Roope Tamminen’s slasher-horror-comedy game Lakeview Cabin blew up to his and everyone else’s surprise when it was released in 2013. It was reviewed by websites and played thoroughly by YouTubers. You can see why once you’ve seen it in action.
Lakeview Cabin is essentially a ‘70s slasher movie turned into a videogame. It has all the schlocky violence and teenage sex jokes. It starts off innocent enough as you mess around on an island on a lake. There are tools to mess around with, secrets to find, and clothes to be taken off. But then, as night descends, a horrible nightmare rises from the lake and gives chase.
Tamminen is currently working on an episodic sequel to his most popular game that he plans to release shortly. It’s called Lakeview Cabin Collection and expands on the original idea in multiple ways. Siliconera talked to Tamminen to find out what these were, and also find out what he thought of the game’s popularity, how he comes up with the gags, and if he’s ever thought he took the violence and nudity too far.
How did you first come up with the idea of Lakeview Cabin? What did you take inspiration from?
Roope Tamminen, developer: I played a lot of Chip’N’Dale Rescue Rangers for the 8-bit Nintendo as a kid. I remember loving the picking and throwing mechanic in it and, about 20(ish) years later, I made a small prototype with those same mechanics. Then I started to work on the story for that dumb little prototype…
My wife and I had our son a year prior to all this so the fears of fatherhood and the stress of a newborn baby were still fresh on my mind. So I kinda just asked the mother of my son if she would be okay with me making it into a horror game where a pregnant woman emerges from the lake to kill you and you’d also have to fight the unborn fetus. She was surprisingly okay with that and I managed to pour a lot of stress into that little game.
I never thought it would get popular. I always tend to aim low and expect the worst outcome possible so I’m rarely disappointed. But then the reviews started to come in and people seemed to actually like it.
Pewdiepie played it (probably after reading those reviews) and it just exploded. There’s still gameplay videos coming out almost every day. And I think that’s the charm of it. Everyone kinda has their own experience with it. It’s just an island with stuff to do and you’re free to examine anything you want at your own pace. And then you most likely die horribly. So it’s also fun to fail in it. And it’s even more fun to watch someone else fail in it.
What made you decide to take the idea further? Was it the popularity or did you always have more ideas you wanted to explore?
I always had a lot of ideas how to use the basic mechanic. I also had a lot of ideas how to continue the story. But the main reason is that I enjoy working on it. It’s like a playground for me. It has evolved into a place that’s basically just an elaborate death trap/boss battle that I keep adding stuff to. I enjoy watching people go in and get slaughtered and then tinkering with it some more. And then to see someone actually beating the odds and winning it. It’s great to see genuine relief and accomplishment on someone’s face when they get to the end credits. It’s just a dream job for me.
It seems that with Lakeview Cabin Collection you explore a number of different settings. What are they and how do they change the core idea?
The first one is basically just a bigger version of the original game. It’s set on a different island on the same lake. This time you control four characters who are there as the new counsellors for a camp that’s opening in a week. You’ll really have to explore the island and try to find a strategy that helps you defeat the evil that lurks beneath the surface. You’ll probably die a lot and hopefully learn more while you play. You basically start as the sex-crazed goofball who drinks and uses drugs. You know, the one that always die first in the movies. Then as you play again and learn more about the game you slowly graduate into the conservative virgin character of horror movies who uses wits and cunning to defeat the evil. It’s a whole slasher-movie turned into a game.
The next episode turns the whole rhythm of the game upside down. Your car has ran out of gas and you have to check out a nearby mansion for help. Of course the mansion rests next to a familiar lake and is filled with a not so friendly cannibal family. So you have to think on your feet, making it into more of an action-oriented experience. There’s also a big gameplay element that will hopefully take players by surprise. Then there’s an episode set in the suburbs. It’s going to take a bit more supernatural approach to torment the players, so that should be fun. You won’t know what’s real and what isn’t.
And then there’s the big finale set in space (trust me, there’s a good reason it goes all the way there). I don’t want to talk about that too much but I’ll just say that you won’t know where the danger lurks this time. I also had an episode set in New York City but the lack of inspiration and ideas for it turned it into more of an hub for the other episodes, available from the start. I just have to advise all the players to not go into the sewer. There’s absolutely nothing there.
How would you describe the comedy in Lakeview Cabin? How do you come up with the gags and do you test them out on anyone?
I don’t necessarily try to make it funny on purpose. There’s all these little things that might happen in a regular playthrough. You get hurt and start to bleed. You remove your clothes so you don’t get caught on fire so easily. Maybe you got drunk so falling from heights wont hurt so much but you drank too much and started to feel sick. And suddenly you realize that the ground is filled with puddles of your own blood while you’re slipping naked on your own vomit. And then you see a fellow camper is nailed to a wall to from an upside-down crucifix. So it just naturally escalates into this horrifying scenario that, despite how macabre it might be, is just kinda funny.
Has anyone ever had a problem with the game either due to its violence or nudity?
I did get a few angry death threats but those seemed more on the joke side since the game is pretty hard (or I hope so). But yeah, surprisingly few people have said that they were offended by it. I try to upfront about the content in my games so people who are easily offended or just not interested in these kind of “B-games” can steer away from it. It’s also funny to note that the few angry comments about the game were all related to the nudity. So it’s okay to make entrails fly when you get hit with an axe, but a little nudity is just too horrible. Even if the nudity and sex is completely optional.
I was with the original game. Not so much now, mainly because I learned that players are actually willing to throw a baby into an oven without blinking an eye. So I just put everything in that I want and then get my helmet ready for the release. And the way I see it is that this game is very much like the slasher movies of ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s just cheap and dirty fun. It’s full of scares and thrills that will make your game library just a little bit more diverse. It shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Is it right that you changed the art style? How come? And what does it look like now?
Yes. I originally made the game to have a more of a cartoony look. I thought it would be good for me to evolve as an artist and developer but I came to the conclusion (after a year of working on that trainwreck) that I wasn’t happy with it. It wasn’t the game that I wanted to make. It was harder to get the gritty feel I wanted and adding stuff became a chore. For the last month or so I didn’t work on it at all. I became angry just thinking about it since I really wanted to make this game but it became clear that it wasn’t happening that way. So after that month, my wife told me that she was sick of it and
I should just stop trying to make games if it makes me so miserable. That gave me the kick I needed to swallow my pride and admit that the game sucks and I need to start from scratch.
And now, 6 months later, I’m so glad she said that. The gameplay is a lot tighter now and the art style is a lot more manageable for a solo developer like me. It looks more like the original game and the fans of that one are a lot more happier. I guess you have to fail at least once to learn how to do something right.
Finally, how frequently will you be releasing the episodes and how will the payment model work?
Well the next episode is well under way, I’m hoping to release it during summer. I’m using the player feedback to improve the experience so I don’t want to work too much on the later episodes yet. The basics for them are done but tweaking and testing will take a good chunk of time. They’re basically games on their own right though.
So, think of it like this: You pay me $9.99 to help me feed my kid and get to play an original horror game. You enjoy it and then you move on to other games. After some time, I release a new game to the series and you can have another fun weekend by just updating the game you bought back then. I don’t want to be the guy who just keeps charging people for games made with the same engine.
I was originally going to start the price low and keep upping it when new episodes come out, but apparently that would have been a hassle with the stores. So $9.99 and that’s where it stays. Roughly the price of a movie ticket.