Here's a sneaky little Update before our usual image-filled Update. We're currently preparing a whole bunch of new images and the pledge manager that we'll been sharing them with you in a few days. So, in the meantime, here are some fresh news, broken into 4 topics:
- a bit of news on the Pledge Manager,
- a much-awaited Production Update,
- thoughts and thanks on a Kickstarter-fueled growth,
- a Q&A session.
The Pledge Manager is done and we are currently testing it while we wait for the latest batch of images.
These new images are coming up in just a few days: they include new renders and photos of masters.
We want to make sure that they are part of the Pledge Manager when you access it, because we know many of you want as many images as possible before you make your final selection.
Creating the Pledge Manager definitely took longer than expected. It is my first one, so there's a bit of learning by doing involved here. Not to mention the combination of dealing with the Early Bird pledges, adding back in the Paypal pledges and additional contributions, sorting out the various shipping fees (and those who haven't paid them), it's been an interesting puzzle.
But I have set it up like a real online shop, so you should find it familiar to navigate. There are those in the team who say that it looks even better than our actual Raging Heroes website (so we've now have placed 'Redo the Website' on the never-ending To-Do list).
Here's a sample screen grab of the Pledge Manager:
Also, regarding Drop Ship Locations
If this is of interest to you, please feel free to check out the current list of Drop Ship Locations to see if your favourite shop is listed, and to review the details of the programme.
A couple of shops chose to retire from the programme, but we do have room for more. New drop Ship Stores simply need to fill this form and we'll take care of the rest.
Oh, by the way, if you have questions or suggestions about it, please send us a message rather than posting a comment, it will be easier for us to follow through on it.
"So, what's up?"
Well, quite a bit, actually :)
We are now on the home stretch sculpt-wise.
All miniatures are either finished or in an advanced stage, except for 3 freebies that have not yet been started, but they are pretty simple sculpts.
With the release of the Pledge Manager, you'll have a clearer vision of what is completed and what is still being worked on.
There is a regular flow of files going out to the 3D printer every week.
So much so that we had to get a new guy in to help out cleaning up and prepping the 3D printed masters for the foundry.
As for the foundries, they are also working very hard on the project.
Unfortunately, they were somewhat slowed down a bit a few weeks ago at the time of the Salute, one of the biggest European miniature convention, where they had to deal with major re-orders and frantic manufacturers.
That delayed the third part of our First Wave, which we had divided in 3 batches for the foundries. The first 2 batches are now cast. We'll be receiving the prototypes for the third batch this week. If we approve them, then they go off into production, and the First Wave will be ready to ship shortly after that.
Last week, we have received a very large parcel. It contained 100,000 25mm round plastic bases! ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND bases...
We ought to do something with that, take pictures or something before they are all shipped out...
What do you think?
We're also in the process of confirming the Drop Ship locations. And we're cooking up some sort of special event day at these locations, if they are interested. More info on this soon.
For the Second Wave, we intend to release all the Troops together. We are currently working on their production now: the re-sculpts and technical modifications that we wanted to make are done, and the models are currently being 3D printed. Of course, there will also be several metal Heroines in Wave 2 as well.
For the rest of the production, we are reasonably confident that all the metal Heroines, the spin-cast Troops and Support and Freebies as well as the hand-poured resin Heroines will be ready by September.
And as mentioned in a previous Update, the spin-cast resin Heroines that are not part of Wave 1 will most likely be manufactured after everything else is done, since we added this option only a few weeks ago.
Reflexions on Sudden Growth
If you recall, when we launched this Kickstarter, we were a very small company. Thanks to your support, all of you have given us the opportunity to grow in size and scope in a pretty amazing way. This has meant a lot of radical changes. To make sure that we would be able to offer you great minis now and in the future, we completely revamped our organisation, and tried out many new processes, partners, suppliers, and technologies. We also took the bet of giving out more than we promised in the KS by recently adding the option to get the Heroines in spin-cast resin. From the outside, this type of decision may seem like an easy and straightforward one, but in fact, it has a significant impact on the entire process. Because it impacts the work of our suppliers, our relationship with them, our production scheduling and logistics, design decisions, etc.
By backing a Kickstarter, you have a huge impact on small companies such as ours. Such super fast growth is quite the roller-coaster in itself. It has crazy highs when the Kickstarter sky-rockets, when we are able to work with outstanding artists and produce some large amount of work, but it also has its share of miserable lows when the sheer mass of the work that needs to be done grinds down, whether because the IT breaks down, freelancers who don't deliver on their promises, flue epidemic at the office, and many more. Such stuff, which would have a minimal impact when there were just 2 or 3 of us producing one mini per month, all of a sudden becomes major when quite a few more members are involved and we commit to producing up to 25 models a month.
