How to Start Building Amazing LEGO MOCs (Part 2)

Here’s a quick follow-up to my previous post. One thing to consider as you’re developing your LEGO MOC style is what you’ll be using the MOC for. How do you want others to interact with your MOC?

I Want it to Look Awesome in Pictures

Although the photography itself can be challenging, in many ways this is the easiest kind of MOC to build. It doesn’t have to look great from every angle, and it doesn’t have to be sturdy enough to pick up or play with. An example would be ‘Popcorn Tornado’ from my ‘Odd Weather’ series:

I think it looks pretty cool – BUT DON’T TOUCH IT! The armature for the tornado is very fragile and delicately balanced, and a sturdy sneeze could bring the whole thing crashing down. Not a big deal if all you’re going to do is post it on Instagram and then take it apart.

I Want to Display it at Home and Take it to Conventions

Well, then it better be sturdy (or at least easy to put back together when a guest drops it on your coffee table). Display models are going to be poked and prodded, no matter how attentively and anxiously you stand by them when strangers are in your home. And no matter how carefully you pack, the journey to a convention or other art show is bound to have some potholes along the way. Not to mention that a display model is likely to be seen from every angle.

One example from my portfolio is ‘The Floor is Lava!’ With the exception of the little lava bits spilling out the edges, the whole model is tightly put together. The lava floor is removable (with some difficulty), but otherwise it’s a pretty sturdy scene. The back side of the model is not the most exciting, but at least not embarrassing. And the subject matter is easy for almost anyone to grasp at a glance. All around, not a bad display piece.

I Want to Play With It

In my opinion, this is the most challenging (but possibly the most rewarding) of the three styles. Play value means you can pick it up, open it, manipulate trap doors and spring-loaded stud shooters, drive it around, crash it into the wall, and terrorize the cats. The official LEGO sets are probably going to be your best guide, because most of them are designed for children to role-play with.

One example of an official set with some good play value is Attack on Weathertop (9472), a Lord of the Rings set reproducing the scene from the film adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo encounters the Ringwraiths and gets stabbed with a Morgul blade.

It’s small enough and sturdy enough to pick up and manipulate, it opens out on hinges, and has a built-in trap door. It also comes with five minifigs and a good assortment of minifig-sized accessories, so you can roleplay lots of different scenes.

Compare this to my ‘Gravity Hill’, which is a model I designed because I wanted to make something with more play value. I had never attempted to make a play set before, and didn’t achieve what I wanted, but I learned a lot along the way. Gravity Hill offers some play opportunities with the assortment of minifigs and accessories, but the model of the hill itself is too bulky and static to have much play value. When I first imagined it, it had features like a collapsing cliff top that would pitch the Prospector into the cactus-y gulch below, but I didn’t know how to build that way. Maybe someday I’ll go back and redesign it to be more like Weathertop.

I Want it All!

It can be done! You can have models that photograph beautifully, travel well, look good from every angle, and are sturdy enough to play with. Don’t believe me? Check out the LEGO Ideas set TRON: Legacy (21314). The stands make a gorgeous display, but the light cycles just pop right off to play with. And the whole thing is sturdy enough to survive being shoved off a bookshelf by a vindictive cat without a scratch.

I hope this helps you as you’re developing your building style – and remember, don’t be afraid to experiment! Just because you feel most comfortable building vignettes doesn’t mean you can’t teach yourself to build set with great play value. There are sources of inspiration everywhere!

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