Ted Talks – “District 18” (Final 2018 LSB Contest Wrap-up)

Another building contest hosted by the LEGO Speederbikes group on Flickr has come and gone, and the winners are now posted.  It’s the second time that I’ve been involved with hosting the contest, and from my perspective it was another successful year.  Last year’s contest was always going to be tough act to follow with 336 total entries.  That said, the number of total entry photos still topped out at 268 (2nd highest ever amount).

 

Since contest formats are what dictate the quantity of entries, I went back to determine the count of actual builders that participated in each contest.  Here is my best estimation… and I spent way too much time trying to figure this out:

 

2009: 92 participants / 207 entries (2.25 epp; entries per participant)

2010: 88 participants / 146 entries (1.66 epp)

2011: 75 participants / 122 entries (1.63 epp)

2016: 67 participants / 67 entries (1.00 epp)

2017: 116 participants / 336 entries (2.90 epp)

2018: 105 participants / 268 entries (2.55 epp)

 

The 2018 contest still comes in 2nd place in both participants and entries.  I was surprised that the number of participants was that high this year, based on the entry count and having a fairly similar format to last year’s contest (although it wasn’t required for “District 18” entrants to also enter the individual categories).  It appears that a lot of people only entered 1 or 2 bike categories, and then bailed out on the “District” category.  Perhaps a diorama was a little too ambitious for most people.  Still, to those 34 people that still stepped up to the challenge we salute you!

 

Overall Perception:

I know some Manifesto readers had expressed that the builds didn’t excite them as much as last year, but I saw some interesting and encouraging things on a couple fronts:

  • At the top of this list were the great critiques and collaboration that occurred from all around. It was good to see the community take another step-forward in bringing back “critique culture” to MOC sharing.  We can’t thank Keith and Rutherford enough for spearheading that effort, and Werewolff, Hoffmann and the rest of the Manifesto readership who chimed in as well.  Kudos to all.
  • As a whole, I thought the speederbikes were built more compactly than in years past. There was a noticeable reduction in the number of entries that seemed way too big, or looked more like a hovercar.  Many repeat contest participants also built their bikes smaller this time around.
  • NPU continued to impress, especially with the larger variety of new parts that have come out year after year. Speed Champions, Mixel joints, and Constraction Fig panels FTW!!! Some speederbike silhouettes may have felt the same as in years past (“boiler-plate?”), but the ways they are getting constructed is getting further and further refined.  There were so many impressive brick-built bikes, and impressive usage of the pre-fab bike chassis too.

 

Even though determining the total number of participants from past contests took up a lot of time, I was able to see some other interesting before-and-after trends from some repeat participants…

 

Stepping their game up

Some contest participants have definitely evolved their personal building style and have improved skills year-over-year.  Some examples:

Intentor

 

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From 2016

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From 2017

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From 2018

 

Zen Thorga

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From 2017

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From 2018

 

“The more things change, the more they stay the same…”

Then I also noticed there were some builders whose style gave me the feeling of having “déjà vu all over again.”

EliteGuard01

JM-500 Long Ranger

From 2017

JM-LR800 MP-HSAB (Revised)

From 2018

 

captainsmog

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From 2011

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From 2018

 

“Great Swap-out, Dude!”

Everyone should know I’m a big fan of the well-executed entry swap-out (since I did it myself during my 2016 contest win). Of all the entrants this year, Pico made the most significant move.  His original Space Police bike entry was solid, but it was a little “too solid” and on the larger side.  His replacement was a classic Space Police design that was one of the most compact speederbikes in the contest, packed with wonderful greebles and well placed stickers.  It is one of those builds where everything seemed perfectly placed to me.  That Fabuland Bunny Bike was also a solid entry for Abide too, which replaced his Tequila Delivery Service bike:

 

Pico’s Enforce

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The Original

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The Swap

 

Pico’s Abide

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The Original

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The Swap

 

“NPU? Don’t mind if I do!”

There was a lot of Nice Part Usage (NPU) this year, and called out by a lot of you in your comments and critiques.  These pics below call out some NPU solutions that I am personally planning to “steal with pride” for my future MOC’s.

