The upcoming Friday the 13th: The Game has been highly anticipated throughout 2016 and the momentum continues to build with each new update. It has everything a Friday the 13th franchise fan could want- Kane Hodder back in the mask via motion capture, the blessing of series creator Sean S. Cunningham, exclusive kills by Tom Savini, music by Harry Manfredini and so much more. It was no surprise to see the companies behind the game, Gun Media and IllFonic, sitting next to Friday the 13th vets at this year’s Scarefest Horror Convention in Lexington, Kentucky.
During the convention, HorrorGeekLife had the opportunity to sit and talk with the Friday the 13th: The Game’s Co-Creator, Ronnie Hobbs. We discussed the unique challenges that come along with making a licensed franchise game and how the idea came about. To read even more about Gun Media and the Friday the 13th: The Game, also check out our interview with the game’s Executive Producer, Randy Greenback here.
HorrorGeekLife: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! As the Co-Creator for Friday the 13th: The Game, can you go into your role a bit and how everything came about?
Ronnie Hobbs: I wrote reviews for lots of different video game sites since I was 15, just to go to E3. Did that for a long time and finally met Wes here locally. We were both writing reviews for a local Fox affiliate site. One day we said “Hey, let’s go do something else, let’s try to make a game.” We were in the advertising world for a while, helping brands get into the games. Then we were consultants and worked on a lot of games, like Star Wars: The Old Republic and just had a lot of cool experiences. We decided to make a Rogue Spear inspired game, which was Breach & Clear. After Breach & Clear, we were like, “What do we do now?” and started thinking about a slasher game, particularly Friday the 13th and all of the other horror games we played as a kid. We decided to do it, and that’s how it all got started.
The thing about Gun Media is that we only have roughly 5-10 people, so we all have to do everything very well. One day it may be marketing screenshots, or trying to play the build to see if everything works related to game design. Also keeping up with all of the tasks that IllFonic is doing and making sure we’re on schedule still. One day just might be social media. When you’re a small company, you have to do everything.
HorrorGeekLife: It’s so hard to believe that Gun Media is so small! Going back to your role for a minute, I heard that you are the one that ensures that the Jason masks are extremely accurate. That may sound minor, but it really isn’t. Each mask from film to film varies and hardcore fans will call you out immediately for getting any of it wrong. How did that become your thing within Friday the 13th: The Game? Were you already interested in the masks as a fan?
Ronnie Hobbs: As a kid, I really was hiding under the covers watching Friday the 13th films. Even before that, I was watching giallo films like Bava and Argento and I was infatuated with how they were crime dramas but they had these slasher kills. It was the most bizarre thing I ever saw as a kid. I would go to the local movie store that was in a basement and there was this older guy that we would rent games from. But he would slip us a giallo horror film. He could probably be sued for doing this today, but he would hand us the most bizarre movies and we’d go home and watch them. When Friday the 13th came out, and that whole slasher genre, I started watching them and I was so enthralled with it. I played hockey, so once Jason found his mask and it was a hockey mask, I was like, “Holy crap!” He’s so iconic because of this object that everyone knows and I think it’s helped him have longevity.
Friday the 13th is like a rabbit hole. You can go in as a casual fan or you can go in full speed. That’s when you start learning about the masks, different color palettes and how the hole placement changes, along with his eye hole size and angle of the mask. Little tiny marks that you don’t see on the film because the light washes it out. We have some screen used masks and they’re not what you think they’d look like. I always had interest in all of the Jason characters and designs, trying to get my hands on props and things like that.
One of my official roles is designing Jason, finding the real costumes that he wore and finding out who has them. Like Mario Kirner, who runs the Friday the 13th Props Museum, has them and we work with him. He sends us awesome high-res shots of the outfits. Then we have to figure out how the artist is going to correctly portray the muscle mass of Jason. Kane Hodder’s body is very different than Richard Brooker’s body, which is very different than CJ Graham’s body. Part 6 looks drastically different than Part 7. Because we had Kane’s body, we couldn’t go down, so that’s why Sackhead is the way he is. Steve Dash is smaller, but we couldn’t do that. So there’s a lot of game things that held us back. Tracking down the masks and outfits is nearly impossible after 20 something years. But, we said that if we’re going to do it, we need to do it right. We can’t have multiple Jason models in our game unless you’re gonna model them correctly. We got as close as we could because at the end of the day, it is still an artist who may or may not be a Friday the 13th fan creating them. So, you go back and forth with them because to them, it may just look like a hockey mask. Even the shape of a dime store hockey mask- that’s not what it was. They vacuum-formed these on molds and made them bigger to fit Jason’s head. You can’t just buy a standard hockey mask, it isn’t the same design, but that’s usually what you get back from an artist. And then you have the under mask, which is a whole other ballgame because those photos don’t exist.
Like, we couldn’t find Part 6. We couldn’t find any shots in clear light, and they had to use two actors on Part 6. Dan Bradley, at the beginning of the film, got fired because he wasn’t intimidating enough. He was replaced by CJ Graham, who was much more menacing, but the body type changes. The only clear shots we had were of Jason in the woods, but it isn’t right because it isn’t CJ Graham’s body. All of the CJ stuff is in the dark and there are no set photos.
HorrorGeekLife: So, what did you do for Part 6, to ensure that he was accurate?
Ronnie Hobbs: We had to track down his real clothes and the real mask. Luckily, Mario had a real Part 6 mask from half-way through, when it has a bullet hole in it. We had the real mask. But, it takes a long time to put that stuff together.
