Practical frame design: game pieces

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Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby Blorf » Mon Jan 25, 2016 2:36 pm

I've been thinking a lot lately about frame design as it relates to being able to easily play the game. Thematically, frames have very diverse origins, durability, levels of quality, etc., but in practical terms a frame is just a game piece. Frames designed as works of art are excluded; for the purpose of this discussion, I'm talking only about frames intended to play a game with. Most frame designs rely on connections that won't survive a fall, but many won't even survive being moved across the field without careful re-positioning. The problem here is that having to fiddle with the frames frustrates players and slows the pace of the game. Though the individual effect is small, the cumulative effect can be rather off-putting. Especially in a demo scenario with new players or when allowing others to borrow your frames, functioning as game pieces can be very important to the overall game experience.

So what can we do?
  • Joints are often the weakest points and using solid connections is often much stronger. A builder can make use of implied articulation to keep areas strong.
  • Mixel joints provide strong, highly articulate connections. They're also easy to re-position to maintain balance.
  • Avoid single-stud connections. Thin arms can look great, but a 1×1 round at the wrist is often the first place to fall apart.
  • Strengthen the parts with the most stress. Arms and shoulders often need to hold the weight of weapon systems across their joints. with legs, the frame's weight often compresses them together.
  • Create a large area across where the frame can balance; larger feet or a wider stance can help. Having 3 or more legs usually eliminates this issue completely.

Feel free to post/link to example frames and point out both the good and bad. Let's make this a resource we can all come back to later. Here's a few of mine to kick off.

B-003 Egg: This old piece of junk was a disaster in the balance department. It was hard to find the balance point over the small legs and the hips didn't like to hold steady. It also isn't solid in the middle, leading to falling apart in your hands if you put pressure on it wrong. It's obvious that this was one of my first awkward attempts at a frame. It's been long scrapped and I don't miss it. It's a pretty good example of what not to do.
B-011 Hawk: My early quads hold up fairly well because balance isn't an issue, but have problems with durability. This one often requires its arms to be reattached. I'm betting I can rework this with a stronger connection with little cosmetic change.
B-019 Hardtail: It might look great, but isn't a joy to have in a game. The ankles are a mess of odd angles and single-stud connections which are difficult to re-position. The balance point is hard to find. The camera on the back barely holds itself never mind holding other equipment as a hardpoint.
B-021 Issus Mk. II DX: I really enjoy this frame on the table, but the arms (again, single-stud connections) just don't hold up to weight very well and constantly need re-attached. There may be a Mk. III.
B-026 Farmhand is a solid table piece in its durability. Almost nothing comes off accidentally. Could be improved by making it easier to balance.
B-027 Hellfire stands and balances better than the B-026, but the gun arms come off easily from a single-stud connection. Fortunately it's solid otherwise so they're quick to reattach.

Given the progress I've made so far, I don't think function and form have to be at odds. What other techniques are people using to keep frames practical game pieces? What should we avoid? Other tips?
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby VitorFaria » Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:44 pm

When I build a frame I ask myself:

"Does it hold together at least as well as a Commissar?"

If the answer is no I scrap it completely.

I also tend to go for subdued weapons, so usually 1x1 round wrists aren't that much of a problem.
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby Mantisking » Tue Jan 26, 2016 12:29 pm

One of my favorite designs for durability is the COG by Pasakaru76. These things can take a beating.
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby Blorf » Tue Jan 26, 2016 1:29 pm

That looks like a super durable build. I think Technic pieces in general are a good bet for durability because they're designed for larger models with friction holds in mind. Designing for that scale makes the harder to work with, though. I can think of a bunch of your own builds that should be pretty stable and durable.

Maybe it was just my parts, but I found the Commissar too fragile for normal play. Mine would not stay together too well in my own hands. Handing it to someone else meant it instantly turned to a pile of parts. I retired it pretty quickly.

Sticking to smaller weapon systems certainly helps. Weapons tend to be a prime location for size creep!
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby VitorFaria » Tue Jan 26, 2016 2:56 pm

Blorf wrote:Maybe it was just my parts, but I found the Commissar too fragile for normal play. Mine would not stay together too well in my own hands. Handing it to someone else meant it instantly turned to a pile of parts. I retired it pretty quickly.


Have you tried holding them by the Sensor domes? They're really solid. Most of my friends got that intuitively.

As long as the legs are also pre-posed sensibly for stability I can move Commissars all day long!
Last edited by VitorFaria on Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby Blorf » Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:34 pm

VitorFaria wrote:Have you tried holding them by the Sensor domes? They're really solid.


Not mine. The domes came off at the slightest provocation.
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby Mantisking » Tue Jan 26, 2016 4:23 pm

Mantisking wrote:One of my favorite designs for durability is the COG by Pasakaru76. These things can take a beating.
Blorf wrote:That looks like a super durable build. I think Technic pieces in general are a good bet for durability because they're designed for larger models with friction holds in mind. Designing for that scale makes the harder to work with, though. I can think of a bunch of your own builds that should be pretty stable and durable.

I try and build with game use in mind. I used to have a build that had arms that would fall off at the slightest breeze until I rebuilt it to be more solid.
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby VitorFaria » Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:09 pm

Blorf wrote:
VitorFaria wrote:Have you tried holding them by the Sensor domes? They're really solid.


Not mine. The domes came off at the slightest provocation.


