Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Genre

We've talked about it before, but one of the things we're really excited about is mixing different genres in our parts system. Our stretch goals for genre expansions have only just begun, but we're already really thrilled about what they will mean for people who use our service. As anyone who plays, say, a space western or a sci-fi fantasy knows, finding miniatures for those rarer genre overlaps can be difficult. This is even more true for the world-builders out there who have developed original and creative setting with all kinds of exciting or outlandish elements pulled from various genres. Though we expect that just about everyone who buys minis will be excited about the prospect of customizing them, the audiences we think will most benefit will be the ones that simply didn't have many, if any, options before.

That said, we've already unlocked three stretch goals, including a genre expansion that we've been especially looking forward to: sci-fi. Two stretch goals away is the next genre expansion: western. Our awesome backers, and potential backers, have been really vocal about what genres they want us to include, and what order they'd like to see them added. Some people have asked why we've chosen the order we have thus far. Sci-fi is clearly the next biggest genre, but why western? 

It was a matter of synergy. Though there may indeed be a good number of folks out there who play in a straight-up, non-fantastical western world, we're more interested in enriching a user's choices when it comes to adding western-flavor of other genres. Western is a fantastic seasoning for fantasy (Elven revolvers, dwarven blunderbusses, desert towns run by orcish law-men) or sci-fi (space cowboys!). Basically, western includes all kinds of stylistic elements that we think people will want to see included in their worlds.

So what's next? You'll have to stay tuned to find out! Though I expect you won't have to wait too long...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Funded in under 72 hours...!

Wow. Just wow.

I knew the gaming community was one of the most active, vocal, and passionate groups out there, but this really drives it home. We've reached our base funding goal in under three days. And we barely had a chance to savor that before flying right through stretch goal #1 AND #2! One more time: wow.

The poll for the fifth race to be added to the stretch goal #1 was locked in after only one night of voting--certainly shows us that we shouldn't underestimate how eager people are to see this project succeed! We'll have to give the next one a little more time! For those of you who didn't vote, it was a close call between the elemental humanoids and the goblins, but elemental humanoids clenched it! I, for one, am especially excited about this, and even more excited to see these races come to life in the hands of our amazing artists.

The second stretch goal, mounted miniatures, was also met quite quickly! I knew people would be thrilled to get their mini both mounted and not--we're really happy to get to provide this option, especially since it is something that we're uniquely equipped to do better than other mini companies. We have a print of this fellow on the left on its way to us, and you can bet we'll include it in an update as soon as we get the opportunity. 

And stretch goal #3, the science fiction genre pack, looks like it will be met before too long as well! Again, I really can't help but be humbled and amazed by how supportive our backers have been. As I mentioned ages ago: this is a project that we simply couldn't have done without Kickstarter and without a passionate community behind it. I get the feeling that the magnitude of that community's support has only just started to be revealed, and on behalf of our team, I want to say just how eager we are to do you proud! Stay tuned for more updates!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kickstarter Pledge Tiers!

UPDATE: Add-ons!
Interested in getting additional figures when we launch? Great news! With Add-ons, you can custom tailor your pledge to receive exactly the number of minis you want!



How to select add-ons:
  • Go to the Hero Forge Kickstarter page.
  • Press the "Manage Your Pledge" button.
  • You will be shown a list of the pledge tiers we offer. Without changing your pledge tier, simply increase your pledge amount by the total number of add-ons you'd like.
  • At the end of the campaign, you will be contacted to verify which add-ons you have opted to receive.

NOTE: Kickstarter does not allow a project to provide more then ten (10) of something as a reward, so steer clear of attempting to add more than a combined total of ten miniatures or statuettes (combined).


This is a more in-depth description of our pledge tiers, including commentary, tangents, and more in-depth descriptions! Note that all pledge tiers including shipping and handling, unless you live outside of the United states, in which case you’ll pay a bit extra for shipping.

$1
—SCOUT—
  • Be added to our mailing list and receive exciting e-mail updates of our progress and additions.
  • NOTES: This tier is for people who are excited about minis, interested in new applications of 3D printing, or simply want to show their support for our project.


