Author Topic: a new construction system for playmobil...  (Read 17049 times)

Offline socrates

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a new construction system for playmobil...
« on: May 23, 2010, 14:20:15 »
My dear friends, this is a reply to Richard's call STECK DESIGNER WANTED.
I thought a lot about this recently and used these free days to write them all up. It became quite a lot, but I still hope enough people will read it to discuss it afterwards with me. :)

Why a new generation of Playmo Building-Systems?

First of all, they do not really have a building system. They have defined part standards twice (steck and sysX), but I feel like their main intention was to reuse moulds and to ensure a replacement service instead of really introducing a modular system.
But I do believe that such a new system would be a definit win-win situation, for PM as well as for us! PM would be able to bind kids much longer on their toys, just like Lego. These days the kids stop playing with playmobil at younger age than years ago, this is why playmo gets brighter and more comic-like as they start to focus on kids in the range of 5-12 (my son (8) is already made about the new agents theme but kind of did not care about the romans...)...  And we would also benefit from a more free building system:
  • complete set of building parts - not specialized on use in a unique set
  • special themed parts (e.g. a roman atrium, a shopping mall extension set, taj mahal roof parts)
  • modulized basic part system, always on stock (maybe in different colors/textures?!)

I would like to present you my first few ideas on this way and would love to start a discussion here in this thread why and what we would like to change with such a new (overworked) system.

What's wrong with the existing systems?

I spent a lot of time thinking what is the answer to this question. Why would I want to have a new system?!
First of all, this implies there is something wrong with the existing ones.
I guess we should also have an intense discussion on this topic. I suspect several people want to have steck back. But I do not really know why?! Is it for nostalgic reasons? I am looking forward to read your opinion on that!

Well, from my point of view there is not really much that I am missing in both systems.
The only thing is that there are several parts missing/not existing/not available anymore.
Well, and Steck has some sensible parts. The anchors of the floor pieces tend to brake...
On the other hand, SysX sometimes lacks a certain aesthetic, especially due to the SysX-holes.

What else is wrong?
  ???
"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
— Hans Christian Andersen

Offline socrates

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Re: a new construction system for playmobil...
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2010, 14:21:56 »
Steck vs. SysX

Not really different to the point above is maybe the direct comparison between the two systems. Well, But I do not think this is very fruitful and I would wish to keep it out of the discussions in this thread.

Playmofire already made a comprehensive list of the pros and cons of both systems in the initial thread. Here just some comments on that: It is often said that SysX is fiddling to build due to the connectors, but once they are in place, I do not see a big difference in constucting with steck or sysX. I agree though that sysX-part do look a little clumsy compared to steck.

But from a construction point of perspective, I strongly believe there barely is anything you can only build with Steck and that you can't build with SysX.

See the images below: Just as an example, I took two stone wall end pieces, and they really are similar. And a little bit into response to the question why we would need a steck-sysX-connector, I placed a steck stairway next to a sysX-building. Unfortunately, there is no connector to bring both systems together. ;)

Still not convinced? Well, just take a look at these two SysX sets:
4435 - Barbarian Ruin
3269 - Rock Castle

I like them very much as they show, how playmobil already was on its way to completely substitute steck with SysX.
But they left this way by introducing pseudo-steck and macro-pieces that cannot be used as an extension to other SysX-constructions anymore.
Here I think a striking example is the spaniards fortress
4294 - Soldier Fortress with Lighthouse

I was more than happy when I saw this set the first time, but then there was just pure disappointment to see that almost none of the new pieces can be used with old buildings like e.g. 3112 - Naval Stronghold.

Thus, in the following, I will refer to SysX as the system to be extended. They could also reintroduce a renewed Steck-System, but to be honest, I do not see, why they should do it. Right now, while most steck-buildings are discontinued, almost every second set comes with SysX-components, and they really have the cool advantage of these replaceble connectors that basically make them indestrucable. I like that very much!

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
— Hans Christian Andersen

Offline socrates

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Re: a new construction system for playmobil...
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2010, 14:24:27 »
The "mathematics" of SysX or any building system

Well, Richard was asking for a mathematician to solve the problem of a new building system. I don't know if we would not be better of with asking an architect. Well, as a software architect I might incorporate both sides a little bit, so I decided to give it a try:
I came up with three principal points a successful building system should fulfill:
1. completeness
2. scalability
3. universality


1. completeness

I am not sure whether or not this is the right term to be used here, but I am refering here to the basic feature that you should have a building solution for any construction you can imagine. Like with Lego bricks I should be able to basically build everything. Well, lets restrict on buildings though. But this means, I should be able to construct a shopping mall just as well as the taj mahal using the basic parts. It should be possible to place the parts on a certain set of angels and there should be counterparts, as for outer and inner roof corners. So far, several sysX (and steck) building parts are violating the universality of the building system: Lets take for example the set
4400 - Post Office
It includes a new roof system, nice and usable for other buildings also. But the roof is only available with an outer roof panel, dramatically limiting the use of these roof parts. Just the same holds for the connecting strips not only in this set. They are important pieces to stabilize wall elements when not using another base plate element. But it is not possible to build them in complex structures, as there are only two pieces, a straight one and a corner strip. E.g. it is impossible to put them into a simple square as there typically is only one connector in sysX-base plates (see attached sketch).

