Back in May, I did a lengthy look at the slasher genre, a once major genre in cinema that was experiencing a return to form in the gaming industry. One of the games I profiled at that time was Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp from Gun Media. The game was intended to be an asymmetrical 7v1 multiplayer experience, pitting multiple players as camp counselors against a single killer. The team at Gun Media were seeking to bring that same 80's, lo-fi feeling you'd have if you watched your favorite slasher films on VHS today.
In that direction, Gun Media had assembled a team of horror greats to help them. Special effects guru Tom Savini was the game's executive producer and cinematographer, composer Harry Manfredini was working on the soundtrack, and Kane Hodder, Jason's original actor, was working on the game's motion capture. Gun Media had a love for Friday the 13th and other slashers. They had many people involved in the original Friday the 13th films. What they didn't have was the license to Friday the 13th. That was owned by Crystal Lake Entertainment, who had already announced their own game. All Summer Camp could be was a loving homage to one of the best slasher icons of the 80s.
Well, until things changed.
Summer Camp is now officially Friday the 13th: The Game.
"It was a little after we had talked to you the last time," Summer Camp co-creator Wes Keltner explained to me in a brief interview, "that [Crystal Lake Entertainment CEO and Friday the 13th director/producer] Sean Cunningham gave us a call and said 'Hey, I like what you guys are doing and the direction you're going in. You've got a great team with Kane, Tom, and Harry. Only thing you're missing is me and the license. I'm here to bring both of those to you if you'll have them.'"
The team at Gun were excited, but being a small studio, they didn't have the money to pay for licensing. Cunningham understood that, but loved the direction Summer Camp was taking, so he up and gave them the license at no charge. So Summer Camp officially become Friday the 13th: The Game.
"We've been head down since that conversation, tuning back what we were doing with Summer Camp and trying to put in Jason Vorhees, Camp Crystal Lake, and all the things that make it Friday the 13th," added Keltner. "We're still in the trenches right now."
The Friday the 13th name and license means Gun Media is aiming higher now. While Summer Camp was allowed to be one thing, they now have a legacy to live up to. The game was originally self-funded, but the expansion to the new property means Gun Media needs some help. So today, the team is turning to a brand-new KickStarter drive for the game.
"We knew we needed more money to do this the right way," said Keltner. "We already had a budget together to do Summer Camp, which was a much smaller project. To do right by the fans, we're going to need more cash. We went to a few publishers and talked to them about the concept. While they liked it, most of them wanted a more watered-down version of what we were after. There's no way I could look at myself in the mirror if I made a Teen-rated Friday the 13th game."
Of course, Summer Camp had a broader focus than a single famous serial killer. Despite that, Gun Media doesn't feel held back by the new license. They're excited for the chance to add to the Friday the 13th mythos, even if they don't have to worry directly about the upcoming Friday the 13th TV series or reboot film.
"In most instances, it's going to enhance what we wanted to do anyways," said co-creator Ronnie Hobbs. "We were dancing around that license anyways and paying tribute to Friday the 13th, but we were also looking at other slasher titles that were going to inspire some kills. Being able to work with Friday the 13th gives us the ability to do something that no one has done yet in the game industry, which is actually let you become Jason. That's huge, huge bonus for this license."
"We understand the responsibility," said Hobbs. "We want to create feature sets in the game so that anyone familiar with the franchise is going to see the winks and nods. It's things like how people get killed, to the interiors of the cabins - which we're looking at frame by frame to make sure that we're doing those right - to the exact outfits Jason is wearing."
"We're not tied to [the upcoming reboot film or TV series]. We don't have our hands tied. We have that freedom thankfully," said Keltner.
Yeah, there's multiple Jasons in the Friday the 13th game, reflecting his various looks throughout the years. In fact, Tom Savini, the man behind Jason's iconic look, is working on a brand-new Jason just for the game.
"You'll be able to, a at glance, look and say 'Oh, that's Jason from this film,'" admitted Hobbs. "Tom Savini hasn't touched Jason since Friday the 13th Part 4... that's 25 years ago. He's excited, since he birthed the original Jason. He gets to step back into that world and craft a new Jason from the ground up."
If you're worried about backing the project, the team at Gun Media want to put your mind at ease. When the game was Summer Camp, they worked hard to get everything up and running in the prototype stage. They're not starting from scratch and while there are stretch goals for the Kickstarter, they're not looking to expand the game much farther beyond what it already is. The stretch goals include new single-player challenges, new environments, and "new versions of Jason" according to Keltner. Don't expect much feature creep here.
"We made our announcement last Halloween and went head down and started building a prototype," said Keltner. "It's fun, it's balanced, and it feels right. For a lot of the features we've already got them in there and we're poking at them. We've spent the last six months just fine-tuning the features that we wanted to see in Summer Camp. Now we have to spend some time branding them."
"When you get funding on Kickstarter, you're almost experimenting with what you want to see in the game on the backer's dollar," said Hobbs. "We already did that on our own dollar. We have all the features, it's just a matter of polishing them up so it's more dynamic and the gameplay is more diverse. Adding Crystal Lake, adding multiple Jasons, and multiple counselors."
Of course, all that depends on Friday the 13th reaching its $700,000 funding goal in the first place. If funded, the title is coming to PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 with a planned release date of October 2016. The Kickstarter is up, but will fans want to return to Crystal Lake in a game? That's up to them to answer.