Not so hyper-active, but still…

As the year quickly nears its end, I figured I better start summing up my activities that so far have slipped under the radar and not been mentioned here for reasons such as obeying deadlines, working out details behind the scenes and not prematurely publishing stuff. All of that is now out of the way and I can share what little activities I have done.

Of course my output pales in comparison to others. I have no issues admitting that. Too many other things going on like making myself unpopular with posting way too much on blogs and forums (not just LEGO-related), dealing with my health issues and way too many other hobbies/ interests. However, occasionally I find myself particularly enticed and highly motivated to get my lazy ass up when there is stuff to win, not least because when there is sets to be had that under regular circumstances would be hard for me to buy due to limited finances. My Ornithoraptor entry for the respective LEGO Ideas contest didn’t go anywhere, but I don’t give up that quickly, so let’s see how I fared elsewhere.

2019 Contest Entry "Beyond the Brick Merchandise Graphic Design"

Early in the summer I participated in the Beyond the Brick merchandise design contest. Since they didn’t stipulate any specific rules of course this could be interpreted in a million ways and as someone who built plastic model planes in his youth and always admired the box art I thought I’d try to do something that might evoke a similar vibe with a “plane” zooming by a brick “mountain” peeking out of the clouds. I spent a few afternoons on this in Adobe Illustrator, but of course it’s merely a first draft. Looking at it now even I realize what’s wrong with it and definitely would approach it differently for a final design.

2019 Contest Entry "Star Wars"

Oddly enough somehow people seem to think that everybody has time during summer and so quickly after that design challenge the publishers of the LEGO Star Wars magazine, Blue Ocean, which of course you are familiar with when reading this blog regularly, launched a celebratory competition to honor their 50th issue. The only requirement was to build your favorite Star Wars scene with the grand prize being an UCS Millenium Falcon (75192). That sounds cool on paper, but the result was a major kick in the balls, to be honest.

To say that the contest was an utter debacle would be putting it mildly. After pre-selecting ten entries user were supposed to rate the ultimate winner on Facebook and that caused an uproar of outrage. The reason why is pretty straightforward: The people in charge seemed too busy to keep up the pretense that their magazine would only be read by kids of a certain age and so they picked a bunch of builds that matched that demographic. I have no problem with that, but this was an open contest and by all means the best model should have won, regardless of age. Worse still, many users commenting reported from their own kids, nices, grand children etc. that they had seen way better builds from them.

The end of the story? After all the negative backlash nobody ever since  heard again of the contest. I’m sure they were planning on drumming this up big in the magazine itself as well as other channels, but it really turned into a PR disaster that I’m sure everyone just wants to forget this embarrassment. I’m not even sure if any of the group of ten actually ever were picked as a winner and received their prize. I can only hope they learned their lesson and next time come up with clearer rules or multiple tiers/ categories to avoid such a mess.

2019 Contest Entry "(E)Island Holiday"

Finally, and to end this on a positive note, I did succeed in a contest and even made it to the number one spot with my “(E)Island Holiday”. That’s of course a bit of German/ English word play and would translate to “Ice- (Is-)land Holiday” in a very crude fashion. Again this was once more in the midst of the summer and there were no restrictions, so for me at least it was quite a challenge to even get it finished while struggling with the heat wave and sweating like an ox.

I didn’t particularly expect to win, but the idea of a toppled-over ice cone had been in my head for a while and this was the perfect opportunity to turn it into a model. Only after the first reactions began to praise it for it’s originality, I got a little nervous and began to hope for more. In the end it’s of course just another summer-y beach scene like so many other submissions, but I suppose that little twist makes all the difference. In any case, I’m glad it worked out…

 

Revisionist Krakken

As happens so often when working on a project for too long you can’t see the forest for the trees, as they say, so a few minor issues crept into my octopus MOC instructions. Nothing major and by no means a deal breaker, just small oversights. I’m pretty sure I had all the best intentions of fixing them way back when, but then somehow forgot about them. Therefore I’ve now sat down again and got to it. I’ve edited the original post and updated all the links. The specific changes are as follows:

  • Fixed a bunch of spelling errors/ typos in the German version.
  • Changed the color of the 3L bar in the eyes to Black to correctly reflect availability (it doesn’t exist in Trans Neon Green and the one included in set 31088 is actually a 4L one)
  • Split up the 4 x 1 brick with sideways studs used at the top of the mantle into two 1 x 2 bricks because again it only exists in this form in Dark Blue. If you use other colors this will be irrelevant.
  • Fixed a DPI mismatch on the BOM pages that would make them appear larger than the other pages in non-DPI-aware PDF applications, e.g. in browsers.

