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.

Batman: Arkham Joke(r)

With the recent release of Batman: Arkham Knight – we are now officially four games into the Arkham series (yes, Arkham Origins counts). Through the years, audiences have been following Rocksteady and Warner Bros. Montreal and their efforts to tell a series of interesting stories around the Batman. Well, four games and six years after the release of Arkham Asylum and one thing has become clear: Batman has only one villain worth talking about… at least according to these two developers.

Batman has truly met his match, in terms of popularity at least.
Batman has truly met his match, in terms of popularity at least.

Yes, in their efforts to expand and expound upon Batman mythology, Rocksteady has instead created a world that feels ironically small. It seems like nothing happens in Gotham without the clown prince of crime playing at least one of (if not the only) significant roles. While no one would argue that the Joker is Batman’s best and most iconic villain, I think quite a few people would disagree that he is the only interesting one.

Wow, that's a lot of villains who are only fit for side roles.
Wow, that’s a lot of villains who are only fit for side roles.

Yet this was the narrative told over and over again throughout the course of these games, and it was not told simply by having the Joker take central spotlight. It was cemented by the developer’s shrugging off of every other villain’s development. Let’s look at Two-Face, for instance. The former district attorney with dual personalities first appeared in Arkham City – where he was all about putting Catwoman on trial… for some reason. Probably because she’s the worst villain around since she’s kind of a good guy. Batman and Catwoman stop him and Two-Face spends the rest of the game… occupying museums until captured. Don’t worry! He’s back in Arkham Knight with a grand plan to… rob banks… really… how devious.

Justice is one of the interesting stories to explore with Harvey Dent. At least figuring out his identity would be more interesting than "guessing" who the Arkham Knight is.
Justice is one of the interesting stories to explore with Harvey Dent. At least figuring out his identity would be more interesting than “guessing” who the Arkham Knight is.

Granted, the most interesting thing about Two-Face is his origin (an origin skipped in Arkham Origins – cause we needed more Joker time). Still, Harvey Dent has not fallen quite so far as to be an ordinary thug. His dual nature can be used in interesting ways, and a slew of stories exist around the character that bear exploring.
Dent is one of many characters that Rocksteady appears thoroughly unimpressed with. A villain who is worth a quick punch and nothing more. After all, who can measure up to the Joker’s insanity, his genius for evil plans, and (spoilers) his ability to be the main villain in a game where he is already dead. Yeah, the main villain of Arkham Knight is… the Joker… again.

Nice trying to look cool Two-Face, but you can't fool me. You're no clown.
Nice trying to look cool Two-Face, but you can’t fool me. You’re no clown.

Scarecrow is the villain all over the game. Batman hears his voice every few minutes, telling him over and over again that he will lose. On the surface, Rocksteady tells the player that Scarecrow is to be feared, that he is a threat – but that is all it is: telling. There is never a moment where the player feels that Scarecrow is, well, scary. It’s never shown. The master of fear appears to be doing little to frighten Batman, other than creating visions of the Joker… or is it the Joker disease doing that? Honestly, the story in Arkham Knight is as hokey and full of holes as any Adam West led sitcom.

The Scarecrow sequences in Asylum may have had control issues but they were at least interesting. No such luck with Arkham Knight.
The Scarecrow sequences in Asylum may have had control issues but they were at least interesting. No such luck with Arkham Knight.

So the player is told how Scarecrow must be stopped, all while trying to stop the Joker. Scarecrow stands instead as a straw man (get it?), a plot device waiting to be fulfilled at the end of the game to signal that the main storyline is over.
But wait, what of the Arkham Knight, the titular villain of the game? Without giving anything away – let’s just say that the Arkham Knight’s creation and defeat both revolve entirely around – you guessed it – the Joker.

Never has a villain tried so hard to be cool and failed so completely. At least he is faithful to his secret identity.
Never has a villain tried so hard to be cool and failed so completely. At least he is faithful to his secret identity.

Really, this wouldn’t feel so tired if it wasn’t the fourth time. While every game after the original has claimed to split the villain billing, it has become truly boring to climax every adventure with a Joker fight. Arkham City did the best job creating a world of multiple villains, but even that still ultimately failed to create a world larger than two people. The game was Joker centric enough to make the climax a scene of Batman carrying the Joker’s lifeless body, despite the fact that Talia, Batman’s “beloved,” was just murdered.

Sorry Talia, Batman evidently follows the Bro Code.
Sorry Talia, Batman evidently follows the Bro Code.

