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Battalion Wars Lego

Posted by PlasmaDavid , 14 June 2011 · 2,165 views

So there's this freaking great thing called Lego Digital Designer. What we (Lego fans) had always wanted Lego finally delivered. In a 3D program you have access to most of their current day bricks and a somewhat simple to use interface that allows you to virtually build whatever you want. Without owning the Lego bricks IRL. For someone who spent a vast amount of his childhood on a sheet on the floor fighting over the bits and bobs from the Lego Pile with his brother, it's quite the paradox. On one hand, unlimted creativity is at your fingertips, no longer chained to the mere parts you have on hand. On the other side of the coin, with so many parts it's hard to find a direction, and a touch of the challenge of working your way around design problems when you don't have the parts isn't there. I used to find that the most rewarding, working out how to make something that didn't seem feasible at first.

Anyway, when I first got my hands on the Lego Digital Designer last year I was up until literally 2 in the morning mucking around. And of course, the first thing I turned my l33t skillz to once I had mastered the interface was... Battalion Wars, one of my most loved video game IPs. To recreate some of the military vehicles from the game in Lego! In the end I had a Western Frontier Fighter, an Anglo Isles Fighter and a Tundran Territories Gunship. Each model took a long time to create, each part presenting new challenges which I strove to overcome. The difficulty was compounded by the fact I was only trying to use parts available to purchase. That's right, you could create a masterpiece and then click BUY to have Lego mail you all the parts to bring your polygon monstrosity to life. At the time I was probably pretty poor, so it remained a cool toy and a dream.

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The original design!

Fast forwards to me having my current full time employment, and I fired up the LDD one evening to view my creations for the first time in months, and perhaps do some tinkering. Then the idea of purchasing them with my more than adequate disposable income. The Anglo Fighter was unfeasible due to available parts having changed, but I made a few adjustments to the other two models, and placed the order! I also got to design the box, albeit with a very limited editor on the Lego website.

Now for a Lego kit of this size, I'd say you'd pay maybe 60 or 70AUD in a toy shop here for the kit. My order came in at just under 120AUD after postage. Whew Lego! Looking back, I should have spent more time "consolidating" bricks where I could, as when I built them I found many places where for example a 2X2 could have replace two 2x1s. But I'm getting ahead of myself. So with my order placed and stern warnings of taking two months to get here I shelved it into the back of my mind.

The package came today (about a month on). Once I had cut away the strapping and unfolded the brown cardboard, I was greeted with a fantastically large box with my cover on it. It was a real pleasure to see something I had designed in such a colorful childhood-present-unwrapping reality.

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Yessssssss.

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The disappointing rear

Opening it up, there were all the parts in a big bag, my manual and a letter and parts list. After a quick look at the latter, I tore the bag open and dumped it into the box, ready for rummaging!

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At once the heady and intoxicating (literally) aroma of fresh plastic hit my nostrils. As the evening wore on I started to worry about the effects of the strong smell, but I just opened my window to the chilly night and girded my loins as I flicked through the instruction booklet. Now interesting point, the building guide is a feature of the LDD, and one that you can tweak with so that the instructions are really good. I had, however, left it up to the computer to auto generate without my interference. It turned out to be a mixed bag, but mostly good. On went the Battalion Wars OSTs and I was away in that long lost land of rummaging hands, roaming eyes, obscure instructions and the ever soothing click of plastic on plastic!

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Okay

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Uh, sure...

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Wait what?

After a fews odds and sods at the start, I got to work on the Western Frontier Fighter. Work progressed well, what I thought was the nose turned out to be the tail, and it was coming together nicely. I had the pleasure of thinking "what is this going to be?" before turning the page and going "ah of course" a few times over the evening. At one point with the wings I thought a piece of kit had been omitted, but I had in fact used two of the pieces as I tried to find the exact location of the beam. Sometimes the angles in the guide weren't crash hot. I found with the Fighter (as I would with the Gunship) that I really should have looked at the joinery a bit better when I was designing. The entire tail section is held onto the rest of the body by a 1x2 "overhang" which isn't ideal. When I grab some Lego bricks from the ol' pile at my parents I'll be able to make some changes to rectify this weakness.

