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

Building Rome in a Day for a Kickstarter video

There’s a Kickstarter statistic that says you’re something like 50% more likely to get funded if you’ve got a movie attached to your project. Currently we’re at about 14% funding for Faire Play 2 in less that a week, which is a nice start.

Here’s our movie, and after you’ve watched it head down below the embed to see a little behind the scenes movie magic.

If you haven’t backed, pop over to Kickstarter and drop a couple bucks on the project. Let’s see if we can’t get to 20% by the end of the day. Share the following link with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter, too! That helps a lot. http://kck.st/1FQ7FZf

Thanks. And now onto the show.

Fun, right? Here’s how Emperor Sparky’s world is done IRL. The title of the post is a little misleading– it takes days– plural– to make a video like this. Weeks, really.

We’re not even talking audio editing, which be a whole ‘nother can o’ worms.

The short answer to “how’d he do that” is Photoshop. Lots and lots of Photoshop. Zheng Labs kicks it old-school with Photoshop CS2, the last version of Photoshop that runs on our 32-bit Mac Pro tower. (hence the Kickstarter– more operating capital==better equipment and software to crank out fun projects like this more quickly.) I’m shooting almost everything with a battered old Canon G11, except for a few quickies I take with an iPhone here and there.

And cardboard. Lots of cardboard and a matte knife. No laser cutting here, not yet anyway.

The first step is to make and paint the most important part of the set, Sparky’s balcony. I’d been saving paper towel tubes for use as columns for months.

This piece of the set is mostly made from spray paint, old Amazon Prime boxes, masking tape, and crayons. One can accomplish a lot with these simple tools if one drinks a lot of cheap coffee and mainlines Science Friday podcasts in the basement at 4:30 AM on Saturday before anybody else in the house is awake to bother you.

001

It’s all set up on my workbench down in the basement. Sparky’s stuck into the scene for reference purposes only– he doesn’t show up in the final shot.

Next, I start duplicating pieces of the background arches to hide the basement in the background. Sparky disappears behind a piece of background created straight-on in another shot and deformed to match the perspective of the arch behind him. Apparently I wasn’t happy with that blue pennon on the right sticking out, because I replaced it with a duplicate of the pennon on the left.

003

Continue to fill in background pieces here and there, making sure there aren’t any gaps and the perspective and lighting more or less match.

004

My basement is slowly disappearing as I copy and paste pieces of virtual cardboard into the background. All throughout this process I’m making little tweaks with Photoshop’s cloning and healing brushes too. Also dodging and burning as appropriate and redrawing crayon lines where needed in an attempt to keep the artwork as organic as I can.

Faking shadows is really important, too. Lots of fake shadows with a bit of Gaussian blur on them help pieces of the set pop visually.

005

Here we’re finished adding background and a blue sky, which definitely doesn’t exist in my basement. Adjust the final lighting and paste in the LEGO gladiator. He’s a foreground element so he’s shot in a lightbox, isolated with Photoshop’s extraction tools, and then pasted in.

006

Aesthetics are far more important than reality in a venture like this, so darkening the archways was an important step towards achieving a pleasing image. As a final flourish, hand-draw the laurels on the red pennon with one of Photoshop’s custom brushes to simulate crayon.

So that’s basically how the inside of the cardboard Colosseum was made; repeat that basic process for about 47 more shots and you’ve got yourself a video, buster.

The establishing wide shot of the Colosseum is another matter entirely. It’s not so much Photoshop as Autodesk Maya. First, a background plate so I can get the perspective close enough.

standin

I’m using the Lincoln Logs can as a stand-in for the final Colosseum.

Photoshop’s warping and lighting tools leave something to be desired, so for this shot I created a rough 3D model in Maya and then mapped the cardboard textures onto it.

wireframe

The 3D model is just a little too perfect (and stable-looking) when it’s rendered out, so the Maya image gets pulled into Photoshop again for tweaking, slicing, and dicing. I blow out the saturation and move some background and foreground elements around, too. Note the addition of a d20 in the foreground. I loves me some gratuitous icosohedrons.

That electrical outlet isn’t there in real life, either; I added it to improve the final composition and set the scale of the scene in the viewer’s mind.

opening

Thanks for reading this far! If you haven’t already done so, please back the Faire Play 2 Kickstarter. With your help, I’ll be able to take the budget for the next Kickstarter video well into double digits.

D’Oh! Almost forgot to mention! Those capitals and plinths on the paper towel tubes that turn them into Ionic columns? They’re available for free download right here. They’re printed in Filabot’s Carbon Fiber ABS, which makes them nigh indestructible and probably overkill for an application like this, but then again I’m a belt-and-suspenders sort of hominid.

Also, Coco says hi.

column

Meow!

Sacking Seahawks with a Packers-themed Catan Robber

Through some mighty confluence of geolocation and preferences algorithms my Facebook Trending feed indicated that the Green Bay Packers are currently obsessed with Settlers of Catan.

Out-of-staters and international visitors to the blog may be unaware that Wisconsin residents are legally obligated to be Green Bay Packers fans. My understanding is that late governor Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follete, sensing the future greatness of Packers football in the Badger State, slipped this requirement into the state constitution in 1902 after meeting the as-yet-unborn Vince Lombardi’s mother in a Brooklyn pizzeria.

We are nothing if not trendy and loyal to the green and gold here at Zheng Labs, and so we took a few hours off from publicizing our latest Kickstarter to create a 3D printable Packers-themed Robber that’s compatible with Settlers of Catan.

packer

This model’s available for free download, just clicky clicky right here. If you’re from the Pack, and you want one printed for the locker room, email me and I’ll hook you up. Heck, for you guys I’ll even customize a bunch with whatever jersey numbers you like.

Oh, and that Kickstarter?

We’re crowdfunding Faire Play 2: A Barbie-compatible 3D printed Roman chariot that can, in theory, be pulled by cats. Check it out and throw me a bone, even if you’re a Seahawks fan. We can all learn to love one another.