Dear lego...

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Dear lego...

Postby thebatman_104 » Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:03 pm

So I was wondering if anyone else has noticed the clear decline in the quality of lego sets over the last couple of years. I recently bought the new V-wing set ( basically for the fig and R2 unit) and the space police undercover cruiser. Both had some good pieces but I found the sets... well boring and lacking in the old details that we loved. Both had no printed bricks just stickers, even the 2x2 round tiles in the V-wing didn't have the imperial logo printed on it they had stickers. Also both cockpits had a clear lack of controls. All I ask is for a simple 1x2 tile with a little computer printed on it. The SP set was very corny to the undercover ship that it "transformed" into seemed like something the designer added at the last minute just to add some cheesy play feature. I don't know why lego is dialing down detail and jacking up the price...well actually I do and it's disappointing. They do this to maximize profits but it makes me sad that a company that once produced great sets is beginning to decline. I hope they change but highly doubt it just look at their "newest" SW sets. Most are repeats from the past with minor detail changes or a new fig and the others are poorly detailed and designed. Just read the reviews on their website (not the ones by the 10 yr olds) and you will see what I mean. Let me know if you agree with what I think and share your opinion.
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Re: Dear lego...

Postby Capt_Redstorm » Wed Feb 16, 2011 4:19 am

By "decline in quality," I thought perhaps you meant parts quality, which seems to continue to be an issue, despite the fact that they have somewhat fixed things. Seems to me the biggest problem is in dye colors for the parts, although Ryan Wood recently posted a picture of yellowed trans-clear 1x1 plates, at a PaB. The dye process may well be cheaper and it's easier to tell shiny new parts, from older ones, but I think most of us can agree that the old parts had a less obvious issue of transparency, when held up to the light. Regardless, it is the way things are now. Oil ain't cheap and making plastic requires oil, so I think that is probably the biggest factor in higher prices.

Don't have the Undercover Cruiser set, but SPIII overall was and is super awesome. And I think most AFOLs and TFOLs would agree. There seems to be quite a bit of excitement over Alien Conquest as well. As for Star Wars, I couldn't care less. Licensed sets will always have higher price points, because they're licensed. End of story. Licensed themes are necessary, because they pay the bills and give us all the unlicensed sets. If you don't like the prices on licensed sets, don't buy them or if you can, buy the parts you want from Brick Link. Star Wars is going to keep having the same sets over and over and over, because it is much more limited then original sets and themes will ever be, due to the finite material of its universe. Stickers are common, because printed parts cost more. Would you rather have even fewer parts, making the cost of licensed (and some unlicensed) sets higher or would you rather have stickers, which enable TLG to put more parts in a set? I don't care for stickers either, but they can be used to great effect, as many skilled builders have shown us. I think the choice is clear. I would rather have more parts and stickers.

I know all of this sounds like the same old logical rhetoric that we all have read before, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the parts, not the main set model. Sets are great, but in my experience, since I've become a better builder, after entering the online community, I find that sets are less important and buying specific parts, for specific projects, from Brick Link, is far cheaper and produces more focus on getting the desired MOC results. Which is to say, more time available to spend on refining.
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Re: Dear lego...

Postby Bluetron » Wed Feb 16, 2011 5:49 am

The lack (or rather loss) of detail is something I've noticed too, especially when it comes to the re-working of familar parts. To me, as toy lines go, one of the things that has traditionally put Lego a cut above the rest is the high quality of plastic, the clean molding, reverse-compatibility (of both part clutch and color) and detail.

One thing that I (and many others) have noticed in the last three to four years is the "translucence" and "waxiness" of some of the lighter colored plastics. For some reason, whenever I crack open a new set with any amount of red, yellow, white or lime, I can hold one of those pieces up to the light and see a significant amount of light pass through. If I take, say, a vintage (near-mint condition) yellow plate and hold it next to a newer yellow plate of the same type, there's a distinct contrast between the two in terms of translucence, with the older part admitting almost no light. I had hoped, with advent of SPIII, that Lego would have sorted this out by now, since the earlier SPIII sets had some good solid white parts mixed in with "Mars Mission milky white". But recently I bought the same set you bought, the Undercover Cruiser, which comes with a pair of curved fender shells. When held to light, one was nice and solid, and the other translucent. More than half the white in that set was milky, so I don't know what's going with their injection process these days... the consistency just doesn't seem right. Not to mention the molding (for some parts) just doesn't seem as clean.

