Down the FTC Rabbit Hole: Secret Origins

If you conduct a search for “Fire Truck” on MOCPages the resulting figure seems to be an impossibly small number of creations, just 932.  Before checking, I would have guessed the total amount to be at least 10 times that number.   I suspect that much like the rest of the site, the search engine has been hacked or compromised and there are many…many more undocumented Fire Trucks out there that are largely invisible.  However, I did come across a far more interesting factoid when I filtered the results to display the “oldest” Fire Truck creations.

The very first Fire Truck on The Pages was posted on March 2nd of the site’s inaugural year of 2003 by none other than the absentee slumlord himself and self-proclaimed “lego artist” Sean Kenney.  It was part of his initial MOC-dump on the site’s first day of operation, and the truck was actually built in 2002 so it’s one of his earliest models. So what’s the significance you ask?  Well, the FTC (Fire Truck Cabal) is one of the oldest, most powerful and deeply cryptic organizations to vie for influence on the crumbling site.  Completing the trinity along with the LCZ (League of Christian Zealots) and the HSA (Home School Alliance), the FTC continues to hold sway over the radiated landscape to this day, and only a site-wide catastrophic event would be enough to end their dominance.  From the very beginning of MOCpages people have wondered just who the power behind the FTC is, and what (if any) agenda they were sworn to promote.  What I’m saying is…I think I’ve finally found the dark, corrupted heart of the Fire Truck Cabal and it both explains a great many things…and only begs more questions.

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Just remember this nugget at the bottom of Sean’s MOCpage if you’re tempted to ask questions or conduct your own research into the shadowy digital recesses where you don’t belong:

I also created this website, MOCpages. If you have a MOCpages question, please do not contact me directly”

“…If that railroad train was mine…I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line”

I’m happy to report that old school curmudgeon and longtime KeithLUG crony Shannon Young has returned to the fold after an extended absence and he’s got a message for Sean Kenney that will resonate with many of our readers and manages to crystallize my thoughts concerning the current dilapidated state of MOCpages more eloquently than I could ever hope to.  It’s nice to see a fellow traveler with roots in same dirty small town with his own set of baggage like the one I’ve been hauling around since the demise of DA3 and longer.  Of course We’ll both get over it in the fullness of time, but for this particular moment everything about the image you’re about to see feels right.  I’m also happy to report that Shannon has been recently spotted haunting the comment section here on the Manifesto while resolving to make 2019 a more active one.  Welcome back you intolerable bastard.

For our younger readers that might not be familiar with this famous photo, Johnny Cash once played a concert at California’s San Quentin Prison in 1969, and this was how he responded when a photographer suggested they do a “shot for the warden”.  Shannon has chosen the perfect image to serve as his MOCpages tombstone, and send one last message to it’s warden before departing.  We’re long past constructive suggestions, volunteerism and gentle pleas for some small scrap of attention…unfortunately the finger is all we have left.

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Again, for the younger readers or those who are relatively new to the scene this departure from a crumbling site might not hold the same weight or dare I say gravitas that it does for us crusty veterans, but let me assure you that very few builders were more important and influential in the formative, vital years of MOCPages (see the first link in the article for more info).  The reason this image resonates so profoundly for a certain group of builders is that MOCpages used to be a place worth caring about, with a thriving community that launched any number of fresh ideas, contests, games and collaborations that influenced much of what we now perceive as boilerplate.  I wanted to capture this image before it was reported for a TOS violation by a brown-shirted home-schooled zealot or a member of the dreaded FTC (Fire Truck Cabal)…or Nick Pascale.  There are so many possible narcs to choose from, it’s difficult to pick just one.  If Shannon and I seem bitter about the current state of affairs, it shows you how much we once cared about the place and what an important engine of creativity it used to be before Kenney let it diminish without a conversation.  Perhaps the worst thing about Shannon’s departure is all the accompanying text that will disappear along with the models.  He was (is) one of the rare builders who is admired as much for his way with words as his way with bricks and the comment section was can’t-miss reading back in the day because Shannon was not afraid to mix it up with his fellow nerds.  I wish I had an example I could link to, but he’s burned it all down and I can’t say as I blame him.  Since writing is in his blood, I selfishly hope Shannon will deign to grace this ramshackle site with a column or two, the place would be better for it and Flickr really isn’t designed to exploit what he does best.

There is simply no substitute currently available that can provide the same format and features that MOCpages once did.  Sure this posting may appear crude, perhaps offensive or over the top to many of you, but for those of us who were invested in MOCpages it’s the perfect salute to a sinking ship that has all but slipped quietly beneath the wine-dark waves.  As a side-note, although he left without the same fanfare, our own uncle roonTree recently departed the site as well (he is after all a documented master of the Irish Goodbye) and I want to thank him for pointing me towards this image because it deserves to be preserved and I haven’t seen it pop up on Flickr yet.

