Asymmetrical multiplayer horror games have really taken off over the course of the last decade or so with the emergence of games like Friday the 13th and Dead by Daylight, and another contender has now emerged in the form of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Gun Interactive obviously has experience with the genre, and with its latest outing, the company is promising a unique take on the asymmetrical horror experience. Recently, we reached out to the folks behind the game to learn more about its key gameplay pillars, post-launch plans, cross-play compatibility, and more. Below, you can read our interview with Gun Interactive’s CEO and president Wes Keltner and executive producer Ismael Vicens.
“At Gun, we never make the same game twice. I think between Friday the 13th and Dead by Daylight, we’ve shaped modern asymmetrical horror. Now it’s time to redefine it and innovate towards something new. And The Texas Chain Saw Massacre does that.”
As an asymmetrical multiplayer horror game, I suppose comparisons to Dead by Daylight are going to be unavoidable. What are the biggest ways you’re looking to set your game apart from others in the genre though?
Wes Keltner (CEO and President of Gun Interactive): I think they are unavoidable until you spend a few seconds playing/watching gameplay. Players will quickly see it’s very, very different. The only similarities are that it’s horror and asymmetrical, that’s it. We set it apart because we rethought what asymmetrical horror could be. We pushed the genre forward instead of a lateral move. At Gun, we never make the same game twice. I think between Friday the 13th and Dead by Daylight, we’ve shaped modern asymmetrical horror. Now it’s time to redefine it and innovate towards something new. And The Texas Chain Saw Massacre does that.
As a 4v3 experience where three killers will be working together to hunt down their victims instead of just one main threat, how have you approached balancing characters and ensuring that every match remains a fair experience, and one side doesn’t feel too overpowered?
Keltner: We approached each family member with this idea of the family working together as a unit. One might be better used defensively, while another is more a brute. One hits hard, while another should be focusing on setting traps. There’s strategy in using the team. When you approach the design with that idea, it becomes about balancing the family against what they can do when working together. It’s a slightly different approach to balancing an individual character and then trying to figure out how to make them fit into the world via balance. Once we concentrated on that idea, the design started coming together more cohesively. Which in turn helped to balance the victims on the other side and it even affected level design.
What was behind the reasoning to not include cross-play in the game’s last-gen console versions? Is it something you might look into adding at some point down the road?
Keltner: To be completely transparent, we started working on crossplay before we made the decision to support the older generation of consoles. It would have pushed our launch date out a lot to pull that off. Could it be something we do later? Maybe. But I’m not making any promises. We have a lot of things on our internal wishlist, but the success of the game will dictate what we get to do.
Given its very nature, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is obviously a game that’s going to function as an ongoing experience that players will ideally be sticking with over a long period of time. With that in mind, what sort of post-launch plans do you have in mind for the game? Can players expect a steady stream of new content following release?
Keltner: Right now, we’re focusing on a solid launch. We had a great PC technical test a couple months back and learned a lot from that. More than anything about ingesting to servers, matchmake, etc. That is our primary focus and has been for a while now. Discussing future plans feels a bit premature at this point. Do we want to add new stuff? Absolutely! But we also need a strong and stable launch, and if players are loving it, we will tackle new content.
“We started working on crossplay before we made the decision to support the older generation of consoles. It would have pushed our launch date out a lot to pull that off. Could it be something we do later? Maybe.”
What was the experience like of getting the original actors for many of your characters to reprise their roles for the game?
Keltner: It was fairly painless to be honest. They all have a soft spot for that 1974 film. Once they saw the care and love we also have for it and the white glove approach to bringing it to life in a game, they were in. Also everyone we’ve met so far that was affiliated with the film, be it in front or behind the camera, has been lovely. Just all-around good humans.
In addition to featuring several well-known characters, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is also introducing some that have been created specifically for the game. What was that process like? How did you approach these characters, not only in terms of how they will play, but also in terms of how they’ll fit into this universe?
