Sunday, 21 January 2018

Interview with Iain Lovecraft

I had an opportunity to do an interview with Iain Lovecraft, from Lovecraft Design & Manufacture, makers of the Jungle Fever kickstarter (hurry, it closes on Monday!) that I wrote about last week.
I asked a lot of questions and Iain kindly wrote a very interesting article about himself, 3D-printing, the company, what it is doing and future plans. That effectively answers all my questions and gives a very interesting view into the business end of our hobby.
I took the liberty to put it some pics here and there to illustrate what Iain is up to.

Enjoy!

First of all, let me introduce myself, my name is Iain Lovecraft and I am the owner, well senior partner of Lovecraft, Design and Manufacture. I specify partner, because it is a family business and as such is owned by our family members. I am a third generation engineer, our business was started by my grandfather in 1947 a few years after he came back from serving in the second world war and settled down in the United Kingdom. My grandfather was given an MBE(Member of the British Empire) title for his services rendered as an engineer by the queen. Unfortunately he passed away before the turn of the century, but my father 'Lovecraft senior' is still alive and well, although now retired after working his whole life, also as an engineer and building the company up.
I think this background is important because it sets the scene for some of the elements I will explain later. For example, my relation with H.P. Lovecraft. Although I cannot trace a direct and clear  genealogy with this genius of the cosmic horror genre, my grandfather was a big fan and was the one who first dragged me into the horror/fantasy genre by reading and guiding me through Lovecraft´s short stories and other authors, like Edgar  Allan Poe and great sci-fi from Jules Verne and H.G.Wells. A truly heavy but inspiring cocktail for a young teenage boy, but it served to spark off a unique perspective of the world.

It was inevitable that I would stumble onto role playing games, at that time almost exclusive to Dungeons and Dragons and later war-games and miniatures from Citadel, now 'Games Workshop'. Whilst I was in University in Nottingham, UK I worked for a while with 'Citadel' as a student work experience, I remember they were situated in Friar Lane where they had a small production facility on the second floor. I was very involved with miniatures and role playing games till after I finished my M.Sc. In Industrial Engineering, but then I started work in our family business under my father and did my Ph.D. later which left little time for much else.

Lovecraft Design and Manufacture has centred in engineering mechanical parts for other business, we also do structural engineering studies and consultation work for the construction industry. So I suppose the big question is, how do you go from engineering work to designing and creating games models? Well, the truth is that the work is related, we have the automation and machines to produce precision parts and molds and we are well versed in architecture and construction, so scale design and buildings is not a problem.
I have a friend who asked me to design a 'Blood Bowl' stadium for him, so I created a virtual model of it on CAD. After we saw the first renders come out, I knew I had to build the model and so the whole ´Blood Bowl Pro Stadium' project came to life. After placing it on Facebook, I realised the design was very popular and people were asking me to make them one. So I set about making the whole thing modular and decided to put it up on Kickstarter.
Our first Kickstarter finished in October and was funded successfully. One of the major problems we face with a 'Blood Bowl' product is that the BB community is very small compared to other similar games. BB has been left on the side by its creators, Games Workshop ever since it first came out and I played it 30 years ago. It was only because GW saw that the product was proving popular in recent days with the revival of some BB tournaments such as NAF, that GW picked up this product again and launched its 2016 BB edition. Another problem was that the already small market is split up into race factions, meaning that normally a user that plays with a Dwarf team will want a Dwarf theme stadium and will not buy and use other race themes. So for the project to be a success we were looking at having to expand to as many race designs as possible to capture as much of the market as we could. This would turn out to be a huge investment so we decided to launch our first Kickstarter featuring two races and have now launched a third theme, which is the Mesoamerican theme. We intend to launch a forth theme next month which will feature the 'Úndead' showcasing all kinds of Gothic architecture. The idea behind this is to allow backers to finance the project in small parts. Many of our backers have been very gracious and have contributed on all three released themes, which has helped us a lot.
In order to bolster the funding for these expansions and after an overwhelming demand from our backers and followers, we decided to release designs associated with the theme. Backers urged for us to do this, because they wanted to customize and 3D print the parts themselves. Other followers simply wanted to use our designs in other games, specifically for role-playing and war-games. We saw that there was a huge demand for our designs and that this was a fantastic opportunity to open up this same product to a more varied market.
Integrating this project into our company's production rooster has taken some initial convincing of all partners, specifically my father who now goes around telling friends how his son is turning his engineering firm into a toy company! Alas, engineering business rolls on as per usual, but we have dedicated a small annex to our workshop in Spain for the creation of resin molds and design. We are now setting up a small production station in Houston, Texas also. The idea is to avoid shipping physical resin models over to USA, by simply shipping the molds and producing the models there. This makes sense when a large part of our customer base is in the USA. Obviously this brings us to the fact that digital media does not have to be shipped and as such is a good prospect for international business. I will discuss our view on selling virtual produce next, it definitely has its pros and its cons.
There has been a lot of hype going on with 3D printers, specifically with the FDM(Fusion Deposition Modeling) variety which are very accessible at hobby level. Modellers and war-games enthusiasts have taken to this and the division is clear. There is the die hard modeller who will prefer to go old school and burn all 3D printers on the pyre and their counterpart, those who will swear that 3D printers are the future and will enable them to replicate all, as seen on Star Trek. Of course there are those in the middle who don´t understand what all the hype is about and are still deciding if to buy a printer or not.