Just picked up my trusty yellow Commissar on my shelf by the domes and gave it a hardcore shake test.

On the third shake, shaking it really hard, the right arm fell of. :lol:

I once fielded five Commissars or more in the same game and I can assure you this is consistent.

By the way, what do you mean by "came of"? The whole back pack on the jumper plate (which I assumed it was it's weak point, but it looks like the dangling arm is weaker still) or the individual domes?
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby Blorf » Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:49 pm

It failed easily at the single-stud connections of both jumper plates to the Technic brick, and the single-stud connections of the shoulders. I recall that I didn't have the hinge plates used by the domes on hand for the build, which I'm sure contributed to the fragility since it more easily allows lateral movement, but I don't think that explains it fully.
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby VitorFaria » Tue Jan 26, 2016 6:02 pm

I regret nothing!

ImageComissar shake test by Vitor Faria, no Flickr
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby Blorf » Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:38 pm

Ha!

Well, I'm glad it's working out so well for you!
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby VitorFaria » Wed Jan 27, 2016 8:30 am

Maybe I just got some tighter jumpers, I don't know. ;)
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby zeekhotep » Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:18 pm

I talked about this a little back in 09 with a post I called TAG. https://nobsjustabs.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/t-a-g/

One of my favorite "sturdy game pieces" I call the Classic expanded. it is an expanded version of the first ever Mechaton/MFZ frame, the Clasic.

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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby Blorf » Mon Feb 01, 2016 10:35 pm

zeekhotep wrote:I talked about this a little back in 09 with a post I called TAG. https://nobsjustabs.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/t-a-g/
One of my favorite "sturdy game pieces" I call the Classic expanded. it is an expanded version of the first ever Mechaton/MFZ frame, the Clasic.


Thanks for bringing that in, it's a good overview of exactly what this thread is getting at. I'd forgotten about the wobbly table problem, too... I had huge issues with that until I upgraded my dining room table in the last year. Any specifics or techniques you have on how you design for stability and durability would be appreciated also.
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby Hackjob » Thu Feb 25, 2016 9:33 am

Great thread! Sorry it took a little while for me to comment. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

First I wanna say none of these comments are attacks or disses, I'm guilty of many of them, particularly the Cult of the Lone Build and all the foibles that come along with it.

-One thing that I think is good to keep in mind is "how much detail do I really need?" When you are building a frame, set it down about waist hieght and take a step back and look at it, that's about as close as you usually get to a piece during a game. In games with painted models there are usually several levels of painting quality refered to, basecoated/primed, tabletop, and competition (not official just how I remember). A tabletop level army looks SO MUCH better than a primed or bare army, so too will a cohesive force in MF0. Everyone wants a nice looking force, but subtle details tend to fade away with frames and terrain on the field. Full disclosure, my 40k armies are all unpainted.

-Bigger is not always better, but sometimes it is sturdier! I figure if it fits in the 10x10x12 bounding box it's okay for play. I have a company with frames of several different sizes, and I think they look okay togther.

-Some of the technic connections are very solid, for instance, a technic friction pin inside two 1x1 bricks is very similar aesthetically to the implied joint of a 1 dot between two 1x1 bricks, but much more rugged.

-Stickers can be a great way to add detail without making a frame any more fragile/complicated, but I have not delved into this arena yet.

-Consistent systems throughout a force. Not only does it look good, you can use systems to make different frame designs look more cohesive. It also really makes life easier on your opponent (and you to a degree). This is another arena I struggle in.

-If you have a connection that isn't holding but you can't/don't want to change the design, try swapping some of the pieces, they can get worn out, also if you do some sorting you should be able to find pieces that fit better due to mold tolerances, i.e- a slightly larger dot inside a slightly smaller hole.

Blorf wrote:[*]Strengthen the parts with the most stress. Arms and shoulders often need to hold the weight of weapon systems across their joints. with legs, the frame's weight often compresses them together.

x2! think about the tourqe that the joint will be subject to.

Blorf wrote:[*]Avoid single-stud connections. Thin arms can look great, but a 1×1 round at the wrist is often the first place to fall apart.

I don't think single stud connections are too bad, most of the canon frames have more than 1 without problems. This is where you have to think about how the stress is applied (see above).


I hope these are helpfull, if I can think of anything else I'll post some more.
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Re: Practical frame design: game pieces

Postby Blorf » Thu Feb 25, 2016 11:44 am

Thanks for your thoughts! You make some great points.

Hackjob wrote:If you have a connection that isn't holding but you can't/don't want to change the design, try swapping some of the pieces, they can get worn out, also if you do some sorting you should be able to find pieces that fit better due to mold tolerances, i.e- a slightly larger dot inside a slightly smaller hole.

This can have an effect on the longevity of your parts. Particularly 1×1 bricks and slopes like to split apart when subjected to the stress of connections on the tighter end. Maybe that's okay; you'll have to decide for yourself how disposable your parts are.

Hackjob wrote:I don't think single stud connections are too bad, most of the canon frames have more than 1 without problems. This is where you have to think about how the stress is applied (see above).

Agreed. Perhaps it should be revised to "use single-stud connections with care" or something that sounds a little less definitive.

You've also reminded me that the B-028 Deadbolt really needs to be linked somewhere in this thread since I basically built it to meet the exact spec this thread discusses.

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