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The original

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The end product, complete with ace pilot Hester Gunn

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Sadly Hester had to have his arms removed in order to fit into his cockpit, not an original design feature. One of the dangers of being a test pilot

With the Frontier Fighter complete, Hester needed some enemies to shoot down with his missile thingies, and for a Frontier trooper there's no enemy better than a darned red Tundran grizzlie!

The Gunship started out with the large cockpit, I was really noticing where I should have cleaned up multiple parts into larger single blocks here. There was some strange design stuff with the "engine" and surrounds, where you were instructed to place top and bottom bricks, then put the "sandwiched" brick into the gap last of all, which of course is unpossible in that order. This was another source of joy, having instructions that didn't seem to make sense, me thinking I had designed badly or they had left a piece out, only to find the illogical order of construction to blame and what seemed to be wrong turned out right (with a bit of problem solving) after all! The tail section in particular, though fun to design, didn't have a very strong connection to the main body at all, but some tinkering with a couple of spare bits (hooray, spares!) fixed that slightly. It also turned out that I didn't actually have the rotor assemble connected to the main body at all in the LDD, whoops! Again a spare brick saved me here. I'm pretty proud with the missile pod design, though the turbojest above the wings suffer from a single connection, not ideal.

With the Gunship I ran into my greatest fear, MISSING PIECES. I was short an elbow for attaching a rear wheel as well as a decorative grille! Needless to say I have sent off to Lego about these deficiencies and expect PROMPT action on their behalf!

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The original

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Boris is not waving, cockpit has no arm rests, stops pilots getting lazy!

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The end of my tale

All in all I'm pretty pleased with the results, and though the cost was a little OTT, I think some more time in the final stages of design would have saved me some money. It's a joy to have built these unique Lego vehicles, especially since there is of course no official Battalion Wars merchandise. If you're a Lego fan and have a similar passion for an IP I'd say it's well worth seeing what you can do in LDD, you might even design something you'd want to buy like myself!

Edit: I got an automated reply from Lego as soon as I sent the notification of missing parts, and I also got an e-mail saying that my payment had not gone through properly or somesuch! Yet here I sit with my completed Lego kit! I'll have to check my bank report, and I suppose I can bring myself to send the money like the cooldood I am if the payment didn't actually go through. Still, weird...

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:wub:

Nostalgia'd! Epic read Plas!

Must be interesting to be on both sides of the construction process. The random building and the deliberate building from instructions are two different joys, so it would be cool to try the two together.

LDD is a great idea. Especially for perfectionists like me who must built properly colour-coordinated models. (I'm seriously anal about that. When I was a kid I always hounded others for having a blue piece and a yellow piece in an otherwise red car. And also, sometimes actual sets have random colours for internal pieces, but I guess that's good for diversity if you break it up. :P ) I've only ever 'fiddled' with LDD, but this may just tip me over the edge.
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indevelopment
Jun 15 2011 01:53 PM
Plas man designeth.
Then buildeth.
Then blogeth.

Marathon effort (y)
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PlasmaDavid
Jun 15 2011 08:36 PM
Oh bugger, I forgot to post the reference pictures!

I'll have to do so when I'm home next!
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I've been wanting to comment on this for days but frankly I'm still lost for words. What mind-boggling days we live in.
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Ah, I see you've edited in the reference pics. Makes it easier for me, not being overly familiar with the series, and also makes your Lego creations look more impressive!

Out of curiosity, to the wheels on the Western Frontier Fighter (green one) retract?
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PlasmaDavid
Jun 19 2011 12:07 PM

Ah, I see you've edited in the reference pics. Makes it easier for me, not being overly familiar with the series, and also makes your Lego creations look more impressive!

Out of curiosity, to the wheels on the Western Frontier Fighter (green one) retract?


Sadly no, though I did make an effort at it!
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Very nice, great to see you creations come to life in a way that almost mirrors exactly what you are trying to create.

Unfortunately growing up, we didn't have much Lego(parents weren't stingy, just we didn't really care for it, was much happier with my toy cars and other types of toys :P)

But I'm gonna download it and give it a go :D
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blog of epic proportions. now do advance wars LEGO!!!!
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