“Space Jam!”

The following paid programming is brought to you by by familiar blog contributor and bon vivant Ted Andes.  Take it away Ted!

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For those still trying to fill the void that the indecisive action of MOC Pages admins left behind, there is an awesome sci-fi contest going on over on Flickr that has a little something for everyone.  Micah came up with this great idea for holding a “Sci Fi Olympics” (inspired by that “summer joust” the castle guys do).  Dubbed the “Space Jam!”  it’s a broad ranging Lego Sci-Fi building contest with 6 categories, running from December 1st through January 31st.

Category Descriptions:

Star Fighter – Build a star fighter that has at least one play feature of function. The play feature does not have to be anything super fancy (it could be as simple as retractable landing gear), but creativity with the play feature will be taken into account in judging.

Drone – Build a drone that can fit within a 10 stud by 10 stud base, and is no taller than 10 bricks high..

Microscale Sci-Fi City – Build a microscale futuristic city. The only restriction on this category is that the scale of the build must be recognizably smaller than minifigure scale.

Extraterrestrial – Build a biological creature from another world. This can be from your imagination, or from a movie, tv show, video game, etc.

Space Lab – Build the interior of a futuristic research laboratory that is conducting experiments, either in outer space or on an alien planet.

Robot (Collab Category)  – When properly maintained, robots can be functional for hundreds or even thousands of years… In this category you and your team of 3 will build 3 models (one by each team member) telling the story of your robot over a span 1000 years. All 3 builds should be one story about the same robot. The robot’s role in society might change. The robot’s appearance might change somewhat. But ideally it should still be recognizable as the same robot between builds. All 3 builds will be judged together and one team will be selected as the winner.

The boys at Beyond the Brick are sponsoring some awesome LEGO set prizes, in addition to the custom trophies built by the judges.  Here is a pic of the trophy that I built for the Drone category…  Wouldn’t you rather see that sitting on your shelf, then some homely anorexic elf?

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Further details can be found on the “Space Jam!”  contest group on Flickr.   Get in on the “Space Jam!” and spread the sci-fi love!

“Woah-ho-ho… I don’t play defense.”

The Culling of the Flickrsphere or How SmugMug Changed a MOCer’s Refuge.

It must be a full moon because the Manifesto has new content from an old friend of the blog.  You may remember Werewolff Studios from his frequent offerings in the comment section here, or his memorable Blog or Die! essay from 2017.  Our fanged Australian correspondent has some thoughts on recent developments in our shared hobby, so without further ado, take it away Mr. Wolff!

Greetings all! Resident lycanthrope here, and I hope you’re all doing well. I won’t waste much time here, because I want to get into the meat of this post and I’ve spent too long procrastinating as per usual.

Procrastination-300x232So, for those living under a rather large pile of rocks, you’ve probably all heard of the recent shake-up over on Flickr, namely the culling of the one free terabyte of space originally offered to all free users. Following on from this, they proceeded to limit available photos on free accounts to 1000, which seems an awful lot larger than it actually is.

I’ve been wanting to write something about this for awhile, but held off for a number of reasons. One was too see how the community at large would respond, another was to wait until I could collect my thoughts fully.

Mostly though, I reckon I was waiting for someone much betterer at article writing than me to smash out a response. Ah well. I guess you’re stuck with my crock of half-baked nonsense.

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Now, first things first, I completely get the business side of this move. Storing the countless millions of photos that fill the Flickr-sphere can’t be cheap, and a push for pro accounts seems like a relatively logical step. Plus, it’s not like everyone’s being left out to dry. Pro accounts were 30% off during the month after the announcement and the actual removal of user’s data will only start to take effect on February 5 next year.

Wait…removal?

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Yep, now we come to the main part of this whole mess. Starting in February, free user’s with over a 1000 photos will have all their images deleted, from oldest to newest, until the number reaches 1000. Post any more, and away goes another photo, never to return.

Understandably, this has left quite a few users upset (including several here, I’m sure). I too have been left feeling rather dejected (despite my current photo level sitting at 108), and what’s left me feeling flatter than roadkill is the realisation that the safe haven for the Lego community that Flickr has become has started to crumble.

For me, it started with MOCpages, and through that website I began to find my little place in the online community. I met people, made friends and had discussions with others whose interests aligned with my own. For a pretty introverted kid, it was brilliant.

But over time, I began to notice the ‘Pages decline. Though I’d always said I’d stick with it until the end, I began to realise that more and more people were leaving the site. They were fleeing the sinking ship and hopping on board the HMS Flickrtastic. Eventually I bit the bullet and made a Flickr account, intent to have it as a back-up.

Then came Decisive Action 3, and everything changed.

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All of a sudden, the dying website of MOCpages had it’s life support kicked into gear. The activity bar started to crackle back to life, and every attack window brought a wealth of discussion and conversation that could go on for ages. And then there were the private groups, both on and off of the Pages, racking up the ideas and plans for global domination.

Heck, the private group for the Host of Immeasurable Destruction, Dooming Enemies Nationally (*wink wink*) racked up over 3547 comments, with over 29 conversation threads by the end, and it wasn’t even the main group! And it all happened over four months.

