Interview by Takaomi
- The making of BOOTH Cafe
- Browsing through avatars like browsing through CD covers
- Integrating avatar pedestals with a café space
- Implementing a dynamic BGM
- Aiming for 2,000 registered avatars
- The latest update enhances the user experience
- The drive to keep creating and the appeal of VRChat
- Collaboratively crafting the BOOTH Cafe experience
(From top left in the image) Lura, Waka, Momoma;
(From bottom left) Tyosoku, Urakami, Kenomo.
Urakami: 3DCG Artist
Tyosoku: 3D Modeler / Technical Planner
Waka: 3D Modeler
Momoma: Technical Artist
Lura: 3DCG Artist
Kenomo: Planner / Sound Designer
The making of BOOTH Cafe
── First, could each of you explain your role in the project?
Urakami: I was the director. My role was to figure out a way to incorporate what BOOTH wanted into VRChat. This included not only planning but also directing how and what things should be made, creating detailed props, and so on.
Tyosoku: My main job was categorizing the registered avatars and deciding which tags to use, essentially building the backbone of the avatar database.
Momoma: I mainly worked on implementing the gimmicks around the central avatar pedestals. This included designing the user experience, brainstorming with the team, building prototypes, and refining them. Since we had to handle a lot of avatar data, I focused on developing algorithms for efficient data processing.
Kenomo: I'm the sound designer. I was responsible for planning the overall sound environment of BOOTH Cafe, creating background music and sound effects, and implementing these aspects in Unity, especially for features not directly linked to the gimmicks.
Waka: I handled the design and modeling of the building, particularly the café space and the area for the avatar pedestals. The idea was to create a space where it’s fun to take photos, with the overall design strongly reflecting my personal tastes.
Lura: I worked on prop modeling, mainly in a supporting capacity to Waka. I created various small items like refrigerators and parasols. The parasol is a personal favorite of mine, with a special touch to make the logo visible in reverse from below.
── Could you elaborate on the concept behind BOOTH Cafe?
Urakami: The initial idea came from pixiv, who wanted a world to showcase BOOTH products. Our first idea was for a BOOTH House, but then pixiv wanted something that showcased the avatars more.
Then, considering the possibility that many avatars distributed via BOOTH might not be reaching interested people, we approached the project from a new perspective, starting with the idea of creating "encounters with avatars".
Since just having a place to change avatars isn't enough to draw people in, we wanted to create a café space where visitors could chat and enjoy the scenery while trying on different avatars. The concept was centered around the theme of "encounters," both with avatars and people.
Browsing through avatars like browsing through CD covers
── The BOOTH Cafe system has a unique feature where avatars with similar vibes get recommended to users. How did this idea come about?
Momoma: At the beginning, we considered something different, using a tag-based search similar to BOOTH's search feature. But then we thought, "Why would people use VRChat when they could do the same thing on the BOOTH website?"
So we shifted our focus to creating meaningful avatar encounters within VRChat. The idea we landed on is akin to e-commerce sites that show you recommendations in categories like "People who bought this also bought..."
It's a straightforward system: when you choose an avatar from the pedestals, similar ones keep showing up. It's simple to understand and, as far as I know, it's a novel approach that hasn't been seen in similar services.
*An avatar pedestal in VRChat is a square panel that lets users change their avatar by touching it.
Urakami: Originally, we considered a feature where changing certain parameters, like eye size or hair color, would result in similar avatars popping up. But that approach required too many steps and wasn't very user-friendly. So, Tyosoku, Momoma, and I brainstormed various ideas while exploring different worlds, until we settled on the current system.
Tyosoku: When it came to the tags for the registered avatars, initially, we thought about concrete elements like hair color. However, trying to categorize avatars in VRChat using such detailed descriptors led to an overwhelming number of terms. Due to the limitations in the amount of information we could register in the system, we ended up using more abstract tags that capture the overall feel of the avatars, like "rounded" or "elongated".
── How did you come up with the idea of using so many pedestals to search for avatars?
Tyosoku: The idea actually sparked when we visited a world that was just filled with pedestals. Surprisingly, it was really fun, kind of like picking out a CD by browsing covers. We thought this was a fun approach and that's how we shaped our current design.
Urakami: Building on that, we thought of creating a space like a café, and the concept just kept expanding. At first, we imagined a somewhat digital world focused mainly on the search feature.
Integrating avatar pedestals with a café space
── Waka, were you the one to come up with the idea to arrange the avatar pedestals in a cylindrical shape?
── What was the deciding factor for the final design as we see it now?
── For BOOTH House, you used many assets available on BOOTH. Is BOOTH Cafe entirely made up of original models?
Lura: No, we actually used quite a few assets again. We incorporated existing, user-friendly assets, but we also tried to create an original environment by adding our own models.
── Is there a trick to maintaining originality while using existing assets?
Lura: Hmm, that's a tough one. (laughs)
Maybe the key is creating unique assets that are more eye-catching than premade ones and using them as focal points.
Implementing a dynamic BGM
── One of the unique features of BOOTH Cafe is that its BGM that changes dynamically in different areas, isn't it?
── What kind of input did you get from Urakami and the modeler, Waka, on the sound aspect?
Urakami: The music was lovely right from the start. Our suggestions were minor, like adjusting the volume levels in certain parts. Basically, we had very little to add or change.
Waka: I remember discussing with Tyosoku and the others that the music around the avatar pedestals should be non-intrusive to communication.
Kenomo: We went for a livelier sound near the kitchen area, where people tend to gather and chat. As you move away from there, the music progressively becomes more laid back.
