Designing and submitting a LEGO Ideas project can seem like a daunting task. Where do you start? How long does it typically take? Can you submit a digital design? These are just some of the questions you may be asking other designers. Of course you will also want to read the official Project Guidelines and Houserules. We’re pleased to be able to give answers to these important questions thanks to the designer of the LEGO Planetary Outpost project, Captain Mutant.
LEGO Planetary Outpost Project
We caught up with the LEGO Planetary Outpost designer, Captain Mutant, to bring you this exclusive interview.
Planetary Outpost Project Images
Planetary Outpost Description
Forty years after the Classic Space exploration era was originally launched, the minifig congress has started a bold new initiative. A flexible base design was commissioned that would allow exploration of planets while keeping the budget down. With that in mind, each module can be reconfigured to one of five different habitats – the command centre, galley, crew quarters, laboratory and workshop.
Each module can be set down on its own or as part of a larger base: the modules are designed to connect together to make a sprawling centre of exploration and scientific research. Two buggies and a trailer are provided with each module, along with a robotic assistant named AI5ORTS. A crew of three mans each module.
But exploring isn’t without its dangers. In the minifigs’ quest, they discovered unusual crystals on a far off planet. Those crystals are not what they seem, and the crew might unwittingly unleash a contagion that could spread to other bases, and maybe even back to Earth. Does your team have what it take to survive in the outer reaches of the solar system, and contain the contamination before it’s too late?
Exclusive LEGO Planetary Outpost Designer Q&A
What inspired you to create the LEGO Planetary Outpost?
In 1978, LEGO released themes based around the newly invented, and now iconic, minifigure. One of these was one based on space exploration, with blue buildings, yellow transparent windows, and blue and grey spaceships. These were the first sets I ever played with and they had a profound influence on me – not least of which because I’ve always been very fond of science-fiction.
I grew up and forgot about LEGO for a long while, until I had my own children. This is a story heard again and again with Adult Fans of LEGO 🙂
I discovered my parents had kept my original sets, and my children and I began rebuilding them and playing with them. As we played, I slowly began to think about ways to improve the base, have it completely enclosed for one, with sliding doors and airlocks. It all just evolved from there.
Have you had any setbacks in creating your project?
Not really. It’s been a pretty organic process. The only difficulty was sourcing someone to print the new uniform designs and the Classic Space logo on the doors and vehicles. And I had to get into spray painting to have space suits in colours LEGO never did them in before.
Designing the rooms so they can be reconfigured into one of five different layouts was tricky and took a long time. But it also was a lot of fun to do!
How long have you been designing your own models?
Not long at all. I’ve mostly been a follow-the-instruction kind of person until about a year and a half ago.
Is this your first LEGO Ideas submission?
The LEGO Planetary Outpost was my first LEGO Ideas submission. In fact, it was my first ever proper custom design. It’s made up of around 2,000 pieces (I’ve actually lost track with the redesigns and improvements I’m currently making). I have since created a spaceship bridge for the Moments in Space competition. It was fun to make something to specific dimensions and with a very tight deadline.
Where did you source the parts from for the Planetary Outpost LEGO Set? Was this difficult / costly?
I got most of them from LEGO directly, but the rarer pieces or some that LEGO don’t make anymore in a specific colour, I got from BrickLink. This is a fantastic site where you can get any part you want as long as it’s been created by LEGO at some point in the past. This is how I sourced all the printed panels for The Bridge, my entry for Moments in Space. I stumbled across Classic Space printed tiles I never knew existed (I actually never was aware of LEGO space sets beyond the original blue/grey theme until very recently), and I spent a little time finding as many as I could and ordering them from BrickLink. So in a way, The Bridge is an homage to practically all the Classic Space themes LEGO has ever made.
The new uniforms and the pieces with the classic space logo on them were printed by Brick Sanity.
How long has it taken to design, picture and submit the Planetary Outpost to LEGO Ideas?
From the moment I opened a file in LEGO Digital Designer to when it was ready for publication on LEGO Ideas, it took a year and four months. However, if you check the website I created about this (captainmutantblog.wordpress.com) you’ll see that I’m still tinkering and improving the design. I don’t think I’m ever going to be finished! lol
In fact, creating The Bridge has given me ideas (and printed pieces) to redesign the inside of LEGO Planetary Outpost… but that’s going to take a long while before this particular alteration is ready!
Taking pictures was actually a very enjoyable part of the process for me. I had to create a backdrop and fiddled with the lighting, but I’m very glad with how it turned out. I’m not a Photoshop expert, so I was delighted @Sastrei87 offered his know-how to cut out the background of some pictures so I can insert planets behind the base to give it a more sci-fi feel.
Do you need to physically create the project before submitting or can it be computer generated?
LEGO allows you to submit either virtual or real sets. But I felt it important to create mine with actual LEGO pieces, especially since I had some bricks that had to be specially printed. I discovered this was actually a crucial part of the design process for the LEGO Planetary Outpost: having the set in my hands allowed me to see what worked and what didn’t. I quickly realised for instance that the sliding door mechanism was glitchy, because the virtual programs don’t take gravity into account, so I started making changes even before I had submitted Planetary Outpost to LEGO Ideas.
What advice would you give to other LEGO fans that want to submit a project to LEGO Ideas?
That’s a tricky thing because you never know what will resonate with others. So the main piece of advice I can give, in my own limited experience, is to do it because you enjoy it. You’re bound to learn something along the way to improve your own building skills and techniques, but don’t ever expect that yours will be the one that reaches the mythical 10,000 support milestone. It’s such a high goal, most projects, no matter how well deserving, never reach it.
Having said that, once you’ve put your project on LEGO Ideas, promote it like crazy using any means at your disposal. You’re on Facebook or Twitter? Talk about it there. Join groups to discuss it (some are friendly to such promotions, others less so, so don’t be disappointed it some places turn you down). Flikr and Instagram are also good places to post your photos, and to meet like-minded people. If you can afford to present your work at exhibitions, do so. The more people know of your project, the greater the chances are that you’ll find the ones who will support you and help you spread the word. If you thought designing a project was hard, wait till you have to do all that!
Don’t give up, and just have fun. Any additional success you get out of it, will be a bonus.
Ninja Brick note: Special thanks to Captain Mutant for sharing his experiences. We hope this helps everyone when submitting your next LEGO Ideas project.