The proof was in the numbers. Builders were coming back, and there was fresh blood at every turn. MOCer’s who’d only heard of MOCpages in passing suddenly had accounts and were posting regularly. The main page actually had rotating posts, to the point where you had to plan exactly when was the optimal time to upload, to ensure that your nation got the most MILPO possible. It was intense and it was brilliant.

Note that word ‘was’.

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Yes, dear readers. I’m sure those that were playing, or even those spectating , remember those days of pure frustration. Despite giving the absolute best possible staging ground, the old site refused to meet the demands it’s occupants put forth. For some unexplained reason, the servers decided to change. Then the classic ‘Bonk Smash Thud’ message became as common as missed attack windows.

Carefully laid tactics and time-based attacks were abruptly ruined by downtimes, builds disappeared off the homepage after being there for mere minutes, trolls dragging them down into the abyss. Were we hacked? I’m pretty sure we were hacked at some point.

And then, near the end, our valiant Overlord Goldman contacted Mr. Sean Kenny directly, using the website that Sean was the most active on; Twitter. After receiving nothing back, our Overlord tried again, a little more forcefully, trying to get something, anything, out of the captain of the leaky site.

Welp, he certainly got something.

He got blocked.

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No response, no acknowledgement, no answers; just blocked. That was it. Keith and the DAS decided to end DA3 shortly after. It just wasn’t sustainable and nobody was enjoying the experience to the level that they should’ve been. Was it disappointing? Of course it was. I personally had a whole plan laid out to backstab my team, than backstab the backstabbers. I had builds in the pipeline, ready to go for the sudden MILPO boost I needed.

However, the real question was this; was it justified? Yes, it was. For me, this was the last straw. The Pages were crumbling too fast. The story-telling group I was a part of had dropped in it’s activity as well, and there just wasn’t any real reason to stay. I had to try going somewhere else, refocus my time on a website that mattered. So, with that I packed my bags and leapt onto the still floating life raft that Flickr had extended.

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Flickr was my refuge. Though I was (and still am) admittedly more involved with the art community there, I had friends to talk with again. I had activity, I had more followers, I had room to grow. That shift in thinking really helped me at the time, despite only being a few months ago.

And then SmugMug came along and decided to switch everything up.

That room to grow was suddenly stifled. I had had plans to migrate my 43 episodes strong Insurgency story over to Flickr, but now I couldn’t. Doing so would bump me up over the 1000 photo limit, and any future episodes would demolish past ones. If I truly wanted to migrate everything over, the Pro account was the only option. It was a strongarm grip to pay up or stay quiet.

True, it wasn’t as bad as the MP crash. I still had people to talk to, and there was, and is, little wrong with Flickr’s software when compared to the Pages. But still, I could feel the first gentle rocks against the ship, not dissimilar to those I’d felt before.

How long will SmugMug be satisfied with this push for Pro Users? Will they decide in a few months to drop the photo limit to 800, or 500, or 50? Will they ban photo-posting from free accounts? Will they stay quiet as the community cries out for changes? I’m not sure, and that’s a scary thing.

I think, in the end, it seems like an uncertain time for those in this Online Lego Community. There doesn’t seem to be an entirely reliable place to turn to, a website that meets the needs of this little internet niche. Instagram is an option, but for a more story-focused builder like myself, it’s not ideal. Our good friend LukeClarenceVan had started building a website that shows an awful lot of promise (seriously, go check out the MOCshare discussion page here), but he’s understandably busy, and it’ll be awhile before it’s fully up and running.

The MP refuge is starting to shift, the Flickrsphere is adapting. The future of this community sits on somewhat loose ground, without a space to set its foundation. Who rightly knows how it’ll all turn out?

Thanks for reading all.

Wolff.

Ted Talks – “Brickworld 2018: A Con Odyssey”

Hey Kentucky! Welcome back to the Manifesto and more importantly to our regular feature Ted Talks, where friend of the blog and bon vivant Ted Andes shares his wit and wisdom on a wide variety of topics.  Without further ado, take it away Ted!

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The monolith

Evolution

In the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”, a large black slab of extraterrestrial technology is discovered by our presumed hominid ancestors, causing a considerable shift in their evolution and marking the dawn of mankind.  Thousands of years later at Brickworld 2017, another significant discovery was made; a number of “White Brick” monoliths had been placed around the display hall, sometime during the dawn of Sunday morning.  Sure enough, they appeared yet again at Brickworld 2018.  Perhaps they are the harbinger of another shift in our evolution… an evolution in both the LEGO convention experience and in the community of builders at large.

The White Brick

“I think that white brick is really the heart of what we all want the community to be and represent, rather than the manufactured recognition that pretty much all awards have disappointingly come to be.” – Matt rowntRee

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The “White Brick” monoliths are the same size and shape as the red, brick-built trophies given to the winners of each Brickworld awards category.  As with the monoliths in “2001: A Space Odyssey” these “White Bricks” also contain many mysteries.  One of which is that these bricks are actually hollow boxes that contain a surprise MOC inside, many times personalized to the receiver.  So where did they come from? Why did they start showing up?