The bad news is that FDM printing has reached its pinnacle at hobby level, this technology cannot be improved because of physical limitations. It cannot be made to go faster, because it relies on depositing(FDepositionM) a thin noodle on top of another by means of extrusion and gravity. It is also not easy to reduce the size of the noodle being laid, because the problems that arise are exponential, so there is a workable limit to the reduction, especially at hobby level. This draws us to the inevitable fact that 3D printing will remain slow and will always show those strata lines. Still, having said this, you can get great prints at the highest resolution, which require a huge amount of post process work, but can be turned into fantastic looking pieces. This goes hand in hand with the hobbyist or modeller who has plenty of time to burn.
Our main concern on releasing and selling our designs was if the whole thing made business sense or not. The short of it is, that it can make sense if we can beat illegal reproduction, re-selling and sharing of our design. The best existing business model for something like this, I suppose is ITunes. Make the product accessible and economically viable for people to buy, so they don't feel the urge to obtain the product illegally. To this effect we have re-built our website and will soon be offering all our digital media at very reasonable prices. We have also secured all our web through DMCA and have contracted professional services that will review the net and perform takedowns were necessary.
Another aspect would be to consider if it makes sense for the user to 3D Print their own models and in so doing skip the manufacturer. Many are holding 3D Printing as a revolution, the 'Marxists' of print herald an end to the manufacturer's monopoly, were the future will be one where you are finally liberated from oppression and you can produce at home without paying the evil manufacturer. This impression I suppose is derived from the misconception that you download a free print file and hours later you are holding it in your hand for no apparent charge. This is just a delusion as the supposedly free model you have just completed does have cost.

The printer has an initial cost which needs to be paid along with a maintenance fee every time you use it, plus a running charge in electricity. The filament material out of which the model is built must be paid for, along with its shipping. So basically you are paying for your product but just changing what manufacturer you pay. Instead of paying a model maker, you are now instead paying a machine builder, electricity department and a plastic filament manufacturer. Given that this enables you to choose what you pay for and break down the cost, this is probably going to reduce the cost, especially if you cut the retailer out.

You have to consider that although you are reducing the cost, this is offset against the quality of the product you are getting. There is also the danger that if you stop paying the model maker, preferring to pay other manufacturers for materials to produce yourself, you are reducing the capacity and incentive for these craftsmen to stay in business. When you buy a model, you are not only paying for the physical model but for the artistic content involved in all its design process.

My opinion is that 3D printing is fine, but it is not the panacea the hype is making it out to be. The short of it is... You cannot print everything, there are vast limits to this hobby based technology.
There is also another level which impedes the production with 3D Printing, were it is possible, but the outcome is just too expensive, time consuming or quality poor, that it's just not worth going through the trouble to print. A pyrite victory of sorts, if you will.
Yet at another level which is close to our modus operandi is that the distributed files do not pose major challenges to our customer when printing. We must realise that not everyone has industry quality machines and experience to go with it and that our objective is to produce a model that is incredible to look at, but easy to print with the least post process work attached to it.
Some of our models are only offered as resin cast because it's the only way we feel comfortable in delivering the product to our customers, due to their difficulty or impossibility to print. (Impossibility also denotes that although possible, the finished product is not quality or cost effective.)
Many of our pieces are hand sculpted and are then either scanned or molded depends if we want to integrate them with some other CAD piece. Typically these sculpts have great detail which translates to more than 7 million polygons in CAD. These digital files are to heavy to be sliced by hobby level enthusiasts and cutting down on their size means losing quality.
Another example where it is not practical to print pieces, is when the piece to be produced is too large or needs to be reproduced many times over.
Some models where made to be printed and others just beg to be cast. 3D printing is but a tool that has incredible benefits, but also comes with great limitations, so one must choose wisely what tools to use or inevitably be limited by them.
For our third theme release, we chose the mesoamerican theme, because I thought it was a theme that had not been done to death before and had lots to offer. This type of architecture lacks load bearing beams, archways and complex structural building strategies, but it has a lot to offer in historical and religious background. It is heavily associated with legends and myths, making for great architectural interpretations of their godly phenomena.
I like all my designs even if verging on fantasy, to be set against a realistic or at least historical background. Out of habit, due to my profession, I like the designs to work from a structural point of view and have some kind of reason or basis behind them. I am a great follower of Leonardo Da´vinci works and love the way he could take a natural or scientific observation and turn it into a flight of fancy, a unique design with a scientific understanding behind it, but yet unreal.  I call this 'The Architectural Farse', were the design is based on real terms, but yet is too far fetched or aspects to far emphasized to be able to attain reality. This can now be attained at home through CAD and 3D printing, making for some very interesting and 'unreal' pieces.
Our next Kickstarter, which will come out in February will be a Gothic representation, combining fantasy aspects featuring 'Undead' along with horror and tons of pre-renaissance architecture. This will accompany our 4th Blood Bowl themed 'Undead' resin pitch, but will predominantly be a 3D printable digital media sale.

