Random Thoughts 10 - "Dear GW" - Finecast

***I'm going to say that this isn't really an open letter to GW or something of the sort, but we trying to figure out why GW have gone down the path they have with the Finecast models. A bit of a weird exercise, but it was a lot easier to put these thoughts in order as if addressing GW themselves. Also, sorry for two Random Thought posts in a row after the lack of blog entries. I'll have a few new model related things soon. I just need to take the time to do the photos. ***

Dear Games Workshop,

I'm going to start this by saying that I am going to make an effort. The effort is that I won't end up whining about completely useless topics, such as why army X hasn't had a new release in Y years, why I think dropping paint colour Z was the biggest marketing mistake you ever made, or why race S shouldn't have been written out of 40K by having race T eat them (OK, maybe that last one isn't too obscured). I'm going to make an effort to say my piece about something that has been bugging me for a while in an effort to get it off my chest.



My gripe is with Finecast. In May last year, you removed a heap of models from the shelves, and have been re-releasing them no longer in metal, but in your new resin mix under the Finecast banner. And you know what? I was kind of excited by that prospect. Having seen what resin is capable of for models, I was interested to see what one of the world's largest, if not the largest, model companies were going to be able to do with resin. And I understood the change. For the few months leading up to the change, every miniature company I paid attention to seemed to make a comment about the price of the metal used when making miniatures increasing to a level that was going to make the hobby very expensive. Resin is lighter, and reducing the weight of a model (In some cases, there is a huge difference between the metal and Finecast versions) leads to cheaper costs in transport and shipping one would think. At the end of the day, yes, the price on those models went up, but looking back now, knowing that it was the same time as your usual price increase, and that there are probably other elements to the Finecast models which negate things such as 'the materials are cheaper', the cost doesn't really shock me too much, except in a few cases, but I'll get to that later.

But at the end of the day, even the cost isn't the real issue. This is a hobby, not a necessity. You haven jacked the price up on bread and water, or some other essential. You've increased the price of a luxury good; an item people can live without. If people can't afford it, you aren't going to be interfering with their health or well-being. It's your company, and you can charge what you want. My issue with Finecast is the quality, or more to the point, the quality control.

Before the release of Finecast, I'd heard a lot of talk online about the quality – it melted in the sun, it snapped, bent, had huge holes in it. If you believed half the stuff online, by the time it was released it probably would have been responsible for opening a black hole in the middle of Nottingham or raising C'Thulhu. I decided that the best way to look at this would be by going along to a launch day and actually looking.

I was sad. I want to make something clear here: I'm a painter, not a wargamer. I used to game, and still do in other systems from time to time, but time was restrictive, and I had to make a choice. Therefore, I'm not eyeing off Finecast and mentally counting the price of a new army. What I am doing is eyeing off Finecast and mentally figuring out if I would purchase a model to paint for fun or display. So far, it's not too likely. The first day of release, I looked at every model in the store that I could. This was mainly the ones in the blisters, but there were also unpainted assembled ones on a table to look at. For the opened ones, I ignored the fact that the store regulars had quickly clipped them off the sprue, in some case damaging them, and glued them together slightly off. That isn't a flaw in GW's productions. However of the models I saw, they all had pit marks, miscasts, or places where smooth edges like swords or the edge of power armour just wasn't a crisp finish, and was pitted and jagged. Of the ones in the blisters, there was one (I think on the day I counted looking at about 40) that I would consider buying, but it wasn't one I want, so I didn't pick it up. I was disappointed that a lot of what I saw online was starting to look true.

