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Things Hero Factory did right

Posted by Aanchir: Rachira of Time , Apr 15 2014 · 122 views
LEGO, Hero Factory, sets, media
A lot of people are bothered by the differences between Hero Factory and BIONICLE, but today I was thinking about some of the story-related decisions made by the Hero Factory creators that really did do favors for the theme and its fans.
  • Unlimited Heroes: There was something poetic about BIONICLE's "Six Heroes, One Destiny" tagline in 2001, but when you think about it, it was a creative limitation on fans that later BIONICLE story arcs did well to do away with. Back in 2001, there were a lot of constraints on BIONICLE: there were only six Toa, only six Turaga, only six villages, and only six Matoran tribes. These constraints were a limitation for fan-created stories. To create characters like Voriki, Toa of Lightning, you had to actively contradict the official story at every turn, particularly if you wanted your character to interact with the official characters overtly.

    Hero Factory instead encouraged fans to create their own missions and their own heroes by demonstrating that officially, there were millions of heroes far more than you'd ever get to meet in the official storyline. The online mission log, mission ticker, and testimonials even provided examples of these heroes and the variety of missions they were assigned to. This allowed fans to create their own heroes with whatever powers and personalities they could dream up.
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  • Many Destinies: The "One Destiny" part of the classic BIONICLE tagline can be used as a metaphor for another problem the BIONICLE storyline had. Namely, its characters' quests were part of a singular overarching saga with very few gaps. There were few mechanisms for characters to get new tools, armor, or masks except with a scripted transformation. This limited what fans could do with the official characters in their own storytelling, building, and role-play. There was no way to create new forms for official characters unless they set their stories before or after the official story, because you couldn't cram a new form between two quests. And form changes were often tied closely to the idea of "destiny" most of the time, a character could only transform if they were destined to do so, and it was not a reversible process. The "Adaptive Armor" of 2008 made the characters more adaptible, but the story didn't take great advantage of it.

    In Hero Factory, "upgrade" mechanisms were in place from the beginning: first by refitting heroes with new gear, like in the Furno Bike or Bulk & Vapour sets, and later with more elaborate upgrades that completely altered the heroes' armor and equipment. Furthermore, missions didn't have strict placement on a linear timeline, allowing the characters to go on new missions of any importance at any point between the ones portrayed in the main story. They could even team up with people's original hero characters or face off against people's original villain characters on those missions: since each mission was more or less self-enclosed, there was very little danger that such missions would end up contradicting future missions in any way.
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  • Powers Tied to Design: I remember that back when the Toa Inika, Toa Mahri, Phantoka, and Mistika were introduced, changes to their design were often explained by fans with the idea that they weren't designed with specific characters in mind: they were created as generic characters, and identities, colors, and powers were assigned to them later. It's not clear how true this was, but it could certainly hold true with many character designs and mask powers. The Piraka's powers and personalities had no irrefutable ties to the individual set designs, nor was there an obvious connection between many most post-2003 mask designs and their powers.

    Later BIONICLE waves began to improve on this: the Barraki's powers and personalities were expressly tied to the sea creature motifs they were based on, and the powers of the Makuta in 2008 were largely connected with their bat and insect motifs. The Glatorian designs also had clear elemental motifs matching the characters' tribes, though they weren't tied to powers right away since none of the characters had special powers before Mata Nui arrived.

    Hero Factory likewise assigned most powers and personalities based on the character and weapon designs. But the 2.0 and 3.0 heroes, despite powers that matched their new forms, did not have obvious design ties to the heroes' previous forms and characterization, other than pretty strong consistency in their color schemes. The Breakout series changed that for good. The characters returned to using their original masks or new masks designed to resemble them, and many parts of their design paid tribute to the characters' original powers, personalities, and motifs. Stringer, the sonic-themed hero, got a guitar cannon and speakers in his shoulders, while Evo, the weapons expert, got a hefty Tank Arm. Subsequent forms, equipment, and powers for the heroes remained extremely character-driven.
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  • Powers Not Tied to Gender: BIONICLE definitely deserves praise for the decision to have female characters, which came as a result of pressure from franchise manager Lena Dixen. At the same time, the way it dealt with gender was somewhat lackluster. Gender was tied to the tribe or powers of a character: at first, only blue water-oriented characters were female, though later characters who didn't appear in the sets introduced new "female" elements like Lightning and Psionics. Like the constraints I mentioned at the beginning, this was very limiting. Even worse, this rule was more only ever broken to allow a male character to have a traditionally female element, never the other way around. The only female Glatorian or Agori to appear was a water-themed character.

