This week’s builder is a MOCpages luminary who has racked up countless hits, comments and fans since his online debut in 2007. Known as much for his inventive and humorous Sci-Fi storylines as his clever building, Rob Ludgonious has a unique style that continues to evolve. I sat down with Emperor Ludgonious of the Ludgonian Industrial Union (LIU) in a washing-machine sized conveyance inside the Gateway Arch in his hometown of St. Louis Missouri. We talked about Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom”, Stratocasters vs. Telecasters and the enduring legacy of Elton Mayo. We also talked about LEGO.
KG: Talk about your theme the LIU, its beginnings and what is it about the theme that gives you seemingly endless inspiration to build?
RL Believe it or not, the LIU is a variation of a theme I created as a child. My three siblings and I had a large LEGO town in which each of us controlled one family. For some reason that I still don’t understand today, economics and money played a huge role in our town. Even our families were named by their economic rank. Being the oldest and having the most bricks, my family was known as the ‘First Richest’. My next oldest sibling, controlled the ‘Second Richest’ and so on. My family, the “First Richest’, owned a company called LLL that had a monopoly over transportation, fuel, communications, and other vital services. At one point, we started forcing each other to pay for various town services in LEGO (usually in LEGO coins). Being the richest and most powerful family, I never had problems obtaining the few resources my other siblings controlled. Eventually their businesses folded, and the LLL assumed ownership of the entire town.
I went through a semi-Dark Age during college, mostly because I was away from my collection. I never really lost interest in the bricks, so I began searching for LEGO online. It was then that I stumbled upon MOCpages. I became particularly interested in some of the totalitarian space themes, including the Iron Reich. When I eventually returned to LEGO, my first instinct was to modify my childhood economic theme (LLL) into my own space theme, the Ludgonian Industrial Union (LIU). The greatest thing about the LIU is its scope. Being an entity that controls an entire galaxy and billions of planets, there is really no limit my inspirations. Some citizens live on ultra-high tech worlds with all the amenities, while citizens on an adjacent agricultural world may be living in medieval squalor. This broad range allows me to take inspiration from nearly anything imaginable.
KG: A casual comparison of your first offerings in 2007 and new work reveals a distinct progression in not only building prowess but also presentation skill. Was it just a natural 5 year evolution, or did you make distinct efforts to improve in some areas?
RL I made a distinct effort to improve. When I first returned to building, I got overly excited about posting things and telling a story. I often rushed to throw together a MOC just so I could post it. On MOCpages, this was sufficient enough to elicit several comments of praise, and there was really no motivation to improve. I was reaping rewards for some pretty sub-par builds (I cringe when I revisit some of my older stuff). After a while, the euphoric feelings I got from the comments started to wear off, and I started to see my builds for what they really were, crap. At that point, I made an effort to improve both my building and presentation skills. I befriended some of the more advanced builders on MOCpages and joined Flickr so that my builds would be truly scrutinized, and I could get some honest feedback. I slowed down and started focusing on quality instead of quantity.
KG: You are one of the rare builders that values the story as much as the build itself. Describe your process: does the building or part restrictions limit what you write? Is the story complete before you build? And has there ever been an idea you couldn’t bring to life?
RL: I always start with a basic idea and maybe a few plot points. Every build is a little different in this regard, sometimes I have more of structured plot, other times, I just have a really vague idea. The story really starts to take shape after a I build a few scenes. These first scenes set the tone for the whole story. I find it’s easier to develop settings, characters and a plot after looking at the beginning builds. Sometimes, the story develops and some of the initial scenes don’t seem to fit anymore. I have a folder with a growing number of scrapped scenes.
Part restrictions don’t usually restrict what I write. If a part is that important to the story, I’ll usually buy it. In the past, I’ve changed or altered a story when a build didn’t turn out the way I envisioned. Sometimes my ideas are too grandoise.
There have been ideas that I could not bring to life in the scale that I initially envisioned, but I’m still able to bring a them to life in some form or another. Size and space seem to be my biggest restrictions, but I also find it harder to photograph large MOC’s. These factors often limit the scale in which I can bring an idea to life.