2. scalability

In short: The small parts together should be like the big parts and a big part should be as being put together by small parts.
Lets stay with the post office. There are base plates in several sizes, here we have a small one and a big base plates. Three of the small ones would result into one big one. But obviously, there are some more holes in the build together than in the big piece. We also have a basic base plate, which is 2x2 units big. Well then, the scalable parts would need to look like in my attached sketch. With much more holes that finally would enable to place walls in all possible configurations.

Okay, it is obvious why there are less holes on the big boards: Because all these holes look ugly. I agree. But without these holes it is not scalable. To solve this for SysX or a new system, I suggest to design some new connectors that allo "half" connectors to fill the holes. Like the toasts are doing in steck buildings. I also sketched them. Simply, add a little relief and place the connecting moulds a little deeper into the surface. Then a new connector can attach there.
The cool thing about my idea and these new connectors is that you basically could use all your old sysX parts and combine them into the new system just by exchanging the connectors. :) 

3. universality

This is a key feature that made playmobil a success in the first place. Each constuction worker could become an indian or a knight could become a cowboy etc. Well, sadly enough, the klickies are not like that anymore, but this is off-topic for now. ;)
Universality is reached to some degrees, but the designers at playmobil should focus much more on this principal feature, as this is what makes a knights fan to buy a zoo set. Here are some examples and ideas to this point: Definitely get rid of these huge parts. Well, it might be difficult to set up a castle then, but, hey, kids learn a lot of statics by building up a castle and they have great common time (on christmas, birthday or other occasions) with their parents! I think, this rather an advantage than a drawback, buildings should not be fully setup in ten minutes!!! I stressed this set before, but take another look at the beautiful rock castle: There are some great parts in it like this connector or this archway, but on the other hand there are parts that completely undermine the universality of the building, see e.g. the tower top, a perfectly missed opportunity to introduce a nice set of castle wall tops, and of course this crazy piece... (I am out of words for this one)

Well, but they also had some good ideas, e.g. the universal cabinets, also found in the post office set. You can extend them easily into a treasure chamber, a butchers shop shelve or simply as a cabinet in your police station. This is a great universality and this could be further extended with DS-equipement to fill your shelves (like they did with the sets butcher barber and barber shop).
Also, they already offer great extensions. But they should not be limited to set extensions. Rather they should extend them e.g. to a roof piece assortment, bags with connectors, a bag with sysX pieces useful to setup roman civilian buildings...
If they restrict themselve on a unique system, they can reuse several sets for these themes. I am especially thinking of the new holiday home and the new zoo. It would be so cool to have sets in the DS to extend the holiday home to a ancient roman house and the asian zoo buildings into something historical asian. :)

So, this should be all for now! :)

Looking forward reading your thoughts on that.

best,
socrates
:egypt:
« Last Edit: May 23, 2010, 14:30:39 by socrates »
"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
— Hans Christian Andersen

Offline socrates

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Re: a new construction system for playmobil...
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2010, 14:29:05 »
uuuhhh, ahhh, one final remark:
I do think now that we definitely can only make suggestions. Coming up with a flawless and complete new building system would be a huge project.  ::)

Whatever we are doing here, there has to go a lot more brain into it before playmo is coming up with a new product. But still I would be happy to have contributed... ;D

This is why I tried to keep everything as minimal invasive as possible.  :)

best,
socrates
"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
— Hans Christian Andersen

Offline Wolf Knight

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Re: a new construction system for playmobil...
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2010, 15:11:45 »
Hello Socrates!!! Great work you have done here!!! You certainly kept yourself busy!!!!

Very important ideas and questions you raise in this thread! I like your organisation and you suggestions!
The more we are geeting into this the more I realise its not possible to connect steck and system x without changing the molds, or creating new one...and probably that is what needs to done is the two systems mix together! And true, for a system x lover new functional pieces must be produced.

As for why some of us love steck so much and want to see it hit the selves again:

Firstly, true it is for nostalgic reasons.

Secondly, it is the greatest building system with immensely endless possibilities of extending, recreating, customising, expanding, a structure (mainly a medivel one)

Thirdly, there are many pieces that were designed just once or twice (and used just once or twice) that fit great into projects and are not produced anymore...pieces that can help in these customisations or recreations...

Fourthly, many adult collectors will buy the newly produced steck sets, or the add-ons from DS, and their money will go strait to playmobil, not to ridiculus expensive priced sellers on ebay!!!

