The illustration adventure game Passpartout 2: The Lost Artist incorporates a system where you can play in-game as a 3D character of your choice. Since being released in April, the game has allowed anyone and everyone, including VTubers, to use their own 3D avatar characters for live streaming. This special feature of the game has garnered widespread praise and interest.
We conducted an interview with Flamebait Games CTO Niklas Bergwall and the animator-and-UI/UX designer Niklas Lindblad to find out the story behind the joint development of the game, what inspired them, and how they managed to create an adventure game that everyone can play using their own original avatars.
Is the combination of unique aesthetics the key to success?
Content personalization enabled by different artistic styles
Ytomi (VRoid team product manager):
Thank you both so much for coming today. I felt that we took on a lot of big challenges with this project. I'd like to look back on some of those regarding user experience and implementation. First of all, it's been a few months since the release. What kinds of reactions have you gotten from players?
I see quite a lot of content creators who use VRoid in Passpartout 2, and it’s also very common to see it popping up in Twitter threads and in our discord server. Generally it definitely seems like people are using the feature actively and really enjoying it!
We've gotten to see a lot of ways in which we didn't predict 3D characters would be used, on both Twitter and Discord. I'm pretty pleased about that, honestly. Looking back, how did you feel when we first discussed introducing the avatar system into the game?
The idea of collaborating with VRoid Hub was brought up by Miya and I was immediately very intrigued. The Passpartout games have always been popular among streamers and YouTubers, so for creators to be able to play their game using unique models seemed like a great fit.
When the game was actually released, many streamers, including Houshou Marine, Leos Vincent and Oshiro Mashiro used this avatar feature to play the game.
▼Oshiro Mashiro (Aogiri High School) YouTube www.youtube.com
We definitely believe that it affected the game experience in a positive way. For people to be able to bring in their favorite characters, or even their own characters, brought an element of personalization that the game would have otherwise lacked.
The only concern from our end would be the aesthetic clash from the art style used for the VRoid Hub models & the world itself, but, as the characters can be conceptually treated as visitors to the game world, we feel the difference in style only enhances that experience.
I think it was a good fit because players can express themselves visually through painting canvases in the game. When I watched the videos people shared on streams and social media, I got the sense that many people were having fun making their own original canvases and sharing them with others.
I was quite surprised at the reaction after the game was released. There were so many people in Europe, including streamers who aren't VTubers, who were using their favorite models from VRoid Hub to stream the game. I was happy to see that they were enjoying the customizable elements of the game.
Joint game development
I'd like to talk about the technical aspects a little. On our end, in addition to helping with the incorporation of the VRoid SDK, we also provided items for the characters to use in-game. Did you have any difficulties in incorporating the SDK?
For us, our primary difficulty was the pressure in the schedule to implement it. We set lofty goals for the release, so the time pressure was considerable for all the little things we wanted to achieve, including implementing the VRoid Hub. The plugin ships with a sample implementation that will do in a pinch, but this sample came with some cross-platform concerns; so we opted to make our own implementation. The process for this is fairly straightforward, and the pixiv team was able to assist in the case of any confusion in regards to the API, as well as helping to ensure that all models available in the hub look good in our game.
There was good communication between your development team and the VRoid team. There were a lot of challenges with this project for the VRoid team, as well.
VRoid team engineer:
As a prototype, we first started with a demo allowing avatars to be converted into a format that could be used in Passpartout through the VRoid SDK. The SDK includes sample projects, which are very easy to use, and allowed us to make a demo within a very short period of time.
As you said, one of the biggest issues was how to address the clash in artistic styles. There are certain ways in which the difference in style works, and other ways in which it doesn't work. For example, while Passpartout incorporates a post-effect called SSAO that blends shadows, there are a lot of VRM characters done in a toon style that doesn't work well with that post-effect. As a result, we had to disable the SSAO effect for the VRM characters only. Fortunately, we were working with a URP environment, so even in the demo version, we were able to solve this by using the Renderer Feature.
These kinds of problems are the kind of thing you can't know about until you actually try to build a game that incorporates VRMs, so there were a lot of things that came up that we put down on our list of things to think about for the future as we move forward with developing the VRoid SDK.
I'm hoping that we'll be able to release more sample implementations and SDK features through these kinds of collaborations. Recently, we released a sample implementation that allows for linking to web applications as well as Unity applications. We would like to lower the hurdles for people to be able to register as developers, and offer samples in a wide variety of genres.
VRoid team engineer:
The current SDK sample is a minimalist project that only allows VRM avatars to be called up. While it's extremely suitable for incorporation into existing apps and games, it's still difficult to get an overall vision of how to use the SDK for building apps and games from scratch.
For example, if we had more practical sample projects using the SDK with FPS, TPS, and multiplayer games, I think that the difficulty level for introducing the SDK would go down. That's my hope.
So, Niklas, in conclusion, do you have a final message for developers who are thinking about incorporating the VRoid SDK into their projects in the future?
Chiefly this completely removes the barrier of entry for any existing VRoid Hub user. A multitude of different avatars become available for the user to use in the game, be it to personalize their experience or to brand their content by playing as their own avatar. Especially for content creators like VTubers, this transforms their content from being an avatar overlaid on the screen watching the content with the viewers, to being inside the game itself. The appeal of this is sure to gravitate content creators towards your game.
Thank you very much!
Not only VTubers, but other many other players took advantage of our VRoid Hub link in this game to use the customizable feature and play the game with characters of their choice. As a result of the customization, many players were able to take interesting and funny screenshots and share them on social media, attract attention on streams, etc. If our customization feature helped promote this game even a little bit, we're thrilled.
We hope that the VRoid Project will allow you to more widely use your own 3D characters to play in games and other virtual settings. We have released packages for various environments including Unity, Unreal Engine, and Web, and are planning on expanding samples in the future. You can use these packages right away by visiting our official website. Please, give it a try! We're looking forward to your inquiries!
We are looking forward to your continued support of VRoid SDK.
▼To use VRoid SDK hub.vroid.com
▼Contact us www.pixiv.net