    Hero Factory thankfully didn't come up with any rules for what characters had to be like to have certain powers, not even with regard to color scheme. This meant that your custom hero could be male or female regardless of its color scheme or powers. The official story still has downright pitiful gender ratios, but fan-created characters have absolute freedom in terms of gender, powers, colors, and motifs.
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Obviously I'm not trying to hold this up as evidence that Hero Factory was better than BIONICLE as a whole. I could be here all day writing up a list of ways that the BIONICLE story was well planned and well executed, or ways that the Hero Factory story has been poorly executed. But at the same time, I appreciate these kinds of differences between the two themes especially, because they are indications that a theme's design is informed by its forerunners' strengths and weaknesses alike. It's a sort of creative evolution, even when a theme is taking lessons from wildly different themes (like how BIONICLE took lessons from themes like Alpha Team and Star Wars rather than just from Roboriders and Slizer, or how Ninjago took lessons from themes like Exo-Force and BIONICLE rather than just from the previous Ninja theme).


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Hero Factory 2010 and Beyond

Posted by Aanchir: Rachira of Time , Apr 09 2014 · 92 views
LEGO, Hero Factory, Constraction and 1 more...
You know, I fully understand that there are a lot of people who will never like Hero Factory. And I respect that. Tastes differ, after all.

But something I'll never understand is how often I hear claims about 2010 Hero Factory sets being better than subsequent series. It seems like selective memory at its finest.

Let me refresh your memory: in 2010, there were 15 sets total. Six of those were heroes like this one or this one. Let's run through the features, shall we?
  • Two-piece limbs. The beam is reasonable by Av-Matoran or Agori standards, but Av-Matoran and Agori standards are not very high. The ball cup is prone to breaking (as with the Glatorian heads and fists that these sets also reused), there are very few connection points, and of course it has a molded joint rather than a functional one. The shell is an extremely specialized shape with only one connection point. Some people have found other uses for this piece, but they are few in number, and in general it's pointlessly overspecialized even by BIONICLE standards.
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  • Three-piece torsos. The beam is a nice-looking shape with decent proportions, but its connection points are quite limited. It's a step up from the Av-Matoran and Agori torsos, so I guess it deserves at least that much credit. There were four styles of torso shell (1, 2, 3, 4. Functionally, they were interchangeable, with the same two connection points and the same bulky, highly restrictive shape and size. Again, pitiful even by BIONICLE standards. The Hero Core was purely decorative, and while their single connection point could be used to attach to all sorts of things, they were pretty limited in use except as a specialized torso decoration.
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  • The feet weren't too bad, and I still use the ones I got from Breez in the Breakout series. If used the way these sets used them, they have a disproportionately chunky ankle, but by adding a two-module axle you can make a foot with much more attractive proportions.
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  • As far as weapons were concerned, the rookies (Furno, Surge, and Breez) got the better deal. Each got two weapons with two connection points each. It shouldn't be any surprise that Furno's and Surge's continued to see use in future years. Stormer, Bulk, and Stringer didn't fare so well. Instead of having specialized weapon pieces and specialized limb pieces, their weapon arms were the worst of both worlds. Molded elbows? Check! Only one connection point? Check! Loads of specialized details? Check! They looked all right, at least from the outside, but as building elements they were pretty shoddy. Plus, this meant you got an odd number of fists and limbs. Joy.
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  • The helmets were not really a step down from previous helmets. They looked pretty cool and had lots of personality. It was nice when they came back for 2012. Not so nice that the Glatorian head with its brittle ball cup came back with them.
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  • Did I mention that each of these sets has less than twenty pieces? It's true! And as we just established, many of those pieces are overspecialized and extremely limited in use. The sets are also all built 100% identically except for their weapons.
"But that's just six sets! That's not even half!" Well, yes and no. The other sets include six villains, two vehicles (that come with their own lackluster hero clones), and one set that includes both a hero AND a villain. So more than half of the figures for the year are heroes. The villains are pretty good by BIONICLE standards, but they're all humanoid, and the mid-size villains have just 4050 pieces (the Glatorian, Glatorian Legends, Phantoka, and Mistika were the same price, had far more parts on average, and had far more diverse designs to boot).

