Based on the classic "Metroid" videogame franchise, Diego (L-DI-EGO) presents his Metroid: Samus Aran's Gunship. This model originally thought of like a personal challenge with no intention to be shared publicly, turned out great! Congratulations on reaching 10k!
- Who are you?
I am Diego Maximino.
- Where are you from?
I am from Salamanca, Spain.
- How old are you?
I am... let's say that I am old enough to be legally allowed to submit content to this platform.
- What do you study or do for a living?
I come from an arts background, but it is hard to consider that as a way to make a living. At the time I am answering this interview, I am not working for any company.
- What hobbies do you have?
Designing LEGO models as an adult already counts as a hobby, right?
Aside from that, I am interested in the creative process behind any modern visual pop culture storytelling media, like movies, comics, and video games.
I also like to craft my own stuff, regardless of the medium. From drawing to 3D rendering, no matter if it's traditional or digital, I am always ready to develop new skills.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
From a professional standpoint, this is my Artstation portfolio. https://www.artstation.com/diegomaximino
It also includes some artwork originally submitted in the World Builder platform
For an overlook to other LEGO models, there is a selection of my most relevant MOCS featured on Flickr
and my Instagram
- 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?
I cannot say I am completely "proud" of any build prior to this Ideas entry; I am used to thinking there is always room for improvement. Despite the fact that I am still receiving instructions requests for my previous LEGO Ideas 10k project, the Jurassic Park Visitor Center (which I am not offering right now), I personally think the model is completely outdated and needs a substantial design overhaul.
The most popular MOC today is a build from The Child (A.K.A. "Baby Yoda"). I don't feel very much connected with the current Star Wars IP nowadays; nevertheless, this little character appeared out of nowhere and managed to catch my attention. Everyone was already drawing him, so I made a digital LEGO build instead. It was completed in just 5 days with the scarce source material (There were only 4 "The Mandalorian" episodes released by then).
The Samus Aran's Gunship was started alongside this one, in the same digital file: the huge orange ears were eventually copied and pasted as part of the fuselage.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO products come about?
I already had a DUPLO bucket as a kid, so I have been building it ever since I can remember. But the actual interest in the LEGO "System" came due to a small 1998 catalog packed inside a Town Jr. set.
I was instantly fascinated by all those unified worlds populating the pages; that small booklet was the spark for everything that came next.
- 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.
LEGO is a toy brand. Things are as they are.
The building "System" featured in the LEGO toys, on the other hand, is an entertaining but practical modular tool that can be used to solve a task that seems complicated. If something looks too difficult, or tedious to learn, you still may think about it as a kid's toy.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
Nowadays, the sets included in the +18 product range are the ones I find most interesting, both in terms of building techniques and display value. It also helps that the box art is coherent with its target audience.
Looking at the past, the themes I enjoyed as a kid were the ones with a great focus on the cinematic narrative; my all-time favorites are definitely Adventurers, Studios, and BIONICLE.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
I think it is impossible to give an absolute response that will last over time. Builds that were impressive at their moment, like the 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer, had been (and will be) updated sooner or later with improved models, like the set 75252.
Similarly, sets that were special due to some cool new technology or gadget, are condemned to be obsolete eventually, therefore unplayable for future generations. I experienced this with one of my favorites, the 1349 Steven Spielberg moviemaker set, but other people may feel the same about great past products like the monorail, the RCX, or the 9V trains.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
There is a complete family of elements that I underestimated for ages, but they have grown on me while I was designing this project: The Technic panels. If they are cleverly combined with other elements, they can be useful to achieve continuous curved shapes without turning the MOC in an overweight amount of curved slopes.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
There are hundreds of designers working in the LEGO Group; I don't know all of them, and I feel that naming only the ones I’ve met in person, or the ones that get more media coverage, would be disrespectful towards other workers.
There are also great builders in the fan community, but following specific AFOLs may lead to copying their styles, and I think it is important to keep a seal of identity on my work.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
It's difficult to distinguish a fan site that couldn't be perceived as somewhat official, considering that most of the LEGO User Groups are associated or partnered with the LEGO brand through the LEGO Ambassador Network channels. But I must highlight The Brothers Brick. Their blog post, alongside BrickVault’s Youtube channel, was essential to prevent this project from getting buried during its first days, which is the first challenge to face when you submit a new Idea to the site.
ABOUT YOUR PROJECT
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
The "World of Nintendo" comprises multiple popular and connected IPs which have full potential to conform to a diverse LEGO set range, in line with the existing Superhero theme, where everyone may find a set they can relate to. In my case, that desired set would be from the Metroid series.
My first clue that there is a target demographic for such a product was in June 2017, when I built 2 tiny Brickheadzs after the E3 announcement of "Metroid: Samus Returns" for the Nintendo3DS system. Those builds were quickly the most liked MOCs on my Flickr gallery, surpassing even my previous 10k projects on LEGO Ideas.
Despite that, I wasn't considering doing a minifigure playset. I was just assuming that a LEGO Nintendo line would happen sooner or later.
