The first game we're highlighting also happens to be the only title that's already available: Lakeview Cabin Collection. In actuality, the game you can purchase on Steam or Humble Bundle right now is Lakeview Cabin III.
Lakeview's homage to Friday the 13th's Camp Crystal Lake is undeniably clear. The game is a sandbox, dropping you into the camp as one of four counselors setting things up for the upcoming summer season. From the onset, you wander around the camp, getting into drugs and alcohol, throwing things around, and generally making a fool of yourself. Until nightfall comes.
With night comes the killer, but the thing is, you have no clue what makes the killer come after you. You have no clue where the killer will appear. You enter a cabin or wander the woods, only to stumble upon axe-wielding death. And you die, moving on to the next camp counselor.
Lakeview is about experimentation. You can switch between your four characters at any time and each one can carry one object. Run, hide, build traps, find new items, work out new plans, die again. Will your faithful dog accidentally set you and the killer on fire? Will you trip over a shovel meant to slow down the murderer? Will you zipline right into a woodchipper? Death is the point of Lakeview, but each death is meant to be random and fun. It's a water cooler game, where you share your best death stories with your friends.
Creator Roope Tamminen is the sole developer on the title, which is an expansion of earlier browser games that he created. Tamminen was the first person I spoke to on the topic of slasher games, following Bob's great preview of Lakeview Cabin Collection. I wanted to understand his feelings on his creation and the slasher genre itself.
Why did you decide to make slasher game like Lakeview?
Tamminen: Weirdly enough, it reminds me of my childhood. My dad showed me the original Halloween when I was a kid and it scared the crap out of me! I still can't comprehend what he was thinking, showing a kid a movie like that, but it stayed with me. Before then, I had only watched these 'larger than life' adventure movies where the good always wins. So, it naturally fascinated me how a whole movie could be made about solely killing teenagers.
After the initial shock wore off, I started watching a lot more of the older horror movies. After all the tropes and clichés became obvious, I just started enjoying them even more. It's fun to predict who dies first and how. They are just dumb fun to me these days and in a way Lakeview Cabin is a celebration of all those movies, and all the evenings I spent with my dad watching them.
You're a bit different from the rest because you decided to go the horror-comedy route. Why didn't you play it straight?
Tamminen: I hate to admit it but it's just easier to me. I'm not saying I'm lazy but not taking it too seriously allows me to cut corners where I couldn't if I tried to make it serious. For example, I didn't give the characters any personality so the players don't get too attached, and might instead laugh at the horrors that happen to them. I also try not to polish the physics too much to maintain that accident-prone gameplay.
So it's a by-product of the fact that I do everything by myself, from programming and graphics to sound and music. I just have to let some stuff slide so I can actually get a finished product out. I'm just lucky it works out nicely for this project since it's supposed to have that 'shoestring budget' feel.
My guess is Friday the 13th, but what's your favorite horror film?
Tamminen: I still pop in the original Halloween from time to time. As I stated before, it holds a special place in my heart even to this day. It's such a pure example of it's genre. Michael Myers is just an epitome of evil and the movie doesn't need a convoluted plot to be effective. Then you have the superb soundtrack by John Carpenter that still hasn't been topped. Slasher movies don't get any better than that.
What are the building blocks of a great horror game?
Tamminen: One of the most important traits for a game developer is the ability to predict how the player will react to certain situations. You have to know what button they are most likely to push first even without any tutorial screens. Will they take the route to the right or left? You can control this behavior by leaving small breadcrumbs for them to find while still maintaining the illusion that they are completely in charge.
If you do it right, you will know where the slumps of the game are. So you know when the player is most likely to be relaxed or tense. And this is an especially important tool for horror games where you're looking to scare the player. It allows the developer to hit the player where it counts when they aren't even looking. So the key is to puppeteer the player towards an inevitable heart attack without their knowledge.
After years of nothing, slashers are making a big come back in the gaming industry. Why do you think that's the case?
Tamminen: To me, the supernatural monsters and urban legends that seem to inhabit most of the popular horror games of today are just starting to feel too distant. I get bored easily when the enemy you're facing is something out of this world. Even while a mask-wearing axe-killer might seem like something that we only see in movies, it's still undeniably tied to the real world. And that's always scary.
It might also be the fact that it's still such an untapped genre in games and people are starting to realize it. You have decades of these movies that are filled with ideas that are just gnawed to death in films, but work wonderfully as game-mechanics. Everyone of us has at one point yelled at the screen when a dumb victim is obliviously walking into a dark room to be killed. So this is a change to finally take control of that victim and try to beat the odds. It's a very cathartic experience.
This is the first game you've charged players for. How has the reception for Lakeview Cabin III been versus your earlier titles?
Tamminen: The reception is basically the same as before. There's the good and the bad and I naturally get hung up on the bad like a good game developer should. What has changed though, is that since this is my first game that I'm asking money for, I have to treat the players as customers.
In the past if someone had a problem with my free games, I didn't lose my sleep because of it. 'It is what it is,' I said. Now I have to show a lot more respect to the players since they are basically feeding my kid. So I try to go out of my way to solve the problems the players might be having with my game. It's actually really rewarding though, so I'm happy things are as they are right now.
What are you planning for the upcoming follow-up games? How can you expand what you've already released and is there any part of the core game you're looking to change?
Tamminen: The core game will stay the same. You can change characters in all the upcoming sequels and there will be something out there to kill you. That's about it.
I'm not the kind of guy who wants to make the same thing four times in a row. So I'm really looking into ways to toy with the players expectations. For example, I'm hoping that a lot of players might delve in to the next episode with the mindset they have from the previous episode.
And they will soon learn that the planning and scheming that worked in the previous episode won't mean a rat's ass in the next one. The themes and the flow will change greatly with each episode. It's going to be a trail-mix of horror games when it's all said and done, and I really hope that players will be able to appreciate what I'm trying to achieve with it.