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My road towards Kickstarter: Lessons Learned


robert4818
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There's also an issue of stability, Recruit. The higher walls make the pieces stronger, and less likely to break before the customer gets them. The idea is that the customer can then cut it down to size with a hot wire if that's what they want. I'm not sure how appealing most people are going to find that, but that's the idea, anyway.

 

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you that shorter walls are going to appeal to more customers, but there are some other issues at work here.

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For me, there's always been a struggle between modularity, and ease of use. This product, itself, has been that same level of balance. Before I even knew putting outside doors into them was not possible, I wasn't planning on putting outside doors into the tiles. The primary reason was I wanted users to be able to add in doors to the outside of the tile where they saw fit. However, I wanted to avoid doing the same for the inside of the tiles, this allowed a tile to be slapped down and ready to go very quickly.

 

The thing is the number of configurations goes up exponentially as you decrease the size of the tiles while the increase in time to set it up won't be so dramatic. Given the cost of shipping and the difficulty of storage, I think your potential customers would better served with more versatility.

 

For instance if a set of 4 tiles were split into 16 tiles the 16 tiles would have trillions more possibilities*. More importantly, as Nirath points out above, the perception of seeing the same old layout would be lessened.

 

*Well maybe... It depends on how hard it is to get the tiles to match. But it would be a lot.

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There's also an issue of stability, Recruit. The higher walls make the pieces stronger, and less likely to break before the customer gets them. The idea is that the customer can then cut it down to size with a hot wire if that's what they want. I'm not sure how appealing most people are going to find that, but that's the idea, anyway.

 

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you that shorter walls are going to appeal to more customers, but there are some other issues at work here.

 

I was under the impression is the thicker walls that made the piece stronger. I can't really see how higher walls would affect the strength or stability of the thing. If the outer walls were just as short as the inner walls, the structure and stability should remain quite high, yet the utility for tabletoppers using minis would increase. Just make sure the exterior and interior walls are the same size. At least, that is what I gathered the issue was...

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Wall height is an issue I'm not sure I can compromise too much on. There are two major reasons. The first is strength of the model. Just as T and I beams are stronger than a flat beam, so is it true that having vertical walls strengthens the model as a whole. Regardless of how much I pretty it up by going with a grey material, this is still Styrofoam, and its not the strongest stuff on earth. Shrinking the walls down to 1/2 inch is liable to weaken the model more than I'd like.

 

Brainstorm Possibilities:

 

1) Thicken the floor. If the floor is brought up, that has the same effect on line-of-sight as shortening the walls. You could exploit the thicker floor (or give it a "reason to exist") by occasionally having features that exploit the thickness, such as a pit or chasm, or stairs leading down.

 

2) Raise the floor. Similar to above, but just raise the floor up, with space underneath. What do you DO with the space underneath? Why, you have a reversible board you can flip over to reveal. :D (Slightly) different layout on each side!

 

3) Make each section smaller. Instead of 18"x18", have 4 x 9"x9" modules -- or go somewhere in between, with 12"x12" sections for instance. Smaller squares means less leverage on those walls -- and also potentially means more flexibility in layout options.

 

4) Keep the walls tall, but thicken them and BEVEL or TIER them. Have you ever seen the Space Hulk tiles and the way the "walls" are presented with a peculiar top-down distortion perspective within each room? Imagine doing something like that, but in 3D, with the wall sections lifting up at an angle away from the floor. It limits the space where figure bases can be put, allowing a bit more of an allowance for figure features that expand beyond the bases, and for you to grab the figures.

 

Hirst Arts dungeon designs *kind* of do this with their original dungeon corridors by having a half-square tile on each side of a central lane of complete squares (with the idea that those half-squares are for accommodating figure hang-over elements). The trouble is that in actual practice, players tend to squeeze in their figures, regardless of where the square tiles land, so a Hirst Arts "1 square wide" corridor is effectively "2 squares wide" (without any slack). A beveled or tiered wall design might accomplish the intent (space for overhanging dramatically posed arms, swords, cloaks, etc. + for your fingers to grab the minis).

 

gray throughout, so cutting it won't leave white spots at the top of the walls. In the end, its always possible to take foam out of a tile than it is to add in extra.

 

True, and having the foam be gray throughout certainly facilitates that. However, it's hard to do so and make a nice, straight, machined-looking line. Perhaps if the walls were "slightly tiered" (e.g., the walls go up to 1/2", then go in by 2mm of thickness before continuing upward) that could have the effect of providing a "cutting guide" for anyone who wants shorter wall segments.

 

This is somewhat limiting and unrealistic for more modern settings, (how often do you walk through a 2'1/2 - 3' wall? But its an accommadation needed for the material itself.

 

One thing I've toyed with (but never actually done much with) for trying to build modern building 3D layouts would be to have a base piece that has channels or grooves cut into it to indicate the positions of modern (fairly thin) walls, and then have wall sections of cardboard or foam-core insulation board that would fit into the channels -- perhaps even allowing for a certain degree of customization by adding or removing wall sections to divide off an area.

