Friday the 13th Interview: How Jason Intends to Take Gaming
Friday the 13th: The Game is a third-person asymmetrical multiplayer horror game that recently hit Kickstarter. It’s a 1 vs. 7, Jason Voorhees against Camp Crystal Lake Counselors murder romp. I had an opportunity to ask a few questions via email to the developers at Gun Media, Illfonic, Kane Hodder, and Sean S. Cunningham himself about the game’s inception, the team’s plans, and their aspirations.
Yes, I did inquire about Jason X. Check out our full interview with the folks hoping to bring Jason to gamers, below!
Q: What about the game made you want to approach Gun Media, and Illfonic, to offer the Friday the 13th License?
Sean S. Cunningham, Friday the 13th Series Creator: I’ve always wanted to revisit the concept of a game, since the NES version. But there never was a particular good idea. Some of this was due to technology limitations and game engines. But word got back to me about a small, indie project, entitled Summer Camp. It peaked my interest right away. Their early screenshots and gameplay ideas drew me in, and then after sitting and talking with the team, I knew it was a perfect fit. These guys not only understand horror games, but they have a deep knowledge of Friday the 13th lore. That was crucial.
Q: What was it like to be approached by Sean Cunningham himself, offering the usage of the Friday the 13th license?
Wes Keltner, Co-Creator: At first, we were intimidated. I remember Ronnie and I looking at each other, during the call, and giving each other a look. A look of concern, that we had perhaps got a little too close to the flame. This was, after all, our love letter to Friday the 13th. Luckily Sean was calling to tell us that he had received said love letter, but that we were missing two things; him and the license. After the shock wore off, Ronnie and both knew we didn’t have the money required to pay for the license. We’re just a small indie team. But Sean had one more surprise up his sleeve…He gave us the license as a gift, gratis.
Working with Sean has been a dream so far. There are so many similarities to when he first got started with the first Friday the 13th. A small team with a small budget, driven by creativity and a real passion for horror. I think that’s why we connected so fast with Sean. When creatives get together, they can’t help but inspire each other. And don’t get me started on the storytelling…It’s incredible just hanging out with him and talking shop.
Q: You guys were working on Slasher Vol 1: Summer Camp for a while, how much work needed to be retooled in order to fit under the new vision?
Ronnie Hobbs, Co-Creator: Actually, the basic framework is still the same – 1v7, Killer versus Counselors in a summer camp setting. Only now we are fortunate enough to have the Friday the 13th license, so with that comes a great deal of responsibility. So it’s not so much retooling, it’s more about making sure the size and scope of the game increase to properly due the license justice.
Q: Twitter kind of exploded when the Kickstarter launched for the game. Were you expecting that kind of reaction?
Randy Greenback, Executive Director: We knew it would be big, just you never know how big it’ll actually be. It seemed like everywhere we looked we were getting coverage on launch day, and that was pretty amazing to say the least. Just the other day we had Elijah Wood and Roy Hibbert of the Los Angeles Lakers tweeting about the game. Basically we were blown away by the support from all of the Friday the 13th fans.
Q: When people think of what survival horror is, they don’t necessarily think of multiplayer games.
Wes Keltner: This is true. Aside from H1Z1 or DayZ, there aren’t many well-known multiplayer focused survival horror games. But a quick glance at Steam, you will start to see a stronger following and demand for titles like that. But Friday the 13th is different. It’s not competitive based. We’re also not really a ‘survival horror’, at least not by how most define it. We don’t require the player to drink water, find food, stay warm, etc. Counselors also don’t pack firearms, so scavenging for ammo isn’t a mechanic we rely on either. But there is something trying to kill you. An nearly unstoppable killing force in Jason Voorhees. It didn’t seem right to allow counselors to arm up, boost skills, etc to get on an even playing field with Jason. Then you become a skills focused game. We wanted to remove a lot of that and get down to a more visceral approach to gameplay. Everyone has watched a horror movie with friends, and after the film they turn to each other with a simple question; “What would you do in that situation?” That’s where we started. Let’s give players the tools to answer that question.
Q: What about your game is going to break that mold?
