Monday, March 31, 2014

Interview with CrashSanders

"CrashSanders" with FTL,  is one of the few Lego builders who has reached 10,000 support with a Cuusoo project.
FTL: Faster Than Light

Well before FTL however, CrashSanders was one of Cuusoo's earlier adopter and I admired his surprisingly articulated small scale mecha and highly detailed futuristic vehicles.  I formed a working relationship with him when he spontaneously provided me with some awesome ships for the project closest to my nostalgic gaming heart, Star Control.

Later CrashSanders came to me with an idea for a similarly modeled project: minifig plus microbuild ship (which is of course inspired by the Star Wars Planets line),  but instead of a game from the 90's, this one was to be based on the Rogue-like game FTL which, unlike Star Control, is currently in vogue.

I immediately jumped at the chance to work with such a talented Lego builder and generous Cuusoo contributor and thus the FTL Cuusoo project was started in earnest.

As any of my readers likely knows FTL was not picked up for production.  CrashSanders and I are currently working on producing instructions for the building of the wide array of ships, with the blessing of Subset Games.

CrashSanders's Cuusoo Projects
Microfig Mechas

The Interview

Please Introduce yourself:

The name is Artemiy Karpinskiy, I am 22 years old, from Russia. Currently reside in Sochi, my home city is Moscow.

Where can we find your work?

I have a Flickr photostream, long- forgotten MOCPages account, DeviantArt gallery, and a Brickshelf gallery.

When did you first become interested in LEGO bricks?

 Well, I love Lego as long as I remember myself. My elder brother was the first one to collect Lego (he is currently 28, and back there I was barely 4 y.o. and he was 10).

What LEGO builders do you admire? How do they inspire you? 

For the most part, I admire anything that I will consider a good design. From such a giants of LEGO MOCing as Nnenn, Kwi-Chang, Izzo, to some not so famous guys that just do admirable job with what they have. For example, Garry_Rocks from Flickr. He's also from Russia and his main tool of MOCing is Lego Digital Designer. His level of detail is beyond my own, his power suits, mechas, battle vehicles and space ships are just so well done! Also Sunder_59 is worth mentioning. Another Russian digital builder like myself or Garry, he has some stunning space ship designs with tons of bricks in them.

Example of Nnenn's work

What inspires your Lego building process?

Well, more than LEGO bricks I actually liked Bionicle parts. Always was a huge Bionicle fan since it's been released back in 2001. Wrote fan-fictions, made drawings, built a considerable amount of MOCs. I liked the stories behind those bricks more than the actual bricks, and always liked to tell stories of my own.

Do you have a favorite official Lego set? Theme?

Bionicle, without a doubt. And not just because of the sets, but the story and characters that these sets allowed to tell! This was some great and epic saga. Also when I was a kid, I loved Spyrius, Space Police 2, Rock Raiders, Insectoids, Ice Planet, Exploriens and UFO... All of them! From the more modern lines I liked Mars Mission and Exo-Force.

Are you a member of a LUG ?

Yes, I am member of Russian Lego Community and Also I was in Russian Bionicle Community ( but after the theme was closed I lost need in such a specific community and I moved to DoubleBrick.

How did you get started in the Cuusoo community and what does that community mean to you?

Well, I can't remember actually how I found the CUUSOO for the first time. But my first project was the Macrofigures (it is now deleted). The overall concept of them was to make a brick-built action figures, but since it was strongly inspired by Minecraft, I failed to make anything beyond the Minecraft-based and few generic designs. For me CUUSOO is a big chance for someone to declare oneself, to have a chance to embody a set of his dream, an idea that the one wants to share with the entire world.

What is your motivation behind posting to Cuusoo?

For me it is a chance to prove my worth, to fulfill my childhood dream to be a part of Lego, to be a Lego designer. At least, to some degree.

What have you learned from your time on Cuusoo?

That not every crazy dream or idea is suitable for CUUSOO. That you need to put some effort to give your project an appropriate look and content. That only small number of individuals could fight their way to the top on their own. The team work is vital, essential. If you don't have a team, you can always try your luck to find a mentor. A senior member that is more experienced and could help you in any way possible. I was very lucky to meet GlenBricker. Our collaboration proved to be fruitful. I had a role of a designer, when Glen was a PR manager of sorts. He helped me to be in touch with the community, and gave me numerous advises about proper look and content.

What are your favorite projects on Cuusoo, besides your own of course?

