Brama!, by Mr. Zac Lowing. The rest of you losers can go home now, try harder next year!
Believe it or not, this is the 100th post in the brief history of the Manifesto. Thank you for all your views and comments, constant reader!
Brama!, by Mr. Zac Lowing. The rest of you losers can go home now, try harder next year!
Believe it or not, this is the 100th post in the brief history of the Manifesto. Thank you for all your views and comments, constant reader!
The Manifesto is proud to present the fourth installment of a month-long series by friend of the blog and creator of SHIPtember, Simon Liu.
Welcome to volume 4 of SHIPrites, the Super Sunday SHIPtember spectacular!
So far we have talked about the Journey and the path that is SHIPtember, we talked about some of the history of SHIPs and the question of Interiors.
There was some good debate among the commentators last week regarding interiors. While my original thought was that a lack of interiors meant a significant break from the ‘old school’ style of SHIP building it was aptly pointed out that many of the SHIPtember era SHIPs have extremely complicated shapes and cladding which necessitated a lot of internal structure, thus preventing the inclusion of an interior. This effectively asked a new question, which is ‘better’: Play-sets or Display pieces?
Let’s take a look back, shall we, to the short history that is SHIPtember? Here are the first three SHIPs to win SHIPtember:
2013: Nathan Proudlove – Arrested Development
2014: Tim Schwalfenberg – Hurricane Battlecruiser
2015: LEGOLIZE IT MAN – muulla – This SHIP also I believe has the notable privilege of the most FAV’d SHIP of all SHIPtembers with 422 (Happy Keith? NUMBERS!)
With the exception of Nathan’s first year entry, the collective judges all choose Micro SHIPs, and even the special judges from Homeworld Dev team’s top picks from last year were microscale. Looking back at the first year, there were quite a few minifig scale SHIPs with interiors, and part of me wonders if that was a hold-over from the old Era of SHIP building – the pre-SHIPtember era. But what we saw that first wonderful SHIPtember was a lot of MicroSHIPs, and a definite shift towards crazy and hyper detailed SHIPs.
Even with the behavioral engineering effect of naming a Minifig Scaled Interior SHIP as the inaugural Best SHIP in 2013, the flood of Micro SHIPs seems to be unabated. The gene bottle was smashed opened so to speak, as people saw the amazing Micro SHIPs that came out of that first SHIPtember. Factor in the time constraints and the extra design requirements and structural hotdoggary required for some of the more complex textures and designs, it’s easy to see why MicroSHIPs seem to achieved prominence.
Even old school spacers are getting into the action: zachmoe in the first SHIPtember was in my mind as the one that really pushed me to start thinking of SHIPs more as display pieces and less like play-sets (though I don’t think I realized it at the time). His mundane sounding entry of a Octan Fuel Transport is just simply technically brilliant and makes even the most micro builders giddy with his details:
But it’s just not the judges that were swayed by the Micro-side, arguably the most important trophy (cause I can win it!) is People’s Choice, the award that the builders and community votes on. This, to me is the real litmus test of how epic your SHIP is. Judges can be swayed to box in SHIPs by this and that, and have potential agendas and soft spots, but the people, they’re brutally honest in voting on the coolest SHIP – which actually isn’t a bad criteria.
In fact, this is so important, that People’s choice comes first. To me, it means more to have the community proclaim their favorite than a secret cabal of judges appointed by a few. So let’s see what the people liked in terms of SHIPs:
2013: Jacob Unterreiner – Phoenix (with
possibly the best SWOOSH! ever.
2014: Damien Labrousse – untitled
2015: Tim Schwalfenberg – Vaygr Battlecruiser (Again! – will he three-peat in the best SHIP/People’s choice?)
So let’s take a closer look, again it looks like it’s a Micro-sweep, so not only have the Judges and builders shifted radically away from the Play-sets and into Display pieces, but also the community at large.
But wait! Look closer at Damien’s SHIP I tricked you! That’s not actually MicroScale, it’s MINIFIG scale – you can see the little red pilot. But it LOOKS like it’s microscale, doesn’t it?
