I have seen the future of gaming, and have started moving into that future.
I have acquired a 3D printer.
It started a while ago, when I saw that DriveThruRPG now has a selection of 3D Printer Files.
Huh, I thought to myself, Apparently that's popular enough to sustain itself. I wonder how long before I start seeing more of it.
As time went by, I saw more and more things added to that selection. Miniatures. Dungeon walls/floors. A good variety of really clever things, actually.
Then I learned that a friend from HS is very active in the 3D Printing scene.
Huh, I thought to myself, I'll bet I could get Joel to help if I had questions.
Time passed, and I kept an eye on this market. Then, on Black Friday, Amazon had the Monoprice Maker Select at a really low price. So I jumped on it, because this is apparently a good "starter" printer so people can figure out if/how much they like the process of printing.
So I set the printer up and did what you do: I started printing. The SD card that was included had four "sample" things to print, and then I hit Thingiverse, where I spent a ton of time, looking at what I could do.
I learned from the test prints, however, that this is not a fast hobby. One of the test prints is a little elephant figure. It's about two inches tall, and took about two hours to print.
Following that, I grabbed Benchy. Benchy is a boat that people use to tweak and adjust their settings. It's a boat that serves as a diagnostic tool, which appeals to me. I really like that idea.
This is the most important thing I've learned, however:
This hobby is not yet ready for prime time. It's close, but there are so many configuration and adjustment tweaks necessary to get your prints just right that it's almost frustratingly slow. Because there are a ton of possible problems.
My bed adhesion issues?
Step 1: Adjust the temperature of my print bed to see if that fixed it.
Step 2: Re-level my bed.
Step 3: Change the thickness of my first layer.
Step 4: Slow down the print head.
Step 5: Speed up the print head.
Step 6: Change the temperature of the extruder.
Step 7: Change the extrusion rate.
The process here is make a change, and print a test. Each test took two hours (although you can stop it early if you're still having issues). Even fixing the bed adhesion issue led to more tweaking, however, as other issues kept cropping up.
I've had a couple of failed prints, too, where things just ... didn't print right. It's especially awful when those happen several hours into a long print.
But I do think that better (and more user-friendly) home units are coming. I think the speed and stability of this technology will increase over time.
There are already a handful of games available exclusively as 3D-printed files. Like this one, for example. While you could use cardboard chits and paper tiles with the provided rules that's not what the designer intended.
I've joined the hobby at the tail end of the "early adopter" phase. I strongly believe that within the next three years, we'll have faster/cheaper/easier home units available. Within the next decade, they'll be ubiquitous.
I have a lot to learn, still, but I'm really enjoying the studies. Enough that I am considering getting a better printer