3D printing is celebrated by millions of people, but some of its biggest fans are gamers. The technology opens up unlimited possibilities for creation and creativity in the world of tabletop gaming, and there’s no better evidence of gamers’ enthusiasm than the number of explosively successful Kickstarter campaigns featuring 3D printed or printable gaming scenery.
The potential for customization is what makes 3D printing so appealing in many areas, and gaming is no exception, but 3D modeling skills are rather necessary for the creation of personalized characters or terrain. If you have the skills, there’s little that can’t be created, but not everyone has the expertise or time to learn the often tricky process of designing and modeling a detailed, quality figure from scratch. That’s where Andrew Stockton comes in.
Stockton, a talented designer, has an affinity for tabletop gaming and for the creation of miniature characters. He designed some wonderful female knight characters a few months ago, to the delight of female gamers who often find themselves under-represented in the gaming world. His Thingiverse page is full of impressive characters and other gaming-related designs, and now he’s decided to take his hobby a step further with DesktopHero, a free online app that allows users to easily design and customize their own 3D printable characters.
“The whole purpose behind DesktopHero is to bring 3D printing to more people,” Stockton tells us. “If you were to offer, many creatively minded people would jump at the chance to make personalized figurines of their own characters. So why don’t they already? In most cases, it’s because
a) they don’t have the artistic ability to create their own 3D characters, and
b) they don’t have the money to spend on a professional service.
DesktopHero fixes both of these problems by letting people easily create characters using pre-made materials (designed by our artists), then letting them download the character files for free. I want hobbyists to be able to create their own designs for 3D printing, without having to be 3D artists.”
In a recent university graphics class, Stockton participated in a group project requiring teams to create graphics-related products. He described his idea to his teammates, who loved it, and over the course of the semester they worked to create a proof of concept and test it with volunteers from a variety of age groups from middle school to adult. The volunteers responded with enthusiasm, and Stockton decided to further perfect the app and make it available to everyone.
“My husband often has really exciting ideas for new technology. Knowing that he can’t tackle them all today or tomorrow, he writes a lot of them down for future free time. That’s how DesktopHero started. This idea of a 3D model customizer came to Andrew, and was quickly jotted down to await the day when he would have the kind of time he would need to create it,” his wife, Heather Stockton, told us, explaining the creative process in the graphics class, where he pitched his idea to his team on an assignment to create a graphics-related product.
“Andrew then decided that he could really perfect this product and make it even more accessible and user friendly. That is the idea behind DesktopHero. DesktopHero will include several stances, wardrobes, and assets from which you can select to make your perfect character. It will continue to be free for all users. The files that are downloaded can be used however the user wishes – for their work space, for table-top games, to be sold in a booth, etc.Although the product will be free for users, there are costs of production. Website maintenance and hours of artistic sculpting are both costly. For that reason Andrew has launched a Kickstarter campaign.”
DesktopHero is now raising funds on Kickstarter, with a goal of raising $2,000 by July 28. While similar character-designing services exist, Stockton says, DesktopHero stands out in that it’s completely free, with no limit to how many characters you can design and download. Users start with a basic male or female 3D figure, then use buttons and sliders to alter height, clothing, hair, weapons and poses. Once the design is complete, the user downloads it to print themselves or through a service.
Once your design is downloaded, it’s yours to keep, and can be used however you like, including for commercial purposes. Stockton and his team created the Kickstarter to offset the costs of website maintenance and design, and while the app itself will be free, the team has come up with some pretty nice rewards for those who support the campaign. Incentives range from $5, which will get you a high-resolution wallpaper of your character to use for your phone or computer, to $250, which will earn you the honor of your character being the default starting character when the app is loaded. Other rewards include sketches and paintings of your character, naming rights for weapons offered in the app, and more. Stretch goals include additional customization options from headgear to wings.
“I’m a big fan of free and open source software,” says Stockton. “For me, it’s about letting people bring their ideas to life. So the more people that can have access to it, the better. Just as 3D printing is becoming more and more accessible to people, I want customizable 3D characters to become available to everyone – not just the ones who can afford to pay a monthly subscription.”
What are your thoughts on this new app? Discuss further over in the DeskTopHero App for 3D Printable Characters forum at 3DPB.com.
Check out the Kickstarter video below: