Casting Cost Falls

You may not have heard of Prodos Games. If you have, and especially if you backed their Aliens vs Predators game, you may well have strong opinions about them. Now I’ve had a few conversations with them behind the scenes, and am inclined to think that while they’ve made some mistakes, they aren’t quite the monsters some would have them be.

Either way, what I’m interested in here is the other string they have to their bows: as a miniature production facility for hire.

White Dragon EDFI’ve talked with several companies that have had their miniatures manufactured by Prodos, and they seem to do a pretty good job. Among others, the Age of Tyrants team are using them to do their big little tanks, and the beautiful White Dragon 15mm SF stuff (above) was all cast by Prodos. And that’s gorgeous.

As this helpful graphic explains, miniature production is not an inexpensive undertaking. Prices do vary between companies, but the following gives a reasonable overview of non-metal options. Click the pic for a bigger version.

 

tabelka2_fixed

It’s part of an announcement of a new process that Prodos are calling UniCast, and which is quite exciting – assuming, of course, that it lives up to the hype.

Pretty though.

I thought that the Gears miniature on the left of the following pic was nice and crisp in the detail when I saw it in person, and this photo makes him look a bit ropey compared to the UniCast one. So that’s interesting.

porownanie

One saving that isn’t explicit from the table is the cost of assembly. Many modern board games use miniatures that are made in more than one part, and which must be assembled before use. Some sell these figures to the customer like this, but if you don’t want to do that you’ve got a choice: compromise the model or pay someone to pre-assemble them. Apparently UniCast is a more flexible process that will allow you to cut the master into fewer parts: allowing nicer single-piece models and reducing assembly costs. For a customer the lower costs mean more toys in the box, or lower cost to start with. For the manufacturer it means more production options and the chance to sell cooler models, thus attracting more sales. For the aspiring game designer/producer, it means that the entry cost is lower and your dream that much easier to attain. For someone that just wants a few models of their own design, this makes plastic a viable option to metal. The minimum order (and reorder) quantities are particularly interesting to aspiring designers.

Of course, the proof of the pudding remains to be seen. But it’s a very interesting development for everyone in the gaming business, whether you make the things or simply play with them 🙂

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28 Responses to Casting Cost Falls

  1. Francesco says:

    I’m the sculptor did the white dragon infantry in pictures and Mechs, happy you like it 🙂
    About the unicast, the metal mould they show looks like a rendering, waiting other info, pictures, and maybe a video. I know gw invested a lot trying to improve the process, without success

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Hi Francesco. You did an outstanding job on the 15mm White Dragon stuff. Best 15mm SF infantry I’ve seen anywhere 🙂

      Prodos have said they’d send me some UniCast samples, so I’ll be able to show you then when they arrive, whenever that is. Not sure how the post is from Poland.

      I’ve heard rumours about the efforts GW put into improving their Finecast process, and they seem to have made some headway. Not that that would have been hard as the first stuff they released was embarrassing.

  2. Willem-Jan (Hephesto) says:

    It’s quite an interesting, technical development, but I for one will not be supporting Prodos is ANY of their own or others’ projects till I see something from my AvP pledge and they actually do something to address the problems and utter lack of communication on that project.

    Quite frankly, at this point I’m more and more starting to believe what some of the more cynical backers have been saying for over a year. Namely, that Prodos have given up on the remaining AvP backers that haven’t gotten anything or are missing tons of stuff as they know they won’t be future customers, while also shutting down all the major community spots where backers could actually come together.

    As a regular customer I simply CANNOT trust them to actually deliver their own materials to even current customers (check out their social media and forums to see just how bad it is), which would make me think more than twice before going into business with them if I had my own company. Just going to c/p one of my latest comments on the BoW thread on AvP:

    “But man, have Prodos failed at keeping their Kickstarter backers informed on any kind of level. With us it’s been virtual radio silence with the odd KIckstarter message every 2-4 months that doesn’t even reach all the backers and that’s filled with broken promises and blatant lies about delivery windows, missing components, the Kickstarter page going back up (which will never happen as it would give more people the chance to actually unite and talk about this mess) etc.

