Travelers, Part 1

Peacetime, now, as it had been for half a decade.

Maera bumped the tower door with her hip, held it open with her rump and eased out onto the wall-walk, taking care not to spill any grog from the dozen steaming mugs she bore like a serving girl on the inside of her shield. She puffed a wisp of mousy hair from her eyes and called to the sargeant of the watch. “Elias! Some help, if you would.”

Elias, still quick even at threescore and two, set down his spyglass and hustled over to relieve the chateliane of her burden. “Good morning, milady! Thankee much.” He distributed the hot grog around the wall and offered the last tankard to Maera. “Milady?”

She shook her head and smiled. “It’s yours, please. Still chilly up here, it is.”

The sargeant grinned and sipped daintily at the tankard, one pinky raised in silent mockery of his lady’s educated accent. “Chilly, but calm, at least. The night passed without incident, as they all do of late.”

Maera had taken a habit of posting a light guard in the last six months. Red hadn’t made noise since their victory and the other clans were too far away to mount an attack without messengers spotting them weeks in advance.

Peacetime it was, but of course there were Vile Things out there that weren’t Men and didn’t care a whit for clan politics. Elias continued. “Can’t say as I miss the war, though.”

He scraped the last bit of honey from his mug with a grimy finger, licked, and squinted out over the wall. “Hello, what’s this? Movement at the far marker, if these old eyes tell the truth?”

He unbuckled his spyglass and handed it to Maera. “What is it? Even with the lens I’d never know.”

Maera heard three sharp toots from a warning horn– another wall-walker had spotted the movement and sounded an alert. She sighed. Three notes were a bit excessive at this distance, but then again these men were fairly well starved for something to do lately. She lifted the spyglass to her eye and homed in on the intruder.

The image of a man pulling a two-wheeled cart filled her view. And what a man! A giant, standing tall as a rearing warhorse. His skin was lightly tanned, even so early in the year. His clothing was at once coarse and complicated, with swirls of embroidery up the sleeves and sides of his green… tunic? Robe? Hard to say. It went to his knees and he wore black leggings underneath.

Another man, younger, slept in a padded chair behind the giant. His skin and hair were similar in color, but his robe (yes, definitely a robe on this one) was clearly of finer quality. The man’s head tilted over the back of his seat and he loosely held the neck of a large gourd in his left hand. He wore stockings of the purest white, but only one sandal.

How odd the cart looked; more of a tent-covered chair on wheels than a proper cart, with barely any space for extra cargo. Not merchants, then, nor peddlers, and certainly not warriors, though a sword hung in its scabbard from the side of the cart. Slowly, canopy swaying left to right with each step, the giant and his snoozing master plodded ever closer to the Black Keep.

Maera lowered the spyglass as the wall began to bustle with activity. “Well,” she mused to no one in particular, “this should be a novelty.”

D is for Direwolf!

Here’s some very cool technology from Sketchfab that lets users embed 3D content just about anywhere. Blogs, Facebook, Kickstarters, you name it.

This is one of the proof-of-concept models I developed for Dungeon Blocks. Go ahead, give it a spin!

Folks unfamiliar with 3D printing might wonder why the indentations for the block’s mortar are angled. This is a common 3d printing modeling technique to ensure successive layers of hot plastic have something beneath them for support. If those mortar lines were 90° angles, the bottom edges of the stone blocks would probably droop downwards on most FDM printers.

Another design note: the bottom of the block is completely flat to help it adhere to the printer’s build platform.

Have I mentioned that there’s still time to back the project? We’re at 42% and could use a few more minds to help decide which fantasy tropes are featured on the final set of blocks. Check out the Kickstarter here.

Dungeon Blocks, enGIFfened!

