10K Club Interview: Scott Nussbaum, creator of the Exploratorium
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- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, USA.
- How old are you?
- What do you do for a living?
I’ve been working at a day care, but am currently between jobs.
- What hobbies do you have?
Listening to Sci-Fi and Fantasy book tapes, art projects, video games, anime, tabletop RPGs, and LEGO are all hobbies of mine.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
I’ll often post my art projects on DeviantArt.
- Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?
Exploratorium is part of the series based on my first submission, Flight Works. What I’m really proud of is how everything in the series interconnects. I didn’t expect the Flight Works Series to grow as much as it has, but I’ve enjoyed fleshing out the world. The Clockwork Menagerie is the second most popular set in the series. More recently, I’ve explored creating a story for the series and came out with Sunken Scrap, which was a spin-off from Exploratorium. How long I’ll keep going with the Flight Works Series is uncertain. So far, I’ve enjoyed creating the world and thinking about the possible back-stories of the various characters.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I’ve been interested in LEGO since I was a little kid. My dad’s an engineer, so he thought they great toy and helped me build them when I was very young. I’ve always loved puzzles and imagination games, so was always eager to get a LEGO set. After building it, I’d enjoy making up various stories with the LEGO characters and having massive space battles or castle sieges that sprawled all over the house. I didn’t really start experimenting with my own designs until middle school when a friend and I created a turn-based strategy game using LEGO space ships and lots of dice.
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games.. or 'just' watch the cartoons.
I use my old LEGO sets as props in a tabletop RPG I run at a local comic book store. Once I discovered LEGO Ideas, I decided to give it a shot. When I was a kid, I wanted to work as a LEGO designer and the opportunity provided by LEGO Ideas is a dream come true. That said, I never expected to reach the 10,000 supporters mark.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
I was into the Explorien series when I was a kid and managed to get the entire series. Recently, I’ve been more interested in the various Fantasy sets as I can use them in my tabletop games.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
When I was a kid, it was the Explorien Starship. Now, it’s the big Hogwarts Castle. There were a ton of interesting angles and building techniques that made it entertaining to build. And, was a great setting for the players to defeat a major villain.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
The corkscrew piece. It’s great for creating lateral movement and fun to look at.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
I took a lot of inspiration from how the Medieval Market Village (10193) buildings look like complete structures when open or closed. Fan designs that stuck out to me were A.Graham LEGO Design’s Steampunk Battleship and Ymari’s fantasy designs.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
LEGO Ideas is where I’m most active.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I can’t pinpoint a single thing that inspired Exploratorium. I’ve been working with Steampunk for a while now and wanted to expand that world.
- How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
I was familiar with the style and general layout I wanted and built on my previous experience when designing Exploratorium. With my first submission, I did a bit of research to find a genre I liked and was relatively unique. Steampunk fit my personality and building style, so I ran with it and discovered that LEGO and Steampunk work well together. The ability to use Technic pieces as both functional and artistic elements opens up a world of possibilities.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
I started with the telescope mechanism, but it nearly killed the project. After completing 90% of Exploratorium, I found I’d miscalculated on how high the platform could be raised. To fix this I had to lower the roof and redesign the telescope. It was a huge setback right at the finish line and I almost gave up on the whole project.
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Good luck and keep at it!
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
It took a year and a half to complete Exploratorium. It was stop and go at times and I had to take a month off here or there when I got stuck. My fans get all the credit for getting the word out and pushing Exploratorium past the 10k mark. If it wasn’t for some generous reviews early on, and a few dedicated fans like Allaion talking about it on Reddit, no one would have known Exploratorium existed.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
Awesome! It was exciting to see the support growing rapidly those first 2 months and watch it continue to grow until it passed the 10K mark.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
The iris door on the roof was something I designed for an enormous submarine and was happy to find a good use for it after the original project got scrapped. The Orrery also came out very nice and I submitted it as a separate project before the rest of Exploratorium was completed.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
LDD (Lego Digital Design) and LDD to POV-Ray Converter
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
I used LDD Extended for everything. There were some hats with goggles that I created using a trick with floating bricks. This wouldn’t work in real life and were a bit tricky to place, but it was worth it to create that Steampunky feel. These two ‘Invention Thieves’ became the inspiration for later projects.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
Just keep trying and have fun! Remember, LEGO products are toys, so play with them!
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
I didn’t do much, the fans get all the credit there. I did always try to find something to say to the people who commented and enjoyed answering questions or talking about the project.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
There are so many good projects active on LEGO Ideas, but A.Graham LEGO Design’s Steampunk Battleship is super cool and is something I remember from when I first joined. Unfortunately, it never made it all the way and is over the parts limit so it can’t be resubmitted.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
My advice? Have fun and create what you enjoy!
- Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint what that might be?
I’ve been brainstorming future additions to the Flight Works Series. The details are still hazy. I’m searching for that ‘spark’ to will turn my vague ideas into something fun.
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