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with stickers. On the one hand, as a customizer, I like having the option of leaving details off if I want to. On the other hand, stickers can be a pain to place, and placing stickers on textured roof bricks is sacrilege, IMO. I'm really disappointed in Lego not printing those, it seems uncharacteristically sloppy for them to do that. I know they're trying to cut costs, but stickered roof bricks would never have passed QA even five years ago.

I agree about a lack of controls in ships, which was especially bad in Mars Mission, but I do see some effort in SPIII to have controls of some kind (Hyperspeed Pursuit comes to mind). Atlantis has decent controls too. I'll also say to Lego's credit that most of the newer City cars have opening doors again, and Alien Conquest has neat guns with some detail, so maybe they're trying to learn from their mistakes...

A key thing I've been noticing about the Lego of recent years vs. the 80s-90s is the level of realism. Oddly enough, it's the older sets of the 1980-1995 period that look more "realistic" to me than the current sets, which look more cartoony somehow. I think a lot of it has to do with the simple modularity of the older designs. If you look at recent airplane designs, for example, you see lots of pre-fab body sections and noses, things you would never have seen 20-25 years ago. I'd also like to see the classic smiley in more current offerings, since he's kind of an icon for Lego. Come to think of it, the classic smiley is another of those things that looks more "realistic" to me than more recent head designs. I think it's the fact that you could look at that plain face and make up your own characters, imagine personalities for your figures. Now, the heads all have "angry" or "happy" or "confused", etc. expressions already printed on, which limits what those minifigs can be. Not that I don't like some of the newer faces, but I kind of prefer a more modular approach. Something more like the Pirate faces of the late 80s-early 90s. Those were basically just the classic smiley with an eye patch added (or stubble, or lipstick, whatever the case may have been). Interesting, yet still simple. A perfect balance of unity (the classic smiley) with variety (the eye patches, sunglasses, etc).

I think that's the magic that Lego always had for me growing up, and a quality I've been missing of late. Simplicity balanced with complexity. Make designs and parts just interesting enough to grab my attention, yet simple enough to be taken apart and made into something else. Perfect examples of this can be found anywhere from the classic space era all the way through to Blacktron II. Perhaps the word I'm looking for here is elemental. A BURP is not elemental. Neither a big saw blade nor a big chunky drill piece is elemental. A sinister, gold-toothed grinning minifig head, fun as it may be, is not elemental. Technicky "gimmicks" and air pumps and rubber missiles are not elemental. Bricks are elemental. So are plates, wedges, sloped bricks, headlight bricks, cheese slopes, vents, etc. These are all things that can be used a million different ways, and hundreds of different ways within one set. That's what I want more of, and what classic space, town and castle (to name a few) had in abundance.

Not that it's all bad nowadays. Creator is a very bright spot in the current lineup, with a great part selection and alternate designs being incouraged. Despite what I've said, I'm not ready to give up the hobby just yet. ;) I just wish Lego would take more inspiration from its own history, and not put the bottom line before it's traditional level of quality.
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Re: Dear lego...

Postby Stargorger » Wed Feb 16, 2011 8:54 am

Agreed with all of the above.

I don't know that I'd say Lego's quality has been declining, just that it's been changing.

