Injecting life in your adult artwork with Live2D
Stretching that art budget to the limit in Naughty List News #76
This week’s Naughty List News was sponsored by Space Rescue: Code Pink, the comedic adult point-and-click adventure about a handyman in space.
Live2D is a tool that allows digital artists to create dynamic animations from their artworks without drawing each frame or using 3D models. Japanese programmer Tetsuya Nakajo was the original developer.
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Live2D is very popular with adult game makers in Japan, and adult games made in the English-speaking world have started to use the tool as well. But what can you actually do with this software?
What is Live2D used for?
Live2D is mainly used to create animations for human beings. The Cubism Editor comes with presets for elements like eyes, hair, and the usual set of limbs you would expect on a human being.
To get started with animating your static drawing, you first deconstruct your image into its component parts. You then use the Cubism Editor to recreate the image in layers. Each layer is bound to a mesh, which the software uses to deform the layer for your animations.
You can also import Photoshop files directly into the editor. If you then take the layer names that Live2D expects into account, you can update the base image with relative ease.
Live2D targets a wide variety of environments, including game engines like Unity, current-generation game consoles, and mobile devices. This makes it easy to share the same animation between different projects. And it means that as an artist, your skills are transferrable: you can use the same tool for a game project as well as on a marketing campaign.
Looking into the tool a bit myself, it’s clear that Live2D is very powerful, but it has a steep learning curve. Luckily, an entire cottage industry has popped up on YouTube to guide you through the process of creating your animated characters:
In order to connect your character pieces to the animation framework, you use a process known as rigging. This is what ends up taking most of your time because you need to assign weight values to each of the meshes on your character. These weights ensure that your image deforms correctly when you move things around with the animation.
As you can imagine, the more layers you have for your character, the more weights you have to assign and tweak. But luckily, you only have to do this once for each character. With the weights set up correctly, you can start creating animations.
Why it’s so popular for adult games
Because of its Japanese origins and the ease with which Live2D integrates with game engines like Unity, the framework is very popular with developers of eroge. Once the laborious process of rigging is done, artists can create many animation variations for the same rigged character. This, in turn, means developers can stretch their art budget much further. They can literally get a lot more bang for their buck!
The upside of the high skill ceiling on Live2D is that the possibilities are limited only by your own skill and creativity. While the editor is best suited for making animated avatars, some artists are doing seemingly impossible things as well, like making an entire animated gangbang scene.
While Live2D used to have cornered the market for creating dynamic animations from static images, they’re now facing increasing competition. One of the problems is that the software mandates a yearly license renewal of about $110 per user. This can be prohibitively expensive for smaller studios, which are often cash-strapped already.
Spine is much cheaper, with a one-time cost of $70 per user (minimum). And Spine can be used to make any type of 2D skeletal mesh animation, not just digital avatars. Unity is also coming for Live2D’s market share and has integrated its own 2D animation system. Which is very useful for adult animations already.
So what do you think? Does it still make sense to learn Live2D for your adult animations? Or is your time better invested elsewhere?
Writing Wrap-Up 📖
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Cheeky chuckle 🤭
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Until next time!