get surprised how builders manage to integrate weirder and weirder parts into their MOCs. Definitely been a treat to come back from a long time away and see that NPU is still in full swing in some echelons of our small community.
      – The biggest pain that I find when building is balancing textures in builds. Given the “bio-mechanical” nature of the parts, and the many different sub-themes over the years, the textures on the parts are all over the place! This has been fixed a bit in the recent years, but some of the most fun can be had trying to work out how to get the textures to work in your favor.

      Cracked ball-joints used to be a real pain but the CCBS joints from Hero Factory forward are very robust.

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  3. I’ll admit I wasn’t aware of how many Bionicle collabs there have been. The evil robot police and the spooky robot suits for evil slugs must have blended together in my mind, and I wasn’t even aware that final one was a thing. Probably overlooked the designs for looking a bit dated from the thumbnail, but now that you’ve pointed out that they were (likely) made under specified limitations I’m intrigued.

    The saints project is one of my favorites from the last year or so. I wonder: were you guys told to make the head designs that general shape as well or was there back and forth among you to make things look more consistent? It looks more unified than the other collabs you talked about. Also those were more system-based than Bionicle. What makes a “Bionicle” build for you then? Is it some ratio of system to Bionicle/Constraction parts or is it more about the subject matter and aesthetic? I like your appraisal of your fellow Bionicle builders here, but I wanna hear more about your own builds, processes, and experiences – a little self criticism, evaluation, and reflection. And I think you could have framed the whole article around that mystery collab organizer; THAT’S how you keep readers hooked. I wanna hear your conspiracy theories on who it could be. You say he (or she) was anonymous, so was it just a random Flickr message from some throw-away account? You introduce an interesting narrative but I wanna see where else it goes.

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    1. As well as the description, a piece of concept art was provided (I’ll see if I can dig it up) so that probably is why there’s so much similarity in shape to the heads of the saints.

      You raise a good point about what makes something a Bionicle MOC. Some could say that it’s a set ratio of Bionicle/System, typically 70/30. Some might say it’s matching the original aesthetic of the sets, regardless of the medium. Hell, it could even just be that a MOC is a Bionicle MOC because it was made by a Bionicle builder. I’ve had builds that were pretty much 100% System & Technic still be considered Bionicle MOCs.

      To me, it’s more about the feeling of the MOC. Maybe it’s just because I am inundated in the system, but a lot of the time I know a Bionicle MOC is a Bionicle MOC based on how it makes me feel. Which really isn’t really a helpful definition. We recently held a contest where, instead of putting a part type limitation on the builders, one of the caveats was “If it looks like a Bionicle, it is a Bionicle.” Pretty vague, but it seemed to make enough since to the competitors.

      Also I know my saint (and I’d assume most of the others) had a CCBS/Bionicle/Technic skeleton, so that probably skews my perception of it.

      Thank you for the feedback, I’ll take it in to consideration for my next article 🙂

      Also also I didn’t wan’t to speculate on who I think the anon is as I don’t want someone to end up getting a lot of messages pestering them about participating in the next collab. I know people have already been speculating and bugging some of the guys who’ve partaken in the collabs, so I didn’t want to cause further hassle. However, I felt that I had to touch on it, else people would just assume it was the participants organizing it all.

      Oof that’s a lot of text, hope it made sense.

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      1. “Oof that’s a lot of text, hope it made sense.”

        Paging Dr, Rutherford, you have a call on the white courtesy phone. No, the white phone.

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      2. I’m inclined to agree about the Bionicle definition even though I don’t build Bionicle. There’s some gut feeling about a MOC that makes it feel Bionicle and I don’t think genres should be defined by what parts they use. I remember there being some silly drama over one of Mike Nieves’s MOCs because it wasn’t eligible for the best Bionicle award at a convention due to it using mostly System parts, so the mecha coordinator ended up awarding it best mecha (???) as a sort of “you should have won that other category” prize. Kind of ridiculous. It’s all freestyle now anyway, as there’s plenty of System builders like Vince Toulouse and our pal Ted who incorporate Bionicle parts into their System stuff. Likewise, I’ve noticed recently that the new Technic sets TLG has been pushing out incorporate quite a bit of System parts now, but they still feel like Technic.

        Fair point about not wanting to set the hounds on anyone. The fact that it was some faceless puppet master organizing all these collabs just struck me as the most interesting part of the article and you only mentioned it in passing. Hell, it’s a missed photo opportunity!

        The title actually led me to think this was gonna be another article imploring people to collaborate with each other, but I was pleasantly surprised by this interesting tidbit.

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  4. Hello, my name is matt and I like the Bionicle/Throw-bot/Slizer lines. Seriously dude, this is outstanding. Those saints are brilliant!