Since the “White Bricks” closely resemble Brickworld trophies, the easiest explanation for their appearance is to recognize noteworthy displays that had been passed over for a nomination.  If you haven’t attended Brickworld Chicago, the award nominations are doled out in predetermined categories; Best Vehicle, Best Spacecraft, Best Mech, Best Building, etc.  People certainly build MOC’s to purposefully fit them into these categories, while others consider the categories after the fact (and some even make them fit on a lark).

For those people who just want to “build something cool”, many times they don’t know what awards category their builds should go into, if any at all (…and I’m not sure why it is up to the builder to decide that for themselves).  As a result, many epic builds fall through the cracks when it comes to award nominations. They either don’t fit well into any category, get lost in the sheer number of displayers… or perhaps for other reasons?  Like “so-and-so never gets nominated, so let’s throw them a bone this year”, or “so-and-so always gets nominated, so let’s nominate a different builder instead.”  Rather than merit alone determine the nominations, politics and popularity creeps in (there was one such dubious nomination in “Best Spacecraft” this year).  You can play the game, but as you live by the sword, you die by the sword too.

The “White Brick” started appearing last year on such un-nominated builds. In 2017, Andrew Mollmann and Cecilie Fritzvold were two recipients of the “White Bricks”.  Andrew had built a most excellent “Grand Budapest” façade that year.  I’m not sure which of Cecilie’s builds that her white brick was placed in front of (perhaps for her “Goomba”?), but she did have a banner year in 2017.  She had received a Brickworld award nomination for best vignette, and was also part of yet another “Best Group Layout” win for the Eurobricks collective (they won this year too – 3 years in a row!).  She even defeated Chris Maddison in “Iron Builder” earlier that year, which was no small feat.

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Cecilie Fritzvold’s “Goomba” – so what’s in the box?

This year, however, the “White Bricks” weren’t only placed in front of un-nominated builds. Learning who else received them has led to an important discovery regarding their true meaning; The “White Bricks” recognizes those people who make the Brickworld experience special in some way, not only through creating displays but also through meaningful engagement within the community.

One such “White Brick” was given to Victor at Eclipse Graphx.  At first he had thought a customer accidentally left it behind.  When he opened the box, however, he discovered his Eclipse Grafx logo placed inside. Victor has always been a great supporter of the building community.  He definitely stepped up in a major way for us during the speederbike contest, by creating those custom printed tiles that we distributed to worthy participants. Victor receiving a “White Brick” was great recognition and well deserved, and I know receiving it meant a great deal to them.

Our friend Simon Liu received a “White Brick”, although technically it wasn’t actually white.  It had been built using trans-clear and trans-red bricks, and integrated into it was “The Heart of Brickworld”.  There is no doubt that this brick belongs on his shelf.  From my very first Brickworld, and probably from his first, he has set a positive paradigm for others to follow; inclusiveness, generosity, kindness, always build something new and fun, etc..  I was happy that I could extend some of that hospitality back to him prior to Brickworld this year.  Simon was so taken in by the charms of Louisville, KY during his 2017 “Pub Scouting” trip that he made a return trip.  We got the chance to hang out the weekend before Brickworld, along with Alec, Caleb, and Evan who joined him on this year’s “Brickworld or Bust 2018” tour.  I guided them to rockin’ local distilleries, hot-chicken joints, brick stores, escape rooms, and a meet up with John Klapheke too.  Good times.

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Simon Liu: The “Heart” of Brickworld

The rowntRee received one too, with his containing a dick with crabs inside… Wait, what!?! … I haven’t seen any pictures, but maybe I don’t want to. I guess that makes him the “STD of Brickworld”?  On the surface it definitely sounded insulting, but leave it to rowntRee to see the deeper symbolism in all things. He declared it the “Dick of Brickworld” brick and a badge of honor, showing that he doesn’t care about preconceived notions or anyone else’s perceptions. It is recognition that people in the community who “call it like they see it” are a necessity, however bluntly they put it, and he will own it and wear it with pride…  Honestly though, anyone who thinks rowntRee is a dick is way off base (or he’s merely reflecting back what you are projecting). I shared a room with rowntRee this year, upon Keith’s unwavering endorsement, and I concur that the main is worth his weight in gold.

Lords of Acid: Crablouse (lyrics are NSFW, but the beat is a rager… )

Lastly, I myself was honored to receive a “White Brick” placed in front of “The Shadowlands” collaboration.  We didn’t receive a Brickworld award nomination, but I wasn’t really expecting one… although I definitely hoped we would for our contributors’ sakes (I was happy to at least see Barbara Hoel get a nod for Brickworld Master Builder). I simply wanted to put on “one great show” this year, and the “White Brick” was a great recognition for all our efforts, creativity, and innovation…

However, the ever-insightful rowntRee saw that it was actually recognition for much more than that.  Inside the brick-box contained a cool little Portal MOC.  I hadn’t thought that deeply about why that was the MOC inside, but rowntRee saw it as a metaphor to how I opened up the way for so many others to join in on the fun.  It’s true that I could have done a solo layout, but what’s the fun in that?  It’s so much better to “open it up”, to be inclusive, and share in the experience.

