The main thing you need to know about the Gotham Knights factions is that they are not just henchmen of a famous villain. The gangs of enemies you’ll meet on the darkened streets of Gotham are divided into groups—with their own preferences for street crime and gear—but they’re mercenaries, not cultists.
Take our heroes today: the Regulators faction and the classic supervillain Mr. Freeze. Regulators are an existing gang in this version of Gotham, a group of advanced technology loafers who steal advanced goods, transport authorities and increase their power at the expense of ill—gotten gains. You may find them minding their own business as you clean up the streets, but you may also find them in league with Mr. Freeze, and as a result they have adopted his propensity for spontaneous ice-enhanced attacks. Essentially, Frieze hires Regulators for part of his storyline, they don’t just flock to him.
This led to a very interesting design challenge for the Gotham Knights art group: how to create a villain and a gang that could work together, but not always like that?
Interestingly, this process was more organic than forced. The team knew they wanted to include the iconic Frieze, but his connection to the gang came later. At first, it all came down to creating a villain who would feel recognizable, but not too familiar.
Gotham Knights – Mr. Freeze Design and Concept Art
“When we get a villain like Mr. Freeze, I mean, this guy has so much history that it’s a challenge for our team when we get him,” explains the characters’ art director Jay Evans. “This is a question:”Where are we going next? “Because we’re looking at all the past [versions of the character] that were done really well. For us, the starting point was, what place does he occupy in our Gotham City at the technological level? So he’s the most advanced technology in our Gotham.”
This does not mean that this version of Freeze is pure sci—fi fantasy. The key for the design team was to create someone whose cutting-edge technology is still rooted in reality.
“We often turned to medical equipment,” Evans says. “Molded, cool, almost sci-fi shapes with detail lines and product design influences. But then it is still understandable. There are also mechanical connections. It’s still relative. It’s not just sci-fi blots where you need to use your imagination.”
Ingeniously, to help create an advanced technology that seemed in some way realistic, a team of artists… used advanced technology to make it happen.
Freeze hires Regulators for part of his storyline, they don’t just flock to him.”
“We started experimenting with using VR in our concept art pipeline quite early,” Evans says. “What makes it awesome is that when you create a weapon or part of a character, just having it in real life floating in front of you at the right scale, it really helps the artists. […] Then exports this rough mesh, immediately exports it to the game engine. It seemed like a really natural, fast conveyor. And we used it on Mr. Freeze.”
“VR just [adds] that tangibility,” Wu adds. “If you have [a glove in front of you], you feel like you can put it on right here and now. And then you can immediately see all these different points of view in real time. It’s very useful.”
Using virtual reality helped the team get an idea not only of how Mr. Freeze looks like as a design element, but also of how he would feel next to him in an interactive space, which helped them create a tangible new version of the iconic character. But, of course, so far you can only promote a famous supervillain, and the team has taken care in advance to determine what makes the Frieze immediately recognizable even to the casual comic book fan:
“The dome, the glasses, his face,” explains Jianli Wu, assistant art director for characters. “Mr. Freeze’s story is iconic. We don’t want to deviate from that, because everyone will see it and know it’s Mr. Freeze. But we have raised the technical level a little and we want to bring our own zest to its design. We want to be true to IP and, at the same time, we want to bring something new. That’s our philosophy for many of the characters in the game, from player characters to someone like Mr. Freeze.”
Gotham Knights — Concept art of the Regulators’ Faction
Regulators, on the other hand, are an entirely new addition to the universe. Although there have been several DC supervillains named Regulator over the years, the Gotham Knights faction doesn’t seem to be affiliated with them. Initially, they weren’t even created to be associated with Mr. Freeze.
“Our approach was to first develop the factions as separate factions,— Evans explains. “The regulators in our artwork are the fantasy of these hackers, safe crackers and various other technology—related criminals. And what makes them unique is that they have a layer of “found technology” in them.