Since 2001, the Devil May Cry series has become one of the most successful video game IPs in the action genre. Its captivating storytelling combined with outstanding combat styles and exciting characters keep players coming back for more. With positive reviews flooding the Internet, the latest installment, Devil May Cry 5, improves upon all those elements while also diving deeper into avenues like fashion as a tool to help flush out the games characters.
Thanks to the power of next-gen hardware (Xbox One X, PlayStation 4 Pro), developers are now capable of creating more in-depth and life-like designs and vanity items. For Capcom, it provides them with the ability to give in-game characters further individuality and personality during the creation process.
"On previous titles we would have to create these realistic looking textures manually, one by one," Koki Kinoshita, art director on DMC5 tells us. "Thanks to the scan process, however, we're able to capture the textures as they appear on the real life models and costumes, so there's no need to create the models or textures and then align one with the other."
To dive deeper on the how the in-game outfits were created, and how they play a role in each character's storytelling, we talked with Kinoshita for a more behind-the-scenes look. Keep scrolling down below to see what inspired Dante and Nero's outfit, the difference between creating in-game clothes versus real life products, and much more.
At what stage in the game's development does the styling of a character and their clothing become a focus?
We begin designing the characters as soon as that character's role in the story has been decided. For DMC5, that meant at the very beginning of development. This time around we had put a lot of importance on portraying photo-realism in the game, so with that in mind we decided at the very beginning that we would create these custom-made costumes.
Did you work with fashion designers to help create the outfit designs?
For DMC5 we worked with our character designer, Tatsuya Yoshikawa, then worked with an experienced costumier, Madeleine Jenkins, to bring the costumes to life.
We started by theorizing what kind of materials each character would utilize based on their personalities and how they would behave. So, for Nero for instance - he's the type that has a rambunctious personality and dives straight in to situations. With that in mind, we thought he'd use non-flammable materials like leather. Something like what a fire fighter would wear, and it would probably be coated in oil so it wouldn't be damaged when wet. Then when it came time to actually create the real life costume, Maddy gave her advice, which helped us tune what portions should provide mobility, where the stitching should go, how much material would be required, etc. She then created all of the costumes from scratch.
There are some parts where we prioritized design over reality, however, such as the angle on the zipper on Nero's chest. That angle isn't optimal for durability, but for that element we put priority on giving the costume a silhouette shaped like a “V”, which may or may not be a somewhat Japanese-centric preference.
What brands or designers were looked at for inspiration in the costume design for Devil May Cry 5?
The first designer that came to mind for us was Carol Christian Poell, and that image stayed with us even while we were deciding on what materials we would use and the kind of aging the costumes would exhibit. Carol Christian Poell is very adventurous with the kind of materials she uses, and they have these beautiful creases. She's also very unique with how she utilizes metals - it's all very stimulating. The way she hides the metals with leather for instance. It's this perfect balance of futuristic looks that really tickle the heart of the Japanese otaku.
How accurate is the in-game clothing compared to the real-life counterpart? Or is the in-game clothing unlike anything available in the real world?
I think we pretty much replicated the costumes 100%. Any differences, as slight as they might be, would come down to the real-time nature required for video games. You don't have to worry about this for movies, but for a game like Devil May Cry, where the player expects – and we put top priority on instantaneous feedback to a player's inputs – there are places where we would tone down the look whenever it had led to less responsiveness due to the computationally intensive nature of that particular outfit.
On average, how many polygons make up a character? How many polygons go into the clothing?
From a technological perspective, first we would create highly detailed, high poly mesh data for each character that would be over 100 million polygons. Those details are then "baked" into the textures, which are applied to lower density meshes to make the character less computationally intensive, but look just as good.
The final mesh data is about 170,000 polygons over the whole body. The coats alone are about 35,000 polygons.
The textures are all at a resolution of 2048 x 2048, and they represent albedo, alpha, metal, roughness, normal, translucency, occlusion and subsurface information.
For the cutscenes, the facial models used 480 blend shapes to provide the highest fidelity facial animation we were capable of at the time.
