Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

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Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

Postby Bluetron » Sat Dec 18, 2010 5:29 am

As a long-time lurker to these boards and a long-time classic space enthusiast, I wanted to address something that's been a major concern of mine that I haven't seen brought up on any other Lego forum: changes to (or discontinuations of) long time Lego elements.

When I was a kid (during the 80s classic space era), part changes were a rare, rare thing for Lego to do, and when they made a change to a part, it was a change that made sense. Case in point would be the "lamp holder":

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This thing was constantly in danger of twisting off, especially in the space sets that called for an antenna piece to be twisted into the hole. I can't count how many of these things I broke (although at least I was left with a serviceable 1x1 stud when I was done). Eventually, Lego got wise and retooled the part to be stronger:

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This change clearly necessary. In fact, I'd always wondered why Lego hadn't just designed the part that way in the first place.

During the entire first decade of my Lego collecting experience, I can only remember there being two or three significant changes to staple elements, all of which were intuitive. First came the thin-chinstrap classic space helmets, then thick chinstraps, then Futuron helmets. Those old straps were always snapping, so replacing them with a stronger design was totally reasonable. Then came hollow-stud minifig heads, which make sense from a part tolerance standpoint, since the air inside the head needs to escape when being placed on the neck peg.

From about 1978-98, Lego was always adding new parts, but rarely phasing out or replacing old ones. There was a lot of room for the element catalog to grow back then. But in the last four to five years, it seems like pieces have been getting phased-out or retooled at a breakneck pace. As if messing with the greys and browns wasn't enough, Lego phased out what was, in my opinion, one of their most user-friendly canopy styles:

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I understand why they phased out the old hinge plates, since they could be a bit loose at times. But it was so much easier to design with those hinged canopies, and I always felt that phasing those out was a step backward design-wise.

Then they phased out those nice, modular wing pieces:

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These were much easier to lock together and make larger wings out of. They'd been in the Lego stable for more than twenty years, then discontinued. I guess they weren't too compliant with the standards of Star Wars sets. :?

Then, just three or four years ago, Lego had to meddle with these:

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It's much harder to design Galaxy Explorer-type ships with those awkward thin side-walls, since they don't line up with the clear bricks. Another perfectly good part that was fine for nearly 30 years, then changed for no apparent reason. Unless they were just cheaper to mold since they used a fraction less plastic :?

Just two years ago, this one cropped up:

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Was peg slippage a major problem or something? I seem to remember the non-groove version of this mini cone working just fine, not a single complaint about it in its 23 year lifespan. I guess this change isn't a total game-ender, just the most superfluous in my opinion.

I've always been a fan of those old slanted space windows.

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Oops, never mind.

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This one worried me when I first saw it:

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I thought that maybe it was replacing this:

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I really hope not, since I rather enjoy being able to set recessed tiles into brick walls. Not to mention the fact that the "headlight brick" has that useful square hole in the back for perpendicular connections. Hopefully I'm just being paranoid about this one. :p

Last but not least we come to one of the most irking, and most recent, changes. I'm talking of course about the classic raygun:

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It was recently replaced with this rather blunt-looking instrument:

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At first I held out hope that maybe this was simply a new variant. But when I opened up my second Smash N Grab set, I found that the ribbed rayguns included with the first runs of Smash N Grab had been replaced by the new versions. So I guess it's official, Lego has nixed one of its most iconic accessories. The reason I find this particular change so aggravating is because the old school raygun design is to Classic Space what the lightsaber is to Star Wars. For 30+ years, this had been the trusted blaster of every space traveler from Classic Space to (early) Space Police III.

I wonder what's going through the minds of the Lego Part Tooling Department when they make changes like these? Are they honestly responding to real issues or complaints? Or have they simply run out of new parts to design, so now they're fiddling around with the old part catalog so that they can justify the continued existence of their jobs? It's one thing when Lego makes a barely noticeable change to a piece, like the little ridges inside the basic bricks, serial number changes, etc. Those are not significantly noticeable. But when you drastically alter something like the classic raygun, you're doing more than simply "updating" an old accessory, you're meddling with our childhood memories. The one thing I've always enjoyed about Lego is that I could go to a store, buy a set that was released two weeks ago, and find brand new shiny versions of old elements that had been around for 20 years or more. It may sound silly, but I like the fact that certain old pieces are still "alive" and in circulation. But over the last five to six years, I've seen more and more of the Classic Space universe fading from existence, bit by bit, mold by mold.

