After playing through Metroid Prime in the Metroid Prime Trilogy I decided to make a Metroid Morphball. You can find photos of the end result on my flickr page. I had an interview with the people at Conglometroid, the text of which is preserved here.
Conglometroid: Please tell us a little about yourself? What got you into metroid?
About me? Well I’m a recent college grad who likes doing everything. Aside from my 3/4 time job I work on my photography, sewing, my computers, baking, reading, writing, drawing, woodworking, video games and the internet.
I got into metroid when I was in middle school. My cousins owned Super Metroid and knew the game forward and backwards. They actually had a game with 101% (I guess most people don’t realize there is an extra missile tank in the game.) They let me and my siblings borrow the game and we left it in our Super Nintendo, which erased their data… … …So I really got into metroid when Metroid Prime came out.
My love of metroid games is two fold, well, maybe three fold. I love the imagery. I love the alien planet. I love the world that was created, it intrigues me and I want to explore it. The other thing I love about metroid is the music. I have a handful of favorite metroid songs that I could listen to for hours on end. Torvus Bog from Prime 2 and the OCREMIX Torvus Clockwork by darkesword are two of my favorites, although there are several more.
I also love metroids. I think they are cute. If I could have a metroid as a pet, I totally would. I don’t sympathize with the Space Pirate’s lifestyle but I dig their taste in pets.
Conglometroid: You made a metroid morph ball model. That’s quite impressive. What inspired this creation?
Well, this isn’t my first metroid project, so some of the inspiration came from the other things I have done. I’ve had some ideas floating around in my head for a while.
C: That’s Right, you made some metroid hats, metroid plushies, and also that glowing mushroom.
Right. The Saturnine mushroom. I can’t take full credit for the hats, I actually found the plans on metroidhats.com. The mushroom was a tan replica made of resin that my mom was going to throw away. I rescued it and gave it a paint job.
C: When did you make the decision to do this?
I was playing Metroid Prime after I got the Trilogy and I started thinking about Samus’ morph ball. The morph ball has always intrigued me and so I started searching for a model online. I assumed by now, someone had made a morph ball replica, but I couldn’t find one. So I knew that I had to make one.
C: How much planning went into a project like this? Did you just go to the store and start working or did you go through a few design phases?
This project was about one to two months in the making. It was really a mix of planning and doing. The first thing I did was go to Pet Expo and buy a seven inch hamster ball, which actually looked a lot like a morph ball to begin with.
From that point on I started looking around for material, mostly at second hand stores. Early on, I found a tap-lite which had a translucent spiral top. It looked exactly like what I wanted. I took it home and put it in my creation. It was perfect. Unfortunately I only had one of them.
C: So you didn’t draw up any plans or schematics on what you needed, you just played things by sight?
Right. When I searched the internet for morph ball models, I also searched for morph ball photos or screenshots. They are surprisingly hard to come by. In the end I wanted some photos of the Phazon suit in morph ball mode. I downloaded part of a speed run so I could see it, but that wasn’t good enough for quality. I had just moved on to MP2 on the Trilogy, so I got out my GameCube and took some photos of my television.
C: The morph ball is designed after the spiderball model. Any particular reason why you chose that one over the default?
When I first got the idea for the morphball I was midway through Metroid Prime. By the time I decided to do it I had finished the game, so that model was what I had in my mind. What really intrigued me about the design was the lights. I like things that light up and glow. I toyed (and still am toying) with the idea of doing a more classic model or perhaps a darksuit model, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get there.
C: Now you say you wanted photos of the Phazon suit, but your actual model has three colors of light inside it. What made you decide to do this?
My favorite suit is the Varia suit. I love the green glow it has. When I first started, that’s the photo I had in mind. But as I began working on it, I wanted something with more versatility. When I showed a friend my initial design, he mentioned that he loved the Phazon suit and that was the coolest one there is. So I started looking for three-color LED lights.
C: So all three colors are produced by the same bulb?
Yes. I put four led lights in there and each one can be red, green or blue.
C: Going back to the building process, you said you started with a seven inch hamster ball, but the final product is smaller than seven inches.
That is correct. I’m actually on hamster ball number two now. I decided to switch for two reasons. First off, I ruined my initial attempt by trying to use a sander on it. My dad has drill bits that can be used for sanding and when I used them they actually melted the plastic and made black marks on the parts that were suppose to be clear. I really didn’t like the result.