In the interest of ending this rant on a more positive note, I’ll hopefully tantalize you with a few of Shannon’s greatest hits, which are available on Flickr, having him back in the game is a great way to start the new year.

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And finally, I’ll leave you with a tune from that same concert where the infamous photo was taken.  Welcome back Shannon, it didn’t seem right having to rely on just the Australian Shannon, and at least some modicum of balance has been restored to the universe.  Long Live Shanonia!

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.

Flag Montage

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.

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.

 

The Fourth War, or How Decisive Action Changed the World (Blog or Die! Entry #5)

Accepted entry for the “Article” category.

Author: Nick Barrett

Word Count: 3,309

 

THE FOURTH WAR, OR HOW DECISIVE ACTION CHANGED THE WORLD.

 

Conventional wisdom would have it that we have borne two world wars, and that the third will take but 20 minutes or so.

Gentle reader, I am here to tell you that this is not so. You see, I was there. I, with many others; friends and foes still bear the scars. Memories grow dim, records of our exploits are sporadic at best, and what I can tell you is but one perspective among many but know this – there was a brief shining moment during its long decline in which MocPages came alive.

And we lived it. Oh sure, some called it a game, but we the players knew better.

An explanation is in order. Sometime in… 2013 was it ? Messrs Rutherford and Goldman of this parish decided to try out an online war game, a fiendish game that grabbed your attention and wouldn’t let go until you’d won it or were dead. Probably dead. This was the first Decisive Action (henceforth to be referred to as DA). It was where Commandants Rutherford and Goldman honed their diabolical skills while the denizens of MocPages annihilated each other. rowntRee won it, as I recall with no bitterness. No bitterness at all. Really, I’m fine… It was also where he won his oddly capitalised name, but that’s another story for another time.

DA was played across a world map, somewhat analogous to a game of Diplomacy; or Risk for younger readers. A third World War that served merely as a prelude to the planet-defining conflagration that was the Fourth.

I refer of course to DA2. This is the reason so many of you suffer under the yoke of Communism. Confession time; it’s my fault. But I cannot take all the blame – enough time has passed for this wizened old veteran to name names and expose the guilty.

I’ll start with one of the less guilty leaders. General Remy, Tom to his friends, of which there were many. His nation was one of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. A West African paradise of pavement cafes, joyous people and killer guitar riffs. Until the CCCP came knocking, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It’s important to understand that DA2 was primarily a creative outlet, at least in the beginning, including the creation of brick-built figures to represent each nation’s leader. Most were workmanlike, some were serviceable. One was a work of art.

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Jimi Hendrix by Tom Remy

It was fitting that Jimi Hendrix be appointed the first Magistrate. This was a new power, not present in the first DA, that gave its holder political influence and the ability to manipulate his friends or strike his foes. Being a democratic and benevolent leader, General Remy did neither. It would be his downfall.

Big beasts were patrolling the savannah. Beasts who knew the threat a talented and popular builder like Tom could pose in this game. Simply, it was him or me. In the first DA, it was me. Not this time. But I needed help.

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Lords of All They Survey by David Roberts

Help came in the form of a jolly, tea-drinking red spaceman. General Roberts. David was a gentle soul who led a peaceful but powerful nation of Endearingly Republican Royalists to the South of my darker, more oppressive locale. An ally who I’d helped in the past and who owed me; or at least I had him think he did. Y’see, DA2 was all about the numbers. And the rules but we’ll get to that. It was mostly the numbers. The power of your weapons was decided by their popularity as mocs, thus favouring the more established, talented and/or productive builders. I at least managed to fulfil two of those criteria, and thus my numbers were good and growing with my territory. But Tom’s numbers were stellar. General Roberts would be persuaded to attack him alongside me, thus dividing his forces. We could take him down.

David was queasy about this, his peaceful nature in conflict with the brutality of this game. Or at least the brutality of it as it was played by the CCCP. They were exactly as communist as that sounds. They were my loyal attack dogs.

One thing Tom had in his favour was quick fingers. Eh? I’ll explain. There was a weekly 24 hour attack window, in which all battles were fought and calculated in the order that they happened. For example, if you were attempting to attack from a territory that was taken before your attack occurred, it was null. The attack window would open at midnight on a Friday EST. That’s five in the morning for us Brits. Five in the freaking morning. Every single Saturday for five months. A game’s gotta be something special to drag this night owl of bed like that…

Being French, Tom had the same problem. But he was always there and for week after week he’d beat us to it, clinging to life as I’d curse these arthritic fingers. Until one day he wasn’t. Suddenly the world needed a new Magistrate, and Tom had unwittingly handed me the tools to wrest that power. Another of his benevolent decisions, this time that fostered creativity like so much in this game but it was a challenge in which few players had the time to participate.