Note to TLG: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Enough's enough! :x
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Re: Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

Postby jordjevic » Tue Dec 21, 2010 6:50 pm

Well, obviously it's because they hate you and wish you would stop buying their products.

I mean, obviously.
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Re: Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

Postby Admiral Netsooj » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:16 pm

An interesting rant, and one I have definitly not seen before. You bring up some interesting points and concerns, some i agree with, some I don't.

Being a young one of only 18, I never knew the lamp holder had a thinner version until I discovered Bricklink in 2004.

The modular wings are something that both bother me, and something I shall miss. They bother me, for there were no bricks that were at the same angle as them, but as you said, they make really nice wings.

The Galaxy Explorer type glass is something I can go both ways. The old one, as mentioned, is much easier to line up with bricks, but the one is much nice to use if a double seated cockpit is in need.

The cone I almost actually prefer the new one, just for the fact that the axle hole on the inside is deeper, therefore making it more stable when it is placed on an axle.

I agree with the window statement. The new ones are just ugly.

I doubt the 1x1 with one extra stud will replace the headlight brick, for the headlight brick is still appearing in vast quantities. I am actually loving this new piece very much, for it is uber-useful.

The new raygun is ugly. 'Nuff said
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Re: Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

Postby Bluetron » Sun Dec 26, 2010 4:15 am

Admiral Netsooj wrote:
Being a young one of only 18, I never knew the lamp holder had a thinner version until I discovered Bricklink in 2004.


Yes, these were very delicate to deal with growing up. I was a child of the 80s, so I had plenty of these (broken and unbroken)! The thick version is definitely better.

The modular wings are something that both bother me, and something I shall miss. They bother me, for there were no bricks that were at the same angle as them, but as you said, they make really nice wings.


Yes, I can definitely see that point. I guess the building techniques on the official sets have changed a lot over the years, too. The geometrical, angular "studs-up" ships of the past are something you don't see anymore today, and I guess the angled plates have changed to conform to that. The newer wings do have the advantage of having notched cutouts along their angled edges, so that angles can be placed directly on top of studs. But not having the square-cut corner is something I miss.

The Galaxy Explorer type glass is something I can go both ways. The old one, as mentioned, is much easier to line up with bricks, but the one is much nice to use if a double seated cockpit is in need.


Yes, that's true. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with this change as well. The thinner side walls make for nicer car windshields, but aren't so good with classic spaceships (mostly). I actually wish there was some way that both windshields could co-exist. Oh well...

The cone I almost actually prefer the new one, just for the fact that the axle hole on the inside is deeper, therefore making it more stable when it is placed on an axle.


I did notice this recently, and it does have its advantages. I guess this particular change was just more of a head-scratcher than anything else. I did kind of like the profile of the older piece though.

I doubt the 1x1 with one extra stud will replace the headlight brick, for the headlight brick is still appearing in vast quantities. I am actually loving this new piece very much, for it is uber-useful.


Yes, I'm relieved to see that too. They still seem to be available in most colors on pick-a-brick as well, and LDD even has an icon that looks like the headlight brick, so I think that one is safe. :) I like those newer bricks too, and it's nice not to have to use a technic 1x1 brick with a blue peg-pin in it whenever I want a 1x1 perpendicular connection.

The new raygun is ugly. 'Nuff said


Here here!

Thanks for your feedback, Admiral. I appreciate it. ;)
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Re: Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

Postby Admiral Netsooj » Mon Dec 27, 2010 11:00 pm

Your welcome! I'm willing to reply to any old rant!
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Re: Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

Postby Draykov » Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:03 pm

I brought up this issue over at FBTB a couple of years ago:

Draykov wrote:As we all know, from time to time, LEGO elements we've known of for years and years undergo subtle modifications or revisions. For instance, the famous 1x1 headlight brick (aka 4070) now has a slightly lighter sibling. And that's cool. But they done gone messed with the 1x1 tap. There I am, gleefully assembling my recently purchased (at 25% off no less) 8959 Claw Digger when I noticed that 3 out of my 4 1x1 taps are missing an outlet.
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How should I feel about this? I really prefer my tap with a hole, thank you. What is the world coming to? What else are they going to "Indy 4" on me? Anyone else have similar concerns? Maybe this would be better in the "Ask LEGO" forum, but what does it all mean? Did they have to make a new 1x1 tap mold? And this is what they decided to do?