The larger villains, Von Nebula and Rotor, are pretty solid designs, as are the two Technic-intensive vehicle sets. So if you focus on just those four sets, then 2010 was a pretty solid year for Hero Factory! If you look at the year as a whole, though, you have a year of sets that neither lives up to BIONICLE nor goes to great lengths to carve out its own identity.

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Since 2010, Hero Factory sets have gotten more and more diverse, complex, and creative. The heroes in 2011 each had between 29 and 31 parts and had an armor layout unique to that set. Only one of them, Breez 2.0, used one-piece weapons: every other hero had a more elaborate multi-piece weapon design. The villains had between 48 and 63 pieces, much closer to BIONICLE's standards. Some of the summer villains had non-humanoid builds, and one of them was a massive titan similar in height to 2007's Maxilos or 2008's Takanuva.

Furthermore, there was a new building system in which parts were designed to be as intercompatible as possible. Want to stick a torso shell on a limb bone or vice-versa? Nothing's stopping you! Want to attach a limb bone to the midpoint on another limb bone? Go right ahead! This allowed for all kinds of creative builds in the years to come. Oh, by the way, the issue of fragile joints was almost completely eliminated, with only a few legacy BIONICLE parts still using the old, brittle ball cups.

2012 pushed things even further. Instead of all heroes being small canister sets and all villains being larger box sets, there were heroes and villains at all price points. The heroes broke away from formulaic color schemes and equipment Evo's reinforced boots and Tank Arm would not have been possible in the 3.0 series where all the limb shells in a hero set were the same color. All the villains had creative builds and equipment, though the larger villain sets were still humanoid in build and posture.

Also, the heroes had helmets, printed torso shells, and equipment specially tailored to them as characters. In BIONICLE, a claim often surfaced that sets were designed first and assigned to existing characters later, hence the discrepancy between different iterations of a character. Nobody could make that mistake about this series. Nex's precision laser, retro helmet design, and communications antenna all spoke to his role as the team's communications specialist, and Evo's heavy-looking boots and Tank Arm spoke to his role as the team's heavy weapons specialist. Likewise with the other heroes: the only one whose gear didn't strongly reflect his role in the team or his previous design sensibilities was Furno.

2013 was not so much of a step forward. The heroes' gear was more uniform, and the villains' builds were consistently humanoid (except for the glorious Dragon Bolt). But the weapons for the sets continued to get more elaborate, and most of the sets integrated action features of some kind (and no, not just launchers). Piece counts continued to increase, and color schemes became more diverse.

And this year? The piece counts for the mid-size sets have left all previous mid-size sets (including all BIONICLE canister sets) in the dust. The builds have become incredibly diverse (helped by the fact that there no longer needs to be a humanoid set for every hero). A Hero minifigure has been designed, with excellent proportions and helmets more or less accurate to the full-size heroes.

Are the recent Hero Factory sets flawless? No. But when were they ever? Certainly not in 2010, when Hero Factory was still in BIONICLE's shadow, and evoking more of that theme's worst characteristics than its best ones. It's not that there weren't things to like about the 2010 Hero Factory sets. The heroes had endearing proportions and aesthetics. The villains had diverse themes and expressions. And of course, if you like BIONICLE-style titan builds, the theme offered two of those at a reasonable price. But overall, I feel like the year's weaknesses were more crippling than its strengths were redeeming. Design quality has been much more consistent in subsequent years, and for the most part it's been improving.