Gentle reader, I found the time.

And so a communist enclave, with a contradictory Queen at its head, came to call the shots in the largest alliance.

It wasn’t the largest by much, and we had to be careful. Organised. We knew our outcomes before the battle was fought. We fought well, and together. There were early casualties. Generals Brown and VAkkron, talented builders both, tried and ultimately failed to gain a footing in South America. Leading the other side, entrenched in SA was our potential nemesis.

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M & M Attack Interceptor by VAkkron

General Revanchist, LukeClarenceVan the, was the force to be reckoned with here. I’d fought alongside him in DA1 and knew his strengths. He played us all like chess pieces, sitting quietly in his (for a while, anyway) safe corner of the world while orchestrating his minions to wound us. And wound us they did. Luke’s right hand man, the brave, belligerent, bold General Bacca made regular incursions across the Atlantic from his Northern Imperial stronghold, wiping out our ally General Ian and his enlightened new Roman Empire. Should I be amused that one as warlike as Bacca was in charge of Canada ? Those mounties were fierce.

And what of us ? Half way there and we were five; Barrett and Roberts controlled Africa. General Lucas held sway in central Asia educating the natives until the end. Stuart was a good teacher, by all accounts, and it seemed his pupils were well versed in the Art of War. General Van Grootveld’s Tequila-soaked mob sobered up enough occasionally to keep Eastern Europe and Northern Asia a fetching shade of lime green. Pico’s gang may have looked unruly, but man, they were equipped. The most stylish, homogenous and slick fleet of deadly weapons on this Earth, and above it. Stalking the Steppe like a flotilla of shiny, deadly Tigers.

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Mayahuel Gunship by Pico van Grootveld

And then there was General Creatori.  Commander Rutherford was right – behind her fun and whimsical builds lay a steely determination, and it was there at every planning discussion. Topsy always had a way forward for all of us. She played for the team, and the team thanked her for it.

Barrett’s CCCP played for the team when it suited them.

To understand the complexity of what we were doing, perhaps it’d be helpful to look at a chart:

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..and this is the compact version with the last five players. Earlier in the game there were all 30 or so players on here,  all their numbers updated and ready for us to crunch. Every week. There was a long way to scroll right to get to the smaller fry. This is exactly the sort of thing that hits right at your nerd-centre. How we loved it.

How did Comptroller Goldman love it though ? He it was who processed the calculations for every attack, every week for five months. Always producing the results within a day or at most, two. Mistakes were rare; and usually our mistakes. The man was a machine, but even machines need a rest. Goldman didn’t take one; he just took endless questions from those who would not deign to read the rules.

The rules were there, clear as day and in black and white. There was no circumventing them, they had been refined to such perfection it would have been a crime to try. Complex yes, but completely logical and understandable to those who read them. These are the people who would destroy the players that did not. There were of course traps therein, carefully laid to ensnare the stupid and unwary.

General Douglas was nothing if not unwary. Here was the single greatest reason to post a security guard at the door with a ruler and a sign that says

YOU MUST BE AT LEAST THIS TALL TO ENTER.

Six feet two seems about right…

But MocPages is for the kids, right ? Sure it is, the ones that can read and comprehend will do just fine. Douglas did neither. Just questions, questions, questions; answered always promptly by the staff as they tried (and failed) to hide their exasperation. Whereupon the dear boy would enquire whether he is being annoying and apologise. Before doing it all over again. I’m sure he’s older and hope he’s wiser now, so wish him no ill. Mainly because he fell head first into the biggest trap those confounded rules had laid.

Antarctica was one large territory. Other landmasses were divided into many territories, but not Penguinland. It was intended as somewhat of a shortcut along the bottom of the map from South America to Australia and, if you were really brave, up to Africa. This was fine, and indeed dandy if you’re a Revanchist, but it’s not a good place to start from. You cannot go anywhere. In order to attack across water, you must hold at least three coastal territories. It was there in black and white, waiting to be interpreted. Or not.

Now where do you think General Douglas pitched his tent ?

You guessed correctly. To be fair, he took it on the chin. No over-entitled whining about his lot; he was growing up. He’d learned A Lesson.

We left him there in the snowy wasteland. There were bigger fish to fry.1441663021m_DISPLAY.jpg

Sea Raven Submarine by LukeClarenceVan the Revanchist

It wasn’t all frying fish. The main group was a lively gathering, rife with braggadocio and smack talk yes, but also tangential discussions with fellow players, friend and foe, who were happy to pass the time in each others’ company. To commiserate and to celebrate. To be serenaded by the Bard of Oz.