$20
—PATRON—

  • Receive one customized 28mm-30mm character in lower detail material. Rougher texture means it's not optimal for painting, but it is especially durable and flexible which is ideal for heavy use. (Note: all other tiers do offer ultra-detail plastic as an option, which is very suitable for painting and display)!
  • NOTES: 'Strong plastic,' though less detailed than the ‘ultra-detail plastic’ that we consider our default material, is nevertheless a great choice for gamers who want a robust, durable, fully customized mini, but don’t necessarily need incredible detail. It has a rougher texture and is not ideal for painting. We want to offer solutions for all tabletop gamers, including the price-conscious ones! All other tiers, apart from statuettes and the "Novice Party," tier offer miniatures in your choice of launch materials.


$30
—ADVENTURER—
  • Receive one customized 28mm-30mm character (domestic shipping included)! Also, get beta access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access!
  • NOTES: From this tier on up, you will have you choice of our base material offerings, which will include ultra-detail plastic, strong and flexible plastic, and potentially other new and exciting materials released between now and launch!
$30
—KNIGHT—
The first digital reward, a deck of
digital item cards, make great handouts
for players to keep track of basic
inventory. The deck features art from
artists Molly Maloney and Nicole Cardiff

  • Receive one customized 28mm-30mm character (domestic shipping included) with the option of the exclusive "Kickstarter Backer" figure base to commemorate your involvement in the project! Get beta access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access! Also receive exclusive PDF item cards featuring concept art by Nicole Cardiff and Molly Maloney!
  • NOTES: The addition of item cards, featuring gorgeous concept art by our concept artists Nicole Cardiff and Molly Maloney, is a fantastic add-on for tabletop gamers who love player handout items!


$35 LIMITED
—ELITE KNIGHT—
  • Receive one customized 28mm-30mm character (domestic shipping included) with the option of the exclusive "Kickstarter Backer" figure base to commemorate your involvement in the project! Get ALPHA access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access! Also receive exclusive PDF item cards featuring concept art by Nicole Cardiff and Molly Maloney!
  • NOTES: All the same offerings as the Knight tier, with the additional, limited, early-bird benefit of being included in the alpha release of the character builder! Get a sneak peak at our design as it evolves and approaches perfection for launch!

$60
—MAGE—
The digital art book will contain exciting,
high-resolution concept art from Molly Maloney
and Nicole Cardiff, two accomplished artists in the
videogame and tabletop art industties. Art book will
also contain design commentary from art
director Teagan Morrison.

  • Receive TWO customized 28mm-30mm character (domestic shipping included) with the option of the exclusive "Kickstarter Backer" figure base to commemorate your involvement in the project! Get beta access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access! Also receive exclusive PDF item cards featuring concept art by Nicole Cardiff and Molly Maloney! AND receive an exclusive art book featuring art from all of our amazing artists!
  • NOTES: For the art fiends out there, get a wonderful keepsake of exclusive, high-resolution art with exclusive commentary and insights into our design process!


$85
—GIANT—
  • Receive one customized THREE INCH statuette character (domestic shipping included) with the option of the exclusive "Kickstarter Backer" figure base to commemorate your involvement in the project! Get beta access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access! Also receive exclusive PDF item cards featuring concept art by Nicole Cardiff and Molly Maloney and an exclusive art book featuring art from our amazing artists!
  • NOTES: We wanted to offer people the opportunity to get one of the amazing statuettes we’ll be offering. Large statuettes are printed in strong and flexible plastic, except where otherwise noted (like the limited metal ones in higher tiers!)
$85
—CARTOGRAPHER—
The Cartographer tier includes the final
digital reward addition: a collection of
fantasy map packs from D20 Cartographer.
a 40$ value, you'll have the best mapped
campaign on the block!

