Friday The 13th: The Game, An Exclusive Q&A With Co-Creator Wes Keltner

Last week I was thrilled to share the news that Gun Media will be taking us back to Camp Crystal Lake in 2016. For the first time since the 1989 NES classic, horror fiends and gamers alike will be able to immerse themselves in the terrifying world of Friday The 13th: The Game for PS4, Xbox One, & PC. However the team is taking a completely different approach than it’s side-scrolling predecessor, Gun is developing an experience that’ll leave you feeling as if you’re actually a part of the iconic horror franchise with an online 1v7 asymmetrical multiplayer approach.

In order to create the definitive Friday the 13th experience, they knew they’d need to engage the fans to ensure Friday the 13th: The Game lives up to the same standards that they’ve have come to love from the film series. Their Kickstarter campaign will allow them to create a gaming experience that’ll be scary as hell, while bringing the brutal violence and gore that the fans deserve.

Whether you’ve already backed the campaign or you’re still on the fence, I’m thrilled to share with you an exclusive Q&A with Wes Keltner, Co-Creator of Friday the 13th: The Game, where we take a moment to talk about the early stages of development, in game features, and the Kickstarter.

Hopefully we’ll answer a few questions that you’ve been asking, if not you’ll find that the Kickstarter page is still going to be your best resource for in depth information.

Horror Block

Q: When Summer Camp was announced last year, Tom Savini, Kane Hodder, and Harry Manfredini were already attached to the game. How did they come to be involved and how will Friday the 13th: The Game benefit from their wealth of experience in the horror industry?

A: It was pretty simple, I called them up and asked if they were interested. Turns out, they were very much interested. These guys get contacted a lot for this or that, and I don’t envy them for having to sort through what’s legit and what’s well, not. Luckily they each saw the vision for this game early on, when it was still Summer Camp, and they saw how we really needed their expertise and unique talents to bring this project to life. Once we became Friday the 13th: The Game, well that was missing piece wasn’t it? Tom crafting the kills and designing the look of Jason. Kane taking on the role of Jason, through motion capture and stunt coordinator. Harry Manfredini creating the soundscape for the game. The recent addition of Sean Cunningham really puts the icing on the cake for the title. We will be working with him on some cinematography in-game. Unreal 4 has some great camera features and Sean will be sitting right next to us, helping to direct the most visceral and compelling camera work. It’s the perfect storm of death and mayhem. I seriously can’t wait!

Q: What thoughts were running through your mind when Sean Cunningham initially reached out wanting to meet? Was there ever any concern that he might not be onboard?

A: To be honest, my first reaction was intimidation. I thought perhaps we had danced a little too close to the flame. Did we go too far calling our camp “Forest Green”? After all, Summer Camp was a love letter written directly to Friday the 13th. But Sean was actually reaching out to inform me that he had received our love letter, and wanted to return the favor. We were shocked. Even more so as the conversation progressed and he offered us the license, as a gift. That’s unheard of in the world of licensed IP. But this was because he saw what we were creating with Summer Camp. He knew we had the right team and were driven by passion. When you put two creatives together, check the egos at the door and take your business hat off for a second…Well, then you get something as amazing as this story. It’s still surreal.

Q: How long did the team celebrate, before diving into the next meeting to talk about the evolution from Summer Camp to Friday the 13th: The Game?

A: The celebration was short lived. We were crazy excited, don’t get me wrong, but we knew the responsibility required that came with this license. We’re not taking that lightly. We’re not going to truly celebrate until we’re done. There’s still a long road and we MUST do this correctly. Too much depends on it. It’s been nearly 30 years since we had a Friday the 13th video game. We have a strong design and development team, and the talent attached is second to none. We have the right ingredients, now we just need some extra help from the fans to get us to the finish line.

Q: As any fan of the franchise knows Camp Crystal Lake is the primary setting of the film series, will the game feature a single location or will there be other maps/ settings introduced? I’m assuming that the game will primarily be set at camp, will there be a variety of layouts introduced to avoid players from getting too comfortable?
A: We are experimenting with different level layouts and designs to help bring some gameplay variety to each session. We want to keep players guessing somewhat, while also providing some environments and locations that are familiar to the hardcore fans. It’s important to stick to the canon of the films, so players can truly feel like they are walking around Crystal Lake. There will be buildings, locations and scenarios that dedicated fans will see, and think “Oh my gosh, I remember this area from Part III!”