General Werewolff was his name, wherefore the second ‘f’ no one knows, but we did know he had a rare talent. If Goldman was the engine of DA2, Remy its pure heart, Bacca and van Grootveld its fists, then Werewolff was its soul. There was a place in this blood-soaked world for poetry, lyric splendour that favoured no one and yet favoured us all. Did more powerful players leave him be because of the strategic insignificance of Australia, or because we couldn’t bear to be the one that snuffed the poet ?

General Revanchist thought twice about using the shortcut available to him to deal with those vagabonds in the Far East. They were a thorn in our side as well. Ever the audacious gambler, he took Madagascar instead.

Our alliance had a problem. This could be the beginning of the end for us, with Bacca’s cavalry pinning Topsy’s cultural re-flowering of Europe to a handful of territories, Pico under attack from men in suits in the East and Stuart feeling the heat from a minor alliance who’d suddenly got quite major. There was a typhoon brewing in Japan. General Typhoon and he was not going away without a fight.

I still had the power of the Magistrate, and I would never get to use it to such devastating effect. I took the nuclear option. One territory – just one – would be summarily wiped from the map; blackened for all time, habitable to no one. Now, I couldn’t just point it at Madagascar. There had to be a worldwide poll choosing between three possible outcomes, selected by me and all deleterious to my opponents. One much more so than the other two. One problem remained; in our weakened state we didn’t hold half the available votes or even close to it.

Here came the triumph of diplomacy. Every lone wolf, and indeed Wolff was cajoled / bribed with offers of protection and co-operation (which we followed through on for the most part, to my own surprise…) in order to swing the vote our way. It was an exhausting week. Just minutes before the polls closed, it was clear this would go down to the wire.

We won with 51% of the vote. Madagascar was rendered a nuclear wasteland, an island Chernobyl off the coast of Africa, just to protect some communists and tea-drinking spacemen from a Revanchist. We were safe for a bit but at what cost ? All those unique and wonderful island species, gone. I still feel the pain. It was the turning point of the game.

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Meteors of Madagascar poster by VAkkron

We haven’t mentioned General Burns. Leader of a very orderly society, quietly going about their business, and that business was kicking van Grootveld whenever the opportunity arose on behalf of Luke and company. A polite bunch, they always fought in their business suits. You just know the trains ran on time. It didn’t help them when the reckoning came.

Most of this, the real action / bloodshed took place in the game’s second phase. The first was a kind of phoney war; players too far apart to attack until they’d built up their lands and arsenals. Sabres rattling across empty deserts with no-one to hear them. It didn’t last long. I’d set sail for Remystan as soon as I was able, and they knew that I was coming.

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Little Victory by Nick Barrett

That battle marked the start of the real action, the point at which the big beasts started taking bites out of each other. It was a battle between two factions although others were involved; sometimes for one side, sometimes for the other – anything to stay alive just a little longer. But there was no holding back the ravenous beasts. After enveloping Africa, Roberts and Barrett turned to the Middle East, knocking over the surprisingly resilient General X in doing so.

X, as befits his name, was something of an enigma. Ostensibly a lone wolf, he would side with whomever was in his interests, which works fine until you’re surrounded by one faction. Goodnight X.

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A Night To Remember by Werewolff

And so began the game’s third phase. The point at which the five remaining members of the winning alliance, having carved up the world must decide; with keyboard or sword, which individual would win. There can be only one.

Imperator Goldman wanted blood, and who could blame him ? To level the playing field, the Magistrate was discontinued for the last part. Fair enough, but as the tallest poppy at this point I was vulnerable. We spoke freely as a group and decided to have at it. Attack! as one might say. The crowds deserve an encore.

General Roberts was queasy again. A brave fighter but a gentle soul, he had no stomach for turning on his former allies; he decided to rule himself out of the fight and watch the fireworks. General Creatori was weaker than the others, having been in the frontline against Bacca for most of the game – her role would be a supporting one. That left van Grootveld, Lucas and Barrett to duke it out to the bitter end.

We were not without encouragement. Vanquished players stuck around to see the result; even as former teammates we cheered each other on as we knocked seven bells out of each other, but there was a problem.

That 5 a.m. thing. Fast fingers. The fastest fingers all game had belonged to Pico. Whatever they put in his Tequila worked wonders for his powers of prestidigitation. I needed an ace in the hole.

Meet Captain Alex. Not a computer-game construct this time, but a real person; a person who’d watched his normally titanically lazy father rouse himself at stupid o’clock on a Saturday for months now. The more I told him about it, the more he wanted to know. This from somebody who has a real Army to fight in. I told you the game was good… Too young to be a Captain of course, but he earned that rank here. By the third phase, even a night on the tiles didn’t prevent him from getting up with me to watch the action, and his tactical advice was invaluable. He would squint at the map for minutes on end, eyes darting across  every permutation before he’d find the One True Path.

