Horror Game Legend Ikumi Nakamura: Designing New Looks Dead By Daylight

In the world of game development, some people stand out for their exceptional talent and unique contributions. One such luminary is Ikumi Nakamura, the founder of Unseen, a renowned game development studio. Nakamura, widely recognized as a fan favorite during the E3 conference, recently collaborated with the developers of the popular asymmetrical survival horror game, Dead by Daylight, to design three captivating new skins. Horror Game Legend Ikumi Nakamura: Designing New Looks Dead By Daylight. This collaboration was announced during the game’s 7th anniversary broadcast, where exciting updates including Iron Maiden-themed skins, a new Killer character, and a cameo appearance from the beloved actor and dreaded Nicolas Cage, have been revealed. Thanks to Nakamura’s meticulous attention to detail and artistic vision, these new skins have generated significant anticipation among gamers, making the wait until summer all the more worthwhile.

Embrace the curse of design

Nakamura’s designs are not only characterized by her exceptional care and attention to detail, but also by their captivating and “cursed” essence, as she aptly describes them. Each character’s design embodies this curse, adding an extra layer of intrigue and immersion to the gaming experience. Nakamura’s affinity for the horror genre shines through in her work, as she regards it as her “house” and sees conception as an innate ability.

Drawing on her previous experience at Tango Gameworks, the game studio founded by Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami, Nakamura has worked on various horror titles, including the highly anticipated Ghostwire: Tokyo, where she served as creative director. Influenced by acclaimed Japanese horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Ari Aster’s deranged masterpiece Midsommar, Nakamura brings a wealth of inspiration and creativity to her designs.

The genesis of the collaboration

The opportunity to collaborate with Dead by Daylight came unexpectedly for Nakamura, arriving in the form of an email from the developers at Behavior Interactive. The email, which surprised her, invited Nakamura to create new skins for existing Dead by Daylight characters as part of the Artists From The Fog collection, which includes outfits designed by five different artists. Excitement filled Nakamura as she eagerly accepted the invitation, asking Behavior Interactive to select a few popular characters she could work on. The demonic killer known as Oni, the enigmatic Julie Kostenko, and the resilient survivor Yui Kimura were the characters entrusted to Nakamura’s creative vision and expertise.

Designing with dark stories and images

Nakamura’s design process involved delving into each character’s unique story to make informed clothing choices. The resulting outfits feature a dark gray palette with dark layers of grime, reflecting the depth of their experiences and the challenges they faced. For The Oni, a disgraced and outcast samurai devoured by his unchecked bloodlust, Nakamura imagined his living conditions and way of life. This led to the character being depicted in a disheveled and dirty state, reflecting his isolated existence deep within a mountain.

The Oni’s horned mask was replaced with uneven, yellowing stanchions, and his armor was replaced with a tattered black yukata adorned with low rows of beads. With Nakamura’s design, the Oni’s transformation is complete, showcasing blood spattered bare feet with patches of raw, red skin and black fingernails, serving as physical evidence of his affliction.

Revealing Julie’s Bloody Journey

Of the characters Nakamura was tasked with reimagining, Legion member Julie stands out as a special project for her. In Dead by Daylight, Julie is part of a team of murderous teenagers. Nakamura’s vision for Julie involved transforming her from an unassuming figure dressed in a black jacket, jeans, and hoodie into something more impactful. Inspired by the sukeban subculture of the 70s, Nakamura dressed Julie in a heavy Japanese schoolgirl uniform. However, this uniform bears blood marks and features kanji-embroidered threats, symbolizing Julie’s role as a delinquent girl and adding a distinct touch to her character.


This reimagining of Julie as a sukeban character brings a fresh and exciting dynamic to Dead by Daylight, as there were previously no existing sukeban characters in the game. Nakamura eagerly awaits the response from players, curious to see how they will adopt this bold interpretation and the story it weaves into the game’s narrative.

Design for pursuit and survival

When it came to designing the Killers and Survivor, Nakamura approached the task from two different angles, considering each’s unique roles and gameplay goals. Killers, tasked with pursuing and hunting down survivors, needed designs that made them stand out and easily identifiable to surviving players. Nakamura’s attention to detail led her to incorporate candles into The Oni’s helmet, creating a striking visual that enhances the killer’s presence and telegraphs his approach. With a focus on visibility, Nakamura aimed to improve the gameplay experience for Killers and Survivors.

For Yui, a survivor character whose main goal is to evade capture, Nakamura took a different approach. She designed an outfit that not only captured Yui’s athletic nature, but also conveyed vulnerability as a deliberate choice. Nakamura’s use of materials such as mesh, spandex, and leather in Yui’s outfit not only adds a stylish touch, but also complements the theme of bloodshed and injury. This attention to detail enhances players’ immersion as they navigate Dead by Daylight’s intense gameplay.

Telling a story through design

Nakamura’s decades of experience designing original horror characters have honed his ability to tell stories through clothing and props. She understands the importance of creating characters that leave a lasting impact, even in their final moments. Whether a character meets a gruesome death or assumes the role of a relentless killer, Nakamura carefully considers his appearance during pivotal moments, ensuring he remains visually arresting and evokes a range of emotions.

When designing a Killer character, Nakamura considers the animation that will accompany their actions and the weapon they wield. These elements help shape the character’s overall presence and influence how players perceive and interact with them. Nakamura’s expertise in creating visually captivating and thematically appropriate designs enhances the gameplay experience, allowing players to fully immerse themselves in the complex world of Dead by Daylight.

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