Gotham Knights will include a lot of superhero suits for your characters to wear – and we have the designs for 28 of them to show you. From suits inspired by classic cartoons, to a set designed by a bona fide comic book legend, developer Warner Bros. Games Montréal has drawn from DC’s rich history, but created some truly new ideas for how Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing and Red Hood could look in their take on the Batman universe.
As part of this month's IGN First, we spoke to the game's creators about the unusual way they were designed, how they’ll work in game, how they can be customized, and more.
First, it’s important to realize that Gotham Knights makes a distinction between suitstyles (suits that come with cosmetic and stat changes) and transmogs (suits that are purely cosmetic, and applied like skins). We’re showing off six sets of suitstyles and one transmog set in the gallery above. There will be 11 different suitstyle sets in Gotham Knights at launch, making up 44 individual suits in total (not including transmogs). Warner Bros. has reiterated that there will be no microtransactions in the game, although the 'Beyond' and 'KnightWatch' sets are currently tied to the Deluxe and Collector's Editions of the game.
Key to the philosophy around all of these sets is that while elements of their look can be customized, you can’t mix and match pieces between different suits.
"Player expression for us is very important," explains creative director Patrick Redding, "but we wanted to make sure that we could harness that in a way that allowed for a degree of clarity and unity to the look of all of these different suits and suitstyles."
"We wanted the liberty to make suitstyles that were different from one another enough that they all had their own really strong personality," continues game director Geoff Ellenor. "And to do that, we wanted to make sure that you always looked cool. You don't want to end up with a Red Hood that looks sketchy because you made bad fashion choices. Red Hood is supposed to be always cool."
In order to get as many varied and eye-catching designs as possible, the character art team looked far beyond their studio walls for inspiration.
"We knew we wanted to create this wide range of suitstyles with a lot of distinct looks," explains character art director, Jay Evans. "So I think we took an approach that was pretty unique to this project. We started with our internal team, but we also searched for a bunch of artists that would have styles that kind of synced up with what we were looking for.
"We basically looked on the internet, various websites, various people's portfolios, various social medias. [We] found these artists, contacted them, and then we ended up having artists from Germany, France, Korea, Japan, US, all contributing to generating ideas for these suitstyles."
"That was very exciting for us," adds associate character art director, Jianli Wu, "just because several of those different suitstyles were happening at the same time. So we would get a work-in-progress update from one artist, say from Germany. And then the next day we'll get something from Korea, for instance. So for us, it was really interesting to see each artist's personal taste and their take on the suitstyles that we chose for them."
Outside artists were picked not just for their raw ability, but for how applicable their existing work was. The Warner Bros. Montréal team came up with basic philosophies for each suitstyle, then went looking for people who could interpret those in their own way. Wu offers an example:
"For instance, the Beyond one [which you can see on the first slide of the gallery above], the artist, his portfolio was already looking, I would say, 70% close to what we were looking for. So that give us a sort of like the initial confidence to talk to them, and then to reach out [and ask them to work on the game]."
Evans explains the benefit of this approach: "I feel like you get awesome results when you ask someone for their own kind of personal style a little bit. You tend to get like more passion, it just flows better for them."
A Jim Lee Team-Up
Designing the suit styles for Gotham Knights was a true collaborative effort, with DC of course having its own input. This relationship apparently wasn’t a restrictive one though, and instead encouraged experimentation.
"Working with DC on these suitstyles, I mean, it's a partnership for sure," says Evans of that relationship, "and it starts in the early stages of the character designs. We have kind of these check-in points, but we share very early sketches with them, get kind of a buy-in, like, "This is the direction we're heading. What do you think? Are you cool with this overall direction?" And yeah, it was a fantastic relationship. Most of the time we were encouraged to explore.
"'How would this look on my desk?' Was something [DC was] imagining, or we heard more than once. If we all agreed, we all want this as a collectible sitting on my desk, then we were moving forward."
Not content with gathering talented artists from around the world to create suitstyles, they also looked a little closer to the source, soliciting a design from one of the artists most synonymous with the world of Batman – Jim Lee.
"It was kind of casually brought up during the production at some certain point," says Wu of getting the legendary artist onboard. "At that point, most of the suits were already designed, but we were talking about this additional [suitstyle] being made, and that Jim Lee was kind of interested and involved in this process. So from our point of view, it was super exciting, because Jim Lee is an extremely well-known artist. I loved his work when I was pretty young."
Jay Evans continues: "Getting those first sketches back – really rough idea sketches from Jim Lee – it's pretty cool to see someone's process that's at that stage in their career."
