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.

arvo_thedoll

 

 

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.

 

In Praise of SUPERHAWK

Next month marks the 10 year anniversary of a kick ass model that once rocked the very foundations of MOCpages, back in the mist shrouded before-time, when the site was actually relevant and home to a vibrant cast of builders, malcontents and Euro-trash.  I’m talking about the mother fucking C-107 SUPERHAWK! by Chris DeBree.  Clocking in at 169 studs long, I think this beast could still hang in there with the upper tier of the 2017 SHIPtember offerings.  Sure the photos are blurry, the background is kind of sad and some of the shaping is a little rough by today’s lofty standards, but back in the day I can assure you this was state of the art sci-fi building.  The engine technique may seem like boilerplate to the more jaded members of the Manifesto audience but this is one of the first uses I can recall.  Still not sold?  It also sported a fully realized (if spartan) interior that included accommodations for a crew of 43 carefully chosen minifigs, with room for a beefcake battle tank for good measure.  There were also an impressive list of working features including but not limited to: movable rotating Gatling cannons, cargo ramps, hatches, landing gear and flaps.  With the possible exception of lighting, which wasn’t really in vogue back then, the SUPERHAWK had everything a scif-fi fan could ask for and the numbers reflected it’s awesomeness: 136,759 views, 821 likes and 361 comments…numbers that would be impressive on Flickr today or any other photo-venue of choice.  Sure it’s had 10 years to accumulate those gaudy stats, but the lion’s share were generated the first year and it’s good enough for the 13th spot on MOCpages’ listing of it’s all-time most popular models.  Only Kelso’s Invisible Hand, and Garry King’s Battlestar Berserk, two classic SHIPs, are higher on that list.  Perhaps just as importantly, the mighty warbird also inspired a legion of imitators, none of which are really worth posting but it motivated a number of people to not only build, but think big and push what they thought of as possible.  Believe me when I tell you constant reader, this model was directly responsible for dozens of craptacluar drop-ships and they all worshiped at the temple of SUPERHAWK.  Still not convinced I see…how about some 10 year old celebrity endorsements?

El Barto: “This thing is wild! The design has elements of a F-16 in the nose and an F-4 Phantom in the tail, two of my favorite fighters. But this takes it to a whole new level. Unbelievable job!”

Stuart Delahay: “This is a thing of beauty. The sheer scale, the lines and shapes, the fact it actually carries 36 troops and a sizeable crew (I despise ‘dropship’ mocs that are huge then hold three figs). Well done sir, quite rightly one of the most popular mocs on the site.”

Brian Kescenovtiz: “This really is quite an amazing ship. Wonderful details everywhere you look…fantastic job Chris!”

Mark Stafford (current TLG designer): “Beautiful and inspiring. One of the best ships I’ve seen in a long time, the detailing is great and seems to be there for a reason-rather then just for the sake of it. Great stuff.”

Mark Kelso: “MOC’s like these are few and far between. The design is superb, and the execution (which becomes more and more difficult as size increases) is handled masterfully. In contrast to other reviews, I have seen other MOC’s that are larger and even more complex (visit my home page for links to some of those), But this one is absolutely in their league…which is saying A LOT!!!!!! This is one of those MOC’s to be visited again and again. FANTASTIC job!”

And I’m gonna throw in Nannan Zhang’s comment just because aside from being accurate, it also proves what a humorless bore he’s always been: “Great details, but some overall shots would be even better.”

1197229543_DISPLAY.jpg

The Chairman was quite right though, it is indeed a shame the photos are so crappy, because although I’m nostalgic for the SUPERHAWK, I had completely blocked out how bad the presentation was.  Even allowing for the fact that your average builder didn’t care as much about backgrounds and post-production back then, it’s still objectively terrible and no doubt kept the model off the big blogs of the day.  It’s even more of a shame that Chris seems to have completely wandered out of the scene just two short years and two models later (his last posted model was this nifty dune buggy), but with this single epic creation he definitely made his mark on the early days of the hobby and for that, this builder will remain grateful.  So won’t you join me and raise a glass to 10 years of SUPERHAWK?  If you won’t, you’re probably a communist and you should take a long hard look at yourself.