    This kind of stuff, in my opinion rightfully so, is going to push away their current and future customer base even further. It’s reached the point where I’ve seen people back out of other games, projects and even individual models simply after finding out Prodos are involved in the design or production of it. And to be quite frank, it’s reached the point where I’ll gladly tell people to think twice before supporting them given their shady business dealing and nearly non-existing customer support for very frequent product and shipping issues.

    And it’s not like people haven’t been patient and even tried to help them out as a community in the form of supporting fellow players of their games or even offering to pay more postage to help cover the extra costs resulting from the long production and vetting process. There’s just been zero response to any of it from Prodos, who seem more than happy to bury their heads in the sand while selling the product other people helped fund the production for to retailers and at tradeshows while not sending any of it out to a worryingly large group of backers.

    It’s frustrating to see such potential get sucked down into such a huge quagmire of production issues, general project mismanagement and poor financial balancing. And there’s zero indication of Prodos wanting to actually fix any of it, rather they’ll go out of their way to seemingly intentionally create controversy with Space Crusade to try and grab some money that way. It’s kind of sad when individual customers have to feel ashamed for a company, who themselves seem utterly unwilling to demonstrate any sense of self-awareness over this entire mess.”

    • Quirkworthy says:

      These are the strong opinions I mentioned 🙂

      I don’t work with Prodos, and don’t know all the details, nor did I back AvP. I’m looking at this from the outside.

      What I can say is that communications is something almost every company does less well than they could or should. Sounds like Prodos have dropped the ball completely on that one.

      I can also make the general point that I’ve seen enough KS campaigns from both ends to know that there’s usually more going on than people think. Very few KS campaigns are run deliberately fraudulently, and accusations of criminal behaviour are thrown about far more frequently than is accurate. The vast majority of examples where I’ve seen the accusations and known enough of the people involved to find out what happened, these turn out to be normal business hold-ups and unforeseen technical problems rather than anything deliberate or malicious. And usually the people running the company are more frustrated than their customers by the whole thing. it’s often their dream that’s going down the pan…

      Are Prodos an exception? No idea. My gut feeling is that they suffer more from inexperience than malice, but that’s a guess. I may well think otherwise if I was in your position.

      While your lack of confidence in them is entirely understandable, I’m not sure that it helps either you or them. If they are being intentionally duplicitous then they’re likely to get their comeuppance as it’s all very public. If they’re genuinely struggling to make a go of this (as I suspect they are), and are making mistakes through inexperience, then I’d think that it would be cheering to see them trying new things (so they can make some cash and fund whatever you’re short of).

      The fraudulent approach would surely be to call it bankrupt and walk away (and set up a new company and start again) rather than carry on as is.

      Or am I missing something?

      • Willem-Jan (Hephesto) says:

        Oh there’s plenty of blame to go around, Fox has a bit of a reputation when it comes to IP franchising deals after all. But they were warned about that, both from within the industry and by backers who had actual experience interacting with Fox. And if the tiny sliver of news they sent out to the backers is to believed, they’re still not done getting everything vetted……..while being well over two years late.

        At this point in time all they’ve done to sort out problems is shut down the existing social media and Kickstarter pages where backers could communicate and gauge from each other just how widespread issues are, while using other media channels like the Beast of War Weekender to tell other people ‘everything is fine, all of it has been resolved and we’re doing just fine’.

        They effectively lied to current and future customers that all problems with the Kickstarter had been resolved, while the backers were given this gem:
        “3 months ago we have set up a “saving” account to secure cash for shipping 2nd and 3rd wave of AvP. We have some really exciting news. Our sales team has really done an extremely good on sales of Prodos games products and casting services in the past 3 months and we have secured 42K+ GBP for Wave shipping (see attached picture http://imgur.com/l6P2PyZ ). This only means that we have in plans to ship out ALL KS items by end of January. We will also set up an email account for queries regarding only the KS – KS@prodosgames.com, this email will be active from mid February. IF you have not received your rewards by END February please contact us immediately on the email above.”