I think that would be any NickRoyer's projects (Space Troopers, Hyperborea), Ur-Quan Masters (since I did a great deal of help with making ships for Glen), Brickthing's The Adventures of Steamrod, and of course Macross Valkyrie projects by daikoncat and maxvf1.

 I have always appreciated the depth of detail you have achieved with relatively small builds. Do you have any advice for people who would like to improve their microbuilding technique?

Well, I am not as good adviser as I am builder, haha. I think the most basic advise I can give is to follow the shape if you are trying to embody a non-Lego design in Lego. Also if you work in LDD always think how your MOC will feel in your own hands, what is more efficient way to connect one part to another. And don't give up trying, eventually you will find something that is close enough and will satisfy you.

Cuusoo is no longer telling anyone outside the company why they pass on a project. Does this bother you?

Yes, it bothers me. It makes disappointment even bigger, but I learn to deal with it.

Occasionally, I see people talking about have they spent a "whole evening" working on their Cuusoo project. Do you have any idea how much time you spent working on FTL?

Oh, evenings and evenings. At least, an evening per ship.

What was the best part about taking a project to 10,000?

Excitement of the community, feel of people that needs you and you project, overall hype and of course anticipation.

What was the worst part of it?

 Worst part is Review phase, because that's when you are out of control. All you can do - sit tight and being all ears. And then a three or even more months of wait. It kills me at the very beginning and the very end.

You have a ton of great content posted on Flickr that you have not posted to Cuusoo.  What criteria do you use to decide what you will and will not post?
One of many "ChiMechs"

Not every MOC I create is supposed to come on CUUSOO. Also I just not willing to post my MOCs anywhere but Flickr. It's comfortable in many ways.

To become a CUUSOO Project, I need to have a concrete assurance from other people that it will be needed there. If you are sure that ChiMechs is a good project to post on CUUSOO - no probs, I will look into it. Also, I am not always have means to arrange my MOCs that way that they will look and feel just neat. FTL renders on CUUSOO are made by you for example. =)

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Month of Cuusoo (Sans Doctor)

Been a While...

Been a wild month.  Lots of work, family, and Lego projects keeping me busy.  The more crazy elements are winding down though so it looks like things will be stabilizing again shortly.

As for SXSW, doing a panel on Lego was a LOT of fun.  I got to speak in front of about 600 people about Lego.  The second biggest group of people I have spoken in front of is about 20, so that was a pretty novel experience for me. 

People seemed to enjoy the panel quite a bit but there is no real point in repeating the content here.  The panel was specifically about how a company (Lego in this case) deals with a creative and active fan base (Us) who confuse branding by creating official looking content that is anything but.  Like this Lego Breaking Bad video game.

So, fun stuff for "muggles" but nothing new to report for the FOL community.  

The Vardo

Vardo (Romani Wagon)

I have been thinking about doing this project for a while so I am glad to finally have gotten it to a sharable level of development.

Vardos are described by Wikipedia as:

traditional horse-drawn wagon used by British Romani people as their home. Possessing a chimney, it is commonly thought of as being highly decorated, intricately carved, brightly painted, and even gilded. The British Romani tradition of the vardo is seen as a high cultural point of both artistic design and a masterpiece of woodcrafters art.
Though these are real, I was actually first introduced to this this concept via a fictional re-imagining of these in the Kingkiller Chronicle novels by Patrick Rothfuss and since reading about them I have been considering how I might build a colorfully, curvy wagon while integrating Modular Style internal details into a single build. 

It came out better than I had anticipated.  Now to see how it evolved as I build it.

The Doctor

So, there have been more than 47 Doctor Who projects uploaded to Cuusoo at this point.  Wow!  People were just waiting for the chance...Mario Brothers is going to be insane when that drops.  Well, I am going to leave Doctor Who out of this review.   I assume my readers for the Cuusoo round up don't need to hear about ALL these projects.  If you are interested in keeping tabs on ongoing projects here is a link to all the Doctor Who projects.

Pick of the Week

20.000 Leagues under the Sea NAUTILUS

I was thrilled to see Orion Pax's Nautilus this show up on Brother Brick. The Nautilus is one of my favorite fictional conveyances of all time.  It has, for years, been in my Lego "to do" list but...Wow!  Orion Pax has done Captain Nemo proud with this one.

The scale of this amazing build does place it within a very specific market of fan, but oh what a piece.  I would sincerely love to have this in my collections...Plus, imagine all the great Squid MOCs such a product would inspire.