 

People of ‘The Pages’: Nick Pascale

Welcome, constant reader to the inaugural entry of a new feature here at the Manifesto called People of ‘The Pages’.  ‘The Pages’ refers to MOCpages of course, that wonderful reservation inhabited by Brickarmz prototype enthusiasts, home-schooled teenage religious zealots and all the lovable disenfranchised dreamers of the Lego dream.  Although I don’t go to MOCpages for the social interaction or creations any longer, the site does offer one redeeming quality that keeps bringing me back for more…the home-page description.  Every MOCpages account has a space for you, the builder, to say a little something about yourself and your approach to the hobby….it’s like the ‘profile‘ feature on Flickr but not so inaccessible and underused.  On MOCpages the home-page description takes center-stage and it has inspired some truly great content over the years.  It is my great pleasure to share that conent with you, just the best of the best.  This series has less to do with building and more to do with finding out just who the hell we are as a tribe.

This feature is inspired by a shitty early 1980’s TV show called Real People, that seemed to be on constantly when I was a kid.  Because there were very few channels to choose from and options were limited, I watched more of this show than was probably healthy.

So with that preamble out of the way, I’m going to kick-start the series with perhaps the ultimate home-page description in all of ‘The Pages’.  I stumbled upon it years ago, quite by accident, during my time blogging for TBB.  Nick Pascale was (and probably still is) a frequent commentator on the Big Blog, rarely would a week go by without a comment or three popping up on various postings.  Never on my posts though…never on mine…which naturally pricked my delicate ego and peaked my interest, prompting me to seek him out in his natural environment.  What I found on ‘The Pages’ nothing short of astonishing….one of the single greatest pieces of writing I’ve yet encountered in the hobby.  In future editions of this regular feature I plan on highlighting key rhetorical segments and discussing them in some detail, but this mother of all home page descriptions is simply too pure…too magnificent…and defintiely too long to attempt a critique with any meaningful fidelity.  Nick covers everything from his biography, frustrations with Lego Ideas, MOC statistics, community spirit, personal Lego achievements, Lego related travels, 9/11, obituaries, a plea for greater MOCpages activity and much much more!  You will be amazed by his use of color and font!  You will be amazed by his spirit and creativity!  Indeed, there is a new member of the great pantheon of AFOLs named Nick (Barrett, Trotta and Dean)  I will leave you to your own conclusions and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the comments.  If you have any recommendations for this feature, constant reader, please shoot me a link at your earliest convenience.

 

WELCOME to my LEGO(R) Creations, my VISION and my DREAM

by Nick Pascale

ANNOUNCEMENT
My project based on my MINNIE’S BOWTIQUE here on MOCpages has just been accepted as a LEGO IDEAS PROJECT. As you know I need 10,000 SUPPORTERS! So please visit LEGO IDEAS and lend me your support! If you are not a member you can join for free! there are 5 simple questions to answer and then click SUPPORT and I am there! Thank you for your support in advance! I only posted this yesterday and I already have 1,952 views as of July 12, 2016 12:57 p.m. dst! It’s so frustrating trying to get the needed 10,000 SUPPORT VOTES needed for the LEGO IDEAS TEAM to decide “Should this become a set?” I need your help! Here on MOCpages I have 2,131 views and get this 4k (4,000) views on LEGO IDEAS yet I only have 72 votes I still need 9,928 more! Proud to inform you I now have 173 Supports only 9,827 more to go as of September 9, 2016! Please get to LEGO IDEAS AND JOIN & VOTE! I’ll ask you all once more: Please go to LEGO IDEAS Join, Verify your email and Support, do not forget to click on follow and please leave a comment and mention MOCpages! Minnie’s Bowtique LEGO IDEAS.
And this is the set right here on MOCpages: LEGO MINNIE’S BOWTIQUE

…and how it appears on LEGO IDEAS:

UPDATE: I now have 64 votes of SUPPORT I need 9,936 more votes to reach for the LEGO IDEAS TEAM to consider it! What I do not understand is it has been viewed here by 2,106 people, imagine if each one went and voted for it I’d be that closer and get this on LEGO IDEAS I have 3K views that’s 3,000 views adding the views here and the views there I’d be half way there. Just like in America this is an election year and we always hear YOUR VOTE COUNTS! you can see just how important you as MOCpagers votes for any LEGO IDEAS project is. Today is my birthday – July 26 what a great present to see it reach at least 75 maybe 100 SUPPORT Votes! Thanks!

HAPPY 5TH ANNIVERSARY, Yes, guys and gals I just celebrated 5 years on MOCpages this past January 22nd, where does time go?

NEWS FLASH:

Unfortunately None of my Lego Ideas were accepted!