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I do strive to recruit at least one new person to Brickworld each year.  In both of my first two Brickworlds I successfully inspired, or convinced, at least one new person to come to their first LEGO con; Christopher Hoffmann and I shared our first in 2016, then it was Jen Spencer last year.  This year I thought I could get Jake RF to cross that threshold, but it was not to be.  But the streak is technically still alive.  Saturday evening an old friend that I used to work with, Jina, happened to be in the area.  Seeing a Facebook I made for the collab, she decided to check it out.  Special thanks to Barbara for providing one of their family’s unused full-registrant badges so that Jina could stick around and walk the floors with me after public hours (and it turns out that she and Barbara are neighbors!).

Those thoughtful touches are what make the “White Bricks” all the more thoughtful and impressive.  You have to look beyond the surface and see the deeper meaning inside of them.  I admit that I was originally a cynic when they first showed up last year, and judged these books by their cover.  I was blind, but now I see … It also makes you wonder how many of them were premeditated (like Victor’s and Simon’s), and how many were created on the spot. For example, was rowntRee always destined to receive the “dick with crabs”, or was it pre-built and looking for a worthy recipient? Looking back at the MOC that Cecilie received in 2017, perhaps that random “ant” wasn’t so random either.  It could be recognizing her quiet unassuming demeanor, yet you can’t help but notice all of the things she ended up dutifully building, carrying a building load 100 times more than expected.  To date, I don’t think the interior MOC’s have ever been repeated… Questions abound…

 So far as I know, the mysterious distributor(s?) has yet to be identified or step forward. Noticing how personalized the “insides” of the bricks were this year to the receiver, is the distributor someone that all of the recipients know?  Is there a “White Brick Illuminati” watching over us?  Being that I’d prefer that the anonymous distributor(s) remain anonymous, these are questions best left unanswered.  The mystery is what makes it even more special (and because if they do get unmasked, the locusts of nomination seekers will certainly descend upon them).

I think non-official trophies like this are the way of the future. We all need to show better appreciation of each other’s creativity and contributions, rather than fall into the self-centered trap of an awards competition. These types of awards also reward creativity and innovation more than those boilerplate, predetermined nomination categories are capable of doing.  To the innovators should go the spoils!

“The Race at Shadowlands”:

 “Damn, this is cool. The concept has come a long way from the butcher paper 2 years ago.” – Christopher Hoffmann

Video by Dennis Price

Indeed the speeder-race concept has come a long way from the butcher paper deserts of the Tech West.  Although my 2016 speederbike rally collaboration was cool, especially having pulled it all together in only single month, I just had to revisit the speeder race concept and set it to motion.

For each of my Brickworld collabs, I try to recruit a new person to join in the fun. It is putting into practice Keith’s boiler plate interview question, “Name 3 builders whom you would like to meet and build with someday”.  It was really awesome to get Barbara Hoel involved this year, with her alien botany, and I am so glad she joined in.  I had learned that she always considered her plant sculptures as “space” creations, so it was serendipity. I also learned some of her techniques in how she lays out her landscaping, which I can now use to hone my aesthetic eye (clusters of odds and creating visual triangles, among other things).

A huge thanks also goes out to all of the other “Orphans & Outliers” who contributed to the project; Dan Church, Gil Glomshire (aka Dennis Deathdog1), and Michael Frost (Kingdomviewbricks) played major roles in bringing this display to life (and Micah Beideman who was on the ready to fill in any last-minute landscaping needs). A huge thanks also goes out to Rowntree, Adam Myers, Noel Peterson, Paul Wolfe, Noah McDonell, Matt De Lanoy, Sean Mayo, and Simon who all helped round out the display with a crowd of fun spectators. Everyone’s efforts and support really turned this display into a crowd favorite.

James Burrows also deserves a huge shout-out. He has a tremendous Jurassic Park themed rollercoaster layout also using the CDX system, and he helped us out EMMENSLY by giving us a ton of pointers in troubleshooting.  It really gave us the confidence that we would get the race track operational.  I learned a TON about getting this system working, and in return I showed how the system could be used in ways that had yet to be explored (or at least publicly).

It was great driving up and back to Brickworld with Dennis too.  Having a great traveling companion always makes the long drive go by so much faster.  Dennis really stepped it up on the Shadowlands collab, and was my right hand man during the entire set up (even during those times when I didn’t know which end of the coaster was up).  Thank you again, sir knight of Glomshire.

Meeting New Faces:

Overall it felt like I really didn’t get to socialize with everyone nearly as much as I had wanted to, due to how much time I spent working on getting the speeder-coaster going (and keeping it running during public hours). It was worth the effort, but I definitely had less time to appreciate everyone else’s creativity than at past Brickworlds.  I didn’t even get to attend any of the sessions.  “Sorry” to all of you that I didn’t get to meet up with or talk with more

That said, I did finally meet quite a few people that I had yet to meet in person.  Notably to readers of the Manifesto I got to meet up  Cameron, our resident “Barnacle” Builder Extraordinaire who delivered quite a few compelling Bionicle articles to us during “Blog or Die!”.  It’s a good thing he was wearing his Manifesto T-shirt during registration so that I could pick him out from the crowd.  His funky chicken even got a nomination for “Best Creature”.  Represent!

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“Do the funky chicken!”

One entirely new face for me was meeting David Slater.  Holy crap, did he build some awesome cars!  His lime green Dodge Charger (or was it a Challenger?) deservedly won for “Best Vehicle”.