 

I really liked the way James Zhan used the Friends handlebar as a kickstand (on the other hand, the windshield is kind of comical when you think of the practicality of it…)

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This back array of engine exhaust pipes (beneath the backpacks) from Jon Lie was the perfect solution to a project I’m currently working on for Brickworld Chicago 2018…

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I’m always a fan of spoiler part usages, so this paired configuration by GeekPerson naturally caught my eye.  I’m sure I this configuration could come in handy.

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“Walk the plank!”

The use of 1×4 and 1×6 tiles also caught my attention… but I guess it would have been harder not to notice those big planks of plastic strapped to the sides of a speederbike.  Using that part never crosses my mind when I’m building a speederbike … just like it never crosses my mind to get those soggy chickpeas and beets that are placed on salad bars.  Who eats those?  I guess as in all things it is a matter of personal taste, and these gents integrated them better than I would have imagined.

 

Fabz

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ff

LEGO7

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Carter

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… and Carter

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… and Carter again…

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Category Action:

ENFORCE:

For me, this category had 3 different speederbike building strategies fighting it out at the top; oOger building with large figure panels, Pico building up a motorcycle frame, and Guy Smiley building and shaping his bike with system parts.  They all had thoughtful part placement, sticker placement, and image presentation.  When oOger posted his bike, I felt that was the moment the “gauntlet was thrown down” in Enforce.  Pico went back and swapped out his entry some time later, and I remembered thinking “I didn’t think anyone could catch up to oOger’s bike, but this classic Space Police bike is wicked!”  Of course the final weekend always has some surprises in store, and Guy Smiley didn’t disappoint with his SWAT inspired speederbike.  The only gripe was how dark that photo was.  After adjusting my monitor a bit, I could see all of the wonderful details.  Those white “hover pads” were delicious.  oOger’s bike was in the top 3 for all four judges (no small feat), and that sealed his victory.

Winner – oOger

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ABIDE:

Abide was by far the toughest category to judge, due to all of the diversity of designs and themes.  Abide set itself up to be an “anything goes” category (that is, apart from added weaponry).  There were two definite strategies at play; building bikes that were job specific, and those that were “everyday” bikes.  Each of the judges’ final “Top-10” lists seemed equally split along those lines, so both approaches were appreciated.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a water-world vibe from many entries… and speaking of water, those turd references were definitely sinkers and not floaters.

 

To me, it felt like Halfbeak’s messenger bike was the one that “threw down the gauntlet” in this category, and perhaps in the overall contest as well.  It was such a unique speederbike design that caught a lot of early attention.   The other one that caught my attention as it was entered was Sean Mayo’s steampunk bike, having a lot to do with the unique parts usage and the presentation.  Otherwise, I went over every single bike entry a couple times over in this category to determine who else would be included in my Top-10 list. I think it was just the nature of the category.  In the end, it was “P.B.”, known by some as Delatassius, who carried the day… (watch out, all you DA3 players… better get to know your enemy)

Winner – P.B. (Deltassius)

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REBEL:

The original thought for creating the Rebel category was “wouldn’t it be cool to build some roving speederbike gangs?”, and that evolved into the whole “District 18” concept.  That said, we still wanted to see anyone’s interpretations of the “Rebel” category beyond that initial “gangs” idea.  Leading the pack were the bikes that were intimidators, and the bikes that represented the “larger than life” personalities of their riders.  No matter the interpretation, Rebels want to be noticed (… it’s just that they don’t want to be caught).

 

F@bz, Carter, and Djokson had some of the notable entries for me fighting it out at the top of my list.  Early in the contest F@bz delivered a NPU laden bike, which is his proclivity.  I haven’t seen those flexible spike parts actually flexed in many MOC’s.  Then Djokson’s bike delivered with his signature style of Bionicle parts integration, and its alien vibe.  Finally, Carter’s signature hands-in-tubes construction was brought back once again, with the added touch of throw-bot visors.  For me, his Rebel bike was his most successful out of his 3 entries, and successful in integrating that 1×6 tile.  The deft placement of a well-built “assassin droid” that could straddle the back end was a very smart play. Tim Schwalfenberg also got his sleek bike entered just in time during the post-deadline grace period (Tim also had grace in his acceptance of the missing the deadline; however others opted to petition _zenn, who made the call to extend, as he felt sympathetic to the poster confusion).  This category was decided by a single point, which edged Djokson across the finish line first by a claw tip…

Winner – Djokson

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DISTRICT 18:

The districts were so much fun to take in, and very tough to judge.  These are the thoughts that were going through my mind when judging the dioramas (and not in any order of priority or weighting).

