I have only built two hovertanks: one 6 years ago and one today. This post will summarize some of the changes in the way I build and hopefully offer a few useful tips for builders in the process of developing their style (with a focus on sci-fi creations).
The Ladybird Hovertank (above) was one of my first MOCs when I joined the online community in late 2004. It was part of a series of bley sci-fi creations that introduced my works to the internet. Below it is my latest creation called The Chaos Machine; it is a good example of my current and changed building style.
I chose to compare these two MOCs because of their shared subject matter, size, and build time of half a day. That aside, here are the differences:
- Photography: to me this is the first impression that a MOC gives. In real life you can have a face that looks like it was sculpted, but if you dress like a bum, people will think you’re one. While the photography of the Ladybird was not a deal breaker, it could have benefitted from elimination of the shadows through diffused (rather than direct) lighting and perhaps a white background, which you can achieve through many ways of photoediting. For detailed directions, you can refer to instructions by nnenn and Fredoichi.
- Color scheme and accents: when I stepped into the online scene during the introduction of bley, I decided to become the master of this new color that everyone seemed to loathe. I got as far as the Project Bley Mecha and Tripod Droid before I realized I needed color (which happened to be black). A few years later, my collection was almost exclusively bley and black, which was about as dry as pizza crusts and sandwich bread. From then on, I have been introducing color into my builds. I use neutral colors for the backbone bricks and add about two colors on top of that. A small bit of additional colors for accenting such as the pink eye and dark orange grill goes a long way to give character to a MOC.
- Asymmetry: The Chaos Machine is my first truly asymmetrical sci-fi craft. It was originally planned to be a symmetrical hovertank, but the already repetitive and symmetrical hoverpads should not support another symmetrical body. Asymmetry can be used in subtle ways or in a full-blown manner. It doesn’t have to be in every ship or vehicle, but it should be used to draw the right amount of interest.
- Color blocking: having interesting color combos without organization is the same as a rainbow warrior. I learned this through a gradual process of building with defined sections of the same color and using different colors to signify different components. This may not be intuitive, but it’s never too early to be aware.
- NPU: the term “Nice Parts Usage” may be cliché, but the idea itself is always new. Although the term was originally coined to describe a part used cleverly in a different circumstance, many builders nowadays see it as the phrase suggests: a good use of a part. In the Ladybird, the only NPU was the dark red trash can on the main cannon, but The Chaos Machine features Ninjago spinners, purple spikes, and a few other pieces that don’t appear often in MOCs. Their purpose is to again draw interest to the MOC and reward those who examine it. However, keep in mind that it’s never a good idea to strive for NPU if the part will stick out like a sore thumb. Keep it integrated with the rest of the creation.
- Patience: don’t rush the build and don’t despair for a lack of feedback. Place a Brinklink order for a part that could drastically improve the build, spend more time editing the photo (or just edit the photo), and view the MOC with a fresh pair of eyes in a day or two if you’re not entirely satisfied with the initial build. When you post your first MOC, don’t expect to be showered with praise unless your name is Mike Doyle. I received 3 comments to date when I posted the Ladybird on MOCpages (and one of them was spam). Build for the fun and challenge :)
That said, keep in mind that interpreting a MOC is always a subjective experience. Some may find the Ladybird more appealing while others may find both hovertanks equally enjoyable or repulsive (hopefully not simultaneously). Find what works for you and be open-minded to change.