Sunday, July 6, 2008

Space Legos (Today) Suck!

As promised, here is the second of my three fun and frivolous posts for the holiday weekend.

The topic: Space Legos. More specifically, Space Legos suck. At least they do today. Now, this could be dismissed as mere nostalgia for the toys of my youth, but I have specific complaints and I think I have good reasons to back up my position.

What is great about Legos is that you can make anything out of them, at least, that's the theory. You have a bunch of blocks that can be put together in thousands of ways, limited only by your imagination. It is my contention that the original Space Lego sets, from about 1977 through 1982 or so were the best and that it went downhill from there.

What was so wonderful about those sets was that, from a relative handful of basic parts, you could make spaceships, space stations, space vehicles, moon rovers, space labs, and anything else your space-hearted mind could desire. That kept true to the essence of Legos. What I think made them start to suck was the introduction of more and more specialized parts, parts that gave less and less room for alternate uses. This was perhaps a result of cheaper and easier manufacture of many different kind of plastic parts. But I think it hurt legos - not just the space legos, but ultimately all of them. I look at to see the legos sold today and some of the sets literally look like you have three pieces - one for a "front" one for a "middle" and one for a "back" - like look at the lego boats. That, to me, defeats the whole purpose of legos. Might as well just have a regular plastic toy if the parts are so customized to the function like that.

Looking at the old Space Lego sets, you see a relatively handful of types of parts used to create all sorts of wonderful things. Going through the instructions you see beautiful engineering - how those parts are structured, reinforcing a lattice upon which you build a spaceship, like the wonderful Galaxy Explorer (widely hailed as the pinnacle of Lego Space). Now, there are so many specialized parts that it is difficult to imagine building much of anything but a few variations of what is on the box of any set you buy. Which is too bad. I remember with my own meager collection of sets when I was a kid, I still managed to make duplicates of a particular set I liked - the X-1 Patrol Craft. I doubt I could do that today.

The only place I see a small set of generic blocks is in the big boxes of legos you can buy, and there, they are almost too generic to do much but build simple block structures. With Space Legos, they had a happy medium. What is most disappointing isn't so much that they've made sucky sets since then, it is that they've discontinued making any of the old sets or even anything like them. In looking into those, I've discovered there is a vast secondary market for old Space Legos - and some of the better sets sell for a decent sum, even used and 30 years old. This ought to tell the current owners of Legos that there is a market there. I think they are adrift. I recall reading something about the company having financial woes - perhaps they could help solve them by going back to basics.

As it is, I have the Space Legos from my youth and I also picked up a bunch of sets I never had (but of course would have liked). And now they are sitting in storage, awaiting my children - who in a few years will be old enough to have them to play with. (Well, my oldest (who in two months will be three) will probably be old enough soon, but I'm wary of toys with small parts on the loose with my youngest approaching crawling age (he's in his fifth month now)).


Steve said...

I agree with you. We just call those cheater parts. When I had the old castle set you had to build the walls. They just didn't come in big hunks. The horses were made from just bricks, not one piece of plastic. They are making them into playmobile play sets instead of legos.

DBB said...

Cheater parts? That's a good description for them. Another might be "imagination killing."

They seem to have forgotten the fun of legos which, as you say, is building things, not just playing with plastic toys.

landlockedbros said...

Wow you honestly are have know idea what you can do with "cheater parts" I've built the most amazing creations with the new parts! I've found more than one function with new parts! So how bout you stop acting old and ACCEPT CHANGE!!!!! (part of life) I do like the old legos and know how it feels to have discontinued sets and themes. Just grow up

DBB said...

Hey - don't pee all over my nostalgia...

And it isn't that one can't do anything with the new parts, it is that they are much more specialized. I liked the creativity in having a small set of basic parts that were then used to build all sorts of different things.

What is even more annoying is that the while the old sets had a small set of basic parts, they discontinued a lot of those basic parts so you can't even buy the parts and build your own - that seems deliberately spiteful to me.

landlockedbros said...

If you you want old parts or regular bricks I suggest "" or a Lego store pick-a-brick. There you can get any brick EVER CREATED. I am a middle schooler who has always loved legos (yes I still have a social life! :)

Sorry I pissed on your blog, I feel bad.

I just like the idea of so many elements and complicated parts.I feel much pride when I am able to make respectable creation out of hundreds of options.

Alexandre said...

You're right on the spot, I miss old lego sets too. I personally grew up with the Spacepolice (the ones with the dark green windows) and IcePlanet, and that stuff, and although they probably had more specialized parts than the space sets you're talking about, I still think you could make very nice stuff with them!

Now I haven't had any interest in legos for the past 7 years or so, but I recently picked my interest back. I had a look at the new themes and sets they have today, now THAT suck. They're all themed after mainstream movies and stuff, nothing original no more, except maybe their City theme. What happened to their train sets and ModelTeam stuff? Even Technic seem to have more custom stuff than the old days. (Besides, I saw people making Star Wars lego with old pieces, like x-wings and tie-fighters, way before they introduced that theme. Now they have custom windows and parts, which is weird)

Also, there's a catch with the pick-a-brick thing on the lego website: I find they're mostly overpriced, and they don't have all the old parts and all the colors. For instance, wanted to buy parts to make the Galaxy Explorer? Well sorry, the yellow transparent window, it's only available in clear color, nothing else.

Give me a true pick-a-brick store where I can chose from all the brick parts in existence, in any color I want, and I'll be a happy builder :)

Alexandre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
landlockedbros said...

@Alexander if you want a true pick a brick go to the have just what you need!

Alexandre said...

See that's the thing, they didn't have what I need :P Like, the transparent Slope 33 3 x 6 in yellow color.

Besides, this site is mostly you and me selling / trading their own lego pieces, in used or new condition.

The Pick-a-brick store on the official Lego site, I do believe they are manufactured in new condition.

So as I said, as of now there isn't a true pick-a-brick store. Bricklink has mostly used stuff (for the very old parts) if it's even available. I couldn't find the yellow transparent window there, still only white.

We're in 2011 now and lego has proven it's popularity. It's hard to imagine they lack the power to produce bricks on demand, or old sets. Nowadays all they produce is Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and some other gimmick car show. And their Lego Creator and City stuff. And prized Technics (fortunately they still do these).

Like, how much would it cost them to produce Blacktrons or Spacepolice from the old days? They mostly use bricks that are still in use in new sets today, so it's not like they don't have the power to produce them, I'm sure. This is something that has always blown my mind.

landlockedbros said...

@alexander Sorry but your ignorance makes me sick. you have no imagination, and star wars is the bomb so don't be saying it's cheap

I also find it quite amusing how expect legos to remane the same as they were 7 years ago. And you must be a complete idiot to not buy used parts because you think new ones are incredibly better. When in reality there is hardly a difference

PS: go to the parts section on bricklink when searching

Alexandre said...


Yes, I did go to Bricklink and tried searching for that particular piece I'm talking about without finding it. Also I don't go there every day, Lego isn't something I do these days, but it's something I used to do alot.

Also I never said new parts were better than used parts, I just said that bricklink was mostly people selling used parts, like on ebay. So in truth it's only existing bricks and pieces being shuffled around, so there actually is a lack of certain bricks that aren't being produced anymore (let's say I want to build a huuuuge skyscrapper with alot of specific, limited pieces. I probably won't be able, except in LDraw).

Also yes, Star Wars legos are cool (especially the big ship sets). However my point is that Lego isn't producing alot of original stuff anymore, aside from their Creator and City sets (even that's getting old, recycling police stations and planes). All I see on shelves today are Star Wars, Ninjago (play bowling with skeletons, ohh... wow), Cars (the kid show with talking cars), Indiana Jones...

