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Matt Christianson – Games Category Lead for Prospero Hall/Funko Games – discusses designing a game to make pulses pound.
Hi Matt, thanks for making time. Funko Games has crafted a proper Halloween treat in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Slaughterhouse. What made this classic horror film ripe for a board game?
There is an old saying in the office about when an idea is ripe, it just falls off the bone… BBQ pun intended! This movie is just that, ripe. The setting and its characters are so iconic that making this love letter for new and old fans alike was an amazing opportunity. There were many fans of this movie in our studio, but there were some who’d only heard of it and were curious. To kick off the project, we hosted a movie night; it wasn’t your average team-building experience to say the least.
Ha! I imagine a harrowing night was had by all! So, how does the game play?
One player acts as the Sawyer Family, while the remaining players are trespassers trying to survive. As the trespassers slink around searching for items, they’ll accidentally make noise. The more noise they make, the more they give the Sawyers the upper hand! As the panic meter rises, more of the family is placed on the board, including good ol’ Grandpa with his hammer.
A fun feature we added was an evolving accessories deck. For example, if a participant didn’t survive the previous scenario, and their flashlight was left behind on their corpse, that same flashlight could be found in a pile of bones the next time the game is played.
Brilliant. Did you settle on that one-vs-many style early on, or were a few other ideas in contention?
We knew we wanted to create a one-vs-many game. Who doesn’t want to chase their family or friends with a chainsaw around an old farmhouse? It’s much more fun when it appears personal. However, in its early development, we tried a real-time version of the game instead of it being turn-based; it was utter chaos!
Were there any creative challenges involved in developing the game that you’re proud to have overcome?
Yes! With this being one of the most terrifying movies ever, we knew we had to make the gameplay just as frightening. Our challenge was to find a way to make the player’s pulses pound. Aaron Donogh – the lead game developer – did an amazing job capturing this feeling. There hasn’t been one time where I didn’t wipe a bead of nervous sweat from my forehead playing it.
Yes, bringing the tension and terror of the film to the tabletop sounds like a tough assignment. These are tricky emotions to provoke in a board game.
We knew we wanted the trespassers to feel slightly behind, and as the game went on, the stakes would rise and force the trespassers into desperate situations. This – coupled with disturbing illustrations and design – was our core approach. We also added the classic game design sensibility of player elimination with this particular game since it fits so well. There is a fun moment at the end of a game when maybe only one of the four trespassers escapes, and the question “Did we win?” is asked. We always answer: “There are no winners, only survivors.”
You mentioned the disturbing illustrations and the film has quite a down and dirty aesthetic… Can you talk us through some of the inspirations behind the art style in the game?
Down and dirty is what we were going for. The film has a very DIY, gritty feel that Tobe Hooper mastered. Josh Manderville – the game’s art director – and I wanted to incorporate this feeling in as many game components as possible. The box illustration had a slightly different approach in that its colour palette seems serene, with Sally’s eye acting like the warm Texas sun. When the box is opened, players enter the house and immediately greeted with a very aggressive design.
Sticking with horror, Funko Games also launched an award-winning Scream game this year. What makes horror an exciting sandbox for game designers to play in?
There are many horror movie fans in the office, and I’m not talking about casual fans either. Almost everyone who poured their heart into making this game – and Scream – did it because they are fans. As a creative, working on a game that you personally are passionate about inspires and forces the team to go the extra mile, adding all the touches you would want to experience as a fan.
Matt, a huge thanks again. And congrats on the launch of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Slaughterhouse.
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