Q: How will the skills/ attributes of the counselors play a role in how they’re able to survive and ultimately escape? Will all of the characters have the essential skills required to attempt escape on their own or will a certain level of teamwork be required to make it out alive?

A: We will have some skills/attributes for each camp counselor. The Jock for instance might be a little faster, or can swing a weapon more proficiently, where has he may be weak at repairing vehicles or sneaking around. We try to balance the attributes so that not one class type is overpowered. Instead we create classes that favor playstyles; stealthy, aggressive, defensive, etc.

Q: During an episode of “Up At Noon” Adam Sessler mentioned there would be a means of escape by boat, where you’ll need to prepare the boat before you can take off. Will this be the only means of escape or will there be multiple escape options? If multiple, will they all be available every round or will there only be one per round and it’s up to the counselors to figure it out? Using the example of repairing the boat, will the parts/ tools required to complete the task be procedurally generated throughout the map or will those locations be static from round to round?

A: As we continue testing map size and gameplay, we will have a stronger grasp on the number of vehicles per map. There will at least be one vehicle per map. It could be a boat or a car/truck, pending the level set. If the map is a little bigger, they could have more than one option. We’re also testing a random spawn approach to said vehicles. We are testing the randomness of how these vehicles “spawn” when a match begins. We are also prototyping how the parts to the vehicles are generated in the levels as well. It’s still a little early to commit to how we are doing to do this, or where will they be placed. We don’t want them to be in the same locations on every map. It’s not fun if everyone knows precisely where the parts are, and they make a mad dash to them. We are encouraging more of a exploration type of gameplay. This will lead to more creepy/scary moments that the player wearing the mask, can take advantage of.

Q: How much will the players be able to interact with the environment for offensive/ defensive purposes? For example, will a counselor be able to open a door, lock it from the inside preventing other counselors from gaining entry, and then open a window and use it as an exit? Will there be a variety of objects/ weapons that the counselors will be able to wield in the event they’re feeling over confident and want to challenge Jason? Will any of the counselors have the ability to construct/ set traps?

A: We are experimenting with a lot of these elements right now in our prototype. And what we have right now, is very fun. There’s a lot of screaming and cursing over the mics…that’s a good sign. Yes players can open and close doors, and we also allow them to lock them. But let’s be serious here…Does a locked door really deter Jason Voorhees? A lot of this depends on the success of our Kickstarter campaign. We have a long wish list here internally that we want to do with this. Each one inches the budget up, little-by-little.

Q: When entering a matchmaking session, will players be able to decide whether they want to play as Jason or a Counselor? 

A: We will allow players to choose their favorite counselor type as well as their priority for playing as Jason or the counselor. It’s a little early to discuss how our lobbies will work with matchmaking and the like. But we want to give as much choice to the player as we can. We knew the biggest challenge was to make sure playing as a counselor was fun. Everyone wants to be Jason, right? That’s what we spent the last 6 months doing…We honed the counselor experience down until it was incredibly rewarding, scary as hell and above all; fun.

Q: Once players have made their baseline character selection, will they then be able to choose the appearance of their selected counselor or which version of Jason they’d like to play as?

A: We can’t get into too much detail with this, because some of this relies heavily on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. But you can take a look at the key art and then the trailer and hardcore fans will see those are two different Jason’s. The trailer is Jason from part VII, whereas the keyart is from Part III.
Q: Can you describe the atmosphere in the office those first 24 hours after the Kickstarter went live?

A: I would love to say we were bouncing off the walls, high-fiving and celebrating. But there wasn’t really time for that. We plugged in to fans instantly. On Twitter, Facebook and in the comments of the Kickstarter page. we were inundated with questions and excitement. I don’t think our social media guy, Ben, has slept in over a week. But the fans built this franchise to what it is today. And they are our #1 priority moving forward with this game. Every single step, they will be right there with us. This isn’t our game, it’s theirs. We’re just lucky enough to steer the ship for a little while.

Q: Are there any goals in particular that you’re really hoping to be able to provide the fans, in order to deliver the complete Friday the 13th experience? Why?

A: From the community we’re hearing great ideas and requests. The number one request being some form of single player. We have that as as stretch goal, and I truly hope we hit it. The design we have for single player is incredible. We’re also hearing from fans about their favorite kills that were in the films, and if we’re going to include those in the game. How could we make a legit Friday the 13th game without some kills from the films? That would just be wrong.