Being young, he’s got faster fingers too.

It was his idea to engineer events to ensure that I took my biggest hit in the penultimate round. Be the tall poppy. Let them fire at will. We’re big enough to survive, and fight again.

Let the other two fight each other in the last round. The wounded CCCP can’t recover on its own and is no threat now.

Is that General Creatori on the line ?

Topsy was scrupulously fair. She had the ability to mount three attacks. She’d make one against each. The rest was up to me.

I could have a lie in for once, do some leisurely maths and if it was possible, win.

It was close. So very close. I crunched the numbers and fired my salvos and waited. Near the end, General Lucas had gained more power than I’d allowed for. Just a little bit. My numbers were wrong; I would need one more attack but my guns were silent.

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Colonialism 101 by Stuart Lucas

My pleas to Topsy to use her one remaining attack went unheeded. Fair to the end, she had done her part.

There was not one winner. There were two, or there was none depending on how you looked at it. Brigadier Goldman believed it was a stitch up, that friendship is magic when resistance should be futile but let me set the record straight. We did not arrange to tie. I arranged to win but screwed up the maths. Lucas and Barrett tied at the top, van Grootveld held one territory less.

The world settled into its new order. Half of it living comfortably in a classroom being taught at and the other half subsisting on a diet of gruel, driving to work in their shoddily built cars.

Communism had triumphed, kinda.

 

Acknowledgements

Keith Goldman, who gave everything of himself to provide this game and keep it running.  The players salute you, sir.

Mike Rutherford, who invented the thing and was there to encourage, explain, excoriate as appropriate.

matt rowntRee, an able assistant to Keith and the only one to keep Luke in check on the smack thread.

Ron L. Mitchell, Chief Officer of the Department for General Douglas Containment.

MocPages, which could have been designed for crazy shit like this. Except when it wasn’t working. Bonk Smash Thud! Is even less amusing at 5am…

All of the Players. Every single one of them. But mostly Werewolff.

 

Editor’s Note:

I found a map from the original Decisive Action and added it to the article for clarity.

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MOCpages, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Firetrucks

It is my great pleasure to hand over the airwaves to friend of the blog, matt rowntRee, who has graciously agreed (after a great deal of cajoling and mocking) to share his wisdom on the current state of MOCpages.  With any luck this will not be his last article for the Manifesto, but for now lean back and enjoy matt’s take on a topic that has been burning up the comments section.

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First off, let me welcome you aboard the cruise ship here, pay no attention to the hole.  Or the slight tilt.  But the band is playing down on the Lido deck and we’re still serving drinks, albeit without alcohol much to Lloyd’s displeasure.

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But that’s so we can include the kids in our little voyage.  I mean, why would you NOT want to include them unless you’re admitting that you’re a godless pornographer looking to destroy impressionable young minds.  Is that what you want, sicko?  Is that why you’re here reading this drivel knowing full well who wrote it?  Is that why you are morbidly curious about this “fine” vessel?  Is that why the Shirley Temple you just ordered tastes like Kool-Aid with a hint of almonds?  Yes, remember folks that on this voyage we have to take into account the fragile minds of children.

(That one’s just for you Keith.  😉 )

Sound fun, constant reader?  But wait, there’s more!

Here are your monogrammed towel and rose colored glasses because our only port of call is a fine little island that goes by the nickname Castle Rock.  There you’ll find such wonders as a pigs head on a pointy stick with flies buzzing around it, a young man that talks to it, several tribes at war over a pair of glasses, and one boy named Piggy wearing a boulder for a hat.  Don’t worry if he doesn’t feel like talking, he’s just dead.  At the end of our time there, we will have ourselves a glorious little bonfire which may attract some curious soldiers on a transport to wonder how these children could become so feral and violent.  Don’t mind the warship, it’s only irony.

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You want an update on Mocpages?  Curious as to what’s going on there?  Want the latest scuttlebutt about a site where I can’t say “scuttlebutt”?  Wondering why someone that you, constant reader, here know to be zealous about artistic freedom would have some insight as to the social experiment that takes “LEGO Dark Ages” literally?

Well, you’ve come to the right place then!

But as with all things on Mocpages, I am the man to ask only by default.  All the lifeboats were filled and most everyone rowed to bigger, brighter, less sinking sites.  Good for every one of them!  You as well, constant reader, if for some reason you find yourself to be included in that wave of saved souls.  However, I have to ask why you left.  Was it the glitches like the INactivity bar?  Was it the comical Bonk, Smash, Thud-ism prevalent during contests with timeframes?  Was it the uploader that never ever EVER works, even though it does?  Was it technical, or was it something else?

