Team SpicyTails’ Isuna Hasekura and Gem Drop Co. recently met up for an interview, where they talked about Hasekura’s successfully Kickstarted Spice & Wolf VR, including how it will play, what they focused on, and more. [Thanks, 4Gamer!]
Here are the highlights:
- As previously revealed, Hasekura was originally contacted by a Serbian motion capture studio that even worked on Hollywood movies. While the deal fell through because of how expensive they were, it got Hasekura thinking about doing a VR animation for the Spice & Wolf series. Because VR is still in its proliferation stage, he realized that it would be better to do an animation based on an existing story rather than something original like Project LUX.
- Hasekura then contacted Gemdrops (a company specializing in 3D models, developing Crystar and also helping out with games like Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin and I Am Setsuna) via regular email, and they were shocked when they saw that he was the real deal. The reasoning for choosing them was their work on VR games like Headbutt Factory and Sakuna.
- Because Project LUX was made on a shoestring budget, this time Hasekura decided to go for crowdfunding, and between Kickstarter and Campfire, over 70,000,000 yen was crowdfunded by around 4,000 people across the world. Both Gemdrops and Hasekura didn’t expect such a big motion, and Hasekura’s still trying to keep up with making sure all the bonus goods are accounted for.
- Hasekura feels that thanks to the emerging popularity of Virtual Youtubers, more people have gotten interested in VR in general, even outside video games. Thanks to this, Project LUX has continued to sell decently. Kitao from Gemdrops thinks it’ll still take another hardware evolution for VR to catch on, but thankfully, Spice & Wolf VR also has a PC version where you can enjoy just the story without VR.
- Speaking on Spice & Wolf VR, Hasekura states that the main content will be three (around) 10-minute long VR animations that depict Lawrence and Holo in a small house. The fun’s in the dialogue and conversations, and there aren’t any choices to make, meaning it’s more of a kinetic novel. There is also a Touch Mode where you can interact with Holo.
- During the story, Holo will spice up the surroundings with her imagination, and silhouettes of people they mention will appear in the room when the topic is brought up. In terms of timeline, the game takes place sometime in between Spice & Wolf and Wolf & Parchment (or Spice & Wolf Spring Log).
- In Touch mode, you can interact with various objects and also pat Holo’s head and other actions that will incite various reactions.
- Hasekura says that the game might not make its end of April release date, as while the basic systems are done, animations still need brushing up, and there are still things he must do in order for the game to be released. The PSVR and Oculus Quest versions will be released a bit later, in Summer.
- 3D character modeler Sakakibara focused on getting down Holo’s cute looks while keeping illustrator Juu Ayakura’s signature style intact. It was tough, as anime style 3D characters tend to focus on how they look from the front, and as such feel flat when looked at from the sides. In VR, characters need to be designed so they are appealing from all directions.
- Additionally, some other challenges included the creation of the room Lawrence and Holo interact in. At some points, there were too many objects, making it too lived-in and cluttered; at points, there were too little, making it barren and lonely. They also made sure to make the house look worn-down, and Hasekura was ever the stickler for historical setting, so things like books and glass products were a no-go.
- Up to this point, Gemdrops’ VR games had the surroundings change based on the player’s movements, so with a story-based game like this that took place in one room, they had to change their way of thinking. By using things like a campfire or the sound of rain outside, they were able to alter the tone and mood of scenes, as well as make the changes in time clear.
- Making the game compatible with Oculus Go was a hassle, thanks to the lowered specs. They had to lower the resolution of the backgrounds, optimize Unity-chan Toon Shader 2.0 by customizing it, while keep the balance of quality intact.
- Because Oculus Go can’t detect the positions of your hands, they changed Touch mode to focus on the parts of the mode that are operated by looking at objects.
- The PSVR version will look somewhere in between the Oculus Go and Rift versions, leaning more towards the Rift.
- The motion capture for this game was done in one session without any cuts. This time, they improved from Project LUX by having the background and character rendered in real-time on a PC in order to adjust the positioning. A video was captured of the motion capture, which was then sent to the voice actors for the voice-overs.
Spice & Wolf VR will come to the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PC Oculus Quest, and also PlayStation VR in early 2019. Check out some of the interactions between Holo and Lawrence in our previous post here.