Since then, whenever I go into a GW store or stockist, I make it a point to look at the Finecast models, especially the new ones if they have them. I have seen an improvement, but for me, it isn't enough. I've noticed that there are different sprue edges: what used to be squared channels like the plastic kits are now round. This seems to be improving things from what I have noticed, but there are still other problems. GW models have a LOT of details on them, and a lot is being damaged by air bubbles and other similar problems. I'd expect miscasts and bubbles in any material (metal or plastic as well, and I know resin isn't perfect), but there seem to be an abnormal amount in these models. A few weeks ago I saw a Lord of the Rings dragon. It's a mode that for years I have thought if I ever get a chance to buy it, I would, but due to the cost it's not something I'm working towards quickly. Having seen the Finecast version, I wouldn't buy it now, and it's a shame. You're releasing things in Finecast I want! But if I pick up a Dragon model, and find that two thirds of the spikes and teeth have a hollow air bubble instead of a sharp point, the scales on the belly don't have a clean edge to them, and that the wings have thin spots to the point you can see through them, I'm not going to rush out and buy it. If I hear after that (Which I did) that this was the best one that could be found in store after going through several with even worse problems, I'm going to be even more cautious.

I know that a response to this is going to be 'use liquid greenstuff' to fix the problem. Liquid greenstuff is actually a fantastic tool in my mind, and I'm enjoying finding more uses for it. It's a time saver, and something I hope never goes off the shelves. But If I pay AUD$118 for a model, I don't want to spend several hours fixing all the little problems before I can start getting it ready to paint. In all honestly, if it came to getting a Finecast model ready to paint, I'd be so frustrated to what I have to do that I'd start another project. Cleaning models to get them ready is what I like least about the hobby, so increasing my time in that area is not something I want to do. And these aren't quick fixes either. These are time consuming issues that require more than liquid greenstuff in a lot of cases. They require putty and patience to re-sculpt details that were there in the pre-Finecast models.

I guess one of the things that disappointed me is that Forgeworld, a company that has been doing resin GW models for years, can produce better quality at what is being considered a cheaper cost. I bought a Chaos Dwarf resin model at Games Day last year, and cannot find a thing wrong with it. At all. I know it's not the same material, but why weren't all these models put through Forgeworld? Why not even use plastic? Since I got into this hobby, I've seen the plastic kits go from strength to strength, and now the individual plastic characters look fantastic! There is great detail, clean casts, and I'm happy to pay the price for a plastic model I like from your range if it would have cost the same in metal because the quality is there. But a Finecast model will turn me away. You're already putting the Finecast models onto a sprue piece, so have they been tried in plastic at any point? Is there a problem doing them this way? I bought the new White Dwarf last weekend, and saw the fantastic plastic models in there. If I still gamed (and I had the start of a Tyranid army) I'd probably have pre-ordered a few of the larger kits by now. But the Finecast ones? Now when I look at them, I see sharp points that would be blunted, details that wouldn't be neat, and all the other potential problems I have seen on other models. It scares me off them.

Last week I did a GW order. I bought two LOTR kits (Sam and Bill, and Gandalf with his cart) and the Battle of Five armies. I wanted the metals before they went to Finecast. I wanted Battle of Five Armies because I'm a sucker for things like that. I'm still a GW customer, so Finecast hasn't turned me away from the entire company, but I'm still cautious of it. And at the same time, I'm scared of what happens at the end of the year when models for The Hobbit come out, and I really want them, but can't bring myself to dig through the Finecast to find a good cast. I'm going to find myself in some kind of hobby crisis!

I've got to point out something else as well which really has me baffled. A few weeks ago, I saw someone casting up their own custom base inserts using homemade moulds and quick dry resin. It came out better than Finecast. I'm not saying it was perfect, but they got a mould that dries within about ten minutes to cast up better than I have seen most Finecast models. Granted he's using different resin (Specifically, I don't think the Finecast stuff is toxic, and I'm pretty sure the stuff he had was at least dangerous), and is casting a fairly flat object, but surely when people start realising how easy it is to work with resin, as a lot of hobbyists have for years, then Finecast is going to come under even more scrutiny than it is now? What about the other companies that use resin for their miniature releases? I've bought Smart Max, and a few other models from limited runs by various sculptors, and have never run into the problems I have seen on Finecast. So does that indicate that there production quality is better than Games Workshop? They have better quality control? Both?

