Building with blocks is in these days. Ever since the release of a certain little game, Minecraft, building structures on your computer screen has become a delightful and time-consuming pass time that, in all honesty, is addicting beyond belief.
Long before that game came into our lives, there were Legos; you remember Legos, don’t you? Today, we will review a rather obscure application known as the Lego Digital Designer. With plenty of bricks and pieces to play with, this official Lego application isn’t a game, LDD is only a create-your-own-lego-thing app. Does the app warrant a download, though? Let’s put the pieces together and find out! (Pun definitely intended.)
Lego Digital Designer Overview
Released in 2004, Lego Digital Designer, or LDD, is a free application designed to let you create your own custom Lego models with virtual Lego bricks. Since then, the application has received a wide variety of updates like the ability to choose from every Lego piece imaginable and the power to create your own MINSTORMS and Technic robots.
LDD’s coolest feature used to be Design byMe, though. The Design byMe service gave you the ability to buy the real version of your creation. Unfortunately, Lego axed the service earlier last year. Having said that, Lego has promised that they will come up with a new way to do this in the future, so until then, one has to use the Pick a Brick service.
Lego Digital Designer Presentation
At first glance, LDD looks like a rather old application compared to some of the latest, more sleek-looking apps we are use to. Don’t let that discourage you. LDD has a very simple and easy-to-learn UI that’ll get you started from scratch (or from templates) in no time – don’t expect the bricks and pieces to have amazing graphics though, they don’t look like Lego’s recent video games at all, sadly.
Blocky graphics aside, LDD’s UI is divided in three simple areas: the upper header where all your tools are, the left-hand tabbed area where all your bricks and pieces are located, and the main center area where all the fun happens. This simple layout allows you to concentrate on building your masterpiece.
Designing with Lego Digital Designer
Once you build up your confidence with LDD, you will learn that designing with LDD is simple; albeit, not as intuitive or fun as a certain first-person video game, but robust and easy enough to be used by anyone.
The first thing most people will do is pick a brick; bricks can be rotated in all directions with your arrow keys and then placed anywhere on the canvas. When you get into it though, placing bricks on top of other bricks can sometimes be a little hard to do. This probably gets easier as you get use to designing models, but until then, you will have to play around with your brick in a 3D space to get the brick right where you want it, specially if they are darker in color.
Rotating the 3D space is very simple and not disorienting at all, so when you are building your models, getting the perfect angle is easy. It is good to note that there is no panning tool that you can use to, well, pan your view. This makes it tricky to focus on something you really want to work with. You can double right-click on a piece to center it on the canvas, though. Still, a panning tool would make life much easier.
Once you have finished your first project, you have the option to put your creation on View mode. View mode places your 3D creation in a different background. You can cycle through backgrounds and then take a screenshot. These backgrounds aren’t very pretty; they look very low-res, but they do make the bricks stand out.
As you work on your model, a third mode will become available. This mode is called the Building Guide mode. As you may imagine, the Building Guide mode creates a building guide (shocker, I know) of your model. This guide can be used when you receive your pieces. The guide is animated, so recreating your model would be a piece of cake. You can also save an HTML version of your guide. Pretty neat, right?
Note on Design byMe and LDD’s Relation
Although the Design byMe service is no longer available, it is possible to order bricks through the Pick a Brick service. That seems like a lot of hassle, don’t you think?
We know Lego has said that they are working on a revision of the service to make it better, but there should be a better, less-complicated way to buy the pieces you need to build your model. They could simply have a code generated by the application that you can then input into the Pick a Brick service and get all the bricks you need.
Not being able to currently do this, does take away from the overall experience of the application. While Pick a Brick is available, If you have the pieces needed to create your model laying around, why would you build your model in the computer in the first place?
Lego has created a simple application that you can use to create just about anything you can think of. Even though there is no Design byMe service at the time, this can help those Lego enthusiast out there create something beautiful, and know exactly what they need to buy in order to assemble the real version at home. The app is free, too, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t give it a try.
Want more Lego fun? Then try out the Lego web app that we reviewed on our sister site Web.AppStorm recently!