  • Receive THREE customized 28mm-30mm miniatures, beta access to character builder, digital art book, digital item cards, PLUS a collection of digital map packs from D20 Cartographer!
  • NOTES: This tier includes three figures, and adds the last of our digital rewards: a collection of maps from Joshua Bennett’s line of digital map packs. At a $50 value, you’ll have the best-mapped campaign on the block!

$100
—CAVALRY— 
  • Receive two customized 28mm-30mm scale miniatures: one regular and one MOUNTED! Get beta access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access! Also receive all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • We wanted to offer people a way to easily order a mini both mounted and on foot, so they could switch between them based on the situation in-game. We thought this might be a popular tier for people looking to just get minis for that one character they love and have been playing for years.


$100
—NOVICE PARTY—
  • Receive SIX customizable 28mm-30mm miniatures in "Strong & Flexible Plastic" material (a lower detail but cheaper and highly durable option. Note that most other tiers offer you your choice of launch material)! Get beta access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access! Also receive exclusive PDF item cards featuring concept art by Nicole Cardiff and Molly Maloney and an exclusive art book featuring art from our amazing artists!
  • Much like the 'patron' tier, we wanted to offer a lower cost solution for someone who wanted a lot of minis to use as avatars, but might not care as much about sharp detail or paintability. The "Strong and Flexible Plastic" is a cheaper, durable, but lower detail option for our 3D printed custom miniatures. This material is for tabletop gamers who want several customized miniatures for a lower backing pledge than out "full party" tier.

$145
—FULL PARTY—
  • Receive SIX customized 28-30mm miniatures. Get beta access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access! Also receive all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • NOTES: For the mini-fiends out there, we wanted to offer the opportunity to get each member of your whole party a custom mini each! Go on with a few other folks to take advantage of the cheaper cost-per-mini, or keep them all for yourself!


$145 LIMITED
—ELITE PARTY—
  • Receive SIX customized 28-30mm miniatures. Get ALPHA access to our website and be the very first to start customizing your character! Also receive all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • NOTES: Identical to the “Full Party” tier, but it includes first-look access to the alpha-build of our website. Once it is up and running, you’ll be the first to start customizing, output gorgeous high-rez images of character, and start planning what kind of minis you’re going to order!


$300 LIMITED
—BARON—
  • Receive all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer), one customized 28-30mm miniature, PLUS - Send us a photo of a pose and we'll add it as an option to the character builder. Be credited on the character creator!
  • NOTES: You can take a photograph of yourself in a pose you’d like to see added to the character builder, send it in, and we’ll include it as an option with your name on it! Be a part of hundreds of people’s games all over the country!

$200 LIMITED
—MASTER OF COIN—
  • Receive an exclusive single-run 28mm-30mm figure in polished SILVER! Also receive all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • NOTES: If you want to really commemorate your character, this tier offers you the chance to get an exclusive, limited run figure in polished silver! Note that, due to the manufacturing process, articulated parts will not be available in this material.

$230
—COMPANY— 

  • Receive TEN customized 28-30mm miniatures. Get beta access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access! Also receive all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • NOTES: Added by popular demand! If you're incredibly eager to support us and get your hands on a whole slew of minis, this tier is for you!


$230 LIMITED
—ELITE COMPANY— 
  • Receive TEN customized 28-30mm miniatures. Get ALPHA access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access! Also receive all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • NOTES: Added by popular demand! If you're incredibly eager to support us and get your hands on a whole slew of minis, this tier is for you! PLUS it comes with alpha access so you can be one of the first to start customizing using our UI!
$250
—TITAN—
  • Receive one customized SIX INCH statuette character (domestic shipping included) with the option of the exclusive "Kickstarter Backer" figure base to commemorate your involvement in the project! Get beta access to our website and start designing your character before the general public has access! Also receive digital art book, digital item cards, and a collection of digital map packs from D20 Cartographer!
  • NOTES: Get an amazing 6” tall statuette of your customized figure. What better keepsake for your favorite character, or of your participation in our campaign? I’m going to use two of them as bookends, myself. Large statuettes are printed in strong and flexible plastic, except where otherwise noted (like the limited metal ones in higher tiers!)

