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Role Playing (Games) Technology

How They 3D Print Your WoW Character 54

WoW Insider had the chance to sit down with Ed Fries, the founder of the new and highly unique business FigurePrints. Fries is best known for his work at Microsoft on the original Xbox, but he hasn't been idle since he left the company in 2004. His newly launched service allows World of Warcraft players to 'print' their characters out as 3D sculptures. He and blogger Mike Schramm discuss the origins of the company, and the process used to make the figs: "At heart, it's basically an inkjet printer, which is pretty cool. It actually uses HP-11 inkjet printheads. But instead of printing on paper, it prints on a thin layer of plaster powder. So you have to imagine that there's a bay with a platform, and a spreader bar comes in and spreads a very thin layer of plaster powder, which has the consistency of flour. So it gets spread onto the platform, like a sheet of paper. And then the printheads come out, and they print right into that plaster. It sets the ink on top of it, and like paper it soaks into it-that plaster hardens."
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How They 3D Print Your WoW Character

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  • Price subjective? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tink2000 ( 524407 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:30PM (#21671921) Homepage Journal
    Not in my mind: $115 could get me more than 10 months worth of game time.
    • Not in my mind: $115 could get me more than 10 months worth of game time.

      Well, the alternatives, if you want something like this, are either learn to sculpt and paint a figure yourself, or pay someone else to do it.

      If you were to hire a modeler to do it, most likely they'd be able to take some shortcuts to reduce their workload (for instance, using recast parts from existing figure kits to make the basic body form) but it'd still represent a whole lot of work. $100 would probably be a bargain if you went this route... The results you get would depend on how much you're willin

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MBGMorden ( 803437 )
        Must agree. I'm also a modeler (mostly figure and sci-fi subjects. I do a little WW2 and modern general aviation too), and being used to the cost of resin garage kits, this doesn't seem all that bad. To put into perspective: I paid $80 for a 1/72nd scale BSG (New Series) Viper Mk II kit that is about 5 inches long. I've seen PLENTY of figure kits go for at or above $200. Dropping $100 on a nice little figure like this is not bad at all.
      • Well, I guess it boils down to whether you need it or not. Bang/buck is a very variable thing, especially in a matter of personal tastes where everyone has another idea of what the "bang" is.

        If you're into such figurines, yeah, it's not a bad price at all. If you don't, then it is.

        If you always wanted such a figurine, yeah, it beats sculpting one yourself. But even there it forks. For some people it's doing it that's the fun, not the owning the figurine.

        E.g., a lot of tabletop wargame players actually are m
        • If you're into such figurines, yeah, it's not a bad price at all. If you don't, then it is.

          If you're not into such figurines then the price doesn't matter. :)

          If you always wanted such a figurine, yeah, it beats sculpting one yourself. But even there it forks. For some people it's doing it that's the fun, not the owning the figurine.

          Well, certainly that's something I can relate to. Generally I'd rather build than buy. But even among people who spend a lot of time building, painting, even modifying models, the idea of actually building one from scratch remains a significant hurdle - whether because they lack the skills to do it right or because the idea of trying simply intimidates them...

          Basically anybody, whether they're a builder or not, has to deal with their own

    • I don't think you really grasp it.

      There's quite a significant difference between play time on a mass production game and a custom figure. The game can be made affordable through economies of scale, custom figures really can't, even with this technology. For what it is, it's incredibly inexpensive.

      That doesn't mean you have to buy it, or like the price, but please understand that there are limitations on what's a realistic expectation for custom products.
      • Oh no, I grasp it. I was trying to be pithy and judging by the comments, either everyone missed it or no-one but me so far in this thread plays WoW and has to budget that $15 a month. Paying on a month-to-month or using gamecards for bimonthly payments, $110 is about 10 months of playtime. Ask a heroin junkie if he would rather buy $110 worth of junk or if he'd rather buy $110 of something concrete that deals directly with his habit (say, a golden syringe) and he's gonna go for the junk (or steal something
        • OK, I get that. I don't think this guy has anything to be worried about. He's got more orders than he can deal with even if his products are priced out of the range of a lot of players. But if you've got years invested into your character, then compared to the cost and effort, the statue is pretty inexpensive.
          • Yeah, I could even actually see me getting one ... except by the time it got in my hands (6-8 weeks after winning the monthly lottery) I'd almost expect my toon to look signifigantly different.

