Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Built a Bucket of Bolts!

Hi, folks!  First, no, this blog hasn't been abandoned. After three years of grueling schooling, I've been taking a good long break with the family.

But that's not what this post is about.  This post is about the computer program of my dreams: LEGO Digital Designer.  For a good 15 years, I have desperately wanted a good LEGO building computer program, especially since LEGOs have become so insanely expensive.  Well, apparently LEGO made one.  And it does everything you would ever want a LEGO building program to do.  And it's free.

Naturally, after screwing around with it for a few minutes, the first question I asked myself was "Exactly HOW good is this program?"  So I downloaded the instructions for the Ultimate Collector's Millennium Falcon (which holds a record for the most pieces in a prepackaged set) to put LDD through its paces.  5168 pieces later...
Turns out, it's pretty freaking awesome.
UPDATE: Okay, I'm having trouble getting the model uploaded to LEGO's servers, so until they get back to me, I've uploaded it to Mediafire here.  Download and enjoy!

UPDATE 2: Well crap.  When I started this project, nobody else had tried to make this in LDD.  Apparently since then, user Wigamondo uploaded his version, so there's a good chance LEGO won't even post mine (though I'd argue mine is slightly better...but then I'm horribly biased).  If you want to download his version, just go to the LDD gallery and search for his username.

Check out the full build gallery after the jump.

So here's the results of about two-three month's work (what? I took a break in the middle.  Don't judge me):
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Click here for high resolution images.
You can see by the comparison shots with the original manual that the tools provided allow you to get very exact with piece placement.  About the only limits are that pieces can't be free-standing, and you can't bend or squeeze pieces into place like you can with a real model.  There's multiple selection options, hinge rotation tools, even a hinge auto-align tool that will attempt to reorient the pieces until the hinges are lined up (though I found that after about 3000 pieces, using this tool tends to crash the program)!  There's also a marvelous hide piece tool for when you need to sweep away parts to get to the innards of your model.

With the hinge rotation tool, you can rotate the Falcon's turrets and radar dish.  I've also grouped parts that were intended to be removable in the original model, like the cockpit canopy and upper gun turret.

The piece selection is incredible.  They have pretty much every part type you could ever need (though not all the prints, hence why the Falcon's dish is missing details).  The search feature can run slow at times, but it's very useful for locating those hard-to-find pieces by searching for their part number.

Oh, and if you're into LEGO Mindstorms (that is, making robots out of LEGOs), they have everything you need for that too, including a Mindstorm mode for programming your robots.

Finally--and here's the greatest part--after you've created your masterpiece, there's a building guide mode that generates step-by-step instructions for your creation.  This includes a list of pieces and quantities needed.  So if you design your own LEGO creation, you can print out the instructions and build it yourself!*

LDD has an online gallery where you can view and download other people's creations.  The Falcon isn't there yet, as it's taking a while to transfer to the servers, but I'll update this post when it's available for download.

I absolutely love this program.  With the exception of a lack of Chewbacca head (c'mon, guys, you have Jar Jar and Cad Bane fer cryin' out loud), it has pretty much everything you could ever want or need.  And I'll tell you, building digital versions of these models is just as satisfying as building the real deal, especially considering it's completely free.  Check it out, and enjoy!

*LEGO used to allow you to purchase your creations direct from them, but apparently the program wasn't meeting with LEGO standards...meaning people probably designed things that were great in theory, but fell apart in practice.

4 comments:

  1. Wow - thanks! My nephew can do a 1000 piece lego set in a day. I'm sending him the link to that site.

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  2. Brilliant. I'm really excited about this program! Standby...I'm adding the link to the Falcon model right now :-)

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  3. I have to agree, you handled the modeling problems with LDD better than I did, I prefer your version too. Have you tried uploading it to Lego gallery anyway?

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  4. Heh heh heh, bear in mind I must stress that I am EXTREMELY biased. How can you not be after putting hours and hours of work into it? ;-)

    In all honesty, mine might be a little closer to the original design, but I really dig the additions you made, like the boarding ramp. Plus your Wookiee isn't a freakin' Ewok!

    As for uploading it, I attempted it and got an unspecified error. I might try again soon! In the meantime, I finished modeling the UCS SSD a couple days ago, now I'm working on the UCS X-Wing. I know others have already uploaded these ones, but dammit, building this stuff is just FUN!

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