Honorable Mentions

Disney Princess Frozen: Elsa's Ice Palace
by Fohzen

I love Frozen.  It has a lot of great content for everybody and a great message.  Additionally this is an epic MOC and, and exceptional gift for any parent AFOL to grant their children (as the project indicates).

The sheer volume of translucent elements is awe inspiring and the ice monster is a great touch. Olaf also looks great, but I am not certain the tuft of "hair" coming out the top of his head is Lego.

I honestly wish "Fohzen" the best with this project but I can't imagine that Lego does not already have something to this effect on the drawing board already.

By all accounts the Lego Princess line is going very well, especially based on the difficulty of getting your hands on some of the sets.  Disney and Lego are not going to sit around not monetizing Frozen.

Likely the main reason we have not seen Frozen Disney Princess sets already is that..ahem...Frozen does not have any "Disney Princesses" in it.  Disney is quite protective of who is an Official Disney Princesses, and Elsa and Anna are not yet on the list.  They WILL be on the list.  But they are not now, so they can't be in a line of Princess Toys.   

Please do vote for this project, I am just speaking to the possibility of this project reaching production as a Cuusoo project. 

One other issue to consider is the use of translucent elements.  The grip strength of Translucent elements is greater than that of standard Lego elements so Lego apparently avoids translucent on translucent interconnect...or at least that is what I am told.  It is not unheard of in official Lego builds, only avoided.  This build is the antithesis of that design goal.   This is more just to say, when Lego does produce a Frozen Ice Palace, I would be surprised to see a lot of directly interconnecting trans-blue elements. 

Scooby-Doo and Mystery Inc. LEGO Set

Man, I have really enjoyed the last month of offerings on Cuusoo.  Scooby-Doo is YET ANOTEHR favorite of mine. 

The minis are spectacular and really do a great service to representing the beloved characters while also having a true minifigure feel. 

I have a small issue with this set and a big issue though.

The small issue is the use of the Van as a crime lab.  This is A) Not canon at all and B) perhaps too derivative of the Character Builder model.

I try to tell myself to get over it, having a lab is a great playset idea, but it is still just not an aspect of any of the various series I recall.  This reminds me more of the Norwegian's Mobile Investigation Laboratory Facility from episode 19 of Pushing Daisies..yeah, I went there...this I assume is a personal issue more than anything and not a factor for most supporters...I accept that I am a bit loony in this regard, but there you have it.

The big issue is Scooby Doo.  Savath has done a great job showcasing the existing dog elelment as Scooby-Doo, better than I expected possible, but is it enough for Lego to make a product?  When the titular character cannot be recreated in a true to form fashion, can the quality of the otherwise superlative minifigs make up for it?  

There is a third issue that will either be critical or negligible and that is the Character Builder license.  This is the real reason why Scooby-Doo has been relatively dormant.  Is the license available?  Is Character Builder still in control?  Well, they might not be, they let go of Doctor Who for one reason or another, it is also possible for Scooby-Doo.  More importantly, it will eventually be true for Scooby-Doo.  The real question is, will Schooby-Doo be available when this project hits 1k.   

So...where does that leave us....Well, Scooby-Doo is an awesome brand fit for Lego.  It integrates with all the City content, a lot of the adventure content and is not out of place with nearly anything else to some degree or another.  (Some of the early Monster Fighter sketches were even Scooby-Doo spoofs for crying out loud.)   Scooby-Doo is also multi-generational and still going strong.  The Mystery Inc. series was amazing.  Personally, if I didn't know that Scooby-Doo had a licensing issue I would have jumped on it a long time ago. 

But we still come back to Scooby...If I could see Lego springing for a custom part for any project, it would be this one...but without the "real Scoob" I just keep picturing opening this set with my kids and my son saying "that is not Scooby-Doo!" when I show him the standard, unposable, dog shaped brick.  That is the great production hurdle for this project. 

French station .Gare fran├žaise

Wow, just gorgeous!  This would be a fun one to see in real life, especially as part of a whole Train show. 

Ghostbusters. Slimer & Stay Puft

Using the old dragon arms to make a Slimer is an excellent idea.  Also, Staypuff is an excellent scale, more economic than movie scale but big enough to get the point across.  I love those hands, the mouth is awesome, and those might just be the best use of Lego eyes I have ever seen.

