Monday 15 June 2015

Jurassic Perk

Last week's release of the Jurassic World movie and the launch of the LEGO Jurassic World videogame provided the backdrop for a family-oriented LEGO Jurassic World launch event which was held in London's Hyde Park on Saturday 6th June. Mark Guest, editor of Bricks Magazine, was good enough to sort me out a couple of invites so I attended with my son who didn't need any encouragement to come along when he heard about the heady mix of LEGO, dinosaurs and videogames that we'd be checking out.

The event took place at The Lookout (above), a sizeable, self-contained eco-sustainable building in the middle of London's Hyde Park. On what turned out to be a pleasant, sunny day we took a tube to one of the nearby stations and after a 5-10 minute walk through the park we were greeted by event security who ushered us through. The Lookout is located within a fenced compound and surrounded by a number of walkways; these pass alongside small rockeries and water features and in some areas cut through thick undergrowth. Traversing the walkways was therefore the perfect start to the event as it wasn't difficult for anyone familiar with the Jurassic Park movies to suspend belief and pretend that prehistoric predators might be lurking in the undergrowth.... At the top of the walkways was an area of wooden decking, alongside which was the imposing sight below.

Refreshments and snacks were available on the decked area, as were a couple of skilled face painters who busied themselves decorating attendees with a variety of dinosaur-related designs. It was heartening to see so many adults getting in line with their kids and partaking in the face painting experience, although some folks such as myself opted to get other body parts painted instead (my arm, in case you're wondering....) with designs such as the diplodocus below and patches of colourful dinosaur skin.

The main space inside the venue was loosely split into two halves. One half contained a number of gaming stations running the LEGO Jurassic World demo, of which more later, while the other half was laid out with rows of seating and a large screen at the front connected to a laptop; this was used by one of the team responsible for the design of the LEGO Jurassic World game who at set times throughout the day gave attendees a brief presentation on the making of the game and demonstrated various gameplay features. A number of perspex display stands such as the one below were dotted aound the room; these contained the completed builds from the various Jurassic World retail sets. Having already built and reviewed a number of the Jurassic World sets, for instance here, I was obviously familiar with them but this didn't appear to be the case for some of the attendees who seemed to be encountering them for the first time.

One of the highlights of the event from my son's perspective was a dinosaur egg hunt. Prior to the arrival of the attendees a number of LEGO dinosaur eggs (below) had been hidden around the venue. Children, aided and abetted by their parents, were tasked with exploring the compound and finding the eggs, with prizes of Jurassic World LEGO retail sets and polybags on offer for the successful sleuths. Cue a mad scramble through the undergrowth to try and locate the eggs. I'm pleased to report that my son found one of the eggs, no thanks to his hopeless dad who managed to find absolutely nothing.....

As previously mentioned, a number of stations kitted out with a screen, a Playstation 4 and a pair of PS4 controllers were available for attendees to play on. The stations were running the LEGO Jurassic World game demo. LEGO Jurassic World is the latest in a long line of LEGO-themed offerings from developer Traveller's Tales including a number of LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Indiana Jones and LEGO Batman games amongst others. Having completed some of these games cooperatively, my son and I are pretty familiar with them, and after spending some time playing through the LEGO Jurassic World demo stages at the event both cooperatively and individually, I think it's fair to say that that the latest game sticks to the tried and tested formula with few obvious detours. It predictably looks great running on the PS4, and the gameplay seems very similar to that of previous TT LEGO releases. The demo levels we saw thankfully included scenes from the original Jurassic Park movies as well as Jurassic World rather than just focusing on the new movie.

Apart from the designer presentations and egg hunt the day was relatively unstructured, with attendees free to wander around both inside and outside the venue, help themselves to refreshments, make use of the gaming stations and chat to other attendees; I didn't recognise many of the people there. although it was good to catch up with Richard Hayes from Brick Fanatics and chat to Christina from the LEGO Press Office while my son burned his way through the LEGO Jurassic World demo levels.

All told my son and I spent an enjoyable  2-3 hours at the event, and when it was time to leave we were handed a goodie bag. As a collector I always look forward to digging through the contents of these bags after events to see if there's anything unusual within and I wasn't disappointed. Pride of place goes to the Dr Wu polybag below which carries the set number 5000193818. In addition to the Dr Wu minifigure the poly also contains a trans-orange 1 x 2 crystal printed with a black mosquito pattern. As far as I can tell the Dr Wu minifigure is identical to that which appears in Set 75919 Indominus Rex Breakout (you can see the minifigure here), as is the trans-orange crystal, but I'd not previously been aware of this particular polybag. My understanding is that a free Dr Wu minifigure is available from some retailers with orders of the LEGO Jurassic World game, although I have no idea if it's packaged in the same way as the one below.

Other freebies included a LEGO Jurassic World sticker sheet (you can see a scan of this below), a couple of LEGO Jurassic World postcards, an A3-Sized poster, a press release providing information on the LEGO Jurassic World sets, and a copy of Set 75915 Pteranodon Capture, all contained within a Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group cloth bag.