  • Quality of the speederbikes (and were all 3 types present in the scene)
  • Quality of the District (overall design, and building skill/techniques)
  • Was their any action?
  • Were the speederbikes clearly the focus of the action? Were they easy to see?

If any District scored lower than expected, it was likely due to missing the mark a little on one of those areas.  On the other hand, overcompensation in one category could also carry a District higher up the rankings.  It wasn’t an easy decision.

Winner – W. Navarre

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All of the entries we were impressive, considering that the contest entry period only ran for 33 days.  We knew that was going to be a challenge for many, with both time and available parts supply, and why we decided to allow digital entries.  Not too many people took advantage of that, but it was still good to see that there were digital entries posted in all categories.  In the end, including digital entries really felt like a non-issue.

 

For me the story of “District 18” was one of unrealized potential.  There was so much anticipation based on the bikes people already posted, only for their dioramas to never materialize.

 

Felipe Avelar came out of the gates very strong, teasing us all with a tempting array of speederbikes just waiting to be swooshed.  I thought for certain we would see something from him in the “District 18” category, but it never came to pass.  Perhaps his daughter was having too much fun playing with them, and he didn’t have the heart to take them away.

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More districts that I was hoping to see:

  • I really wanted to see one from LEGO 7, based on his aquatic themes speederbikes (like his Lantern Taxi that I’ve already linked). I think combining his speederbikes into Shmail’s apocalyptic water-world could have made a winning combo.
  • Klikstyle had some spectacular vignettes that I thought for sure were building up to becoming a district.
  • Per_ig delivered some speederbikes that could have been right out of a colorful version of the Ma.K universe.
  • Spac13 had me thinking that he might deliver on a Jurassic World diorama.

 

Closing Thoughts:

My mission statement for the contest, if forced to write one, would have been “to inspire lots of people to build cool things, and have fun doing it”.  The number of participants indicated that we did inspire lots of people to build once again.  I know that the contest also delivered on the “build cool things” part of the mission too.  I hope it was enjoyable for both the participants and spectators alike, but that is not for me to decide.

 

What I enjoyed most was whenever someone was told that their entries were their “best MOC yet!”  Contests are at their best when they can be the unexpected spark for a person to build something new, as well as a pushing them into building something they wouldn’t otherwise have considered.  I’m glad that the contest could be the catalyst for many such builds this year.  Keep on building!

 

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.

Battle For District 18: The Lego Speeder Bike Contest returns

The Manifesto is a proud sponsor of the 2018 Lego Speeder Bike Contest that started today over on Flickr.  The familiar trio of Cole Blaq_zenn and friend of the blog Ted Andes are back in action, providing the arena, some rad brick-built trophies and assorted prizes.

By far the most fun I had with Lego in 2017 was the annual LSB contest, it inspired me to get off my ass and start building again.  Unlike many challenges where people work feverishly in relative isolation, last year’s event saw a great deal of teamwork where builders would provide each other with constructive criticism and encouragement.  For once the social aspect of the contest was almost equal to the raw output of cool models.  There was also an interesting arms-race that developed where dioramas came to the forefront (even though they did not factor in the judging) and builders engaged in an escalating battle to one-up each other.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I’m sure this year’s iteration will generate it’s own unique character.  So if you’ve got some free time in the next month (the contest ends midnight March 4th), you really have no excuse not to give it a shot.  One of the best things about LSB is that it’s very low-impact in terms of time and the amount of building required.  For the first time digital entries are permitted so throw those excuses out the window and get working on your bike.

For more information, check out the on LSB GROUP Flickr.

ENFORCE ABIDE REBEL

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A Conversation with Dan Kees (Blog or Die! Entry #19)

Accepted entry for the “Interview” category.

Author: LettuceBrick (Nice Try)

Word Count: 1,906

Judge’s Note:

* This entry was submitted before the deadline (Mon, Jan 15, 2018 10:10 pm), but I didn’t have a chance to post it until today.  The entry is valid and accepted for final consideration.