And maybe really that’s the point – scale isn’t the determining factor of cool or not. It’s the so-called micro-detailing that is wide-spread on MicroSHIPs (cause you kinda have to have micro details on microSHIP – duh) that is really the new trend. And microSHIPs tend to be smaller than Minifig Scale equivalents – which means the extra parts required for such detail to be far less than to build with a minifig Scale equivalent – But that’s not to say it can’t be achieve, Damien and Nathan are great examples. Another blast from the past, and one of my all time SHIPtember fav builds from 2014 is [Stijn Oom] with his absolutely drop dead dropship (Keith is totally right, everyone loves a good VTOL dropship…everyone):
(and I stand corrected, this appears to be the highest Fav count at 722 and counting…. … yeah)
So what now? The super detailing trend will continue and I’m sure we’ll see many amazing minifig and micro scaled SHIPs this year and subsequent years. For me, I think I’m hatching a plan for next year already, after so many hours pondering for SHIPrite fodder, it really kept making me really want to build NEXT year’s SHIP. Not that I don’t like this year’s (I do have serious issues with it) , but I’ve had so many ideas while trying to review the past few SHIPtembers and honestly some realizations I never had till I had to really had to think about it … SHIPtember 2016 … I want to do a micro-scale-detailed-minifig-interior-SHIP.
… tune in next year to see how that goes.
It’s the last Matango in Paris, constant reader, the dream of SHIPtember is over for this year. I realize there is still about a week left on the calendar but it will not be enough time to make any meaningful progress. I spent the last week hammering on the build, trying to adopt one of Pico’s designs, but it just lead to greater frustration. I can’t really blame the failure on lack of parts availability in orange, the challenging subject matter, or even the divided time between building and blogging. At the end of the day I simply lost interest and became ambivalent about the model and that is the death of any creative project. The comments both on the Manifesto and Flickr gave me a boost of energy last week, but it quickly went south when I couldn’t find the right way to push the design forward. Sometimes models just don’t work out, and you have to know when to cut your losses.
Many of you suggested I abandon the time restrictions of the contest and proceed at my own pace, to value the ‘art’ over the collective experience. That’s a reasonable take on things and normally I’d be on board with that course of action, but SHIPtember is all about embracing restrictions and going through the same pressure-cooker as everyone else. What I’m not willing to do, however, is push forward a piece of crap just meet a deadline. I chose what Simon calls “the hard road” but my orange Ford Pinto couldn’t handle the action and it sits broken down on the side of that hard road. Matango definitely had potential and I’ve saved the legs with an eye towards revisiting the concept some day, but for now it’s back to the bin and back to the blog.
So in the end I chose the Manifesto over the Matango, and that has me thinking about the future of both activities as it relates to my free time. There is no way I could consider another project the size of say Bucharest and remain committed to this place. Right now I don’t have a strong urge to build, so running the blog is a nice way to stay connected to the hobby and indulge my interest in writing. Long term though, I’m not so sure how to strike the right balance.
Best of luck to the rest of the SHIPwrights who are still in the fight! I applaud your perseverance and I now I’ll have the time to encourage you from the sidelines.
The Manifesto is proud to present the third installment of a month-long series by friend of the blog and creator of SHIPtember, Simon Liu.
Welcome to volume 3 of SHIPrites, the SHIPtember Sunday spectacular. The Last two weeks I went on and on about the Journey.
This week we talk about the obvious: SHIPs.
SHIPtember is frankly the most obvious theme month and it was a just a matter of time before someone took the usual theme month concept and said, let’s focus on the thing most builders aspire to create in all of Sci-Fi/Space-dom.
But why is a SHIP so special? Let’s start with the definition of a SHIP. Despite what some claim, SHIP stands for: Seriously Huge Investment in Parts. And I can prove it. I asked some OG spacers for help and we actually found this original LUGNET post concerning the coining of the phrase. In 2002, James Brown first proposed SHIP acronym: Seriously Huge Interstellar Plastic, and it was the great Jon Palmer who was first to christen the phrase: Seriously Huge Investment in Parts. And ever since then it’s been some what of a communal aspiration to create a SHIP.
A great builder, Mark Kelso once said: “You’re not a man (or woman) until you’ve built a SHIP.” And judging from his latest, he is da MAN.
But what makes SHIPS so special to Space builders? We have said it’s a rite of passage. Heck, this whole series is dedicated to the idea of building this milestone, in a month none the less!
If you look at all the other themes there isn’t really a comparison. Sure in castle you build.. well a castle. And trains you build… trains. That’s like saying space builds space.