Hopefully we will see you there, thanks for the read.


Dr.Iain Lovecraft, Eng.D.

A big thank you to Iain, and good luck with the kickstarter (that is doing real well these last hours).
I hope you all enjoy this and if there is interest in these kinds of articles I might do more, as I certainly enjoyed doing it.
Give me input, please.

All photos, renders and illustrations © Lovecraft Design & manufacture and used with permission.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Monster Nest and a skull pillar

I’ve been painting some terrain-pieces in between all those picts.
The Monster Nest from Oathsworn Miniatures is a nice little piece that I’m sure will see action.

The Skull Pillar comes from RAFM and will serve well as a plot point in Pulp Alley. The little pile of skulls is from the same company, and… well, you can never have to many piles of skulls.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Final Picts for Conan

It’s been a slow painting-start this year as I’ve mainly worked on these for the Conan game.
They are the final ten picts from the core box, meaning that there are only five Belit’s Guards and five hyenas left. Yay!
Those are all on the painting table now being prepared.

I so look forward to taking the Conan-box to the club to be able to play a lot of games with fully painted minis. 

Friday, 12 January 2018

Crowdfunding Watch – 3D-printing – Jungle Fever, Sci-fi City Terrain, Walls and Structures

The new 3D-printing-crowdfunding-year has gained momentum with four new kickstarters for this weeks round-up.

Let’s travel to the jungles of the Aztec and whatever suitable jungle-civilisation your favourite game caters for.
Here you have the chance get hold of some beautiful Mesoamerican OpenLOCK-compatible scenery that would look great in most fantasy and pulp jungle-settings.
There are some fantastic-looking structures that make my mouth water. Great stuff, well worth a look.
Get a couple of tiles for €2, the whole lot for €77, or anything in between.
There is also an option to get physical resin-pieces for your Blood Ball pitch.
This KS ends on January 22, 2018.

Another OpenLOCK compatible kickstarter (and also compatible with Dragonbite), this time from Hayland Terrain – veterans in the 3d-printing kickstarter field with five previous projects.
Here we have mostly interiors for your SF-houses, with a sprinkling of external accessories, excellent if you already have SF-buildings ready or as files.
There is also an option to get the files from the first sci-fi kickstarter, so you have somewhere to put all that furniture.
I got the files from Hayland’s last kickstarter (Fantasy) and they look great, and I really look forward to printing them.
This KS ends on January 23 2018.

More Sci-Fi, this time buildings and structures suitable for a base on a moon or asteroid.
These are without interiors and look rather realistic, or at least how I imagine a base in hard vacuum would look like.
I think these are scaled at about 1/100 scale.
This KS ends on February 8, 2018.

If you’re looking for stand-alone walls for your gaming table, then you should take a look at this.
You’ll get tons of walls and doors that seem really easy to assemble into mazes of corridors, ready to be filled with creepy crawlies of the deadliest kind.
This KS ends on February 4 2018.

