What's Behind Bloodborne's Gruesome Character Design

By Keza MacDonald on at

As you'll know if you've just spent the weekend playing it, Bloodborne has some of the most extraordinarily gruesome beasts ever depicted on a screen. Some of them have given me nightmares. It's definitely more horror than Dark Souls' dark fantasy, but naturally the two games have a director in common. Hidetaka Miyazaki is known for his extremely hands-on, detailed direction, taking part in every element of a game's design. When I spoke to Miyazaki and others at FROM the day that Bloodborne went gold, it was extremely apparent that an enormous amount of thought had gone into every element.

These are a few stories and pieces of artwork that I collected the various Bloodborne designers I talked to. Click on the artwork to see it full-size.

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For Dark Souls it was a fantasy setting and so there was a lot of thought put into how [enemies] might be strong or menacing, whether that be horns or blowing fire or something else. This time the enemies are beasts, and so there’s a lot of emphasis on that kind of character. The team tries to come up with ways to express the wrath or anger or madness of these beasts in the design.

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In order to go up against these incredible creatures, the hunter would need a nasty weapon. We felt that it wouldn’t be appropriate to have a very strong, built-looking character, so he had to be slim to a certain extent - we went through a lot of experimentation of very specific things, like the size of the hand or the forearm, in order to get things just right.

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First there’s a conversation with the director about what kind of universe this is. This character is an expression of the idea: what would happen to humans if they transformed into beasts? What are the variations of a beast-ified human? The team must share the same worldview and try to come up with characters in conversation with the director and each other. They show and tell the designs with the director and there’s a conversation there. Director Miyazaki is much like an art director himself the way he works, so he gives the art staff very specific, concrete ideas on what he wants. The team works together with Miyazaki on very specific nuances of how things should look in the design.

 

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[On the Cleric Beast] This happens to be the beast form of somebody who was once a human figure. When humans turn to beasts in the world of Bloodborne it’s something that doesn’t happen uniformly; they can become quite deformed as a result of this strange transformation. One of the things I wanted to get across with this was this sort of sadness, the tragedy of this figure… Trying to relay this tragedy in the misbalance of the design was Miyazaki’s direction.

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Almost everything [in Bloodborne] originally comes from things in real life. In order to create the kind of real feeling we're looking for, we look to actual architecture. And then once there’s something real to refer to, we take the next step of fitting it into the world and using it to emphasise the worldview of the game. We went to Czech Republic and Romania [on research trips] and saw all the old villages; in Romania we went to the town that was the model for the Dracula story. In the Czech Republic there was some very, very old architecture that we saw. One way to express horror effectively is the contrast of light and dark.


Disclosure: Sony Computer Entertainment paid for Kotaku UK’s travel and accommodation near FROM Software’s studio in Tokyo.