How I would Improve the Friday the 13th Game

The Friday the 13th series doesn’t have much life these days, at least so far as the cinema is concerned. It has nine years since the Friday the 13th remake tried and failed to breathe life back into hockey mask-wearing slasher Jason Voorhees. If it weren’t for the 2017 video game (aptly named Friday the 13th: The Game), the franchise would be all but dead.

Oh but what a game it is. If you’ve only ever played the 1989 indecipherable mess that was the Nintendo Friday the 13th, you may have written off the series’ gaming potential. Which would be a shame since developer IllFonic and publisher Gun Media have created a fan love letter to the series, complete with meticulously recreated campground levels.

When I first started playing Friday the 13th: the Game over Christmas vacation, I thought it was fun but frustrating. Months later and I’m still routinely diving into Crystal Lake, the Jarvis House and newly added Pinehurst. Clearly they’re doing something right.

That said, I do have some thoughts on how Friday the 13th: the Game can improve and, maybe more importantly, how these companies can keep financing their efforts. I know: Unsolicited feedback from a white guy – how original.

Being able to turn the male counselors into mock kid Jason

One of the most interesting aspects of gameplay in Friday the 13th: the Game revolves around killing Jason. Yes, it is possible (if unlikely) for the counselors to band together and turn the tables on their foe. This method is a multi-step process that involves summoning Tommy Jarvis, stealing a sweater, and knocking off a mask.

It is the second part where the potential issue begins: Only a female counselor can steal the sweater. This is to recreate the ending of Part 2 where the final girl pretends to be Jason’s mother, halting the killer in his tracks. It’s a cool bit of fan service to be sure and – as I said – really interesting gameplay.

Yet if there are no female counselors in the game, or if they have died, it prematurely closes the option to kill Jason. This is kinda lame. Rather than have Chad discover his feminine side, I believe I’ve come up with a solution that stays close to franchise emulation.

While only female counselors can steal the sweater, male counselors can cut their hair and mimic kid Jason (much in the way that young Tommy Jarvis did at the end of Part 4). This will require a procedure of its own. First, scissors. Every game would load with one set of scissors in a drawer. It would be exactly one item that would function much the same way as a pocket knife should Jason grab you.

Friday the 13th: the Game
Sure, our counselors are a little older but the effect could still work. Not like Jason is supposed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Once the counselor has scissors, it’s time to look for a bathroom, more specifically a mirror. After this is done, the counselor will need time (perhaps a button-pressing mini-game like car repair, except based on composure stat) to re-style his looks. After this is done, he now has a one-time opportunity to stun Jason, much like the sweater.

I believe this will add variety and further develop what already is one of the most interesting aspects of the game.

Adding a more open water level

A lot of perks in the game revolve around water – this is true for both counselors and Jason. While it’s a cool aspect to add variety, it feels pretty weak right now for one major reason: There’s not a lot of water on the current maps. Most have a shoreline in a corner or narrow rivers running throughout. I don’t have any solid numbers to back me up here but I wouldn’t be surprised if the average counselor spent less than 10% of his or her time in water.

This makes all those water traits kind of useless. When I can only equip three perks – who cares if one of them pluses my water speed by 99%? I’m never going to use that. Oh, Part VII Jason has excellent water speed… does that matter?

Friday the 13th: the Game
As things stand currently, this almost never happens in the game.

While one new level won’t entirely fix this problem, it will help. I would propose one of two options. First, the setting from Part 7: A New Blood. I would design that map to have a massive lake in the center – maybe with an island or two scattered on it. This will force counselors to swim for rapid transit or item retrieval.

Second option is the cruise ship from Part 8. Since this boat inexplicably sailed from Crystal Lake to New York (how did that happen?!), it would make sense to have supporting islands. The claustrophobia of the boat would also be a nice change of pace from numerous levels of open cabins and sparse woods.

More weapon variety 

I’m actually really happy that they toned down the amount of guns and machetes in the levels. I always wondered why a summer camp had like… literally a gun every few feet. While it could have been a commentary on the status of firearm worship in America, I doubt that’s what Gun Media and IllFonic were going for.