Sea-Food Truck
by knuf1

I really like how this project recontextualizes "ocean" elements for a Food truck: Surf boards, ship's wheel, and even a shark become kitsch for a kitchen on wheels.  The car itself is well done, as is the food truck element.  Add all three together: Car, kitchen, and kitsch and you have a fantastically dense and appealing set.

Geeky Flower Pots
by gilakai

I find this a very fun idea.

5-wide Classic Car
by Hajdekr

Very nice design, especially given the very restrictive scale.  The steering wheel is a great touch.

ZX-Rogue Speeder

This design really calls out to my inner space nut.  It is conservative in scale but still has a very respectable level of greeble and some more advanced building techniques.


Ghostbusters HQ
Very well done!  The dark orange is a very good match for the actual structure.  The Lights are technically not Lego though so I am surprised Cuusoo permitted the project to be posted.
Meridian Galley
by BoB_TBT
I love these ancient Roman Bireme and their variations.  They have, it seems become the Batman Tumbler of the the ancient world.

Each offering is fantastic but none of them have really gotten any traction except perhaps the one in Medusa's Temple.  No project dedicated specifically to Roman ships has even breached 500. 
Marvel Superhero Racers
by Okay
I love Okay's work both on Cuusoo and his humorous minifigure pictures on Flick.  I am glad to see he has divided his multi-license Superhero Racers into a series of projects.  

These are a lot of fun designs in this project. 
Emotions: Classic Farm
Great MOC.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - 3 in 1 car-boat-plane
There are more than a few Chitty Chitties on Cuusoo.  I certainly like this one the best.  The use of the boat is very clever. 
The Warlock Beast
by BoB_TBT
Really well done MOC.  Lots of character.  The problem with almost any build based on a Big Fig is that almost all of them are licensed.  This LotR beast looks awesome but from what I understand, only LotR sets can use this bruiser.

The original Lego Troll is of course an option, but it does not look anywhere near as awesome as this. 
Microfighter Sandcrawler
by PePeNog
Another example of inevitable discovery.  A very impressive MOC that looks like it fits right in with the new line of "Microfighters." 

That is exactly why this project won't result in production.  Lego will either produce this on their own, or not at all.    
Code Monkey Save World
I threw this project together as a lark.  I am a cube based code monkey myself so the story struck close to home.  Also, the song "code monkey" as a lot of personal value to me.  

Of course, chairs are pretty much the worst thing you can build in Lego, it just emphasizes that minifigs can't bend their knees making them look like kids, but I like how this office chair turned out. 
Discworld - Mini Worlds
I must admit that I like the idea of this project.  Very well done MOCs.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Doctor Who at 92%!

If you have not already done so please go and support  Doctor Who!

We are so close to finishing this out!  Cheers! 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Interview with Jason Allemann

Probably my favorite type of builds in Lego are the dynamic builds, what are sometimes reffed to as kinetic sculptures.  

I was therefore absolutely thrilled when the Da Vinci Flying Machine showed up on Cuusoo and I was even happier to realize it is by one of my favorite Lego creators, Jason Allemann.

Jason is one of our better well knows FOLs he certainly deserves it.  His skill runs the entire gamete of themes from artistic to mechanical to even the programming side but most critically, a sense of humor.

Before we get to the interview here are a few examples:

The Interview

Please Introduce yourself

 I'm from Ontario, Canada, I'm 41 years young, and I'm a computer software developer.

Are you known on any other social media platforms?

Yeah, I'm all over the place, but really, these will probably do....
My website:
When did you first become interested in LEGO bricks? Did you have a "dark ages" and if so what brought you out of them?
My history with LEGO bricks will probably sound familiar to other fans my age.  I loved building with LEGO bricks as a child.  I didn't have much - some basic brick, a couple of Classic Space sets and a few Technic ones.  I really enjoyed building with the Technic sets.  I was fascinated with building mechanical models, which clearly still continues today.  My dark age was probably more of a 'gray age', as through high school, university and young adulthood I would still build on occasion.  What really brought me back into the hobby was the release of the Star Wars sets in 1999.  When I saw the original LEGO X-Wing (7140) I just had to have it.  That of course sparked the slow but inevitable transition to a full blown AFOL.

How have LEGO bricks influenced you?

I think mostly they fostered my love of 'tinkering' as a child. There are so many skills that are developed by building with LEGO bricks - problem solving, visualization, creativity, coordination. I'm sure all of these things helped me become who I am today.
What LEGO builders do you admire? How do they inspire you? 