I'm not going to reiterate all the points made above...I agree and don't want to write another huge post (I'm lazy ;-)

I will say this though: there is something to the two main problems with licensing and cartoony-ness. I'm not sure what it is...I think it's that Lego has finally hit its stride and decided to focus solely on children with its toys. Which would be fine by me...I hate Spongebob but whatever...except that they dumb-down ALL their sets.
Nothing is as complex as it once was. And adding a bajillion strangely-molded drill-hinges onto a 1x1 tube transparency sticker-flopper (I'm being sarcastic) is NOT complex: it's stupid. And it's not particularly creative either. One thing I loved about the old space sets especially was the way they formed these intricate shapes with very basic parts. It's sort of like...oh, wait, I was going to say like building with Legos...:-|
My point is that in the past the designs were more reliant on your ability to mix different pieces. Now they're reliant on your ability to stick blocks on top of each other. And they look more cartoony and fake doing it. I can't stand the new Alien Conquest alien heads...not because I dislike their shapes, but I don't like how SCULPTED they feel. There's no feeling taht it's another PART: it's not a part, it's an action figure!
I wonder if this has to do with the surge in the popularity of videogames? Combine that with our growth as an instant-gratification culture and...well, you gotta sell to stay in business.

lol I love how I'm now writing a huge post :-)

The other thing is licensing. You're right, there's nothing wrong with having more-expensive licensed sets to pay the bills. But the problem is that they've sacrificed making the OTHER Lego lines to do more licensed crap. STAR WARS IS DEAD! Thus sayeth Voltaire. Or whoever. Likewise, they are WAY late on the POTC bandwagon. What's next, Twilight? Good Lord please no...
I don't care if they make Star Wars sets till Hell freezes over. I don't care if they charge you your firstborn child. As long as they keeping make: A City, Space, Castle, Other, Creator, and Technic line each year...fine. But they can't give up on those or I WILL stop buying them.
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Re: Dear lego...

Postby Bluetron » Thu Feb 17, 2011 1:48 am

I will say this though: there is something to the two main problems with licensing and cartoony-ness. I'm not sure what it is...I think it's that Lego has finally hit its stride and decided to focus solely on children with its toys. Which would be fine by me...I hate Spongebob but whatever...except that they dumb-down ALL their sets.

Yes, I agree about that. I think David Simmons put it best in his essay when he said:
... Lego Space was hallowed to me for many reasons, however the most compelling one is ... the lack of conflict. While "Star Wars" thrilled me and millions of others with its charmingly serial-inspired depictions of good versus evil, Lego Space gently yet earnestly beckoned us to explore. Seek out new life and new civilizations. Boldly build what no one had built before. Imagine. To this day, that is the single most powerful bolt of nostalgia that hits me every time I see a canary yellow box with the "LEGOLAND" banner at the top right corner. No fighting, no punishment, no evil. There was only the next frontier and the wonders and mysteries that lay in wait beyond the second star to the right.

With the exception of Creator and Basic buckets, we don't really see this anymore, especially in System sets. Don't get me wrong, I realize that times are different marketing-wise and that kids have other options like video games, so Lego has to do whatever it can to compete, but like many I miss the days of more modular, geometric space designs. The really cool thing about the 1979-1983 period, for example, is that the Galaxy Explorer, Starfleet Voyager and Galaxy Commander were all clearly part of the same design scheme, even though they were different. This is part of what I meant by "unity and variety". Unity, because they followed the same basic aesthetic and design rules, but variety in that they had varying color schemes and design differences that stayed within that scheme.

And they look more cartoony and fake doing it. I can't stand the new Alien Conquest alien heads...not because I dislike their shapes, but I don't like how SCULPTED they feel. There's no feeling taht it's another PART: it's not a part, it's an action figure!

Agreed. As neat as some of the alien designs are (and this goes for the SPIII aliens as well), they definitely lack a certain "geometric charm" that used to be emblematic of Lego. Take the 1997 UFO aliens, for example. The masks were fairly simple and mostly printed, but they still had that feeling of Lego geometry, and were nice and "sharp looking". They looked, as you said, more like parts rather than sculpts. Perhaps Star Wars can be blamed for this to a certain extent, though, since so many "character" heads had to be made. It set a bad precedent that has unfortunately carried over to the original lines.