Secondly, the seven inch ball was glued together at the seam. When I found the five inch ball it was (still is) held together with four screws. This means I can take it apart without cutting it, which made it much nicer to work with.
C: So you kinda had to start everything over again.
Yes. I didn’t like the paint that I was using. I tried to spay paint the black to the inside, but it didn’t stick well and even the special plastic paint I got didn’t seem to be as opaque as I would like.
C: What did you end up using instead?
The inside is all hot glue and caulk.
C: Hot glue and caulk?
Using the outside of the ball for a model, I made the inner concave spiral out of hot glue. That allowed me to make my own spiral design and have it be translucent for light to shine through.
I then used aquarium caulk to make the clear lines along the inside of the ball. This was translucent enough to see through, but distorted the light so that the inner working would be hidden.
I found a black caulk in the auto department of Walmart, which is what I used for the opaque sections of the ball.
C: How did you go about painting the black caulk for the opaque sections?
I just cut the tip of the tube and squeezed it on. I did the clear parts first so I just had to fill in the gaps. I then used a small screwdriver to move the caulk around to the smaller areas. It was also handy in clearing out air bubbles and such.
C: What was the most difficult part of the project?
Overall the lighting was the hardest part to achieve.
C: And how did you pull that off?
I bought my three color LEDs off of ebay. I then had to find a 4 position switch. I needed a position for off, red, green and blue. I ended up buying a single switch from a site called Digi-key for about $1.50. I payed something like $2 for shipping and they sent me this inch long switch in the huge box. It was quite amusing.
I had a problem with the lights at first because I was bending the wires too far. One of the lights stopped lighting up green and only did blue and red. I had to fix the lights to a circuit board so that I didn’t damage them as I soldered.
C: Did you actually create a circuit board for this then?
No. I thought about it, but it was more work than I required. I just needed something to keep the wires straight and uncrossed. I drilled my little holes and pushed the wires through. I then soldered the wires on and used hot glue to keep everything in place.
C: And it’s all powered by two triple a batteries?
C: You have quite the vision. Do you plan on making more of these?
I’m not sure yet. I still have some supplies and I would like to see if I can improve my design a bit, but I don’t know how much time I’ll be willing to devote to it. I know of a few people who might be willing to buy one, so I’m tempted to make one for them, but I’m not sure if I actually will or not.
C: Is there anything you would suggest to someone planning to do a project similar to this?
Wow, so much I could say. First off, plan. The more you plan the better the project will turn out. Secondly, don’t be afraid to sleep on an idea for awhile. I actually thought about this project for a week or two before I actually did anything. Shop around and ask around. As soon as I knew I was going to do this I started looking around. I took a number of trips to second hand stores just to see what they had available. Don’t just look for material, look for inspiration. Ask around as well. I actually went and talked with a local high school art teacher I knew to get ideas and to brainstorm. Plan to make mistakes. Almost from the beginning I knew that the first hamster ball I bought would not be my final result, but I needed something to play with. I needed to find out what would work and what would not work.
Perhaps most importantly though, is be sure to finish. Give yourself a deadline if you have to. Just don’t give up, even if it seems a bit tedious at times.
C: To date what project have you done(metroid or other) that you are most proud of?
I would have to say that the project I am most proud of is a photography project I did this spring. I called it “Liquidated Laptops.” This project took months to complete. It started with an idea that I slept on for about two months before I was finally ready to put it into action. What really made this project special for me was that I did a timed release at the Macheist forums where I got amazing feedback.
C: What’s your favorite metroid game and why?
That would have to be a tossup between Metroid Prime and Super Metroid. I’m much better at Metroid Prime. (Especially now that it has good controls with the Wii-mote.) But I do love Super Metroid as well. I’m still looking for that last missile upgrade so I can have 101%… I do like the side scrolling adventures (Donkey Kong Country as well). Both games have good music and really captivate my curiosity and interest.
C: So what is your next project going to be?
Well, I have a number of projects I’m working on at the moment, none of which are metroid related. I’m actually still playing through MP2 (that game just doesn’t hold me interest like the first one.) I’m just going to wait and see what inspires me next.
C: Thanks for taking the time to answer so many questions, any final thoughts for the readers?
I would just encourage everyone to do a project every now and then. It doesn’t even have to be metroid related. (Although it would be sweet if it was.) Let your creativity go and see what you can do.