For your convenience I’ve also created a MOC page on Rebrickable. This should make it simpler to sift through the parts inventory, compare it to parts you may already have (if you maintain your list on there) and provides a convenient way to order the missing pieces easily if necessary by pre-selecting them in Bricklink shops.

The Krakken has risen!

Important Note: Download at the end of the article! / Wichtiger Hinweis: Download am Ende des Artikels!


At long last I managed to finish my free instructions for my octopus MOC. Yay! I’ve been a bit under the weather last week so it still took me one week longer than promised, but I hope now that it’s here everything is fine.

Octopus MOC, Pages, Preview I’ve written about some of the challenges in my last article on the matter already and despite all the bugs, quirks and flaws of the programs I used I hope I managed to cobble together something decent and tasteful. The preview of some random pages should give you an idea what to expect inside the PDFs without actually having to download the whole 16.4 megabytes. That should make it easier to make up your mind before burning valuable bandwidth and download quotas on mobile devices. On that note I also kept things as barebones as I possibly could within the limitations to keep file size down, so you may have to wait a bit e.g. for page thumbnails to be generated.

 

 

 

Octopus MOC, BOMs for all Variants, PreviewAs I have hinted at multiple times, this set of instructions contains some alternate build variants. This is meant to help you save a bit of money if you are not able or willing to procure a shed load of extra parts e.g. from Bricklink. Still, with the mantle and upper “cloak” section of the tentacles being integral to the whole construction and always using the same pieces, at the end of the day you may not be seeing that much of a difference. Of course you can do your own re-engineering to optimize this further and perhaps if you come up with more efficient alternate designs might be willing to share it. I’d sure be interested to learn how other people might approach this. For your convenience I have also created a Rebrickable page to check the parts for the main most complex build and order missing parts from there if you feel like it.

 

 

 

The instructions are 100 percent free, but if you like them and think I should get something in return I’d sure appreciate being able to tick off some items from my wishlist. Just get in touch! 🙂 Feel free to post links to this article on forums, blogs and wherever you may be roaming the Internet to drum up interest, but please keep the copyright intact and don’t mess with the PDF files themselves by doing things like repackaging the pages with your own branding and redistributing them under your own name.


To download the instructions click on the image or the link below it. On mobile devices it may be necessary to keep your finger pressed down a bit longer in order for a menu to appear that may offer options on where to store or open the files. On desktop computers you typically should also be able to use a right mouse click and selecting “Save link/ target as…” to pick a specific folder for saving. If necessary check your browser configuration’s default download options to avoid confusion and having to download over and over again.

Octopus MOC, Cover, English

Octopus MOC, Instructions, English


Zum Download der deutschen Version auf das Bild unten oder den Link darunter klicken. Auf Mobilgeräten kann es notwendig sein, den Finger länger gedrückt zu halten und entsprechende Option zum Speichern oder die Übergabe an eine bestimmte App auszuwählen. Auf Desktopcomputern kann die Datei in der Regel auch mit Rechtsklick auf den Link und „Link/ Ziel speichern unter…“ direkt in einen bestimmten Ordner runtergeladen werden. um Verwirrung zu vermeiden und die Datei nicht immer wieder neu herunterzuladen, überprüft die Browsereinstellungen für Downloads wenn nötig.

Oktopus MOC, Cover, Deutsch

Oktopus MOC, Anleitung, Deutsch

An Octopus will surface near you soon-ish – finally!

I know I have been promising this for way too long to have much credibility left, but trust me, it’s really going to happen. Yes, at long last the finish line on my free instructions for my Octopus MOC is in sight. After my last update in July I had hoped to finish it sooner (and I mean a lot sooner), but after it got off to a rocky start and what was supposed to be a quick two-month project already had turned into something else, there were some further setbacks, in light of which I then decided to take my time and figure things out and be as thorough as I can. Feel free to skip this boring part, but here are some reasons:

  • As I already wrote back then, I’m not a healthy man, so this summer’s extreme heat coupled with some temporarily escalating generic health issues turned me into a lazy slob. Yes, a pitiful excuse, but that’s just how things are.
  • My own drive for perfection got in the way. Being a graphics designer has the unwanted side-effect that one tends to think in very specific terms, meaning that page layouts have to be almost pixel-perfect and just look nice. That meant that I spent way too much time doodling around and trying to figure out how I could get LPub to do something at which it is notoriously bad. Speaking of which…
  • The aforementioned program is pretty obnoxious and just bug-ridden. I also filed a bunch of bug reports and improvement suggestions, but suffice it to say that the developers behind it appear not particularly focused on making it actually user-friendly or at least best in its class in the sense that as a minor it could possibly be the best of many pretty terrible options. Trust me, doing instructions can indeed be a long exercise in frustration in pretty much any of the programs available currently. Let’s leave it at that.
  • To somewhat mitigate those shortcomings, I had to spend lots of time developing workarounds. This means that my published file will be based on having multiple models in different states in the LPub file and on top of it it will be chopped together from multiple sources. I even spent good amounts of time copy & pasting things together in external text editors. At least that’s one of the few benefits of the text-based file format.
  • As if I wasn’t in enough trouble already, I also decided to design a set of custom icons to use in the instructions because – let’s face it – the default icons e.g. for model rotation look less than exciting. You will see and hopefully like my interpretations and additions.
  • Finally, amidst all of this I participated in a bunch of building contests in the hopes of winning some cool stuff. This naturally also consumed some time on my end because I literally spent entire evenings brooding over some minutia and conceptualizing the models in my head before actually assembling them. I might do a round-up post once the dust has settled on all that and I know in which places I qualified (or not).

On the bright side, all of this trouble has made me much more resilient and I learned a good share of new tricks along the way that may make things easier in the future. I also can say with confidence that now that I know what to do and which pitfalls to avoid there is a definitive ETA on the instructions so you can at least make the model and stocking parts for it part of your Christmas shopping list. Just give me another two weeks and I’m hopefully able to pull this together at last. Funny enough I just had another little setback with one of my hard drives crashing, but thankfully the files were not affected and thank the good lord I also do regular backups, so I can at least present a preview of the cover with my skin intact:

Octopus MOC, Cover, English

I need to fix the broken drive, naturally, but should be able to resume work quickly after that. Stay tuned for the pertinent announcement…

Ornithoraptor vs. T. Rex

Already being caught up in a million projects and never getting much done for a million reasons, I rarely take part in LEGO Ideas“Activities” as they are called as of late, in particular the building contests. I admire how people are able to whip up those creations as if they had never anything else to do all day, but I’m just not that kind of person and somehow I always seem to have too much else to do.

On the rare occasions when I choose to participate and can actually manage to get my butt to sit down for a few hours just dabbling with my LEGO bricks there usually has to be a good reason, i.e. some incentive to rush through those four or five weeks and cook something up. That of course has been/ is the case in the Unleash your own genetically modified hybrid Dinosaur contest (What a title!). I really, really would have loved to win one of them Jurassic Park T. Rex Rampage (75936) sets they gave out as prizes, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. There are a lot of other great creations, so competition was stiff. You should really check them out!

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Side View

Anyway, my humble contribution to the whole affair was what I called Ornithoraptor mylenii, a small, bird-like raptor. I find that those smaller species are often overlooked in favor of the bigger, more awe-inspiring dinosaurs, yet I’m pretty sure if you only do your research you will find that for every Tyrannosaurus Rex there are a hundred other species that are just as important to the overall eco system. My rationale here is that this would have been a relatively harmless, docile creature living near lake shores, small rivers and swampy meadows, feeding off fish, insects, mussels, algae, grass and similar stuff. Pretty much the goose/ duck of its day taking care to keep the waters clean and preventing harmful smaller species from spreading too much while at the same time being a potential prey for other carnivorous dinosaurs, naturally.

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Lateral Front Views

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Front and Rear Views

In order to replicate this and because I just knew I wouldn’t have enough pieces to build a full model in the first place I limited my efforts to a head bust with a piece of neck. I mainly focused on getting the head shape right and make it anatomically believable, that is seeing to it that the mechanics eventually could work, the eyes were in the right position, the teeth overlapped correctly and so on. The tip of the beak is the typical horn “tooth” you also find on many birds and that would be used to e.g. scrape mosses off rocks or dig in the ground whereas the small teeth would function like the serrated edges of a fine saw to bite larger chunks or for instance clip reed grass for building nests.

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Beak Interior

Ornithoraptor mylenii - Head with closed and open Beak

The model is more or less a 2 : 1 or even 1 : 1 scale representation of the real thing and inevitably my biggest struggle was the limited selection of parts I had at hand. This sure would benefit from having more slopes and nice wedges here and there, but I hope my approximations with stacked plates and a few standard curved slopes does the trick. Building it in full would be a whole different exercise and require many more parts, so I’m not too sure if I’ll ever be able to pull it off. That’s also my one peeve with the contest as a whole, BTW – nice as some concepts may be, I’d consider most of them unbuildable because just like my own creation the parts count and size would end up being like the T. Rex set.