No other group seems to be so obsessed with defined categories of builds. There are some strict limitations in say train – to build on the LEGO based train chassis but that’s because it’s effectively defined by LEGO. In town, in recent years there’s a pretty big shift to build on the Cafe Corner ‘modular’ standard – but do town builders aspire to build their ‘dream modular’?
Maybe there is, and please let me know, as I’m a primarily sci-fi or space builder. I like to think that I’m a well-rounded builder and know all the various facets of the community, but really I don’t, I’m heavily biased towards the groups that I tend to build in, and even going to the ‘big three’ conventions in the United States, that’s still a drop in the proverbial bucket of LEGO builders out there.
It’s kinda interesting if you think about it, sci-fi and space themes are all about exploring the new and different, strange new world and civilizations and such. Where anything can happen. And Space builders are encouraged to build weird and funky designs of the impossibilities.
Yet the Space/Sci-fi theme tends to have the most constrained rules to build the most unconstrained imaginative builds. Look at the plethora of Sci-fi theme months:
That’s 1/2 the year right there! And yet each one of these so-called open construction months have a very specific requirement and/or aesthetic.
I’m not actually sure why this is the case, or why that Sci-Fi has a disproportionate number of yearly theme months. There are definitely some others out there, but these are the established ones that almost run themselves. I believe the first true theme month would be Novvember, started by the late, great NNENN:
With this first theme month he created the standard which we have all seemed to have prescribed to, define an objective – in his case a specific type of starfighter – two forward prongs, two rear fins and a big ass vertical stabilizer.And there it was, magic. Everyone bought into this seemingly simple criteria and built a slew of some of the best styled starfighters in LEGO form. And others started repeating the pattern, creating a simple set of criteria and letting the imagination run wild. But again, mainly in space.
I look at the Classic Castle Contest – which has been running longer than all these theme months and their approach is slightly different, the categories usually state ‘what’ to build but not ‘how’ to build it. For instance build a ‘battering ram’ not ‘build a battering ram with 4 wheels and a skull head’ – when placed in context of the castle theme, these rigid design criteria seem totally draconian!
Yet in the sci-fi months – this is what happens time and again, and builders thrive on it, flexing and building around the rigid constraints! I don’t get it – Someone please explain!
Though the most hallowed design criteria of all sci-fi/spacers is the SHIP – the 100 stud long golden yardstick. How did this happen? The LUGNET thread isn’t exactly specific how the 100 stud marked was chosen, though it’s probably safe to surmise that it’s simply a nice round number. But it’s interesting that this number is extremely arbitrary to most builders, many SHIPtember vets don’t really aim for 100, just aim to be MORE than 100. I think this relates directly to the fundamental childhood dream of building a big spaceship. And it is just that, a spaceship, it’s not defined by 100 studs when we were younger. SHIPtember facilitates a bit of that dream – and there have been some builders that used the theme-month as their first time to finally build that bucket list item, not just spacers, but all sorts of builders.
But I think we’re missing a critical element that defines a SHIP. I don’t know about you constant reader, but when I was a kid, and was dreaming about building a big spaceship it had an interior. Note that for all the restrictions in theme months SHIPtember is pretty lax in terms of design criteria, interiors are encouraged but not mandatory. And that’s MY mistake and shame to bare. SHIPtember has almost come to redefine what SHIPs are, and it was an unfortunate choice that interiors or minifig-scale wasn’t more of a defining design criteria for SHIPtember. But if you ask enough of those same OG space builders – it WAS.
In an effort to accommodate builders with various collection sizes and styles, this one design criteria was purposefully de-prioritized. Andrew Lee eloquently pointed out how I basically screwed over the definition of SHIP. Over the years definitions do change as do building styles and capabilities, a decade ago a SHIP used to be such a huge deal to get to the 100 studs mark, now with LUGbulk, Bricklink, PAB walls, 100 studs is actually pretty easy for most people. But with a full interior ? …
Even 4 years later, and after some deep thought over this article I still debate that off the cuff decision. It was a pretty fundamental design criteria from the ‘childhood’ spaceship dream. But if we had added that to SHIPtember, would it have made the challenge too difficult? We’ve talked in the past about how SHIPtember is only as hard as you want to make it, but if minifig scale with interior was such a requirement, would that make it simply too hard?