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You see, constant reader, I have to tell you honestly that I don’t believe you when you say that it was technical issues for one reason:  They really only exist as minor annoyances.  Does Mocpages need upgrades?  Abso-fucking-lutely!  Without any doubt, the site is stuck in 2002, and it painfully shows its age.  It’s why many rowed their way to Sweden Flickr and Facebook.  At least that seems to be what they have said when asked, as if being courteous and non-confrontational, respectful and mindful of other points of view as if avoiding any sort of boat rocking on this unsinkable vessel.  The problem is that those sights are not Mocpages, that perfectly suited page set up ripe for conversation and display, that hive of active groups engaging in contests and community, that premier site devoted to the one single bond shared by every one of us:  Sharing our LEGO creations.  Hell, that’s even the motto at the top of the page there!  So what is it that made you flee a sinking ship?  Was it even sinking?  Had it hit the iceberg just yet or is it still blissfully full steam ahead?  If Mocpages is archaic, slow, and technically annoying, then why does anyone care?

I have the answer to that as well.

It’s simply perfect.  And you all want it to work.  It’s beautifuuuullll!

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But just like Pantera’s Box it cannot be closed.  We have all seen that Mocpages is the best platform for what the community needs and wants.  However, it is broken.  Well, sort of.  Not really, but it has issues.  Fixable, but seeing that everyone has pretty much left the liner, there is little reason to patch the hole that doesn’t seem to be taking in any more water, if it even was in the first place.  No ballast, no hole below the waterline.  Or I may simply be imposing my bias towards the pages there as they better suit my own style of building, a concession I would readily admit.  But something as open to all styles like that should by design be open to evolving and expanding, welcoming all manner of expression to freely converse and hopefully improve.  Again, I would freely confess that my expectations are far greater than actualities.  But as Keith’s art school girlfriend, I think they should be.

Now I think it’s time for a bit of updating as you all have been patiently and anxiously awaiting, likely begging even with baited breath no less.  That nervous tick of frustration compels you to know, like ripe fruit in front of you.  So close.  So very close.  Or you are just simply bored going through your daily routine in the morning before setting off to your job and want me to get to the damn point because you have some shit to say about Mocpages and this jerk keeps yammering.  (Don’t worry, I know that answer too.)

So, are you ready?

Are you sure?

Then in the immortal words of Herb Tarlek, “Mmmmmokayfine.”

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Nothing has changed.

Yes, you heard right, folks, and you heard it here first!  Not a goddamned thing has changed with Mocpages!  Still the same old glitches, still the same old uploader, still the same old spectacular cast of dozens (except of course those that are rowing vigorously), still the same castaways on their little island nations looking for power with Piggy’s spectacles regardless of who broke the conch shell (c’mon guys, read your classics!), still the same rose colored glasses, still the same man behind the curtain (shhhh, don’t wake him), still the same Pandora’s Box open to the world, and still the same rowntRee fighting the only causes worth fighting for, lost ones.

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(God, I hate that sappy movie.)

Is it sad to know that Pandora’s Box actually gives us all a bit of hope?  Yup, I can see it’s still at the bottom of the Box there.  And it’s why I haven’t completely jumped ship.  I have been over there for actually five years now (had to look it up) and have been riding the meteoric decline since.  The great exodus was right in front of me and I still saw that the site was worth the effort of sticking around (Surf Chernobyl!)  And over the past couple years, there has been a revival of voices (the remaining ones, that is) that have all but demanded that Sean wake up and fix the technical issues.  The hope is still there and I even have proof!  We started a group where we could gather ideas and suggestions (hence the name) to present to Kelso to present to Sean, all done in the hope that Mocpages was worth saving.  There were some great ideas fleshed out into feasible positives and a host of easy changes to operations that could be tasty and attractive.  Even for Sean!  Yes, we took into account that it had to appeal to him rather than be a whine fest of MP denizens demanding more now.

Well, Sean rolled over a bit.  And then promptly went back to sleep.  Apologies, Mr. Kenney for disturbing you, we’ll genuflect softer next time.

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Actual changes can be summed up easily with LukeClarenceVan the Revanchist (Lachlan Toal) and Chris Roach being made site wide moderators to help Mark “I’m pulling out my hair with all this bullshit” Kelso and Chris “I’d pull out my hair if I had the time” Phipson.

So, four people now occupy the prestigious position of Mocpages moderator.  They have all been granted complete power to enact changes and control issues, they can step in and take action under any circumstance to affect results in Sean’s absence, and they can repair all the technical problems as Sean has granted them full access to do so as necessary.  Okay, all that was complete bullshit as it is just four mods left to clean up the mess that opening the Box created.