A Conversation with Dan Kees

 

With whom? I’m glad you asked. Dan Kees is the owner of PromoTec Specialty Printing, purveyors of, well, specialty printing. Oh, and he also prints custom designs on all manner of Lego for all manner of clients. And to top it all off, he builds! So without further ado, enough blather and on to the interview.

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The Standard Questions

LB: How did you get into Lego as a child and/or adult? What keeps you interested?

DK: I probably had some type of building blocks since birth.  I had DUPLO as a baby and never remember a time without LEGO. I got my first standard LEGO set when I was five, and it’s all I ever wanted after that. I probably entered my dark ages around age 16 or so. I actually brought all my LEGO to college but only pulled it out a couple times. When LEGO joined the force with Star Wars in 1999, I was drawn back in big time, and have been building ever since. I stay interested as an AFOL because of the high stress job I have owning my own business.  LEGO works as a great stress reducer. It’s just plain fun! Another major aspect of the hobby for me now is the community. I’ve made some great friends through LEGO clubs and conventions.

LB: What are your main areas of focus when it comes to building?

DK: My wife and I put on a large LEGOWEEN display every year, so that takes up a lot of my building. I always like to make at least one large “Wow” MOC each year. Those have included a working roller coaster, a large castle, and 55 Central Park West…otherwise known as Dana’s apartment building from Ghostbusters. I don’t really have a favorite theme. I’m often inspired by a single piece and just go from there.

LB: Describe your acquisitive process and how it relates to your building.

DK: I always try to avoid buying a lot of sets, though LEGO makes that very difficult. They keep releasing such cool sets that really appeal to the AFOL community. My main budget goes to Bricklink where I buy thousands of parts for our Halloween display every year.

LB: Do you use your own printed items in creations? Other third party products?

DK: Yes and Yes. When I first started printing, I made a lot of woodgrain tiles. I use these extensively in my MOCs. However, I rarely print anything new for builds. I use a lot of custom minifigs and accessories from companies like BrickArms and BrickForge.

The Printing Questions

LB: You run a printing business which also involves Lego pieces. How did you get into printing onto Lego? Is there an engraving component as well?

DK: I’ve worked in the printing business for almost 30 years. When I first joined BayLUG, I printed some LEGO business cards for fun. I went to my first convention that same year and was really introduced to the concept of custom printed bricks. I instantly thought…hey, I could that!  I got the word out and had multiple customers overnight. I do not do any engraving, just digital and pad printing.

LB: Are there any specific challenges that Lego presents that other materials do not? Or is printing on Lego easier?

DK: Printing on LEGO is actually pretty easy. They are made from ABS plastic which accepts ink very well. They are also very consistent, which makes them easy to print in bulk…especially when printing bricks. We can interlock them in stacks and print a large quantity very quickly.  The challenge comes from running a large variety of elements. Bricks and tiles are easy, but we also print all the way around minifigs. That can get a little tricky.

LB: I assume the customer provides the design and the materials. What challenges do you face in reconciling the two and what is the most challenging Lego printing job that you’ve faced?

DK: Fortunately, we deal mostly with large custom brick resellers. They typically send artwork that is accurate and well laid out. They also understand the limitations of the process. Some less experienced customers will draw extremely detailed designs that look great on screen. However, when you shrink them down to a 16mm wide minifig torso…they don’t work so well.  Minifigures are by far the trickiest jobs. As the industry develops, people want more and more detail as well as full wrap printing. Keeping things lined up over large runs is very difficult.

LB: I know you participated as a vendor for at least one Lego convention. How did that experience compare with your more usual method of sale?

DK: Vending at a convention was tricky, because I missed so much of the convention. I quickly realized I was not cut out for retail. I really enjoy printing more than selling individual parts.

LB: What is the future of custom Lego printing for you and the market in general?

DK: The future of custom LEGO printing is really in the digital process. There are a few of us pad printing parts, which is the process that LEGO uses. Pad is great if you want your custom parts to look like LEGO made them. However digital opens up a whole new realm of possibilities with raised effects, unlimited color options, and filling in nooks and crannies that pad printing cannot accommodate. Our ratio of digital orders to pad is probably 50:1. I don’t see any end in sight for custom printing. As 3D printing and desktop UV inkjet printers come down in price, I think we’ll see a lot more people getting into custom parts and printing. I’m excited to see what the next generation comes up with.