$330 
—POOR, LOST CIRCUS PERFORMERS—
  • Receive a 28-30mm figure, a 3" statuette, and a 6" statuette! Also receive all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • NOTES: We wanted to include an option that includes each of the scales we’ll have at launch. If you want a whole range of figures in three varied sizes, this tier is for you.


$350 LIMITED
—DUKE—
  • Receive all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer) and one customized 28-30mm miniature. We'll hand-paint your custom miniature in the color scheme of your choice.
  • NOTES: One thing we love almost as much as miniatures is painting miniatures. Though “Pimp my mini” may never be a hit television show, we’re excited deck out your mini in a color scheme of your choice, add gravel and plant life to the base, and generally make it as cool as humanly possible!


$400 LIMITED
—ARCH-DUKE—
  • Receive all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer) and one customized 28-30mm miniature. PLUS - Our artists will work from your drawing or description to create one weapon or held item that fits into the character builder, e.g. an elven flute, ornate magical lantern, or flaming brand. Be credited on the character creator!
  • NOTES: Flex your own artistic muscles, if you’ve got ‘em! Or give us an in-depth description of your dream weapon, tool, instrument, or magical talisman. We’ll let our artist work their magic to digitally smith your dream into a beautiful 3D model. We’ll add it to the character builder and credit you in its description!


$600 LIMITED
—KING—
  • Receive an exclusive single-run large 3" version of a customized character in 'polished gold steel' material! Also receive one customized 28-30mm miniature and all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • NOTES: Fashion an idol of your own making! Cast in heavy, golden-toned steel, this is the ultimate keepsake! Your durable metal statuette will last through the ages, a testament to your support of Hero Forge and passion for tabletop gaming! Note that articulated parts are unavailable in cast metal materials.


$2,000 LIMITED
—EMPEROR—
  • We'll work from your sketches or descriptions to create an entire outfit to be added to the character builder. You'll be credited on the character creator for the designs! Also receive one customized miniature in ANY scale offered at launch, and all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • NOTES: Have a design for an armor set in mind, but no mini company ever quite got it right? Design an entire outfit for our character builder! This includes gauntlets, shoulder pieces, chest piece, boots, legs, cape—the works! Our artists will work from your sketches or descriptions to fashion a suit of the most majestic armor you can imagine. You’ll be credited in the character builder!


$3,000 LIMITED
—IMMORTAL—
  • Our artists will work from a description or sketch to create a COMPLETELY personalized character, includes outfit, helmet, weapons, items, race, head, hair, which fits into our character builder. You'll be credited on the character creator for the designs! Also receive one customized figure in ANY scale offered at launch and all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • NOTES: It doesn’t get much more personalized than this! Provide descriptions and sketches and our amazing artists will make your dream mini come true. You will be credited in the character builder, and legions of tabletop gamers will be inspired by your creativity for generations to come! And the parts will be there for you to order, in any pose you choose.

$5,000 LIMITED
—DEMIGOD—
  • Work with us to produce an item completely exclusive to you that no one else can access (optionally). A sword with your name on it, a chicken on your head, It's up to you! Also receive one customized figure, up to 3" in height, cast in precious metal (Silver or Bronze!), and all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer)
  • NOTES: Whether your character is the sole bearer of a sword of terrible and legendary power, or he simply is known for parading around with a bucket on his head, you can have an absolutely, 100% unique mini, equipped with a part that will never again see print! Immortalize this epic accomplishment with a 3” statuette cast in silver or bronze! Note that articulated parts are unavailable in cast metal materials.


