User Case Study: Konami Digital Entertainment
(Interview article by CGWORLD)
"Feeling the real existence in 2D characters"
Konami Digital Entertainment
RIGHT: Atsushi Tsujimoto, Manager, Konami Digital Entertainament
CENTER: Masato Konishi, Animator, Konami Digital Entertainment
LEFT: Miyuki Kunisada, Designer, Live2D Inc.
We (CGWORLD) interviewed the team at Konami Digital Entertainment to find out how Live2D helped the development of their latest game title TOKIMEKI RESTAURANT☆☆☆.
Rich gaming experience while preserving the original 2D art
TOKIMEKI RESTAURANT is the second title in the TOKIMEKI MEMORIAL franchise that features Live2D. The first title was TOKIMEKI MEMORIAL Girl’s Side Premium ~3rd Story~. How did you come to use Live2D in the first place?
Atsushi Tsujimoto, Konami (hereafter ‘AT - Konami'):
All the titles prior to those two titles were based on static 2D graphics. The reason behind that is because fans of the franchise, mainly female, do not appreciate 3D representation of the familiar characters. We wanted to deliver a new gaming experience to the fan while preserving the original 2D touch and feel, which is why we came to use Live2D in the first place.
Did the first title receive positive reviews?
Masato Konishi, Konami (hereafter ‘MK - Konami’)
Definitely so. In the pre-Live2D titles, the game characters were in still images, and emotions were expressed by transition of the still images or with very simple movements of the eyes or the mouth. Integration of Live2D in our game allowed the characters to be very expressive, and the fans were quite excited about the characters moving and interacting seamlessly to that extent.
AT - Konami:
For TOKIMEKI RESTAURANT☆☆☆, we first introduced illustrations of new characters on the website. But it was after we added Live2D-powered movies to the website that positive reviews and buzz dramatically increased. Having seen the characters moving and talking, fans must have felt like the characters actually exist and started to create some emotional attachment in them.
Point1. Building Live2D models through mapping editable 2D polygons
A Live2D model is built from a single illustration of a character facing front. This illustration was drawn for Live2D, and taken into a modeling process of breaking up into parts and mapping flat polygons on top of each part. Each part was then manipulated according to variable facial expressions specified in guide illustrations. “You need to learn the modeling process, but the process itself requires artistic ability in traditional 2D” says Miyuki Kunisada of Live2D Inc.
Full Range of Graphic & Technical Support
I hear that Live2D Inc. helped the project with building Live2D models.
Miyuki Kunisada, Live2D Inc. (hereafter ‘MK - Live2D Inc.’):
Yes we did. Using Live2D Cubism Editor at its full potential takes a mastery of some techniques. We were given a chance to help the project in many different aspects, not just building models.
Was it helpful to have the hands of Live2D Inc. staff?
AT - Konami:
It was indeed. We provided Live2D Inc. with original character illustrations along with variable illustrations for different emotions. Live2D Inc. studio team built Live2D models out of the illustrations for all of the six characters in the game. After Live2D models were built, we took them into Animator and animated the models in the way we wanted them to move and act.
So the models were built and animations were made, so that each character appears exactly as you expect in every angle.
MK - Live2D Inc.:
Right. Konami staff gave us very specific and precise instructions on how the models need to be built, which was very helpful. For example, we were told to add extra hair lines on back of the head of one character, which only appears when the character faces to a certain direction.
MK ? Konami:
As for animations, we worked very hard on the smallest details about how each model is supposed to behave and express his feelings. I studied about behaviors and mannerism by watching videos of male idols and reading romantic novels for female, but it was advice from our female designer that helped me the most.
Point2. Animating Live2D models through controlling motion parameters
Interface for animating Live2D models is much like a video editing software rather than a 3DCG software. Motion parameters are pre-programmed so that the model can be controlled in detail, like opening/closing mouth and setting face directions. “Auto lip-sync motion was very accurate and came handy in the animation process. Some animations could even be shared across multiple models, which increased our efficiency” says Masato Konishi of Konami.
For the game play, it actually uses 3DCG for the action part while using Live2D for the dialog part. Can you elaborate?
AT - Konami:
We developed the game with Unity, into which we integrated 3D objects as well as Live2D objects. Live2D Inc. provided us with a SDK for Unity and helped us embed it.
Would you say that Live2D helped creating intimacy between the user and the characters?
AT - Konami:
Yes. We are keen to explore the possibility of holding a live event featuring Live2D models and make the characters feel even more close and intimate by making it interactive.
Point3. Integrating Live2D models into Unity
The game was developed with Unity which integrates 3DCG for the action part while using Live2D for the dialog part. SDKs are available to run Live2D models on various platforms including Unity.
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
Project Title: TOKIMEKI RESTAURANT☆☆☆
Genre: Romance Restaurant-management Simulation Game
Game Platform(s): iPhone 4 (iOS 5) or later/Android OS2.3 or later (excluding some devices).
Release Date: 2013.3.19