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I'd say wait a few weeks, if not a few months, if only because of how many kickstarters are going off right now. Reaper had the advantage in that they started early, so more people had more money available to pledge. So many people have their funds tied up in other kickstarters by now that I don't think it'd be wise to try to start one just yet. Maybe wait until the KS (band)wagon train comes to a grisly end at the hands of some hostile plains indians or a pack of wolves or dehydration something.

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Just my own thoughts on this, so it might not be worth much, but is there a particular reason the walls are so tall? I understand you wanted these to stack to make (as far as I can tell) a revealable dungeon that you can just open up/addon to as you go. But wouldn't that be possible with much shorter walls? You couldn't pre-populate the dungeon floor with the enemies/players, but you could remove the layer they are currently on, then set up the population of that floor, and this could be done with walls that are only 1-2 inches tall, saving yourself material costs and saving the players storage space and visibility issues.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the shot of the physcial thing was a "proof of concept" prototype. It was there that we realized that 3" walls, which sounded nice in design were simply too high. Since that prototype was built, walls have dropped down to 2", which you mentioned. They aren't going to drop any farther than that from a design standpoint. However, as its made of Styrofoam, a hot wire or hot knife tool can shave the walls down to whatever height you actually want when you get it.

 

For me, there's always been a struggle between modularity, and ease of use. This product, itself, has been that same level of balance. Before I even knew putting outside doors into them was not possible, I wasn't planning on putting outside doors into the tiles. The primary reason was I wanted users to be able to add in doors to the outside of the tile where they saw fit. However, I wanted to avoid doing the same for the inside of the tiles, this allowed a tile to be slapped down and ready to go very quickly.

 

The thing is the number of configurations goes up exponentially as you decrease the size of the tiles while the increase in time to set it up won't be so dramatic. Given the cost of shipping and the difficulty of storage, I think your potential customers would better served with more versatility.

 

For instance if a set of 4 tiles were split into 16 tiles the 16 tiles would have trillions more possibilities*. More importantly, as Nirath points out above, the perception of seeing the same old layout would be lessened.

 

*Well maybe... It depends on how hard it is to get the tiles to match. But it would be a lot.

 

There is some merit there, but some things can't change, which makes shrinking tiles a losing proposition. The exterior walls need to stay 1" thick regardless of tile size to give the tile its strength. This cuts the interior usefulness by 2" period. Interior walls, as mentioned earlier have to stay 1/2" thick or thicker in order to facilitate molding and for simple wall strength as well (much thinner and you risk the wall breaking as someone brushes it with an arm reaching across the table.) Since these two things don't scale down with tile size, each decrease in tile size shrinks the usable space of the tile by even more.

 

For example the 18" tile has 16 inches of usable space per side, If I dropped that by half to 9" per tile, the usable space drops to 7 inches, less than half the original, and the interior walls of 1/2" actually make that 7" harder to make unique tile designs out of.

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Re: wall height vs.stability. Taller walls do not make the pieces more stable. Thicker walls (or floors) do. The closer you are to the joints (wall-to-floor or wall-to-wall) the more dimensionally stable the pieces are. The further you get from these (i.e. with taller walls) the less stable those areas are, and the more susceptible to breakage at those extreme points.

 

Based on that, and the strictly practical matters that super tall walls do not work well for moving figures around (trust me when I say that even at 1 1/2" inches tall, sometimes the walls of my dungeon crawl are annoying for moving models around), it would seem like going even shorter than 2" for the walls would be beneficial to your tiles. And honestly, unless you are playing a hardcore wargame, LOS is not a big issue. In my dungeon crawl, players face both situations (where they can see some monsters, but not others); if there is a wall between them and the creature, they know there is no LOS. If they can't see something and get surprised by it, then it is very much like being surprised by a monster in a RPG; they roll with it. It often even adds to the excitement.

 

Robert, have you considered producing the walls and floors as separate parts, and creating dungeon tile kits? This would open the possibility to produce a handful of floor styles and a handful of wall styles, and then be able to mix and match. It would require more work on the end-user's part, but would vastly increase the customization aspect of the pieces. The only required tool would be glue (though you'd likely want to research what works best to head off consumer questions). In my head, I keep coming back to the idea that you could offer a kit that would be designed to build a specific style of tile, but could be rebuilt in any number of ways, limited only by the creativity of the consumer.

 

Such an approach would add the benefit of being able to package the tiles completely flat (think IKEA-style flat-pack furniture), and potentially even drop the size of your tile sections, further easing the shipping logistics burden.

 

Just thinking out loud. ::):

 

~v

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I think someone suggested it already, but would it be possible to mold in potential cut lines?

 

Cutlines themselves might be a bit rough. My understanding of the molding process that they are using (and I could be wrong here) is a box, with the interior on one side, and a simple box on the other. (So all those walls are on the same side, and simply get lifted/slid out of the mold after its made.

