Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Mechanics of a Figure Range

Here at my desk, I'm in the early stages of planning and sculpting for a range of opponents for the Resistance Fighters : The Faceless Oppressors. It will be of a similar composition to the Resistance Fighter range, with troop packs and various specialists. What I need to do now is decide how the figures will be constructed, namely how weapons and heads can be swapped to give extra variety. As such, I'd like your feedback on your experience of the Resistance Fighter range. To help you get an idea of what feedback I'd like, I'll give a summary of the considerations and decisions I made when designing the Resistance Fighter range and how this relates to the Faceless Oppressor range.

Head and weapons swap variety in action!
Since releasing my own figures through Statuesque Miniatures, I've become more and more aware of the need for figures to go together easily and to be as few parts as possible. For the Resistance Fighter range, I decided separate heads were a necessary extra part, in order to give more variety when using multiples of the same figure and to allow customers to personalise their force as they saw fit.

The second necessary separate parts were the weapons. The four figures in the Female Resistance Fighter pack all use the same weapon part, with exactly the same hand positions. This meant I could design extra weapons that could be used on any of the four figures, again adding more variety and allowing the customer to tailor their force to specific needs.
An unassembled Resistance Fighter.
I believe the decision to construct the Resistance Fighters this way has paid off, as many customers are purchasing multiple packs, or buying head and weapon sprues to personalise their figures. While some people may not want to feature the same figure twice in their force, for others this is obviously less of an issue and, for me, swapping heads and head positions and using different weapons as appropriate allows a surprising amount of distinction between figures. The choice of paint scheme can also help to add variety.

The Mechanics of a Head

In contrast to many figure ranges that feature separate heads, I decided to have the neck of the figure attached to the body rather than the head. I first used this method on the Fembots I sculpted for Crooked Dice. As a sculptor, this method is far preferable to having the neck attached to the head, especially for female figures, as it allows a much more realistic movement of the head, meaning better posing of the final figure. I can alter the neck position as appropriate for the pose still give the customer plenty of options for the head position.

Obviously there are limits to this; for example if I position the neck too much for a figure looking to their left, it will look odd if the head is positioned looking to the right. However, if I bear this in mind and don't over-do the neck position, it still produces a much nicer pose than the alternative.

Yes, the top of the helmet really is the best place for the sprue join!
There are some drawbacks though. If the neck were attached to the head rather than the body, the base of the neck would provide a handy point to connect to the sprue. By requiring the head to feature a curved socket for joining to the neck, I am limiting the ways I can connect that head to the sprue. The original Female Resistance Fighter pack suffers somewhat in this regard, with the removal of metal from the join area being something of a pain. This is also why the Helmeted Heads attached to the sprue at the top of the helmet, as I thought it easier to file the helmet smooth than to trim the join area. From my experience this has proved to be the case. For the upcoming head sprue with no helmets and hats I'm going to have to put a bit of thought into how I attach the heads to the sprue without obscuring details, but I'm confident they will be an improvement on the Female Resistance Fighter heads.

How to Hold a Gun

Statuesque Miniatures are somewhat finer in proportion and details than some ranges. This means weapons and hands are smaller than those of some 'Heroic'-sized figures. I'm sure I've been cursed a few times by customers whilst they pin skinny arms to bodies, though I think the newer figures in the Statuesque range are  easier to put together than the older ones. And as I said, I always try to minimise the number of parts.

For the Resistance Fighters, aware that each figure would have a separate gun, I wanted the process of putting them together to be as painless as possible. As such, each of the core figures has a plug and socket system for attaching the weapons; the wrists of each hand form the plug and the cuffs of the arms form the socket. I believe this has proved to be a good system as I've not found the need to pin the weapons, though for extra security one pin in the right arm would be fairly simple to do.

Lots of guns, but only one set of hands.
Again it is slightly limiting in that each weapon option has to have the same hand positions and the same weapon stock, but I think the compromise was worth it. Were I to do the Female Resistance Fighter pack again, I would alter some poses, mainly for the position of the mould split and undercuts, but it's not something the affects the final, assembled figure.