There is only one other change of note.  The occupancy/activity has been reduced from over twenty pages (28 mocs each) when I joined to what is now four pages at best.  And most of them are filled with, yep, you guessed it, firetrucks.  Yes, you know your site is doomed when firetrucks invade the homepage.  I’m pretty sure it’s one of the signs of the apocalypse, the eighth seal perhaps, real wrath of god type stuff.

So where does that leave us, constant reader?  Because if you’re really interested in what’s going on over at a FREE website, then why aren’t you over there interested?  You all know it not to be LUGNET, it obviously was more than an exclusive sounding board and offered pics to share.  You know it wasn’t Brickshelf, it allowed more depth than a simple photo dump.  It was the best of both worlds; Flickr became the clubhouse by default.  But why is that?

My experience on Mocpages was tame by most standards and I’m not compooter savvy enough to know otherwise; it likely afforded me a bit of wiggle room when throwing in some sound reasoning to any argument.  It still however did not prevent me from getting booted out of a group there for pointing out their bias.  But I know that Vitreolum and Bricks Noir have both been “chase(d)…round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before (they’ve been given) up!”  Seriously guys, read the classics, but if you insist:

So that’s it.  All that is going on over at Mocpages is the same.  And it’s been the same over the past fifteen years.  And it’ll be the same over the next.  So, you want to know more?  Then get over there.  If everyone’s so curious, then go check it out.  But the only thing that really has changed in all the years is that everyone left.  For whatever reason, no one stays.  Blame Sean, he’s certainly culpable in letting it fall into ruins.  Blame the bands of roving mobs dictating policy based on their juvenile sensibilities, they are definitely the loudest voices since no one else there is speaking, let alone against them.  Blame me for trying more indirect approaches after seeing that kicking down the front door only let more flies in to swirl around the rotting pig’s head.  But if you’re not there actively engaging, then I’m not sure how anything I say will be enlightening.  There are no more players and there is no game, the lights are on but there’s no one home.

I tried.

I tried here as well, constant reader.  I was tasked with writing an article about Mocpages, but I’m afraid that although I have a unique insight, there just simply isn’t anything worth writing about.  Gertrude Stein would call it the Oakland of the interwebs, there’s no there there.  I am not one to call to arms and go fight the fight as I don’t see anything there worth fighting for.  Lost causes are one thing; Mocpages has simply devolved into a mob ruled monarchy.  And no matter how many moderators are put in charge, it’ll remain that way until Sean is out of the picture.

Or we take it back.  I mean what can they do?  Kick us out of a site we aren’t really on in the first place and certainly one we’ve been forced to not care about.  But for some strange reason, we still do.  And out of my own morbid curiosity, I am wondering why everyone will not give it a second glance.  For academic reasons, I want to know that if all the technical issues were fixed then is it possible for a migration back there.  Would the prodigal community be welcome by the locals?  Is a new uploader, all shiny and chrome, important enough for anyone to go back?  It seems to me that we’ve all adapted to Flickr relatively well, would adapting to Mocpages be out of the question?  If so, why?  We all seem to harbor fond memories of the old gal.  Yeah, on occasion she can be a bitch, but there was in fact something there that isn’t anymore.  Maybe it’s just us that aren’t there anymore.  And if it is more Mobpages than Mocpages, maybe it’s just the wrong mob.  Have we all been on that cruise long enough and are just simply sick of shrimp and Shirley Temples?  Should we just wish it a fond bon voyage from our own island?

As I said, constant reader, I am not one to call to arms.  But there she sits; same old Mocpages where nothing has changed.  But now you have an article telling you not only something you already knew but also absolutely nothing worth reading and somewhat indicting in its tone.  Apologies and you’re welcome.  Will any curiosity drive you to take Mocpages back or is the ease and features of Flickr enough?  Is community there at all appealing in comparison to community on Flickr?  Is there an obligation to one over the other?  Is there any hint of responsibility to this medium that compels you to help the next batch of builders to not make the same mistakes we all did?  Anyone else just simply enjoy a good fight?  Is matt going to relent with all these fucking questions?

Just one more:  Is Mocpages worth starting the fire of revolt over or is simply setting it ablaze the best option?

Either way, thankfully there are enough firetrucks to prevent it from getting out of hand.

