The dark world of 3d printing videogame models

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Nothing is ever easy

Let me paint you a picture. It’s 3am in the morning. I’m sleep deprived and fighting insomnia (rational thought has left the building). I’ve been playing Destiny 2 for 6 hours at this point (the mind is threatening to strike). A random thought pops into my head (thousands of brain cells died). “Hey, I’ll find some cool models from destiny to print when my FT-5 arrives next week.” I hop over to Thingiverse and start looking through models. “Hey, this is easy (the last dying words of my frontal lobe).” While I’m at it ill grab a model from Kotor (Knights of the Old Republic) This was a recent PC purchase because steam knows where to kit my wallet.

As the last of my brain cells died I entered the search for a model of HK-47. You know who he is. If you don’t then we don’t need to know each other. Where was I (still hasn’t slept) Oh yeah. Kotor models. Well if the game is current and popular enough finding at least a couple models isn’t hard At most you might have to wait till the game has been out a while but you will get something. If you want something older or obscure you’re in for some work.

The Search

It became apparent that this wasn’t going to be a quick search and download. I went from Thingiverse to grabcad then yeggi, pinshape, Myminifactory and much more with limited success. Eventually, I found a model on sketchups warehouse but it wasn’t an obj or stl so back to the drawing board. Here is where I went stupid for a little while. Bare with me I figure it out eventually.

Let’s Rip the model from the game

While waiting for my brain to come out of urgent care I decided to see what it would take to rip a model and then clean it up to print. To be fair I’m not new to meshmixer, netfabb or Fusion 360. I can practical model with little effort so this shouldn’t be hard right? Dear Mystical being was I wrong. First, there is the legal aspect. Companies really don’t want you to pull the models out of their games. I feel this is a marketing gold mine that they are overlooking. Being able to buy the model of your character or your favorite item in a video game seems like easy money for developers. For those of us with no skill at modeling characters or items, this could sell faster than water in the desert.

6 youtube videos and 8 program trials later I was no closer to the model than I was 2 hours ago. I might have been more successful with more modern games or if I spent more time to really learn how to use the program but I’m not learning to use programs for just one print( that is exactly what I was doing). This is the sort of quick fix companies are missing out on.

Return of The Search

I went back to scouring the internet for models. I found quite a few but none of the droid I wanted (seriously one of the best droids in all of starwars and almost nothing) It had become an obsession by this point. I was going to find a model I could print or pass out on my keyboard. It was at some point with 20 tabs open (signs of life upstairs)that it dawned on me that I must be able to convert it to something I could use.

Going to the Darkside

I downloaded Sketchup. It’s at this point that I feel I should point out that the site I got it from was sketchups warehouse and because I never used SketchUp I had no idea that is what it was. I found out it was. When I googled the file type it took me to Sketchup. After downloading I was able to load the file and convert to obj. From there I ran it through netfabb and meshmixer. Now I have a file I should be able to print.

I’m not Crazy

It shouldn’t be this hard. Well for an older game ok but it’s not easy for other games unless they are popular. 3d printers aren’t rare anymore. Hell, they aren’t even really uncommon. Even if they are people would buy renders of their avatar for other reasons. If I could go to blizzard or Bioware and purchase models I would. I’m not a bad modeler but I know my limits. Even if I could it’s time-consuming. I just don’t have the extra time. This is something that costs the company that owns the license nothing and would turn a profit. They go so far out of there way to keep you from getting their models it’s like a back alley exchange trying to get models that aren’t mainstream. I spent hours reading discussion boards with people looking for all kinds of models or how to rip them from this game or that. In the end, my Google-Fu and basic knowledge that should have come sooner got me where I wanted to be. It just feels like a huge untapped well is sitting there waiting for someone to simplify the process.


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  1. hydin says

    A somewhat happy ending is that Valve recently agreed to profit sharing things made via shapeways, so there’s hope it’ll become a bit more mainstream.

  2. Chris Kockler says

    So just getting into the flow and planning out my leap to 3D printing this could be a dark rabbit hole to fall down. Having built some droids from wood and plastics printing droid parts would be a lot of fun and such a better use of build times. I’ll for sure have to keep an eye out for other items like this.

  3. Richard Bynum says

    I had to break out my note pad after reading this so I could jot down all the places he looked for the droid. Sounds like the web has a lot of great sites to look for stuff to print! Well//maybe great is to strong of a word after hearing the problem he had in finding what he wanted. But still, at-least I know I wont have to search the dark web for most of the stuff I want to print..haha. I feel like I hit the jack pot with all the new websites I have written down now! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Nathan Cox says

      No problem thanks.

  4. Tom Baxter says

    Ditto on learning some new sites! I have come to really like Yeggi as it seems to know about more sites to search than I do.🙂 Pinshape is pretty solid as well.

  5. Todd says

    Interesting stuff. Just curious, Most game models are not designed for 3D printing, How most post processing of the model is needed?

    1. Nathan Cox says

      Depends on where you get the model and what it is. Then how you made it ready to print. after that, it comes down to the printer. It can be a lot of work. HK will be finished soon and I will post pics.

      1. Tom Baxter says

        How did HK-47 turn out? I don’t recall seeing any pics of the finished print.

        1. Todd says


  6. Calvin says

    Really cool, didn’t know about any of this.. thanks

  7. Dominik Halm says

    How Long die you need to get the file printable?
    Did you know the software CUR3D?
    It is a german 3d printing prepress to get your Files waterproof in 1 Minute.

  8. Todd says

    Thanks for the heads up on that will have to check it out.

  9. Darren says

    Awesome looking video games that is sure to attract lots of fans.

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