One alternative would have been to have the bodies spit at the waist, with weapons attached to the torso. While this would allow more variety for swapping torsos and legs, for female figures in particular it would have severely compromised the poses. The additional cost of producing alternative weapon sprues would also have been significant.

Learning from Experience

So how does all this affect the Faceless Oppressor range? Well, as I said, the range will follow a similar pattern to the Resistance Fighters, though there are some key differences: initially the all figures will be male, they will be uniform in appearance and the majority will be wearing helmets. More standardised equipment in a fire-team means there will likely be fewer basic weapon options needed, too.

Let's start with the heads. Most miniature ranges that feature separate heads use the opposite method from the Resistance Fighters, with the neck attached to the head. So in order to maximise sales, surely it would make sense to use this method for the male Faceless Oppressor range (any female figures in this line would use the same method as the Resistance Fighters)? However, as Statuesque proportions are not 'heroic' it would be unlikely that the heads would be suitable for use on your more 'heroic' soldiers. I would prefer to design the parts first and foremost for my range, rather than anybody else's! My preference as a sculptor is the method I already use as I think it gives better results.

Now for the guns: The First Method is for separate, interchangeable weapons as with the Resistance Fighters. Method Two would feature separate torso and legs with different torso options for different guns. The former will be cheaper for me to produce and therefore can be sold cheaper; the latter will allow more variety in pose by swapping torsos and legs around but will mean I can produce fewer different weapons. I also have my reservations about the effect a waist split would have on posing; the hip to shoulder position is very important! The Third Method would be to only have separate heads and to produce a single figure each for weapons such as grenade launchers, squad automatic weapons and light flame throwers. In this case, it would be less likely I would produce weapon options such as shotguns.

In all three options, specialists such as heavy weapon teams and officers would be stand-alone figures (with separate, interchangeable heads.

So what would be your preference, based on your experience of the Resistance Fighter range? Do you appreciate the extra head and weapon options or are the number of poses too limiting for you to consider more than a small warband? Feel free to leave your comments either here on the blog or on the link I've posted on Facebook. I want to use the experience of the Resistance Fighter range to produce the best range of figures possible, sold at a price that will allow you all to buy lots of them!

For those who prefer the character allowed by having a figure come with it's head attached, don't worry, I still plan to release figures like this independent of the Resistance Fighter and Faceless Oppressor ranges; I've been feeling the need to sculpt some more S.O.E. girls!

And if you've read this far (thanks!), don't forget we're still running a sale! Discount code LILA2012 for 10% off all figures! ;)


  1. It sounds to me like you've made the right decisions across the board. The head/neck decision initially struck me as wrong, perhaps because I've been conditioned by what may be seen as an industry standard. But in practice, if someone is a canny enough hobbyist to want to swap heads, one way or the other, a pin and a but of GS isn't much too have to do.

    The only thing I would prefer, technical challenges allowing, is to not see the weapon butts integrated with the body but rather as part of the weapon itself.

    1. The rifle butts are a tricky one. There are a number of poses I could do where the butt isn't covered by an arm as they are on the Resistance Fighters, but for some of those poses the problem is then that the left wrist is at the wrong angle. It gets seriously complicated this interchangeable malarkey!

  2. I'd prefer the resistance girl method with the option of extra weapons. The heads work well (and once I got hold of a drill bit the right size to open up the neck hole I actually prefer that attachment to the top of the helmet)

    While separate torsos are superficially attractive it still takes a fair amount of putty to allow any real movement away from the 'designed in' pose, especially for figures with clothes. It also probably means pinning which I'd prefer to avoid with metal figures

    (Barbarian in loin cloths are a different story)

    And stick to your proportions, they are one of the reasons I've been buying your figures, I LIKE realistic(ish) proportions, especially in head and hands.

    Will I buy the faceless Opressors ? Not sure on that to be honest, there are far more male SF figures clamoring for my attention (and sedtion wars may be eating up my painting time), but probably if they look cool and are similar in pricing to your current stuff

    (but more female resistance or SOE girls, yup have to have them as soon as I see them)

    hope this rambling has been of some use

    1. All rambling much appreciated especially after I subjected you to my extremely long post! If I were to do separate torsos, they would have a flat join, so should glue and pin easily enough. They would be designed so that variety would come from different leg positions and angles on the torso, rather than from rotating the torso, if that makes any sense.