4,294,967,295 (or) “I find myself growing fatigued”

Gird your loins, constant reader and prepare for some stream of consciousness style rambling.  As I mentioned in last week’s SUPERHAWK article, when I rediscovered the model in question I was actually searching for the #1 “most popular” model on MOCpages.  The creation that holds the honor is Garry King’s Battlestar Berzerk with a whopping 71,501 views, 2918 likes and 245 comments, an epic showing without a doubt.  While I certainly appreciate the gaudy stats and the accolades of my peers in the comment section, the Berzerk never spoke to me.  I found it too similar in shape and style to the Galactica to be interesting and the differences were not that compelling either.  Consequently, the article’s intended goal of reviewing and critiquing the #1 model on MOCpages morphed into a somewhat nostalgic spotlight of the rediscovered classic SUPERHAWK.  I enjoyed writing the article and it certainly generated more hits and comments than I expected so I went over to the ancestral birthing ground of our kind, Brickshelf, with the very same goal in mind, to find the “most popular” model on the site.  Since the Shelf is older than dirt, it doesn’t track likes/favorites and of course it doesn’t have a commenting feature which leaves us with a single measurable indicator of success, the number of views.  And that leads us to the bloated number featured as the title of this article: 4,294,967,295.  It turns out that every model on the first page of Brickshelf’s “Greatest Hits” function has the same exact number of views: 4,294,967,295.  Since there was no clear indication of which model enjoys the greatest popularity, I decided to discard the first page entirely because it seemed to my untrained eye like some kind of glitch in the system.  And just like my MOCpages experience last week, the creations on the first page were not sufficiently inspiring enough to set me typing.

It isn’t until you click over to the first model on page 2 that the number of views begins to vary and no 2 numbers are the same for at least a dozen pages back.  So I decided to use the top spot on page 2 to determine the most popular model on Brickshelf and therefore the subject of this article.  While 4,038,716,609 is truly an impressive number of views and builder suu’s rendition of the Wii is pretty accurate given the parts palette available a decade ago, at the end of the day I just can’t get excited about this model.  Of course I have some nitpicks (the controller, lack of those little rubber feet) but I’m not going to go into them at length because they bore me as the entire creation bores me, as the Battlestar Berserk bores me.  I have nothing against suu or the Wii, it was a fun platform and obviously quite a few people enjoyed the Lego interpretation you see below, but to quote a superior intellect…“I find myself growing fatigued”…just by looking at it’s blandness, much less trying to write about it in any meaningful way.

Yes, I did just compare myself to Ricardo Montalban.   I So I decided to go the SUPERHAWK route and focus what’s left of this article on a model featured on the same page, with an only slightly less impressive 1,870,316,719 views to it’s name.  It’s called “The Doll” and just like SUPERHAWK, it’s almost a decade old.  Rather impossibly, the hobby as we know is already has a driver’s license and it is fast approaching the legal drinking age.  I’m sure many of you will recognize the builders, the world renown Arvo Brothers,  but I was really only aware of the work they feature on Flickr, which does not include “The Doll“.  I also learned they have a very nice website that features the model in question, but I doubt I’ll return there, because I’m lazy and tend to stick to the usual watering holes for my Lego browsing rather than individual sites.  Although I know they’ve been around for a while,  I had no idea the Bros were active back in the days when Brickshelf was a commonly used site, I always thought of them as being a more modern phenomena.  So “The Doll” was a delightful discovery for me and I fervently hope it is new to at least a few of our constant readers.  Of course the shaping and level of detail on the front of the figure is truly remarkable, but it’s the shot of the upper back that I found the most compelling.  It almost seems like a different model entirely from this angle and it really drives home their almost obsessive quality ethic: everything must look as flawless as possible from top to bottom, back to front.  These guys appear to be ruthlessly intolerant of imperfection and I’d love to be a fly on the wall watching them build and argue over whether or not some obscure detail was good enough.  Most brothers I know would just as likely end a building session with fisticuffs and a broken model as create something this magnificent.  Oh, it’s also kind of fucked up and disturbing, something that’s difficult to do with a children’s building toy.

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4,294,967,295 is apparently a meaningless number, but for a stats guy like me it’s also kind of a drag.  I’m the type of person who likes to know who lead the league in batting average last year, or who had the most shots-on-goal in world cup history and it seems clear the stat-tracking on both MOCpages and Brickshelf is unreliable at best.  Of course, none of these image hosting sites have a comprehensive collection of every model produced so the whole manner of  comparison is a questionable endeavor from the get go, but I don’t care…I still like stats, I still like rankings, I still like lists.  I’ll also grant you that there is no perfect metric for a model and many of you probably don’t like having “art” measured and quantified at all, but it is an interesting way to compare models that can foster both well intentioned discussion and rousing smack talk.   Even as I kid I used to love to argue about Guitar Player Magazine’s ranking of the 10 best rock guitarists, or the Sporting News list of the best baseball players by position or TV shows detailing the top 10 piston driven aircraft from WW2.  Ultimately, my somewhat dubious quest for the #1 most popular model was a failure, but it lead me to a couple of excellent and influential models that at the very least deserve a second viewing 10 years later.

Stay tuned in the coming days, constant reader, for new offerings from regular contributors Ted Andes and our resident foppish dandy, Michael Rutherford.  Please recall that the Manifesto is always accepting submissions for review, so don’t hesitate to send us your rants, no matter how malevolent or benign.