The reasons I think SHIPtember is so popular is that it’s fun. It’s probably only the only ‘collaborative’ theme month and people latched on and worked towards building in this month. For the most part most people are able to accomplish what they set off to do. Those more ‘advanced’ builders choose to build harder builds, with more advanced techniques, or even stupidly brick intensive designs. But would this still be what it is today if we had made it much harder to start off with?
At the same time there’s been a huge resurgence in giant SHIP building these last few years. At BrickCon 2015, one of the higher SHIP nexuses in the United States, we counted I believe 15 SHIPs on display, 12 of which were built just the month before in SHIPtember. We may have gained a new era in SHIPs by burying one of the key designs of the old era.
So I now sit here staring at my hull pieces and I ask myself, and in turn you constant reader, what’s does a SHIP mean to you?
Matango! is in trouble, constant reader, the fight against the clock is not going well and the local Teamsters seem to be spending more time riding motorcycles and writing blog entries than actually building the ship. Several issues should be readily apparent from the photo below, but I’ll go through them anyway, that’s the whole point of the exercise.
I kept the concept art in the photo for reference, but from this point on, the model will look less and less like it’s inspiration. With days ticking past, I decided to abandon any notion of accuracy to the source material. I wasted far too much time trying to figure out both the crew cabin and the nose, without any real success. I’m gonna take a second and complain about the shitty availability of parts in orange, but only a second because I think a more skilled builder could have figured out a better solution for both areas. And…I should probably have figured that out ahead of time when I selected an all orange piece of concept-art. So, ultimately I went the easy route and plugged in the 1-piece helicopter nose. I dig it, I’ve always liked that window pattern but I admit that it’s a bit of a cop-out, a brick-built solution would have been ideal. The biggest downside of the canopy is that it’s not as wide as I would have liked. Simon is right, when he says the hard road is the better road through SHIPtember, but I need an easier route from this point forward, if I have any chance to make the end of the month deadline.
I flipped the cargo pods on their sides, to give the whole thing a slightly lower profile. I’m still not completely happy with the look, but I’m not ready to redesign them either. With so much left to do, and so little time to do it, going backwards would be a mistake. I may switch them back to their original orientation, this is by no means final. Nothing is. In case you’re wondering, the legs are still in the game-plan but I didn’t want to crowd the update photo with them. The legs are just waiting for a frame.
I included the SHIPruler in the photo so you can see how far off I am at this point. The wings are going to push out further to the left and right but I’m not sure that they will get to 100 studs. Front to back is even worse right now. This is the two-headed tyranny of the calendar and the ruler.
All that said, the greater threat to Matango’s chance of completion is my growing apathy towards the project. I’m not excited to look at it anymore, now it’s entered the realm of obligation or on especially bad days, a chore. I’m frustrated with my inability to translate the subject matter and I don’t have a clear vision of where to go with the design. I’m going to keep building until the end of the month and see what happens, and perhaps beyond the deadline if I still think it’s a concept worth developing. I have one more BrickLink order on the way and that might re-energize me. The bottom line is that the Manifesto is taking up more of my free time than I thought, and I just don’t have the time to write and build with the same level of investment. Tune in for the exciting final volume in this SHIPtember series to see what happens!
Oh, and feel free to provide building suggestions in the comments. Flickr has been zero help in that department, but it’s not just me, I don’t see a lot of good critique going on, just encouragement. Encouragement is cool, and I’ve received my share and more on this project, but I get some really useless comments too. When you boil it down, people generally have only 3 thoughts on Matango!
None of those statements are particularly helpful or insightful, but at least they too the time to leave their thoughts? Here’s a thought for you…
UPDATE: Friend of the blog and crazy-good builder Pico van Grootveld was generous enough to work up a few sketches to help me find a way forward with Mantango! His treatment of the legs is both daunting and delightful, and the little motorcycle is completely rad! Thanks Pico! I’m both flattered and grateful that you took the time to assist this less-than-humble SHIPwright in his time of need.
The Manifesto is proud to present the second installment of a month-long series by friend of the blog and creator of SHIPtember, Simon Liu.
Welcome to another installment of SHIPrites. Thank you all for the comments from our first volume, either on the blog, Flickr, text, messenger, or my preferred method of tin cans connected by string. It was great to be able to share some of my thoughts and my view of SHIPtember. But it’s just that: MY view.