So! Earlier this week Dungeon Blocks was launched. The Kickstarter’s doing well– as of today we’re 40% funded!

dungeon blocks16-9

Dungeon Blocks are 3D printable alphabet blocks emblazoned with fantasy creatures and dungeon scenery. Here’s the linky if you’d like to throw it a bone or two: http://kck.st/1FNEFwP

The plan is to illustrate 26-odd fantasy tropes and then 3d model them onto the blocks. We’ve got a proof-of-concept D is for Direwolf block, as well as a bunch of scenery like dungeon walls, doors, and staircases. Take a look at the Kickstarter page to see some concept art for scenery that’ll be in the final version.

Despair not, ye without access to 3D printers; there be fantasy critter coloring book backer rewards too!

This time around we’re crowdsourcing the creativity, too: if the project’s funded I’ll be setting up a forum here at Zheng3.com where backers can hash out exactly which fantasy tropes they’d like to see featured on the blocks. We’ve already got some heavy hitters from the 3D printing community as backers and I’m really looking forward to seeing the ideas they come up with.

You, yes, you can get in on the action and be part of the creative process by backing at the PARTY MEMBER level. If you just want to help support Open Source design (and receive a PDF coloring tome to boot) become a FRIENDLY NPC instead.

Usually at this point in the blog post I go into a behind-the-scenes-how’d-he-do-dat 3d modeling riff, but by Jove I’ve been writing/coding a lot lately and just need to flex some different tendons for a bit.

Here’s a GIF instead.

dungeon block

11 Reasons A Heartwarming Kickstarter Failed: #2 Will Give You The Feels

Well, that certainly could have gone better.

crash

The funding period for Faire Play 2 has ended and we’ve come up short. Like, way, way, way short. You can still purchase the models for the Faire Play 2 chariot, gladiatrix armor, and Empress Makeover Kit over at The Bazaar, but the Kickstarter’s gone off and joined the choir invisible.

Before we proceed, allow me this big, red, throbbing, baboon-ass of a caveat. Nowhere is it written that one is entitled to a successful Kickstarter. You buys your ticket, and you takes your chances. Zheng Labs rolled the dice and came up with a big old nothing-burger this time. C’est la vie.

But you can’t hit if you don’t swing, right? Build it, as is told in the Book of Costner, and they will come.

And come they did, in droves. Faire Play 2 received a tremendous amount of favorable media coverage in online publications across the spectrum, from The Huffington Post to Newsmax. There are Kickstarters that would kill for that kind of exposure.

There are rumors that the potato salad guy did kill for that kind of exposure. But only rumors, mind you.

And yet, despite a truly inspiring amount of publicity and online good will, Faire Play 2 missed its goal by roughly eighty percent.

Ouch.

But as Grandma Zheng always used to say, if you’re going to fail, you might as well fail spectacularly. So there’s that.

What happened? Let’s explore some possibilities.

#1. In hindsight, launching a Kickstarter contingent on the cooperation of cats might not have been the smartest business plan.

Everybody knows there’s no way you’d ever get a cat to pull a chariot. Ever. And even if you did the cat would find a way to kill you in your sleep. The Venn diagram of people with Barbie dolls, 3D printers, and cats is also vanishingly small, which further limited the number of potential Faire Play 2 backers.

cat reveal

#2. People are used to getting amusing content for free, and converting Kickstarter video views into Kickstarter backing isn’t a viable strategy.

I had a tremendous amount of fun creating the Kickstarter video for this project. My hope was that people would watch the video and then think, “Yes! Imagine what this guy could do with greater resources. Here’s two bucks.”

Alas, in a world where hilarious dashcam vids of road-raging mascots are free for the taking, asking people to selflessly contribute to one’s artistic endeavors is hoplessly naïve.

thumbs down

Still, STILL! Many people did contribute to the project for precisely that reason! I’m thoroughly grateful to the hundred or so idealists who supported Faire Play 2. You folks are the best, and the world would be better off with more people like you.

Also, apparently 3d printed lithopanes are a terrible idea for a backer reward. Who knew?

#3. Nobody plays with dolls anymore.

