Thursday, June 13, 2013

Adventures in LDD: X-Wing 10240

I had some free time, so I fired up Lego Digital Designer and thought I'd try my hand at duplicating the Red Five X-Wing, the newest Star Wars Ultimate Collector set to come out. As I've mentioned before, the best way to learn the program is to download one of the instruction manuals from Lego's website and try to build the set in the program. You'll learn a lot about what the program can and can't do. Here's the results after a little work, rendered in POV-Ray.
POV-Ray Rendering of LDD model
Looks pretty nice, in my opinion. I had to make a few allowances to get it looking like this. For one thing, that windscreen is not the one used in the actual set. In the actual set, a new piece (it's one stud longer) was created and has custom decals on it. LDD doesn't have that piece available so I had to use the closest approximation. The other allowance is that it's missing 4 of these pieces.
Technic shock absorber
The picture is a screenshot from LDD of a shock absorber piece often used in Technic sets. It has a spring and the black part telescopes in and out of the white piece. On this set, it would be used to make it easier for the mechanism to open and close the wings to work more smoothly. However, in LDD, it's basically one solid piece of a fixed length. So you can't really adjust it to fit perfectly on the set like you would in real life. So I just left those pieces off. By the way, the 10179 UCS Millennium Falcon I did in LDD is FULL of shortcuts and pieces that were left off because of just how complicated that monster is.
Based on this build and others I've tried in the past, here's some of the things I've learned. Don't bother trying to build anything with a lot of Technic elements. A few Technic blocks, lift arms, and axels are fine, but once you add more than a few gears, the Hinge Tool and Align Hinge Tool start to slow down or give you really wacky results. The same goes for moveable parts like hinge plates or rocker style plates. The more of those that are in the model, the harder the program has to work to rotate them. Sometimes it's easier to break the model off into a simpler sub section to get all the rotations right, then add that sub section into the rest of the model.
LDD is perfect for building static, mostly stud-on-top models like the sets you see in Architecture, City, or those Modular buildings that are popular with the adult collectors. It's not as great for complicated Technic sets or anything that uses a lot of "unorthodox" building techniques. For example, one limitation is that LDD will only let you place bricks either on the gray building plane or on a suitable attachment point. For instance, you can place a sword on the ground, or in a minifigs hand, but you can't put it inside a barrel as if it was dropped there. This means you wouldn't be able to dump a bunch of clear studs in an empty space so that it looks like water as some AFOLs might do.
Where LDD really shines, is if you're making a model that has a lot of repetition like a mansion with a ton of identical windows or columns. In real life, it would take a while to build each individual feature and add it, but through the computer magic we all love, you can just copy and paste those bricks again and again.
Once you figure out what LDD can and can't do, it will really help you understand the possibilities of the program and give you an idea of what kind of models it would be useful for designing.

Monday, June 3, 2013

HUGE Star Wars Ewok Village coming soon

I'm starting to see a lot of buzz for the new Ewok Village Lego set that will be coming out in the near future. At close to 2000 pieces and 16 mostly exclusive minifigs, it's a monster. FBTB does a great preview with plenty of pictures, so give it a look. I'm pretty excited about this set for several reasons. For once thing, it looks like the designers put a lot of work into it. And the 16 minifigures is staggering. However, the one thing that strikes me about this set is how similar it looks to another Star Wars toy from my past. It bears a striking resemblance to the old playset from the Star Wars toys of the 1980s. It even has the net, the fire spit, and the ramshackle divan used to carry C3PO around. The Lego set has added a bunch of new features such as catapults, secret passages, and (best of all in my opinion) greenery. But the similarity is pretty noteworthy.
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