I also finally got to meet Shane; I’ve been a big fan of his artwork for some time, and in turn he has been a consistent fan of my builds. He was there for the live demo of “1×5 Games” new strategy game “Clunkers”, and share some of his artwork for a new card game called “Nutpunch!”  If those sound like game names that “rowntRee & Flor” might come up with, you’re absolutely right.

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“Ain’t that a punch in the nuts…”

Improvement ideas and closing thoughts:

In closing, here are just some things that crossed my mind this year…

 “MEDIC!!!” So my lower back was a total disaster after being hunched over the display tables for almost 3 days strait trying to get that coaster working.  I could hardly get any sleep because of it.  I propose that every Con should have an area with those people that give reversed chair back-massages.  I promise that us builders that fall into that over-40 age bracket will pay up, and handsomely.

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Google Images

“MORE (or LESS) BOOZE, STAT!!!” I think a breathalyzer is a necessary addition to any evening of drunken builder activities.  I don’t know the full story, but our good friend Rowntree had to restrain an angry drunk (or at least a badly behaving drunk) that thought “drunk build hopping” was a good idea.  Blood alcohol level thresholds should be set for both “drunk enough” and “too drunk” to participate.  Trust me, passed out and/or puking is no way to spend the aftermath of a drunk build. People pushing themselves towards the thresholds of alcohol poisoning should be discouraged.

“MALÖRT!” … the only needed improvement here is that we need to come up with some Brickworld themed slogans to go along with it:

“MALÖRT! – The rocket fuel that gave birth to Blacktron!”

“MALÖRT! – Tonight is the night you dry hump Captain Marvel!”

“MALÖRT! – Better that chewing on unclean playbrick!”

“MALÖRT! – The real reason why Tyler Halliwell ran away to Scotland!”

“MALÖRT! – Heath made me do it!”

 So that’s a wrap on this Brickworld 2018 wrap-up.  Feel free to chime in with whatever I missed in the comments below, or share your own stories.  Until next time…

“MALÖRT! – It’s like getting a nutpunch to your mouth!!!”

The Time For Decisive Action is Now!

DA3 Beyond Thunderdome

Decisive Action 3 is the third iteration of a MOC-driven war game in which players compete for control of the world using armies, air forces, and navies build from Lego.

The game is run by a dedicated staff (myself, Michael Rutherford and Caleb Inman) who do not play in the game, so there is no conflict of interest or bias. The rules are published, and enforcement of those rules is consistent and transparent. All players are treated equally in all aspects of the game. The rules bind all players equally.

Decisive Action 3 is a game for competitive, creative, Lego builders who like to communicate. To succeed in the game, you will have to build in diverse styles, and within highly restrictive rules. Above all, in this game you will have to build, post, review and attack. You will have to do it quickly, and you will have to it often.

Make no mistake, DA is difficult. If it were easy, the game would be called “checkers” not “Decisive Action 3.” If you are thin skinned. If you can’t take a punch and walk it off… this may not be the best game for you. In Decisive Action, you can count on competing in an environment of respect, but that doesn’t take any of the sting out of defeat. And in this game, every player but one WILL feel that sting.

However, if you are resilient, creative, and looking to develop as a MOC builder, a strategist, and a communicator, and if you are looking to meet other like minded builders, then come and check out the action on MOCpages.

DA3 Ready Room

The game begins on 4/6/18 at 1:00pm PDT(Pacific Daylight Time) If you’re interested in playing and you don’t have a MOCpages account, I encourage you to act quickly, the account verification process can take up to two weeks.

Observe. Assess. Decide, and then commit.

Ignorance may be bliss… but indecision kills.

This is Decisive Action.

 

2018 LSB Contest: Week 4 Wrap Up

With only 4 days remaining in the 2018 LSB contest the action is heating up and the big guns are starting to fire.  At the time of this posting there are 151 entries (more than double the total from last week) which are still pretty evenly split between the big 3 categories.  Even the diorama-based District 18 is up to 16 entries compared to just 3 last week.  I was very surprised to see that the robust turn out still pales in comparison to the 2017 iteration in terms of the sheer number of entries.  With just a few days to go, the total number of bikes would have to more than double to make up the difference.  Quantity isn’t everything though and I’d call this year a great success regardless of the statistical outcome. As you can see on the list below, last year’s turnout was unprecedented and the numbers were bound to decline somewhat from that record high.  340 entries is madness…that’s got to be some kind of record for any Lego related contest.  This year’s iteration is already the third most popular of the group and is in striking range of second place with one full weekend still to come.

2009: 207  (this is the least accurate number, many bikes/builders have been deleted)

2010: 146

2011: 122

2016: 67

2017: 340

2018: 151+

I have to admit that I’ve fallen way off on my commenting and I’m not sure if I’ll catch up.  I think the optimum window for constructive criticism has closed, there simply isn’t enough time remaining for the builders to implement feedback before the deadline.  Of course the critique might still hold value to the participants regardless of the time frame, offering them something to consider for next year’s event, but my primary goal was to help out the new participants and early birds.  It’s difficult for the judges to also act as hype men and I hope that my enthusiastic critique was encouraging in the early stages.  This update will be my final words on the contest, I’ll leave it to our own Ted Andes to wrap up the proceedings once the dust has settled and the winners are announced.  Even though I’m sure I’ll miss out on some great last minute entries, the prize-snipers don’t do much for me and I’d like to leave some room for the judges to put their critical stamp on the proceedings. Ted, as soon as you recover from the madness, I hope we’ll see an article from you and the boys.