$8,000 LIMITED 
—SUPREME POWER—
  • We really want to thank you for your generous pledge in person. We'll fly you to L.A.! Come participate in a tabletop rpg session with dungeon master Teagan Morrison. After which we'd love to take you to dinner and hear all your suggestions for our character creator! Also receive one customized 28-30mm miniature and all digital rewards (PDF Art book, PDF item cards, Digital map pack by D20 Cartographer). Limited to United States only.
  • NOTES: Wow. We don’t know what to say! Luckily, we’ll have time to figure it out as we treat you to dinner, and play an epic one-off session with the most thrilling story dungeon master Teagan Morrison can pen! Your generosity and support will truly echo through the ages.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cautionary Tales

While customization is not a new idea (people have been kit bashing for ages), no one has successfully launched a product or service that provides reasonably priced, easy to build custom minis. There are a number of folks who have tried and failed, and there is a lot to be learned from their attempts.
Here are a couple lessons we've gleaned from combing through message boards, comment threads, and general discussion with our mini-loving friends out there. These are things we've really taken to heart and believe we have successfully addressed in a way other projects haven't.

Minis must be ‘truly’ customizable.

One of the most important things people look for in their miniatures, beyond simply matching their equipment and character specs, is that they evoke a certain attitude and disposition. For example, some fighters are rabid for combat, while others are master tacticians. People want that difference communicated in their character’s stance, equipment, demeanor, and expression. When it comes to customization, people want something that they feel are truly a result of their creativity. If you can't capture that feeling that the customization was comprehensive and worth it, most people will simply buy a boilerplate standard mini from any number of online stores.

You don’t get that sense of agency from choosing between one-of-three options for your plate mail; the way we've decided to give real control is by offering a more in-depth part system than anyone else has offered. At the moment, we're planning on each mini having approximately fifteen 'slots' (not including race, gender, facial expression, or pose, which will all also be customizable). Having control over something as simple as the style of cape, asymmetry of armor, and the overall profile of a character has a real effect on how involved you feel in the design process. With our amazing artists (no, seriously, go check out their cred in the meet the team posts--they're amazing) I am especially confident that we can produce some really amazing, inspiring, and versatile parts which, in the end, will be your toolbox.

Why have we not seen something that in-depth yet? Well, it is remarkably hard to create. I can’t stress enough how vital our team’s experience in the video game industry has been to making this possible. This expertise really enables us to provide the kind of agency that people want to have.

Customization must be easy but deep.

People love to make things, but the fact of the matter is that 3D modeling is hard and not everyone has the artistic skill they’d like. A lot of folks can’t, or won’t, want to learn a rigging system, or manually rotate and position object. This is something we've learned from video games as well: people want flexibility, but they want it to be presented in a clean, easy to use manner. Look at something like the character creator in a game like Skyrim—one of the most in-depth character creators I've used.  Yet I don’t know a single person who threw down their controller in frustration when trying to get their elf's face right.

By building a character from the ground up, you get to feel more connected to it. A procedural menu where you can tweak the details that are important to you is key. But making that accessible is just as important. If someone were a master 3D modeler or rigger, they could simply sculpt something themselves. We are bringing customization to everyone, artist and non-artist alike. So customization needs to be easy.

There is a lot more to gathered from picking the bones of failed Kickstarters, but the thing I wanted to touch on was this: We are building this service with the user in mind, because we want to BE users of this service. We launched this project because we went looking for a service just like this, and it didn't exist. We can't wait for it to be a reality! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Test Prints and Materials

Given how far we've come, and that the beginning of the Kickstarter drawing nigh, I thought I’d share some images of the very first test prints we ever received from Shapeways. This was the first iteration of our baseline male human model in a regular ol’ T-pose. Think of him as our vitruvian man. We got him in a range of different materials in order to test things like detail, durability, and paintability. We still have tons of these guys. I've got them all over my desk. It looks like a little golem army to me…



Some of the materials were clearly superior to others, which helped inform us about the material choices we wanted to offer. It also provided insight into how exaggerated different features and proportions should be to capture the look of a ‘traditional’ mini. This first round resulted in several tweaks and revisions.

Incidentally, while it wasn't the most detailed or practical, one of my favorite materials was bronze:



He looks like the tiniest little statue you've ever seen. And he’s heavy, too. I wonder if he’ll eventually turn a golden color from me constantly rubbing his tiny bald head. One of the added benefits of us having a ton of these guys is that they make great “generic humanoid enemy” pawns for combat.

