Obskur’s Character Creator and Marketplace streamline VTubing

To stream as their ethereal alter ego, Mai, is known as VTuber M41H41, typically requires at least four to seven different programs to juggle. However, running them all at once was mentally exhausting and burdened their computer, which could overheat mid-stream. If a program crashes, they have to break character to fix it.

„For the most part, I don’t really need to use every program,” Discord told My TechCrunch during the call. „So I had to say to my community, 'Sorry, we can’t like, throw videos or chat interactive videos today because I can’t play it right now’.”

VTubers — portmanteau of a “virtual YouTuber” – stream as a 2D or 3D model instead of revealing their real faces. The burgeoning genre has produced a large number of successful streamers, but has a high barrier to entry due to the startup costs and technical skills involved in streaming animated characters.

Ambiguous, an all-in-one broadcasting app, wants to make VTubing more accessible by allowing users to create 3D models and interactive environments without technical skills. The company introduced several new features at TwitchCon, including a character creator that was officially launched last week. Obscar’s broadcast software essentially rolls several different programs into a single platform that easily integrates with Twitch — a big draw for VTubers like Mai.

Obskur’s Character Creator and user-generated content marketplace is unique in the VTubing space. Character Creator allows users to customize 3D models by selecting free hairstyles, facial features and body types. Users can adjust features with sliders to change shape and size and select feature colors from the color wheel. For more customization, users can check out the integrated marketplace, where artists sell pre-made models and 3D assets like costumes and interactive backgrounds.

„It needs to be advanced enough that people can create characters that are unique enough to feel like, 'This is me and my brand.'” But it needs to be easy enough where you don’t need to know anything,” Obscure co-founder Andronic Aslanian told TechCrunch. „Rigging or modeling or textures. Or you don’t need to understand anything and it looks like a video game if you can use our app.

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Image Credit: Courtesy of Abskar

Mai said they started using Obksur regularly after testing a demo at TwitchCon. Before that, they used up to a dozen apps to run their streams.

There’s one to operate their model, who often has flowing sea-foam colored hair, pink moth-like antennae and a black top, and another for advanced body tracking. Another software was required to run the basic animations; Something as simple as a VTuber making their model cry, or bouncing their breasts to flirt with subscribers, involves technical intricacies that viewers rarely see behind the scenes. Mai had to use a third program for any chat interactions, such as allowing viewers to throw objects at her or shower her with flower petals, and additional third-party software to integrate those interactions with Twitch’s monetization features. They needed a program to upload their model to a 3D background, which could range from a basic living room to an alien planet.

„And that’s before you even think about what kind of content you’re creating that day,” Mai continued. „You have to learn how each one works not only as an application, but also how it works as an application with the others you’re running. I have probably 10 to 12 applications that I download for different parts of my model.

And then there’s the cost. When Mai first got into VTubing last year, they were trying to create their own model by drawing with a mouse, using VRoid Studio, a free software. It was impossible, they said, and „it seemed all kinds of terrible.” They paid another artist $100 to $120 (the „absolute low end” in the industry) for a model. High-quality 2D models can cost upwards of thousands of dollars, depending on the quality of the original artwork, custom meshes and textures, and various animations. Even complex 3D models to animate are still expensive to commission. Additional assets, such as new costumes, hairstyles and backgrounds, are more expensive and challenging to source. While many artists focus on custom commissions, others sell premade assets on Etsy, Patreon, or other online marketplaces spread across the web. Mai said some of the larger markets, such as Booth’s, are „an absolute monster” because they are entirely in Japanese.

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„So you should download these, hopefully they’re in the correct file format, because if you don’t speak the language, who knows?” Mai said.

Aslanyan, using chat contacts was not only a headache, but also blinding. On Twitch, users can purchase Bits, which starts at $3.00 for 300 and goes up to $308 for 25,000. Twitch pays streamers 1 percent per Bit, so streamers typically offer special offers to viewers who spend Bits during their streams. VTubers often entice visitors to spend bits by offering some interactive features. Viewers can spend 100 bits to „throw” things like digital money at VTubers, or spend 1,000 bits to change their outfit. Streamers must manually trigger interactions in any third-party software they use, while staying authentic and engaging with viewers.

Ambiguity encourages audience interaction.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Abskar

Obskur’s Twitch extension and app makes features like audience interaction more seamless for streamers and viewers alike. In the app, streamers can decide on different tiers of interactions that will automatically trigger when viewers spend bits. Obscur takes a standard 20% developer cut, set by Twitch. Aslanian hopes that by making the process more seamless, monetization opportunities will become more accessible to streamers.

„The idea behind that is giving your audience a reason to spend a little bit, because when you look at the bit revenue compared to something like subscriptions or direct donations, it’s on the low end,” Aslanian said. „The reason is that there is no real incentive for pit donations.”

It may be easier for streamers to monetize their work, but are artists at risk of losing commissions? 2D and 3D design for VTubers has grown into a digital cottage industry since 2020, and many artists rely on commissions for their full-time income. Neither Mai nor Aslanian is concerned about the artists who created Obskar’s character being outed. Instead, they said, the platform’s user-generated marketplace creates opportunities for artists to expand their clientele. He described My Character Creator as a „basic” way for absolute beginners to get into VTubing without breaking the bank or learning complicated animation.

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„I think there’s still a lot of desire for specific art styles for specific designs that are unique to individual artists who are still crafting in other mediums, and I think there’s going to be a lot of artists who work primarily in Obscure because the market allows you to monetize your assets that you’ve already created. ,” Mai said.

If streamers want to apply a more complex, more specific model to their streams, they can import a commissioned work into Obscur.

An obscure market
Image Credit: Courtesy of Abskar
Image Credit: Courtesy of Obscura

Aslanian said Obscur took the artist’s ideas into account when designing the character creator. Obscar’s art director, known as an artist TheArtGun, known for designing models for Ironmouse, one of the most popular VTubers in North America. He oversaw the development of Character Creator and was involved in the launch of the marketplace, Aslanian said.

„The way I look at it from a creator’s perspective is increasing market size,” Aslanian continued. „It’s a basis for one. In our case, you can make a cool jacket, and then in the market, now people can access the characters very quickly, you can sell the jacket many times more and get more revenue than making three months. Character for one person. It’s a personal kind of commission. A scale business rather than a business.

Mai is excited that tech companies are finally paying attention to the VTuber industry. They said the market was „undertapped” and there was a pressing need for innovation, such as apps that sync multiple programs together. Within weeks of using Obscar full-time, they saw a significant improvement in their streams.

„I don’t have to worry about opening 15 million projects anymore,” Mai said. „I used to worry about opening the programs, making sure they all run smoothly and everything plays nice with each other. But now I start it up and bam! It’s already great.

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