Continue reading “People of ‘The Pages’: Nick Pascale”

Fire for Effect: Alas Alas That Great City LUGNET

This is the fifth salvo in Michael Rutherford’s regular column, Fire for Effect. Take it away Mike…

LUGNET.jpg

The planet LUGNET… The Lego User Group Network… The Home World.  Once the undisputed hub of the entire AFOL sector, it was a powerful marketplace of ideas.  Almost 20 years later,  LUGNET hangs invisible from the ceiling of cyberspace… like a gigantic, arthritic bat… hidden from view in the darkness, but still clinging defiantly to life.  A desolate place… its once thronging multitudes are long gone, fled to the promise of a better life in the off-world colonies. Those few who remain on the Home World are merely stewards who live in the ruins, creatures of habit who hold out hope for better times and new track geometries.  The mighty stream of message traffic that once flowed in from every corner of the AFOL sector has now slowed to a trickle of Ones and Zeros… Occasionally, the dusty silence of litter strewn streets is broken by a distant sonic boom, a recon drone swooping down from orbit on a preprogrammed census sweep.

LUGNET was a good thing and nothing like it exists currently.  In its heyday, the site was a communications nexus, a cognitive disco and an atomic snow globe of creativity. Announcements of MOCs were the mainstay, but not the only commodity to be had. Ideas, conversations, debates, arguments, product news and other deliberations were all available in seemingly inexhaustible supply.  And links?  Links a go-go!  Links to LUGs. Links to images.  Links to other more specific groups.  Links to other blogs.  Links to contests.  Links to Keith’s mom…  It was the allure of this perpetual tumult that lured me into my first public utterance as an AFOL.  It was Sunday, the 24th of October, 2004… at exactly 04:14:42 GMT.  The transcript of this first transmission remain in the abandon archives even today!  Prepare yourself, it was both insightful and inspiring.

Rosco,
Nicely put.  Apparently I couldn't handle the dictionary after all.
Mike

UHURA.jpg

Yet for all this activity, LUGNET was swept from majestic cultural centrality into the margins of the AFOL world in the blink of an eye.  The thronging population crashed… seemingly overnight.  Historians would argue about the cause of LUGNETs collapse… if they cared.  But of course, historians, like most other people, could care less!  But trust me… if they did care… they would argue!

RUIN.jpg

What happened to LUGNET?

I think the AFOL race should ask itself, and perhaps ask beings from other races, this question.  The answer to the question may be an unpleasant but valuable cautionary tale.

Why is our home world all but dead?

Well for starters… I sure as hell don’t know!  I have deepened and broadened my ignorance by steadfastly refusing to do any serious historical research.  Further, I have carefully cultivated a massive cataract shaped exactly like modern consumer communications systems.  I don’t know an iPhone from a xylophone (Wait wait!  I know… the iPhone is the one you play with little mallets!) On the upside, failing to back your opinion with research means you don’t have to worry about the age-old question: APA or Turabian? So, in the unlikely event that you are STILL reading… know ye this: Every word of this article is based on the subjective opinion of an aging white man!  I’m also pretty sure my world view is mired in the Western tradition… and further tainted by years of work in the service of the state!  Also, my daughter says I’m a misogynist, but she is incorrect… silly girl!  So read on, only at the peril of your plaid wearing, Panini eating, Seattle’s Best drinking, hipster soul!  And get your rebuttal in gear… because I think I’m setting myself up for some rotten tomatoes here… Oh, Shush… here comes my thesis!

My best guess regarding the cause of the great population collapse on LUGNET is three-fold.  First, the rise of the specialized sites.  Second, the triumph of the visual over the verbal. And third, some technical stuff that I can neither comprehend nor articulate… but I’m pretty sure it’s in there some place.

The first horseman arrives.  Behold, the rise of the specialized sites!  And like so many catastrophes, it sounded like a good idea at the time… As I recall, it was the castle community that inadvertently broke the first seal in 2003.  The castle heads were the first sub-community to strike out from the home world, they were the first brave souls to seek a better life on a distant planet, which their wizards had named Classic Castle.

In the interest of clarity, I don’t mean to point an accusing finger here.  I think the castle heads, as a culture, have always been one of the more refined and dignified AFOL sub-cultures.  They embody a sort of renaissance ideal.  They strike a balance between the icy, unblinking technical competence of the Train Heads and the aggressive emotionalism of the Spacers.  The castle heads are a calm, restrained and tolerant people.  They are by and large a friendly lot and enjoy a culture of gentile artisans and hearty drinkers.  Always willing to make room at their table, always ready to laugh (Come to think of it… Castle Heads might actually be Halflings…).  No, my intent here is not to admonish.

HALFLINGS.jpg

Photo Credit: “Very old Friends” by the always entertaining Pate-keetongu.

Continue reading “Fire for Effect: Alas Alas That Great City LUGNET”