Q: I’ve seen some concern from the community questioning how Friday the 13th: The Game will maintain its replayability and keep the fans coming back for more, how would you address that concern? How will the progression system work and will there be more added to it over time?

A: Sure. Any multiplayer focused title has to face that question. How do you keep them coming back and engaged. They way we’re going to achieve that is by not making this a competitive game. How could you? Jason is a unrelenting, brutal killing force. It’s hard to compete against that. Instead, we give the counselors the ability to get themselves out of Crystal Lake. We also give them the tools to play how they want to play as they try to escape. If they want to be stealthy, they can do that. If they want to be more aggressive and try to go toe-to-toe against Jason, they can do that. But we don’t recommend it. We’ve all seen the films, we all know the outcome of facing Jason. It’s not pretty. But that’s when we knew we had something special. I love playing as the counselors. I love it because you can’t predict how other players are going to play. When you see Jason, everyone pretty much does the same thing; scatter and run like hell. But it’s the other gameplay moments in-between that are fascinating. You can team up with a small group, a larger group or lone wolf it. Each one of those tactics brings a whole host of outcomes and dichotomies. Even in our early play sessions we were already seeing large differences in gameplay and stories that come out of each play through. Hilarious “water cooler” moments that we continued to talk about, long after the session was over.

Q: I know we’re still a year away, however has there been any thought of doing a Friday the 13th cast reunion and live stream of them playing the final game pre-release? 

A: How cool would that be? Put out an APB…”Come home to Crystal Lake. Watch yourself die…again!” That would be great, right?

Q: Why horror? What is it about the genre as a whole that speaks to you the most? What would you say is your favorite type of horror ( slasher, creature feature, haunting, etc…)? Favorite horror feature?

A: Why horror? Because everyone working on the project is a fan of horror films and games. Each team member has a soft spot for certain sub-genres within “horror”. Personally, I love 80’s slashers and b-horror. Ronnie, the other co-creator loves 80’s horror and Giallo. In fact, he introduced me to Giallo films, from Bava to Argento and other icons of that time period. He’s a walking encyclopedia for horror. I have a rather small window of horror that warms my heart. I’m a child of the 80’s, and that’s where my love of horror was born and still resides. There’s nothing wrong with modern horror, but I think there’s some nostalgia for 80’s horror that I hold on to. It’s hard to pick a favorite. Of course my all time favorite is the Friday the 13th franchise. But I also love Halloween (1&2), Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw and Child’s Play. But I also embrace very cheesy, very self-aware titles like Attack of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space. God that film is just fun.

Q: When you actually have a moment of downtime, how do you spend your time? What’s your favorite game, current & past?

A: Downtime..what is that again? It’s funny, people think when you tell them that you design video games that I must play video games day and night. On the contrary, I played more games before getting into the industry. But when I do carve out time, I try to play every new title that comes out. But I’m playing them to look at their gameplay design. What features are they highlighting and what’s new and novel. I loved the recent betas for Star Wars: Battlefront and Rainbow Six: Siege. I’m an old school fan of the Rainbow series. So many nights of playing Rainbow Six, online, realistic setting. My favorite game of all time would be Shadow of the Colossus. The simplicity of their design, the art direction and minimal narrative spoke to me. The first time you ride your horse up and see a towering colossus standing there. Chills.

Q: Finally, when should I start packing up to move the family down to start working with the team?

A: LOL. This is truly a bucket list opportunity for me. Pretty safe to say it would be for a lot of fans. So you’re not the only one that would probably drop what they’re doing to take part in this. I have to pinch myself daily. I’m still not sure it’s fully sunk in.

Of course you’ll want to stay tuned for more news and announcements regarding this history making project, there were several questions that I had regarding the development of the game that Wes needed to keep shrouded in mystery at this time. However you know I’ll be circling back to get you those answers as the team is ready to reveal them, which means you’ve got time to submit your questions in the comments below and I’ll get them in front of the team for you.

Whether you’re still wanting to know more or you’re ready to show your support, head over to the Kickstarter and let them know what you think… There are times when I stumble onto a Kickstarter campaign and wish I had the ability to financially contribute, unfortunately that isn’t always the case. However there are other ways to show your support, simply helping to get the word out within the community is a great way to let them know they’ve got a fan within you.