By propelling us into this super-fast growth, you embark with us on this perilous journey, which, it must be said, is very different from purchasing a finalised product in a store or on a website. Just like us, you get to live the highs, but also the lows of what goes into making happen a project like this. And we know how this can be quite disconcerting at times, or frustrating, or even irritating at times.
So thank you for hanging in there with us!
We have been doing and continue to do our absolute maximum to finish this project with the highest quality and speed possible, although when we have to choose, you know that quality always win. From the outside, it might seem like we could do things differently – more communications, faster deliveries, etc. I can only say that the team is already working above and beyond the call of duty, and even if we're all frustrated when things don't go faster or not enough info trickles out, we are bound by the physical reality and the real-life constraints of the project.
Aside from the fact that, like most Kickstarters in our industry, we were obviously over-optimistic on our delivery dates, everything else is going very well. The project is in very good shape, and we are very excited by all the results we are getting with the sculpts, the casts, the way our workflow keeps on improving, and the nearing of the actual delivery of the project. Overall, the quality exceeds what we thought we'd be able to produce, and as there are more and more casts and prototypes covering our desks, we can't wait to share that with you!
Suppliers, communications, and other challenges
We've also received questions from a few backers, so we thought we'd share our answers here.
Question: “You don't communicate enough! Can't you do more Updates?”
As we stated from the very beginning, the amount of work we have and the way the scheduling of the sculpting and production is set up doesn't quite lend itself to that. The production cycles do tend to run on 4-6 weeks, so we usually do Updates at the end of each one. (Read the next question for more on this topic.)
Question: “But whatever happened to that new guy that you got in to help out on Communications?”
Well, he's not sitting idle, I can tell you that. For example, he's the one who put together all the miniature details (images, text, stories, ...) portion for the upcoming Pledge Manager. While doing it, he had to collate all of our KS Updates in one Word document: over 100 pages... of text only. I guess that with images, we're probably around 300+! That's a pretty big quantity of information!
He's the one who's making sure that many of our backers get to see the images from our Updates by disseminating them elsewhere (you'd be surprised how many backers are not subscribed to the Updates).
He's also the one who grabs the renders and photos and integrate them in a presentable form (thereby freeing up quite a bit of time for the 3D team for actual sculpting rather than having them prepare my communication images). Indeed, preparing the sculpts for the renders, then doing the renders and integrating them in the TGG layout takes 2 weeks for each Update!
In the end, it's my fault if he's not sharing more new news with you all. I keep piling up more stuff for him to do...
So while it may not translate in a lot more communications for the backers, his work has freed up some much needed time for other members of the team, and this has allowed the KS production to progress faster. And while, in the end, this all means that the KS will get delivered faster, I do get how it can leave some backers wanting more.
Whenever he gets the time and there's something interesting going on at the office, he'll snap a picture or two and put them on Facebook or Instagram, but it doesn't happen all that often because quite frankly, what's going on most of the time is that we are focusing like mad on our computer screens...
Question: “Why don't you give us specific dates for releases?”
Well, that would be quite an unfair thing to do to you!
At every single step of the production process, changes need to be made. To name but a few: a sculptor misses something or plain fails to deliver to expectations, a 3D print comes back from the 3D printer with some kind of error or breakage in transit, a prototype needs tweaking, etc.
While we work hard at eliminating mistakes and surprises from our workflow, we also manage them when they occur, and one way to do that is by remaining very flexible. And so, it will often happen that we shuffle the production schedule and end up finalising a particular miniature before another.
So you can see how releasing specific planning info would be quite misleading.
To be clear, we re-order the production queue all the time to provide the optimal speed for the TGG output.
If we did not, then delivering the project would take much longer, and no one wants that :)
Questions: “Is everything OK? Are your suppliers dependable? Will you actually deliver before 2016?”
We absolutely understand your concerns.
Like you, we do hear many horror stories on other Kickstarter projects having to solve major issues with their suppliers, or who cannot or will not deliver on what they promised, or worse, who disappear altogether...
Luckily, we've been so far blessed with wonderful and dependable partners in the production process, who are working on this project pretty much as if it were their own!
And being quite creative along the way, too. We are not allowed to share the inside details with you because they've created some quite innovative stuff for us, but at this point in time, we can say that we are in very good hands!
And even with the crazy amount of miniatures we planned for this Kickstarter, we've been able to create a workflow that is efficient enough to output out a pretty tall amount of sculpts for a small team like ours.
Indeed, you might have missed this info in a previous Update, but we are sculpting the equivalent of 250 individual characters/vehicles in about a year, that is, virtually one full sculpt for every work day. This is pretty amazing when you know that it normally takes at least 5 to 10 days to create a sculpt.
So, that's it for today. Stay tuned for an image-filled and the Pledge Manager in the next few days.