Ronnie Hobbs: That’s the beauty of this franchise, multiplayer actually fits better than single player in my opinion. Can you think of anything more fitting than real-life people controlling counselors and making human mistakes? The same goes for Jason. By having both sides controlled by players instead of scripted AI, we actually get to tap into people’s natural instincts to shape the outcome of the match, for better or for worse. Everyone has a plan until Jason shows up. That’s when one of two things happen – people start to turn on each other and act selfishly, or players act courageous and stick together. I think you will see some pretty cool moments that occur naturally, but only because it’s multiplayer driven.
Q: How are you making the game just as much fun as it is to play Jason, as it is to play as the camp counselors?
Kedhrin Gonzalez, Creative Director: Jason and the camp counselors have entirely different gameplay experiences. When you’re playing as a counselor, you’re playing a survival horror game. Fear is a big thing and the elements attached to it are very present. You need to be careful with what you do, how you sneak around, collect items and how you expose yourself to scary things in the world. Your character is not combat focused and our backend game mechanics can help guide you into surviving the night. There is no right or wrong way (other than dying) to play. You know the chances of you surviving are slim, so it’s a rush in its own unique way. You’re playing with your team a lot, even if you’re not working together – the banter is there. When you’re Jason the mood is completely different, all the fun and laughter goes away – you’re by yourself, an isolated beast, you’re not scared – you’re the one doing the scaring and murdering. I think they’re both extremely different gameplay styles that are both extremely rewarding in their own ways.
Q: What era will the game take place in? Multiple (via different modes)? Present day?
Ronnie Hobbs: This is an 80’s themed slasher, but at the same time we have access to multiple versions of Jason that span the entire franchise timeline, and we plan to use them. So it’s not so much a specific date range, but rather a collection of everything.
Q: Will it be possible to fill in empty slots with AI opponents?
Randy Greenback: Not at this moment. It’ll take a large amount of AI work to be able to create AI that plays this game like real players. It’s not quite as straight-forward as bots in a Quake-style deathmatch game would be. We do have a stretch goal that we haven’t revealed that addresses this right on the nose. We’d love to hit the goal to be able to hire on an amazing AI programmer to tackle this challenge. Our fingers are crossed, and hopefully fans are aiming to make that happen.
Q: How large will Camp Crystal Lake be? Will there be multiple areas/maps?
Ronnie Hobbs: We are still working on defining the exact size. It’s an ongoing process that will only be defined after months of playtesting. Obviously we want Camp Crystal Lake to feel as big and lifelike as possible, but we also have to consider gameplay. If the map is too large there’s less interaction between Jason and the camp counselors so the level of tension and fear gets reduced dramatically. On the flip side, if the map is too small those exact elements can occur too frequently. We do have additional maps planned as stretch goals on our Kickstarter campaign, so that will give us a little more freedom to branch out and explore other areas of Crystal Lake, so the team’s really excited about that possibility.
Q: How long would you guess a typical multiplayer session will be?
Kedhrin Gonzalez: Our multiplayer sessions can last up to 20 or so minutes but can also be over in a few minutes – depending on how good the player playing Jason is, or how fast all of the counselors complete their objectives and escape. I would say our average match is around 10 minutes. Jason’s abilities start to scale as a match goes on, so he becomes more powerful over time. We’re still trying to determine if we need to have a set in stone time limit for a match, just in case a match ends up going unreasonably long.
Q: You’ve played Jason Voorhees more than any other actor, will you tap into a specific film for inspiration during motion capture? Or will you create an evolution of the character for the game?
Kane Hodder, Actor: Great question. I will draw from all of the different versions of Jason that I have portrayed. My biggest influence however, will come from part 7, because that is my personal favorite. I may even draw from small moments that I enjoyed in other actors portrayals of the character, as well. A salute to the other guys, if you will.
Q: Are you exploring various game modes? Multiple Jasons? Jason in space? What about a Freddy Krueger expansion pack?