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From: Bionicle TV Show

Posted by Aanchir: Rachira of Time , Apr 07 2014 · 131 views
LEGO, BIONICLE, Media, Ratings

It bothers me how much fans seem to think a child audience would hurt a BIONICLE TV show. The Mata Nui Online Game was one of the absolute best methods of story delivery in the entire course of the theme, and I don't think there's anything in that theme that would push its rating above TV-Y7. It had some extremely energetic fight scenes (Onua vs. Lewa, or Kopaka vs. the Muaka), some really dark and foreboding moments (the entire Po-Koro chapter), and even some really powerful philosophical concepts (various monologues from the Matoran and Turaga, or Makuta's monologue before the final battle). It also had a fair share of humor (Taipu's slow-wittedness, Hafu's boastfulness, Macku's endearing relationship with Hewkii, various background gags, and the very concept of a "Taxi Crab").

I take issue with the idea that darker and edgier storylines are somehow "better" or more legitimate than more lighthearted fare. Most superhero cartoons are rated TV-Y7, but a lot of them still have complex storylines and characterization that really help to make the characters relatable and the stories memorable. Some storylines even deal with very serious issues, like Avatar: The Last Airbender's themes regarding terrorism and genocide or Static Shock's frequent focus on societal issues like gang violence.

Keep in mind that BIONICLE was primarily for kids from the very beginning. Even the more violent moments in the books were no different: it's just that young kids and adult censors alike have a stronger stomach for violence in written form than in animated visual form. Thus, any BIONICLE media that seeks to shut out that child audience is forsaking the true spirit of the BIONICLE theme to instead embrace some distorted vision of what the theme should have been.


Source: Bionicle TV Show


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Planning to cosplay a LEGO Movie character?

Posted by Aanchir: Rachira of Time , Mar 09 2014 · 188 views
The LEGO Movie, Community, Events and 2 more...
I created this topic for people's convenience, so it's easier to keep track of who's who at which events. If you're planning to cosplay as a character at one of this year's LEGO events, go reply there to have your name, character, and event plans added to the list!


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2013 in Review

Posted by Aanchir: Rachira of Time , Dec 31 2013 · 130 views
Life
So 2013 was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I've done an amazing amount of MOCing this year. Many of the MOCs I've created are ones I'm incredibly proud of. I've created some art, too, though not a whole lot, all things considered. I've gotten a job (albeit a temporary, part-time job I'd never have gotten without my mom pulling some strings). I had the time of my life at Cloudsdale Congress (which exposed me to the incredible brony music scene), attended lots of fun brony meetups both in Boston and my hometown, and got to meet some of my best friends from BZPower at Brickfair Virginia.

But on the other hand, this year has been quite an ordeal. My latest semester at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston was... regrettable. It's clear to me now that going to this school was a mistake from the very beginning. It caused me trouble with my health insurance, created a soul-crushing level of anxiety, and made me feel further from achieving my dreams of being a LEGO designer than ever before. It's clear to me now that I do not have the skills to get a degree in Industrial Design, and it's possible I never will. And I hope and pray that these aren't essential skills for a career in that field, because if they are this dream will never become a reality.

I've started getting counseling again to help me with this anxiety, and I honestly don't know how it's going. I haven't had nearly as much anxiety since I left Wentworth as I had when I was there, but that might be because I have neither school nor a steady job to keep track of. And counseling is expensive. Relations with my family have had their ups and downs. No huge fights lately, and the counseling has helped a bit when there have been fights, but I'm remaining wary.

I have been getting help with my job search from the Goodwill Job Help Center, which thankfully doesn't cost any money, but I don't know how much it's helped me. I've gotten a number of interviews including several with Goodwill. None of them has resulted in a job. Rather, my job search has been a constant reminder that I'm not even qualified for the type of low-prestige retail work that most of my friends and family are either trying to get out of or happy to be done with.

