Two of Ubisoft's most recent games, Just Dance 2023 Edition and Roller Champions, have leaned heavily into a futuristic aesthetic in their characters' costumes, and each has a very specific vision of what that "future" looks like. The Just Dance team has turned to cutting-edge technology to create the costumes worn by the coaches in some of their dance maps, while the Roller Champions team has been inspired by neo-retro aesthetics, particularly in their latest season, to create dazzling outfits that reinforce their unique futuristic vision.
Just Dance 2023 and Night Swan's Feathers
With a history of fashion design behind him, Costume Designer and Character Lead Benjamin Jouffret supervises the creation of all characters and costumes in Just Dance. This includes the physical costumes worn by the Just Dance "Coaches," who are filmed performing in their costumes in front of a green screen, and subsequently animated in the game.
Jouffret and his team had to turn to a complex technical solution in order to create one of Just Dance 2023 Edition's most elaborate costumes: a long, flowing overcoat and a body suit covered in 300 independently movable, hand-placed feathers worn by the story mode's primary antagonist, Night Swan. Night Swan's costume needed to be elaborate to reflect that she was a powerful villain.
"We knew right away we wanted to create a costume that included the look of bird feathers," Jouffret explains. "We began to consider 3D printing and laser cutting as a way to make a costume that was rigid, yet flexible enough for the dancer to move around."
Jouffret's team worked on Night Swan's costume for over two months. "The biggest challenge was finding the right material and the right partner to create the 3D-printed pieces," he says. "For example, some prints were too rigid and could have broken or injured the dancer during her performance. In the end, we found the right material and molded it to the dancer's neck and arms. The key was finding material flexible enough that we could modify its shape but maintain the look we wanted once it cooled." Laser-cutting technology was also an essential time-saver; the team could print out each feather in exactly the right shape, in different sizes and colors.
Just Dance 2023 wasn't the first edition of the game that used 3D-printing technology. Just Dance 2021's Blinding Lights map featured a Coach sporting a custom-made, futuristic-looking 3D-printed prosthetic arm. Created in collaboration with Ubisoft's character design teams and external partners, the prosthesis was designed utilizing 3D scanning technology to perfectly fit the dancer's arm.
"We wanted to give [dancer Angelina Bruno] a costume that helped her come across as a powerful warrior," Jouffret explains. "For her entire outfit, we created a retro-futuristic costume and used 3D printing to create not only the prosthetic, but also an armor-like chest plate."
Ultimately, 3D printing has opened new avenues for Jouffret and his team to be creative. "It's been a huge opportunity to work with 3D-printing techniques because we can create an outfit with a lot of detailed elements that makes the finished product look and perform in a really high-quality way," he says. "Additionally, once we decide on a final shape and material for the 3D-printed objects, we can change the way the computer renders them. For example, we can make the objects appear like they're made of metal or plastic on-camera, in order to fit with our initial vision."
Roller Champions: Creating a New Look for a New Sport
Roller Champions' overall aesthetic is futuristic, but also nostalgic; boom boxes and 3D glasses more at home in an '80s club or a '50s movie theater bump up against LED helmets. Concept Artist Michael Verhaaf and his team incorporate the game's "Neo-Retro" aesthetic into every design decision. Not only is Neo-Retro infused into the overall look of the game, it's also the theme of Roller Champions' latest season.
"The challenge was to figure out what makes old-school elements interesting and how to refine them to feel futuristic," Verhaaf says of this theme. "For some elements, this meant changing proportions; for others, it meant adding curves to help modernize elements or blend them with technologies we have access to nowadays."
Verhaaf's team still approaches each aspect of costume creation with a practical mindset. "Although the game is clearly stylized, characters are still based in reality," Verhaaf says. "One of the most important things for our team members to keep in mind is that, as outrageous as an outfit can be, it still needs to feel functional. Even if we're working with mechanisms like jet packs or space travel, we combine it with street and high fashion."
Roller Champions' Neo-Retro season's outfits are all about shiny blacks, bold fluorescent lights (including neon-like holograms glowing on the characters' clothing), oversized zippers, and biker jackets. The vibe is fun and energetic - there's a clear sense that while each item is carefully thought out and meticulously designed, the team doesn't want to take themselves too seriously.
Looking Towards the Future
When asked about what's next in his team's design plans, Verhaaf explains that player preferences will play a big part. "We've seen by now what sorts of outfits perform best in the game. We'll keep making varied outfits that fit within our fantasy, and we'll always have surprises for our players thanks to outfits that are inspired by our seasons' themes."
As for the Just Dance team, Jouffret and his colleagues continue to push the aesthetic envelope with each new iteration of the game, including maps with new aesthetics, visual flourishes, and technical achievements. And more high-tech costumes are no doubt in the team's future. "We've had so much success working with laser cutting, the Ubisoft Paris office has invested in purchasing a small machine for our programmers to practice with even further."
Want more behind-the-scenes content with our devs? Learn about some of the new features and content in Just Dance 2023 with the game's creative director and executive producer, or dive into the process to create the new character of Edge, and make the Rabbids talk, in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.