With the Valve Design Contest, our creators showed the world what magic is possible when 3D printing meets a partnership with one of the biggest video game publishers on the planet. SO many of you stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. However, there can be only one winner, and that was James Kincaid. His Team Fortress® 2 Ring was not only beautiful. In one piece, he took the ideals of teamwork and cooperation that are so essential to playing the game well and made them into a reality.
When I caught up with him, he talked to me at length about winning the contest, his passion for design, the nature of the universe and its infinite possibilities…
You know, normal interview stuff.
It’s important to know that if you love 3D modeling and sculpture the way James Kincaid loves it, that means you’re completely enthralled with its possibilities, like a child getting his first Lego set and being told “go for it.” He’s been an artist for over fifty years, but it was only when he was in his forties that he discovered ZBrush. That revealed a passion and a drive for 3D sculpture that he had never really found in traditional media. He never looked back.
After being aware of Shapeways for quite some time, he started becoming active in the community back in 2012. When asked why he feels we stand out amongst the crowd, he simply replied, “They were the first to offer a 3D printing marketplace to the world. So of course, they have the biggest community of entrepreneurs, artists, and engineers out there.”
“I want to be sure I am doing it better than any other human. Something no one’s ever done before. Think harder, James! Use the force, James!”
Since becoming active in 2012, he’s created five different shops to act as homes for the various genres of items he creates. His most active profile, Universe Becoming, is home to his jewelry designs. It’s interesting to note that James has almost as many professions as he has interests. In his Shapeways profile description, he describes himself as an inventor, scientist, and artist. And of course, when he’s making something, each facet has something to add to the process: “If it’s something I’m creating from scratch, the artist in me says, ‘I need to make it visually pleasing so people will like what they see.’ The scientist is thinking ‘Can this cause harm to people or the environment?’ While the inventor yells over both of them, ‘I want to be sure I am doing it better than any other human. Something no one’s ever done before. Think harder, James! Use the force, James!'”
The world, no, the universe of 3D printing can literally become everything.
When it comes to the name, Universe Becoming, it sounds a little obscure. Did he mean “Become the Universe?” Was it just a flash of inspiration? Or does he mean ‘becoming’ in the sense that something looks nice, like telling someone that their earrings are becoming? None of the above – it means just what it says on the tin, and the implications are profound. “The universe is expanding and becoming something new and wondrous at every given moment,” he raved. “It’s a universe becoming everything!” A fitting name for a 3D design storefront; in the medium of 3D printing, James’s (and every other Shapeways creator’s) myriad ideas can take literal shape. The world, no, the universe of 3D printing can literally become anything.
Everything, of course, includes video games. I love video games as well, so I came up with a question that I still don’t have a solid answer for:
Q: If you were going to be quarantined in a bunker (with a wi-fi connection) for the rest of your life with only five games, what would they be?
A: “Only one. Scrap Mechanic! Because it lets you build stuff! I love to build stuff.”
I also think he’d love games like Space Engineers or Kerbal Space Program, but hey, he’s made up his mind. Hopefully once Scrap Mechanic gets out of early access there will be even more for him to play. In the meantime, there’s always those great games from Valve (before he gets quarantined, that is).
When it comes to Team Fortress® 2, James favors the Engineer due to his complexity to play. However, he did confess to having a love for the Demoman when he just wants to blow things up. And that passion for TF® 2 and other Valve properties with why James is a massive fan of the Valve + Shapeways partnership: “It was like waking up one day and finding that the laws of the universe have changed, because it’s almost impossible to get a merchandise license from a large company like Valve. It’s so easy to join up, too — basically one mouse click and you’re in like Flynn!”
Sheer curiosity drove him to enter the contest, and if he had had more time, he might have come up with an even cooler entry: “The main idea I was working on was a Pyro ring. His gas-masked face with flames coming up on both sides. I got that about 80% complete and realized I was running out of time, so I did the TF® 2 Team Ring at the last minute.”
“It’s almost impossible to get a merchandise license from a large company like Valve. It’s so easy to join up, too — basically one mouse click and you’re in like Flynn!”
Still, the idea he had was by no means a throwaway. “I got the idea [for the ring] because when you’re playing, there’s no way to win unless everyone cooperates together as a team. And when your team comes together and triumphs, the elation from winning is so much greater because you did it together. For me, the ring is a symbol of friendship.”
Even then, the build wasn’t without its hurdles. A sizing issue at the smallest finger size he uses ended up jeopardizing the looks of the finished product, so to fix it, James says that he “used an optical illusion to counteract an optical illusion,” keeping the ring perfectly round while ensuring the class symbols stayed readable as well.
“Valve only gives the gray medic out on very rare occasions. I have a collection of my own and others’ art, and this baby is going on display front and center. Thanks, Valve!”
“When I scrolled down the winners page and saw that I won first place, that felt really good!” he said, beaming. “Shapeways told me I won something, but they didn’t say what. I figured I won a consolation prize.” Leave it to Shapeways to create the perfect amount of dramatic tension.
Now that James knows what he’s won, he’s even more excited. “You can’t buy the gray medic anywhere like you can with the others. Valve only gives the gray medic out on very rare occasions. I have a collection of my own and others’ art, and this baby is going on display front and center. Thanks, Valve!
When it comes to the future of Universe Becoming and just what James has in store for it, he has plans to build a 3D printed wedding ring that is completely immune to ring avulsion. That’s the nasty result of a ring getting forcibly ripped off of your hand with no forewarning, usually due to a fall or machinery mishap. He hopes to make his wedding bands avulsion-proof with a design all his own.
And when it comes to the future in general, James leaves us with this little tidbit: “If we don’t manage to destroy ourselves, billions of years from now humans will evolve into super-beings. If the universe was always here, those billions upon billions of years might already have passed. Put those two thoughts together, and have we already evolved into this super-being state without knowing it? If so, is the reality we know just some form of entertainment that we do, and have been doing for eons? We could all be playing a super-advanced video game! Pretty good graphics!”
I can’t be sure of that — I don’t think any of us truly can — but if my talk with James has taught me anything, it’s that anything truly is possible.
While still I’m on the fence about the whole “living in a video game” thing, James, I can certainly agree with you on one thing: this game has SUPER good graphics.