We present in esckusiva an interview with AtomHawk Design, a British company that worked on the creation of Injustice 2, a sequel to the fighting video game featuring the characters of the DC Comics Universe. Specializing in video games, AtomHawk has, in the recent past, worked on some Marvel Studios films.
How did you get involved with Injustice 2?
We have a long-standing relationship with Warner Brothers' NetherRealm studio and worked with them on the first Injustice game as well as the last two Mortal Kombat titles, so it was great to be invited back to work on Injustice 2.
How many people of the AtomHawk's team have worked on Injustice 2? What kind of technologies have you used?
We worked on the game for over three years and in that time, almost every member of the studio played some role in its creation. We created concept art, UI design and animation for the game so we utilised lots of different skills, including those of our client service and production teams who kept the project running smoothly.
In terms of technologies used, the concept art was created in Photoshop while our animation team used After Effects to bring the animated character endings to life.
In the past, you have already worked on visual effects of superheroes movies. What kind of difference is there between working on a live action and on a videogame?
Our role in the Marvel movies was to create visual concepts rather than VFX. The main difference we found between creating concept art for games and film was the timescales involved. Like Injustice 2, a AAA video game can be three to four years in the making allowing for longer feedback and iteration loops. A movie's production schedule allows much less time for concepting so it's more a case of iterating on ideas and finding the golden one very quickly so it can be taken through to the next step in the process.
When designing visual assets for a movie there's also a chance that it may be made real in the form of a partial or full set. In this case, the designs need to be much more precise, sometimes almost architectural, in nature so the set designer can easily interpret how to realise the design without losing its essence. Games usually allow more freedom for creative license.
When you find yourselves working on big studios' projects like Marvel or DC, do you feel the weight of fans' expectations? If so, does it influence your job?
When dealing with well-known and well-loved universes like Marvel or DC it is a big challenge to look for a new style or representation that will be both unique and still resonate with the fans. We've worked on a lot of big franchises from Marvel and DC, through to Mortal Kombat and Harry Potter so re-imagining what's gone before is a big part of what we do and a challenge that we love to embrace!
The fighting videogames scene, after a lull period between the 90s and the early 2000s, is now bigger than ever. What future do you expect fighting games to have?
The direction in which NetherRealm has taken the fighting genre, both with Injustice 2 and Mortal Kombat X, is very exciting and we expect to see things like increased interaction between characters and the game environment developing further in the next couple of years.
Last time we checked Injustice had 38 characters. Which one was the most complicated to work on? And which one, on the other hand, was the most challenging and fun to realize?
The toughest character to work on was probably Superman – not only does DC closely monitor the design of Superman so we have less room to make changes and bring in cool new design elements but we also had to wrack our brains to come up with gear for him – because why would Superman need gauntlets or helmets?
The most fun were the more obscure characters like Blue Beetle, where we had more scope to push the design and also more elements to explore for the gear pieces.
From a visual point of view, did you find inspiration in the cinematic versions of the DC characters to work on injustice 2?
Quite the opposite! NetherRealm were keen to keep their designs and visual style very different to the cinematic versions of the characters. We mostly worked from moodboards provided by NetherRealm as well as our own internal references, with a focus on making the designs “cool” and functional while still keeping the characters recognisable.
What are AtomHawk future projects? Do you intend to keep working on comics? And, particularly, do you think you will keep collaborating with the DC Comics?
Sadly we're not allowed to name any of our upcoming projects but we do have some very exciting things in the pipeline across concept art, animation and user experience design. Some of our biggest and highest profile projects so far have had their roots in comics so we would certainly embrace more work in this space in the future.