Friday the 13th Video Game Situation

The Troubled Times of Friday the 13th: The Game.

In Video Games by Robbie CraigLeave a Comment

Humble Beginnings:

Originally announced by developer IllFonic as Slasher Vol 1: Summer Camp in mid-2015 it wasn’t long before publisher Gun Media, following talks with Friday the 13th co-creator Sean S. Cunningham, announced the conversion of the project from the afore mentioned original property into an officially licensed Friday the 13th game. Horror fans rejoiced as this was the first time since 1989 that Friday the 13th would be making the move to the videogame realm but unlike the 1985 release from Domark for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and Spectrum ZX, which was a fun though highly dated take on the concepts set forth in the films or the 1989 Nintendo Entertainment System release from LJN and Atlus which deviated so far from the source material and went on to be considered one of the worst games of all time, promised to be an authentic recreation of the beloved franchise in the form of an asymmetrical multiplayer title where one player would take on the role of horror film heavyweight Jason Voorhees and hunt down seven other players tasked with taking their chosen counselor and surviving the night of terror.

Hitting Kickstarter in October of 2015 Friday the 13th would go on to be successfully funded as 12218 backers pledged a total of $82 3704 to the project, well over their initial goal of $70 0000. Officially released on the 26th of May 2017 the game would garner mixed reviews and go on to include items and modes originally slated as stretch goals that missed their monetary target during the successful Kickstarter campaign such as the inclusion of an offline mode vs. AI bots, a single player challenge mode and the return of film favourite Tommy Jarvis (voiced by Matthew Thom) who has stood face to face with Jason in three separate entries in the franchise.

Life of Controversy:

Since the release of the original film in 1980 the Friday the 13th franchise has been no stranger to controversy over the years, the strong depictions of violence, gore and strong adult themes got the attention of the movie going public and critics alike, one critic in particular took a very negative stance towards the films in Gene Siskel of Siskel & Ebert fame. Not content with just a scathing review of the film, that also spoiled the big reveal of the films third act, Siskel would also personally attack director Sean S. Cunningham calling him “one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest the movie business” and would even go as far to show his displeasure for actress Betsy Palmer’s role in the film that he would (incorrectly) publish her address, encouraging fans to write in and protest her participation in the film.

Much like the films Friday the 13th: The Game would see its own share of controversies that would often times divide the community or in some extreme cases drive the player base down. Starting off on rocky ground Friday the 13th was plague with a few technical issues such as the Database Login Failure, which prevented players getting into the game, and a glitch that erased a few players progression within the game, not to mention a number of exploits players discovered and took advantage of throughout the maps, though they were ultimately fixed in relative short order and all player progression was restored and exploits were patched out it definitely led to a great deal of frustration for the player base, but few things made the community as vocal as the infamous Savini Jason Skin.

Named for and designed by legendary special effects artist Tom Savini, the hellish demon spawn skin was optional reward for those that backed the game during its Kickstarter and Backerkit stages. Promised as an exclusive reward for backers the Savini skin became a huge source of division between the community as those that supported the game during its early development believed they should be rewarded for their faith in the project and that the skin should be an exclusive item just for them, while those that missed out would frequently get into verbal altercations with those that owned the skin, often calling them entitled cry-babies, and called for Gun Media to release the skin as a DLC item available to everyone. The fires of this debate reignited on the 27th of July 2017 when the skin was accidently released for sale on the Playstation store and shortly after for free on the Microsoft Store, neither was sanctioned by Gun Media and was removed from the respective stores as quickly as it appeared leaving PC players as the only ones not to get a second chance at obtaining the skin. Once again the more vocal of the community made their voice heard as those that missed out again lamented their missed chance and those that backed the game complained that their exclusive item was made available to the public, some even going as far to call for the skin to be taken away from those who just acquired it through Sony and Microsoft’s blunders. During this time many players, desperate to get their hands on the skin, turned towards Ebay and third party sellers to try their luck, some paying extravagant prices for the privilege of owning the elusive skin, it was during this time that a Reddit user made a discovery that was reported to and investigated by Gun Media leading to the revelation that a large number of codes for the Savini Skin had been stolen and were being sold for a huge profit by an unknown person or persons. Limited Run Games, a distribution partner for Gun Media, stepped forward and accepted the responsibility for the theft of the codes and issued the following statement.

“Up until last December, we often utilized many temporary contract workers to assist with the various busy work that shipping thousands of packages on an irregular schedule requires. It’s our best guess that one of these workers took it upon themselves to illicitly access the codes. This was not sanctioned by us nor Gun [Media] and neither of us knew it had happened until the community brought it to light.”

Player conduct also became an ongoing issue during this time as many people were turned off by the fact that they could be killed by their fellow counsellors and often times the Jason player would be teaming up with someone from the counsellor team to locate and kill everyone on the map, giving the already powerful Jason an even bigger advantage. The code of conduct was reviewed and altered to address the complaints from the already dwindling player base, bans were handed out to those who would actively work with the Jason player to game the system and team killing was taken out of public matches, while this arguably led to an improved gameplay experience it also contributed to a number of players claiming they had been unfairly banned from the game for allegedly breaching the new code of conduct. One of the more volatile situations to arise led to a lengthy back and forth between a developer and player on the Steam forums.