I wonder if this has to do with the surge in the popularity of videogames? Combine that with our growth as an instant-gratification culture and...well, you gotta sell to stay in business.

Yes, I'm afraid video games are a contributing factor, along with competing brands of "block". One of the greatest advantages to Lego having the Star Wars license is that it's guaranteeing them sales. If Billy asks Grandma for a Lego space set for his birthday, she may go to TRU and accidentally pick up a Megablocks set. But if Billy asks for a Star Wars set, Grandma has no choice but to get Lego, since no other compatible block brand has the Star Wars license. Either that, or she'll give him money. But then he'll buy his own Lego Star Wars.

STAR WARS IS DEAD!

Sshhh.... don't tell my nephew. ;)

I don't care if they make Star Wars sets till Hell freezes over.

Neither do I. Even if the prices weren't higher, I'd probably still stick with more generalized stuff like Creator and whatever original themes interest me at the moment. The sad fact is, gone are the days when I could look at a set like, say, the All-Terrain Vehicle and want to buy it simply for its cool factor. As a kid, whenever I got new Blacktron or Futuron sets, I played with them gently and kept them with their boxes because I couldn't bring myself to take them apart... they were too cool. When I look at a new release now, I debate whether or not to buy it based on its part selection. If it's got some things I can use (and the price is right), I pick it up. I think the main thing to keep in mind is this: we must provide our own creativity. We must create the kinds of designs we want to see, and that's where the internet AFOL community comes into play. We may not have Idea Books anymore, but we've got MOCPages and Classic Space and Flickr. We must spread the spirit of creativity to the next generation by showing them what Lego can be.
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Re: Dear lego...

Postby Stargorger » Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:31 am

With the exception of Creator and Basic buckets, we don't really see this anymore, especially in System sets. Don't get me wrong, I realize that times are different marketing-wise and that kids have other options like video games, so Lego has to do whatever it can to compete, but like many I miss the days of more modular, geometric space designs. The really cool thing about the 1979-1983 period, for example, is that the Galaxy Explorer, Starfleet Voyager and Galaxy Commander were all clearly part of the same design scheme, even though they were different. This is part of what I meant by "unity and variety". Unity, because they followed the same basic aesthetic and design rules, but variety in that they had varying color schemes and design differences that stayed within that scheme.

Right. Now, I don't think that's what Simmons was really getting at...I think he dislikes the current focus on conflict in the lines (which I love), but I agree with you, definitely. I loved the fact that even though the Futuron sets all had the same sorts of colors, each looked unique...there was no need to just cookie-cut things because it was up to YOU, the builder and inventor, to make it different. Now it's like that choice has been taken away from me.

Agreed. As neat as some of the alien designs are (and this goes for the SPIII aliens as well), they definitely lack a certain "geometric charm" that used to be emblematic of Lego. Take the 1997 UFO aliens, for example. The masks were fairly simple and mostly printed, but they still had that feeling of Lego geometry, and were nice and "sharp looking". They looked, as you said, more like parts rather than sculpts. Perhaps Star Wars can be blamed for this to a certain extent, though, since so many "character" heads had to be made. It set a bad precedent that has unfortunately carried over to the original lines.

Ahhh, good point! Hadn't thought of it in that way but I think you're right. The question is why do they keep doing it? Are they lazy? Do they think those sell better? What?


I think the main thing to keep in mind is this: we must provide our own creativity. We must create the kinds of designs we want to see, and that's where the internet AFOL community comes into play. We may not have Idea Books anymore, but we've got MOCPages and Classic Space and Flickr. We must spread the spirit of creativity to the next generation by showing them what Lego can be.

Amen! And hence my drive to see the site up and at full-blast! It's nothing about personal pride or my own lego community...it's about wanting to pass-down the nostalgia, creativity, and love for the hobby that we have to the new young videogame generation.
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Re: Dear lego...