        While in reality their Facebook page, the official forum, BGG and various other, big wargaming online communities have several hundred people who have received nothing, got miniatures of poorer quality than those currently available or or are missing various components. All while Prodos is now selling those products to retailers, while the people who helped fund the production costs as well as the license acquisition aren’t even worthy enough to receive a reply to a normal ‘What’s up with my pledge’-mail.

        Openly adding Prodos as a part of your product development is quite an effective way to damage your brand from day one. As for the fraudulent part, given how much debt the company currently has legally registered in the UK (go tax loopholes), it really wouldn’t surprise me to seem them go bankrupt if Space Crusade doesn’t pull in big numbers………….

        Folks are free to make of this what they want, but I do feel both regular customers and companies looking for tooling and/or production need to be aware of what potential mess they’re getting involved in!

      • Francesco says:

        At the beginning of my sculptor carrier I worked with prodos. Was not a good experience, and we broke in a bad way. But can say they are not delinquents and trying to do their best. Maybe badly advised , but honest

  3. Kyle says:

    I will speak on behalf of my experiences when trying to get them to both 3D print, and then cast up my first bust.

    Communication only happened when I initiated it. If I was not pushing, then no follow up or actions were being taken. It felt more like they were on the approach of; he who screams loudest, gets highest priority. That or anything that is less than a few hundred copies ( mine was only 100 copies being requested ) is placed bottom of the pile.

    Cost was interesting. I will admit that they are quite a bit cheaper than a lot of their competition out there, but that is changing. However I will also mention that the price changed a few times throughout the lifecycle of the project. Each time going up. To this I was not impressed, as it was only again happening when I reached out for updates on what was happening.

    Quality was a mixed bag. I have to say that for a single cast bust, with some decent undercuts, many came out that were perfect replicas of the original. No mold lines or anything visible on them whatsoever. However, this was not the case for all of them. Out of 100, 18 were so badly miscast that they had to be redone. Where you could see where the mold itself had split off, and was still being used for several more afterwards. When they claimed that everything was going through quality control, you can tell this is definitely not the case. So instead of making another mould, they just kept on going regardless of the wear and tear on the 2 ( can tell depending on miscast which they came from ). When I did meet up with them last year at Spiel, I also had to bring a copy back with me as they had sent me everything they had and not kept a master for themselves on hand to make more copies in the future, had I wished that option to be used.

    Timing.. from the start of the communication with them right till I received the final copies from them ( the replacements of the miscasts ) we are talking close to 8 months here. With a majority of that on their side due to it just being a 3D render file being sent to them to print and cast up. And with me having to chase them to get timelines back from them, and understand where in the process this was occurring or when I might begin to see copies being made, let along shipped out to me ( in UK btw ).

    Location. If you have checked online to see where they are based you will see something about UK, however that is just a site to allow them to have UK employees for conventions. If you dig deeper you know that they are from Poland, and there is nothing wrong with that. And they state that they are from Warsaw. I had the opportunity to go to Warsaw last year for Hussar, and had asked if I could come and chat with them since I would be in the city and have some spare time. It was then I found out that they are not actually in Warsaw either but several hours outside of the city ( though I cannot be sure of this anymore ) and thus it would be difficult to visit them without a car or personal transportation. End of that conversation, and instead would see them in person at Spiel.

    So overall I was not impressed and have found alternatives to produce future pieces on my behalf. Even if it requires a bit more funds, the timing, communication and quality have been far better overall.

    Oh and to top if off.. I was also a backer of the kickstarter, which is what drove me to work with them in the first place. However at no point during dealing with me on my bust did they make the effort to send me my pledge, and I have only just received it in person at Salute this past month.