This was Steve Witt's response (this was back when he was still with The LEGO Group):

speaknspell wrote:Iare, your observation about Joedward's question is correct. what they've been doing in Billund is going through every part and figuring out if they're actually "in system" or not. A lot of parts were made one way and for one reason or another don't fit just right with other similar parts, so a lot of parts are getting slight adjustments. You're exactly right on the cone. they changed it so it wouldn't get pushed too far into something and damage it or get stuck.

The tap on the other hand I don't know the exact reason for. I theorize that the nozzle may actually have been only decorative and they had no real reason for that hole being there. On top of that, the hole may have made the mold much more complex and by removing it they were able to make it more efficient.

Look for subtle changes like this to happen to many elements though over the course of the next few years. Its all a part of a larger project to make sure everything is working together like it was originally intended.

Steve
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Re: Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

Postby Bluetron » Fri Jan 07, 2011 4:33 am

Draykov-

Thanks for shedding some light on the reasons for all the recent part changes. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who "rants" about these things! ;) I never noticed the tap thing before. I just checked, and all of mine seem to have the little hole. It's a shame they lost that nice little detail.
I suppose I'd still dispute whether or not some of the older parts are "out of system" or not, but then again I'm not an engineer. I don't mind changes like the new mini cone too much, I just really hope they don't start sacrificing detail for "mold efficiency" (like the raygun?).
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Re: Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

Postby Admiral Netsooj » Sat Jan 08, 2011 12:04 am

I notised this tap change awhile back, and I am definitly going to miss the old one. It just somehow looks so much nicer with that little hole.
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Re: Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

Postby Capt_Redstorm » Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:28 am

I miss the old canopies as well, although I have several of the two you posted pics of, many of them aren't currently in use. Which is to say that many of my MOCs still use them, but I have a sufficient supply. I think the problem is that the click hinge canopies don't have many terribly useful shapes. The bottom line though is that they're shallower height-wise then the old canopies. Still, some of them are quite nice imho, like 46413. Plus there's the new V-Wing canopy, which is a bit like the second canopy pic you posted. Why they couldn't make click hinge versions of the old ones, is puzzling a bit. Especially since some old parts have click hinge equivalents. The other problem, which is somewhat being corrected with the new Atlantis and Alien Conquest sets having trans-yellow windows, is that the new click canopies aren't coming in enough different colors. Trans-black is rather dull. There's also the Atlantis canopies with the bar on back to connect to clip plates.

The cutout in the old wing plates was useful, but I have been overjoyed since all new wing/wedge plates have the cutouts in the sides. This goes for a lot of other parts too, that previously suffered this problem.

The new cones don't particularly bother me, but I did like the shape of the old ones. The odd thing is, that transparent versions of the cones, still seem to pop up as the old mold. I suppose like the old ray gun part, it's just a matter of releasing the rest of the old mold stock or using the old mold until it is worn out and thusly retired permanently. When I bought Space Police Central, last summer, I received only one of the new ray guns. I have never really liked the ray gun part as a ray gun. Always seemed more appropriate for a flashlight.
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Re: Lego's Unnessary Re-Tooling (A Rant)

Postby Stargorger » Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:20 pm

One thing I love about this site:
I'm always assured that if I'm feeling like the odd man out and the only one who complains about Lego's newfangled innovations, I can find like-minded folks on here :-)

I agree. The response from Lego only SORT of satisfies me...ok, so they have good reason. But just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you should, right? I've never heard of anyone complaining about the old parts being 'out of system'...my guess is somebody went "hey, those xxxx parts dont fit with these!'
"Hey joe, you're right! That's a problem! Fix it"
"Ok!"
*ten minutes later*
"done! Here, new an fits with the other bricks!"
"Oh...uh joe, that's supposed to take you three years. Maybe look over EVERY SINGLE FRICKING BRICK WEVE EVER MADE. If you still finish early...you can design the next Bionicle line."
"uh, ok..."

And hence the world ended.
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"Lego monsters from the stars!"
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