My brother has gotten a lot of great video games that have been able to entertain both of us, including the Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton series. I haven't played any video games in a long time. Playing video games just doesn't feel as rewarding to me as watching other people play them. It just creates more goals when I'm struggling to deal with the ones I've set for myself in real life. On one hand, this means my time can be spent on more social activities. On the other hand, it makes me feel sad that I don't have the level of commitment it takes to maintain a hobby like that.

There is no romance in my forecast. As lonely as I feel sometimes, that's simply one more thing than I can deal with. There's a girl I really like, but she doesn't feel the same way about me. If I'm lucky we can just maintain our friendship, since I'd be happy to mean SOMETHING to her even if I never mean as much to her as she means to me. There have not been any other girls that I feel the same way about. Maybe one day that will change, but until a girl like that shows up I can't afford to be preoccupied with thoughts of romance when I'm still struggling to be a functioning adult.

This entry makes it sound like the bad stuff really outweighs the good stuff, but it's not really like that. I have a family that has gone to great lengths to house, feed, and care for me since I am not prepared to house, feed, and care for myself. So getting a job isn't something that I need to do to survive, it's more about proving to myself that I can do it. I still have my Associate's Degree from Landmark College in Vermont, which doesn't seem to have helped me at all in my job search but at least demonstrates that my college experience hasn't been a complete disaster, and that I managed to overcome my learning disability in at least one key respect. I'm not strapped for cash, yet have managed to keep control of my budget, even in Boston where I needed to buy my own groceries. My reputation in the LEGO fan community remains strong, at least among people who have heard of me. And I've still managed to keep moving forward, even if it's not against the same steep odds that some of my peers have had to deal with.

So yeah. The year has been one of ups and downs. But I will continue to hope and pray for the best for myself and the people I care for. Bring on 2014.


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Brickfair Plans

Posted by Aanchir: Rachira of Time , Jul 27 2013 · 201 views
LEGO, BIONICLE, MOCs, Community and 1 more...
Hey, everypony! I know I haven't blogged in a while but I figured I ought to share what my plans are for Brickfair VA this year. Yep, my brothers and I will be going again this year, as has become a tradition. I'm a bit sad that this means I can't make it to BronyCon, which is going to be in Baltimore the very same weekend, but hopefully next year the two events will be scheduled on different weekends but BronyCon will remain near my home in Virginia.

Anyway, I've already registered my MOCs for Brickfair. Most of them are Hero Factory MOCs this time around, which is nice, since last year I ended up spending so much of my time near the BIONICLE table anyway. I will be bringing Kit Martello (who has been modded somewhat since I entered her in BBCC#64), Koboldon in both his Before Mutation and After Mutation forms (who I'm now allowed to mention was a contest entry in the "Before & After Brain Attack" contest on Eurobricks forums, which is currently in voting), and my Hero Factory Canine Buddy (who has had minor cosmetic alterations for his IRL debut). Rise of the Dread Colossus, an Atlantis MOC which Lyichir and I exhibited last year, will be making a return appearance.

I will also be bringing some of my LEGO-related artwork to display. It's nothing too impressive but it was well-received last year and I've gotten a couple drawings done since then. Natalie Breez, Jaller, Captain of the Guard, The Venerable Turaga Vakama, Swarm of the Century, Kai and Family, and Captain of the Guard (not to be confused with the previous Jaller drawing I mentioned). I have other LEGO art such as my MLP:FiM/Ninjago crossover drawing Welcoming Cousin Spitfire, but I do not know if I'll be exhibiting it because it is sketchier and has never been brought to any level of finality. I will, however, be bringing my drawing folder in case I want to share any of my less finished or less LEGO-related art with any other artists in attendance, just as I did last year.

I'm very much looking forward to visiting the vendor area, where I hope to get some bulk Hero Factory parts like I did last year (that decision definitely paid off) and some more specific System elements I've lately found myself in need of. I'm not entirely sure what I can expect to find, but since last year there was no shortage of parts from 2011 Hero Factory sets (which I imagine the sellers may have picked up on clearance), then I hope to see an abundance of parts from 2012 Hero Factory sets and Super Heroes constraction sets this time around.