In the fall of 2019, I had the chance to participate in a Designer Recruitment Workshop in Billund. That process didn't go further, but it helped me to see that I could already do a set design on my own, regardless of the inventory limitations.
Soon after that, in December 2019, I challenged myself to build the Samus Aran's Gunship. It was just a personal goal, so I didn't work on any minifigure or side build: There was no intention to share the model publicly, let alone submitting it to LEGO Ideas. But the world was about to change 3 months later.
- 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?
All the invested time may be divided into two phases: The first was before submitting the product idea; the second includes all the updates added while the project was already gathering supports.
The first phase, building the model in the LDD software, was the smoothest part of the process. The Samus Aran's Gunship experiences subtle changes on every game and comic book/manga. This apparent problem was actually an advantage: it allowed me to be more flexible following the source material, jumping from one reference to another when I got stuck in a section that wasn't working.
The different Metroid-themed wikis, and more importantly, metroid-database.com, were great and vast sources when consulting the IP's artwork evolution across the generations. The gunship's art and in-game sprites from "Super Metroid", which established most of the franchise's iconography for later titles, were the leading base reference to follow. While I am not so interested in the character design in "Metroid: Other M", the gunship's artwork of that game still provided useful views to determine the toy's proportions. For the Samus Power Suit and Zero Suit minifigures, the reference was taken directly from the great "Metroid: Samus Returns" art designs.
When I considered the model finished, I had the idea of showing it as a fake set on April Fools, 3 months later. In that timeframe, the world entered the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown, while it was announced the LEGO Super Mario as a result of a partnership between LEGO and Nintendo. I hadn't even shared the model yet, but I was suddenly noticing that maybe the only time window to see that wished set as a tangible reality was LEGO Ideas.
That means that a significant portion of the final project wasn't even planned when it was submitted, and can be considered the 2nd phase.
- What special challenges or frustrations did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
That second phase, which includes all the content added later through the updates, was also the hardest, given the pressure of the model being visible, gathering supporters already.
Considering previous experiences with past IDEAS projects, I could predict that more characters would be requested in the comments, so I started to work on Zero Suit Samus and Ridley beforehand when the project was still under moderation.
I established the first update I had in mind (the "secret" minifigure) as the only expected update, at an ambitious 9900 supporters milestone... which also worked as a reference to the Metroid series' completion screen at the end of each game.
But there was a request I couldn't predict: a better minifigure's helmet. And there were a lot of requests just for that piece!
Therefore, the worst issue was to digitally sculpt a new part (Samus' Helmet) and an out-of-production element (Ridley's head) from scratch.
- 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?
SCULPT. THAT HELMET. NOW.
I didn't notice at first, but I was relying on the LEGO Ideas project rules and the production cost as an excuse to overlook the minifigure's design. When the project was submitted, it was a plain minifigure, just printed, inspired by a promotional Iron Man from the 2012 New York Toy Fair. By cheapening the cost, I was just lowering the project's quality, so I corrected that immediately and started to work on the type of piece to be expected from a premium product.
I know that making that custom element as a possible design option is at the edge of defying the rules and puts the project's outcome at risk, but anyone who takes a look at every early comment will agree there was no choice. Everyone wants accurate headgear for Samus.
Ridley also forced me to sculpt another part in 3D, with the added problem that this time was an existing copy of a real and complex piece. But I knew for sure that I wanted to use the element design 53456 since the beginning. That brick IS Ridley, more than any other dragon piece LEGO has ever produced. The comeback of this retired element in a new color may also be well received for any BIONICLE MOC builder. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it in the library of any digital building software; but I own the physical piece from the set 7018 Viking ship, so I could build and test a real dark red LEGO Ridley bust as a reference to sculpt the digital one.
Sculpting those 2 pieces accurately took even more time than building the gunship. So, if you have ever considered that digital entries are “easier” or require less effort... I encourage you to reconsider your statement.
- 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?
The LEGO model was finished quite quickly, in less than 2 weeks. But each update to promote the project extended the invested time to a total of 9 months approx., which includes the development of the B and C models designed simultaneously in summer 2020.
They were unplanned updates that were considered when the project was already gathering supports, and I green-lighted them as soon as I tested their respective play features with some real parts. The inventory was already established by the main model, and there was not too much room for changes, which was actually a good thing. The limited part list forced me to think more creatively and outside the box; if all the 3 versions of the gunship were had been built simultaneously, there would have never been an established piece list to follow and the whole project would have been lost in the development forever.
This feature was also incorporated to Ridley, which seems appropriate considering this villain is constantly "rebuilding" himself during the franchise's storyline. Up to 5 versions were posted (original/meta/omega/mecha/proteus); A 6th one based on his neo-X version from "Metroid Fusion" was also designed, but ultimately discarded: It wasn't reaching the quality standard of the rest of the updates.
The support per day ratio was ideal to let the "3in1" update happen. With fewer supports per day, I wouldn't have thought it was worth the effort. With too many supports, on the other hand, I wouldn't have thought I could finish all those alternative models in time.