Where are all the awesome Lego that aren't pulled from movies these days?

Even Megablok is going for Mario Kart gimmicks, and Halo. I remember the Dinosaur sets and sci fi sets from Megablok. Though the plastic quality was inferior to Lego, they had nice sets too.

Please don't tell me I lack imagination. It is the Lego company's engineers or whatever that lack imagination by pulling stuff from popular movies.

At my age, what impresses me are huge complicated sets, not simple toys. If I had the resources I'd love to build the Battlestar Galactica, like that one dude that made it 6 feet long out of legos.

What's also limited and complicated to find are windows of certain color, like the red, orange, dark blue, dark green, yellow transparent parts from the old Space Police, Black Trons, Futurons, Ice Planet 2002, etc etc. I'm sure there are plenty on Bricklink (and I haven't checked the official Lego store), but if they aren't produced anymore, someone can hoard them or they can be very expensive.

landlockedbros said...

Yes I agree with you most of the modern themes are quite ridiculous:) but think the best themes in my opinion are "city" and star wars. Sorry we got of on the wrong foot. It was rude of me to criticize you and insult you. And Im glad you like Legos :D

Alexandre said...

Oh I just wanted to say, now I found it, the part I'm talking about. It's strange that I overlooked it weeks ago, since I had the exact name from bricklink too (slope 33 3 x 6) and there are a bunch for sale now. It's pricy for one piece, but I guess it's there if I ever want to build something that uses it.

Migs said...

I know it's been a while since anybody said anything here but I take the 80th anniversary of LEGO as an occasion to express my frustration about the new LEGOs!

I was a big fan 20 years ago, I remember saving for 2 years in order to be able to buy the big Pirate Ship because we didn't have that much money but it was worth it!

The years passed and my adult life took me away from this passion but I knew that one day I'd go back to it with my own kids.

This day came a few weeks ago and it had been a while since I had seen any LEGOs or been in the LEGO isle of a shopping center and my expectations were pretty high! I was imagining that the new sets would be incredible considering the time that passed and the experience that LEGO (the company) acquired.

Well well... I cannot tell you how big my disappointment was ! First of all it felt like the LEGO isle had shrunk into a shelf or two with a very limited choice. Secondly I had the impression that I was staring at Playmobils filled with what you call "cheater parts". Thirdly, I was looking at sets that were way more expensive and smaller. The pictures on the boxes are zoomed in to make you believe that it's still pretty big but if you look at the size of the lego bricks you can tell that you're being fooled!

I thought that maybe it was only the store I went to that had crappy sets so I went online but it was only a confirmation of what LEGO had become: a company completely invaded by the consumption society concepts. "Produce cheaper and crappier to sell more expensive! The new kids won't be able to tell the difference!" Well the old kid can tell the difference and is (as the title say) "disgusted beyond belief!"

If you have a look at the 80yo anniversary video you can tell that they try to make you think that LEGO hasn't change and has kept its great old values! It's even more raging!

To finish, I must say that I'm really sad that my kids will never be able to know exactly the same joy I have experience with the "real" LEGO sets....

It's sad, just sad...

airbiscuity said...

The new Lego bricks they manufacutre I think are of lower density, they flex when squeezed in the middle on a 1x4 brick.

Also the slope bricks are now missing the textured feel/finish compared to the 80's bricks.

As for the "cheater parts" or "imagination killer" parts, just think they can't be easily replaced by substitute bricks if you loose or damage one.

Also have a look at the classic 1980's LEGO 12v Train Sets (7740) - absolutely amazing, switching points, boom gates, lights, etc. The new trains require about 5 pieces to put together and lack total imagination :(

Dewman said...

The reason LEGO has gone to the Stars Wars themes and the like is because they get paid a lot of money from these companies. For years, when LEGO signed on with Star Wars, part of the deal was that LEGO space sets would be exclusively Star Wars. It's all about the money. I totally agree that nothing beats the old space sets.