LB: To what extent and with what rigor do you separate “hobby Lego” and “work Lego”?

DK: There is a hard and fast rule that my work and personal stock shall not mix! On the rare occasion that I supply parts for a client, I always buy them “New” from Bricklink or LEGO PAB. Some parts are inevitably ruined when used at work.

 

The Community Questions

LB: How important is the Lego community both online and more locally to you as a printer and a builder? Do you sell to AFOLs only or just conventions or also the general public?

DK: The online community is much more important to me as a builder.  I like browsing the many Facebook, fan, and other community pages. It’s fun to see what people are building around the world. I feel like I could travel to just about any country and find some AFOLs to hang out with. I don’t use the online community much for business. Many of my favorite sites do not allow commercial posts…which I totally agree with and respect insistently. I have a pretty good set of regular clients that keep me plenty busy. I mostly sell to larger resellers. I get occasional requests from other AFOLs, but our order minimums usually don’t fit their projects. I no longer sell any of my own designs.

LB: Do you have an online Lego presence, business or otherwise?

DK: Not really.  I am involved with a few Facebook pages, but that’s about it. Most of my business comes from word of mouth and repeat clients.

LB: You have of late also taken part in Bricks by the Bay convention planning. (For a while now I think.) I believe you supply the brick badges and other printed items. Could you describe some of the planning that goes into that and other aspects of the convention?

DK: Yes, BBTB is one of the biggest highlights of the year for me. I love being involved with the organization. I print the badges, and any other custom parts needed for minifigs, event kits, etc. I donate a large portion of the printing. It’s a great way to give back to the community that I’ve enjoyed for so long. Recently, my company has also taken on some of the kitting for the con. It can be surprisingly complicated, but it falls right in line with our business. It takes an exhausting amount of planning to pull off the CON each year. I tried doing too much when I first joined, so now I make sure to only take on responsibilities that I have time to do well. I’m not nearly as involved in the overall planning as I once was. I mostly focus on any custom printing needs and kit planning for the badge, event kit, and workshops.

LB: Have you participated in collaborations?

DK: Yes, mostly with BayLUG.  I love helping set up large displays. It’s something I always wanted to do as a kid but never had enough stuff.  Now we have an unlimited arsenal of builds to create huge layouts…super fun.

LB: What is the Lego community’s greatest strength? What about its greatest failings and/or weaknesses?

DK: Hmmm…interesting question. I think the community’s greatest strength is the product itself. I strongly believe that LEGO is one of the most enduring and inspiring products ever produced. I would not be in a technical/manufacturing field today without it. Our greatest weakness? I’d say we expect too much from LEGO. We oftentimes forget that this is, at its core, a toy meant for kids. The AFOL community is a large demographic, but let’s not try to fool ourselves. LEGO is a toy company and needs to be run like one. They cannot cater to our every whim…and there are a lot of them 😊

LB: Do you have any thoughts on TLG itself and its relationship with fans, both of adult and long-term variety and of the more general customer?

DK: I think TLG goes above and beyond its core responsibilities when dealing with the fan community. They have been extremely generous with their support for BBTB and BayLUG. I’m sure it’s a constant struggle within the company to balance the fan relationship with core business values. LEGO Ideas was a huge bridge over that gap. I think they’re on the right path with the level of support they offer us big kids.

LB: And at long last, what do you think the future holds?

DK: More awesome sets and new parts! I often hear people say that LEGO has lost its way with all the new parts. They would prefer we only had 2×4 bricks. Those well-meaning folks just don’t get it. With every new part, LEGO opens our building palette to new possibilities. My favorite part of viewing other people’s builds are seeing the endless creative uses of new parts.

I do hold a bit of fear towards how LEGO will compete with the digital distractions kids now face.  LEGO struggles in the digital realm, with good reason. I feel the core of LEGO is the physical, tactile relationship between the user and the medium. I’ve used LDD a bit, but nothing compares with that satisfying “click” and having a great model to show for your efforts.  Emerging markets will help keep the company strong for years to come. Hopefully, future generations don’t get too lost in screens, and will still appreciate good old fashion playing with their friends.

Thanks!

LB: Thank you very much for your perspectives on general tomFOLery and your insights into the printing side of what you do. All the best for this still relatively new year!