A player, whose name shall be withheld, claimed he was unfairly banned from the game following an in game altercation with a couple of underage gamers who boasted that they knew members of the development team threatened to have him banned permanently, following some posturing from both sides the player was indeed banned and took to the Steam forums to bring light to the situation. ThePraetorian, the voice of the developers on the forums, weighed in on the situation and claimed that the two underage players, who were both female, had submitted proof that the player in question was abusive towards them, even going as far to throw threats of a sexual nature at them, a major breach in the code of conduct set forth by Gun Media, the player in question denied the claim and called for evidence to be shown, though none was ever publicly shown ThePraetorian stood firm and the ban remained in place, the incident became a focal point on the forums for several weeks with both sides, and a number of other third party players, voicing their two cents on the situation before it faded away with little fanfare and no resolution reached publicly.

One issue that has lingered for a lengthy period is that of rage quitters and by connection the absence of dedicated servers, a large number of Jason players have expressed their displeasure at losing out on rewards and XP when a counsellor player they have captured quits mid kill animation, effectively robbing the Jason player of a kill in the process, a situation made worse when the quitter in question is the host player, causing the whole game to end prematurely. Gun Media has stated they intend to push forward with the inclusion of dedicated servers, this of course prevents games being ended by the host player abandoning the game should they be killed early but it is unclear at this stage if they plan to implement a fix to the quitting issue in general as even with dedicated servers Jason players have a chance of being robbed of rewards and such from rage quitters.

Victor Miller and the Beginning of the End:

A name familiar to hardcore fans of the Franchise is Victor Miller, the screenwriter of the original Friday the 13th Movie. Miller, originally paid around $9500 for the script to the 1980 horror hit which turned into a 12 movie franchise, birthed a handful of videogame adaptions and sold a plethora of merchandise, has been entangled in a long standing legal dispute since 2016 with director Sean S. Cunningham over his work in creating the enduring franchise. Cunningham contends that Miller’s script was written on a work-for-hire basis, effectively meaning Miller has no legal base in his attempt to reclaim his rights to the franchise, but that is not the case to one Larry Zerner, an actor turned entertainment lawyer.
Fans will remember Larry Zerner as Shelly, the endearing yet awkward goofball from the third film who is largely credited with inadvertently providing Jason with his icon hockey mask, a look which has become synonymous with the franchise. Zerner weighed on the situation, below are snippets from posts made on his official twitter account @LarryZerner

“The Copyright Act includes a provision that states that an author can terminate any transfer he or she has made after 35 years. Congress added this provision to allow creators (writers, songwriters, etc.) who sold their rights cheap to have a second chance.”

“But Victor was not entitled to any of that money. Victor did what the Copyright Act allows him to do, he sent a notice of termination to Sean [Cunningham], giving Sean two years notice of the termination (which would occur in June 2018). The way it usually works in these cases is that the producer and the terminating writer will then have the two year period to work out a deal on how the money will be split on future projects (the termination does not affect movies already completed).”
“But instead of making a deal, Sean sued Victor, claiming that the agreement that Victor signed in 1979 is not terminable.”

With the termination period over future development on the game hit a grinding halt and all content going forward will not see the light of day, this includes planned content such as new counsellors and clothing packs along with confirmed content like Uber Jason and the Grendal map from the Jason X film as well as Paranoia, a game mode that was announced in October of 2017. Many fans questioned the likely hood of development picking up again in the future once the lawsuit was sorted out, sadly on June 21st 2018 Gun Media issued the following statement effectively confirming the end of Friday the 13th’s development.

“Hey Campers,
Sorry for the silence as of recent. It’s been a tough couple weeks, as I’m sure you’re aware. But I wanted to address a few questions that I’ve had sent to me personally, as well as questions we’ve received through the official F13 channels. These questions vary but all have a similar tone/request. “Is there a chance of any content being added to the game if a ruling on the dispute occurs in the near future?” The answer is no.
Development on games can’t just pause indefinitely and pick back up again; it doesn’t work that way. Especially when you have no idea when that future date will occur. We can’t keep building content that may never see the light of day. That’s bad business. I’ve also had questions about adding “non-F13” related content to the game. “Can’t you make a new level or a new counselor that has nothing to do with the films?” We can’t do that either. We can’t add any content, whatsoever. Nada. Not even a new tree or rock. We can only focus on console dedicated servers, bug fixes, and maintenance.
I know this isn’t the news you wanted to hear and I wish the situation were different. But it’s the painful truth. I appreciate your passion and look forward to seeing everyone around camp.”

And with that comes a swift and unexpected end to a fun horror game that in the recent months had begun to find its feet, a game that delivered a multitude of free content updates to its depleted though still loyal fan base with more to come, and a game that sadly had so much more reachable potential to hit if it hadn’t been prematurely ended by outside litigation issues.