My 'growing up' nostalgia period stretches from the late 70's to early 90's. When my of my friends showed me a ZOID for the first time, it didn't take long for me to run and buy one. He had the wine red Spiderzoid (Legz / Tarantulon), but it had been replaced by the whitehead version by the time I got mine.
ZOID and LEGO should get married.
I got a few more ZOIDS from a local mom and pop toy store. An old couple ran it, and the shelves were something of a 'smörgåsbord' for kids. My ZOID collection came to an unfortunate end when the old man hammer murdered his wife. That's what I heard through the grapewine anyways. Some boring real estate agency moved into the building after that. Game Over :(
I remember being rather unsuccessful at modding my ZOIDS. A construction system would be fun, but the engineering is a lot of work, and can make things look too... built and fragmented. Such a system would likely mean losing the windup mechanisms, though as an adult I care less about those. Posable figures are more interesting.
The main thing I want to do with this project is to work on a fleshed out setting based on the early ZOID designs, maybe fiddle with a comic. Diorama pieces can really bring the models to life so I want to design a few sets too.
There are two or more ZOID background stories and I'm leaning towards primarily using the EU/UK setting as a basis for this project, but I might use parts of the Japanese stories and commercials too. I don't quite understand how the animé stories relate to each other, though I've seen them all.
To the left, an illustration from 'ZOIDS Annual' (Marvel Comics / Grandreams, 1986) showing the antagonistic relation ship of Gold and Silver androids. Because I'm changing a lot of the old ZOID designs, I should consider doing a reboot or mirror universe sort of thing, something based off the archetype idea.
In the old EU ZOID comics, an alien race of warmongers called Zoidaryans built the ZOIDS and used them to conquer a thousand worlds (Earth excluded). Having run out of challenges, they fought amongst themselves until their population dwindled. They then built the gold and silver androids to pilot the ZOIDS, so the fighting could continue. Something went wrong (or right, since the fight did continue), and the Zoidarians perished, perhaps at the hand of the uncaring androids. What happened to their colonies is unclear, but the Zoidarians must've all been gathered at Zoidstar, their doomed home world.
In the Japanese battle stories, the ZOIDS were initially mechanical life forms living on the planet Zi. A race of humanoids lived alongside the ZOIDS, and the ZOIDS were soon tamed and augmented, growing in size and power. I think the Helic republic (blue ZOIDS, gold pilots) formed first, and the Zenebas empire (red ZOIDS, silver pilots) broke out of that. These factions are now a thing of the past, as Zi has seen several epochs of great turmoil.
I like the idea of ZOIDS being ancient and persistent, trampling the ruins of civilizations past underfoot. It's tempting to tell my story from the start (long ago... and then... and now...) (I will of course have to flesh out the backstory beforehand) but storytelling-wise I think it's more effective to use something like the shadows from Plato's Cave to hint at things.
The reader would learn about the setting with the group of protagonists, who are followed briefly as they live their daily lives in some school, town or workplace. Something is weird about their world (cave) and some of them grow suspicious. They boldly go, and discover the world outside - a lifeless wasteland full of warring ZOIDS. They are threatened and decide to fight, initially just to resolve a conflict, correct some injustice, or secure their home.
Little do they know they are simply another weapon developed by a patient being who seeks to upset the balance of the never ending war of the androids (possibly one of the factions). As a twist, perhaps a few "erratic" androids are growing aware of their situation, like a few of them did in the old UK comics. I'd also like to introduce a few other factions, like a relatively primitive one which could serve as a measurement stick against the power of the ZOIDS.
The ZOIDS themselves are persistent, and their pilots unimaginative, which is why the conflict has lasted for so long. Perhaps a ZOID core can lay dormant for long periods (self repairing as needed.), and build a ZOID body when the conditions are right. I've seen some old Japanese material which suggests that the early ZOIDS were life forms based around a ZOID core which can grow a body if submerged into water, and I want to explore that avenue. Some of the anime episodes suggests that the newer ZOIDS can be scratch built though.
For my setting I'd like to use ZOID cores which grow under water ("underground spawning pools"?), perhaps by gathering up minerals. This is also how they can be repaired. Different kind of ZOID cores grow different kind of ZOIDS. A core could contain instructions for multiplying, and growing into a few permutations. As the story progresses old buried cores of lost ZOIDS can be found (similar to the Standard Template Constructs of 40K).
