Bringing you the best of our community is our raison d’etre here at Shapeways Magazine. And with the new Shapeways + Valve partnership, we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some creators with a love of both video games and 3D printing (obviously, two of our favorite things).
To kick off the Valve Visionaries series, we sat down with Bilal Majeed Khan of Miniature Den, a storefront with almost fifty models, over half of which are based on Valve properties. His sculptures are second to none, looking like they’ve just come straight from the game itself. They’re absolutely beautiful, and we’re obsessed with this Sniper that patrols our office. So, enjoy the interview, and enjoy the sculptures — this is the start of a beautiful thing.
How long have you been working with 3D models?
I have been working with 3D design and modeling since 2010. But I started making 3D printed models only four years ago.
Are you a gamer? If so, what’s your favorite game?
Totally. My all-time single-player favorites are Half-Life® and Metro. But for online games, it’s Dota® and Dota® 2 all the way.
With so many other games out there, what keeps you coming back to the Dota® games?
The game mechanics, the always-fresh aspect of team coordination, and the constant updates. Dota® games are always giving themselves new strategies and heroes, which means that there’s new ways to play the game every time a new hero drops. Not to mention the balance updates that they regularly do to tweak the game and make it more competitive.
Who’s your favorite Dota® 2 character and why?
This tends to change on a monthly basis as far as game-play is concerned, but my overall favorite has to be Mirana (I like to think I am really good with the long-range anticipation shots). It feels like she’s the hero built for me — with Mirana, I basically control the pace of the game and dominate the proceedings if I can play her right.
“Dota® games are always giving themselves new strategies and heroes, which means that there’s new ways to play the game every time a new hero drops.”
What is it about Valve games that makes them so good?
I think there is a fair amount of research that goes into the development of their games. I was a skeptic when Dota® 2 was announced. The community loved Dota® and we thought that Valve may actually spoil the what was so great about the original when they made Dota® 2, because it’s happened in gaming so many times. But Valve stuck to what made Dot® a great and focused on what would make it even more awesome.
The other thing that really gives Valve the lead is that they were one of the first companies to incorporate user-based content monetization. They’ve always been way ahead of the curve as far as innovation and supporting the community is concerned, and they’ve proven it again with this partnership — this is a burgeoning new market that no one’s really paying attention to, but Valve gets how huge 3D printing is going to be.
I also need to give props to Shapeways as well for doing this — it’s unprecedented as far as 3D printing platforms are concerned.
“…they [Valve] were one of the first companies to incorporate user-based content monetization. They’ve always been way ahead of the curve as far as innovation and supporting the community is concerned, and they’ve proven it again with this partnership… Valve gets how huge 3D printing is going to be.”
What is it about the community around Valve properties (TF: 2®, Dota® 2, Half-Life®) that makes them unique?
I guess it’s how Valve encourages the community to make a positive contribution by opening up its IP to users for online and offline products. That sentiment has made the community more focused on the right discussions and has developed an ecosystem where creativity and innovation can thrive.
Which Dota® 2 model you’ve made is your favorite?
The favorite hero among the models I have made has to be Earth Spirit.
When did you first start incorporating Valve properties into your 3D modeling?
I think it was a couple of years ago, even before the Shapeways + Valve partnership. I actually reached out to Valve a couple of times to allow us to sell their merchandise and provide us licensing. I guess they listened!
I was really, really excited to hear about the agreement.
“Seeing one of my favorite heroes, holding them in my hands? It’s immensely satisfying.”
Besides video games, are there any other influences you like to incorporate into your 3D models?
I’m a big Game of Thrones fan. I’ve worked on my own collection, and some of the pieces I’ve made are up for sale here.
After all the time you spend to get your product just right, how does it feel to finally hold that finished piece in your hand?
It’s surreal, really. Seeing one of my favorite heroes, holding them in my hands? It’s immensely satisfying. We all have kind of an invisible affiliation with our favorite heroes, it’s why they’re our favorites. It’s kind of subconscious to some, but may be very overt in others. Either way, it exists, and seeing them given physical form strengthens it deeply. Also, it gives us a constant reminder to keep playing.
How has Shapeways helped you do business?
Immensely. By profession, I am a mechanical engineer. I develop products all the time, and Shapeways has become an integral part of my workflow. Their positive impact on my work has been incredible, and very hard to measure.
What would you say is the best thing about Shapeways community?
It’s welcoming, to-the-point, and objective-oriented. Being a developer, I feel most people here have a similar level of understanding from both a technical and business standpoint, so it’s really easy to level with them and generate fruitful conversations.
“I develop products all the time, and Shapeways has become an integral part of my workflow. Their positive impact on my work has been incredible, and very hard to measure.”
What do you think is the best part of the Valve + Shapeways partnership?
The best part is that two of my favorite companies shook hands and that I was a tiny part of it.
Finally, what does the future hold for you? What’s going to be the next big thing to emerge from the Miniature Den?
There are a couple of projects going on, but I can tell you that there is one that will be related to the toys industry.
You’ll all see it on the shop quite soon.
Check out Bilal’s virtual storefront. It’s completely awesome, VR-compatible, and dedicated to his Dota® 2 figurines. His Shapeways store sells much more than Dota® 2 models, and you can follow him on Twitter @bilalmajeedkhan.