To design Cassie, we had to find a balance of influence from her parents, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. Does she resent either of them? How would her upbringing affect her current appearance and style? Exploration led us to try many different approaches on how we could communicate this, including some featuring cybernetic augmentation.
A solution for us was the sleek and utilitarian Special Forces combat suit. Clearly influenced by her mother’s military career, but also could showcase her fearless and brash attitude.
For her alternate appearance, we wanted to pay homage to her dad’s kombat garb of years past: Wrist wraps, workout-inspired cloths, personal branding, and a similar color scheme.
Cassie strives to step out of her parent’s shadow while defining herself. By mixing these elements, we were able to present Cassie with a style unique to her.
As a completely new race for the Mortal Kombat universe, D’Vorah’s concept required a great exploration of physiology and exploring how we could make a living insect hive as deadly as possible.
D’Vorah’s polished, diplomatic facade conceals an egotistical, malicious nature. To support her personality, we pursued an appearance that was not overtly grotesque, but allowed for hidden offensive capabilities, such as the pincers hidden within her back and barbed ovipositors. Her black and yellow palette was chosen to signal her dangerous and treacherous behavior.
As an advisor to Outworld’s emperor, and the only member of her race, the Kytinn, to rise to such an exalted position, D’Vorah stands out as an oddity amongst her peers. A hood and cape was added to communicate her regal position, but also to hide her outsider appearance.
Shao Kahn’s living prison, Ermac, represents what remains of his master’s legacy in MKX. The construct’s form is not holding up well under the current of time. We wanted to show signs of rot, of a loosening grip on the contained souls.
Ermac is a regal entity, pledging allegiance to Outworld’s emperor, and serving as an advisor. Ermac’s Kurrent costume was designed to showcase an imperial authority, while harkening back to his appearance in Mortal Kombat: Deception, showcasing their chest design from that game now bolted into the chest, holding the construct together.
For his Tournament appearance, we wanted to create a raw take on Ermac – a starving monster, perpetually seeking sustenance.
Several people had pitched ideas for a bounty hunter/gunfighter character. We have so many other classic archetypes in the MK universe that it was only natural that at some point we would introduce a gunslinger to the mix.
Ok. The original idea was that he was a human from Earthrealm who had somehow gotten to the wastelands of Outworld eventually earning a reputation and a living as a bounty hunter. Visually, he was going to have a very rough, nomadic look since was a loner and pieced his costume and gear together from things he found, stole, or took from his victims. We wanted him to look like he had just walked across the nastiest desert on Outworld.
Along with his revolvers, we knew he needed a rifle for longer range attacks and some kind of bladed weapon for close attacks. We thought it would be cool if his sword was made from the arm blade of a Tarkatan he had crossed paths with during his adventures.
One thing that was always a bit controversial with the look of the character was his hat. We weren’t sure how well a cowboy hat would fit in with the rest of the game. As a result, we went through a lot of iterations of the character with and without hats. We even experimented with making the character female for a while, pushing her loo r, away from a western influence and into more of a post-apocalyptic style.
Early on during pre-production for Mortal Kombat X the concept art team got together for weekly brainstorming and sketching sessions where new ideas were thrown around. During one of those sessions, the subject of new . and unique character types came up and an idea was proposed for a symbiotic pair of creatures who fought as one character. Interesting idea, but how would we pull it off?
After exploring various ideas of how the pair would look and function, we settled on the idea of a large, brutish, mindless character with a small, impish character on its back. The smaller character would pick fights and the larger character would fight them. Once we decided to make the smaller character female (Ferra) and the larger one male (Tort), their personalities came together quickly.
Visually, we settled on a barbaric meets post-apocalyptic style. This seemed to suit both of the characters’ personalities well and made for a very intimidating new addition to the roster. Ferra has a more flamboyant design since she’s the brains and mouth of the pair, while Torr looks like a living bulldozer, destroying everything that gets in his way.
While we knew right away that Cassie Cage would have a unique blend of her parent’s personalities and traits, Jacqui went through a lot of iterations before we decided that she would be close to her father in personality, vocation and interest in robotic accessories.
While some early sketches show a rebellious, clearly non-military character, Jacqui eventually became an army brat who followed her father into the Special Forces, using power gloves to give her a similar fighting style.
