In the world of game development, certain individuals stand out for their exceptional talent and unique contributions. One such luminary is Ikumi Nakamura, the founder of Unseen, a renowned game development studio. Widely considered a fan favorite at the E3 conference, Nakamura recently collaborated with the developers of popular asymmetric survival horror game Dead by Daylight to design three intriguing new skins. Horror Game Legend Ikumi Nakamura: Designing New Dead By Daylight Looks. This collaboration was announced during the game’s seventh anniversary broadcast, which unveiled exciting updates including Iron Maiden-themed skins, a new killer character, and a cameo from the beloved and feared actor Nicolas Cage. With Nakamura’s meticulous attention to detail and artistic vision, these new skins have generated great anticipation among players, making the wait for summer all the more worthwhile.
Embrace the curse of design
Nakamura’s designs are characterized not only by their exceptional care and attention to detail, but also by their captivating and “cursed” essence, as she aptly describes it. Each character’s design embodies this curse, adding an additional layer of intrigue and immersion to the gameplay experience. Nakamura’s affinity for the horror genre is reflected in her work as she considers it her “home” and sees designing for it as an innate ability.
Thanks to her previous experience at Tango Gameworks, the game studio founded by Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami, Nakamura has worked on various horror titles, including the highly anticipated Ghostwire: Tokyo, where she served as creative director. Influenced by acclaimed Japanese horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Ari Aster’s wacky masterpiece Midsommar, Nakamura brings a wealth of inspiration and creativity to her designs.
The emergence of cooperation
The opportunity to work with Dead by Daylight came unexpectedly for Nakamura, in the form of an email from the developers at Behavior Interactive. The email, which surprised her, invited Nakamura to create new skins for existing Dead by Daylight characters as part of the Artists From The Fog collection, which includes outfits from five different artists. Nakamura was filled with excitement as she eagerly accepted the invitation and asked Behavior Interactive to select a few popular characters for her to work on. The demonic killer known as The Oni, the enigmatic Julie Kostenko, and resilient survivor Yui Kimura were the characters entrusted with Nakamura’s creative vision and expertise.
Designing with backstories and dark imagery
Nakamura’s design process involved examining each character’s unique backstory to make informed clothing choices. The resulting outfits feature a dark gray color palette with somber layers of dirt, reflecting the depth of their experiences and the challenges they faced. For the Oni, a disgraced and outcast samurai consumed by his unbridled thirst for blood, Nakamura envisioned his circumstances and lifestyle. This resulted in the character being portrayed in a disheveled and dirty state, reflecting his secluded life deep in a mountain.
The oni’s horned mask was replaced with uneven, yellowed candlesticks, and his armor was replaced with a tattered black yukata decorated with rows of low-hanging beads. With Nakamura’s design, the Oni’s transformation is complete, featuring blood-spattered bare feet with patches of rough, red skin and black toenails, serving as physical evidence of his suffering.
Revealing Julie’s bloodstained journey
Among the characters that Nakamura was commissioned to recreate, Julie, a member of the Legion, stands out as her special project. In Dead by Daylight, Julie is part of a team of murderous teenagers. Nakamura’s vision for Julie was to transform her from a nondescript figure in a black jacket, jeans and hoodie into something more striking. Inspired by the Sukeban subculture of the ’70s, Nakamura dressed Julie in a heavyweight Japanese schoolgirl uniform. However, this uniform bears bloodstains and embroidered threats in kanji, symbolizing Julie’s role as a delinquent girl and adding a special touch to her character.
This reimagining of Julie as a Sukeban character brings a fresh and exciting dynamic to Dead by Daylight as there was no Sukeban character in the game before. Nakamura eagerly awaits the reaction of the players and how they will embrace this bold interpretation and the story it injects into the game’s narrative.
Designing for Pursuit and Survival
When it came to designing Killers and Survivor, Nakamura approached the task from two different angles, each considering their unique gameplay roles and goals. The Killers in charge of tracking and hunting down Survivors needed designs that would make them stand out and be easily recognizable to Survivor players. Nakamura’s attention to detail led to her incorporating candles into the oni’s headgear, creating an evocative image that reinforces the killer’s presence and reveals his approach. By emphasizing visibility, Nakamura wanted to improve the gameplay experience for both killers and survivors.
For Yui, a survivor character whose primary goal is to evade capture, Nakamura took a different approach. She designed an outfit that not only captured Yui’s athletic nature, but also expressed vulnerability as a conscious choice. Nakamura’s use of materials like mesh, spandex, and leather in Yui’s outfit not only adds a stylish touch, but also complements the theme of bloodshed and injury. This attention to detail increases player immersion in Dead by Daylight’s intense gameplay.
Storytelling through design
Nakamura’s decades of experience creating original horror characters has honed her ability to tell stories through clothing and accessories. She knows the importance of creating characters who leave a lasting impression, even in their final moments. Whether a character meets a gruesome death or takes on the role of a relentless killer, Nakamura pays careful attention to his appearance at key moments, making sure he remains visually stunning and evokes a range of emotions.
When designing a killer character, Nakamura considers the animation that accompanies his actions and the weapon he wields. These elements help shape the character’s overall presence and affect how players perceive and interact with them. Nakamura’s expertise in creating visually compelling and thematically appropriate designs enhances the gaming experience and allows players to fully immerse themselves in the complex world of Dead by Daylight.
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