HorrorGeekLife: What I love about Gun Media, and I think others will agree, is that you’re taking all of us through these steps with you. Other game companies haven’t quite done that before.
Ronnie Hobbs: Don’t you think that’s helpful, though? Most game companies don’t do that. They hide everything. We probably shouldn’t have shown our Pre-Alpha footage a long time ago, when it was just a very dark area and the girl is running from Jason. But, we wanted to do it for our Kickstarter backers. We knew that 90% of the public wouldn’t know what Pre-Alpha is, and people threw it under the bus. But that’s okay because the fans will appreciate us being where we were at. Of course, you look at where we are now and you can tell the difference.
HorrorGeekLife: I can definitely see a huge difference between then and now. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced for Friday the 13th: The Game so far?
Ronnie Hobbs: Time and money. And, I don’t know if it’s a generational thing but instant gratification and wanting everything free. And it better be the best thing ever. People expect your game to be Call of Duty or Mass Effect, even though you have ten percent of their budget. People don’t really know game design, and that’s okay because it’s complex and not something you just know. But if you have $5 million and Final Fantasy has $100 million, they want the same type of visuals and they want everything, but it can’t be done. We think we’re getting close and I hope it comes across that we’ve improved.
But that’s really our biggest challenge. People want it now and they want single player and all of these things, but those things take time and money to make. Especially being a smaller team. If we had 200 people, we could do it in 6 months, but we don’t.
HorrorGeekLife: Speaking of the larger titles verses Friday the 13th: The Game, and as you mentioned in the panel, people probably think you have 100 people working on this game. You clearly don’t, and that’s pretty inspirational to indie game companies, I’d have to imagine. Any tips to other indie companies out there who look up to companies like Gun Media?
Ronnie Hobbs: I would say to make whatever you want to make. Don’t make anything unless you really want to because that’s what got us here. We’re putting everything into the Friday the 13th game and if we go down in flames, at least we tried. If there’s something you’re really into, you may as well do it because you may not get a second chance. In game dev, you can go work for companies like EA and you can work 80 hours a week for somebody else, or you can do it for yourself.
HorrorGeekLife: That is very true! What has this done for you, in a personal sense? Other than probably losing a lot of sleep, how has it all changed from when you first joined Gun to where you are right now?
Ronnie Hobbs: There were two games I wanted to make when I started working in gaming. I wanted to make Final Fantasy and I wanted to make a Friday the 13th game. There was a famous game personality that I interviewed once and I asked him what he thought about a Friday the 13th game, because he was making a horror game at the time. He said it can never be made, that you can’t make a true Friday the 13th game. But I thought bullshit, wait and see. I know it can be made. But he said that the model isn’t there and no one would want to play single player and walk around as Jason killing people. That was the attitude over the last twenty years. So, we got to the point where it’s a multiplayer experience, which is better because it’s more dynamic. But for me, personally, it’s great that people like your ideas. That they accept what you’re doing. Every time people say that we’re doing a great job or come up to your table shows that they care about what you’re doing. Not that you need that all the time, but when you’re not sleeping and super stressed out that you’ll let people down, that feedback is good for everybody.
HorrorGeekLife: It is very obvious on social media that Gun Media, and of course IllFonic, is so beloved. I have to ask, what is your favorite kill from the game and do we have a lot more to see?
Ronnie Hobbs: Marshmallow stick down the throat. When he’s down on the ground and can’t pull it out. He’s struggling, he knows he’s dying but it’s that last chance to get his life back. And yeah, more kills beyond the thirteen to see. Jason has multiple things he can do. He can just chop you up with his weapon and he doesn’t have to grab you. But if he does grab you, he has bare handed kills or head smash or the eye gouge. He can also carry you to an area and that’s like the door slam, the fireplace, the marshmallow stick. Those are lit up on the map, it’s just whether or not you want to carry them that far because they have a chance to break free. As Jason, you have to know who you’re holding. If you’re holding the nerdy guy, you know you have more time and can maybe carry him.
HorrorGeekLife: It’s great to hear that you’re putting that much consideration into the gameplay. Do you have a favorite counselor?
Ronnie Hobbs: The Girl Next Door because I love all of the final girls. We couldn’t call her “Final Girl,” because what if they die ten seconds into the match? But I love those characters, Amy Steel is my number one girl, also love Chris Higgins from Part 3. I love the whole psychology behind that, how it’s the female that defeats him- with the exception of Tommy Jarvis.
HorrorGeekLife: Not that you can go wrong, but fantastic choice. Lastly, what is your favorite Friday the 13th film?
Ronnie Hobbs: Part 3, despite all of the 3D mess. Most people don’t give that movie the credit it deserves. The creepiest scenes from the entire franchise are from that movie. When she hangs him in the barn and she has to open the door and he’s hanging there, that is incredibly terrifying. Or when she’s daydreaming and he looks through the hole with no mask on. That’s something the movies lost as the franchise went on. He was still human and he was a bumbling fool, but he could still snap your neck. Don’t tell Kane, but Brooker is my favorite Jason because he is so human and unpredictable. Kane and CJ were killing machines. You knew what you were getting. They were this force that could be anywhere at any moment. And in Part 3, he was so intimidating but you could trick him just long enough to escape for a moment. Plus, that’s the first time he gets the hockey mask so you always remember that one.
HorrorGeekLife: Part 3 is actually my favorite as well! Brooker is definitely underrated as Jason. Ronnie, thank you again for taking the time to speak with us. It has been great getting to know Gun Media and, of course, we can’t wait for Friday the 13th: The Game!!
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