      Don't worry, I won't be changing proportions so they will match the rest of the Statuesque range. A bit less skinny hipped than Inigo, though. And I'll never stop sculpting more girls!

  3. Any large force is always going to have duplicate poses. I like the way the Resistance Fighters work and am definitely interested in opponents for them!

    1. That's my view on duplicates. I'm thinking back to when the metal GW Imperial Guard came out in the 90s and I think the Resistance Fighters have a similar number of unique figures compared to the initial Guard ranges. Of course, we've all been spoilt by multi-part plastics since then!

    2. Though of course I'm adding in the next lot of specialists and officers when I say that. Forgot I've not got them on sale yet!

  4. I think you have a really good approach with the resistance fighters. I think with the number of head and weapons options mixed with the different poses and then the additonal one-off characters added here and there you have sufficient differences to have a good sized force and still not have any exact dupes. As we can see, they look great when a group is posed together and none of them stand out as having duplicate bodies. I would probably like to see one more set of bodies, maybe with 1 or 2 more dynamic poses to really push the matrix, but its not necessary. Looking forward to seeing whats next. lot of specialists and officers??? can't wait.

    wait no!, I mean what a hack! we need more rock walls.

    1. Haha, I stand by my walls! Poppy is the highest selling SOE girl and even has her own category in the PB painting comp. But point taken. ;)

      It's good to hear I'm on the right track with the Resistance Range. It'll keep growing and I think I can achieve a similar range with the Faceless Oppressors.

  5. I beleive my opinion is already represented. Large forces, do not care about some repetitions. And the lower attachment of heads is easily "filed" with a drillbit. I really like that kind of head fitting, it gives you some room to rotate, look down or up poses, etc.

    1. Thanks Anibal, it's good to know people don't mind some repetitions. Glad you like the head fitting, I'm quite proud of how it worked out and the variety of head positions possible!

  6. I've been having a bit of a think about the weapon stock issues (ie all the stocks need to be the same so they fit all the arms)

    well you could change it up a bit as there are a variety of guns around that have several stock types (eg solid, skeleton and bar types) for a single business end.

    This could also help differentiate roles, eg a standard soldier would have a solid stock, special forces might well have a skeleton stock to save weight etc)

    for example for the AR-15(a good go to gun as there is a big civilian makret for it so lots of 'mods')

    so you could produce torsos with a variety of different stock styles to fit a single gun barrel held in the arm

    you could probably also add varient magazines to replace the one on the main gun body (maybe as another outgrowth from the slotta tab as I doubt they'd pay as individual purchaces), sort of extra long, single snail drum, double snail drum

    again examples for the AR-15 (sorry about the crazy link length),or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&bvm=bv.1355325884,d.d2k&fp=74c58e698df029ea&bpcl=39967673&biw=1140&bih=497

    1. I've decided on a more modern, adjustable stock for the Faceless Oppressors. The female Oppressors will use the same weapon sprues as the Resistance Fighters but will feature the new stock design. I'm trying to decide whether to keep the same hand positions for the male Oppressors, so they could also use the Resistance Fighter weapon sprue, though their hands will be slightly bigger, with different gloves. They will get their own unique weapon sprues too, however.

  7. would love to see something like hasslefrees pulse rifles or even better his tomoko gun on the resistance fighters. right now I am trying to figure out a good method for stock removal and hand re-creation to mod them out myself. I can green-stuff fabric easily enough so stock removal should be easy - still trying to figure out how to do the hands though.

    1. I actually did a gun that was very similar to the Pulse Rifle (modified to fit the existing figures) but I wasn't comfortable with such a direct copy. So then I tried a more 'retro-ised' version of a pulse rifle, but that didn't work very well. So finally, I made a nice assault rifle with integrated grenade launcher that is reminiscent of a pulse rifle without being a straight copy. It'll come on a sprue with a flame thrower (that has a familiar silhouette...). The rifle is probably one of the designs I'll use for the Oppressors, though they will have a different stock as I said above.