As you might expect, the bikes are getting better as we go along so let’s get to my favorites of the week.  The usually reliable ABIDE category took a dip this week and it was surprisingly easy to select my favorite bike, the “Red Devil” by robbadopdop, it was one of the few bikes in the pool that I wouldn’t change anything at all.  It ticks all the boxes for me: looks like a bike, innovative parts use, looks fast, and every detail sings.  I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Carter Baldwin’sTesla Arrowhead“, because of it’s innovative use of stop-motion that really ups the ante in terms of presentation.  However, it wasn’t my favorite of the week because in the ABIDE category the bike is still the focus and I found Carter’s offering to be too similar to his entries from last year and for my money the Red Devil leaves the competitors in the dust.  I think Carter might possibly have been better served holding back his game-changing  background for the District 18 category where the background matters as much if not more than the bike.

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The ENFORCE category remains mired in boilerplate, and my decision for the week’s best was a tough one.  There were a number of very good bikes, but very few that I would categorize as great.  In the end I selected the “D-18 Scout” by perig perig mostly because it doesn’t follow the standard black-and-white highway patrol model  most of the participants have opted for, going instead with a pretty effective camouflage pattern.  I love the insect-like shape of the bike and the unconventional orientation of the operator.  The entry violates my ad nauseam complaint about stock handlebars, but the rest of it is so good that I can overlook it.  I’m still quite surprised that out of the 60+ reviews I’ve left, nobody has called me out on using the same stock handlebars myself for all three entries last year.  The reason I hit it so hard in my critique is because I believe every part matters in a build this small and the best piece of advice I received on my bikes last year was to ditch that particular part.  I’m not saying it should never be used, but I do think builders should at least try and improve upon a detail that is so prevalent in official sets.

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The strongest entries for the week all seemed to be stacked in my least favorite category and it was good to see REBEL have it’s moment in the spotlight.  I was torn between a couple of bikes, there was a little something for everyone this past week, from hamster wheels to a lightning octopus to an HR Giger design , but I finally settled on the “Mole Patrol” by Tammo S.  It’s just a tight build from the nose to it’s wonderfully bulbous ass.  The combination of angles and textures take it over the top for me, and the curved sewer wall was a nice touch too, even if it seems a little unfinished.  Much like the “Red Devil“, there isn’t a thing I’d change about this bike.

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Thankfully there is finally some action in the DISTRICT 18 diorama category, although I’m a little surprised how similar many of the entries look with their 7-11 sized buildings and conventional roadways. For my selection I ended up going with an offering that perhaps has my least favorite bikes, and some custom graphic shite I could do without…but it grabs me in a way that none of the others do.  I’m referring to “Decommissioned Industrial Area KT17″, by Alessandro G.  I love that brown girder that runs through the middle and the gull-wing overhang.  There are dioramas that are more detailed and offer better minifig action (like FonsoSac’s awesome street demolition), but I love the simplicity on display here, it’s the only entry that seems immersive to me.  Sometimes less is more.  I could also do without the text on the image, the font is annoying and the placement (especially in the upper right corner).  This diorama hits all the right notes for me and it definitely elevates what are mostly forgettable bikes.  I want to see more of this world.38686454170_a5a368f1fe_o.jpgSo congratulations to Ted, Zenn, Cole and all the participants for another spirited speeder bike throw down! I was indeed entertained.  I don’t envy the job ahead for the judges, it won’t be easy to select winners from so many great entries.  I look forward to getting back into the arena next year.

2018 LSB Contest: Week 3 Wrap Up

The annual Lego Speeder Bike (LSB) contest has rounded the final turn and is staring down the final straightaway to the March 5th deadline.  As many constant readers know, I’m all about the numbers and week 3 of the showdown saw another impressive jump in total entries to 69 across all categories.  That number has gone from 7 to 36 to 69, which one might expect as a natural expansion curve, but the number I didn’t expect is the even distribution of bikes in each category.   Abide, Enforce and Rebel each have 22 entries at the time of this posting, and the Distcrict 18 category understandably lags way behind with only 3 entries dude to it’s elevated level of difficulty and requirements.  A slightly deeper dive into the numbers reveals that 33 builders have entered the arena, with the number of entries per builder breaking down like this.

10 players with 1 entry.