While too many top tier weapons is a bad thing, I hope they enhance the number of options for mid tier and low tier weapons. The branch is awesome but it needs company. So I propose three new weapons:

  • a paintball gun: Made famous in Part 6, this rapid fire projectile could temporarily blind Jason if enough shots hit. The blindness would work like the blooper ink in Mario Kart 8, physically obstructing the screen. Jason players could always wash the paint off in water. While it won’t do much damage, it would be a terrific irk weapon.
  • Dinner plates: I see them on every table, stacks of projectiles. This would be the lowest tier ranged weapon. Counselors could hurl plates at Jason, hoping with enough direct hits to knock him down or at the least stun him. Stun chance percentage would increase based on the number of direct hits. Plates would come in stacks of five.
  • A rake: This weapon would function purely as a push-away. Counselors could prod Jason from a distance, not doing much damage but keeping him from getting close. Given that they just increased the number of throwing knives, this would be a cool chance to highlight their effectiveness. Jason would also of course eventually just break the rake.
Friday the 13th: the Game
How funny/frustrating could this make potential matches?

Monetization methods to support continued updates 

Now here me out here fellow players: Games cost a lot of money to make and maintain. Not everyone can do what Minecraft did. Gun and IllFonic have, to date, done an excellent job of keeping their Kickstarter promises and delivering a slew of free content. There’s but some monetization but it has been limited to a couple dollars for costumes and kills.

I want them to build on that. Keep the Kickstarter promises free, obviously but augment them with DLC to justify their continued investment. The counselor costume variety is terrific – keep it coming! This nature of superfluous paid DLC is the best as it doesn’t make those who can’t afford feel like they’re at an unfair disadvantage.

To this end, I have a few suggestions:

  • New Jason starting screens: Currently, Part 3 Jason greets players every time they load the game. While he’s cool looking, some variety might be nice? Charging a dollar or so per main menu Jason seems reasonable. Again, no one needs it but I might fork over some money to customize my game further.
  • Roy voiceover:  If players select the Part 5 – or Roy – Jason, they still hear Pamela Voorhees droning on about killing kids and making them remember and bla bla bla. Honestly, it would be cool to hear someone else. While Dick Wieand may not want to return to voice his character, it would still be cool to hear someone play Roy. Dialogue could be more focused around vengeance and his little brother and things like that. I would definitely pay at least $2 not to hear Pamela every single game.
  • Part 5 Tommy: Designing models is expensive and getting voice actors is also not cheap. These two factors together explain why we only have one version of Tommy Jarvis – the Thom Mathews Part 6 version. Having John Shepherd’s Part 5 incarnation (or even an adult Corey Feldman) would add some awesome variety to the game. But for free, it doesn’t make sense – not on the developer’s side. I would be willing to pay for a new Tommy, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
  • A Kane Hodder Jason costume: While Savini Jason remains locked away forever (single tear), they could add another cool/funny Jason to the game. Kane Hodder. That’s it, no costume, no mask (well maybe some kind of mask for gameplay purposes), just the famous Jason actor. It would be a fun extra and technically wouldn’t violate their policy of not charging for Jason.
Friday the 13th: the Game
Obviously buying the likeness rights to Kevin Bacon will be expensive but I would be willing to help invest in that cost.

Adding in a way to report bigotry/hate speech 

One last quick thing: there needs to be a way to report players who are bigoted assholes. I was playing as Jason one night and came across a kid. I could tell his age because of his microphone – I could also notice an accent. But I think, whatever, all races and people are scum in the eyes of Jason Voorhees so I’m going to go after him.

As soon as I kill his counselor, this other one appears and starts shouting the most vile, hateful crap I’ve heard during gameplay. Honestly it made me feel awful for having offed the kid’s character. I hope he didn’t think I agreed with any of the shit this “adult” was saying (I didn’t have a mic at the time so I could not vocally voice my disgust).