Aiming for 2,000 registered avatars
── You're planning to introduce a feature that allows anyone to register their avatars on BOOTH Cafe. Whose idea was this?
── Momoma, did you anticipate all avatars being registerable when creating the gimmick?
── How many submissions did you receive this time around?
── You're about to hit 1,000 avatars!
── What was the reaction from the avatar creators?
── So, there was a significant impact.
── What kind of feedback have you received from users?
Urakami: We got comments about how beautiful the world is.
On X (formerly Twitter), there were people saying they finally got around to buying an avatar they found at BOOTH Cafe, which shows that the avatars are reaching the right people.
The latest update enhances the user experience
── Can you tell us about the update implemented on December 1st?
Urakami: Based on user feedback and discussions with the team, we realized that some users were not noticing the central pedestal gimmick. So, we changed the design to make it more obviously a gimmick.
Also, some misunderstood the feature that shows avatars with a similar vibe to be the shuffle feature. We’ve redesigned this too to make the experience more intuitive. Additionally, we've tweaked the search gimmick’s algorithm, so it's more accurate now.
Momoma: We also adjusted the numbers and the algorithm because avatars with rarer tags tended to appear less frequently. Now, they show up in a more balanced way.
── Were the world's models updated too?
Urakami: Yes, Waka added a frame to the pedestals and set up a board like those you'd find in a café.
Waka: Previously, the pedestals were just plain, but now they have frames that add to the atmosphere. I also added the board to explain how to use the gimmick, making everything clearer.
── People really wanted mirrors, huh?
Urakami: That's right. (laughs)
We didn't include them at first, but we had to give in eventually...
Urakami: The gimmicks are easier to use, and there are so many more avatars, making things much more fun. Check them out!
── I bet people will spend even more time in the world after this update!
The drive to keep creating and the appeal of VRChat
── What motivates you to keep creating in VRChat?
Urakami: While enjoying the creative process is part of what drives me, I find the VRChat environment itself extremely comforting and fun, particularly with friends. Plus, there’s a sense of fulfillment in contributing to the memorable experiences of VRChat users.
Tyosoku: For me, it's really about wanting to see my own creations come to life. It's rewarding to view my work and even more so to share it with friends. The ease of sharing what I've made is a big draw for me and keeps me engaged.
Momoma: My reasons are quite similar to Tyosoku's.
Additionally, although the sensory experience in VRChat is limited to seeing and hearing, I think that the fact that you can actually experience things is wonderful. Having casual conversations with friends or visiting BOOTH Cafeーthese are all experiences you can have. The ability to enjoy various experiences and also create them myself is what drives me.
Waka: My reasons are also similar to Tyosoku's. As a creator, I love building houses, so being able to see the shape of something visually makes it more tangible to me and one of the biggest draws for me. Also, there are so many things to learn in different areas, which can be challenging but fun. I can learn about shaders, modeling software, and more directly from experts within VRChat. Normally, I wouldn’t have the chance to meet these people, so learning from them in this way is enjoyable for me.
── Where do you find the motivation to learn things from scratch, which can be quite daunting?
── So, you're studying shaders just to be in the loop, huh? (laughs)
── How about you, Lura?
Lura: VRChat has essentially become my living space, so my motivation comes from wanting to make it more comfortable and fun.
Also, there are always people who are better than you, especially internationally, and aiming for their level makes you stronger. I'm pretty competitive!
── Cool! Thank you. Now, Kenomo, please.
Kenomo: You can apply knowledge from gaming and filmmaking in the metaverse, including VR social media, but using the same approach doesn't always work.
── So, you're saying there's something unique about VR creation that draws you to it?
Kenomo: Although I'm still learning, it's intriguing to explore both the similarities and differences with traditional games and films.
Inspiration can come from places I've traveled to, or even from watching anime. Just living life can become a source of creative ideas. Being involved in this type of work feels like it's increasing the "resolution" of life itself, which I find fascinating.
Collaboratively crafting the BOOTH Cafe experience
── Earlier you mentioned the "experiences" available in VRChat. How did you design the BOOTH Cafe experience?
Urakami: This might be a bit off-topic, but myself, Tyosoku, Momoma, and Lura tooーwe tend to think from a gaming perspective. On the other hand, Waka leans more towards architecture or a more realistic approach. This difference in how we view experiences really helped us. By sharing our different opinions, we were able to create an interesting world.
Waka: That's true. I don't play games, actually. So, my perspective is quite different from everyone else's. I often say things like, "Even if there's a button there, I wouldn't press it". (laughs)
Urakami: If you're used to games, you might expect people to press a button just because it's there, or at least for the button to get their attention.
── So, gaming conventions don't necessarily apply to you, Waka.
Waka: To make an example, I’ve found that sometimes, even if you put something right there, people might just walk past it without noticing, and I shared my observations with the team.
Urakami: We combined our different experiences and ideas to figure out what would make a great experience.
Kenomo: It's like we're all figuratively battling it out, and eventually, we end up creating something great. It sounds simple when you put it into words.
Urakami: Yeah, Waka and I often have these battles. (laughs)
Waka: It's mostly me insisting on how I want things to be...
Urakami: Wait a second, that's not true! (laughs)
It's more like, "Okay, that's one way to think about it. Let me share my perspective too." And that's how we moved forward.
── Sounds like BOOTH Cafe is really a world born from collaboration.
── Lastly, what does the future look like for the BOOTH worlds?
I believe that if VRChat users are satisfied, they will naturally use BOOTH. So, keeping that in mind, I'm looking forward to the next step of fulfilling Iwata's ambitions.
Look forward to our future developments!
── We can't wait to see what BOOTH has in store for world number three. Thank you very much!