Interview with James Binnie and Dawa Fruitman from Wightwood Abbey Kickstarter

Wargame terrain - Wightwood Abbey KickstarterJames and Dawa make up the creative minds behind Infinite Dimensions Games and the Wightwood Abbey Kickstarter.  This is their first Kickstarter, and it has already crushed its first 3 stretch goals.  There are currently 10 active Kickstarters, and this one has taken off in the midst of all of this competition. This is an ambitious project that showcases an abbey and its surrounding buildings.  This would be a great set of terrain for both WWII miniatures games as well as fantasy and medieval historic wargames, not to mention RPGs from those time periods.  They sent over a few STL files I have printed and I have to admit, this building looks amazing.  Do yourself a favor, and check out this Kickstarter.  At the end of the article, I have a gallery of images from the this model.  

  1. What miniatures games do you play?
    (James) Currently I play Frostgrave, Saga and I use miniatures in the weekly D&D game that I run. Oh, and I play some Imperial Assault from time to time. I want to try out some Age of Sigmar and Shadespire, but kinda busy… 😉
  2. How long have you owned a 3D Printer and been making terrain?
    (James) I bought my first printer, a Prusa Mk2, about 18 months ago. The first thing I printed was some terrain from Tom Tullis’ 1st Dragonlock campaign. In fact, I bought the printer so that I could print terrain!
  3. What printers do you use to print terrain?
    (James) At the studio we use a Prusa i3 Mk2, an ANET A8 and an ANET A2. They are named, in order, PeterCat, Voltron and Eowyn.
  4. What got you interested in modelling 3D Terrain for print? What was your first model?
    (Dawa) I’ve been working in the animation industry since 1997. I started off as a modeller before becoming an animator for many years. Since 2012 I refocused my work on modelling again, especially because of new software like zbrush which made more organic looking modelling a real joy to work on. James and I have been friends for years and a couple of years ago, in the midst of a GURPS campaign, we started looking at what 3D printers could do to augment our skirmish experiences. I casually said it wouldn’t be too hard to whip up some models (little did I know about the differences that modelling for printable product demanded) and suddenly we were off thinking about all the possibilities that this could unlock. Within a year or so we had a printer and I started working on tests and adapting my skills for this endeavour. The first models we made and tested were some asteroids for X-wing which we were into at the time.
  5. Do you have a favorite model you have created?
    (Dawa) I’m loving all the models we’ve made for this Wightwood set so far. Especial the gatehouse which looks amazing painted up and is great fun on the gaming table. But I have to say my favourite is the scriptorium. It’s completely massive and the way we designed the pieces to come off to give access to each level is really cool. We wanted it to be a scene unto itself; so you can lift the whole second floor off and put it down next to the first and run a battle on multiple floors. We added a second stair case to make the second story hall harder to defend and bring the action upstairs, as well as a third half-story to bring even more action to this large space. We then added balconies on both sides of the building for archers and great view points. It’s REALLY fun to play on.
  6. What are some of the challenges you run into, starting your first Kickstarter?
    (Dawa) Our main challenge has been the shear scope of what we are building. It’s such a huge set and the pieces are built to realistic scale. What we didn’t anticipate was just how difficult it would be to show it all. Printing it each time we made changes, painting it for photography, and modelling all of it has taken longer than we wanted. We were initially looking to launch the kickstarter in November but we soon realized we wanted to show more than just renders. We wanted to show fully printed and painted pieces so people could see what was possible with  this thing. So in answer to your question, just getting things ready to present was the biggest challenge.
  7. How long have you been working on Wightwood Abbey?
    (Dawa) We started working on it about a year and half ago part time, I was doing it here and there in-between freelance animation projects. We soon realized it needed more focus so I spent a large part of last summer designing and building the initial untextured prototypes. Then in November we started on it full-tilt and haven’t stopped since then. So all told its about 6-7 months of modelling and preparation.
  8. What is your workflow for creating a piece of the Abbey?