Most importantly, though, I'm looking forward to spending time with people I've gotten to know online, including some of my more recent acquaintances from Brickset, Flickr, BZPower, and Eurobricks, as well as many of my older friends from BZPower like Lady Kopaka, Turakii #1 Lava Surfer, Toa Lhikan Hordika, and Omicron. Many in this latter category are friends who have not been especially active on BZPower for a long time, for one reason or another, but whom I've kept tabs with on Facebook and other sites.

I'm wondering about possibly bringing my iPod and a small stereo to Brickfair. I find Brickfair is very, very often lacking in terms of music. Last year at the BIONICLE tables someone brought some music and it really livened things up. Plus, I happen to have a decent amount of LEGO music on my iPod: the BIONICLE Power Pack, all the Cryoshell songs used in BIONICLE promotions, and over two and a half hours of music from the Ninjago soundtrack. I'm not entirely settled on bringing music but I'm thinking it could be worthwhile at least on the non-public days (Thursday and Friday).

If you want to find me at Brickfair, I'll most likely spend most of my time either walking the show floor or hanging out at the BIONICLE tables with the BZPower crowd. You should be able to recognize me by my badge, which will be bigger but otherwise mostly unchanged from last year. And perhaps also by my glasses and hair which are not all that different from how they appear on the sigfig in my avatar. I look forward to connecting with many people I've met online this year, and I hope we can exchange contact details so I can possibly deepen some of those relationships!


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Repetition in Hero Factory sets

Posted by Aanchir: Rachira of Time , Apr 28 2013 · 177 views
LEGO, Hero Factory, BIONICLE
Lately I've been thinking a lot about the Hero Factory building system and its commonly-perceived flaws.

Chief among these is the allegation that the builds are too repetitive. It's kind of funny to read this because frankly this was a major criticism of BIONICLE builds for many years as well, and it was far from rare even when people weren't complaining about it. Remember Inika builds? They were the default build from 2006-2009, and many people really and truly hated the repetition.

But repetition in BIONICLE builds goes back even further than that. The same basic canister set leg design (foot + ball cup + lower leg beam + upper leg beam + upper leg shell) was the order of the day from 2004-2009, and in 2006 the arm construction was also changed to this default style. It could be argued quite convincingly that all but a small handful of BIONICLE canister sets (specifically Gorast, Krika, and the Visorak) from 2004-2009 were functionally identical from the waist down.

But what about torsos, one might ask? BIONICLE fans have always had a somewhat bizarre preoccupation with the torso. A new torso construction is tantamount to a new build altogether. And in fact, sets like Carapar or Mistika Toa Onua who have a new torso piece, but the same torso construction as before, tend to get a lot more leeway than those that reuse an existing torso shell. Oddly enough, prior to 2007, it was rare for any sets in a canister set or small set series to have any meaningful differences in torso build between one another. Only Pohatu in his first two forms had any meaningful difference in torso construction from his teammates.

But Hero Factory models, despite using the same two torso beams in most cases, have mixed up the torso build considerably over the past few years. Small and medium hero sets generally have a very simple torso build, but when villains are brought into the equation, we have figures like Toxic Reapa, whose armor style is completely unique to him, Jawblade, whose torso construction is integrated with his jaw and is decidedly non-humanoid, Thornraxx, who does not even use a traditional torso beam, XT4, who introduced an entirely new torso beam, and of course the villain sets of the Savage Planet arc, of which only one (Waspix) had a traditional armor style. This year, we see even more variations as Technic is incorporated into the builds to a greater extent than before.