Arkham Origins was able to bring Bane to the table in a way that Rocksteady never cared to do, but that only lasted until Bane felt compelled to take memory-erasing, mentally-debilitating drugs in order to physically beat Batman. I’m not kidding, Rocksteady had created such a stupid, uninteresting version of Bane that, in order to reconcile Arkham Origins as a prequel, the writers had to invent a way to make him dumber. Wow.

So it has been the Joker, and only the Joker, who has occupied the Batman games… and that needs to change. With Rocksteady hopefully exiting the Batman market (at least for a game or two to recharge) and the Arkham series reaching its “end” game, the time is here to reflect and examine how to make future Batman games better. The answer is simple. Make it bigger. I don’t mean the city this time – I mean the world. Explore these characters and give gamers a story without the clown prince pulling all the strings. It may take a little bit more work, but the results will be worth it.
Also no more Riddler trophies. I’m not kidding; collecting those has become the opposite of fun.

Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis 2 Now!

So Jurassic World is out, and despite fears expressed by this writer… the movie has been a phenomenal financial success. Seriously, look up how much freaking money this movie is making. It’s insane. Well now, as with any successful project in this day and age – time for cash-ins. A film like Jurassic World calls for something very specific: I want a sequel to the 2003 video game, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis.

Pretty much everything you would want in a Jurassic Park video game.
Pretty much everything you would want in a Jurassic Park video game.

For those not in the know, Operation Genesis is a park simulation video game (similar to Theme Park and Roller Coaster Tycoon… just with dinosaurs). You play as the one person to run Jurassic Park the right way – or the wrong way; it is left to the player to decide. Build the park, build the attractions, make the dinosaurs, watch the dinosaurs devour people, drive the car – everything from the first three movies is in this game… except the pterosaurs.

Watching these two fight was always very satisfying. Unlike the third movie, the fight can go either way.
Watching these two fight was always very satisfying. Unlike the third movie, the fight can go either way.

But that’s just it: first three movies. Now there’s four. $$$$ time.

Jurassic World introduced several new features that would be perfect additions to the game. The first is obvious:

New Rides/Attractions

Jurassic World showed what the first three movies never did: a successful park. Operation Genesis had to guess what that would look like. Sure they took the obvious, like the car tour, from the movies but really – that was it. The rest of the rides you could build were guesswork, with some working better than others. The balloon tour was neat and the viewing platforms made cool… but restaurants with dinosaurs on them and generic gift shops? Kinda lame.

An obvious addition.
An obvious addition.

Jurassic World brings new ideas such as more interactive attractions. A petting zoo and feeding exhibits come to mind. The SeaWorld inspired Mosasaurus would be a lot of fun. And for the love of all that is good, Jurassic Tennis. It has been mentioned in two films and I have no idea what it is. What makes it Jurassic? I want it in the game.

What are you?
What are you?

Genetic Modification

Was Indominus Rex dumb? Absolutely – but she was also fun. Jurassic World also teased the idea of other genetic hybrids, and the player should be able to make them all. Another issue raised in the fourth film was authenticity. As Dr. Wu mentioned, this is not what dinosaurs actually looked like. It would be an innovative option to be able to create more scientifically accurate dinosaurs while attempting to battle public reaction. It would create a lot of dynamic game experiences (such as mixing “real” dinosaurs with fake ones and watching how they interacted).

Dinosaur Handling

As Chris Pratt showed, even the mightiest beast can be tamed with the right handler. Bringing in handlers and introducing the idea that how a dinosaur is raised mattered would be another exciting way to add depth to the game. A good trainer would help yield more docile creatures and help keep the park fatality rate down. A bad trainer would, well, make things interesting.

Not who you want training your dinosaurs.
Not who you want training your dinosaurs.

MORE

In general, it has been twelve years since Operation Genesis was released. What was the PS2 and Xbox have transformed into the PS4 and Xbox One (and Nintendo still makes consoles too evidently). It should not be too hard to top what was done twelve years ago. Look at how easily Jurassic World topped Jurassic Park III. More dinosaurs, more interesting dinosaur behavior, more ways to build and destroy – it wouldn’t be too difficult. Heck, there’s so many dinosaurs, the DLC creates itself.

Have we gotten other games since then? Sure, things like Jurassic Park III: Park Builder and Jurassic Park: Builder exist, but players want something more in-depth. Surely this would be money better spent than Jurassic Park: the Game.

In short, please make this game. Heck, you can even just call it Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis if you’re worried that gamers won’t buy anything with a number after it (like Doom 4 clearly is). We’re running out of mods to play. Please people with money, make a game we want… so we will give you more money. Sound fair?

Or a new Trespasser… that might work too.