afterthought in video games. Most developers focus on a game’s mechanics or story but often fail to realize how fashion can help shape the in-game world and help make it feel more real and lived-in. This isn’t the case with the upcoming Dishonored 2. This is a title whose developers understand how fashion can be used as a tool for storytelling and player immersion.
Though Dishonored 2 is at its core an open-ended stealth action title, it is also a game set within a very specific type of world; one that is heavily influenced by the Victorian-era industrial revolution. As such, every person in the game — from main characters to random NPCs — dresses in a manner that is befitting not only the style of the time period but also what their stations are in life.
“Before creating the fashion itself, we think about the characters: their age, their origins, their background, their functions,” says Jean-Luc Monnet, Assistant Art Director on Dishonored 2. “We still stay true to the design we created for the original Dishonored – retaining that Victorian flavor, although adapted to a southern country, with lighter fabrics and colors – but a character’s origin, background, position in society, position within a faction… that’s what we have in mind when we start a new concept.
Part of the style in Dishonored’s world is the result of the junction between two distant periods, both of which carry their own expertise, tools, and materials. There are signs of an industrial revolution that hasn’t been fully realized. Everything is at a prototype stage, and that allows us to experiment with unique clothing designs regarding techniques and looks. As a result, we have the chance to explore and craft things we never expected.”
Pop culture was also a big influence on the game. The works of acclaimed illustrator J.C. Leyendecker helped the team with how to make clothing that gives characters a unique silhouette. The clothing reacts differently depending on the type of person wearing them. In a sense, the designers had to think like real-world dressmakers and take into account how clothing folds and other such factors.
Old movies were used for reference as well. If you were to watch a scene from any old film, it would be easy to discern what a person does for a living just based on the clothes they wear. Art Director Sébastien Mitton (who is descended from a line of Italian tailors and dressmakers) wanted to show people’s functions through their clothing just like those movies of yore.
The characters under the costumes mattered as much as their clothing. “That’s why their anatomy and body language are just as important to telling their stories, and that adds a lot of granularity to the game,” says Monnet. “We put as much energy on the fashion as detailing the world. Fashion merges with the look and feel of the game. Whether it’s the rich or the poor district, or guards versus a gang of Howlers; based on where and how they live, we make sure our characters’ costumes fit the environment.”
Dishonored 2 has more factions and social classes than the previous game. This gave the art team the opportunity to create a wider variety of looks. The team also spent time studying anatomy. For example, an aristocrat and a worker wouldn’t have the same type of body or body language. Even if both wore the same clothing, it would be easy to recognize which one was a worker and which grew up privileged.
Though the art team looks at everything, they were careful not to be too influenced by outside fashion trends. They stuck to what makes the world of Dishonored 2 unique and built upon the pillars they had set up in the original game. Above anything, characters are at the forefront. This results in a line-up of fashion that the team hopes is interesting and will stand the test of time.
Below are in-depth looks at three of Dishonored 2‘s main characters. The descriptions below them are from Jean-Luc Monnet.
It’s always a challenge to bring a character back years later. The goal is to stay true to the original concept, but also to bring freshness to him/her while reflecting the intentions of the narration.
In the case of Delilah, she looks sinister with a bit of mystery. And the trick, costume wise, has been to play with the shapes; opposing triangular forms to feminine waves of vegetation. We reached a good balance, then adjusted the silhouette while remaining loyal to the old design, which is a big win visually speaking.
Emily’s costume was a great challenge. People were attached to the small ten years old girl from Dishonored. She’s now a young, impatient Empress, 25 years old, ruling the Empire of the Isles. However, she is also a thrill-seeker at night who runs through alleys and over rooftops. With all of this in mind, she needed a specific costume that reflected her authority but also gave her the mobility she needed.
While browsing Vogue magazine, Sébastien Mitton found a photograph of Ruby Aldridge from the Céline Fall 2011 fashion show. He said, ”Boom! We have the direction!” Her beauty and her unsettling gaze drove the first concept art for Emily. Also, the work of Jona on InAisce inspired him on the technical side of crafting jackets, while also paying attention to the distinctive line and harmony when different materials are married together.
Corvo’s original costume was designed while Dishonored was still planned to be set in London 1666. It was greatly inspired by the long coat of the highwaymen. Now that the world design has matured, it’s been a good opportunity to make Corvo’s costume fit better with the style of the other characters.
And like Emily, we immediately talked about form and function (father of the Empress, Spymaster, assassin…). Shape, silhouette, agility, stature, maturity: these were our bullet points for Corvo.
We tried to make him cooler and even more bad-ass, the bad-ass father that Sébastien Mitton wants to be! As he’s satisfied, we can say that’s a kind of achievement.
Dishonored two will be released for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One this Friday. You can pre-order it now from Amazon.
1. Aristocrats hands research
2. Arms research
3. Thin workers arms research
4. Civilian portraits
5. Civilian study
6. Guard & Witch
7. Guard Study
8. Outsider, Jindosh, Stilton study
9. Black Sparrow study
10. Witch study