The same question springs to mind with this issue as in the days of the Inika builds. If you are so bored of repetitive builds, what better design can you come up with to replace them? Generally, this is where complaints about repetition tend to fall apart. People don't want something better, they just want something different. The issue is that variety for variety's sake is one reason BIONICLE stopped being financially viable over the years, and generally a torso element that varied considerably from the default humanoid torso design was obsolete within a couple years. Look at the various Vahki, Rahkshi, and Visorak torso pieces as examples. Most had very limited use outside of the function they were intended to support. They could be incorporated into more unique builds given a disproportionate amount of effort, but on the whole they were simply more limited in their application than the more generic humanoid torso elements.

The Inika build lasted so long partly because the Inika torso had extremely versatile connection points, a flat, unobtrusive design that allowed it to work with many styles of armor, the potential to work with sets of various sizes, and very little extraneous detail that would become visual shorthand for a particular series of sets. Very few other torso designs could boast this kind of versatility.

Similarly, the current Hero Factory torso beams offer most of these same benefits. I can think of one major improvement that would benefit Hero Factory sets these days, just as it would have benefited BIONICLE sets: the implementation of waist articulation, with separate armor shells for the upper and lower torso. It's not a desperate need, but it'd greatly improve the number of realistic and expressive poses a Hero Factory figure could be put into.

But it's understandable that this may be a long time coming. The only BIONICLE canister set to offer full waist articulation, Pridak, demonstrated one weakness that comes with this added feature: an extra point of articulation can sometimes make it challenging for a set to support its own weight. Jointed waists are also somewhat difficult to armor with a basic modular system. So on the whole I would not be surprised to wait quite a while before a simple, intuitive, versatile design for a waist joint presents itself.


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Life Update 4/6/13

Posted by Aanchir: Rachira of Time , Apr 06 2013 · 135 views
Life, LEGO, Hero Factory, MOCs and 1 more...
Hey, BZPower. Sorry for not being too active this past month. Life's been kind of crazy for me.

I suppose before I jump into talking about fun things like MOCs, I should get the important stuff out of the way. School has not been going well for me. I'm in my second semester studying Industrial Design, but my classes have really been a huge source of anxiety, which has at times been crippling for me. I have a couple weeks left here in Boston, but after that I'm going to take a semester off to get some counseling and therapy, perhaps try and get a job, and take time to re-evaluate my life goals, which may not be attainable through the path I'm currently on even if I can get my emotions in check.

Now, I've gotten slight relief from various opportunities to visit with family and friends. As I announced in my last entry, I went to Cloudsdale Congress over Spring Break, and it was a phenomenal experience. I definitely plan to attend other My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan conventions in the future, because it was really fun and eye-opening (giving me the chance to interact with dozens of other bronies as well as to explore areas of the fandom I hadn't yet indulged in, like the fan music). I roomed with some bronies from my hometown, and I look forward to attending some meetups with them over the summer -- they're very fun people!

After the convention I had some time to burn before my mom could pick me up and take me home, so I visited the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. On the way there, I happened to be on the subway with some of the folks from the fan project Double Rainboom, including PKEmi, who voiced Rainbow Dash (A bit of warning, I still haven't seen Double Rainboom, since I'm going to a meetup in Boston to see it tomorrow, so don't spoil it in the comments). We all had a great conversation, and Emi and I have managed to connect via social networks since then, which is great. Always nice to make a lasting connection at an event like this.

I spent just a couple days at home before I had to go down to North Carolina to visit my Nana, who has been in the hospital for a few weeks after having a fall. It was good to visit her, even though I'm worried about her. Then I took a plane from New Bern to Hartford, where my uncle from Connecticut picked me up to stay with him for a few days. My aunt and uncle have a fifteen-month-old baby who's a joy to spend time with, and it was great to spend the next couple days there before getting on the bus to get back to school.

Since then I spent last weekend with my aunt and uncle again to celebrate my birthday (March 29) and Easter, and I got to see them and my baby cousin once more just last night when my aunt came up to Boston for a conference. It's so wonderful watching my baby cousin grow up and learn to explore the world, and I hope even over the summer when I'm not as close by I can still find time to visit them.