It hasn’t been a great year for Mattel. Barbie sales crashed 21% in Q3 of 2014 and have been sinking for three years straight, and Mattel’s CEO left for greener pastures.

I’m doing what I can to revitalize Barbie’s image, but I can’t imagine a kid born after 2010 picking up a doll when there’s an iPad nearby. The market for aftermarket Barbie accessories, already quite nichey, gets smaller every day.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but model this Barbie-compatible tire iron. In this house, Barbie changes her own tires.

tire iron

It’s free! Download it here. You’ll have to heat-deform it after printing to get that nice bend in the shaft.

My guess is that at this point in the article some folks are wondering why there aren’t 8 more reasons the Kickstarter didn’t succeed. It’s because the 11 in the title of this post is in base-2.

So, what’s next?

Oh, man, I am so excited for the Next Thing.

(I’m always chasing the Next Thing. Character flaw. Greatest strength, greatest weakness, and all that.)

I’ve been working on the Next Thing for the last couple of weeks and hope to announce it soon. Here’s a wee teaser image for you.

teaser

#staytuned and #watchthisspace, my friends. This temporary setback has got me generating all kinds of new ideas. The ride’s only going to get more fun from here on out.

And big, big, BIG thanks to everyone who supported the project. I’s got good peeps.

Faltering Kickstarter Offers Steak Knives In Obvious Bid For Relevance

It’s not quite the eleventh hour, but we can see the trembling minute hand from here. A fortnight to go and we’ve just crested 18% funding. Faire Play 2 could be doing much better, and Coco haz a sad.

Everyone who hasn’t backed so far has made a little kitten cry.

You monsters.

tears

But! all is not lost. All is never lost, not so long as one dwarf in Moria still draws breath. Creativity reigns here at Zheng Labs, and WE WILL FIND A WAY.

So I reach down into the Bag of Holding, rummage around, and pull out a Hail Mary backer reward that will surely save this Kickstarter from the ash heap of crowdfunding history. I call forth…

STEAK KNIVES?

steak knife

Whatever, I’ll run with it.

IF YOU BACK NOW, you will receive, absolutely FREE, this fine set of digital steak knives, suitable for printing on any 3D printer.

sparky knife

Forged from the finest free-range polygons! Once printed, these serrated knives are sharp enough to slice the toughest of warm lards and are absolutely guaranteed to warp in any household dishwasher.

And that’s not all! They’re not food-safe, either!

But! Amazing as these digital steak knives may be, they are only available to people who have backed Faire Play 2 at any level. Robots are standing by to take your contribution. Help kittens now.

pledge now

Yes, I used Comic Sans. Desperate times, desperate measures.

It’s a hoot! A 3D-Printed Superb_owl

Superb_owl

Folks really seemed to enjoy last week’s Settlers of Catan Robber, and what with the Super Bowl coming up and my having a 3D model of a football helmet just sitting around on Ye Olde Harde Drive, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remix it.

You can download this superb_owl for free right here. If you print one, tweet me a photo with hashtag #superb_owl on Super Bowl Sunday.

Better yet, Instagram dat shizz. All the kids with their hippity-hop and fleeky fleeks are on the Instagram, bae.

Superb_owl wouldn’t exist without the Thingiverse user cushwa’s excellent Owl statue, remixed many, many times by other artists. Thanks, cushwa, for all your hard work.


Almost forgot to mention: roughly a fortnight remains in Zheng Labs’ 3D printing Kickstarter funding period! We could use a boost.

We’re crowdfunding Faire Play 2: A Barbie-compatible 3D printed Roman chariot that can, in theory, be pulled by cats. If you haven’t backed yet, go throw it a coupla-tree bucks.

One Week In And Coco Loves You

One week in and the Kickstarter’s going well! Thanks everybody!

I read something ridiculous recently about how people under 30 can only communicate online in gifs and memes, so I pulled one of my favorite segments from the Kickstarter video and giffed it to show gratitude for my backers.


For the record, GIF is pronounced with a hard G. #hardG4eva