"Yeah, it's not often you get the opportunity to see something at a very rough stage, at the beginning of the process," adds Wu. "And also those suits are so classic, so we love that. At that point, we [had] explored all those different ranges of suits, and this one, really it's a callback, a lot of players are going to be really loving these."
Jim Lee has also gotten a glimpse at Warner Bros. Montreal's original designs, which became a real pinch-me moment for the team:
"Just anecdotally, we've heard a few [things]; that it's looking good, that he likes it," says Evans. "He's seen a few of our character concepts I know, but I've just heard it kind of secondhand."
We say that that must be a good feeling. Evans beams: "Oh yeah."
While every suitstyle’s overall design is somewhat fixed, each one comes with customizable elements, further letting the player tinker with the look of their chosen hero.
Geoff Ellenor explains that approach a little more: "So our decision was when we make a suitstyle, we will let you customize parts as we design [them], we will let you apply colorways because we know where they go on each individual suit, and we will let you swap suitstyles. But we don't mix parts from one suitstyle to another, because it would end up with very strange overlapping parts, and we just wanted to make sure that we could always provide a high quality."
Evans explains what those customizable elements will be: "Within each suitstyle, we have four elements that are customizable: the cowl, the logo, gauntlets, and boots – plus the colorway. You can customize within a suitstyle, but you can't customize across suit styles. The reason we did this, and why I think it works well, is it really lets us have a coherent design for one suitstyle."
In the gallery above, you can see how the four heroes' suits can be customized – this time on the 'Knight Ops' suitstyle – with three options each for the four changeable elements of the suit. Patrick Redding explains how those choices could apply specifically to a character's cowl:
"For example, you might like a minimalist version of the mask because you want to see the character and you think the character should have their face exposed, or be able to see their hair, or be able to see their eyes. There may be a version of the cowl that gives you more of the scary white slit eyes. Or you might want to have a version that completely covers the face and gives you a much more intimidating visage as you're building your character up into this new Dark Knight."
As for how suitstyles are earned and chosen in game, Ellenor explains that you'll collect blueprints for stat-changing suit that come labeled with a specific suitstyle – but don't worry, you'll have the option to transmog your gear and choose any suitstyle you've earned previously:
"I know that when I craft a blueprint that says "Year One Suitstyle" on it, that's what it's going to look like. Now, if I decide later on that I would like to continue to look like that – even though I have a new blueprint from a different style, and it's cool and I love all the stats but I don't like it as much as my Year One suitstyle appearance – I can actually transmog over [the] top of that suitstyle."
These designs aren't meant to feel entirely unrooted from Gotham Knights' world. The artists explain to us that each one has been designed to feel like a part of this game's take on Gotham's timeline (more on that in a later IGN First feature), and Ellenor says you should feel as though you're earning the right suits in the right places:
"All of the different suitstyles that are in the game are associated with different activities and different factions that you fight," he explains. "So they're thematically connected to the story as you play, and you keep getting blueprints dropped to you by completing crimes and unlocking different beats of the story."
Besides the more equipment-based customization, colorways are that extra layer on top that should allow for your hero to stand apart from the rest. Every suit comes with a number of colorways to choose from, and can even feel vastly different to your hero's normal color scheme.
"The majority of our colorways are familiar to the brand, or ones that you kind of expect, or tweaks of them, or maybe different versions we've seen in comics or other media," says Evans. "And then we'll have a section of these colorways that is kind of a muted set. So maybe some blacked-out ones, or gray, grays and whites. And then we have a small section, which are the unexpected ones. These are ones that are pushing the envelope of what you've seen before. And some of them look pretty fun."
These can include palette swaps, effectively letting your Batgirl take on Red Hood's colors if you want her to, among many other unexpected color combos.
"Surprisingly, these are the ones I always see people playing with," says Evans. "People are loving the ability to put on these crazy colorways."
A Red Hood that isn’t actually red may raise a few eyebrows, but that’s the point. Gotham Knights encourages you to change up the designs of your Knights to find your own favorites amongst the plethora of options available. Everyone will find a specific suit style that speaks to them when the game launches on October 25th.
As for the Character Art team, they have theirs already – and you can see both of them in the gallery at the top of this article. Evans plumps for the Knight Ops Red Hood, designed by a German artist who came into the project early on. Wu on the other hand goes for the Shinobi take on Red Hood: "It's so different. It has all those different cultural influences on that design, the set of it. And it's just striking from a design point of view. I love it for that."
For more from Gotham Knights, check out the opening 16 minutes of gameplay, and learn about why your characters won't begin the game as weaklings, despite that being an RPG genre convention. For even more, make sure to stick with IGN for more exclusive content throughout August.