I'm well aware that I'm not the only collector who likes to get their hands on interesting LEGO-related items, and I'm therefore pleased to tell you that Christina gave me a few extra Dr Wu polybags for readers of Gimme LEGO. If you'd like one of them, please e-mail the answer to the question below plus your name and full address to me at; I'll draw a few names out of a hat, and those people will get a poly each. The question is as follows:

On which island was the original Jurassic Park located?

You can enter the competition regardless of which country you live in and I'll cover the cost of posting out the prizes. Only one entry per household, please, and the decision of the judge (that's me) is final. Entrants must agree to their names being announced on Gimme LEGO if they win. Closing date is midnight GMT on Tuesday 30th June 2015. Good luck, folks!

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Raising the Roof

Having spent the last few weeks reviewing the largest of LEGO's new Jurassic World sets (here) and checking out TIE Fighters new and old (here and here respectively) in excruciating detail, not to mention taking some welcome holiday, I was starting to get withdrawal symptoms from my newly-resurrected LEGO City Layout. I was therefore delighted to find some time to work on it over the past week or so.

At the time of my most recent update (here) I'd pretty much completed the walls of the lower level of the layout (picture above) with only the front right section of wall needing to be finished off. This was therefore the obvious place to jump back in, and as you can see from the pictures below I completed the straightforward job of building the walls of the front right section up to the required height fairly quickly.

Having reached this point in the build I figured that it would be as good a time as any to briefly pause and take stock of my parts usage to date. According to the original rough sketch I put together on LDD which I've followed reasonably closely, I've used around 500 light bley 1 x 1 bricks, 670 light bley 1 x 2 bricks, 240 light bley 1 x 4 bricks, 800 light bley 1 x 6 bricks and 810 light bley 1 x 8 bricks so far; the total part count currently stands at approximately 5,600 bricks, which seems a lot given how little there is to look at yet....

Having completed the walls of the lower level it was time to finish the job of enclosing the lower track loop by building a roof over the top of it; for those of you unfamiliar with the intended design, the roof over the lower track loop will form the floor of the planned upper track loop, thus providing a double-decker arrangement.

Covering the straight sections of track with a sturdy roof (pictures above and below) was a quick and simple task - the roof over these sections only has to span 15 studs so I was able to efficiently complete the job using a combination of dark bley 6 x 16 and 2 x 16 plates. The only real discomfort was financial - the 96 dark bley 6 x 16 plates needed to cover just the straight track sections alone don't exactly come cheap....

Although putting a roof over the straight track sections was simple enough, the corners required a little more thought as covering the curved track sections would necessitate spanning an area 34 studs square. My first thought was to use a 32 x 32 baseplate for each corner and support it at the edges, but because I wanted the corner roof sections to be at the same height as the straight roof sections this wasn't really viable. I therefore needed to use standard plates, but there obviously aren't any plates remotely large enough to span a 34 x 34 area on their own. I consequently needed to come up with a 'mosaic' of plates which would cover the area while providing at least a modicum of structural rigidity so that the roof wouldn't cave in under the slightest pressure. In the end I went with the arrangement below; the dark bley roof sections, again predominantly a combination of 6 x 16 and 2 x 16 plates, are supported underneath by a light bley 16 x 16 plate and a few smaller plates. The use of the large 16 x 16 plate turned out to be key, conferring an unexpectedly high degree of strength and rigidity.

It didn't take long to construct three more assemblies similar to the one above, and you can see the layout with all four corner roof sections in place in the pictures below. Time will tell whether this corner roof arrangement will prove to be sufficiently robust; a section of curved track will run over each corner, so the roof will need to support the weight of trains running over it, not to mention me accidentally leaning on it now and again.... Having tested the corner roof sections under modest weight-bearing, however, the early signs are that they'll do the job OK.

So that's the visible part of the lower level now pretty much done apart from the subway station, then. I still of course need to build the structures which will support the upper level, though, and I also need to figure out a way of rescuing stricken trains from the lower loop in the event of a breakdown; at present I can access the subway train through the arches, and the large opening in front of the subway platform is just about big enough to squeeze the train through when I need to remove it, but it's fiddly and not ideal.

Because I designed the lower level such a long time ago, I've predictably come up with a whole bunch of new ideas during the intervening period to tweak and potentially improve it. I'm going to do my best to keep a lid on those tweaks for now, though - having already taken the best part of 4 years just to get to this point it's high time I moved on, put the lower level to bed for the time being at least, and started to focus on the upper level so that's what I'm going to do.

With the lower track loop now fully enclosed I figured it was high time to power up the track and get the subway train running. You can see a brief video clip below of my modified 7938 Passenger Train running around the lower track loop at about 2/3 speed; click here to view the clip on YouTube if you can't access the embedded video on your device.