    I can appreciate what your trying to achieve with this blog post, and I can see what Prodos is trying to do to get them out of their hole they have dug for themselves, however I think the hole is far too deep for them to climb out at this point. And they really do require some professional assistance in either project management or business administration to get them back on track. Along with one heck of a good PR campaign to bring them back from the darkness. I think that if they can do that, and if they can treat the small contracts with as much respect as the high paying ones, then they will see that they will become the champion of such projects, and help many others grow ( am on my 6th model being produced now with a few more in the wings ) and they would see themselves has having repeat business instead of one shot wonders that learn from their mistake of working with them.

    Sorry for the rant.. but you got a good subject here to discuss on.. be it from those that backed them or worked with them behind the scenes.

    Cheers
    Kyle

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Kyle. Would you like to tell us who you have used instead, and perhaps link to the busts you’ve been making? Sounds like an interesting project 🙂

      • Kyle says:

        Sure. You can see our products now here on the BrokenToad website – http://www.brokentoadstore.co.uk/index.php?id_category=60&controller=category&id_lang=1

        Handsome Jack was our first piece, from there I have created my brand logo in both a huge bust, and a single figure. Now working with new artists to bring more to the range such as the Mutant figure, and I have a Deamonic Hermit bust coming out very soon ( just sorting out the casting ).

        As for casting, I had tried GRX from France after Prodos. He is very good, and has great quality. 99/100 were great, with just that last one being something that was a miscast. His communication and timing however again could be improved on as both take a while to get from him. And due to his success with running castings for kickstarters he is quite busy and constantly upgrading his studio. So delays with his moving shop have happened twice in the last 6 months.

        Now I use BrokenToad both as a dealer and a caster. A good partnership, though he is a bit more expensive and working on improving his quality, he only sends me things that he believes are good. If I don’t think it is good we have a discussion on how to improve it, and where it can be made better or easier. Very open communication and someone that can get me 50 pieces in a week once the kinks are worked out.

        Again, good conversation, and hopefully this information was useful!

        Cheers
        Kyle

    • Willem-Jan (Hephesto) says:

      Information is always good to share. Had indeed heard some rumors about dealing with them as a production customers, but it’s nice to actually have somebody share their personal experience!

  4. Prodos’ miniatures production section of the company may be fine. But their KS/Customer Service section is crap.

    They lied to AvP backers time after time after time. All the while we’re asking them to just be honest with us & begging them to come clean on what’s going on. & yes, telling them that finding out they lied to us yet again is much, Much, MUCH worse than just telling us what’s going on.

    Blaster was here…

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Communications is vital. Even more these days than it used to be, and it was always important.

      I’m a firm believer in telling folk what’s going on and being honest about owning your mistakes. When you’re dealing with thousands of copies of a product that involves many suppliers in several countries all coming together at the right time and in the right sequence, then the possibility for something going wrong is very large.

      It’s how you deal with the unforeseen that’s important 🙂

  5. Chris says:

    I must say I was miffed at Salute that they had run out of copies, so while I could see them on sale at various places their stall didn’t have much to give me… Still I will give them a chance, dealing with Fox is never fun, shame their end also failed.

  6. Willem-Jan (Hephesto) says:

    And the plot thickens……………….Prodos is now asking AvP backers for more cash so they’ll actually get their materials. Well maybe, who knows at this point right? That supposed 42K pounds they had in December to handle the 500 ‘remaining’ wave II backers and wave I issues didn’t go a long way. Guess that tech innovation and acquiring Space Crusade was further up on the priorities list.

    It’s a said state of affair!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Asking for more cash for something you’ve paid for? Please explain.

      • Willem-Jan (Hephesto) says:

        Prodos locked down the KS page, despite promises to bring it back. The message below was sent out yesterday through the KS messaging system, though it would seem that like the last couple of messages it hasn’t reached all the project backers.

        In between forums, the Beast of War support thread and various social media we’re looking at the very least at a few hundred backers who haven’t gotten anything or are missing large parts of their pledge.

