Friday The 13th: Seven Small Tweaks With Big Benefits
Friday the 13th has been out for little over a week now, and while we're enjoying the tense cat-and-mouse action, a host of technical and design issues sour the experience. While players would always love more game content and improved net code, those kind of major additions/changes could take weeks or even months to create and implement. Instead, I've compiled a "bang for your buck" list full of small and easy tweaks that would greatly improve the player experience.
#1: Make Jason The Host
Far and away, the biggest problem facing console players is Friday the 13th's lack of dedicated servers, coupled with the lack of host migration. As it stands, a player is chosen randomly to act as host, and if that player leaves during the match (say, after being unceremoniously murdered by Jason in the opening minutes), everyone else is abruptly kicked out to the title screen.
IllFonic has said that they are working on host-migration code to help alleviate this problem, but in the meantime I propose a temporary fix: Make Jason the host. Jason is the only character guaranteed to be alive and active for the entire match. He's also exponentially more fun to play as, so if you are lucky enough to be the chosen one, you likely won't give up the hunt until you're forced to – and that shouldn't be when the sore loser you just killed pulls the plug on the whole party. It's not a perfect solution (Jason may have a slight advantage over players with laggy connections), but at least you won't have to worry that every kill Jason scores might bring the fun to a crashing halt.
#2: Don't Penalize Players For Leaving
Even when Friday the 13th is working as intended, the game still suffers from pacing issues. A lot of that has to do with being forced to stick around until the end of the match after you've died or escaped. Sure, you can leave whenever you feel like it, but the game reserves its ample bonus XP for those who stick it out. That bonus often constitutes the bulk of your XP gain, making the wait more or less mandatory if you want to unlock new counselors, Jasons, and perks.
Simply put, there's no reason to try and force players to hang around. Once one lucky eliminated player has respawned as Tommy Jarvis, the other players who have died or escaped have absolutely nothing to contribute. While spectating can be fun during lively matches, watching a single counselor cower in a closet for 15 minutes is a total buzzkill. The more bored players are, the less likely they are to keep playing, which hurts the long-term viability for the multiplayer-only game.
As such, the game should award your bonus XP as soon as you are personally done playing, then cut you loose. Did you manage to escape? Great! Here's 500 XP – now go find another match! Did Jason cut your camping trip short? Our condolences; take this 250 XP and go try again with a different crew. Player elimination is an intriguing gameplay mechanism, but you need to give the losers (not to mention the winners who escape) the ability to quickly get playing again.
Should Lose When Time Runs Out
Hiding from Jason is an important feature of the game (and the films, for that matter), but it shouldn't be your primary tactic. Thanks to the current rules, however, it can be – as it stands, counselors will win if they wait out the 20-minute match limit. Since everyone has to wait until the end of the round to get their XP bonus anyway, the only thing preventing you from sitting underneath a random bed for an entire match is your own tolerance for boredom.
One easy fix for closet campers would be to flip the script – have Jason win at the 20-minute mark. Doing so would force counselors to seek out one of the escape methods, becoming more frantic and taking more risks as time ticks down. This would lead to more exciting showdowns, as opposed to players giving up and turtling for the final few minutes. Speaking of that time limit...
#4: Cut The Time
Limit To 15 Minutes
This suggestion may be moot if the above entries are implemented, but as it stands IllFonic could alleviate Friday the 13th's most boring slogs by shaving down the max time limit by five or so minutes. In my experience, when matches ran that long it's because one or more players have given up on trying to escape and are running out the clock in a hiding spot. For everyone else who has already escaped or died, there is absolutely no entertainment value in watching this uneventful scheme play out. A shorter time limit would make the cat-and-mouse scavenger hunt more tense for everyone else as well.
If IllFonic doesn't want to trim the match length, they could enhance Jason's sense ability in the final few minutes – give him a clear picture of where the cowardly campers are hiding on the map to facilitate a speedier ending. If you're that slow getting out of Crystal Lake, you deserve it.
#5: Let Players
Sometimes, spectating Friday the 13th matches is as entertaining as watching a real teen slasher flick. Other times it's more like watching paint dry. Regardless of the amount of action under way, spectating would be a lot more fun if you could see what Jason is up to as well. Currently, you can only flip between views of the surviving counselors and a few static cameras placed around the camp. Having a Jason cam would allow you to follow the action more easily and round out the spectating experience.
I'm guessing the reason this isn't allowed is because Illfonic doesn't want eliminated players giving other counselors clues as to Jason's whereabouts. If that's the case, make it so that switching to Jason's cam cuts your mic for the rest of the round. There may be other ways to exploit such a system, but in the game's current state Jason can still hear the other players in his party chatting anyway, so we shouldn't worry too much about elaborate cheating methods if it makes provides more lively spectating for the non-cheaters.
#6: Don't Let Escaped
Players Respawn As Tommy Jarvis
Let's be real: The ability to respawn a player as a shotgun-toting Tommy Jarvis is basically a pity prize. But as far as pity prizes go, it's a really smart one – the mechanism gives eliminated players something to look forward to (and a reason to stick around). It also gets one unlucky player back into the game quicker, which is better than nothing, right?
That's why the pool of Tommy Jarvis candidates should be restricted to those who died during the round – don't include those who successfully escaped already. On multiple occasions I managed to flee the doomed campgrounds, only to get thrown back into the action as Jason's archenemy. Not only is this a buzzkill after a successful win, it robs an eliminated player from a second chance. In short, save the consolation prize for the players who need it.
#7: Let Players
Choose Between A Flashlight Or Map
One small but consistent complaint I have with Friday the 13th is the fact that you start matches without a map of the campgrounds. Finding and coordinating the hunt for key items with your friends is challenging enough when you have the map – restricting players to only their mini-map just stymies communication until everyone memorizes the layout of the camps (or pulls it up on their phones).
Starting players with a map is an easy solution, but my colleague Jeff Cork proposed an intriguing alternative: Let players choose between starting with either the map or a flashlight. This compromise would also boost Jason's ability to cut the power on cabins, which currently doesn't have a huge impact when everyone can just flick on their own light with the press of a button. Players could still find the other missing item while scavenging in cabins, so it wouldn't be a permanent handicap during matches. Regardless, the ability to coordinate with your fellow counselors from the get-go shouldn't be relegated to a rare perk.