Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My philosophy

What's really good, everybody? Time again for Sanjeev's big year-end round up! This is my way of talking a little bit about what kinda ish I got cooking on the toy-production front, how techniques and technologies have evolved, and also to document this creative process for posterity. I suspect I'm gonna get a kick outta reading some of this stuff in years to come. ;) Anyway, instagram's still the best way to follow my day-to-day toy rambles...but at the same time, I don't really like to post too much of my own toy-development progress there. Sure, I'll post announcements of new releases and whatnot on ig, but I use it primarily to talk about what I love about toys in general. From a collector's perspective, feel me? This blog, however, still serves as my personal playground focusing on the toy-making side of this hobby.

So let's get it popping!

First off, I had actually planned to post after last summer's East Coast Chogokin Summit in August. The event was held in East Boston and was "closed" (invite-only) this year, given the limited space we had. That's unfortunate because it's always fun to meet new people and grow the community. But it is what it is...and while I had some pretty cool things to show off at the Summit, nothing was really production-ready (hence why I held off on making posting at the time). So what were those reveals? Heh, well, I'm gonna hold onto those secrets for just a bit longer still! 2015 was a solid year of learning and growing. And 2016 is already shaping up to be a year where we'll be able to enjoy the fruits of that labor!

Before I get into the philosophical stuff, I got a quick announcement I'm real excited about! There's a new member of the fam. But don't get it twisted--this is NO rookie by any means. This dude's been slinging resin for a ill minute, and he's apprenticed under none other than the great Ron Daley and Matt Doughty for even longer than Onell's been around. And now with the recent boom in 3D printing, he's thrown his lot in with dangerous individuals like myself, David, and Ben. He is PJ Bartlett of Spaced Out Design! If you get a chance, please check him out. He's been rocking some amazing Glyos-compatible 3D-printed figures that are blowing up the spot.

So probably the most interesting challenge I've pondered this past year is the concept of scale. See, just like with any sort of manufacturing process, there are strengths and weaknesses associated with using common FFF technology to produce toys directly. For example, if the resolution on these machines were better, it would be a snap to produce MUSCLE-style figures that you could sell for peanuts. Or if they printed MUCH faster (and if the parts required a fraction of the cleanup work), you could sell a Transformers-style toy for about how much you could expect to pay for a mass-produced one at retail.

Now, as it turns out, producing runs of smaller toys like the MicroClones is actually surprisingly labor-intensive. The parts come off the printer much faster than with a larger toy, so you're constantly having to keep track of all the tiny parts and stay on top of the post-print cleanup workload. And just because those parts are smaller, that doesn't mean the cleanup's all that much easier! So in a lot of ways, a MUCH bigger toy like the Powered Bio Suit ends up being easier overall to produce! It seems counter-intuitive, but the reality is that the bigger, chunkier PBS parts are ultimately easier to clean up...and because those parts take so much longer to print, there's a lot more time available between print jobs to do that work. Sure, it still takes 3 days to make a single PBS (while I could do half a dozen MicroClones in that time), but you can imagine how less taxing it can be to produce larger toys that sell for over $100 than it is to produce smaller toys that sell for a lot less.

The philosophy of scale, therefore, boils down to the question of whether or not I want to sustain the toil required to keep on churning out cheaper offerings, or switch over to producing exclusively high-end items at a more leisurely pace. On paper, the high-end approach looks more amenable to my lifestyle. But there's an undeniable allure to producing cheap toys: your offerings become more accessible to a larger number of folks...plus you gain the ability to give away large numbers of your toys. That last bit may sound a bit odd, but trust me--after having given away dozens of dozens of Glyos figures over the years to kids I know, nothing beats that feeling. NOTHING.

So for now, I'm gonna stick to doing what I'm doing. The response to the "Wave 0" MicroClones (see last post) was intense. The couple dozen or so figures I offered on Monster Kolor sold out in just over half an hour! Clearly heads are feeling them...and unlike the first generation Shogun Voyagers (yeah, remember those??), they don't break my back to produce! I'm still working out details for a sub-$10 Shogun Voyager mini that will fill that cheap toy role...but I don't think it will expand into a whole line. We'll see how things progress into the next year as I grapple more with this question...

And speaking of the MicroClones, the intrepid forces of Earth and their allies from Micro Earth [or the Microverse, if you prefer! ;) ] are getting some upgrades to their gear in the coming New Year! Yup, the standard MicroClone explorers will be joined by two new troop types for when the action calls for more specialized roles.

The Powered Bio Suit is what I'm really excited about for next year, though. Now, keep in mind that the PBS was the *very* first toy I ever tried to develop when I first got my own 3D printer. That was one helluva learning experience! Over the years, you guys have seen quite a few iterations of the toy on this blog. Each and ever piece I produced sold (THANK YOU!!), but clearly it's taken me some to get it perfect. And, yes, being a perfectionist is part of being a toy-maker! Well, after a recent few months of design tweaks, I've finally got it right. At least, as far as I'm concerned--your mileage may vary. ;) I've completely overhauled the packaging design, hardened several joints and connection ports, upgraded some aesthetics, and added some new gimmicks. And probably the most significant change is that I'm folding the toy into the overarching "MicroClone" brand. Of course, the MicroClone line didn't exist when I first started developing the PBS, but now that the MicroClones are an established thing, the move just makes sense. And to commemorate this ultimate iteration, I'm calling it the "Mark II" PBS:

I don't have a set date for when the next MicroClone wave will drop, but it will certainly include the original figures, the two new augmented soldier types, and at least a few MkII Powered Bio Suits. A little something for everyone! Of course, all the details will be revealed here and I'll be making the announcement on ig and on the usual facebook groups.

There's more coming in 2016, of course...including a Shogun Voyager release that's bound to snap necks and cash checks. As I'm often fond of saying, stay tuned. ;) Oh, and more keshigomu collaborations are on the way. If I can somehow carve out the time to do it, I'd love to do another Spiral Zone keshi vehicle with my homeboy, Eric Nilla. So, yeah, LOTS going on!

Stay sucka free in 2016, y'all! Now go listen to some KRS-One!