Costume design and hints of what's to come: Massively's interview with the Guild Wars team

Halloween may be over, but it lingers on in Guild Wars. The new costumes and the new Halloween masks can still be seen all over Tyria as players show off their latest dye mixes and combine the masks with various armor sets and costumes.

The event resonates in another way too. We got so many hints and details on new and old characters in Tyria: we were introduced to the Lunatic Court, we met Mad King Thorn's ex-wife, and even Palawa Joko made an appearance. All of this seemed to hint at more to come, and fans were left wondering: is this the last we've seen of all this?

We at Massively were anxious to know too, so we went straight to the source. Live Team Lead John Stumme, along with artists Susan Jessup and Kristen Perry, spent some time answering our questions about the thoughts and ideas behind the creation of the new costumes and masks. In between their answers, they managed to drop all sorts of exciting tidbits about what's coming in Guild Wars.

Read on past the break to see for yourself!
Massively: Can you tell us about designing the costumes? How did you arrive at the final look of the Lunatic Court Finery and Raiment of the Lich?


Susan Jessup: The Rainment of the Lich costume was originally going to be a zombie costume, but I panicked when I heard Kristen's idea (what can compete with a flaming pumpkin head?!) , so I ditched that and another concept before coming to the idea of a lich costume. I'd gotten a chance to design a GW2 light armor based on a lich, and had a blast, so I begged for a chance to make one for GW1. John Stumme and Mike Zadorojny thankfully obliged. I started with the black hoof stilettos for the female -- a detail off a different concept that had been thrown out, but it was something I really wanted to make, and suddenly, it had found its proper home.

I love the designs from the movie Legend, so Darkness became the initial reference for the male lich, and Lili's black dress was an early reference for the female Lich. Obviously, the designs changed a lot -- I didn't want to get us sued, so I worked out a silhouette I liked when I squinted at it. We didn't have time to work out a proper concept from the beginning, so the details were improvised while I was making the model. At the texture stage, I threw in eyeballs, runes, and octopus tentacles, because I had no one to tell me no, and I couldn't help myself.

Kristen Perry: I've always loved the Mad King's look since the first day he appeared in Lion's Arch. Over the years (way before we had options for the in-game costumes), I had mused recreating the King or designing the Queen as a Halloween outfit for myself. When Susan and I were brought on for the costumes last Wintersday, I saw Halloween coming and had been looking forward to it ever since! We don't always have the opportunity to design the costumes, but between the two of us, this season's was a must!

Given that the Mad King had a set story about his Queen and that we didn't want to duplicate the King himself (can you imagine a district full of Mad King Thorns? Yeah... it would've been awesome!), my idea immediately turned into "The Mad King's Court" and I designed for the Lords and Ladies.

The Lordly garment would have canions and trunk hose (the strapped baggy pants) with matching shoulder and a full cloak of tattered fur to match His Spookiness. To tie into his design more, I brought in some of the stitched leather detail and made some substantial coat sleeves and translated his chest armor into a spiked crenellated boning for the vest coat. Add some equestrian high boots complete with spiked spurs, and a jeweled collar of spikes and he's ready for Halloween!

M'Lady had a couple challenges to her design. Nothing says courtly like a layered long ball gown, but we don't have access to the animated skirt bones for costumes. Sure, the dervish has plenty, but the assassin has none and there are professions with all other numbers in between. For fairness, we try to design things that work equally well on all professions, so that means zero skirt bones. To work with this, I raised the skirt in the front to minimize the stretching and gave her a long train of tattered layers. Then to thoroughly impress the courtly silhouette, I added a bustle. Her corset has matching leather panel extensions and is very pieced together to give a sharply layered appearance. Finally, spiked opera gloves, crenellated choker, high boots and a high collar of mesh "flames" pulled together the silhouette à la fantasy royale.

No Mad King's outfit would be complete without the royal pumpkin head. I've always had a soft spot for the headless horseman and sleepy hollow and I couldn't help but find a way to set it on fire! And if it can be a flaming pumpkin head, it needs to be removable, of course, so off with your head! The fact the flames stayed if you kept the hat equipped was just bonus amounts of fun, so we kept it. (Mad King props to Dan Cole for the awesome flame effects!)

That's really all there is to it. I am in love with details, so when I get a theme to follow, bringing all of them together is part of the joy of design. The details employed are specifically created to support the atmosphere of the piece and bolster the silhouette.

PS.
...Yes, it's a bustle! How many bustles do you have in Guild Wars and how many just flat-backed dresses? It's fashion, not just a dress! Vive la variété, people!

