Tell us a little about Final Girl first. What is the game about? How does it play?
Final Girl is a solo-only game of survival horror where you step into the shoes of a tough-as-nails heroine and face off against a brutal killer. Just like in every classic slasher flick, you are the ‘final girl,’ the last one standing after everyone else has been killed (like Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Neve Campbell, etc.). The object of the game is terrifyingly simple: defeat the Killer or be killed by them. On your way to achieving that goal, you’ll need to gather weapons (like a fire axe or an old revolver), stockpile unique Action cards (like Retaliate and Distraction), and save unwitting victims who behave like idiots and keep running TOWARDS the knife-wielding maniac (stupid victims!). Ultimately, the game ends in a climactic finale that only one of you will walk away from.
Built on the foundation of our award-winning Hostage Negotiator game system, Final Girl creates an amazing experience each and every time. It’s like starring in your own Horror movie. You never know what’s around the next corner, but it’s always a thrill to see what it is.
So, with that idea of playing a Final Girl, what was part of the overall concept you absolutely had to have in the game?
The game’s concept originally had you playing as the killer and trying to wrack up the biggest body count possible! But as I sat with that idea for a while I realized it would only appeal to the most niche of niche audiences. And, frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to make that game. Take Letters from Whitechapel, for example. It’s a dark game, certainly, but not an overly morbid one. One player takes on the role of Jack the Ripper, attempting to murder his way across London, while the other players stand in for the detectives trying to catch him. It works because good exists (the detectives) to balance out the bad (Jack). Now imagine a SOLO game where you played Jack the Ripper. All of a sudden it becomes much, much darker and more disturbing. So we made the crucial decision to have players be the Final Girl instead of the killer. Even though the game has its dark moments, players get to be the hero of the story rather than the villain. Honestly, it was the most important decision we made and if we had gone the way we originally intended to, I don’t think the game would have ever reached the level of success that it ultimately did.
How many artists have you worked with on this project? Why the variety?
At this point I’ve worked with seven different artists on the game. Part of the reason is simply time. There was just too much to do for a single artist, so it made sense to split the workload up. But it also allowed us to play with different looks for each of the feature films. Our summer camp killer, Hans, didn’t need to look exactly the same as our creepy dream killer, Dr. Fright. This became especially valuable in Series 2, when we really branched out with the different themes. We have a feature film set at an isolated arctic outpost, and one on a desolate mining vessel sailing through the void of space. Using different artists means we can tweak the look and feel of each of those settings, resulting in a more diverse and interesting player experience.
What game has a favorite “look” and why?
I still have a soft spot for Hans, the first Killer we designed for the game as well as the first one we commissioned art for. He has that classic horror movie slasher look to him: an unsettling mask (a crude pig mask made out of iron), a signature weapon (an enormous sledgehamer), and that slow, plodding approach that was the hallmark of every great ‘80s horror icon (logically, Michael Myers could have killed so many more people if he would just RUN once in a while). We honed and perfected the look of Final Girl on that first box featuring Hans, and it was a joy to work with Tyler Johnson, our original artist, on it.
You have a definite vision when you are working on games, especially when the theme ties into the experience so intrinsically as this game does. Was there an unexpected moment with one of the artists, or designers that brought that vision even further?
I think the moment I knew we had something special on our hands was when we would playtest each other’s designs for the first time in the office. The designer would inevitably stand over the table, cackling with glee, as their killer proceeded to tear the playtester apart. I remember the first time I played A.J.’s (my co-designer of Final Girl and partner at VRG) design for the Poltergeist, his ghostly killer that haunts a creepy mansion. I had made it to one of the 2nd story windows in Creech Manor and was just about to escape, which would have ended in victory. There was a ladder leading down from the window to the ground outside. Of course, I drew a very specific card in which the ladder mysteriously broke, cutting off my escape and dooming me to death-by-phantasm. AJ laughed and laughed and laughed when that happened, and I admit I found it pretty humorous as well, even though I had lost horribly. I knew then that we had made a solo game that was just as much fun to lose as it was to win because of the wildly entertaining stories it could tell. Even after playing the game hundreds of times I STILL experience amazing story moments I’ve never seen before.
What can we expect in future Final Girl episodes? You may not be able to say anything yet, but if there is more coming (we hope) are there art styles left to explore?
Oh yes, we have plenty planned for Final Girl. We’re working on Series 3 even now, and some of the design ideas that have been pitched are unlike anything we’ve done so far. And, of course, I’m working on bringing in some of my favorite artists that are new to the world of Final Girl to see what wicked and gorgeous stuff they can come up with.
Evan Derrick is the Creative Director (also Vice President, but what does that even mean?) at Van Ryder Games and constitutes one-half of the Final Girl design team