    I am intrigued more by the collab (yeah, I’m hip) process involved. I’ve been involved with some massive collabs where we bicker, argue, and finally hammer out all the fineries to come up with something greater than the sum, but these clandestine collaborations seem almost unholy as to the final vision. The language of Bionicle seems to pervade the topic at hand more so than System builds and I have to wonder if that is a direct result of the Bionicle universe and the catholic understanding shared with all of your kindred. I always had an understanding from day one with all the species of Bionicle, but there seems to be a connection beyond me that translates into wonderfully complex building that has an inherent history already built into them. The real baffling part is the strange hatred towards Bionicle. Yet we end up with these beautiful collabs that go beyond the original line. I think that’s what TLG intended with them and it’s delightful to see it continue.

    This is the tasty sort of article needed for blogging about Lego. Raising questions that are more of a conversation and knowing that you can answer them with authority is refreshing. My only complaint is that you have not partaken in the discussions here before and I know that your insight would lend well to a perspective we are unfamiliar with. Nice one, Cam!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words!

      I think the fact that the collab builds didn’t actually have to appear together in person helped remove a lot of the bickering (I assume most of which is planning and playful banter). And, at least for the ones that I participated in, the directions were pretty straightforward.

      The fact that our community is small also means that certain factions of it are close-knit (yes, our sub-community has sub-communities with their own sub-communities) and so certain terms are pretty easy to grok. “Build a Vahki in your own style” is a phrase that was easy for me to understand, and I assume the same is true for the other guys. I mean, we talk (Steve the Squid runs a discord server), so it’s not like I have to make much of a leap for that assumption. The Bionicle MOCing Community is an interesting and strange beast, but at least most of our lexicon is consistent.

      As for the hatred for Bionicle, I think that there are a lot of factors in play. Part of it comes from the fact that the parts are very distinct from System, so much so that a lot people, especially the more “casual” fans, view it as not Lego. Another part is that for a long time the Bionicle community is where all of the youngsters were, and we all know how annoying some kids can be online. I think that stigma has persisted. Probably the most important part, IMO, is that people are just plain jealous 😉

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      1. “Probably the most important part, IMO, is that people are just plain jealous 😉”

        Dude! You need to pipe into the Manifesto more often. XDDD

        It’s funny how Bionicle instantly was loved or hated. There was a fascinating keynote speaker at BW14 that was describing the evolution of Lego through the franchise period where they looked as if they were going to die. He explained that it certainly was the deal with the devil to create sets with Star Wars themes; however, it was actually Bionicle, much to the hisses and boos of the audience. that actually helped save Lego. The whole poseable action figure market is always an appetizing dessert for any young builder. And it’s certainly not given its due credit. The two languages don’t always jive and I think that any pure system builder calls a build that has even just one Bionicle piece in it as a Bionicle build, whereas the Bionicle community would call it some asshat builder found a cool Rahkshi piece and decided to install it on his spaceship as a greeble and nothing more. I’ve used Bionicle parts and find it wonderfully frustrating to make the two cultures speak together in one build. You’re playing with fire trying to make system and Bionicle work together. Let alone Galidor.

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    2. ” and I have to wonder if that is a direct result of the Bionicle universe and the catholic understanding shared with all of your kindred.”

      Your a nut jobber!

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  5. Thank you for posting about this; I’m a weirdo who doesn’t really build much with Bionicle but still cares about it, so I noticed the collaborative effect but figured it was traditionally organized outside the circles I tend to mingle in. After a few more waves of connected builds, it felt like something was up. I’d actually been considering sending a message to one of the posters asking about it. I’m not sure if you’d care to reveal the identity of the mastermind behind these great team-ups (providing I’m reading between the lines correctly and you do know who it is opposed to it legitimately being a mystery person) but I’d definitely love to be able to express my appreciation to them for organizing such cool collabs in such a creative way.

    Articles like these remind me why I love the FOL community: it’s big and varied enough for all sort of interesting subgroups to be getting up to their own hijinks, but small enough that it can all be documented in detail. Thanks for alleviating my curiosity Cameron!

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    1. I wish I knew who it was, but I legitimately don’t. They did a great job of only showing up to talk about the collab and then not being available after that.
      In my opinion, it was a pretty ballsy move on their part to just reach out to people and expect them to latch on to the ideas, but it seems to have worked out. It’s not everyday that someone randomly contacts you, says “you should build this and post it at this time etc” and that works out. I think the success of the first collab helped pave the way for the subsequent ones.

      However, if they reach out to me again, I’ll make sure to pass along the praise 🙂

      Like

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