EXCLUSIVE: KIC Interviews Kevin Bayliss, the Original Character Designer and Animator of Killer Instinct

We were lucky enough to get a few moments with Kevin Bayliss to answer some questions this week about Killer Instinct. Before his current profession of being a singer and song writer, Kevin Bayliss was employed at Rare for over 15 years. While at Rare he worked on many projects from Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo to Perfect Dark Zero on the Xbox 360. And in between all of those projects he was the character designer for Killer Instinct. Working alongside background artist, Chris Seavor, he was responsible for modeling and animating the characters of KI. His involvement with the game made a huge impact on the Killer Instinct we know today.

Kevin Bayliss

The man himself, Kevin Bayliss

KIC: Did you volunteer to be the artist for Killer Instinct being interested in working on a fighting game or did it kind of just fall into your lap? What other work had you ton prior to designing the fighters of Killer Instinct?

KB: It kind of fell into place. I was originally working on some ideas for fighting games when we started experimenting with 3D software (Poweranimator back then, soon to be evolved into Maya). I remember making ‘robot / cyborg’ style characters with army camouflage, all looking like ‘Arnie’ with peroxide blonde hair. And Ninja’s with ponytails and bionic legs, with claws (I guess this became Fulgore!) and then Nintendo came along to look at our presentation for DK. Once they saw that, they asked us what other ideas we had with this new ‘3D Rendered Graphics’ style. So we showed that, and they gave us the support we needed to develop the game into what it eventually became.

Organic Fulgore

Fulgore’s opposite? A possible idea for an organic, gas shooting Fulgore Kevin came up with for fun

KIC: Where did you get your inspirations from when designing the fighters? Were you given a set of fighter characteristics you needed to met?

KB: I guess once we had the equipment, it gave us more options to be creative. I looked at the fabulous shading and creative effects that Maya could produce and tried to work them into a character design. Glacius and Cinder were obviously a result of that. However, Cinder was originally more like ‘molten lava’ than fire, and looked cool as f*ck! I think I was going to give him two ‘modes’ but decided to save the idea for a future character, and went with the ‘Human Torch’ style Cinder that ended up in the game. Most of the other characters were just random characters inspired by other projects I’d been involved with in the past. Wrestlers, Double Dragon, etc etc. I remember some crazy graphics for the original concept, originally called ‘Brute Force’.

KIC: How much crafting of stories for each fighter did you get to do? Were there any interesting tidbits about a certain fighter that didn’t make the final cut?

KB: The whole team got involved with the background stories, throwing ideas out which I’d later refine and start working into their characters, and of course their short rendered stories. The main ideas for the stories were probably thought through with Chris Tilston and Mr. Lobb, but we all kind of got involved.

KIC: On twitter, you had mentioned that you all had planned on having different types of genetically modified Riptors. Could you expand on what ideas you had planned to flesh out there? You also mentioned on several other ideas for characters such as a Battletoad, a zombie and a tree guy. Do you remember how the decision was made when to continue with a character and when to scrap them?

KB: Well often, there were ideas that were sketched up but never made it as they appeared in another concept instead. They were always there if we wanted them for KI3 (if we’d ever had made that game, I’d have stayed at the company – but it seemed like it was never going to happen. – I’m pretty sure I’d still be at Rare if we’d continued the KI series sooner…)


A quick sketch from Kevin Bayliss on a could be character, Mollusca

KIC: What are your thoughts on the art direction for the new Killer Instinct? Would you have taken a similar approach?

KB: It looks good. It looks modern. It looks impressive and there looks to be some newer features, but I think I would have wanted it to have gone into a more organic structure. I’d imagined an adventure, with combat staged in certain areas, rather than just one on one bouts. And also, a LOT more in the way of interaction with other fighters, like, as many who could join in as possible over the net. It should be a riot, and an adventure all rolled into one. But hey, I wasn’t involved, because I no longer work there, so it’s very easy for me to comment on how ‘I’d have liked to have seen it’ – But I can’t judge it, all I can say is that it looks cool… I guess! I don’t know too much about the new gameplay, but think they’re doing a great job of resurrecting a great game, I’m sure it’s gonna be great once more!

KIC: Did you have to do any significant redesigns when the arcade versions of KI had to be scaled down for the console versions?

KB: Not really, we just had the task of converting graphics into fewer colours, fewer frames etc etc for animation and effects. But always tried to add an extra feature or so.

KIC: Which fighter are you most proud of that you designed?

KB: Had to be Fulgore. OK so he’s a bit ‘Predatorish’ but I like him. Sabrewulf was also cool, and although the name was borrowed from a previous ‘Ultimate’ video game title which belonged to Rare, I think he looked great on the Arcade game standing next to his opponent. Spinal was also popular, no wait, hang on, I loved Orchid too, and Glacius. You know what? I think they were all cool. I’m proud of them all…!



Kevin’s Glacius today

KIC: Was there anything unique you found about the team you were working with in making this fighting game that you hadn’t experienced before?

KB: We really ‘wanted’ to make this game work. And the more time passed the better it felt, the better it looked, and the more it got a hold of us. It was one of my fave times at Rare, and the team, although very small, worked all hours, and extremely hard on it. But we loved it. Weekends, holidays, late nights and early mornings – we all had the game in our hearts!

KIC: When you left Rare, were you planning on becoming a musician? Was it something new to you or have you always been writing music?

KB: I’d always been doing music at home while at Rare. I remember spending my first ‘Bonus’ on music equipment, and as an exercise, I wrote a theme tune for ‘Battletoads’ way back in the day. But my ability, was no-where near the standard of my good friend Mr. Dave Wise, and, there was never enough time to do both graphics and music. So, I stuck with the graphics, and then somehow got into singing (with Dave Wise funnily enough!) in my spare time, it was great fun! I was never going to leave my day job to do music, I loved it so much at the time, and so continued to work as an artist until 2005, when I decided it was time to do something different. I’d been at Rare for around 18 years!

KIC: What has been your favorite moment so far being Kevin Bayliss the musician?

KB: So far, well I’ve been in some Rock bands, done some gigs with some cool bands (supported Duff Mckagan from Guns n Roses, Motorhead, and a lot of other Rock bands!) and I’ve also written for a Dance artist in France where some of my stuff has been signed to Sony for her. Also I’ve released my own album a few years ago which is just a Rock project, and now I’m working on some new material with some great new musicians, alongside Dance music and producing videos and animation for the songs. So I’m loving combining everything I enjoy doing!


KIC: A music video for the latest song you were featured in was created by you. What gave you the idea to get back to your roots and fully animate the video? Did drawing and animating come back to you quickly?

KB: The only problem I really had was getting used to new software. I’d not animated for a few years. I did some 3D animation using Maya for a video for the Rock band I was in, but didn’t finish it , and then I got more and more into music software. So, it gets confusing going from one interface to another all the time. That’s the only tricky part, especially if you leave it for a few years. But recently the video I made was a 2D animation, and so again I learned some new software, and hopefully I’ll use that more and more now, in conjunction with Maya and the music software. So who knows what I’m going to make next? I’m not the best artist. And I’m not the best animator. There are fantastic artists and animators out there. But I like creating, and so, I just do what I enjoy, and have fun!

KIC: Thank you so much for your time! Keep kicking ass with your music and we are looking forward to your next project!

KB: Cheers! Look out for more graphics on the way on my Youtube channel, I’ll be making some ‘KI-Esque’ videos in 2D and 3D in the future to accompany some of the music projects – It’ll be COOL!


Amir Abdollahi

About Amir Abdollahi

Co-founder/Writer For Killer Instinct Central