Postby thebatman_104 » Sat Feb 19, 2011 2:16 am

Stargorger wrote: Ahhh, good point! Hadn't thought of it in that way but I think you're right. The question is why do they keep doing it? Are they lazy? Do they think those sell better? What?


It seems lego is moving toward more detailed minifigs probably because of the success of the three series of collectible minifigs and the massive minifig customization community (Arealight, Hazel, BF, BA, etc.). I agree though a lot of the new heads seem like you can only use it for that character. The SPIII alien heads just don't have the same modularity that other minifig heads have. They are cool but are kinda like the gungan heads, pretty useless if not inside the theme they belong to.

The one good alien head from SPIII is the skull ones since they are actually helmets. They still lack the lego feel descirbed above that the UFO ones had but are better than a sculpted head. Overall though these sculpted heads are a result of the star wars theme and its success among children (I was one of them when it first launched... sorry ha).
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Re: Dear lego...

Postby Stargorger » Sat Feb 19, 2011 9:01 am

thebatman_104 wrote:
Stargorger wrote: Ahhh, good point! Hadn't thought of it in that way but I think you're right. The question is why do they keep doing it? Are they lazy? Do they think those sell better? What?


It seems lego is moving toward more detailed minifigs probably because of the success of the three series of collectible minifigs and the massive minifig customization community (Arealight, Hazel, BF, BA, etc.). I agree though a lot of the new heads seem like you can only use it for that character. The SPIII alien heads just don't have the same modularity that other minifig heads have. They are cool but are kinda like the gungan heads, pretty useless if not inside the theme they belong to.

The one good alien head from SPIII is the skull ones since they are actually helmets. They still lack the lego feel descirbed above that the UFO ones had but are better than a sculpted head. Overall though these sculpted heads are a result of the star wars theme and its success among children (I was one of them when it first launched... sorry ha).


lol "No! How COULD you? :-("
;-)

Yeah, that's a good point. I just wish (like most AFOLs, Im sure) that Lego would stop sacrificing tradition and quality for money and popularity.
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Re: Dear lego...

Postby Blackicep8ntball » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:48 pm

@ thebatman: I couldn't agree with you more. I honestly feel like the quality has, in many ways, just plummeted. I'm right there with you especially with the EXCESSIVE use of stickers. While I personally don't like any stickers, period, I can understand that some people like the freedom not to apply stickers to certain pieces. But I think even those sticker fans would probably still be ok with printed Imperial logos on the V-wing or with printed control panels in the Mon Calamari Cruiser set. To further my complaint about stickers: I too just bought the V-wing, built it, and put it on display, and I've already noticed the huge nose sticker is peeling off the plastic at the edges. Come on, TLG - not only is it a sticker, but it's not even sticking!

TLG is falling more and more into the "make money now at the potential sacrifice of the future" mentality. If they give up on quality now for the sake of a buck, they're not going to leave a lasting legacy. Their potential as an ongoing contender in the toy marketplace is going to rise and fall on the impression they make on the kids of today. If the kids find Lego as a passing fad, they're not going to encourage their kids to buy it 20 years down the line, nor will they become AFOLs themselves.

To all of you who are frustrated out there: don't just voice your complaints here. Write Lego a letter (old school snail mail has the largest impact, but if you don't have time, at least send an email!). I know you feel like your one little letter won't do anything, but believe it or not, TLG is still listening, and we CAN make things change. They've already abandoned their use of stickers across multiple pieces, thanks to consumer complaints. We can help encourage further change as well. Heck, sometimes Lego will even send you a treat to make you a happy customer again, so you might even get something out of your complaint :D
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Re: Dear lego...

Postby Sir Michael Le Fanu » Sun Feb 27, 2011 9:49 pm

It's really getting ridiculous. I used to love all of the detail. I even started a collection of printed bricks. But, LEGO has gone cheap, and started producing OUTSIDE of Denmark. To places like China, where everything is made for cheap, yet they are now CHARGING MORE FOR SETS. They also have completely removed printed elements, and replaced them with stickers. What is our world coming to? :( :?
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