This isn’t your standard contest, it’s not your standard themed build-month. This is SHIPtember. I may have come up with the original concept, but as we discussed last week the concept is all about evolving and iterating. This extends to SHIPtember itself.
Remember the first year, how some students couldn’t do SHIPtember because they went off to school and were physically separated from their collections? Next iteration: start in August! It’s not ideal, but it works. I never think of the endeavor as ‘my’ SHIPtember, it’s ‘our‘ SHIPtember and everyone should try to do it the best they can (still has to be space SHIPs). That can mean very different things to different people.
There are basically three guiding principles I thought would be important. I’m not going to call them laws, as they can be flexible. Plus there already is a hallowed set of Three Laws (RIP Mr Asimov).
1) Build a SHIP
2) Do it within the confines of September
3) Post WIPs.
Fairly simple guidelines.
It’s like when I wash my car. It’s not super fancy, but it’s nice, and it photographs well:
I won’t get into how this is a horrible LEGO car, or how the Bose speakers were almost too big to accommodate a hockey bag. But it’s black, and black cars are gorgeous… when clean. So when it’s dirty I have several options, much like the participants in SHIPtember.
I could do the bare minimum and drive it in the rain – that gets it mostly clean, right? That’d meet the minimum requirements of getting it cleaner much like building a basic 100-stud long spaceship. Or I could take it to the car wash – it does a pretty good job and I can get the upgraded ultra wash – that’s the next step, say starting and finishing within the confines of September. And of course most people would choose the third option, to hand wash it and wax on and off till it’s a martial arts shiny glory. Which is like accomplishing all three principles.
Of course any of these approaches will accomplish the primary goal, and depending on the individual builder, they may or may not be able to perform all the elements of SHIPtember. Some (like Keith) might argue why even bother with the exercise if you can’t follow the so-called rules and perform these three simple steps?
For some people it’s more fun to ‘savor the surprise‘ and some would much rather have fun building their perfect SHIP instead of rushing in a month to build something less optimal. Sioka has been working on this 2015 SHIPtember entry…
…since 2015’s SHIPtember. You can see some of his progress in here, that’s dedication to doing what he thinks is the right.
Again, you control the action in SHIPtember. You might not even realize it how much you’re controlling it, based not only on the way you approach the so-called rules, but your SHIP itself. Because much like Asimov’s Three Laws, there is the unspoken SHIPtember Zeroth Guideline:
0) SHIPtember is as hard as you make it.
SHIPtember gives you a lot of choices and options, and some are more obvious than others. The 100 stud mark is extremely arbitrary, but most builders can accomplish this threshold fairly easily. In fact there are many people who have comlpeted a SHIP in a single day, and I say more the power to them if they’re having fun.
But in my mind, SHIPtember is about the journey to get to the best SHIP you can build in a month-long time frame. That’s how I make it hard for myself, I keep going until I basically run out of time. Other people do it differently – it’s fascinating to see even if people don’t realize it.
Some people will do it without bricklinking orders, others will work in difficult to use colours and still others will use the largest possible pieces to cover the most areas. I think some people ‘get‘ that they’re making things difficult for themselves and how overcoming that difficulty is part of the SHIPtember spirit. You’ll often see comments that people are ‘trying new things’ or picking shapes and styles they’ve never tried. SHIPtember seems to have evolution and iteration embedded within it’s ethos – not just for the SHIP that is being built, but the builders themselves.
As I look at the sad state of my SHIP this year, the one extra difficulty level I added for myself this year was going to Minifig Scale. I’m not going into the argument of which is better – there are some amazing examples of both. But for me, I can say Minifig scale is HARDER. It requires more parts and different structure than it’s microscale counterpart that typically doesn’t require an interior. Simply choosing the scale of a SHIP dictates the difficulty you may encounter, and this year there was a push for Minifig – both because it shifts the stream back into what most would consider the classical ‘SHIP’s of old, but also a push to make it harder for people 🙂
-sadly, myself included.
Then there are some super star SHIPbuilders who take it to the next level and basically own these constraints on building. Last year, Adam Dodge challenged himself to score a SHIPhat-trick: build three amazing SHIPs, in three different scales.
In the course of SHIPtember Adam built Micro, Minifig and Technic Fig scale SHIPs – all of which were super swooshable – another difficulty multiplier.