            Not arguing at all about the supposed coolness factor, just sayin ... man, that's a lot of gametime dollars for something that's just a reminder and an approximation of what you have going on.
    • A big part of the article deals with the complicated lottery system they've got because they don't expect to be able to meet demand. To me, that says, "Price too low."
  • Slashdot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cornflake917 ( 515940 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:32PM (#21671963) Homepage
    If this isn't news for nerds, I don't know what is.
  • This company is going to make millions.
    • Maybe not, the article links mention they're limiting to a 100 per month production run. Subtracting out the materials, and they're probably making a few grand a month. Not bad for a single person but it probably wouldn't pay for the 3d printer lease.
    • I doubt it - the HP inkjet parts they are using will probably only be good for about three or four uses before they need to be replaced at some ridiculous price.
  • by night_flyer ( 453866 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @12:46PM (#21672213) Homepage
    Probably like this... []
    • by dmatos ( 232892 )

      It's inkjet printer heads and inkjet printer ink. They've got a platform that they spread plaster powder on. When each layer is printed with the ink, it soaks into the plaster powder, which then hardens.
    • I know sometimes RTFA is too much. But RTFS should be required before posting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      They are certainly using a ZCorp [] printer. To the best of my knowledge, ZCorp still is the only manufacturer to make a multi-color 3D printer. These would be easy to print ( I run a zcorp machine). It is hard to judge the print volume from the photos, but it appears to be a pretty fair price considering the cost of the machine, materials and post processing time.
  • Pillow pals (Score:5, Funny)

    by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <> on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @01:18PM (#21672853) Homepage Journal
    Pretty awesome, can they make a life sized pillow of my blood elf?
    • Don't know about life-sized, but I do wish they had some choices as to scale. I know that they are done to scale with each other, but they look like they're 1:8 or maybe 1:10 scale. I build and collect figure models and prefer to keep all my stuff in 1:6 scale :(. I'd certainly pay extra for the larger figure.
    • Yes. What are you planning on doing with him?
  • Cool technology (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dr00g911 ( 531736 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:38PM (#21674271)
    I grew up dreaming of being able to make my own action figures.

    Over the last few years, a new category of 3D service bureaus has begun to pop up where you can place an order for model prints fairly quickly [].

    I've actually used this process on a couple of projects that I've worked on, and every time I walk through the exhibit hall at Siggraph I find myself hoping that a desktop model will reach somewhere around $1k soon.

    Currently, it's an imprecise science -- you have to make certain that your model is "watertight" -- meaning that it registers as a solid object when passed to the fab software. You also have to thicken things like teeth, swords etc because the glue process makes thin items rather brittle.

    Depending on the fabricator, you might have to paint the model after the fact, and on a whole lot of these you actually need to sand and prime the finished figure as many of the fabricators leave a sort of "fuzzy" surface that needs to be smoothed to look good.

    Anyhow, it's a really cool tech for concept art and rapid prototyping, and if you've got the skillset to watertight models you create, you can have your 3DS/Maya etc models printed pretty reasonably ($45-150ish depending on bounding box volume).
  • I've seen some models from the Zcorp machines and while impressive, they have a definite layering to them. On an 8" tall figure, it's not any more distracting than the naturally rough texture of the rest of the model, but at these tiny scales the character's face will probably be distorted.

    I've seen their promotional images (which aren't very large) and the models look pretty good (color bleed is a bit much in places), but I can't tell if they are doing something (like sanding) to get rid of that stratif
  • I've been using the intertubes long enough that I rarely feel the need to go all Grammarian on anyone, but this one is a peeve for some reason. So I'm going to throw a few karma points under the bus and get it out of my system.

    WoW Insider had the chance to sit down with Ed Fries, the founder of the new and highly unique business

    "unique" means one of a kind, alone, as in singular. You really cannot modify that aspect of it. "Very unique" means "very one of a kind" and makes no sense. It's one of a kind, or it isn't. If it isn't singular, then it may be "very unusual", but it isn't unique, let alone "ver

    • People pointing that out is a pet peeve of mine. Under the strict definition, anything and everything is unique. Even if it isn't immediately apparent, each object has a unique history, a unique position, a unique trajectory. Any sufficiently complex object has a unique structure, even if the differences are subtle. Everything as complex as a human being is unique in a billion small ways.

      Thus, a word like unique becomes meaningless when applied rigidly. We acknowledge that everything is unique in som
  • So... I can make a naked female Night Elf figurine?
  • Of the numerous players I've met in virtual and real life since starting MMOs in 1997, I think every single one of them would jump at the chance to have something like this: a little piece of the virtual world you can touch. This will attract the same people who played and collected games with "feelies"(tokens included in RPGs to enhance your connection to the game) like the Infocom Wishbringer and Origin's Ultima series.

    I'm quite certain this company will be overwhelmed with people waiting at the door f

  • I'm not trying to be annoying but this tech is not that cutting edge. Companys that make miniatures for games use just about this same thing all the time and have been for a while. All that being said - it still is pretty cool to seeit being used in the fashion.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Alva Edison