While making choices about material options, we've settled on the same kind of ethos that we've embraced through this whole project: we want to offer people choices. We've winnowed down our options to the best offerings and settled on a couple main contenders, each of which are great and offer particular advantages. Metal ones are a fine example: though they are incredibly durable and would be amazing for people who want a rugged and impressive mini, perhaps for a character they intend to continue using for years, the metal options didn't quite capture the level of detail we wanted (for 28-30mm scale, that is.) for our baseline. Options like bronze were also quite expensive (though surprisingly not prohibitively so).

As I've mentioned elsewhere, one of the amazing things about using the Shapeways API is that we CAN offer these choices to people. And as new and improved materials come out, like metal options with even finer detail, we can easily offer them too. Just because we weren't quite satisfied with the current metal options for everyday use, we do anticipate that some people will want a tiny steel mini, or a steel statuette of their customized hero. Using the Shapeways API gives us the luxury of letting people decide for themselves. And maybe even more important: we can easily upgrade and grow our offerings with no additional investment but a few lines of code. Given the rate at which 3D printing is improving, that's an important thing.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Proof-of-Concept

Kickstarter is a tricky thing. People want to be able to see, or at least get a sense of, the whole grand sweep of your project. The nature of crowdfunding is that one is presenting an idea that's finished, but one they need help executing. Trying to demonstrate a full idea without full execution is a tightrope walk--you need enough content to communicate the premise, but that also means you have to focus your efforts and resources, and really prioritize which parts of the project you will put your limited time, money, and energy into demonstrating.

When building our campaign, we put a lot of thought into where we were going to direct our resources. When it came down to it, we decided that showing out proof of concept meant demonstrating three main things:

1. The UI



The idea for customization is all well and good, but in order for people to confidently back us, we knew we had to show a functioning UI, even in a rough form, to prove we had more than just an idea. We ended up putting a lot of time and thought into how we could best show the type of customization we'd be able to offer, and showing the web app was right at the top of the list. Though the final version of the will be more feature-rich and probably look a heck of a lot fancier than our pre-alpha early-build, we think it does a lot of the footwork when it comes to showing we can do what we say we will!

2. Cool looking miniatures




Believe it or not, of the few other projects that have proposed custom miniatures, practically none of them had real, interesting, appealing miniatures to show as part of their campaign. Whether there weren't enough, or they were too low detail, it was quite a downer to see people pitching the idea of customized miniatures without showing, you know, miniatures. This falls into the category of "well, anyone can have the idea." We knew we needed to show a selection of macro shots of cool-looking minis. I think we've succeeded pretty well in that respect. Even now, a few days until launch, we are still receiving boxes of prints and madly snapping photos.

3. A team that people will actually trust to get the job done

Ultimately, when it comes to crowdfunding, people are backing other people. It takes a lot of confidence to click that pledge button, and you need to provide that in any way you can. Our team is, unquestionably, one of our big selling points. Every member has really proven themselves in their own industries, whether that be video games, tech, or art. They are consummate professionals, and I hope that comes through. I really believe this project couldn't be in better hands.


On the flip side: of course when you prioritize some things, you have to put others on the back burner. Here are three things I wish we could have demonstrated for the Kickstarter--things that are coming, but we just didn't have the early resources or time to show right off the bat:

1. Body variety

At the moment, we are just demoing our baseline male and female human model, letting people extrapolate how things will work with other races or body types. We know some people want to role-play an overweight elf bard, or an impossibly muscular halfling fighter. We absolutely plan to accommodate. It is a shame we couldn't show that variety this early on.

2. Facial variety and expressions

Even though the face on a miniature is absolutely tiny, we think people will still find the ability to customize it, and to choose different expressions a very important and powerful step in the building process. The fact of the matter is that, while we could have sculpted some additional faces, we decided our modeler's time was best spent on armor pieces. We decided that would have a greater effect on the sense of variety than anything else.