I made killing the bigot my next priority but I didn’t feel like that made it right. People like that should face consequences for spewing vile garbage across the internet. Jason may kill people but even he isn’t that much of a monster.

A report option please – I never want to be in that situation again.

Friday the 13th: the Game
Social Jason Warrior (would also pay money for whatever that looked like)

So there you have it, just some thoughts on improving the game. Obviously I’m not alone in having suggestions – just hop on the Forums to see more. If you haven’t played yet, give Friday the 13th: the Game your time and money – especially if you’re a fan of the film franchise. It may be a mess, but it’s a fun mess.

The Nintendo Wii U: Virtual Reality Gameplay Prototype?

The Nintendo Wii U does not appear, on the surface, to be leaving much of a legacy. With the code-name NX console slated for next year, the door is set to close on Nintendo’s eighth generation console. Its current claim to infamy: the Wii U (to date) is the worst-selling Nintendo home console, at 12.8 million units (the previous title owner was the Gamecube at 21.7 million units). Yet I believe history may show a silver-lining for the Wii U. In many ways, its unique, ambitious, and ultimately underutilized controller concept has prototyped the way that the industry may play in the immediate future. In a lot of cases, the Wii U controller screen was used like a virtual reality (VR) headset.

Continue reading The Nintendo Wii U: Virtual Reality Gameplay Prototype?

Dear Godzilla Fans: Please Stop Defending that PS4 Game

2015 saw many terrific video games. From the moral complexity of Witcher 3 to the creative freedom of Super Mario Maker, and everywhere in between, 2015 was a strong year for the video game industry. Yet, as with any year: there were duds. Arguably the biggest flop of all was Godzilla for the PlayStation 4. Lumbering, unwieldy controls, boring past-generation map design, and a complete lack of any interesting fighting system (and local multiplayer) made this a challenge to call “fun.” This game was panned nearly across the entire board, with one small group providing the only positive spin. They were, of course, the Godzilla fans and they found a lot of good things to say.

Just to say upfront: Obviously, all art is subjective. No one is an idiot for liking this game. The following is just my opinion.

Now, I have watched every single Godzilla movie (in English and Japanese where applicable). I own an entire large crate full of action figures and collectibles. I am attending G-Fest in Chicago this summer. I have a tattoo of Godzilla on my body. Do I say all this to prove that I am the coolest guy in the universe – that’s besides the point. My point is, I am a huge Godzilla fan, I grew up on this stuff. Here is my message to other Godzilla fans: this game is garbage. It doesn’t matter if you love Godzilla or not. Please stop defending this piece of crap, we deserve better.

While the other art is the best it's ever been, that just acknowledges that graphics have gotten better in ten years.
While the monster model design is the best it’s ever been, that just acknowledges that graphics have gotten better in ten years.

A lot of the praise for this “game” comes from fans describing how faithful it is. Godzilla moves with purpose, like the large mass he is. Some fans have even contrasted it favorably against the three most recent Godzilla fighting games that were released for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox (original), and Wii. This is true. In those games, Godzilla moved a lot faster. He was agile, quick, and could run from one side of the map to another. All of these changes reflecting a desire to create a more fluid fighting game. Yes, Godzilla is slower and more like his movie self in the PS4 game… but is this a good thing from a game making perspective?

"It makes you think of how unauthentic previous Godzilla "fighter" games (Save the Earth, Unleashed..) were." - a poor, misguided Godzilla fan
“It makes you think of how unauthentic previous Godzilla ‘fighter’ games (Save the Earth, Unleashed..) were.” – a poor, misguided Godzilla fan

Let me give an example: In the PS4 game, you have to collect “data” from various points in the map. Let’s say I missed one on one side of the level and now I must walk back.

STOMP.

Here I come.

STOMP.

Getting closer.

STOMP

Almost there.

STOMP.

…. still almost there.

Does this sound fun? There is no way to run. There is a “charge” option where Godzilla lowers his head and plows forward for a few steps like a charging bull (or a blind football player) but this animation looks awkward to say the least. I can only imagine the commentary of the spectating citizens.