 

This situation precludes me from having overhangs as they would catch on the mold and break. A mold line in the models (Either dimpled, or extruding) could have that same effect. If it's thin enough, it may not be a problem. I'll have to ask my manufacturer on these when I get my quotes back on the molds I've sent him.

 

The other suggestion has been Tiered Walls, These would be doable, as there are not overhangs associated with them. I'll need to toy with them, and see if they look ok after they've been done.

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Some people have been requesting something similar to another company;s modular dungeon kits. To that end, I have whipped up this idea.

 

561616_4040389160691_452737704_n.jpg

 

This idea would require you to use some form of foam cutter, like a hot wire or hot knife tool. Included are small cutting guides, raised (or lowered for walls 1/16". Thin cutting lines would be cut "just outside" while thicker ones would be cut as close to the middle as possible.

 

One tile (retail $15-20) would net you:

 

8 2x2 flat tiles

8 2x2 1 wall tiles

8 2x2 corner wall tiles

7 2x2 passage way tiles

8 circular columns

10 square columns

 

All in the same gray foam as the other tiles.

 

If enough people like this type of tile it will become a stretch goal, and possibly even a separate (but compatible) product line.

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Some people have been requesting something similar to another company;s modular dungeon kits. To that end, I have whipped up this idea.

 

561616_4040389160691_452737704_n.jpg

 

This idea would require you to use some form of foam cutter, like a hot wire or hot knife tool. Included are small cutting guides, raised (or lowered for walls 1/16". Thin cutting lines would be cut "just outside" while thicker ones would be cut as close to the middle as possible.

 

One tile (retail $15-20) would net you:

 

8 2x2 flat tiles

8 2x2 1 wall tiles

8 2x2 corner wall tiles

7 2x2 passage way tiles

8 circular columns

10 square columns

 

All in the same gray foam as the other tiles.

 

If enough people like this type of tile it will become a stretch goal, and possibly even a separate (but compatible) product line.

I am not a hardcore gamer by any stretch so my thoughts may not matter much, but I like this option the best.

It gives you customization and lower cost.

 

I personally wouldn't buy the first ones you mentioned, as it is a static and set piece that I would have to cut apart etc. Too much money for something I would need to cut apart or trim walls, Etc.

 

This last set intrigues me and I would probably buy it at the store on a whim.

 

Here's why:

It offers the option of having 3d terrain that is affordable and generic and customizable.

 

The price point is such that it would allow me to jump into a 3d rpg setting, which is what I would want to play anyway, while offering the flexibility of dwarven forge or hirst molds without the commitment of time or money so If I decide I really am not into the rpg thing I haven't spent hundreds of dollars on something I will never use.

 

Limitless options.

You can have hallways, rooms, even buildings if there was a was to make the bottom of the pieces stack and stay, with groves that match the wall layout on the top. That way you can make a 3d building that is modular and customizable.

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Since that prototype was built, walls have dropped down to 2", which you mentioned. They aren't going to drop any farther than that from a design standpoint. However, as its made of Styrofoam, a hot wire or hot knife tool can shave the walls down to whatever height you actually want when you get it.

 

One of the most challenging parts of any business is finding customers. Design of a product both attracts and eliminates potential customers. With a product like this, you want to design of the product to as viable to as many people as possible. That said, very few gamers own a hot wire or hot knife. Like 95%+ of tabletop RPGers do not own one. I would make you product functional for as many people as possible.

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Since that prototype was built, walls have dropped down to 2", which you mentioned. They aren't going to drop any farther than that from a design standpoint. However, as its made of Styrofoam, a hot wire or hot knife tool can shave the walls down to whatever height you actually want when you get it.

 

One of the most challenging parts of any business is finding customers. Design of a product both attracts and eliminates potential customers. With a product like this, you want to design of the product to as viable to as many people as possible. That said, very few gamers own a hot wire or hot knife. Like 95%+ of tabletop RPGers do not own one. I would make you product functional for as many people as possible.

 

One option would be to offer pre-cut pieces at a higher price (to account for the extra work).

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One option would be to offer pre-cut pieces at a higher price (to account for the extra work).

 

So mass manufacture the product for a small part of the audience, then put in time-consuming modifications to the product for a larger customer base? Don't think it's time consuming? Spend 5 minutes work on 100 things. = 500 minutes = 8+ hours of work.

 

At that point, just make them yourself using something like Smooth-On Foam-It 5.Given the size of the audience for this sorta thing... why wouldn't you do it that way to begin with? Kickstart for the costs to make the molds, say 4 designs, 10 each. Then you can crank out product as needed. 2 hour cure time, with 10 molds you could make 40 per design each day. Doing it yourself you could easily add in some rigid grids to make it much more durable.

 

A one-car garage would be more than enough space for the entire operation, or a garage sized storage unit. Meanwhile, order a ton of these manufactured would fill a large space, easily. Storage might kill the deal.

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