13 players with 2 entries

7 players with 3 entries

3 players with all 4 entries

Having reviewed every entry in the pool I feel pretty safe in saying that the overall quality of the entries has increased as well, as you might expect.  For most people, more time spent refining a bike means a better bike.  The only thing I find troubling about the numbers is the number of people sitting on 3 entries after 3 weeks.  When I competed last year there were also 4 categories and I allotted a weeks building time for each one.  While I realize not everyone would adopt this strategy I do think it takes most people about a week (or weekend) to conceptualize, build, photograph and post a bike.  Obviously the goal can be completed great deal quicker as the three guys who have posted in the District 18 thread prove, but the results of such a fast approach has proven to be less than stellar.  In fact, all 3 entries in the diorama category are forgettable and disappointing.  That may seem a harsh thing to say, but I feel a little better saying it because I left them all detail reviews days before this posting, so my objections are old news.  I would also point to the relatively low numbers of favorites and reviews.   All 3 entries are variations on the same theme: cop chases rebel while abider looks on.  The basic premise is about as interesting as the stock handlebars featured on 80% of the bikes.  Beyond the basic theme, the contestants are flat out not putting as much effort, respect or creativity into the background as they do the bikes…which while fine for the individual categories, is a poor decision for the District 18 category.  I’m obviously biased because diorama is my preferred genre of building, and it probably pains me more than it should to see people going through the motions instead of trying to break through the boilerplate and give the audience a show.  I want to see some dioramas like last year’s offerings from Carter, Zach, Jeff, and I’ll arrogantly attach my own name to that list.  Whether the image goes edge-to-edge like the examples I just showed you or not doesn’t matter to me, so let’s not rehash that old argument about which is the better approach.  The bottom line is that the 2018 competitors need to step up their diorama game, 2017 is laughing at them.

Before I get into the bike spotlights, I’d like to discuss a disturbing trend that is one example away from being the unofficial theme of the contest…poop.  Maybe the builder, Nick Poncelow is right, and that I’m just not down with toilette humor but his plumber bike from the abide category really put me off.  I just don’t get it…the plumber took a dump on the seat of his bike?  Is that the plumber you want walking around your house?  I think the idea of a toilette shaped seat is funny but a dookie?  Not so much.  As if that wasn’t enough, contestant GolPlaysWithLego sneaks a poop emoji into the presentation of his bike.  It’s a great bike, why tell me it’s a steaming pile of shite?  Am I old and out of touch with is issue?  If you have an opinion on this alarming and creeping issue in the contest, please leave your crappy takes in the comments.

Now it’s time for my favorite build in each category for week 3.  The ABIDE entries were a mixed bag but I really like the Downtown Ride by Faber Mandragore, especially after a couple of small but important revisions he made to both the bike and the base. I continue to be amazed by the percentage of people who are actually taking advantage of the feedback from the audience.  The camera angle on this official shot doesn’t really do the bike justice, so if you dig it, make sure to follow the link and take a look at the other photos.  I still think the base looks a bit generic, but it’s cut above most of the other entries who treat the vignette/stand as an afterthought.  I also dig the special effects, they’re noticeable without being overwhelming or distracting.

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The ENFORCE category had a couple of good entries this week but my favorite is the L.E.V. 5 by oOger, whose name always make me think of the word booger, which is unfortunate because I’m a big fan of his work.  This entry checks all the boxes, clever parts use, exotic parts, good stickering and it looks cool from every angle.  Many builders tend to avoid developing the bottom of the bike, but oOger goes the extra mile.  If you’re going to go for the boilerplate highway-patrol pursuit bike look, you can’t do much better than this. It looks fast and aggressive and ready to intercept a rebel or an abider jacked up on meth.  I’m not a huge fan of the helmet (ant man?) but I like the way you can see his eyeball through the face-mask.  I’m still not completely sold on the base, although it is an unusual part choice.  Even if it doesn’t make sense to me, it ultimately looks pretty cool and I suppose that’s all that matters.  It certainly makes me want to see more, and I hope the builders incorporates it into his District 18 entry if he chooses to do one.

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Rebel remains my least favorite category and it contains fewer bikes that I find interesting.  I admit to being burned out on the Mad Max, post apocalyptic vibe, which isn’t really fair to hold against a builder but I’m going to do it anyway.  This entry by F@bz was one of the exceptions, I can’t say enough good things about it, and he’s really the first competitor to take maximum advantage of the vignette/base.  With the Volkswagen badge and the banana-yellow color scheme, it seems like it would be better suited to the Abide category, but the context and choice of driver helps to move the needle towards rebellion.  I also appreciate the backwards cap on the driver, so many people use hair, which immediately robs the bike of any sense of movement.  The background may be of the boilerplate concrete urban variety, but it’s pretty sweet boilerplate.

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If you’ve been reading this series of wrap-ups you’ll know by now that my favorite aspect of the contest this year is watching builders improve their entries based on the feedback provided by roaming critic gallery.  Week 3 brought so many examples of constructive criticism in action that it’s no longer noteworthy in terms of these wrap up posts.  It has almost become the norm.  Even if I didn’t see any more examples of builders using feedback from this point on I’m ready to call this contest a success in terms of spreading the gospel of the critical process.  The number of good quality comments is increasing each week as more people seem to be willing to offer suggestions and opinion even if it’s occasionally a negative one.

With one week to go I expect to see the veteran prize-snipers take their shots and the District 18 category to finally attract some great entries.  If you’re still on the fence about entering the contest you’ve still got time to get in on the action, and none of the categories have a clear winner yet.  Rutherford, get off your ass and build a bike already!

