The day is almost here! The free “Anniversary Update” for Kena: Bridge of Spirits will go live on PS4 and PS5 on Tuesday, September 27. We were very excited to see the positive response from fans to the announcement last month, and now we can’t wait for everyone to experience the new content!
To celebrate the release, we wanted to share an inside look at the creative and technical process behind the creation of Kena’s new clothes for the “Anniversary Update”. If you missed our announcement detailing all the other new content, be sure to check it out!
Our approach to developing cosmetics for Kena really boiled down to three main goals. First, it always feels good when an outfit takes some real expertise to pull off. We wanted to wear them to feel like a badge of honor. Then we felt that each one should remind us of the story and the characters we’ve met along the way – constant reminders of who we’ve met and where we’ve been. Finally, we like to have a good variety of options that allow for self-expression and the ability to change things as we go. With these ideas in mind, we got to work!
To make sure all the outfits represent a real sense of success, we decided to tie them in with the Spirit Guide Trials, (another major new addition included in the “Anniversary Update”). As players progress through the main story, new trials become available at the central Mask Shrine. Only by successfully completing these challenges can players unlock the new outfits. Players who have mastered each of the Trials will eventually gain access to the full line of clothing, signifying their remarkable skills.
Next we turned to the visual designs. During initial development, we put a lot of thought into designing our cast of characters. We decided that these characters provided perfect inspiration for Kena’s outfits. Each new player unlock is inspired by a different spirit that helps Kena along her journey, but has been reworked to serve her uniquely. This way, even after players have moved on from a particular story, they can keep a wearable memento.
For example, one of the first new outfits players can unlock is inspired by the village attire worn by twins Beni & Saiya and their older brother Taro. Later, other cosmetics become available, such as Archer and Bombmaker outfits inspired by Rusu and Hana. Each gets details from its inspiration character, like Hana’s unique bag or Rusu’s owl-crested cape. (We won’t spoil it all.)
These new outfits provided a great opportunity for our art team and character artist to shine. Incorporating such a variety of new textures, fabrics and accessories while balancing the designs with Kena’s design really brought out our team’s attention to detail. We are very happy with the results!
But it’s not just the visual design. Hunter Schmidt, our animation director, shares more details about the development of Kena’s cosmetics:
“Of course another big aspect of the new clothes is the way they move… and it was an opportunity for our team to practice more with fabric and physics. We’ve found the most success with bone drivers and Unreal Engine’s Anim Dynamics.
But Kena’s original animations presented some challenges when combined with the layered clothing as seen in these designs. Sometimes, for an exaggerated, stylized effect, the animations push her stance beyond what is normally possible, with some jumping or spinning at unnatural speeds. Even sitting cross-legged while meditating, resting, or some of the new poses we’ve added to the improved photo mode was especially rough.
So while Anim Dynamics and the bone guides offered a good general solution for most situations, we wanted to make sure Kena and the new outfits looked good at all times. In these scenarios we selectively animate these details by hand, mixing between physics and hand motion where appropriate. Old habits die hard.”
Finally, once we came up with our clothing designs and worked out the animations, we still wanted to make sure we provided a good variety. We decided that the best way to keep the quality of all cosmetics high while still allowing more flexibility was to create special color variations for each base game outfit.
At first we weren’t sure if this would give the variety we were hoping for, but by really curating the color variations, we ended up with an exciting range of different clothes that allow for a great sense of diversity and expression. Color variants can be unlocked by completing Bonus Objectives in the Spirit Guide Trials.
We’ve even created an entire outfit exclusively for Deluxe Edition owners! (shown at the top of this blog).
We hope our existing and new players enjoy all the new content included in the Anniversary Update, including Kena’s new cosmetics. It has truly been a fantastic first year sharing Kena: Bridge of Spirits with the world.