In any case, I hope you like what you see and if you’re feeling very, very generous, I sure wouldn’t mind that Jurassic Park set to drop on my doorstep one of these days. 😉

Update x2

The heatwave in the last few weeks and a few other things haven’t made it easy to actually get any work done, but now I’m actually a bit closer to getting the instructions for my Octopus MOC done.

It seems a funny coincidence that as I was dabbling around in the likes of LPub3D, putting up with its quirks and trying to figure out a few specifics for structuring the instructions, a new parts update was released. The octopus doesn’t use any of them, but I’m more than happy to finally have the new bracket types available. As you well know, I’m obsessing about this stuff all the time. Just to prove it and in case you have no idea what I’m talking about here’s a little Stud.io render for you:

LDraw, Parts Update 1/2019, Brackets

While it may take me still a while to get the instructions actually finished, which mostly is to blame on my desire to make them look nice and professional and thus requiring lots of manual intervention in the formatting, here’s a preliminary listing of the parts used in the build (a.k.a. BOM – Bill of Materials) to get you started on stocking up and giving you a chance to order additional parts on Bricklink if needed.

Octopus MOC, Preliminary Bill of Materials (BOM)

Remember that this project originated based on four sets of the Deep Sea Creatures (31088). It will not be necessary to buy four sets as well, but it sure helps if you get at least one to obtain some of the parts, in particular some of the Dark Blue pieces. Also keep in mind that you can do color swaps and e.g. the Red parts will be invisible. So feel free to use whatever you have at hand.

This BOM represents the maximum variant as shown in my photos, but the final instructions will also contain some alternate building using a few different parts. Of course you can also save greatly by using shorter tentacles and thus reducing the number of slopes and ball joints. More on that as things progress on my end…

Krakken Alert – An Octopus MOC

Back then when I was writing my review of the Deep Sea Creatures (31088) set I was quite enthused as you may have noticed, yet something was missing that I would have considered essential – an octopus model. This compelled me to actually sit down and create one of my own. That may sound simple and obvious, but of course there’s a specific twist to the whole story, so allow me to tell you a bit about the thoughts and design process behind this project.

The Objective(s)

Before I even started to actually construct the model I knew how I wanted it to look and feel eventually. How to get there was a different story entirely, so I had to establish a few rules and parameters.

Octopus MOC, Comparison with the Squid from set 31088

Size Comparison with the original Squid from the Deep Sea Creatures (31088) set

The scale should match the generalized “squid” model one can build with one of those sets. This would not only reduce parts count to something sensible, but also keep things manageable since I wanted to include tentacles with a realistic length and on top of it all eight of them as you would find them in nature. Ideally I also wanted them to act and look naturally with some tapering and possibly also the “wings”/ skin webs between them at least hinted at.

It also set up a nice challenge in that it would require some strategic thinking to capture the shape of the creature, build a robust and stable model and still keep it poseable. If you get my meaning – building a large model and getting a good approximation even of complex surface curvatures is easier, but the real crunch comes when you have to express them with a limited number of pieces crammed into a small space.

The model itself should be based on the four sets I ultimately had bought as much as possible, meaning it should use the parts contained therein without having to throw in too many extra parts. This would save cost and avoid too many leftover bits clogging up drawers and storage boxes. Resorting to some additional parts from my collection should be kept to a sensible minimum, though I was aware that I possibly could not avoid it entirely. Some elements I planned on using are just not part of the original set.

The two factors combined resulted in a third prerequisite presenting itself: The overall parts count would and should be in a region that equals that of a commercial mid-range set, i.e. the accrued cost should ideally not exceed the combined value of the initial four sets plus some minor spending for the extra parts. Reigning in the cost would make it feasible to create instructions for the model and publish them so others could possibly re-create it without going broke in the process.

Time for some Action…

Building the model took quite some time. I’m a slow builder who likes to take his time to properly check and evaluate each step to begin with and naturally, getting the most out of limited resources presented its own challenges, given that my parts repository isn’t endless and even small changes can cause delays if you don’t have the right piece on hand and have to wait for that Bricklink order to arrive. I’m also a bit obsessive about making things stable and unbreakable, requiring even more thought to go into how you attach individual elements so they don’t fall off easily.

Octopus MOC, Head in resting Position (closed)

Head in resting Position

Octopus MOC, Head in swimming Position (open)

Head in swimming Position

Given those circumstances and my self-imposed rules I started out with the main part of the head, the mantle. Visually it is the largest body region on most octopus species due to it being more or less a big hollow sack inflated by water inside. Naturally the main purpose is to provide jet-like propulsion when said water is pressed out through the siphons, but the mantle also plays an important role during mating rituals or in its deflated form for camouflage when the octopus is resting. Incidentally it also looks like a big bulbous nose, which in not so minor parts is one of the reasons I think octopuses are cute. Getting this right therefore was important to me.