The environment is ZOIDS is traditionally Mad-Max'y, perhaps because it's easier to animate movement across wastelands. Traces of a lost older civilization is hinted at using scattered ziggurats and ancient ZOID wrecks. It can be revealed that the ZOIDS appeared (dug up or came from space) and the Silver androids ended the war in such a bad way that it took 50 000 years for it to recover. During this time, the planet recovered a little before the conflict started again.
Many ruins are still standing because there isn't much rain, air or weather, and there are no plants breaking things apart in the ruin zones where life was hit hardest. A lot of the surviving building seem to have been reinforced, suggesting that the inhabitants were aware of their impending doom. Ruins (with windows) are great for providing a provide a sense of scale, and nice fighting environments. Car wrecks, human sized figures, and trees are also great for providing scale, as long as the ZOIDS aren't too large. I prefer the older smaller ones for this reason.
ZOIDS are often dinosaur themed, so a prehistoric flora is suitable. Much of the flora was actually lost during the last extinction event 50 000 years ago. The planet is now sparely populated by tough larger plants, such as trees. Due to the poor atmosphere and general lack of water, plants grow slowly with many being thousands of years old.
The temperature on the planet varies with longitude. Both the hot equatorial zone and cold polar caps are void of life. Since the axis of the planet isn't tilted much, the planet has no seasons to speak of. This stable climate have contributed to the preservation of many ancient sites.
Only a few larger species of animal life survived the extintion. One of these species was a highly adaptive form of shrimp-like creature. Due to the lack of competition, this species was given space to blossom and quickly branched out to cover many niches.
Diorama background can add a lot to a toy. Things I tried to keep in mind doing the concept below: A background can not be so detailed that it camouflages the foreground object. A light color can promote silhouette readability. Modularity is always nice. Flat transparent dust covers (plastic) would work well with a blocky piece. The setting should be open to allow light to flow in. Little guys, consoles, vehicles and crates can provide smaller ground details which offer scale and context. The setting should have some kind of sensible function, and ideally every detail should offer something and not just be greeble (random detailing).
The gold androids (Helic model) recruited a bunch of aliens to fight on their side. Maybe the planet we're on in the story is getting visitors from time to time. The silver androids could have damaged gold's reproductive capabilities when they last fought 50 000 years ago. I'm leaning towards having a bunch of reverse engineered humans on their side, since the other aliens are not humanoid enough or suitable as pilots. These humans require very little oxygen and nourishment (perhaps having an internal supply) and can perhaps survive even decapitation. Who knows what happened to the real humans...
I'm the most happy with the Glidoler update here, being a bit VF-16. I don't like these (now old) character designs. I've made some new ones, seen below.
Garius... taken away from the reptilian origins.
2013 iteration, I think it's coming together. Trying to give each part of the thing some interesting articulation or feature. The cockpit/head should be a little mecha in itself. There could be versions with wings, legs, wheels... they pop off and function as escape capsules.
2016: Zenebas characters and another Garius with slightly tweaked legs. I think I'll draw a Zoidarian(?) from the old ZOIDS trailers at some point. They are blue skinned with a sort of scythe on the helmet. The robots will be cannon fodder / red shirts, though some turn into quirky characters because of emergence over time. The artificial humans act as squad leaders. Similar to the ZOIDS, they too are grown/manufactured from a limited standard template, with some variation. As many warrior templates were lost over the ages, diversity has decreased. Maybe only maintenance units remain now, and this has somewhat changed the nature of the conflict, along with general resource depletion.
2014: Stag loader.
The silver androids (Zenebas model) like to use dirty tactics to win, and are much more prone to extreme measures. They use the wine red RoboStrux color scheme because red is evil, right?
The Copper androids are an offshoot from the Silver androids. They used heat tolerant bug inspired ZOIDS to trek across the equatorial hot zone, and eventually made it to the southern haven. That, or they are just grunts working under the Silvers. I think their Copper color works with the wine red, whilst the Silver color works better with the teals, but I might be imagining things.
Eventually the Zoidian spectres are discovered. They're robots which carry the mind of a Zoidian, or not. They use initially use a graceful recon ZOID, but later reveal a large mean creation.
ZOIDS have a life on their own, but wild ZOIDS are still a rumor. Wild ZOIDS could be based on mammals (elephants, gorillas, wolves).
A primitive indigenous species could be used to demonstrate how powerful a ZOID is compared to regular tanks and such.
I like these ZOIDS because of aesthetic or nostalgic reasons.