        “Morning all
        In past 2 weeks, we have not been unable to ship KS parcels out. The issue was with the courrier not taking responsibility for lost parcels which we can’t afford to be held responsible for. This has been addressed and parcels are again being shipped. We look forward to seeing comments on the Facebook page and Prodos forums confirming deleveries received over the next 2 weeks.
        Shipping Changes!
        Please note that there has been a change to our shipping partners due to the issue mentioned above and because of a significant increase in charges by UPS for international parcels.
        Parcels to United States will be now handled by USPS instead of UPS
        Canada by Canada Post and
        Australia is Auspost,
        Expediated shipping
        We have had several emails from backers offering to cover additional shipping costs to speed up the shipping of miniatures. We really didn’t want to have this as an option however we are aware that some of you are still waiting for your KS wave 2. Therefore we have considered and are tabling the following OPTION. Note that this is not a requirement and we here at Prodos didn’t want to take this option as we understand that you have already been charged for shipping during KS campaign.
        So here’s the detail: If you make a purchase from shop.prodosgames.com we will ensure that your remaining items from the AVP Kickstarter WHICH HAVE BEEN APPROVED, up to and including the Female predator, Dutch and Linn, will be in the post to you within a week (depending on demand).
        Just so there’s no confusion, if you purchase a miniature from the online store, we will ensure that your KS items, up to and including the models mentioned above, along with the purchased model(s) will be in the post within 5 working days. If you purchase a pre-order item, your approved KS items will be sent initially with the pre-ordered item following once released.
        The minimum purchase(including shipping) to cover your expediated shipping is as follow:
        1. Europe – 10 GBP
        2. USA – 15 GBP
        3. Rest of the world – 20 GBP
        For all our KS Backers be sure to use AVPKS code on check out. This will give you an additional 5% on checkout. Also can I ask that you please provide the same email address on the checkout screen that you used for Kickstarter / Pledge manager. If you have moved address, please include the new address but the old KS email address as this is how you can be located on our systems. Again I want to say that this is NOT mandatory however it will allow us to ship faster! Finally can I assure you that ALL Backers will receive their KS rewards, however it may take a bit longer due to current issues.i.e a 35% hike in the cost of shipping.”

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Thanks Willem-Jan.

          I can see this from both sides, and it looks pretty ropey both ways.

          I’m certain that this is not how Prodos planned or wanted things to turn out – same as their backers. The delays getting approval and whatnot have compounded their problems with increased shipping prices throwing out any initial costings. It’s a bad hole to be in, and I’m sure everyone will be happier when they’ve climbed out of it. However long that takes.

          It remains to be seen whether Prodos’ reputation will survive the process. Still, if they carry on making new shiny toys, history tells us that gamers will continue to buy them so they may well survive. How many times have GW done things that have incensed internet wisdom, and yet they’re chugging along merrily as ever.

        • Willem-Jan (Hephesto) says:

          My pleasure. Hope my comments haven’t been too cynical, generally quite a positive and patient person (especially when it comes to crowdfunding materials), but this one really gets to me. Such a huge mess and such a huge waste of talent and community resources. If this keeps up they may very well not be able to climb out of the hole the, mostly, dug themselves and they certainly don’t have the marketshare nor dominance of a GW or PP to survive something this big.

          But on a positive note, got a big box of Mantic goodies yesterday that definitely helped to cheer me up. The new Deadzone rulebook is an absolute beauty, fantastic work!

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I think you’ve been entirely reasonable in the circumstances, Willem-Jan. We can only hope that they manage to get this resolved sooner rather than later.

          Glad you like the look of the new DZ 🙂

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  9. Cedric Chin says:

    So are these Unicast miniatures resin? GW wasn’t successful with their mass production of resin, and GameZone is having problems with conventional resin casting. I’m interested in seeing how well this new technology fares in mass production. Kyle pointed out problems with Prodos’ QA. If these Unicast miniatures face the same problems as conventional resin miniatures, then they risk cost overruns with the project.

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