Archive for November, 2013

A Modest Proposal: Dueling 3D Printer Board Game

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Dear Internet,

You’ve made some pretty cool things in the past. Nyan cat and Robot Unicorn Attack are rainbowy good. What The Fox Say and that Game of Thrones song are both sing-it-for-your-neighbors-from-your-shower catchy. Cards Against Humanity is a delightful exploration of boundaries via kinetic poetry.

But, there’s a major strategic area you’ve overlooked, Internet. And I’m a little surprised. Actually, I’ll just say it. I’m a little disappointed. I know how much you love 3D printers. And I know you’ll always have a thing for board games, in all their retro-lofi glory. There’s an opportunity here, at the intersection of maker and player. At the cross-roads of two bourgeoning trends. Internet, only you can yenta two lonely fields together, to forge a brand new atavistic experience.

Internet, you need to make a board game—think space strategy, a la Eclipse—where the ships/pieces are printed in real time. Where the piece build time is the time in takes the 3D printer to build it.

You start with no pieces and as the game opens, you build lots of weak little ships. Their physical size means they don’t take much material and print quickly. That fire power buys you enough time to invest in building stronger big ships. These might take upwards of 15 minutes to build, but choose carefully, you’ll be blocking your production queue. With your 3D printer behind a sheet of cardboard, your opponent knows that you are are building, and for how long you’ve been building, but not what you are building. The whirr of your stepper motors give tantalizing hints of your strategy. Of course, you’ll be able to cancel production mid-way for an incomplete downgraded/vulnerable piece, like the partially constructed Death Star.

As you know, Internet, any good board game needs a limit resources for which to compete. Especially resources that you can steal from your opponent. As you occupy planet systems, you’ll gain more resources in the form of more filament with which to print. Lose too many planets or have your supply line to base disrupted, and your printer will go idle, giving your opponent an advantage. Ideally, you’d also have a Filabot (a machine which makes new filament from old plastic), so that as ships are destroyed, you’d recycle them back into newer ships. Now it’s an ecofriendly, low carbon-footprint, DIY, and organic game. That’s some good branding.

The game would come with a set of pre-designed models to be printed. And you could just play that way. But, there’s more flexibility. Both you, Internet, and I fully understand your dark passion for Voltron. I can’t really blame you. Space robots that form bigger space robots is the up-cycling hipsterism of the future. Some ships you build will absolutely snap together with other ships to make bigger, more powerful ships. And for the CAD-inclined, you’ll be able to design your own interchangeable parts (or even ships) to augment the game. Think of it as just-in-time Warhammer 40k. And, Internet, you love Warhammer 40k nearly as much as you love 4chan’s /b.

This is just a quick braindump of the thoughts I had in the shower while thinking about you, Internet. Where it goes from here is up to you. But I urge you to prototype a game out. Maybe get MakerBot to sponsor. The opportunity to be first to take advantages of these trend confluences is now.

I hope this time next month I won’t still be disappointed in you, Internet. And because awesome, I will fund the first $500 of a Kickstarter to make this happen.