Wes Keltner: Hahaha, that sounds pretty amazing. But the red tape required to work with multiple licenses and companies (Paramount, Warner Bros, New Line), I’m having my own personal Nightmare just thinking about that. LOL. But we would love to do more of those kind of crossovers. The fans would love it too. But it’s not easy working with licensed IP. We are however going to include multiple Jason’s from the films, to allow players to take the reigns on their favorite. But the license we were given doesn’t give us carte blanche access to every Jason from every film. We spoke internally about ‘Jason in space’. But honestly, we want to hear from the fans. What do they want to see in the game. They built this franchise, so they are much a part of the decision process as we are.
Q: What should long-time fans expect in terms of callbacks, and Easter eggs?
Ronnie Hobbs: For now, I can only say we have Pamela Voorhees and Tommy Jarvis as stretch goals. How exactly those will be implemented is still being kept a secret, but that should give you a glimpse at what we have planned.
Q: The survival horror genre has seen some major successes as of late. Are there any aspects your team is taking away from recent super-sellers, like SOMA, Killing Floor 2, or Until Dawn?
Ronnie Hobbs: Absolutely, no matter what industry you work in, you can always learn a lot from your peers. Until Dawn did a great job of building suspense. It didn’t matter if you were just exploring or being pursued by the killer, from start to finish you were constantly worried about your safety. That same angle drove the Friday the 13th film franchise, and that’s something that will drive our game as well.
I actually haven’t finished Killing Floor 2 yet, but I absolutely loved Soma. As usual, Frictional Games found a way to draw me in. The sound design was amazing, so because we have Harry Manfredini helming that department, I think you can expect Friday the 13th: The Game to have similar results in that department.
Q: Is there anything else fans should be excited about? Potential stretch-goals maybe?
Randy Greenback: Yeah, we have plenty of things in the game to get excited about and planning for even more is underway. Right now I’m most excited to reveal our high-end stretch goals to the world and we’ll be doing that as soon as we hit our base 700k goal. We’ve got some surprises in store for fans, and think we have something for everyone, no matter which film, or Jason for that matter, is their favorite. We’ve been watching and listening to the fans chatter, and we have some tricks up our sleeves. When we do a full stretch goal reveal, even the blurry readers we’ve had taking stabs at what we have on the chart are going to be caught off guard.
Q: You guys mentioned the potential for single player – if the game makes enough on Kickstarter, what kind of story would you make? Perhaps a canon continuation?
Ronnie Hobbs: It’s not so much a campaign that we have planned, but rather a selection of very intense scenarios that can be played from both the viewpoint of Jason or the camp counselors. Some of these will be directly related and inspired by key moments from the film franchise, while others will be created entirely from scratch. I think we have some cool stuff planned that will make hardcore fans and newcomers happy.
Q: Last Year, a game with a similar premise to Friday the 13th: The Game hit Kickstarter last November – were you guys aware of it and do you feel there’s room for two asymmetric multiplayer slasher games?
Wes Keltner: We saw their announcement a couple weeks after we announced Summer Camp. There was some similarities, for sure. Honestly, I was excited to see their announcement. It let me know that this is a good idea. I’m a strong believer in the collective consciousness, and I think the Last Year and Summer Camp is a great example of it. There were probably several teams around the world with a very similar concept for a game. But an idea is just that..an idea. It’s about executing that can take a good idea and allow it to rise above the noise.
I absolutely think there’s room for additional asymmetric multiplayer slasher games. Why not? With different gameplay, mechanics and art styles, you can have a lot of variety to create a unique experience. Look at the films during the slasher golden years of the 80’s. Jason, Freddy and Michael are completely different. I say the more the merrier. Who knows, if another slasher multiplayer focused game comes to market, and fans love it…there could be some interesting opportunities to do collaborations together. We love working with smart, innovative designers.
Q: Video games are a great medium for cross-franchise opportunities. Which other classic horror villain(s) would you like to see fight Jason in video game form?
Sean S. Cunningham: Besides Whoopi Goldberg and Kim Kardashian? Hmmm. Nope. That’s it for me.
Friday the 13th: The Game has about two weeks left on Kickstarter, and over $540,000 raised as of writing. The funding goal is set at $700,000. You can follow more of their progress on Twitter. The game is slated for a 2016 release. Fingers crossed for that Whoopi Goldberg crossover.