Oh and as a bit of insight (because I know there was some debate about it): the two of us came up with those festival hats while trying to build the 40 model sets for the store. For the record, NEITHER were inspired by anime. It's a black cat which has been the familiar to a Halloween witch since at least medieval times (that's before anime was invented, folks) and a set of steampunk-inspired goggles because I love steampunk and thought people would enjoy something they could wear as part of a Halloween costume as well as after the holidays. To answer the question of location, I put it on the forehead because people usually really like seeing their character's faces. However, unfortunately, neither are dyeable because they're masks that allow you to keep your hair - and masks don't have a dye channel on the dervish because that space was originally taken up by their full profession hoods. A helmet, on the other hand, takes up the same space as the hair on the texture. This is why helmets drop the hair. So future masks will not be dyeable, but hats potentially can be... and we will try to minimize the hair loss. Or at least recommend a good trichologist.

Speaking of the Lunatic Court, we met one of their number during the Halloween events. Will we see more of the Countess of Hakewood or her friends?


John Stumme: The role of the Mad King's Court is far from over – with their introduction, we wanted to set a story in motion that we could add to over the year without needing to be associated with the other content coming down the line, such as Keiran's return, and Cantha: Winds of Change. It's safe to say you'll be seeing them again – as well as that lich.

Can you tell us about the Lunatic Court? Who are they?

John Stumme: During the Mad King's time in Kryta... hold on, let me rephrase that. During the time that Mad King Thorn was alive in Kryta, he was an extremely powerful ruler, and in his own way, influential. As in real life, people with strong personalities tend to draw others to them (as do people in power.) The Lunatic Court are the nobles that found themselves drawn to King Thorn – and as such, they're all quite insane in their own ways. You would need to be, to tolerate the Mad King year 'round, as well as to avoid ending up like any of a countless number of peasants that met their end during his rule. The Mad King likes people who are able to entertain him.

With the seals between certain realms weakening as a result of events from a Halloween previous, some of the members of the Lunatic Court have been able to slip out as well. They have been acting independent of the Mad King in an attempt to free him, but their plans may be attracting the attention of someone else who would like to return to Tyria...

The extra choice of headpieces for the Lunatic Court Finery was pretty popular. Do you hope to be able to do more elaborate costumes in the future?

John Stumme: I would love to see us getting some more utility out of the costumes we get down the line. The alternate headgear options were the result of Kristen and Susan's ambition on making something really above and beyond for this year, and it turned out even better than it hoped. Another lesson that we've taken away from Halloween would be from the festival hats – gearing items to be themed with the event, but separate enough that they can be worn as accessories at any time has proven to be very popular. Many of the masks that we've done for Halloween in previous years seldom see any use outside of the night they're given, or a few days afterward. These latest additions have been with my characters since I've got them (the Spectercles look fantastic with the Shining Blade uniform – I've also seen a lot of nice looking combinations fans have put together on the forums!)

Players had a lot of fun using the Headless Finery with mysterious tonics. What gave you the idea to add that?

John Stumme: Believe it or not, this one wasn't intended at all! The persistent flame effect was actually a bug that we decided to leave in after seeing how much fun players were having with it (and how quickly they discovered uses for it we hadn't even thought of!) However, the overwhelmingly positive reaction to it has given us ideas for things we'd like to incorporate into the game down the line, and those we can claim were by design!

Aion fans felt like the Raiment of the Lich wings were similar in appearance to Aion's Asmodian wings. Was that intentional, or is there a different story behind the GW version?


Susan Jessup: For the Aion wing similarity: I have a habit of taking photos of dead and rotting animals I find in our parking lot, and a lot of the texture base for the lich wings came off two different dead crows I found. Then I painted a bunch on top of that until it seemed to match other textures in our game. To me, the Aion wings are extremely stylized and beautiful wings, while the Rainment of the Lich wings are folded dead bird wings. I'm at a loss seeing the similarity? But if people are seeing one, I'll have a better excuse to give the security guy next time I'm caught hunched over a dead carcass!

Any hints about what costumes we'll see next?

John Stumme: There's going to be a set of costumes coming for the wedding, and they are very, very classy. After seeing Kristen's design for the wedding dress, my fiancé decided that she wanted one nearly identical to it. As for the guys, I think all you need to know is "top hats." With that, I think the single greatest need of the Guild Wars community has at long last been fulfilled. The next costumes we'll be doing after that are for Wintersday. Traditionally, that's a very Dwayna and Grenth affair... but there could be some others getting involved this year.

John, Susan, and Kristen, thanks for your time!
This article was originally published on Massively.