Oh, snap – literally. Yes, that's Booty Bay, constructed completely from tens of thousands of Legos. It took Astrylian and Raeina, husband and wife WoW players from Eonar and long-time Lego aficionados, about a month to assemble this five-foot masterpiece. While WoW Insider couldn't lend the industrious couple an equivalent 43,000 minutes of fame, as soon as we saw their creative piece de resistance, we decided a solid 15 minutes were definitely in order.
15 Minutes of Fame: It's obvious that you two didn't get your start building structures like this just yesterday. How long have you been into Legos?
Raeina: Forever! Somewhere around high school, I decided I wasn't giving up Lego. I started really doing it seriously when I found more AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego). While in college, I found SCLTC (Southern California Lego Train Club) and started building things for their layouts.
Astrylian: I played with Lego as a kid, much like most kids. But I stopped playing with them as I grew older. Then a little under five years ago, I met my wife, who was massively into Lego, and I got back into it. It's still more her thing than mine, but I enjoy it as well.
Astrylian: We typically do about four shows per year, ranging from short, two-day fairs to a couple-month museum layouts. For each show, we meet up once or twice beforehand and plan out a layout for the show, plan where the train track will go (it's a Lego Train Club, so we usually have tons of Lego train track on each layout, with Lego trains going around non-stop), divide the different areas of the layout into sections, and assign them to different people to do. We don't actually build together very much, since we try to keep everyone's Lego separate. These layouts are typically quite large and elaborate, so we all show up one to three days beforehand at the show location to set up.
Transporting all the Lego to the show is quite the ordeal of its own. Since we don't glue any of our displays, some of them can be somewhat fragile, though we do our best to design and build with transportation in mind. We have special custom-made tables in various standard sizes (30"x60", 30"x30", 15"x60", etc.) that we build on and can quickly bolt together, which makes setup easier.
What will happen with Booty Bay when the exhibits are done? Will you keep it up someplace, or (/gasp!) disassemble it for parts?
Astrylian: Not sure at this point. We may keep it all together for a while; perhaps reuse it in another show or two. That's what we typically do with our large Lego displays. However, Booty Bay is much more fragile than our typical displays (what with all the docks built on pillars), so that makes transporting it to different places more difficult.
Raeina: It'll probably stay together for a couple years, before we disassemble it when we need special parts from it.
What's the actual size of this display?
Astrylian: Booty Bay is 45 inches by 60 inches -- that's the biggest we can fit in our car.
What changes in the actual layout and design of Booty Bay did you make for this display?
Astrylian: Well, when we started this project, we set out to build something that was recognizably Booty Bay, as accurate of a depiction of it as we could build, in Lego. On the other hand, we knew from experience with other Lego displays that it needed to be presentable, designed in such a way that people could easily view most of it.
The real layout of Booty Bay didn't fit well with the viewability we had in mind, so we had to adjust it a bit. In game, Booty Bay is deeply set into the mountain and is kind of fish-hook shaped. That makes it great for viewing, while in the town. But from outside, it looks quite cramped, and you have to look over and through quite a lot in order to see everything.
What we did was bend the sides of the town out a bit, so it formed more of a half-circle shape. We also shortened the main dock, since it stuck out quite a lot and looked rather bland in comparison to the rest of the town. We also moved the cave entrance back a bit, since our display had to transition from water to mountain at a certain point. That gave the town a balanced, half-oval sort of shape, which was good for viewing yet still recognizably Booty Bay.
Can you estimate how many individual Lego pieces are likely to be in this display?
Astrylian: Our general answer to this is usually "No idea. Wanna count them for us?" If I had to guess, off the top of my head, I'd say something like 100,000.
Did you buy any new or custom pieces for Booty Bay?
Astrylian: We had most of the pieces but ran out of a few things. We had to buy quite a bit of tan bricks, brown plates and burnt orange bricks. Oh, and we also had to buy heads for all the goblins (they're Dobby from the Harry Potter sets; Yoda heads from the Star Wars sets would have been better, but Yoda heads are about $30 U.S. each). In total, we spent about $400 on new pieces for Booty Bay.
How much money would you say you have invested in your Lego collection?