The gloves themselves went through a lot of iterations in terms of size and add-on weaponry before we found the right balance that made her look formidable without being too clunky.
We began working on Jax with the intention to present a very different character from MK9. He was no longer the commanding officer for Special Forces. He had died, had his soul manipulated by Quan Chi, and was ‘cleansed’ by Raiden. We explored many new configurations of his cybernetic arms, how they could integrate with his chest and back, and what clothing would best fit his new demeanor.
We really liked the smoother hands, forearms, bicep, and shoulder we settled on. It is a stark contrast to the Revenant version of the character, where we applied the artistic interpretations of the NetherRealm (violent and sinister).
Our initial goal was to define how Johnny had developed since the last game. Had his time in the Mortal Kombat tournament motivated him to take his martial arts skill seriously, or did he remain a lavish Hollywood playboy?
We knew Johnny would be heavily involved with Special Op Forces, and began looking for tactical equipment that would suit Johnny’s fight style. The challenge was finding a balance between something too serious or stoic and something too goofy.
As we developed outfits, we were able to establish a timeline for this shift from Hollywood action film star to a fulltime Special Forces advisor.
There is a ton of ways Kano could have augmented himself over the years. As a mercenary constantly at work, we wanted to be sure that his appearance was affected by his surroundings. We explored versions of Kano that operated primarily in Earthrealm, in Outworld, and so on. We used this context to explore different ways the cybernetic heart and cybernetic eye may be presented, along with some additional cybernetic additions, and hairstyle.
Once we knew we were in the right ballpark in terms of stature, augmentation, and overall feel, we decided to tend towards a sleazy looking face and facial hair on a mostly unencumbered body. The only thing Kano would need on him would be what he needs to fight; some light armor and lots of blades.
Since Mortal Kombat 9, we knew that Kenshi would have done some traveling, and grown. He would also have also been more involved in Special Forces operations, requiring a more battle-ready appearance. We explored different materials, origins, and shapes for armor, while staying around the familiar look of Kenshi’s outfit.
We liked seeing shoulders reminiscent of the Mortal Kombat: Deception Kenshi and the silhouette created in conjunction with the coat tail. From there, we equipped him with what we felt was the bare minimum amount of armor he would need. Being a confident master swordsmen, weighing him down and making him look heavy felt like it would be a mistake.
Kitana is a signature member of the Mortal Kombat roster, so we wanted to come up with something exciting and fresh for her look in Mortal Kombat X.
Past incarnations have tended to favor the royal qualities of the character over the warrior aspects, so we decided to 111 reverse that for her prime costume. She has a stealthier, more ninja inspired design with blue as an accent color against the black parts of her costume.
Even in her alternate flashback costume, she looks more streamlined and ready to fight with less billowy cloth and ornamentation than before.
We also get to see Kitana as an evil revenant under the control of Quan Chi. It was fun exploring the dark side of Kitana, bringing a harder, more decadent edge to her.
Throughout pre-production, we were exploring other cultural influences that we could mix in with the traditional Asian influences in Mortal Kombat. Among them, the ancient civilizations of Central and South America stood out with their legends of brutal gods and heroes and the unique visual style of their traditional dress and architecture.
When the story started moving in the direction of creating a usurper to the throne of Outworld, we knew that a t powerful Aztec inspired warrior god would fit the part perfectly.
As in Aztec art, we used a lot of animal inspiration in our early designs. Panthers, snakes, and birds informed a lot the early sketches as well as iconography of the sun and moon. Eventually, we narrowed it down to snakes for his costume design and the sun for his powers.
His prime costume represents his more godlike aspects. The blue body paint, the elaborate headdress, and gold embellishments make him look otherworldly.
His alternate costume represents the warrior, the man who fought and destroyed all who stood in his way to power. He wears the bones of his enemies as trophies bound together with the hides of the beasts he’s slain.
We had been playing around with the idea of an archer character early in pre-production, and when we found out we needed a relative for Kung Lao in the story, we knew he would be a good fit.
Kung Jin is the black sheep of his family. Rather than becoming a monk like Kung Lao, he breaks away and becomes a thief, living on his own by his wits and his bow. His look is inspired by the nomadic archers of Mongolia with layers of leather, fur, and rough woven fabrics making up his costume.