“Oh, there he goes! Nothing can stop him! Wait… what… what is he doing? Why is he doing that over and over again?”

So yeah, Godzilla walks like in the movie – kudos on making that happen, but it also illustrates exactly why it should be changed to create a good video game experience.

Speedy: yes. Fun: yes.

Another feature that Godzilla fans have praised is the focus of the game. As Godzilla, the player wrecks cities and fights monsters. This sounds awesome and exactly what a good Godzilla game needs to have. In this game, the city smashing takes front and center, with other monsters only showing up occasionally. This would be fun but here is the problem: the city smashing is really not satisfying. Godzilla hits the buildings a couple of times with one of four attacks (charge, weak attack, strong attack, or radiation breath) and then the building goes into a generic “fall” animation before disappearing entirely. It does the same “fall” animation no matter how Godzilla attacks it. There is nothing, no variation, no sense that your choice mattered. The same thing – over and over again.

Yeah, you don't have to spend time destroying ever single thing, but the game punishes you if you don't. Destruction makes Godzilla "bigger" and more powerful so... sigh, destroying a city should never be an obligation.
Yeah, you don’t have to spend time destroying ever single thing, but the game punishes you if you don’t. Destruction makes Godzilla “bigger” and more powerful so… sigh, destroying a city should never be an obligation.

Yes, this was a PlayStation 3 game originally but even so – this looks bad. The ones on PS2 and GameCube could do this, and there smashing buildings was not the primary objective but just a fun side option. Godzilla: Unleashed for the Wii had better building destruction than this. If my memory serves correctly, the player could occasionally knock pieces of the building off with basic melee attacks in that one.

Yep, the weak Wii had a game with better building destruction.
Yep, the weak Wii had a game with better building destruction.

The level design is bare. While Bandai Namco and Natsume do deserve some credit for recreating environments from the movies, they are really small stages. Normally, I would complain more about this – but it takes ten minutes to walk across one as is. It’s not just the size, however. Gone are the power-ups and hidden secrets from the previous games. There is nothing to do but that boring smash and gathering “data” (which amounts to freezing in place for twenty seconds while the camera cuts to a more cinematic angle). Having the Smog Monster fly around or being able to summon in Mothra or Battra were cool options. Again – decisions that reflected actual game design as opposed to “well what did it look like in the movies?”

Last but not least, let’s talk about the monster fights. Well, first and foremost – this is a fighting game without a health bar. Yep. Curious as to how you’re doing? Too bad, you’d ruin the immersion with crap like that. The only indication you get is the screen starting to go red as you get close to death. Well, at least that helps right? Let’s you know when to start blocking attacks?

Health bars? We don't need no stinking health bars!
Health bars? We don’t need no stinking health bars!

You can’t block either.

Well, shit. Want to pick up a building and throw it at your enemy? Can’t do that.

Want to play with the person sitting next to you? Can’t do that.

Want a comprehensive system of fighting moves and clear differences between how the monsters handle? Try another game.

The “fighting” system was added into the PlayStation 4 version, to help justify the sixty-dollar (I bought this for $10 and felt cheated) price tag that this game released with. Some games add new modes with depth and meaning, and with some it feels quickly tacked on. Guess which this is.

John Ryan of IGN gave this game a negative review but said that “the spirit of the old-school monster movie is where Bandai Namco absolutely nails it.” I disagree, and frankly wonder what movies John is talking about. The original Godzilla is a work of art that is exceptional in quality and crafting – so this game isn’t it. The subsequent sequels were goofy fun that usually did not take themselves too seriously. This isn’t those either.

Fans looking for a genuine experience of a Godzilla movie should watch a Godzilla movie. The 29th Japanese film will be released later this year. There are a lot of these. This “game” feels like watching the very worst of Godzilla, and is even less fun to play. Godzilla fans have had better games in the past – and need to not allow crap like this to get a pass for being “authentic.” Batman fans were harsh and eventually got Arkham Asylum. Just saying.