Amid all of the delays, from Dying Light 2 Stay Human releasing in February 2022 to Battlefield 2042 potentially coming later, Ember Lab’s Kena: Bridge of Spirits is still on track. The developer recently discussed Kena’s character design and how she came to be on the PlayStation Blog. Her original character designs were done by Wanchana “Vic” Intrasombat, a “close collaborator on our commercial projects in the past, but this time he had a blank canvas and we can see so much of his charming and unique view of the world in all of the character designs.”
Though Kena started out very young, the developer felt that her role as a Spirit Guide required more life experience and so became older. Rodrigo Gonçalves created her in 3D for the first time. “He built the prototype model and later continued to refine and explore real-time techniques for various details like her hair. We also collaborated with Carlos Ortega, who many revere for his beautifully clean 3D character work.”
Ember Lab noted that the much larger scope of the game meant extra work for her expressions. Since her personality is conveyed in the way that Kena moves and acts, expressions needed “more range and depth.” “With many animations across the game, we created a library of expressions and other details like hand and hair poses. This provided a fast way to refine and unify animations and ensure that Kena always felt inhabited by the same soul from beginning to end.”
A lot of work also went into the movement of her hair and clothing, which led to the wind becoming that much more important. Within the context of the game, it’s “simply as another layer to invoke the feeling of being in a village inhabited by spirits, or on a mountain peak.” And while every character is affected by physics, “every aspect” of Kena has been animated by hand.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits releases on September 21st for PS5, PS4 and PC via the Epic Games Store.