In my opinion, releasing the alternative builds as separate toys would be unlikely due to their limited game appearances. But this is not a standard toy, it is a BUILDING toy: turning the product concept into a 3in1 model was the most logical solution to satisfy all the fans. At the same time, it proves that the project can be a good fit for LEGO the Brand.
In the end, I hope that both Nintendo and The LEGO Group could see and understand how respectful I have tried to be with their respective properties.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
Having reached the 10k twice in the past, I wasn't expecting to be surprised; but I was actually amazed at HOW everything happened.
The project got the last 6000 votes in just 48 hours. This wasn't the result of just one site promoting it. Tracking the project's trace on the internet (and using the revealed project updates as a time guide), you can see it was actually a snowball effect. Over the project's course, there had been some previous short peaks of activity when the project was promoted in the
Metroid Reddit; the last time https://www.reddit.com/r/Metroid/comments/kzsou2/not_oc_please_go_support_t... however, it jumped to the Nintendo Reddit https://www.reddit.com/r/nintendo/comments/l0q60s/lego_metroid_samus_arans_... where it got some visibility until it was removed. But just before you would give up, Nintendolife made a post about it https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2021/01/this_metroid_set_could_be_officia... while Gamexplain posted a dedicated video evidencing that Metroid is still a relevant IP.
Subsequently, many websites like IGN, The Verge, or Comicbook.com, in conjunction with the Metroid fanbase's unified force through social media, pushed the project to the review stage in one day.
I was glad that I was awake and looking at the LEGO Ideas notifications on my mail when this happened; otherwise, I would have been unable to submit the long time prepared updates! The support was so fast-paced, that I was basically starting each new update immediately after posting the previous one. I guess it couldn't be a Metroid experience without a final countdown.
Random trivia: the project reached the 10k around 21:21 CET, on 1-21-21, XXI century.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
The base model uses around 950 parts, from which 835 are also used in the B model. The C model requires 811, plus 1 extra element for the windscreen.
The Ridley figure uses around 124 pieces + Almost 90 extra parts are additionally required to build his other forms/variants.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
I am satisfied with how the spaceship is shaped at the sides and the possibility of the Ridley figure.
But my favorite aspect is the whole "3in1" feature.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
It was originally built in LEGO Digital Designer (LDD). But the final pictures are renders made in Blender.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
All the decorations were Scalable Vector Graphics made with the Inkscape software.
ABOUT LEGO IDEAS
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
...OK... what would you define as "successful"?
Just check the number of rejected projects from each review, in comparison with the ones that became LEGO products. Don't pretend to achieve that as your primary goal. There's a high possibility for any project to not become a set. And I know what I am talking about.
Luck is always a variable to deal with, regardless of your commitment. Effort doesn't always translate into granted success. It is, however, still needed to get a number in the lottery.
I strongly recommend you to use the development of your set idea as a tool, or as an excuse to train/practice something new, like a skill you may have been procrastinating to learn.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
You need to be found, unfortunately. If you just promote the project by yourself, most people will see it as spam.
Aside from that, I have noticed there is a dangerous point, a “valley of doom”, where many projects get stuck or slow down after surpassing the 5k midpoint. They aren't trendy anymore, and the people interested may have already supported them.
Therefore, I planned to unlock all the updates I was working on at high milestones (from 5.000 to 9900 supporters), to keep the project fresh with substantial new content. But those secret unlockables worked due to their videogame nature and I don't recommend mimicking and cloning this strategy for other Ideas.
In the end, I managed the project updates so they would feel like the progression on gameplay. But the supporters also "played" their part even further, and turned it into a speedrun.
Now, it's up to LEGO & Nintendo to unlock the best ending... or send the project to a "Sudden Death" match and a "Game Over" screen.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
My favourite Ideas product is, unfortunately, a set I was unable to get, The 21303 WALL-E. It was, in my opinion, the best set conversion of a submitted project. It changes only what it was needed to be changed from the original concept, and improves it.
Regarding active projects, it is worthy to understand the message behind BIONICLE! The Sitcom 25th Anniversary...
Regarding overlooked ideas, there are hundreds of them. For example, I think that the 10k Queen project by Hector Sánchez (Han Sbricksteen) could have been released, at least, as an affordable set vignette, not bigger than a music CD package.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
I cannot imagine what it feels like to be part of a quality work that may bring some joy to many kids (and adults!) worldwide. That seems a nice achievement to accomplish in your real life's gameplay.
- 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?
By the time the results from this review are announced, a whole decade will have passed since I joined the site hoping to turn any of my ideas into a real product. While you should never give up at first, it is still important to detect when it's time to moving on.
That said, I could still work on something else based on the Metroid IP. You may have Zero ideas about what to expect, but you won't need too much Brain to find a clue.
By the way, we found some friendly animals in this project's updates... Where did they go?
- samus aran
- 10k club interview
- 10k club
- lego idea
- video game