2018 LSB Contest: Week 2 Wrap Up

We’re two weeks in to the annual LSB contest on Flickr and the number of entries has spiked from 7 to 36 with even more bikes floating around the pool, untethered from the official threads.  I planned on going back and comparing the totals to last year’s numbers but as it was pointed out last week, this edition of the contest is it’s own unique creature and probably shouldn’t be compared too closely to it’s predecessors.  So I’ll leave that kind of analysis until the final wrap-up or maybe leave it for Ted if he chooses to close out the proceedings with a piece for the Manifesto.  I’m also quite lazy and just keeping up with commenting and offering my unsolicited critique on each and every entry is taking up a good deal of time.  On that note, my favorite aspect of the contest seems to be getting stronger with each passing day, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many contestants not only accepting of feedback but also willing to go the extra step of incorporating the better suggestions into second drafts.  Critique should rarely be taken in it’s totality but rather approached with a salad-bar mentality where you just grab the ingredients that make sense and taste good.

Jonathan Gilbert took his bike to the next level with a little help from the audience.  Although I’m not one of these guys who think every exposed stud must be covered with a tile, the first version of this bike was just too knobby.  The background so overwhelmed the bike in terms of quality that it was distracting, so cheers to Jonathon for going after it aggressively and smoothing out the bike while adding details like a windscreen, side mirrors and headlight.

The same can be said for FonsoSac, who improved not only the bike but the base as well and with one revision took his bike from participant to contender by paying attention to the criticism.  I think some people are just mailing it in when it comes to the base because the rules say the base will not factor into the judge’s decision making process.  Now, while I’m certainly NOT calling the judges liars, I do believe that if two bikes are really similar in quality the bike with the better base will win.

ska2d2 cites the encouragement and good advice of fellow competitor Pico Von Grootveld for improvements to his entry, and again, it’s not just the bike that’s better for the the criticism but the base as well.  Just changing the orientation of the motorcycle shell made a world of difference but he went the extra mile and improved the rider, and nearly every significant aspect of the design.

To quote Deltassius in one of the conversational threads, the “roaming critic gallery” may be small, only three or four builders, but it does seem to be having a positive impact on both the quality of the bikes and the community spirit of the contest in general.  I’d bet money that the gallery will eventually comes up against someone who doesn’t want to hear their (our) jackassy opinions, but for now it’s been unusually gratifying to promote the concept of constructive criticism rather than just gasbag about it on the blog.  Shout-out to Werewolff who I see comment on just about every single entry, it’s one thing to participate and build a bike, but it’s another thing entirely to reach out to a competitor with words of encouragement and critique.  I just wish there were more constant readers out there making the rounds with us.

As for the bikes of week two, there were a lot to choose from when it came down to highlighting the best of the group, so I decided for the sake of brevity (wouldn’t want to make anyone’s patience grow too thin with excessive commentary) to limit my observations to one example from each category.

The ABIDE category is proving to be the most popular, varied and intriguing of the group so far.  My favorite of the most recent crop of offerings is the “Sea Snipper” by P.B., I actually liked halfbeak’s entry better as a pure bike, but if I was a judge this would be my pick.  Unlike halfbeaks’ bike it has a clear purpose, offers a bit of comedy and tells more of a story with all the attachments and the robotic sidekick.  I really like the spindly look of the front, out there on a single precarious bar/antenna.  The octopus camouflaged in the water is a great addition to what is otherwise a pretty simple base.  25394476857_7a66d58d29_o.png

The ENFORCE category is where you’ll find most of the boilerplate of the contest, there are some slick entries to be sure, but everything is very…expected, that is with one notable exception of the “Impounder” by halfbeak.  Most entries are content to resemble highway patrol bikes, suitable for pursuit and very little else, but this bike has the specific and somewhat horrific capability to snatch a driver and/or it’s bike right out of the not so friendly skies.  The friendly Frisbee drone is also a nice touch (tied in by the decals), along with the simple but effective base.  The lime green really pops and helps accent the bike.

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The REBEL category is a little problematic in it’s vague definition and I think it’s the most difficult for the contestants to fully engage with.  It reduces the basic concept to stereotypes like the rebellion of Star Wars or Mad-Max style biker gangs.  I’m prepared to be persuaded that the category is actually the most liberating and nobody has really taken advantage of it yet, but so far it houses my least favorite entries.  Of course there are always exceptions and if I had to declare a winner of week 2’s offerings it would be the “Junkspeeder” by GolPlaysWithLego.  I think it definitely falls into the Star Wars spectrum of rebellion, but it adheres to the rule of cool and looks very fast and aggressive.  I’m not sure if it looks like it was created in a junkyard…but the roll cage makes up for any thematic weakness.  The base is modest but a cut above many of the competitors, that tentacle throws just enough of a monkey wrench into the mix.  Is it a plant?  Is it a tentacle?  Is it a snake?  I don’t know but it looks odd in the best possible way.

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It’s still early so there are only a couple of entries into the diorama-based DISTRICT 18 category. I’m not terribly moved by either one so I’ll wait until week 3 to add those into the mix here on the Manifesto.  Since the action over here has faded a little as we slip towards the jaws of DA3 and hiatus, why not head over to the LSB contest and encourage the participants?  There is a hunger out there for good quality feedback which is rarely in short supply around here.