A fresh new direction
As many of you have seen over the past year in my social posts, I have been tinkering with the ExoSkin figure format. The first iteration created a lot of excitement, but after a couple years of playing with it and talking to the community, it was clear that there were some real opportunities for improvement.
How could it be better? That question pushed me back to some of the core foundations of the ModiBot build system. It had to offer more, but needed to align and build upon the core values and connector options of the original Mo kit.
Its easy too rat-hole with so many opportunities, so I created a short list of broad design goals to help focus my effort.
It wasn't like I was starting from ground zero, the first figure was a gauge for what was already working. But let's talk a bit about what's been updated.
New, more expressive design
What I set out to do was create a universal figure that would be the foundation and catalyst for further exploration into other species, genres, and aesthetics. The first figure isn't meant to be the pinnacle, it's intended to be the launch point.
All the modeling on the body is new except for the hands and feet. In this first figure I used simple shapes to mass-out the forms keeping a simplified musculature. There's not much chiseling on this guy. I wanted him to have a larger-than-life iconic feel suited for classic hero builds. One of the next iterations I want to build is something more chiseled and grizzled. More on that later.
Some of the obvious differences are in the head and forearm areas. The first ExoSkin head slid over the Mo head like a helmet. This approach was great for articulation, but the 'helmet' approach was very limiting from a stylistic standpoint. Heads tended to be long and they could be hard to remove once placed on the Mo head. The new head is more sleek and has its own integrated neck socket and the bald head was build for add-ons, like the 'flaired' hair in this first figure.
The forearms were a bigger challenge. How do I reap the benefits of the Mo joints and range of motion, while creating a more muscular aesthetic and color breaks? I have literally created dozens of prototypes for this and the final iteration came as I started working with Mike over at HTB toys on resin printing. Some of his formulations allowed for more pliable approach. It enabled me to cover the elbow in a cupped 'sleeve' and slit the forearm cuff to better hide the seams. The best bit is that it allowed for a great new color break in the design.
The last innovation isn't quite as obvious. I've added a new ankle joint that provides a vastly improved range of motion. The design uses the extra socket bits found in every Mo kit to add a second lateral pivot, essentially adding two joints to the ankle. This allows some great crouching poses and makes the figure feel more lifelike. Is not easy to show in photo's, but it's obvious when you start to play with it.
Largely, I haven't changed the overall build approach, the figure assembles in the same way, 'sleeved' parts that slide over top of each Mo figure part. Less of the underlying Mo figure shows when the figure is fully assembled creating what feels like a more cohesive feel to the design.
Improved interchangeability and customization between kits
I've been toying with adding more color breaks for more than a year. They were initially intended for the original Exo figure. You've probably seen pics of the cool, leg belts and short sleeve color breaks. Creating these models was harder than I had thought and to some degree provoked the the shift toward a new body.
Being a one-man-show, I have to really be cautious about time-sinks. If I can't easily replicate and build upon a new approach, then it limits what I can do with it and how fast I can follow up with further customization options. By rebuilding these new body models, I've increased my ability to create new options that capitalize on the new color breaks.
When you look at the pics for the single-color figures, its a bit harder to tell how beneficial the color breaks are, but when you look at a multicolor kit (I'm so stoked to offer these) the benefits become obvious. Mixing and matching allows for more possibilities for creating your own designs and also matching to classic color schemes of known characters.
In the near term, I'll be working to offer alternate part sets, heads, boots, gauntlets, armor, etc., to enable people to personalize and build upon this initial set, but the main purpose in pursing this new approach is to start expanding into new characters types, aliens, aquatics and maybe reptiles are on the short list, but obviously anything is possible.
One last thing to note- I tried to maintain as much backward compatibility with the original ExoSkin figure and some of the offshoots like the Pulse Palooka. Generally, the parts are interchangeable, except for obvious areas like the head and forearms.
Improved color and material options
When you hold these figures you will notice a huge difference in the way they feel. The finish is smoother than the matte-finish prints that many of you are used to from ModiBot. The red and blue figures are noticeably softer and pliable. The white and caucasian parts are slightly more rigid and feel similar to traditional injection-molded toys.
This is my first step into resin printing as a technology and offers some clear benefits in creating a more smooth, consistent finish in nearly any custom color. I'm working closely with Mike at HTB toys to refine this approach. We see a ton of potential for expansion as we refine the approach and material formulation. I've struggled with the limited color options from my print providers and this will remove at least some of this limitation.
Thanks to you
I'm truly excited to finally share these new figures with you. They represent a huge level-up in the evolution of ModiBot and countless hours of ideation, modeling, prototyping, and testing, trying to express what ModiBot has to offer in a crazy crowded landscape.
When Tucker and I first launched it Kickstarter in 2013, it wasn't clear that people were looking for these strange, printed items. But, here we are, nearly 9 years later and still improving and expanding upon what we started. Thanks to you and all the myriad of fans, advocates, and supporters. Without your continued interest and support, we couldn't have come this far.