10K Club Interview: Meet Alan Avila of Modular Arcade
Save up all your coins for a trip to the arcades! Will you get that new high score that you've been working towards? This week's 10K Club member Alan Avila a.k.a. Astronaut Avila is the creator behind the nostalgic Modular Arcade, which has us all longing to be playing a game of table hockey.
Help us congratulate Alan, in the comments below, on joining the exclusive LEGO Ideas 10K Club and for sharing his story with us!
- Where are you from?
I am from the Santa Barbara County in California.
- How old are you?
I am 21 years old.
- What do you study or do for a living?
I am currently working on a web comic.
- What hobbies do you have?
My main hobbies include, taking my dog to the beach, drawing, sculpting, and obviously building with LEGO bricks.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I remember as a child, I loved playing with my hands. Initially, my parents bought me a set that wasn’t LEGO branded. Eventually, I was introduced to LEGO bricks and even as a child, I would organize/separate my “off-brand” collection from my LEGO collection.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
My favourite set must be 21310 Old Fishing Store. I believe it’s the first project that I waited for ever since it achieved 10K supporters. I eagerly anticipated the review results, and to my surprise, it was approved. I checked almost every day for a release date. I purchased it day one, and the building experience put a big smile on my face. A believe it’s an amazing set with great display ability and playability features.
What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
My favourite element must be 3001 (Brick 2x4). It may seem like a relatively boring element, but I always find it amusing (and rather satisfying) when a new complex set calls for the use of this simple, classic brick.
^ Alan made sure to include all the classic arcade machines in this Modular Arcade
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
There isn’t a particular designer I follow, but I really appreciate Jonas Kramm’s work on Flickr. His use of 31168 (Duplo Fire/Grass/Ice) is nothing short from spectacular.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I mainly visit the LEGO subreddit on reddit.com. It’s very active and have found great posts for inspiration.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I was really inspired by Chris McVeigh’s arcade models, although I wanted to incorporate many more into a building. That’s when I figured a modular building could work.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
There were several challenges.
1: Part limit of 3000. I wanted to pack as much detail into each floor as possible, and when one area needed a redesign, I’d usually have to sacrifice some detail in another area.
2: Variety of arcade machines. There’s always a challenge designing at minifigure scale, but due to the amount of space inside the modular building, I had to carefully select which machines I could potentially design and fit into the building. At first, I had to take out a Pinball machine, but after reworking the staircase I was able to put it back in!
3: Skee-Ball machine. The initial design for this arcade machine was too large and clunky to fit anywhere inside. Also, the holes to score weren’t designed well, so I gave up on this machine very early on, and figured it was impossible to recreate in LEGO form. Several months later, I eventually came across 30363 (Slope 2x4) laying upside down on my desk, which gave me the idea to use it in that position for the scoring holes on the Skee-Ball machine.
^ Final rendered image showing Alan's Skee-Ball machine design
- How long did it take to complete the model?
Initially, I wanted to build a standalone building with only two floors, and not a modular style building that connects with others. My initial design simply wasn’t appealing, so I scrapped it and started from scratch about a few months later. This time, I decided to make it a modular. I instantly knew I wanted a pizzeria as the first floor, which made me lean towards a corner-style modular. At this point, I had to consider which arcade machines I could design and actually fit into the corner-style modular, which took a few more weeks. I spent around 4 years thinking, imagining, planning, experimenting, restarting, and losing sleep for this project.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
It felt surreal; I checked almost every hour after it reached 9000 votes. Also, it took just under 4 months to reach 10K supporters.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
According to my LDD project file, I used exactly 3000 pieces.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
Make sure your project looks great from any angle. Of course, being a corner modular, there are two flat sides to my project, which I tried to break up by adding the rooftop lounge area, just to spice things up a bit and not have everything be so symmetrical.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)?
It must be the Saturn V by whatsuptoday and saabfan. The excitement around the project only made me more excited to see it on shelves. I was lucky to pick one up on launch day!
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
I really like the fact that almost anyone can upload an idea, and that great projects seemingly appear out of nowhere. If you’re thinking about uploading an idea, JUST DO IT. I’m sure even experienced designers have doubts of uploading a project due to a fear that it won’t gain enough supporters. You’ll never know unless you upload it!
^ A few of the custom graphics that Alan had developed to work as printed elements or stickers
- lego ideas
- 10k club
- alan avila
- astronaut avila