3. More Parts

It would have been pretty cool to have twenty or a hundred armor sets to show Kickstarter, but the truth is, if we could have done that we wouldn't have needed to do a Kickstarter campaign at all. Between funding and launch, we are going to spend the entire time feverishly modeling and sculpting parts. I am especially excited to see the more outlandish and exaggerated armor pieces, especially. Even after the limited selection of armor pieces and weapons we've produced already, we are getting a keener understanding of how to make something that looks awesome in miniature. So really, the best is yet to come!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Future is Awesome and Scary.

Every time an industry changes, or is about to change, people seem to either get really excited or scrawl signs that say the end is near and begin picketing. These articles have some interesting things to say about 3D printed miniatures, and have a mix of both optimism and doomsaying (The latter mostly to do with fear of 3D printing leading to mass piracy of existing models and properties).

As for me, I wouldn't un-invent Netflix or destroy the blueprints for Kindles before they hit the scene. Industries grow and adapt, and the best way to let them do that is to shake things up every now and again with new technology and new options!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

On Filming for Kickstarter

Another neat thing about Kickstarter is how amazingly often projects get funded. If you look at the statistics, you’ll see that a whopping 50% of projects with video presentations get funded vs. the 30% without. Why this big difference? Well, Kickstarter is based on the idea that the backers are the final arbiter. A video, of course, is the closest the internet can get to looking someone in the eye. People are remarkably good at 'reading' another person, and a video is the best way to give them that opportunity.

We spent a good full day mid December filming content for our video which we are even now wrangling into a shape that's fit for light. Let me tell you, it is harder than I thought it would be. I normally consider myself a pretty confident and eloquent fellow, but in front of the lens, under the lights? Suddenly I found myself incapable of speaking in complete sentences. I have started to call the area immediately in front of the camera the “Zone of Incompetence.”

How we want to appear on screen.

How we actually appear 99% of the time.

I don’t know if I learned any hot tips for the camera shy, but remembering that you’re having a conversation with the camera helped a lot. Having someone behind the camera firing questions at you, prompting you for talking points was far more effective than reading from the script, too: people are also really good at knowing when you’re giving canned responses. I have a new found respect for actors, politicians, and just about anyone in the public eye. It isn’t easy. But the things most worth doing rarely are!

I expect we’ll have plenty of material for the blooper reel. All that to say, hopefully the awesomeness of the minis will let them speak for themselves (because we're clearly not awesome at speaking for them!)


Monday, January 6, 2014

Kickstarter Musings

Crowdfunding is one of the hot phrases these days, and unlike other big internet trends (does anyone still use eBay?) I’m confident it’s here to stay. It is one of those things that make me think: “Oh, of course. That is exactly the kind of thing the internet is meant for.” The ability to pluralize support, to let an actual sample market decide from the ground floor what projects are worth starting, is a big deal. Especially for niche ideas with a smaller, but vocal and passionate audience. It is no wonder that two of the top ten most funded projects are tabletop miniature products! On Kickstarter, a project’s success is fueled by people’s vocal enthusiasm, and few groups are more passionate than tabletop gamers!

Kickstarter is, in some ways, a barometer for a product’s potential success. And while some ideas that fail on Kickstarter go on to be successful through other means, there are at least as many successful projects that simply wouldn't or couldn't have happened without a crowdfunding option. I suspect that crowdfunding, though in its infancy, is also in a golden age. I mean, just take a look at the funding rate of Kickstarter projects. I expect that kind of sweeping success will actually level off a bit over time as the craze dies down and backers get a clearer and clearer picture of what proposals seem legit and which are likely to leave them hanging. People are pretty good at parsing out what is a cash-grab and what is a legitimate rallying cry for cool stuff, but I think we’re going to get better at it. Either way, it is informing businesses and even big filmmakers to try doing things a different way. It will be neat to see how companies grow, change, and are informed by this trend.

