Mio has a Vtuber Channel!

Hey everyone! Artist Panda here.

Some of you may know by now that I’ve got a Mio Vtuber channel now! I stream myself drawing, playing games, and chatting on Twitch a few times each week. It’s been a blast, because I’ve enjoyed the communication and collaboration with the peeps in chat. Especially when I do draw streams, like coming up with new character designs for Crush Crush – it’s super helpful and awesome to have feedback coming in live from the chat.

(3D Mio)

I wanted to do a lil blog post talking about my setup and how I got started as a Vtuber. Maybe dig a little into the process Twitch has, and other tools I use. Most of my setup I learned about by reading online or watching other Vtuber’s videos like Girl_DM has a bunch that explain how her setup works. But I’ll go into mine below!

(Screencap from Mio’s debut stream)

Early on I knew I wanted Mio to be my character since her persona is closely aligned with my own, and she’s kinda already based on me 😛 So developing her design/character traits was easy because she’s already been established in Crush Crush and Hush Hush. Plus I wanted to do a hybrid approach where, yes I am Mio, but I am also me – the Sad Panda Studios developer. It’s nice because I don’t have to worry about slipping out of character or breaking the 4th wall with the ‘lore’ – I’m just me, being me. But I can definitely appreciate the Vtubers who go the extra mile to stay in character for the persona they’ve created.

(Lovely reference sheet made by Osiimi)

I wanna go over the things I got working ahead of my ‘debut’ – since there was a ton of work and time put into it before I even had my first stream. This isn’t meant to be a list for everyone to follow, it’s just my own checklist that I had leading up to it. In case anyone was ever curious! I recommend any new Vtubers or wannabe streamers start much smaller than I did. If you can do the art and modeling/rigging on your own – do it! Otherwise costs will stack up pretty quick the more people you commission.

  1. I reached out to my talented artist friend Osiimi to help design the model sheet & outfit for Vtuber Mio, because I know she had some experience doing something similar with her own Vtuber. She also had connections to a super amazing 3D modeler, so I took advantage of that 🙂
  2. Once I was happy with the design, I reached out to Rui who took on the task of modeling and rigging my 3D model so I could have different expressions and 2 variations of my outfit (jacket on/off). I also asked him to set up some special functionality with the rig so Mio’s eyes would have tracking enabled (ARkit is what he called it).
  3. There are lots of software options for hooking up a Vtuber model to sync with your movements, but I decided on Luppet because it had the nicest looking movements. It’s Japanese software and was a little tricky to get working, I gotta say!
  4. I bought an app for my phone called iFacialMocap which captures my face using my phone’s selfy camera, and translates it to a 3D character on the screen. This facial data is then sent to my computer so I can pipe it into Luppet, and Mio’s model will be able to match my facial expressions and head movements the same way my phone is seeing it.
  5. While my model was being worked on, I ordered a few things – 
    1. One was a device called LeapMotion which is used to capture my hand movements. That was a tricky thing to get working, and I’m still not 100% happy with how it syncs up to my hand/arm motions so I might have to buy a proper necklace to hold it in place.
    2. The other thing I ordered during this time, was a logo for my streams/channel. I simply went to Fiverr and there were so many options with different price ranges, it was really nice. It’s helpful that Vtubers are so popular right now; it generates lots of interest from artists who do commissions.
    3. Along with the logo, I reached out to an animator in Japan, Hoopyon (whom I found on Twitter by checking out other Vtuber’s recommendations) to help create some animated stickers and interstitial screens.
    4. During all this, I decided to commission Osiimi for some illustrations of Mio to use as my interstitial screens (in case the animator took a long time). She got those done super quick and then I sent them to another person to animate.
    5. Then I found an awesomely talented designer on Twitter (Izu) who was up for making my overlay. That’s the screen that has all those pretty animated stars and buttons, and he even animated my logo for me 🙂
(Some stickers/emotes made by Hoopyon)

Once I had most of those things finished, like the model and logo, I was ready to put together a little intro video. I drafted up a script, got Witchy Panda’s help refining it, and recorded myself acting it out with my Mio model using the Leapmotion hand tracking and iFacialMocap to capture my expressions and movements. I put that together with my friend Screenhog (who has helped us make most of our game trailers) and after a few weeks it was ready to go!

(Screencap from the Intro video)

The whole process from original character design, to getting everything ready to launch took around 9 months. I debuted near the end of February, and the first stream went super smooth! I had no audio issues or internet dropouts (aside from the one at the very start… thanks Starlink >.>)

All that time I watched as many Vtuber videos as I could and instructional YouTubes about how to set up and use Twitch. Turns out there is a TON to learn. But I installed Streamlabs which made it easier, and leaned on some Pandas who had experience streaming to give me tips. At the end of the day, streaming is just one of those things you learn quickly once you start doing it. The schedule I’ve been sticking to is pretty demanding on my time, but I’m hopeful that it’ll become easier and will turn into a fun relaxing hobby. Of course I still get nervous just before going live on stream, but after a while it starts to feel like I’m just hanging out with a big group of friends. And it gives me time to game, which is something I really missed doing. I’m always working on making games so that was my ultimate goal with this whole Vtuber adventure – play more games and have fun! Even if nobody shows up to watch, it’s OK, because I’ll be doing what I love.

(This is my setup – you can see my mic, my leap motion attached to my collar, phone with facial tracking, etc)

Thanks to everyone who has checked out my streams. If you want to join a live chat then please consider following me on Twitch here: https://www.twitch.tv/mioschannel

Or if you just want to watch some of my past streams, they’re all archived on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKVx-05Sz1vYHwUZsCC9ehQ

I love you so hard!

~Artist Panda

What’s Cabin Fever?

Hiii~ Artist Panda here!

Some of you who follow us may have noticed that we recently announced a new game. It’s a small visual novel called Cabin Fever, and I wanted to chat about it.

How’d that get in my Library??

The first thing you’ll see is that the developer isn’t Sad Panda, but is this new studio nobody has heard of called “Steamy Buns” – basically the deal with that is it’s some of the peeps from Sad Panda, only it’s a separate studio. Steamy Buns is like the team B made up of me (Artist Panda), Programmer Panda, and Witchy Panda (one of our writers). For Cabin Fever I worked with Azahara for the character art (she’s awesome and has done a bunch of art in Crush Crush, like Charlotte/Shibuki/Sirina, etc). I also worked with Dao for the background art – she made all the gorgeous backgrounds in Hush Hush & Blush Blush, so it’s always a treat when I get to collaborate with her ❤

This is Witchy Panda

Cabin Fever was my little experiment to make a visual novel in preparation for Hush Hush, which is a MUCH bigger game. We wrote some cool new tech to accommodate the things I wanted, and learned so much about the development of making visual novels. So while OjiPanda was busy writing the script for Hush Hush (which is about the same word count as ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’) I decided to write my own mini VN to familiarize myself with the setup. It turns out that even a small visual novel like Cabin Fever is a ton of work, but I was really happy we made it because it’s taught us many good things that we’ll bring over to Hush Hush.

Cabin Fever’s key art

The story for Cabin Fever revolves around a loner character, living in a dystopian world that has been ravaged by a fatal pandemic. I started writing it at the very beginning of all the COVID-19 stuff that was happening, when the world was uncertain about everything. We shut down the Sad Panda office for a few months to keep everyone safe, and all worked from home. That meant I had some spare time to kill, so I got to work on this little story idea I had. 

Over the course of a year I dabbled in this other side project, getting help from my artist friends and a super gifted music composer to do the soundtrack. I figured all the pieces I needed to make a small visual novel were story, art, music, code, and voice acting. The writing was finessed by Witchy Panda over a 2 month period, while she was helping with other Sad Panda tasks. As for me, I did the bulk of the work up front and then oversaw the other pieces to make sure they stuck true to the vision. I would redline/critique artwork as it came in, giving my feedback and sometimes drawing overtop to show how I wanted things to look. I also took on the grunt work like exporting the hundreds of character sprites 😛 And added a few more expressions, etc to the CGs.

Dao is a fantastic background artist and does a great job translating my ideas into beautiful illustrations. We worked hard to get all of the backgrounds, and different scenarios, looking the way I wanted. She drafted up a blueprint of the cabin at the start, so I could fit the story around the house and make sure it all flowed correctly. A few scenes were written in after all the art was done, so I had to bug her again for more art 😛 But she did a great job matching the style and making everything look like it came right out of a gorgeous anime film.

I would sketch over top the designs Azahara came up with, to bring it more on model with my style 🙂
Initial layout plans for the cabin

Then I reached out to voice actors to cast the perfect people for the roles. I knew early on that I wanted the player to be able to pick their ‘voice’ which could sound higher pitched/more feminine, or deeper/more masculine. The writing in all of our games is gender neutral so anyone can insert themselves into the main character’s role. As far I knew, no other VN had 2 different versions of the protagonist’s audio. So that was kinda neat to put together. All the voice actors did a beautiful job, and it’s probably my favorite part when I get to load up the game and hear all the voice acting for the first time. Visual novels to me are like a low budget anime, so hearing the voices alongside the artwork was a real treat. It made me feel proud of all the heart we put in to make this little experiment into a finely polished game.

Protagonist Voice Options

The inspiration for Cabin Fever was one part my own experience during COVID, another part impatience with Hush Hush and wanting to just make a VN myself. I also wanted to tell a story inspired by VNs that I loved – one of them being Planetarian ~ the reverie of a little planet. Our game has many branching paths and multiple endings, so I hoped it would be fun for players to take notes and try going down alternate routes. I promise there is a way to have a happy ending! It’s just a really difficult path 🙂 Because sometimes that’s how life goes, but the reward is worth it.

Sad Panda will continue developing Crush Crush, Blush Blush, and will release Hush Hush soon. But don’t be surprised if you see a couple more games popping up from this ‘Steamy Buns’ developer. Honestly there are so many games I want to make, Steamy Buns was my solution to ‘clocking out’ at Panda each day, and switching to a different type of creative outlet at night. I hope you like our little game! And in case you’re wondering, yes the Panda Pass does work with it… haha.

Here’s a link to the Steam page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1336600/Cabin_Fever

Thanks for checking it out!

Xoxo

~Artist Panda

Sad Panda’s Office

Upgraded from “Breakfast Nook” to Basement Office!

Hi! Artist Panda here, and I’m really happy to kick off this Blog by starting with a post that shows off our spiffy office.

There’s Mio!

This is a story about how Programmer Panda and I renovated his basement to make a sweet office for Sad Panda HQ. We did this for a few reasons; First, because OjiPanda deserved better than a fold-out table (half of which was being taken up by our printer)… Before OjiPanda even had the
fold-out table he would jam on game stuff just sitting on the floor :O and our second reason was that we wanted the opportunity to expand and hire more pandas!

Basement filled with Mio boxes for the Kickstarter

This is the basement! It’s the coldest part of the house which is great for summer days but not so great for freezing Canadian winter days. This space was previously being used to store random stuff like bikes and boxes so we thought it would make the perfect space for our ‘panda office’ and would be a wicked upgrade from ‘floor and fold-out tables upstairs’ 😀 So Programmer Panda and Artist Panda (that’s me!) got to work renovating the space to make it look awesome!!

Programmer Panda’s real face :O

We started tearing out the old wood panelling by the fireplace since it was mega retro and kinda hard to work around. The exposed ceiling alerted us to some nasty DIY wiring jobs the previous homeowners had done. So it was actually a good thing we were overhauling this area because we found tons of “almost-burnt-the-house-down” jobs here.

Yaaaay… Asbestos…

It turned out this old basement (and house which was built in the 70s) had some asbestos in the drywall mud – yippee! So we had to take extra precaution with these renovations. That’s Programmer Panda sporting a super anti-asbestos suit.

Slowly getting there…

We tore it down to the old framing and insulation and ultimately decided we would need to replace that. We wanted it to be level and do a good job keeping the warm air inside, so it was worth doing these extra steps. Fun fact – those big white things leaning against the walls are SOLAR PANELS because Programmer Panda is a COOL and knows how to set things like that up. He’s so responsible. And green. And great. So our studio runs off solar energy in the summer months 😀

Does it look like an office yet?

This is what the new framing looked like after we did our job 🙂 All the wood probably cost around $60. We hired electricians to install pot-lights and ethernet in the walls and that cost around $2500. That was probably the second most expensive thing.

secret graffiti

I wrote on the floor before it was covered up. It says “SAD PANDA (STUD)IOS” because I thought I was clever, and there was a stud lined up with that location on the wall >.>

So fluffy!

Brand new insulation we stuffed in there! Looking good. All the insulation we got was around $150 since we got the really high grade stuff meant for keeping in as much heat as possible. But the sucky thing was when we had to acoustic sealant goop the vapour barrier on..man that stuff is nasty.

Quill has a funny haircut 😛

Here I am taking a break with Quill! The floor is really chilly >_<

Just creepin’

Mio keeping an ever watchful eye on all the goings-on downstairs.

Drywall!

Programmer Panda paid one of his neighbours to help with the drywalling since it was going to take a lot of time. We could have done it, but there were game features we wanted to work on instead 😛 I think the total cost $800 including the labour.

so smoooth

This is the stage where the drywall got mudded so it could be painted over a smooth surface. After the mud dried and got sanded/smoothed out I could paint it 😀 😀

😀

Here’s a different angle taken from the window/fireplace vantage point.

TEAL! AKA Tiffany Blue is the color name.

Then the painting commenced!! I was really excited to have the room feel bright and colourful so I chose a teal/tiffany blue colour. It worried me at first because it resembled a hospital gown colour before it dried >.<

Doing the art thing… painting walls.

I probably went through a full can and a half painting several coats in this room and the hallway leading upstairs. Total cost for those two cans, new brushes and paint trays was around $100.

Dusty fireplace

The old fireplace that was in there worked fine but was so old that it was no longer up to code… so I pitched in to get us a new fireplace so we could avoid being popsicle pandas in the winter time >_<

Masonry! Masonry! Masonry!

That brings us to the number one most expensive part of this whole show – the fireplace and mantle. Being a silly artist panda, I said “I don’t think the old brick will go with this new look – let’s make it new and hip!” so we hired a mason and got a new fireplace installed. Also picked out a sweet hunk of cedar for the mantle – cost $120. But overall, the fireplace was around $3800 and the masonry $3000. I hope I chose a brick style everyone likes because it’s kinda permanent now!!

It’s starting to look like something!!

Here’s what the work-in-progress looked like! It’s so industrial ‘n cool underneath.

Programmer Panda hard at work!

We continued to paint the ceiling, window trim and walls while the fireplace was being worked on. Notice the humungous gnarly baseboard heater down on the left? Yeah, that thing was a fire hazard waiting to happen – when we took it off the wall we discovered it had a charcoal black (BURNT) thread spool inside. It’s insane that it didn’t start a fire and burn the house down :s

Mio also has a funny haircut ^^

Mio’s checking out the sweet new mantle. You’ll notice it has a giant crack running down the middle (and underside as well) which looks kinda cool and gives it character. Apparently fresh cut cedar needs time to acclimate to a house so the cracks didn’t happen until it had been sitting on the floor for a few weeks. Science!

Oooooh! Ahhhh!

Brick’s looking good at this point! Still need to install the fireplace.

Floor things!

Programmer Panda and I spent some evenings laying down this underlay
(cost $200) and taped it all up so we could install the floorboards next!

It looks so different from before :O

We put in the floor pretty quickly since it was such a small area – but it was a real pain. I dunno if it was just the brand or the fact that we bought damaged boxes, but this stuff would snap out of place so easily 😦 It was not fun. We spent way too many hours trying to adjust the boards and push them together so there were no gaps. The end result looks nice but there’s still the odd piece you have to kick with your foot to wedge it back to looking seamless. The only neat thing with this floor in particular is that I found it on sale (it had been discontinued at Home Depot) and when it arrived it had several boxes banged up and too damaged to use – so they gave me another discount. Total cost for 14 boxes of this ended up being $300.

Soooo close to the finish line!

Here is when it really started to look like a new room!! So bright and colorful ^_^ You can see the tops and bottoms of the walls are surrounded by molding. Programmer Panda installed all of these and I just touched up the nail holes with mud and paint. I think the cost for all the molding pieces was under $100 and we did new trim on the doors in this room too.

So many monitors :B

Then we backtracked a bit and removed some of the molding to make special cuts and room for shelving 🙂 This was something I definitely wanted so we could show off our love of red pandas and put up things that inspire us. Maybe one day if we ever get awards or neat merchandise we want to put on display this would be the place to do it! In this shot you can also see some of the monitors and desks we assembled! It’s so cool.

Cat comes with the office.

Finally! With the molding up around the tops and bottoms of the walls, we can call this office basically – DONE! Time to start filling up those shelves with cool things!

Morgo’s Desk

This is the view from my desk, but the cintiq hasn’t been set up quite yet in this photo. Sure is a nice view though ^^ Especially when the neighbourhood cats come to chill in the backyard.

Mio on top and Quill below.

Sometimes the cats keep me company while I work… haha ^^;

This is Chloe! She’s cool.

When Trash Panda (our other artist) comes in to the office to work, she brings her miniature Shnauzer Chloe with her. We turned her into a character in Kitty Catsanova and she seems to be pretty popular!

Wide View

Here’s a wide shot of the whole office. The panorama makes the proportions look off, but there’s enough space for 4 people to work in there comfortably. The total cost for all the office renovations was about $10,980 CAD (not including computer equipment) and Programmer Panda’s & my time came to about 100 hours.

Panda Themed Tree

In the winter we had some festive treats and a tree, while I blasted Nintendo Winter Music ^^

Current office

And here’s how it looks currently (in the evening). I’ve added a few new red pandas to our display, and we have posters hung up for all the games we’re working on. It’s a pretty fun space and I hope the team finds it cozy and inspiring =^^=