All photos, renders and illustrations © Lovecraft Design & Manufacture, Hayland Terrain, Project Mobius and Nik F. respectively and used with permission.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Crowdfunding Watch – 3D-printing – Rome, Old West, Painting Tools and Cars

It’s been a couple of quiet weeks for 3D-printing kickstarters, but now it seems to have started again.
First up we have our old friend Jens of 3D-Print-Terrain that has this really well timed Printable Tabletop Terrain for Ancient Rome. What more could one wish for in a game of Gangs of Rome?
A pledge of €40 will get you four houses and stretch goals. The campaign is racing through those, and at the moment you’ll get more houses, gatehouses, a tower and a wall-set and can look forward to a legionary fieldcamp.
Surely worth a look, double so if you want to game ancient Rome.
This KS ends on February 1, 2018.
Old West Buildings for HO Scale Train Layouts & Wargaming is from a new kickstarter creator and no surprises here – it’s all about the Old West. $40 will get you stl-files a whole town scalable from 1/87 (HO) scale all the way to 30 mm.
He has set rather high funding goal and is, at the moment, a bit over halfway there.
This KS ends on January 16, 2018.
Next up is Miniature Painting tools - Resin cast or 3D STL files, where you’ll either get the physical miniature holders or print them yourself.
This could be a good alternative to the usual paint-bottle-caps, corks or whatnot. Would be interesting to try out.
This KS ends on January 22, 2018.
Finally we have 3D Printable Cars (STL Files) Relaunch, where you get… cars! These are meant to be used as good-looking alternatives in racing boardgames and are in 1/220 scale, but you can of course scale that up or down.
Definitely worth a try if racing is your thing. Well, it's really a no-brainer in that case.
Crappy, coloured, originals vs fancy printed ones.
This KS ends on January 27, 2018.
Why use cardboard when you can have printed models?

All photos and illustrations © 3D-Print-Terrain, Paul Long Jr, Falkenwelt Modellbau and Fickle Fiend Studio respectively and used with permission.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Good Bye 2017, Welcome 2018

What happened?
Another year came and went. I went all to fast.
So whatever did happen this last year?
Blog:
Posts - 110 for a total of 704
Followers – 15 new for a total of 200
Goggle+ Followers – 17 new for a total of 112
Hits – the bots scaled down activities in mid-summer and hits per month are back to normal pre-superbot-levels now. No real need to count them anymore as they are so skewed.
Painted:
20mm
4 French tanks.
Should have been more, but there is hope for our France 1940 Chain of Command games. Quite a few French soldiers are at least close to the painting table.
28mm
Fantasy: 93 medium-sized and 6 large
Pulp: 18 medium and one large
SF: 24 civilians and 1 large robot, all for MERCS. The civvies will work well in modern settings, and will see use in 7TV.
Western: 4 medium
WWII: 2 tankettes, a sub and a mini-sub. They will all double as pulp-rides.
Dust: 10 soldiers and 2 vehicles.
Terrain: Lots and lots of scatter terrain and a few buildings.
All in all a rather good year.
3D-printing
I had my printer serviced and after that it worked… somewhat… until is broke again… sigh.
Kickstarters
I’ve backed a couple of games, some figures and a few 3D-printing kickstarters. Not too bad, actually, as the amount of miniatures in the tin- and plastics-mountain didn’t increase too much.
Received some stuff, like Mythic Battles: Pantheon, and still waiting for the customer-relations-horror-story that is Shadows of Brimstone. Remind me to never, ever, buy anything from Flying Frog Productions as they don’t deserve any customers, really.

2018
Games and miniatures
The minis from the Conan core box are nearly done, and they are the highest priority just now. Then I expect to see lots of Conan on the gaming table.
Other games that would benefit from painted minis are Blood Rage, Mythic Battles: Pantheon and SMOG: Rise of Moloch (that will deliver in early 2018). Of those I think Blood Rage will hit the gaming table the soonest, as it I already have some minis painted.
I’ve played a game of the new DUST 1947 rules and really fancied the changes. Rules are bought and minis prepared. There will be games soon and certainly more minis painted.
Had a game of Chain of Command the other day and it was great fun, as always. I really have to paint the last few 20mm figures we need for France 1940.
As usual I will paint whatever I fancy from the tin- and plastics mountain. Probably mostly fantasy, but almost certainly some pulp and sf, too. I plan to start a Pulp Alley solo campaign, to try out that style of gaming, so will probably need some minis for that.
When it comes to terrain I will continue to work through all the unpainted scatter terrain I have lying about. I still have a couple of unfinished houses, but not too much.
3D-printing
A new printer is high up on the wish-list for 2018. I have my eyes set on the new Prusa i3 Mk3. We’ll see what happens.
Other
I hope to see some of you on Gothcon this Easter. I’ll be there with the kids and will also have a participation game of Sharp Practice with my fellow Penguins. 
If you want to game me (and a bunch of very nice chaps) on a regular basis, then it’s a good idea to join Little Wars Stockholm!

Have a good 2018 and roll lots of dice!