He wears his prime costume in the current timeline in the story when he’s accepted his role as a hero, so he looks more like a warrior than a thief. He wears more armor and his palette has more earth tones than his alternate thief costume, which gives him more of a stealthy appearance.
Once we knew that he needed a magical bow we designed something more substantial that could be used as either a staff or a bow.
We had a lot of freedom with Kung Lao, due to the state of his character in Story mode. We wanted to elaborate on the possible shapes and blades involved with his hat, while 1 melding Asian-influenced cloth and armor designs.
Our first finished concept was a ‘What if Kung Lao Survived MK’: a young face in an embellished version, his traditional outfit. We then needed to create a version that had not only survived the second tournament, but the 25 years since then. We had created this outfit for the young Kung Lao, but didn’t want to see it go to waste, and used it for this ‘Kurrent’ look.
For the Revenant version, we reversed the stereotypes for Kung Lao: gave him armor that looks like serrated razors, an altered hat blade, and a mask to hide his shame. Unfortunately, we had to lose the mask for the sake of functionality.
MKX was a great opportunity to add diversity to our ‘Common-man Hero” Liu Kang. With his death in MK9, we had carte blanche to explore new takes on the character. We put most of this exploration into the Revenant version of the character, showcasing the metal, pointed pauldrons, studded waist armor, and ragged cloth.
For the ‘Champion’ skin, we wanted to present a unified outfit, direct and powerful. We stuck to the classic black and red color palette with little ornamentation.
Inversely, for our ‘Tournament’ skin, we wanted to show a young Liu Kang, still in the process of becoming Earthrealm’s savior. The outfit initially featured heavy furs and armor. We pared that down, considering his fightstyle is extremely fast. We ended up with an outfit that we think embodies the Shaolin Monk.
Mileena is always a lot of fun to create. She has a dynamic personality, a unique world view, and usually sinister goals. For this game, we knew we needed to depict her rise and fall from power, along with her as the leader of a rebellion against Kotal Kahn.
Her regal appearance required rethinking the characters approach to those around her, and how she would choose to appear. Our thought here was that she would still attempt to mimic her ‘sister’ Kitana, while showing her more menacing characteristics. We ended up combining elements from her Mortal Kombat Deception outfit with a more ninja-inspired appearance.
For her Rebellion leader appearance, we wanted something less imperial looking, something rough and combat ready.
In the spirit of MKX, we wanted to take Quan Chi farther with his visuals. We began by exploring armor segments, silhouettes and small details we could use to raise his villainous appearance. We wanted to present a more necrotic sorcerer, while also referencing his original design.
We agreed that the visual of two very large blades on each shoulder, with a grid of straps across his sternum was a deviously dark look. Of course, we wanted more, and decided to affix a vampire skull onto his chest for good measure.
During our initial drafts, we created an outfit that shared some elements with his MK9 appearance that we thought would be a fitting step up for his appearances in storymode that take place in the past.
We began by creating a very nomadic feeling Thunder God, as if he had been wandering the Realms since the last game. You can see in the early designs that the armor doesn’t feel cohesive, but rather pieced together from scavenging. While these could have made for strong visuals, Raiden’s narrative in the time between Mortal Kombat 9 and 10 did not match this representation.
We began to work towards a more traditional look to ensure the initial impression for Raiden would be the same benevolent God we had seen in previous Mortal Kombat games, eventually settling on our final design. You will notice on his tabard representations for Earth, Wind, and Water, the meteorological elements of Earthrealm.
When designing Raiden’s corrupted state, we looked to Shinnok for inspiration. We wanted armor, cloth detail, and color scheme to clearly show Shinnok’s influence on Raiden. While he is not pure evil, this Raiden is was designed to show a more militant approach to protecting Earthrealm.
We look forward to designing Reptile. With all the possible reptilian elements the character could possess, it gives us a huge amount of ideas to explore.
We began this character with the intention of making him gaunt, featuring light leather armor, a spit sack and tail.
We had to revise this approach due to technical constraints, and revise the physical stature of the character. We began pursuing a more primal-influenced look, featuring bones as a main element of the look. His vicious nature makes this pairing feel right.