Deciding to go the Kickstarter route was an easy choice. Hero Forge is one of those projects that needs Kickstarter. That isn't the case for many projects you see up there. I can barely count the number of projects that are 100% already finished, using Kickstarter simply as a tool to pre-sell their products. I can see why those types of campaigns are appealing and there is definitely a place for them. We’re among those who are using Kickstarter to build a service. One of the upsides of that is, rather than simply covering manufacturing costs to produce more of something for cheaper, the amount of funding we receive will be directly related to how many bells, whistles we can provide. Unlike some other projects, the more funding we get, the better a product we can produce right away.

Anyway, that’s something I've been musing on for a while during my research!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

It's Good to have Options

Not long ago, we shipped a whole bunch of sample miniatures sent off to get printed to use as demo minis for our Kickstarter video. Given that we've primarily been focused on demonstrating proof of concept at this stage, we have a limited selection of fully modeled armor sets. Going through our creations, I thought it would be a fine time to drive home how easy it is to make a distinctive model from a pool parts. We're eventually going to have one of the coolest 3D model armories on the web, but even with just the models we have now, we can do quite a bit. Here is some concept art from Molly Maloney and two quick renders of two armor sets--3D models by Teagan Morrison and Margaret Dost, respectively:



With just these two sets, a few weapons, and a couple helms, we can already give you a sense of how much variety you can generate:

A tiny fraction of the possible combinations. The variety is amazing!

It is amazing how easy it is to build a new 'feel': a pose change or a slightly different silhouette is all it takes for a pretty radical shift in the mood or impression of a mini. Given how big a pool of parts we are planning to have at launch, I would be kind of surprised if many people ever end up settling on the precise same mini. Even if you end up selecting exactly the same set of parts as someone else, given the ability to pose your character it is doubtful you'll end up with the same mini:




Anyway, the main message here is that, instead of thousands of other people having the same miniature as you, you can have something a lot more unique. I can’t wait to see what exciting combinations people will come up with!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

3D Printing Articulated Parts

More on the advantages of 3D printing...

One of the cool things about 3D printing vs. traditional injection mold minis is that you have a little more flexibility when it comes to possible shapes and interior details. One cool example is the ability to print interlocking partssomething that would be impossible with regular injection mold minis. We figure some people might be interested in a flail on an actual segmented chain or a lantern that can swing!


Simply put, we want to take advantage of the medium. And the fact is, there is a lot of stuff 3D printing can do that is just plain better than other options. There are lots of exciting possibilities, and we’re endeavoring to considering all of them!

Friday, January 3, 2014

3D Printing

3D printing is one of those things that people (like me) can’t shut up about. And rightfully so: this stuff is future tech. People are 3D printing knick-knacks, jewelry, and esoteric mechanical parts now, but how long until we can easily print organs? Until we can voice command our 3D printer to give us “Earl Gray, Hot”? I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be way sooner than we think. It might be indicative of the circles I run in, but I know more than a few people who have already received 3D printed presents this past Christmas.

Now, I’m a big sci-fi fan—the kind that will corner you and go on and on about my predictions for the future. I’ll talk your ear off about which technologies I think we’ll arrive at first, what they will mean to mankind, and how we’ll grow, change, and adapt to them. One of the scenarios I imagine to be quite likely is this: before too long, we’re going to see the rise of local 3D print shops. They’ll show up in every neighborhood, every street corner. Things like hardware stores, even car lots, will go the way of Blockbuster. People will be able go to a ‘manufactory,’ browse through a database of printable objects, choose what you want, anything from a socket wrench to a surf board, pay the licensing and material fee, and it’ll spit it out for you. (This will be, of course, unless 30-minute or less drone delivery takes over first.)

The service we’re using to do our 3D printing magic, the Shapeways Developer API, is remarkably close to this, conceptually. It allows websites and apps to be 3D printing portals. 3D artists, engineers, and Joe Everyman can do cutting-edge 3D printing without having to worry about the actual manufacturing or shipping details. This frees them (and us) to launch exciting new designs and products with minimal overhead and allows a business to focus on one thing: making the best, most innovative designs they can. We’re thrilled to be using one of the leading names in 3D printing for our manufacturing, and I suspect that we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of this kind of thing in the future. And so do they.