What were the inspirations behind Nero’s outfit & Dante’s outfits?
The biggest inspiration for those two characters came from how their personalities have evolved through the Devil May Cry series. We paid careful attention to what kind of clothes they would choose themselves - what would they consider wearable?
On Nero's coat you'll notice he has these hooks near the top - this was so it would be easier for him to equip his Devil Breakers from the holster that carries them around his waist. He's also conscious of his right demon arm, and doesn't want it to stand out, so those hooks are designed so that he can easily use them with his left hand.
Dante is a weathered devil hunter, so he has this leather rider's jacket with stitching custom tailored to his muscle so it's easier to get around in. He's also not the type to care one way or the other whether anyone around him thinks much about what he wears.
I think we had some Western media influences as well - such as Daniel Craig and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Nero’s ripped sweater features a lot of detail, how long did it take make that specific piece?
From material selection, through fittings and final weathering it was only about a month, but if you consider the actual design process and deciding on that look - which took four to five months, all in all it was about half a year.
How did the characters' outfits evolve throughout the development of the game, and how do the originals differ from the final product?
During the design phase, we went through about eight different versions of Nero, six for Dante and 24 for V. After deciding on a design we had two different times where we saw the costumes in intermediate states to provide course correction as appropriate. That process featured actual fittings on the models, where we would nitpick the details. After that the costumes would be finished, and there was just one part on Nero that we fixed that you can even see on the in-game model. We needed to make very fine adjustments - less than one centimeter - which seems unnecessary, but it was actually critical to making sure the lines flowed correctly, and that is something that can really leave an impression as you're looking at the character.
What is your favorite piece of clothing designed for DMC5?
Although I love all of the costumes, I think my favorite piece is Nero's coat – there are just so many ideas that went into its design, as previously mentioned.
What are the benefits current gen consoles and technology offered compared to working on previous Devil May Cry games?
The biggest benefits came with being able to utilize multiple shaders to render different materials. As a rule, light reflects off of materials based on how smooth or rough the surface is, but there are some materials where light seems to pass through them. ChromaFlair can't be rendered without shaders. Being able to change different things with shaders makes materials appear more natural to the player. I think there's no higher praise when we've made great pains to do something special, but players haven't noticed because it's replicating something that just happens naturally in real life.
You sold jackets with DMC 5, is this the first time you designed real-life clothing for a game?
This is the first time that we've replicated something this well with such high quality materials. Since the in-game assets were created based on the real-life costumes that were created, it was fairly straightforward to replicate that costume in the game, since we always had the real costumes right by us for reference. In the past when we've created the in-game costumes purely as digital data, it would take us a while to review and agree on how it should look, but this time around we just chose the material and coloring, then Maddy put a lot of care into finishing them up as real costumes.
Which took more time and/or was more tedious: making clothes for the game, or for real life? How does the process differ?
Both present their challenges, but I guess if you're trying to create something that's photo-realistic, making the clothes for the game is harder.
As previously mentioned, once the design itself is locked down, it only took about a month for each costume to get made. This is shockingly fast. You'll do fittings where you need to provide feedback and make decisions almost in real time, which is really exciting.
To replicate a photo-realistic design in-game, usually you need to have an understanding of a wide range of subjects including materials, clothing design and manufacturing. You then need to be able to reference the design for things like how the costume fits the character, and replicate that digitally, which can take quite a bit of time. The same process is also required for the character's body itself - you need to have an understanding of biology, of a person's skeleton, muscle, skin and the like. It then takes a lot of time to replicate the surface look of that person. Then if you need to make any changes or fixes, that can take a lot of time as well.
However, on this project we chose to utilize 3D scans. I think it was a great benefit that we were able to shorten the amount of time we would have spent on just creating the character or costume digitally by scanning them in the real world. We were then able to instead focus that time on things that would help improve immersion for the players such as the shaders, hair, damage, aging or progressive dirtying of the costumes.
'Devil May Cry 5' is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.