Astrylian: I don't even want to think about it, heh. We have about 350,000 pieces total -- probably $70,000 U.S. invested in them. We don't have any special way to get Lego that anyone else doesn't, either. We just buy our Lego from stores when they're on sale (Target, Toys'R'Us, Wal-Mart, Lego Direct, etc), sometimes off of eBay, or when we need a lot of specific pieces, BrickLink (online stores where Lego collectors buy and sell individual pieces).
How long did Booty Bay take you to build? And how long at a time can you work on something like this before your eyes go buggy, anyway?
Astrylian: We initially had the idea to do Booty Bay almost a year ago. We started building some concepts and decided it was just too hard, so we dropped it. Then about a month and a half ago, we decided to go for it after all. It took us about a month, working probably an average of three hours per day on it each. Just before the due date, we were probably working on it in five- to six-hour stretches.
Raeina: When our club started designing our winter layout, there was quite a bit of water-edged space, so we decided that Booty Bay would be perfect to take up a good chunk of that space. I prefer to work only a couple hours a day on these things. After that, some things start to get really annoying. The mountainside, for example, was really monotonous.
Tell us about custom pieces for Booty Bay.
Astrylian: The beauty of Lego is that with a little imagination, you can find a piece for anything. Every single piece in Booty Bay is a standard Lego piece, unmodified or customized. The goblin heads are Dobby from Harry Potter sets, the dwarves are Dwarves from Castle sets, the sea giant on the island is a troll from Castle sets.
Scooty's Translocator was a fun piece to build. It's really just many small pieces put together. I started with just looking at the transporter in game and breaking it down into parts, thinking of which Lego pieces could be used for each part. I knew what piece I wanted to use for the bottom pretty much right away; it fit perfectly. From there, it was just a matter of looking through all our drawers of tiny Lego pieces to find what could connect together and form the shape I was looking for. I tried dozens of different pieces, used in dozens of different ways, before settling on what you see in the finished product.
That's how it went with most of Booty Bay, as well. I'd start with an idea of what it should look like and just start trying things until something I liked appeared.
Raeina: I did most of the buildings, which involved choosing the closest colors that we had available in Lego and shaping the buildings, so that they would fit together and look as close to in-game as possible. The color scheme of Booty Bay was hard to match, due to there being only a few shades of brown and tan available, so we had to improvise some places. I really enjoyed doing the two large buildings, since they included the most detail, and we could match their colors the best.
Raeina: We're high-end raiders, farming Sunwell/BT/Hyjal. We're part of a close-knit raiding guild, about 30 of us. We raid four hours per night, five nights per week, plus we do 10-mans, heroics and such on the weekends or on raid nights where we've already cleared everything.
Astrylian: This has been an extremely busy time lately, so I've tried to keep my playtime as limited and efficient as possible. That means pretty much just logging on for raids. All my guildies have been spending tons of times doing achievements, whereas I've spent rest of my time split between Booty Bay and getting Rawr updated for 3.0 and now WotLK. Rawr is a popular theorycraft program, used by thousands of WoW players, that I'm the lead developer on.
What are you looking forward to doing in Wrath? Any special plans?
Raeina: I just love all the new stuff. We're prolly gonna rush to 80, but then I'll turn around and do every single quest in all of Northrend, just for fun. I'm looking forward to helping out D.E.H.T.A., too, and I'm pretty excited about all the new fishing stuff!
Astrylian: Raiding and relaxation. The Booty Bay stuff is finally mostly over, but the Rawr side of things is still extremely demanding on time. I can't wait for when we get Rawr working solidly, and I can just spend my time relaxing and raiding. Raiding is what I enjoy most.
Any new Lego projects taking shape in your imaginations? More WoW settings -- a Northrend, maybe?
Astrylian: We're thinking about it. At this point, we're waiting to explore Northrend and see what building possibilities it holds for us. Only certain kinds of architecture works well in Lego. Straight lines are the most important thing. We've had lots of requests for Orgrimmar, for example, but there are so many curved and freeform shapes there and odd angles, it'd be very difficult to make look right in Lego. Even Booty Bay was troublesome, with the pieces that connected to each other at angles.
Raeina: I'd like to make a Night Elf inn and a Mage Tower. I'm not sure yet about anything in Northrend.
Raeina and Astrylian's Booty Bay installation will be on display from Dec. 6 to Jan. 18 at the Balboa Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, as part of a larger layout.