Upon completing a successful Kickstarter campaign for a library of 3D printable Lovecraftian horrors, tabletop modeler Anthony Schilling has returned to crowdfund an even more ambitious project: a builder app for 3D printable tabletop terrains and figure bases.
You may recognize Tony as a printer reviewer and modeling educator, or you might follow his intricate creations on Instagram. Though he’s successfully designed, printed, and painted tons of creations, from medieval nights and crashed spacecraft to WW2 vehicles and interdimensional creatures, now he’s providing other modelers with the power to configure and create their own models.
The Unlimited Terrain Creator on Kickstarter, already long past its modest $1,500 goal, is a Unity-driven app that allows users to build bases and terrain in an extensible way using a variety of shapes and themes. Bases for figures can be round, octagonal, square or otherwise and textured with bricks, tile, dirt, rocks, industrial features or sand. Similarly, entire rooms can be constructed with the same types of materials. Themes range from steampunk and ancient Egypt to sci-fi and medieval. All can be stretched to consist of multiple tiles and have accessories added on, including tombstones, plants, coins, rocks, mirrors, treasure chests, doors, windows and more.
Now that Tony has his backers, and continues to collect more, he’s going to be taking suggestions from them to determine what features the game should have. Some ideas he’s considering are customizable base shapes and sizes, magnet holes, and open lock compatibility for terrain tiles. He’s still trying to determine if he should optimize parts for fused deposition modeling or vat photopolymerization, working on the user interface and trying to determine what other themes he might design.
Rewards start at $35 for the Base Creator and Dungeon Tile Creator, as well as all associated .stls. At $55, you can also get Terrain Creator, any new designs created within six months of the Kickstarter’s completion and all models from the Cursed Cult of Cthulu. For $150, you’ll be given a one-year commercial license to sell any models from the project. This means that you can 3D print your own terrains, painstakingly paint them and then open an Etsy store to dole them out to the tabletop gaming and modeling community.
To me, this is a brilliant project with plenty of possibilities. Even at the start, the ability to create bases, tiles and terrain gives modelers plenty to work with. After all, what’s the point of a model without a world to explore? However, as this grows, one can imagine the ability to import your own model elements into the Unlimited Terrain Creator. Beyond that, Tony could create configurable figures themselves, with the ability to swap out clothing, accessories, even body parts. How about a knight with a Cthulu head and a laser rifle?
Of course, that would take substantial modeling work and skill. For this, one could see Tony launching a site where community members could upload their own figures and assets so that they could sell downloadables to import into the Terrain Creator. Soon, you have licensing deals with Disney to introduce Star Wars and Marvel elements, Warhammer elements from Games Workshop. Of course, users will, at some point, be able to snap their faces with a depth camera on an iPhone or other device in order to put their own likenesses onto the models. And all of this then gets integrated into digital games, as well as tabletop modeling.
Suddenly, your local hobby shop has full-body scanners and 3D printers where patrons can purchase their own figurines and consumer 3D printing has re-emerged in the industry once again. It would certainly meld well with the plethora of cosplay projects out in the world.
Of course, the Unlimited Terrain Creator isn’t the first project to take advantage of 3D printing’s ability to produce low-cost models on demand. Hero Forge was among the first to successfully launch a configurator for 3D printable tabletop figurines and was followed by Desktop Hero. Miguel Zavala established an extensive free library of 3D printable Dungeons & Dragons miniatures. Fat Dragon Games even launched a Kickstarter for terrain, as did Via Lubidunda.
Of these, Hero Forge and Fat Dragon Games seemed to have been the most successful, though we will need to get an update from them about their current operations. What’s interesting to note about Tony’s current configurator and those of yore is that the industry has changed significantly. Back then, there was significant hype around desktop 3D printing that coincided with the rise of crowdfunding, such that anything related to the technology could be launched on Kickstarter quite quickly.
Now, the industry is much more mature, and it would seem that corporate efforts in the space are less driven by marketing hype (though that still occurs) and more driven by an effort to deliver profitable products to market. Tony’s campaign is currently at about $17,000, as of this writing. Not enough to build out the ecosystem I laid out, but if he did decided to work toward that grandiose plan, he could try to find some investors.
If Twikit wanted to go beyond industrial and medical applications for its configuration apps, tabletop gaming might not be a bad choice. Ubisoft is an established video gaming leader that has already relied on 3D printing regularly to produce figures for its games. If it had an interested in expanding onto the tabletop, 3D printing would be an interesting way to do it. Mixed Dimensions, who helps Ubisoft by making its assets 3D printable, could be a good partner as well.
Perhaps the industry still isn’t right for a huge 3D printing surge in tabletop gaming and modeling, however. Or maybe Tony wants to keep his endeavor at a manageable scale so that he can focus on what he loves most: modeling.
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