Earlier this year, Tencent invited developers of WeChat Mini Game to share some of the newest and more creative games available at a special conference. A creative and innovative game from Unicorn Studio came to the stage and blew everyone away with its interactive storytelling. Cocos was able to interview the creator of the game, Candy House, and learn the process in making and mixing video production and games.
“Candy House” is a girls’ store management game with a love story. The main character, a female florist, opens a new store with new and interesting romantic heartthrobs. This includes a traveler, a talented scholar, a rich and handsome geek, and the dethroned prince.
The game’s style is fresh and romantic. Gamers play by creating beautiful flowers arrangements to sell, and by adding in a realistic plot, it brings users a unique story experience and a new immersive experience. As soon as the game was launched, it stimulated the interest of many female users using WeChat.
Reviews of the “Candy House” were very positive. Some enjoyed the live-action video interactive function, which added a lot of unique visual effects to the game, which is very rare for a casual game on WeChat.”
Others commended the overall plot design as very good, with a rich plotline with many different paths allowing people to explore each possible choice.
However, many were intrigued by the quality of the video cut scenes and how well they were planned out throughout the game, making it more than just another cookie-cutter love story game.
We got a chance to talk to Unicorn Studio’s Jiasheng Qi, a member of the development team for “Candy House” and got to ask them what the story was behind this innovative interactive game!
Cocos: Hello, Jiasheng! Thank you very much for accepting an interview with Cocos! When did your team decide to make an interactive video game specifically for girls gamer?
Jiasheng: The creation of “Candy House” goes back about two years ago. In 2017, “Unicorn Studio” met with “Punch Interactive Content Lab” to build a great social casual game together. After several deep conversations, the two sides shared their deeply felt longing for a game that would follow the pursuit of life and love for modern female users. Together we decided to create a series of high-quality original videos and incorporate them into an interactive game. “Candy House” came into being as our first cooperative work.
C: Can you briefly share with us the cooperation between your team and “Punch Interactive Content Lab”?
J: “Candy House” was built as a joint research project and to push ourselves in the development and production process. We were responsible for planning and co-ordination of the script of the shooting, “Unicorn Studio” was responsible for game planning, art, development, and operations for the game.
The game director of “Unicorn Studio” (Yang Chunying), the programmer (Qi Jiasheng), and UI designer (Zhou Peng) led the R&D team from the first-line of the game and spent many years focusing on novel creative game production, that would be far different from other games.
“Punch Interactive Content Lab” founder Zhao Zaihui, a professional actor, has been looking at the use of film and television on the internet and has been thinking about how to serve female better by creating more sentimental emotion in gaming content.
C: What do you think about the emotional needs your game gives to your female game users?
J: Everyone is eager to experience unforgettable love in their lifetime. However, in real life, we don’t have much time to learn and understand. Even if we meet it, we are afraid that we will not be able to distinguish or cherish it. The original intention of “Candy House” is to bring players a more in-depth interpretation of love, so the whole story is built around “love” as the core.
C: How did you strengthen the user’s sense of interest for the game, having the user desire to interact with the story?
J: To give players a better sense of immersion, the team polished the script for a long time, the interactive plot design and the story content are perfectly integrated. We wanted the player to choose how they interact with the game and create rippling effects like the butterfly effect, that brings about another branch to the story they never knew existed, or bring a new beginning and ending to their story. Every time the player chooses and interacts, it seems to lead the story ending to achieve a completely personalized game experience. It’s like going through a period of emotion that belongs only to yourself as the player.
C: The video content of the entire game is based on the first-person perspective. Why use this shooting method used? Have you encountered any difficulties during the shooting?
J: The four male protagonists for the game can only communicate with the camera, and the camera needs to imitate the actions and emotions of the female gamer. In the performance process, the actors, who are used to communicating with real people, had to perform with a lot of imagination during the entire shoot, especially in the latter parts. When there’s so much emotional drama, it is very challenging for actors to perform.
For example, Chen Yuming, an actor in Candy House, is a very serious actor. In one scene of filming, when the character Zhang Jia’an had to bid farewell to that girl, he shot the scene more than ten times, and the actor cried a dozen times. Asked about his experience, he said: “At first, looking at a cold, emotionless machine, it is difficult to provoke emotions like in an average performance, until finally, it evolved into the one woman I once loved.” After the filming, he told us he could not relax for a long time due to the emotional strain in his performance.
C: How often is the game iteration of Candy House?
J: “Candy House” is on a weekly release thanks to the Cocos Creator. While one team is filming the story, the other is working on the gameplay. We have a method to make sure it works:
- Plan out the goals and interactions for the next story, and everyone will confirm what they need and will be doing.
- The back-end R&D then begins to develop the interface and art assets.
- The art team is responsible for designing the UI and importing it into Cocos Creator while optimizing the animation effects inside Cocos Creator.
- Based on the UI, front-end develop business logic in Cocos.
- Make plans to synchronize the latest plots and videos for the next week.
- Release the beta version before leaving work every day, and everyone will test and work on fixing any issues.
- After everyone’s confirmation, any new features built will be launched regularly every week.
C: Do you have customized or extended the engine’s functionality?
J: Because the game needs many video resources, we have done much work on video compression, caching, and preloading. We had to expand the compression functions of images and videos during the release process, which was all done within the Cocos Creator software. After packaging, we compress the images and videos. When people play the game, they were surprised at the quality of the videos as well as the ways they could interact with them.
C: Regarding WeChat creative games, what suggestions can you give to guide other developers?
J: WeChat has repeatedly stated on the official platform that the essence of mini games is creativity. WeChat staff scores and judges games on five aspects: core gameplay, art, story, music/sound effects, and overall completion. WeChat creative games are not based on the recreation of existing games, but encourage everyone to try more interaction, integration, and bringing a new experience to the players.
C: Do you think more will follow you after your success in this type of game? What’s next for the game?
J: We believe this is a trend. Everyone is pursuing an immersive experience. Games that are more inclined to interact, and include movie elements will be more attractive to the plot. The combination of the two will definitely be more fun for some gamers
Our team will continue to make more of these types of games. The story of “Candy House” is nearly 500 minutes long, which is equivalent to the volume of a 20-episode network TV series. So we’ll have to consider what to do in the follow-up for this game.
In the development of more than half a year, “Unicorn Studio” has invested in the best of the best developers to repeatedly modify and polish the gameplay, art and procedures, even if we are close to perfection, we’re still adjusting and perfecting, the whole team is in the process of exploration of new experiences. We’re working to make the experience with a lot of new feelings, better stories, and all putting our efforts to give our users a unique interactive experience.
C: We’re very grateful that we were able to have an exclusive interview with you, and I wish the game and the team continues to get better and better!