The tricky part for this section of the body was squeezing in all those elements necessary for the perpendicular building, so the various slopes could be attached to the sides, front and top. The problem here is not so much that it would be impossible overall, but rather that you have so little room and in some corners three different “flow” directions converge. One has to find ways of fitting in all those different brackets and bricks with studs on sides.

After that was done and I had arrived at a satisfying look the model rested in a box half-finished for quite a while. During this time I dabbled on and off with the aft section to which later the tentacles would be attached. In the process I must have started over and rebuild this segment at least five times, optimizing the various sub-steps over and over.

Octopus MOC, Tentacles fanned out

All eight Tentacles fanned out

Octopus MOC, Top View with spread Tentacles

Top View, notice the Shape and Volume of the Mantle

The point here is that the eight ball joints for the tentacles needed to be placed in a very specific way. They had to be far enough apart to accommodate the tentacles themselves, yet close enough to keep the body section compact and small to match the mantle’s scale. Additionally I also wanted to retain some semblance of the attachments being placed in a circle.

All of this made this quite complicated, even more so as later this little part would have to be solid enough to not fall apart when the tentacles were attached and exerted their force. In the end I opted for an alternating placement of the square ball joint plates with the longer bar and the regular short versions. This would also come in handy since it allowed for some overlap of the tentacles without them getting canted.

Octopus MOC, Tentacle, Side View

Tentacle Side View

Octopus MOC, Tentacle, Top View

Tentacle Top View

Compared to all that, the tentacles themselves were more or less a walk in the park as their construction is pretty obvious in the first place. Once you have decided on the length and number of the individual elements it’s merely a matter of building the segments eight times each and clicking them together. A bit repetitive, but perfectly manageable. In the interest of easy modifications I kept the design quite generic and the tentacles are interchangeable for different positions. There’s a million ways to handle this, so you could naturally also build your completely own interpretation, vary the overall lengths or build specific versions for each attachment point.

Mission accomplished?

The measure of how well I may have achieved my own goals depends on a few factors.

First, the re-usage factor of pieces from the original Deep Sea Creatures (31088) sets can be anywhere from around 60 percent up to 90 percent. I wanted my model to look “nice”, so I did quite a few color swaps/ replacements by digging into my parts repository and this value is therefore inevitably on the lower end. In particular I shunned all the red pieces from the original sets, if they would be visible. If you can live with that, the number will go up.

Octopus MOC, Tentacles partially curled up

Tentacles partially curled up to illustrate Poseability

The same goes for compromising on some structural parts like the ball joints. Unfortunately the sets only contain so many of them and they are not always in the right orientation. Unless you seriously spend at least a bit of money on additional such parts you could swap out some of them with the regular hinge joints at the cost of reduced stability and limited posing options. Good candidates for this would be the tips of the tentacles where the loads and forces aren’t that extreme.

Octopus MOC, Rear View with open Tentacles (Attack Posture)

Rear View with open Tentacles (Attack Posture)

The previous point also extends to the overall realism. A good chunk of parts is genuinely consumed by just the tentacles. As it turned out at the length I built them the pieces from the set didn’t suffice in quantity and I had to complement them with additional ones. The more you shorten the arms and use fewer segments, the closer you get to not having to rely on extra stuff. This is entirely up to you.

Though generally I’m of the opinion that the length of the arms is often totally underestimated and misrepresented, there’s no denying that different sub-species of octopi have different lengths. As a general rule you can say the smaller the creature, the shorter the tentacles. This includes infantile and adolescent specimen not yet having fully formed tentacles, but also small variants like the poisonous blue-ringed octopuses appearing more stubby to begin with.

Octopus MOC, Rear View Detail with Beak

Rear View Beak Detail

With all those optimizations you can trim down the overall parts count from above 600 pieces to 400 and below. You can take this even further and only use six tentacles if you want to match it up with the squid, though then you may require quite some reworking of the aft head section. In any case, anything is possible and more than anything else I consider my model one possible approach and solution with lots of room left for alternatives. In fact even now I’m considering options on how to improve this further.

Instructions are coming?!

From the start I planned to create instructions for this little critter, but as a matter of fact I haven’t even started yet. Given that I built the model physically, I have to go back, disassemble it and back-trace what I actually did at each step. That’s gonna take some time, so bear with me and check back in a few weeks. In the meantime you can always support my efforts by ticking a few items off my wishlist as encouragement and motivation. Lately I’ve had this weird image in my head how the octopus would look hugging the ship in the bottle or something like that, for instance. 😉