Tough question to answer.  There are so many amazing things being built these days by so many talented builders.  I'm inspired by all of it.  From the smallest micro scale detail to the largest complex creation.  Having said that, I think the builders that inspire me the most are those that can capture some small detail perfectly with LEGO bricks.  There are a long list of builders have done this.  To single out only a few would be a disservice to the others.  Although I will give a shout to Karf Oohlu  I want whatever he's having.
What inspires your Lego building process?
Inspiration comes from everywhere.  Pop culture, childhood memories, discussions with friends, cool videos I see on YouTube, commercials on TV, a split second glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye.  Sometimes I'll just Google 'cool mechanical creations' or something and see if anything interesting comes up.  Most of the time it's just a quick reference to something that comes up in my day to day life.  The next thing I know I'm planning some big project around it.
Could you describe your Lego building methodology?

Prototype, prototype, prototype.  Especially for the mechanical models.  It's mostly a process of constant refinement.  Often I'll end up building 3 or 4 prototypes (sometimes even more).  Each prototype progresses in either functionality or aesthetics until I've finally worked out all the kinks and achieved something I'm happy with.  Then I'm ready to build the final model.
I am a huge fan of dynamic Lego builds, builds that are able to move in interesting and often unexpected ways. Your Marble Labyrinth, Da Vinci Flying Machine, and Luu Ma are great examples of this branch of Lego designs.

Do you have any advice for people looking to add motion to their builds?

The best advice I have is to become familiar with what is possible using LEGO parts.  You can easily gain this knowledge directly from the source - buy and build a few Technic sets.  Most of the stuff I've built is peanuts compared to the complexity in some of the modern Technic sets.  Pay attention to how the designers have accomplished certain things.

My other piece of advice would be to never be afraid of trying something different.  Sometimes it's better to toss out a design that 'sort of works' and start completely fresh.  I can't tell you how often I've done that (because it happens all the time and I've lost count).  The stand for the Da Vinci Flying Machine for example.  Looking at it now it seems so simple, but I prototyped many other more complicated designs before it all came together the way it is now.
Are there any reference guides that are particularly useful?

Probably.  I think there are some fan created websites and books that are good references for building with Technic parts.  I don't used them.  Google is your friend.  When I need to build a certain linkage or solve a mechanical problem I'll see how others have done it in 'real life' and then try to translate that into LEGO parts.
Do you have a favorite official Lego set? Theme? Figure?
I'm not big into sets these days, except as a way to get new pieces.  As a child my favourite set was probably the yellow fork lift (850).  Man I loved that set.  So simple looking back on it, but so awesome.  When I came back into the hobby I was really into the Star Wars theme, but again, that's kind of waned.  Overall I guess my favorite theme is Technic.  I'm really not into minifigs.
Are you a member of a LUG (or other Lego based community)? If so which one and what do you get out of being in a LUG?

 Yup, ParLUGment.  It's always great to gather with like minded people in real life and discuss the hobby.  Also, seeing models other people build in real life is so much better than seeing photos of them online.
How did you get started in the Cuusoo community and what does that community mean to you?

When I first posted my marble maze online a few people mentioned I should add it to CUUSOO.  I figured sure, why not.  Seemed like a pretty cool thing to try.  I think CUUSOO is a great idea.  I know people have various complaints about it, and I think there is room for improvement, but look at what it's already accomplished.  Some pretty cool sets have been released that otherwise would never have been made.
What is your motivation behind posting to Cuusoo?

 Mostly I just want to share my models with other people.  If The LEGO Group eventually thinks it might be worthwhile to produce something I've helped design I think that would be pretty cool. Even if they don't, I'm excited that other people are excited by some of the things I build.
What have you learned from your time on Cuusoo?

Amassing support can be a long process. :)
What are your favorite projects on Cuusoo, besides your own of course?

There are a lot of great projects on CUUSOO, but here's a couple I really like...

The Space Shuttle crawler transporter blew my mind when it was posted:   I'm a big fan of micro scale building and this thing is awesome.

Octan in Space I would love to see a modern take on classic space like this.
Would you like to see any changes to the Cuusoo platform?

From a technical standpoint I think it could use some refinement. It seems a little 'clunky' to me, not to mention pretty slow sometimes.  It would also be nice if there were more useful community features.  A better way to keep tabs on favourite projects and project creators for example.