Keltner: Kim Henkel wrote the original film. He stood beside Tobe Hooper just about every scene that was filmed. Kim is also the rights holder of the 1974 film, which is what we have rights to. He’s been so, so good to us. Warm and welcoming with every question and inquiry about how this or that was filmed. What cameras they used. What film stock, etc. He has a sharp memory and helped guide us along the way. This also included creating new characters. Kim sat with our creative director, Ronnie Hobbs, and created Sissy and Johnny, the two new family members. That process was surreal to say the least. Here’s the thing… Kim already had Sissy created. Her name and bio were written decades ago. He dug it up from this binder and started brainstorming with Ronnie. That’s pretty damn cool if you ask me.
It was recently confirmed that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre won’t have bots available for those who want to play online. Is this something that might get added in following launch?
Keltner: At this time or the foreseeable future we will not be adding offline bots. The true Texas Chain Saw experience comes from humans playing humans. We created the sandbox. We give you the tools to create your own Texas film. That’s not achievable with bots. It doesn’t match the vision we have for this title.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is going to be available on Game Pass at launch. Can you talk to us about what motivated that decision? As a multiplayer game, was the prospect of having access to Game Pass’ entire subscriber base on day one just too good of an opportunity to turn down?
Keltner: You hit it right on the head. To have that many potential players, filling up the servers to keep matches quick and the turnover to a new match snappy, is paramount. No one wants to sit in an empty server waiting for it to fill up. Partnering with Microsoft and allowing the game to be available to the millions on Game Pass was a no brainer decision for us.
“At this time or the foreseeable future we will not be adding offline bots. The true Texas Chain Saw experience comes from humans playing humans. We created the sandbox. We give you the tools to create your own Texas film. That’s not achievable with bots. It doesn’t match the vision we have for this title.”
Do you have any plans to eventually also bring the game to the Switch?
Keltner: At this time, no. It’s more likely to get it running on a Steam Deck. But again, no promises.
Given that you have now worked on all the current gen consoles, I hope you don’t mind answering some questions about their hardware. Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series’ specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS. How much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
Ismael Vicens (Executive Producer): Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X were a pleasure to work on. To be honest, the available performance from both platforms let us design and develop a title that performs exceedingly well on the high-end machines, while presenting amazing image quality that absolutely reflects the visual goals we set for the game. We love that this generation of consoles has targeted 60fps for games, and we love that fluidity when playing.
The PS5 features an incredibly fast SSD with 5.5GB/s raw bandwidth. How can developers take advantage of this, and how does this compare to the Xbox Series X’s 2.4GB/s raw bandwidth?
Vicens: Since we’re a multiplayer title, most of our load time constraints occur in moving a lobby full of people into a match, and worrying about their bandwidth and internet connection. The superb I/O speed of both consoles means that users are going to see a clean image while playing without texture pop in. Our load screens are often used primarily to shuffle people around and make sure they’re synced up before we pop back into gameplay.
Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X boast Zen 2 CPUs, but there is a difference in the processors of both consoles. The Xbox Series X features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz, whereas the PS5 features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz. Your thoughts on this difference?
Vicens: Any multiplayer title has a good chance to find itself CPU bound, but the combination of fast speeds and the maturity of Unreal Engine 4’s optimizations meant that we were able to squeeze every bit of performance out of the game across both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
“To have that many potential players, filling up the servers to keep matches quick and the turnover to a new match snappy, is paramount. No one wants to sit in an empty server waiting for it to fill up. Partnering with Microsoft and allowing the game to be available to the millions on Game Pass was a no brainer decision for us.”
The Xbox Series S features lesser hardware compared to Xbox Series and Microsoft is pushing it as a 1440p/60 FPS console. Do you think it will be able to hold up for the more graphically intensive games as this generation progresses?
Vicens: A few of us at Gun love our Xbox Series S consoles. They’re a great entry point into this generation of gaming, and the hardware is very capable. So many games – including ours – target a wide range of hardware for games due to the flexible nature of gaming PCs, and the Series S still has a comfortable performance envelope that will let developers make sure they are bringing their titles to as many gamers as they can.
What are your thoughts on the Steam Deck? Do you have plans for any specific optimizations for the device?
Keltner: Personally, I love it. We got our hands on one about a year or so ago and I was blown away with what it could do. As mentioned previously, it’s more likely we could get the game to run on that vs a Switch. But honestly, we have not spent any development time on the Steam Deck. So, I’m not making any promises or predictions on that.