Now, as far as LEGO is concerned, I've mostly been working with LEGO Digital Designer lately, since that had a considerable update recently. Most notably, it includes over 600 new decorations, including almost every decoration from Collectible Minifigures series 1-8! However, as is often the case, these were not mapped to the parts that use them in the software's code, meaning that I had to edit them into LXFML files myself. You can download my LXF of Minifigures Series 1-9 here. Note that parts from Series 1-8 which could not be decorated correctly are colored 294 Phosphorescent Green to differentiate them, and that some decoration surfaces like the Small Clown's hat and all decorated minifigure arms distort the decorations placed on them.

Additionally, I recently got some major progress reverse-engineering the stunning Hero Factory MOC by Christoffer Raundahl which I mentioned in this entry. You can see my results here:

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LXF Download

Errors include six parts left off of the arms (two shells due to an illegal connection and four hoses due to being too fiddly and frustrating to connect correctly), four substitutions (the custom head, the square shell detail elements on the heels, and the speaker shell detail element on the chest), four parts within the torso build not connected correctly (the shoulder suspension beams, which were giving me a lot of grief, and the hoses that connect the legs to the torso), and finally some parts potentially missing from the back, including whatever parts are meant to connect the wings to the back -- sadly, I do not have any pics of the back of this MOC.

The final model would probably contain around 225 pieces and cost $50-60 as a retail model. I have managed to build a considerable portion of this model (the torso, one leg, and one upper arm) in real life to ensure that fiddly parts like the arm and leg suspension work correctly, and it's just as brilliant in its design as I imagined. It has, among other things, revealed to me just how narrow-minded I have been in envisioning uses for the 3M double ball cup (98565) introduced in Stormer XL, since despite its few connection points this piece is an invaluable structural element. Truly I would love to see this model, or a similar model derived from its design, as an official set.

Anyway, that's enough rambling for today. Overall, I'm doing my best to maintain a positive outlook and take each week one day at a time. It's been a bit rough but I'm confident that once I'm back home I will have plenty of time to work on putting myself back together and finding a path I'm willing to pursue.


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Spring Break Plans

Posted by Aanchir: Rachira of Time , Mar 03 2013 · 142 views

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Taking the bus down from Boston to D.C., then the Metro to Alexandria. Gonna be hanging out with the brony group from my hometown I recently learned of. It's gonna be tight.

Oh, I'm sorry, is my outdated slang bothering you? Let me reconfigure.

It's gonna be crucial.


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Midterm MOC Report

Posted by Aanchir: Rachira of Time , Mar 01 2013 · 190 views
LEGO, Hero Factory, MOCs, Life and 1 more...
Well, it turns out Kit Martello didn't perform too well in the BBC contest, only getting around seven votes in the first round of polling. I don't feel too bad about not winning, since there was a lot of talent in the contest, but it still bothers me that most of my feedback concerning Kit has been largely negative. Regardless, I think Sparkytron's Eris is due a round of congratulations for emerging victorious in the final poll. There are several things I dislike about this MOC, particularly the stand, but it's still a work of art in the end.

In other MOCing news, I've posted a topic of my various tablescraps over the past few months. Now, I don't mean "tablescraps" in a negative sense. I'm quite proud of these, and none of them are bare-bones Heromods. But compared to Kit Martello these were all fairly simple endeavors. I anticipate bringing Kit Martello and some of these MOCs (particularly my good buddy Bogwaddle) to Brickfair Virginia this year. I'm hoping to continue modding some of these in the meantime, and perhaps scrapping some of the more basic ones to open those pieces back up for experimentation.

One set I've been hoping to get lately, both for its MOCing potential and for its brilliance as a model, is 70500 Kai's Fire Mech from the Ninjago line. But frustratingly, none of the stores around where I'm attending college seem to have it. Still, I'm keeping a sharp lookout for it, and will not be afraid to get it online if double VIP points happen before I find it in a brick-and-mortar store.

So that's what's up on the LEGO/MOCing side of things. Schoolwork and other obligations have been keeping me from dedicating long stretches of time to MOCing or building, but I've recently started making progress on my drawing assignments again so hopefully I can get caught up fairly soon.






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