    I like to call it a “Pipeline”. That’s a term from the animation world. Basically it goes like this: We discuss what we want to build, James is a big part of that. We look for something inspiring visually and something that would be great to play on. After settling on a location I start doing doodles and designs of the layout and buildings. Then I jump right into 3D and work on the untextured prototypes that we can print and start game play testing on. We decide at this point how we want the models to open up for interior use and where we need to make scale changes to accommodate miniatures, or add features to make the sets more fun to play in, such as the organ balcony in the Church. We make those changes and then start the exterior detailing first and then print those up to start painting. James has done all the painting for our sample pieces and done an amazing job. He will probably be putting something together for our backers about his process. So actually that brings us up to the present. We wish we could have modelled and painted all the interiors before launching but there is only so long we can keep going without funding. And after all, that’s what Kickstarter is for isn’t it. We decided to use the interior detailing as a live feature of our campaign, so I will be working right through the campaign period and posting my progress on all the interior work as I go for everyone to see. I’m not used to working so publicly, but the feedback has been really encouraging. 
  9. What software do you use for your modeling?
    (Dawa) I do 90% of the modelling in zbrush which is a 3D sculpting program. I used to do the basic stuff in another application such as Maya or 3DStudio but these days that’s hardly necessary and I find myself doing almost all of it in zbrush alone. With their ‘dynamesh’ and ‘decimation master’ features I can really work with my imagination and bring a lot of medieval dishevelment, imperfections and life to the designs.
  10. Tell us about the vision this Kickstarter? How did you come up with this idea?
    (James) I was really excited to be able to download and print my own terrain, but nothing was being made that really fit the aesthetic I wanted. I didn’t like the look of most of the models I could find and I found modular terrain, though cool, lacked the unique beauty you can find in a piece that stands on its own. So after Dawa and I got together and decided we wanted to make 3D printable terrain, we had to think about what we wanted to create! it was Dawa who came up with the idea of an abbey. We definitely wanted to make a cohesive set; something that people could put on the table and everything would just work together aesthetically and tell a kind of visual story. I think it makes a real difference on the gaming table when you look at the scene in front of you and everything just looks like it belongs together. We wanted to
    provide that for gamers, and since a medieval abbey hadn’t been done yet (and we felt it needed to be done!) we decided that was the route to take. The abbey also seemed to us both to be a great story waiting to happen. We are providing backstory and campaign ideas along with our .stl files and a lot of the visual ideas you see in the models come from ideas we got from our story and campaign concept. That really helps to tie everything together, and makes it a lot of fun too. Dawa has a very creative mind with a lot of practical graphic and modelling experience behind his visions. So it doesn’t take him much to bring something out of his head and into reality. We get to collaborate on ideas and I have my input, but Dawa has a very visual imagination and we’re lucky to have that.
  11. Less than half a day in (at this point) and you have already crushed your first stretch goal. Is the Wightwood Abbey Kickstarter meeting your expectations?
    (James) We’re super happy with it! We were worried people might have Kickstarter exhaustion given the amount of projects that have debuted this month, but we know we have something really special and I think people recognize that. The support has been amazing. 
  12. You say you are 95% done with the buildings, how long have you been working on the Wightwood Abbey Kickstarter?
    (James) We’ve been working about 7 months on the project officially. Not all of that time has been spent modelling. But since we first incorporated and decided definitely what we wanted to do we’ve had a lot of work to get out of the way. There was a ton of business stuff to do, plus we both were working on our other jobs, but we both really burned the midnight oil to bring things as far as we have before launch. I fell we’ve both learned so much from this experience, and I’m sure our next Kickstarter will have it’s own challenges, but I think a lot of things will go a lot smoother too.

The Wightwood Abbey Kickstarter has a great looking, and printing, piece of terrain.  This prints without supports and just prints beautifully.  I’ve been really impressed so far.  I can’t wait to check out the rest of the line in person.