Inside LEGO Star Wars BOOST 75253 Droid Commander

LEGO Star Wars BOOST 75253 Droid Commander allows fans to bring LEGO R2-D2 to life, but it took design experts at the LEGO Group to devise this unique set

There is no LEGO Star Wars set like BOOST 75253 Droid Commander. This coding set contains the bricks to build three different droids along with the BOOST hub and motors. By downloading a companion app, fans can play through a LEGO Star Wars adventure while building their own working droids.

LEGO Senior Experience Designer Steve Geist worked with LEGO Senior Model Designer Carl Merriam on this product, with the pair determined to have a seamless experience between the set and the software. Steve sat down with Brick Fanatics to share an insight into the development process.

Do you focus on the look of the droid first or the functionality?

You kind of go through cycles, you build one droid and it’s more about getting it to look right and how you want some of the building elements to come together, then you build the next one and it’s just the function, there is no head, there’s no anything, just legs and movement and figuring out what angles you need. It’s just kind of going back and forth on that and just cycling around. Carl’s such a wonderful brilliant model designer, he also did the Saturn V rocket, so he’s just super talented and we got a lot of great support from everybody, just to make it come together and everything.

How did you get the Gonk droid’s walking function so accurate to the film?

Another model designer in our area, Jørn K. Thomsen, he has been at LEGO since 1990 or something, he has worked on a lot of the Space stuff, M-Tron, Space Police and he has been on some of the interactive products like this for a while. He worked on EV3 and we actually in NXT and this is actually a very similar walking function to one of the NXT walking droids. We were able to steal the brilliance of Jørn to get him to walk and all of the final functions that we’re using are actually his designs.

We were having issues with how R2 was folding and unfolding and we wanted to make it as simple as possible, using as few motors as possible and he came up with this whole gravity solution that just works. Then he really helped us simplify the internal function of the door opening and the shooter in the front, he had a huge impact on the way the functions actually came together… he’s just a brilliant LEGO designer that sits quietly and builds all day.

Can you tell us about a couple of your favorite missions that these droids can do?

The Gonk’s hero arms are a saw blade and a drill arm, he has a shooter and it’s just super fun just because he just looks like he’s just going to destroy everybody. Then you turn him on and you’re like, “oh you’re just a goofy guy”.

We have some very game centric ones, getting R2 to help you fly an X-wing is also one that I am super looking forward to being out there and having people experience. We have been able to play with certain missions, really focusing on getting kids to understand the coding aspects, but then certain missions are about how much play can we get out of this system.

LEGO Star Wars 75253 BOOST Droid Commander interview 2

Did you take any learnings from the LEGO Star Wars video games, for the feel of the experience?

Yeah. My personal journey coming to LEGO is an interesting one. Obviously as a kid I was a huge fan of playing my own LEGO Star Wars before LEGO Star Wars came out, building my X-wings from all of my Classic Space stuff.
Then I went through my dark period, but that was right around the time that LEGO Star Wars products started coming out and what actually brought me back into it was the TT LEGO Star Wars games, that is what got me re-engaged in the brand.

That led me to a path of earning a Master’s degree in Digital Entertainment Design around video games. When I was in that program I set a goal, I am going to go to LEGO, that is what I want to do. I was fortunate enough to be able to get here and, so yes, absolutely, the LEGO Star Wars games have had a huge effect on everything. The tone of voice that the TT Games brought is what LEGO tone of voice is today – so absolutely.

Is there an opportunity within the product for users to do their own coding, not linked to the missions?

Yeah, we have actually added something that the BOOST experience didn’t have, a kind of ‘mission complete’ stage. As you complete the different missions you unlock more and more, when you build the droids they follow you throughout the whole experience and you always have access once you unlock it to free coding for the droids. All the coding blocks that you have unlocked for that particular droid will be available for you to play your own thing.

Then you also have a remote control panel and the remote control panel will handle this completely customisable experience where you can change the code behind it, so if you go into the coding canvas you can attach whatever string you want to those buttons and code them up. Once you get past a certain stage, the Sandcrawler opens up and that is your absolute open free coding. You have access to what we call atomic level blocks – they’re the base controls so it is motors spinning and time and all of that.

Read more:
LEGO Star Wars BOOST 75253 Droid Commander: Developing Droids
LEGO Star Wars BOOST 75253 Droid Commander: Delivering an experience
Designing LEGO Star Wars BOOST 75253 Droid Commander

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Graham was the Editor up until November 2020. He has plenty of experience working on LEGO related projects. He has contributed to various websites and publications on topics including niche hobbies, the toy industry and education. Follw Graham on Twitter @grahamh100.

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