And as I write this out at 2am, I think adding SHIPrites may have also been a poor choice to increase the so-called difficulty of my SHIPtember. It would have been much easier to publish the articles I had pre-written instead of throwing them away for a more organic Manifesto series written in the heat of the moment. But it’ll just be another wrinkle that makes this particular SHIPtember journey memorable…
Last week we talked a lot about the journey, which reminded me of the many trips I’ve taken to Brickworld Chicago, Brickfair VA and BrickCon. And while the purpose was to get to the convention, the journey itself can be fantastic. I’ve taken my poor little Altima to many of these gatherings, loading her up like I was running for the hills:
And like SHIPtember, it’s way more fun with people – having done the drive before solo it’s not nearly as fun as having a few people in the car. Much like the commentators in SHIPtember, having those extra bodies makes all the difference – quite a few of my most ambitious and craziest build plans were concocted during one of these drives and made the journey special.
So are you simply going to fly to your destination? Take a train? Drive? Are you going to take the interstate and stop only for food and gas? Or will you take the back roads and stop at every interesting sight you come across?
As we enter our second full week of SHIPtember, I again implore you constant readers and SHIPwrights to think about making your SHIPtember the best SHIP it can be and choose not the easiest approach, but the hardest and most rewarding.
Not only does the Journey matter, but the path you travel and the company you keep matters.
If there is some aspect of SHIPtember you’d like me to cover in the next volume, please make yourself heard in the comments, this stream of consciousness treatment is more difficult than it looks.
Today is September 8th and I’m already falling behind schedule on Matango! I made the admittedly strange choice to begin with the legs, and it’s been an uphill battle from there. The conventional wisdom, as Simon indicated in his recent SHIPtember article, is to begin with a sturdy Technic frame and build out. My mind doesn’t work that way though, I have a tendency to start from weird places, like building a temple from the roof down. And as for the Technic frame, I’ve managed to build 4 SHIPs over the years and not one of them has used a Technic frame. I’ve got nothing against them, or the people who use them, the proof is in the results, the process works and has resulted in some of the best SHIPs in the community armada. My plan is to use a Technic frame at some point, but not until I know how big the entire vessel is going to be, and not until I have some of the major features roughed out. I’ll connect everything at the end, which is probably a shitty plan that will leave many of you shaking your heads, but I’m a special snowflake and this is how I roll.
So after I finished prototype of the leg, I duplicated the leg and began a Bricklink order for the parts I need to make them entirely orange. Once the legs were finished I wasn’t sure what to tackle next so I picked what I thought was the easiest feature to replicate, the huge octagonal cargo containers. My initial design was two studs wider and the pattern on the door looked better, or more like the concept art in any case. I was pretty happy with them at first, and they fit snugly enough that I didn’t have to brick them in, which could pay off later by allowing for a photo of the cargo container open. However, when I compared the containers to the legs it was very clear they were just too wide and I had to make an adjustment. The containers are hollow except for one beam that runs across the center from top to bottom. There are no matching rear doors at this time, but I have the parts on hand to replicate them if need be. I’m still not convinced I’ve got the dimensions of the containers quite right, but I’m done tweaking it for now. I still have no idea how to treat the back of the ship, the concept art leaves that entirely to my imagination, which is kind of liberating within the broader concept of trying to recreate another person’s design.
As promised in Volume 1, here is my first Bricklink order, placed a couple of days ago and apparently it has already shipped from Illinois. I mentioned a projected budget of $60 and I bragged about being good at sticking to my budget…because I’m an idiot. Clearly I’ve already crushed the projection and I’ve already started looking at a second order from a different vendor. I have a lot of orange, I’ve been collecting it for years, but not nearly enough to satiate hungry Matango!
The next section I tackle will be the nose, it’s probably my least favorite feature of the design so I’ll probably take some liberties there too. I want to figure out how wide Metango is going to be, so I can start adjusting some of the proportions and begin figuring out a frame. Feel free to leave me your sage advice and well-earned mockery in the comments, your feedback is always valued at the Manifesto.
The votes have been tallied and the official theme song of SHIPtember 2016 is…
Wish me luck, constant reader, I will certainly need it. These challenges all come down to time management and how I decide to split my free time between the blog and the SHIP will make all the difference.