Activision has teamed up with 3D printing company Shapeways to offer a limited run of custom-printed Skylander heroes. If players don’t want to spend the $50 for a 3D, color printing of their creation, there’s also the option to buy a custom $25 shirt or a $15 Imaginator card.
All of the custom merchandise can be ordered through the free Skylanders Creator mobile app due out Oct. 13 in Australia and New Zealand, Oct. 14 in Europe and Oct. 16 in North America. Skylanders Imaginators launches on Oct. 16 and will, as with all previous games, support the full line of toys.
Once a hero is created with the app or the game, players can store the creation in a creation crystal, the 3D-printed figure or the thick, plastic card. At launch, 3D-printed figurines will only be available in the U.S. and Europe. Activision declined to say how many printings will be supported in the limited first run.
Paul Reiche, CEO of Skylanders creator Toys for Bob, said the process of turning the nearly limitless character creations into physical reality was more complex then some might realize.
"It isn’t as simple as taking this character and taking the art and printing it out," he said. "If you did that it would fall apart."
The completed printing isn’t as stable, or as detailed, as what you find with the pre-created toys, but it’s still impressive. Each one comes mounted on a stand and encased in a plastic dome, making it less likely that you will play with it outside of the game. It seems more like the sort of thing you’d display on a desk than let a child play with on the floor.
But it’s still amazing to see that the robust creator can result not only in a playable character, but also a toy perfectly representing it.
This was my second time tinkering with Imaginators’ character creator. When I tried it in June, I wasn’t given as much time to play with the many layers of creation.
This time, I set about making a character from scratch.
I ended up spending about 30 minutes designing what would become a swashbuckling luchador that I named "El Burning Loins."
While I still am dubious of the claim that there are limitless designs, a spokesperson told me that Activision’s legal department decided that the number was so high that it was safe to use the word unlimited.
While the main pieces that make up a hero (things like the body, tail, head, arms and hands) aren’t limitless, you are able to color each one independently, ramping up the options to a number too big to print. Reiche told me that the creator offers more combinations than there are stars in the known universe.
Once the look of your character is locked in, you get to overlay that with personality, voice and even a spoken catchphrase pieced together by pre-recorded words.
The result can be unexpected. For instance, El Burning Loins’ catch phrase is: "Something’s burning, must be my friends." A bizarre bit of word stew I crafted which Loins would say at inopportune times while fighting enemies in the game.
The play of my character, his animations and how he took on enemies, looked like he was designed by the game’s creators, not a journalist with a fixation on fire and luchadores.
I-Wei Huang, the game’s toy and character director, sat by my side watching me design Loins. He told me that character design at the studio can take weeks or months. Sometimes, he added, an idea for a character was started six years ago.
I asked him if he’s worried that he’s helping to create a system for the new game that could put him out of work.
"I’m happy to make myself obsolete," he said. "But, I am creating parts for this, so I’m not completely obsolete."
While the game leans heavily on player-created characters, it will still include a line-up of 31 new Sensei characters, a Kaos toy, a crash Bandicoot toy and a Dr. Neo Cortex toy. The Skylanders Imaginators starter pack includes the game, two Sensei, a Creation Crystal, a portal, a poster and a sticker sheet and sells for $75. The Dark Edition sells for $100 and includes the game, three dark Sensei, three creation crystals, a portal, a poster and stickers. The Crash Bandicoot pack, which is only available for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation4, sells for $100 and includes the game, a portal, Crash Bandicoot, Dr. Neo Cortex, Golden Queen, Master King Pen and a creation Crystal
The Oct. 16 release of the full game is just one of several big pushes for the $3 billion brand hitting this month.
Starting Oct. 24, Activision is kicking off a global contest to give away a key for a custom printing of their character. To enter, players just need to create a character in the game or the free app and then share a picture of it on social media channels with #CreatorContest.
On Oct. 28, Netflix will debut Skylanders Academy, a new animated show based on the franchise. It will debut with 13 episodes made in partnership with Activision Blizzard Studios.