I've got to admit that at this point, I'm honestly worried about GW's future. I grew up with these games; I've been in the hobby for close to two decades now. I don't want it to disappear because of some foolish mistakes. And at the same time, it seems that even though people are shouting about these problems, no one is listening. And it is still hurting the customer. I saw the 25th anniversary model for 40K a few weeks ago when it was released. A friend of mine bought it, and returned it for another within a few minutes. Why? Miscasts through the model. Chunks of heel missing, a hole through the base, pock marks. Quality control, especially for one of the largest companies in the field, should not be letting these kind of things through. But the thing is, he's not the only one. I did a search for Finecast problems, and found more results based on the 25th model alone!

Warseer

Letters from Xanadu

AJ'S Gaming World

Odins Men

Cadian 127th Regiment

I almost bought this model. I'm glad I didn't. I don't want to pay that much money for a single model, and then have to return it, recheck it, and spend time fixing it. The risk is just too great.

I should point out in the interest of fairness that GW aren't ignoring the problem. For a positive review of the Finecast model linked to above, have a look at Tale Of Painters. They are, as they have been doing since I have been in the hobby, been providing good customer service. Have a problem? Take it back, and get another one. Is that one a problem? Take it back, and go through them until you find one that is worth taking home. The downside to this is that sometimes I don't want to sit in a store and dig through models until I find one of the right quality. At the same time, how much is this costing GW? As I understood it, the metals could be melted down and recast. But I'm guessing that Finecast can't work that way as it is a different material. Is the cost balancing out somehow?

I said when I saw the first problems that I'd give Finecast a year to work out the problems. It's coming up to a year. Let's hope there's an improvement soon. Otherwise I might find myself ignoring Finecast in the future and only looking at the plastic kits and archived metal.

Comments

  1. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I've been following various people's experiences with Finecast and I keep hoping to see improvements. Mathieu Fontaine's blog has a good run down of his experiences too, with detailed photos.

    The idea to converting to plastic is not really feasible without a complete re-sculpt due to the presence of undercuts in the originals, something flexible molds for metal and resin can handle but not injection molded plastic. Steve Buddle's blog has an excellent write-up on this (http://spyglassasylum.blogspot.com/2011/05/undercuts-and-what-hell-they-are.html)

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  2. Thanks. I've seen Mathieu's blog about it and I've been following the progress on there. I do understand that there are problems converting to plastic. However I think that if they looked at some of their kits they could possibly be modified to work with plastic. Having said that, I still make it a point to check out the Finecast models when near them, and the quality has really improved compared to what it originally was. Eventually I will end up buying one (I have a Games Day ticket now, so at the very least I will end up with the show one), so I think that that point I will do a follow up post about it.

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  3. Excellent, balanced and fair article. I agree wholeheartedly with everything here.

    I also agree that the plastics its are the only viable option for a serious painter at the moment, but Mike is right, you just can't cast the sculpts created for metal or resin in plastic.

    I have seen many Finecast models now and only 1 (goblin rock lobber) has been of an expectable quality, actually, it perfect. There rest have ranged from mildly annoying to utterly inexplicable.

    I received a captain sicarius from a client (send from wayland games) that look half digested. No exaggeration there , I promise. The replacement was ok, but with still with a handful of faults. If I hadn't been cutting the thing up for a conversion anyway, it would have gone back too. I'm probably not going to accept any more Fincecast commissions now in fact unless they are for conversions, which, admittedly, they are excellent for.

    Changing from metal to resin production would have been a massive undertaking and you will always expect teething problems, but nigh on a year later I, personally, haven't seen any real improvement.

    GW always have, and still do, make the finest miniatures with the best IP in the world. But what is the point if the end product is deformed?

    In the May issue of White Dwarf, the great Jervis stated in his Standard Bearer article:

    "Some people think compromise is wrong, but it's all about the circumstances. Compromising your principles is wrong, but that's not what we're talking about. For example, one of the founding principles of Games Workshop hobby is 'the miniatures always come first', by which we mean we will never let anything compromise our ability to make the best miniatures in the world"

    I almost choked on my Tizer reading that.

    I hope so much that these problems can be sorted out soon, or at the very least, lift the veil of secrecy and propaganda and actually talk to us.

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