Friday, August 28, 2009

TerrainlinX - More Paper Toys

WorldWorks is about to release their newest and (hopefully) final version of their terrain building design, and appropriate to my current campaign it will be based on a city design rather than dungeons. I've been making paper terrain for a long time, starting off with the models that Wizards of the Coast made available on their website for the long dead Chainmail game. I made a lot of mistakes back then, especially using the wrong kind of paper and not using a decent printer. I've bought and used models from several companies, Fat Dragon, Fingers and Toes, DirtCheap and of course Worldworks. Worldworks has a design aesthetic to their surfaces that really appeals to me. It is a good mixture of realism and obviously rendered art, rather than attempting photo realism.

Worldworks have used various building systems over the years, starting with common free standing walls in their early DungeonWorks and CastleWorks sets. These had many problems, most notably that merely moving your arm too fast could blow the things down. These systems also required the creation of a battleboard, essentially a singular piece of foamcore that would serve as the base and floor of the project. Upon revisiting the Castleworks idea Worldworks decided on modular floor tiles and the "linx" system. Walls also were placed on bases and connected to the other pieces using the same wedge-like linx tiles. Eventually this idea would be refined somewhat for later sets like ExteriorWorks: Hinterlands. The point of this very brief history is that they have continually modified, adapted and evolved their product. I can appreciate a company that takes the effort to really improve on their craft.

As I developed my skills in papercraft I would often modify the designs, or work out my own methods as I found their instructions or designs inefficient. Of course just when I had gotten to a point I was comfortable with my modifications they would present a new product with a similar change, only much more refined. It's very easy as a hobbyist to look a product and say "I can do better", what I like is that this company takes the time to say the same thing and make it happen.

I am really excited about this new linx style they are using. The video is certainly very pretty. What concerns me is the obvious need for precision cuts. These box like tabs that will be used as connectors seem very dependent on exacting cuts and folds, and very good tight glue work. This may be why WorldWorks has decided to build compatibility with the CraftRobo and Silhouette automatic cutters into these new sets. I'm not yet sure I want to buy into a $229.99 device (for the Silhouette). The potential problems I see come from weakened folds and badly fitted joints causing stress on the complete build. Ideally these automated cutters would reduce the likelihood of inexact cuts and folds. The other concern I have is in printer accuracy. It is an unfortunate fact that printers don't make the exact same print every time, there are always slight variances. These may be caused by inexact rendering, or paper slightly out of adjustment, to mechanical discrepancies in the print head. I am a little concerned with the cutter and the printer not being on the same page so to speak.

These potential problems are something that are inherent in any form of craft, and not a slight against this product. This is obviously built by a professional with the best equipment and tons of experience, but if these automated cutters can make this possible to the hobbyist, or even the novice that will be an amazing thing.

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