Ours is a team that has a deep attachment to each title, with all members including the director, engineers, and designers participating from the initial plan concept stage. Because our titles are somewhat different from the usual, our team collected the top personnel from each department.
The team has great relationships. Although it was never published, as part of our promotions we actually held a cooking contest for character-themed foods between the different groups of the production team. (The person we interviewed apparently made tower-style chirashi-zushi in the image of Asakusa Junikai. I wonder what it looked like...) (Interview by Live2D Inc. | March 9, 2020)
— My image of Voltage is of a developer that has made many apps for female users. How did this project get started?
We started from the idea of making a new style of romance drama app, and the concept ended up as “Meiji Era + Ayakashi + Reincarnation.”
Many of the fans of our past romance drama apps were women in their 30s and 40s. We created this app to appeal to women in their 20s, who are a big part of the recent app market. We studied the game approach from a variety of perspectives, and eventually came to the conclusion that there was nothing better than high quality illustrations of their favorite characters—that was what the customers wanted. So we went for a card game approach.
— I think that you would have gained plenty of popularity with just high quality illustrations alone. What made you decide to also use Live2D?
We used Live2D in our video expressions in other titles before, so we wanted to use this technology to let characters express their inner feelings in this app also. We decided to introduce it because it was a perfect match for a title such as Ayakoi, which strongly requires that we dig deep into the characters.
Due to the story that features enemy battles and romance, Live2D was perfect for the Ayakashi characters because it allowed us to express motion for magic and action scenes, and create detailed acting for the romance mode while maintaining the quality of the original illustrations.
— The greatest appeal of Live2D is the ability to “create detailed acting while maintaining the quality of the illustrations,” so we are very happy to hear that you appreciate it! Did you feel that there were advantages to using Live2D in parts other than the expressions?
Because we had the Live2D models as an asset, we were also able to conduct promotions and product development utilizing them. When the app was released, we used the Live2D models to produce content sort-of like fortune-telling with the “Exorcism Movie.” We also produced cards with special Live2D outfits and motions.
In order to reduce the workloads of the illustration team, we used Live2D to create differential expressions for the standing character illustrations. This was the reverse approach of our regular apps and I think it was able to improve the efficiency of our production line.
— Using Live2D to create differential parts of standing character illustrations is an interesting use of it! Was there anything that you felt was difficult with the Live2D expressions?
Because the story is set in the Meiji Era, the majority of characters are wearing kimonos. That was tediously difficult… (laughs).
If most of them had worn western clothing, it would have saved us about 2/3 of the man-hours.
Expressing kimono sleeves is quite difficult. After careful discussion with the illustration team, we decided to detach the sleeves and their lower parts and draw them separately and somehow we made it work. I think we were successful thanks to our in-house production and close cooperation. Another difficult part was making the seamless transitions between poses rather than simply switching poses in an instant. We also worked hard to create a seamless effect for battle poses such as unsheathing a sword. I hope that people will notice them.
— Were there any points that you focused on in particular?
We introduced a system on the home screen where the character would put out his hand and lean on the wall behind the user. The character who usually stays in the same position suddenly comes toward you and whispers sweet words before leaning against the wall behind you. Introducing a familiar approach of video production, we had the character’s arm and head partially out of the frame, and I think it produced a real sense of actually being there.
— This leaning on the wall is something that feels very Voltage to me. Finally, can you tell me some of the advantages and issues resulting from the use of Live2D in your project?
This applies to more than Ayakoi, but the largest advantage is that we can now create expressions that breathe life into characters that fans have always loved without ruining their image of them.
At a company like ours that handles a large number of characters, the ability to create models with fewer man-hours is also very appreciated.
However there are some concerns about cost… To compensate for this, I hope that we will continue product development with Live2D to meet customer needs so that it can be a selling point in projects, for example by introducing a system for switching outfits or a lean-in system.
— Thank you!