Scorpion was the first character that we worked on to figure out the look and feel for the characters in Mortal Kombat X.
Rather than using the power of the new console hardware to push the fantastic elements of the character, we decided to use it to make Scorpion feel as realistic as possible. We wanted players to see sweat and dirt on his skin and the wear and tear on his costume. He needed to look like he could walk out of your tv and into the real world.
The end result of that work is his prime costume. We knew we were on to something good when we got such a positive response from the teaser trailer featuring Scorpion and Sub-Zero fighting in a moonlit forest.
Since the story of Mortal Kombat X takes place across such a large span of time, we had the opportunity to revisit Scorpion’s costume from Mortal Kombat 9, bringing nee. of that real world feel to what was a far more fantasy inspired costume. We also got to design what he looked like before he became Scorpion, when he was still a man named Hanzo Hasashi. This helped inform the designs for the Shirai Ryu ninjas as well as Takeda later on in development.
We wanted our Fallen Elder God to show regal and religious elements in his design, with the twist that it would be from the point of view of the NetherRealm. This meant adding sharp edges and points, minute details similar to muscle fiber, viscera and skeletal matter, and a general sinister miasma to otherwise saintly garments.
One challenge was determining just how powerful the revived God would be, and how he would choose to display this power. We decided that for his initial appearance, his looks should seem confident and assured of victory; as if Earthrealm was already won. For his second appearance, after being locked away, we thought Shinnok should return with a more predatory presentation.
Another level of detail was adding elements of Shinnok’s amulet into his armor. You will notice both outfits include gold armor with green gems. Because this item is so di important to the character, we wanted to make sure the connection was visually established.
Since the world of Mortal Kombat is full of ninjas, sorcerers, cyborgs, and multi-armed monsters, Sonya has always been one of the characters who keeps the game grounded, providing a human point of view to the story. In Mortal Kombat X she’s once again helping to defend Earthrealm from invasion, using her humanity as an asset rather than a liability against the powerful forces of evil.
The challenge in designing costumes for Sonya that span the timelines of several games is her consistency. She’s always been a soldier and she’s always been a hero. We met that challenge by giving her costumes that reflect the world around her.
Her prime costume is her peace time look. She’s acting in a tactical advisor role and wears more of a civilian look, softer, sleeker, and less geared up. We also shifted her palette from the usual army greens towards greys and blues.
Sonya’s alternate costume is her wartime look. This is the Sonya we’re used to seeing, she’s in full combat mode with a flak vest, came pants, and gear punches all done in shades of army green.
Sub-Zero was designed right alongside Scorpion. The two characters define each other both in terms of Mortal Kombat history as well as their visual design. Once we knew that we wanted to make Scorpion feel as realistic as possible, we set the same expectations for Sub-Zero’s prime costume.
We wanted players to see sweat and dirt on his skin and the wear and tear on his costume. He needed to look like he could walk out of your tv and into the real world. We knew we were on to something good when we got such a positive response from the teaser trailer featuring Sub-Zero and Scorpion fighting in a moonlit forest.
For his alternate costume, we got to show Sub-Zero as master of the Lin Kuei. He looks more like a leader and a teacher than a warrior. Without his mask, we get to see a much more human side of Sub-Zero than we normally get to see.
We also got to design a look for him as he transitioned into Cyber Sub-Zero, which we released as a skin in Mortal Kombat 9. You can see how his costume changes from that of a traditional ninja to something more hi-tech as well as the early cybernetic enhancements that will allow him to use his powers once he’s made the shift from man to machine.
As a member of the Shira Ryu, Takeda was an opportunity for NetherRealm to contemporize the Mortal Kombat ninja. While we investigated several styles of what a modern ninja could be, we looked to the character to help dictate a path.
Being a student of Hanzo Hasashi, it made the most sense that he would be trained in the use of a weapon similar to Scorpion’s harpoon, something he could strike and ensnare victims. The arm-mounted, deployable whips became a favorite very quickly, as it held the potential for a unique combat style, and brutal fatalities.
Upon establishing a weapon of choice, we explore the two takes on the character: the high tech member of Special Forces (Kurrent), and the ninjutsu-influenced student (Shirai Ryu).