Direction of DAME
Since the start of the year, we at DAME have been discussing the direction of the company in order to learn from the mistakes of the previous year and work on providing improved products and services for our customers.
Last year, we became extremely backlogged with semi-custom and generic orders due to a mixture of personal issues and lack of labour hours. Semi-custom masks subsequently became a source of distress, inducing artist block and leading to a larger backlog of masks, which in-turn lead to more distress.
Fast-forward to this year and the backlog has finally been cleared, with generic masks once again being kept within deadlines, clearing up our schedules and allowing us to work on developing new products.
A brief history of DAME
Before we take a look at what’s to come, we want to briefly touch on what lead us to this point. Our goal from the start has been to make affordable, great quality masks, but what's the best way to make things affordable? Mass production.
We originally began our Kickstarter to do just that, however after encountering numerous issues and delays, our plans fell through and we ended up using semi-customs as a means to make ends meet whilst looking for a way to get our original idea off the ground.
After some time spent refining our production process, we finally reached a point where we could reliably and cost-effectively reproduce what became our first generic mask, the Anna style. However, not too long after we hit this milestone, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and greatly impeded further progress. The lockdowns shut down most of our supply chains and left us unable to produce new masks for quite some time, so with no money coming in to invest back into project development, progress on adding new options to our generic masks slowed significantly.
Now, after 2 long years, we are once again in a position to resume development and refocus on our original goal of expanding the range of options on our generic masks.
The issues with Semi-customs
With more time to focus on internal projects, we at DAME have all agreed that the development of new features for our generic masks should be our primary focus. Because of this, semi-custom commissions are being closed permanently, as they will become more and more redundant with each new feature we roll out for generics.
Semi-customs were, from the start, a stop-gap solution and never intended to be our primary focus. There are also a multitude of issues and risks associated with the ordering process for both customers and DAME, the most obvious of which being the price. Whilst the affect this has on the customer is fairly apparent, it can also lead to a of lot of stress for DAME, as higher costs often lead to higher expectations being placed on us to deliver, and having a big waiting list being accumulated in the background just multiplies that stress further.
The other key issue is the lengthy production schedule. Not only is there the problem of it simply taking longer for the customer to actually receive their mask, but this in-turn can lead to updates on the mask’s progress being few and far between. The outdated ordering system only serves to highlight this issue further, as all communication is confined to long email chains that we feel are generally inconvenient for both the customer and us.
Lastly, we feel the way the pricing system works also leads into various issues. Namely, it can be quite confusing and difficult for customers to know exactly is and isn’t possible, and especially daunting to those who might be new to this hobby. Furthermore, this can sometimes lead to us taking on projects that fall outside our current skill sets, purely for the sake of trying to be inclusive, meaning there is a greater chance of the customer being disappointed by the final product.
Our ultimate goal is, and always has been, to make our customers happy. As such, it’s always disheartening for us when a customer comes away dissatisfied with the work we’ve produced, as all we want is to realise the vision they have of their ideal mask in order for them to walk away with a product they can enjoy.
Why focus on Generics?
With semi-customs officially off the table, we’re now able to shift our focus back to development of the generic masks, though in all honestly the term “generic” is a little misleading and will likely become redundant after we get some of the planned features rolled out. But before we talk too much about planned features, its important to understand the pros of generic masks and why we feel they are a better choice than semi-customs.
Firstly the price, not only are they cheaper than semi-customs, but the pricing of all the available options is very clearly laid out, so you know exactly how much you’re looking to spend and don’t have to wait on getting a quote from us. Even if you go for one or more of the custom options, you still know how much its going to cost before placing the order.
Speaking of ordering a mask, generics use a far more standard method of doing so, namely a cart system. Much the same as many other websites nowadays, you simply need to select the options you want, add the mask to your cart and you’re all set, it’s that simple. Also, by having a more defined list of options, we were able to greatly reduce the time need to produce a mask down to within a 4 to 6-week period, meaning there is also now no waiting list.
To us, these pros alone are enough reason to move away from doing semi-customs, and with all the features we have planned, we aim to have our generic masks reach a point where it’s almost hard to tell if a mask is a semi-custom or not. That should hopefully make it quite clear just how much we intend to expand the number of options available for them going forward. Also, in the interest of clarity, we are still accepting commissions for custom mask accessories and props. Whilst we do have plans to make a few accessories available in much the same way as our generic masks, we feel closing custom commissions entirely would be far too limiting.
Things to look forward to
As has been highlighted above, we currently have a large range of on-going research and development projects. Some are already public knowledge, such as the backplates we are rolling out for our different mask styles, and there are some we have wanted to highlight for some time but just haven't had the chance. Many of these projects are still in the development stage, though a few are now reaching the later stages of production. We also have a number of other projects that are still in the conceptual stage, so we are choosing to keep these a “mystery” for the time being. We will be going into greater detail in a future blog post, but here is a taste of some of the things we have in the works:
- New mask styles! Yes, we are releasing at least one new generic mask style this year, the Alice generic style, which will act as a revised version of the original Alice mask. The master has been 3D printed and is currently being prepped for making the final production mould. We do also have other mask styles, such as Alex, Aurora and at least one other, in the design phrase that we are striving to release within the next year.
- Alternative mouth expressions. Bored of the standard closed mouth smile? We are looking to expand the choice of expressions available for our masks so that going forward, you will also have a choice of an open smile, a smirk and more. We already have prototypes for new expressions on the Ami and Anna mask styles produced and we are hoping to make them another choice for our generic range in coming months. We also have plans to have different mouth inserts for the open mouth styles. These new options will be available on all future mask shell styles we roll out from the get-go.
- Alternative eye shapes. Currently, our masks are restricted to one eye shape per generic shell style and, even though we now offer custom lash and iris options, we are still feeling this restricts the potential generics have. By adding new styles, there will be a larger range of options and ways to customise a mask.
- Custom eye shapes. Yes, eventually we want to give the choice to have fully customised eye designs on our generic masks. Whilst you will still have a pre-set range of face shapes and expressions to choose from, we feel the eye shape plays a large roll in the “identity” of a character, so wanted to give you more freedom to create the character you desire.
- Elf ears. It’s been a long time coming but we are almost ready to make elf ears available on other mask styles besides Ami, meaning they will be available for Alice too when the style launches.
So, as said, this is only a small taste of the various projects we have in development, but we wanted to give you a peek at just how much we plan to expand the range of options we offer for our masks. As time goes on, we will speak more about our ambitions and the other projects we are working on.
How will this effect pricing?
Our plan is to keep all the standard options at the same price. This includes pre-set eye shapes and expressions as well as any pre-set alternatives we release in the future, for example when we have both open and closed mouths as an option, there will be no price difference between the two.
Some options on generic masks have always been items that cost extra, such as elf ears, so there are no plans to change the pricing on these or any of the custom options, such as custom lashes and iris designs. As such, the final price of a mask will be solely dependent on the level of customisation you choose, though it’ll still be cheaper than a semi-custom even after picking all the custom options possible.
Will Semi-customs ever come back?
The simple answer is no, they will not, as we are focusing on expanding customisation on our generic masks.
In the months and years to come, we will begin blurring the lines between generic masks and semi-custom masks, with the eventual goal being to just have “Masks” listed as an item on our website. This will halt the need for commission-based purchases as we do away with the outdated system and issues surrounding semi-custom masks, leading to a lower cost, faster and better system of mask production for both customers and DAME.