Snap Ships: Interview with Toy Designers Scott Pease and Jeff Swenty
Snap Ships are a new line of toys developed in conjunction with a science fiction series entitled “Snap Ships: Dawn of Battle.” The eight-episode series takes place in the future where aliens are threatening the Earth. A heroic team of snap ship pilots known as The Forge are humanities only hope. With complicated characters and layered storylines, that series is compelling and the toy line it produced was designed for imaginative play.
Snap Ships toys are comprised of a versatile building system that gives fans of construction play the opportunity to create multiple crafts via interchangeable sets which each include a mysterious “UJU Tech piece” that makes the ships more powerful. The animated shorts released on YouTube alongside an interactive app make the series even more immersive.
Scott Pease and Jeff Swenty are the inventors and founders of Snap Ships! The two designers started out working with video games including “Guitar Hero” and the Tony Hawk series. After moving into the physical Snap Ships, the men used their technical backgrounds to add an interactive augmentative app to the brand which is now available, for free, on iOS on the Apple App Store and for Android via the Google Play Store.
Scott and Jeff recently discussed their careers via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your love for games and how did you break into the industry?
Scott: I grew up gaming — Intellivision, Atari 2600, Apple II — you name it. I always loved making games and movies, but when I went to college there wasn’t a video game option…So, I chose the closest thing I could find — film — and then leveraged my Film degree into my first video game job, working on full-motion-video games (remember those?!?).
Jeff: Like Scott I grew up gaming as well. Atari 2600, 7800, PC when I was 13 and I just fell in love with PC gaming. I still have all of the boxes of the PC games I bought for the last 30 years! I also got a film degree and turned that into a job doing motion capture for games and films. I think the first game I ever worked on was the Bruce Lee Xbox launch title! After years of service work, I ended up being hired at Neversoft where I met Scott.
MM: Why did you decide to break from video games into the realm of physical games?
Scott: I’ve always loved boardgames and toys. I had a great run making AAA console games, but they were all digital efforts. It seemed like a fun challenge to design something physical — a toy compelling enough to get kids away from screens for a bit. And thanks to a partner like Jeff, and the magic of home 3D printers, we were able to knock up prototypes and then do what we did with our video games — keep iterating until we felt we had perfected the underlying system.
Jeff: My first dabbling with physical stuff was using 3d printers to scratch build models of tanks (I love me some tanks!). 3D modeling each piece, printing it and assembling it got me prepped for when Scott approached me about designing and printing prototype pieces for a crazy cool new modular toy system.
MM: What do you most enjoy about working together?
Scott: When it comes to ideating, I think we feed off of each other. We discuss nearly every creative detail together, and the concepts get stronger as a result. More specifically, Jeff’s the modeling and animating wizard, and I do a lot of the app development, graphics, and business stuff.
Jeff: I really enjoy working with Scott because he is incredibly smart and well read. I’m a huge fan of sci fi books and Scott has read most of the same ones, so talking with him and bouncing ideas back and forth is really fun. Also, Scott is very capable in the business realm while I am more of a bonkers creative type…business stuff honestly makes my head spin a bit, knowing that Scott is so on top of things is fantastic…I think we make a good duo.
MM: How did the idea for Snap Ships initially form?
Scott: Snap Ships started as a boardgame concept with the core idea of constructible spaceships. I knew Jeff was a 3d printing mastermind, so I showed him an early concept and he started making “pieces” for it right away. As the concept matured, we became more enamored with the look and feel of the building system, so we jettisoned the game part. It was fun to push the toy building aspect and to see if we could innovate in the constructible toy space.
MM: How long did it take for you to create the first product and how tough was it to get it produced and marketed?
Scott: Some of our first prototypes were from 2015…Early versions used magnetic connections, but when we showed them to toy industry experts, they said “no way — too expensive, too dangerous.” That caused us to rethink Snap Ships and come up with the connection system we use today. We took our 3D printed protoypes to local Maker Faires to test them with kids, and they were a hit. Early coverage of our prototypes found its way to PlayMonster, and they reached out to us in late 2018. Then the REAL redesign work took place — PlayMonsters’s designers did a fantastic job enhancing and improving our concept. It’s been a great partnership ever since.
MM: What sort of customer feedback have you garnered?
Scott: It’s been fantastic — spontaneous communities of fans and builders have popped up across social media. We have people posting their creations on Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, and Discord. It’s so fun to see the creative ways the fans have been using the core pieces to create ships and models we never even knew were possible!
Jeff: We’ve been in touch with some of the fans who post amazing and creative builds and it has been really fantastic to see what they make. Scott and I have had these space ship pieces inside of us for years, to see a whole new group of people create things we never imagined is inspiring and uplifting.
MM: What are your favorite items in the line so far and why?
Scott: Oof, that’s tough. I love them all. I guess I’ll say Sabre and Scarab because those designs have their roots in our early prototypes. On the flip side, the Trident is a ship that PlayMonster designed from scratch, and it’s awesome — it has so many great parts, details, and play features.
Jeff: I think every kit has some pieces that are super versatile and useful for creative builds. The Gladius kit has a great cockpit and unique structural pieces. The Trident has so many pieces unique to that kit. I do have a special place for the Sabre as that was the first kit we prototyped and had kids play with at Maker Faires.
MM: What projects are coming up for you soon and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
Scott: We’re all-in on Snap Ships. We love the universe and we think there’s unlimited expansion opportunities. Fans are already asking for new pieces, new connection types, and new kits so they can build robots and mechs and other sci-fi vehicles with our system. We hope to keep them busy!
* * * * * *
For more information about Snap Ships, please visit www.SnapShips.com.