Hyground Tiles are a bittersweet tale of a crowdfunding project not reaching its goal, turning into a revamped idea with renewed initiative and excitement, and headed the right way on its second rodeo, if you ask me.
Originally seeking funding in 2014 (with a relaunch having been initially planned for February 2015), a variety of factors caused the project to fall short of funding, so the team at Yeti Militia Games LLC fell back and regrouped.
Four years later (almost to the day), with a switch from selling hard plastic to just funding .stl files and a decidedly wider audience behind them, the team are once again looking to Kickstarter and going for gold, July 31st 2018!
I managed to get a hold of mastermind Bill Reaser and grill him for a bevy of information, anecdotes, advice, and behind the scenes aspects of 3d printing, Kickstarter, and Hyground as a concept.
In his own words, “HyGround tiles is a 3 dimensional terrain system for miniature gaming.” The “terrain can be used for any area movement or grid movement game and even RPG games.”, and, as previously stated, the idea started back in 2014:
“I was working on a new game that I wanted to publish. For the game to be usable, I needed a 3D game board. The cost of the Heroscape tiles was becoming too expensive to purchase on ebay and other places. I needed to create my own board design.
“This was the birth of HyGround Tiles. We felt there might be a market for the tiles alone, so we designed the tiles and introduced them to the marketplace.”
Despite the excitement the campaign built as it went on, the project didn’t fund, so the team went back to square one.
On the initial campaign’s shortcomings, Ben quoted the lack of square tiles (which have made it into this campaign) and a high funding goal compared to the backer base as main issues that lead to not funding.
Hyground Tiles are a family affair, made up of Bill, his wife Kara, and daughter Jessica, with a further part of their close family having been involved back in 2014. Talking about their plans for Hyground as time goes on, Ben said:
“It has been my goal to create a small business in the game industry and be able to support ourselves from it. Kara and I are now empty nesters and don’t have much as far as financial obligations, so now appears to be a good time to push forward.”
With things already picking up over on the webshop (with free, downloadable samples already available), I asked Bill to share some thoughts on distribution, going forward.
“Our original goal is still our goal today which is to sell a physical product. Our hope is we can provide a high quality injection molded product and to distribute wholesale and private label.”
Currently, they’re “pushing forward with 3D printable files and direct sales. We have to start somewhere and the high cost of injection molds is just too far out of reach at the moment.”
More and more campaigns, especially those revolving around the RPG/gaming audience HT are designed for have gone to selling .stl files. Bill shares his thoughts on the market, the producers, and how they’re personally going about the whole thing:
“3D printable terrain is definitely a niche market. There is a lot of focus on city-scapes, dungeon terrain and individual buildings/ruins, etc. To start we’re focusing on outdoor terrain.
“3D printing will definitely gain momentum in this market and will grow as printers and their ease of use improve. However, the person/company who can provide a good quality, inexpensive, easily accessible product will find the most success.”
The link between Hyground Tiles and Heroscape is obvious for anyone with a cursory knowledge of the subject, and the care for backwards compatibility here is evident, with adaptors being on offer for those who want to expand on their HS collection in a brand new, cheaper manner, or those who want to finally start out - like me!
I wondered if there were any plans for getting a game to go with Hyground tiles and was pleasantly surprised that there’s something brewing!
“It’s been on the drawing board and in development for several years.” Bill says. The general idea is that it’s a “replacement (miniatures) game for Heroscape that can be learned quickly and played amongst friends who may not have miniatures of their own.”
The hook they’re going forwards with is an online service “which allows a person to create a character card for any miniature they own. Print the character card and then use in the game. We will still provide game designed miniatures but this allows users to custom create miniatures from their vast selection of miniatures. The online service provides a proprietary algorithm that calculates the character cost based on the selections for race, weapons, character size, etc.”
The idea of custom miniatures isn’t a very widespread one in the market, but it has been done before to reasonable success, so all of us here look forward to seeing this come to fruition.
Hyground Tiles are nothing if not varied, so I asked about the Stretch Goals and other terrain variations that we could see during the campaign and I was not disappointed.
Although “regular terrain types” are the main focus on this campaign, with “some mods like the swamp raised walkways, the cliff-side walkways, wagon ruts on the stone roads, more scatter terrain, some mystic tiles, etc.”, there are plenty of extras lined up: snow and ice, geysers, a large tree-fort, a coliseum, bridges, and even shipwrecks.
Further than that, the team is thinking about floating terrain (“post-apocalyptic Waterworld concept”), sci-fi, a Battletech rescale, and even western or steampunk sets!
For those of you who want to further improve on these pretty tiles, we hear they take paint well, depending on the filament material you use for printing, of course.
Bill said that PLA is the best medium for this, with ABS being an alternative. PETG is right out due to its composition. Anything from craft paints to specialty miniature paints work here (the more quality, the better) with a primer helping the endeavour along, as is always the case with these things.
Apart from being versatile and having an impactful look, I asked Bill to highlight some more of Hyground Tiles’ strengths:
“One of the interesting features we believe the tiles provide is that once assembled, can be left assembled and moved as a single piece from place to place.” which is obviously a godsend for RPGs where DMs can set things up quickly and then bring it to the table when needed.
He also said they’re always looking to input new concepts to the range depending on feedback, which they greatly appreciate (so get on that!), and that while this is definitely a gaming product, they’ve had great reactions from teachers and parents whose children reacted positively to learning with the aid of the tiles.
When it comes to the time spent on designing and finishing a particular product (especially seeing the evolution from 2014 to now, the current tiles looking much better and more detailed and the underlying hexes and squares using less overall filament to be built, it seems), Bill had this to say:
“(...) To give you an idea, I’m currently on version 7d of our tiles. The biggest challenge for us is how to design a part that clicks together and works on all printers. Tolerances are so different from machine to machine.”
The more of these they come up with, the better they get, he said. As an example, the well (which you can currently find on the website) took 3 hours of base modeling (Autodesk), 2 hours of weathering (Sculpt GL), printing adjustments, 3 iterations, and some Meshmixer work to correct irregularities, for a total of 10+ hours for that particular model.
As for the printers they use and would recommend people get to print the tiles, here is an exhaustive list that Bill put together:
MakerGear M2 – prints 2x faster than all the other printers listed here with great quality
Creality Ender-3 – excellent detail printer
TRONXY P802D – Have not been able to tune this one to provide good quality prints
AnyCubic Photon (DLP printer) – not for printing tiles but excellent printer for miniatures and small detail items. Highly detailed prints here.
Creality CR-10 – huge print volume and really great quality.
Qidi Tech X-one2 – great quality when slowed down.
Prices for these printers range from $190 to $1800, so there’s something in there for everyone.
The one Bill specifically recommends is the Creality Ender-3.
“It’s a kit but can be built in a short amount of time without a lot of effort. Good instructions, very rigid frame, quality parts and looks like it will last a long time. AND out of the box with little adjustments, prints beautifully. I recommend adding a glass bed. We own 2 of them and they have become the printer of choice for us. Both have been printing 24/7 for the past 2 months. Available on Amazon for $230 with free two day shipping.”
As always, our monkey wrench for GHG interviews came up and we had Bill rate The Last Jedi out of 10, with the ‘there are no wrong answers’ disclaimer.
He said there’s “some weirdness with the porgs and Chewbacca and Leia finally demonstrating she has the force and saves herself from drifting in space, but I still give it a high ranking. 8 of 10.”
As always, thanks for reading and have as nice a day as you deserve!
P.S. a recent reveal has us very excited about the Stretch Goals… Check it out here!