Other than that, I am happy with all the newer versions of playmobil building! I likes system x and could actually combine (in a limited way thats true) more than one 3112 naval stronghold to create a bigger one.... Or used three sets of western system x fortresses to build a bigger western fortress...more rooms, more buildings, more klickies to put on!

Finally, I love the lihthouse and the dragoland sets as they can stand out as something unique....

So my conclusions are 1. If we still want to combine the two systems playmobil must find a new mold that can combine both 2. reproduce older steck pieces for steck lovers 3. produce different and more functional parts for system x and make it easier for paretns and children!

Offline playmo1989

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Re: a new construction system for playmobil...
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2010, 17:10:22 »
great work socrates !!!!! personally i don't like sysx because if you take it apart it is difficult to bult it again withought the instuctions and also the  " holes" that the buildings have is the worst thing , i like the steck because many medieval and succesfull toys have been many with this system about these new system that the dragonland and the new castles are made look like for little kids i don'tknow things about them because i don't have any but i look at the  toys and the buildings that i don't like , i'am open to a new system that we will all love and appretiate that you will make, or will   make the start  :wow: :wow: :wow: :wow: :wow:
The spirits rule !!!!

Offline socrates

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Re: a new construction system for playmobil...
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2010, 20:56:16 »
As for why some of us love steck so much and want to see it hit the selves again:

Firstly, true it is for nostalgic reasons.

Secondly, it is the greatest building system with immensely endless possibilities of extending, recreating, customising, expanding, a structure (mainly a medivel one)

Thirdly, there are many pieces that were designed just once or twice (and used just once or twice) that fit great into projects and are not produced anymore...pieces that can help in these customisations or recreations...

Fourthly, many adult collectors will buy the newly produced steck sets, or the add-ons from DS, and their money will go strait to playmobil, not to ridiculus expensive priced sellers on ebay!!!

So my conclusions are 1. If we still want to combine the two systems playmobil must find a new mold that can combine both 2. reproduce older steck pieces for steck lovers 3. produce different and more functional parts for system x and make it easier for paretns and children!

Wolf Knight, thank you for your thoughtful reply.
I just disagree with point 4: Playmobil will not get rich by rereleasing old steck sets again. They do not calculate in magnitudes of thousand, but when they start their machines, typically they produce hundreds of thousands of pieces. And this is far bigger than our community. And speaking of a construction system, they would even have to mould new steck pieces to make it a universal building system.  Don't get me wrong, I do like steck. I do not really care whether I build with steck or sysX, but honestly, I just see it much more realistic to pimp sysX into something like steck 3.0 instead of complaining to playmobil about that we want to have steck back. ;)

And to go back to the topic of this thread: Do you really think, the possibilities are "endless" (as you said in point 2), or is there anything were you would think, they could improve something? Make a crucial, so far missing part?!

best,
socrates
"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."
— Hans Christian Andersen

Offline playmo1989

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Re: a new construction system for playmobil...
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2010, 21:27:18 »
do these new castles sell?? i mean if people buy them? why they stopped producing steck in the years they didn't sell so much?
The spirits rule !!!!

Offline Wolf Knight

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Re: a new construction system for playmobil...
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2010, 21:44:28 »
Wolf Knight, thank you for your thoughtful reply.
I just disagree with point 4: Playmobil will not get rich by rereleasing old steck sets again. They do not calculate in magnitudes of thousand, but when they start their machines, typically they produce hundreds of thousands of pieces. And this is far bigger than our community. And speaking of a construction system, they would even have to mould new steck pieces to make it a universal building system.  Don't get me wrong, I do like steck. I do not really care whether I build with steck or sysX, but honestly, I just see it much more realistic to pimp sysX into something like steck 3.0 instead of complaining to playmobil about that we want to have steck back. ;)

And to go back to the topic of this thread: Do you really think, the possibilities are "endless" (as you said in point 2), or is there anything were you would think, they could improve something? Make a crucial, so far missing part?!

best,
socrates


Good and strong points there socrates!
Once they start those machines, as you said, they will not care who buys them...and they are a toy making company after all. Design and themes change with the demands of time, society, culture... and a parent must not get a huge headache when helping his or her son or daughter with assembly!
Still, i'd like to know that when i go into a toystore i can get out with two or three steck castles...Or contact ds and get a great collection of add ons that are not into main production any more...

What i would like to see improved in steck castles are the floors and a four way connector must be introduced!!! It would be easier for custom designing...and for the structure design and building itself.

As for the endless posibilities, i'll attach two pictures i saw in this forum and kept them for future reference! Terribly sorry from the people who post them in the first place but i cannot remember where i saw them...


Offline playmo1989

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Re: a new construction system for playmobil...
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2010, 21:55:27 »
wow that is a castle !!!!!!!!  the man must be an achitect or something
The spirits rule !!!!