Many aspects of Deathloop have undergone changes since we started this project, but throughout this process we’ve had our main characters, Colt and Julianna, to guide us. From the early stages of development, we knew who we wanted them to be and how we wanted them to act and react. We created their personalities, quirks and flaws. And, of course, we made some absolutely badass designs for them.
Remember where we come from
The first thing we think about when we start researching a new project is what we want to take away from our previous titles and what we want to push in other directions. Many people know us for the Dishonored franchise and its unique and identifiable art style. We strive to constantly maintain our evolving and maturing artistic style, while retaining what makes it unique and “Arkane-y”.
In the case of Deathloop, we wanted to keep a stylized tissue and anatomy, but we also wanted to introduce more realistic proportions and push the realism of our anatomy. We want our characters to feel like part of the world. They have a past and carry heavy histories. Our style aims to highlight the personality of our characters, while idealizing certain proportions. We maintain clear shapes and readable lines and avoid visual noise, high frequencies and unnecessary details. We usually invest several months in the early stages of the project to find the right balance between stylized and realistic in terms of volumes, textures and materials. We want the characters to be readable from a distance, yet detailed and rich when you get up close.
Look at the 60s through the Arkane lens
When artistic director Sébastien Mitton suggested founding Deathloop in the 1960s, the idea immediately resonated with the team. We had spent a decade in the Victorian era with the Dishonored series, and it was a refreshing change for the studio. We saw the 1960s as a fantastic playground for developing new visual ideas. However, each of us has our own visual culture and our own understanding of the 1960s. It took time and exciting conversations to figure out how we wanted to design a version of Arkane from the 1960s.
We’ve gathered hundreds of references and looked at prominent figures from the 1960s fashion world. The clothes of Courrèges, the vibrant colors of Pierre Cardin, the distinctive hairstyle of Vidal Sassoon, and many more. We have developed certain types of specific materials representative of the 1960s, such as the glittery material that can be seen on certain weapons and figures, or the translucent plastic of some of the sculptures on the island.
The birth of Colt and Julianna
Julianna and Colt were designed as an elegant fighting duo. We knew from the start that the characters would have tons of dialogue and interactions with each other, and we wanted them both to be as stylish and engaging.
Colt’s main outfit is simple and immediately tells you part of his story. We knew early on that we wanted him to be a veteran army pilot. He wears an old leather pilot’s jacket that he cherishes (or he would if he could remember why he was wearing it) and thick leather gloves. Thanks to his experience, he knows how to deal with firearms and behave on a battlefield. Even despite his amnesia, his military reflexes will save his life more than once.
Below you can see an example of a first concept with a bomber jacket, but we ended up going with the leather which was unanimously appreciated by the team.
Julianna’s jacket is deliberately loose and oversized. She is dressed in tight spandex pants for freedom of movement, which implies that she is quick and nimble. The gloves she wears are inspired by archery gloves to evoke the fact that she is a hunter. Her headband and earrings add pretty pop / 60s elements to her overall image. Julianna’s outfit keeps visual noise to a minimum, as we’ve decided to bring together most of the intricate detail in her signature weapon, the Sepulchra Breteira.
Everything tells a story
We believe that every little detail we add to a design should deliberately communicate the character’s situation, intention and action. Every patch, badge and pin on the Colt Jacket was created in collaboration with the storytelling, concept and character art teams. Watching Colt and Julianna in detail will reveal some of their motivations and background. We want to invite players to have the pleasure of discovering things for themselves. Here are some examples:
Jean-Luc Monnet (Associate Art Director and Senior Concept Artist) and his Concept Art team produced many different outfit options before settling for the last ones you see in the game, especially for Julianna. Each one told a story about who these characters are and we liked some of them so much that we decided to use them as alternate outfits for the characters.
For example, the skin of Julianna’s catsuit reflects the fact that she is nimble, athletic and agile, with a bit of Charlie’s Angels vibe. Her blue dress look operates on contrasts: she looks well behaved and courteous, but she’s actually your fiercest opponent in Blackreef’s world. This duality resonates really well with the way it addresses you. She’s still witty and laughs at Colt. While we didn’t use either look for her main appearance, we drew elements from both.
With Colt skins, we’ve designed for a variety of moods. From the super sleek killer in his pink Mike Jagger-y suit to the self-tattooed hero who references the memory loss-themed thriller, “Memento.” As with Julianna, each of her outfits highlights one of her character traits.