As part of our August Spotlight on Who Goes There?, we strive to inform readers of little extra tidbits surrounding the game. Games are made by people, and one of those tidbits we enjoy is learning a little bit more about the people behind them. Some designers shy away from the public stage, while others enjoy being front and center.
When it comes to designers Anthony Coffey and Jesse Labbe, getting them to share information was a bit of a dichotomy. See, they have spent a lot of time and effort – too many waking hours to count really – to ensure that Who Goes There? was properly developed and the best iteration of it can be. So obviously they want to talk about that process. But this led to many, many days cooped up with the Certifiable team trying to get things just right, while also ensuring that things didn’t leak out before they were ready. All of that isolation, all of that…concern…has made them a little more cautious about the outside world. Paranoid, even, you might say.
As a result, upon completion of this semi co-op game about trying to survive in an Antarctic base while an alien systematically tries to replace people one by one, Jesse dove right into their next project. We’re not saying he has eschewed the outside world exactly, but no one has actually seen him in six days and the studio workshop is locked from the inside. We did send our intern Claudius out to inquire directly, but most of what he got was inaudible through the thick walls and that area has one heck of a deadbolt.
Just saying, it was quality craftsmanship.
Luckily we were able to separately track down Anthony Coffey for a brief chat. It was clear that he was very interested in sharing information about the development about the game, but it was also clear that months of deep immersion into a game about escalating fear over who to trust had taken its toll. While he very much wanted to share, it did take a little time and convincing on our parts to coax him back to normal social interactions – which is why this particular interview was so long in coming. Once it was demonstrated everything was safe though, Anthony was able to relax and provided some creative insights with us about how this richly thematic game came about. Today we’re here to share part of what we learned.
Round One Questions
CR: What was your Gateway Game?
I guess I would have to say Krosmaster: Arena would be mine. I remember playing that game with Jesse and that being the first experience I had with a minis game.
CR: What was the last game you really enjoyed playing (besides Who Goes There)?
Recently, we have been playing Dice Forge, Villainous, and Clank.
CR: How big is your game collection?
We have 3 or 4 large bookshelves full of games. I don’t think we have ever tried to count them!
CR: What is your favorite type of game to play?
Typically, I enjoy more strategic games. I enjoy the ones that really make you think.
CR: How do you feel about Monopoly?
Honestly, I was never a fan of Monopoly. For that reason, I didn’t play it much when I was growing up.
On Who Goes There?
CR: Your game is based heavily upon the original short story bearing the same name. Was the intent always to base a game around that story, or did the game design come first?
The concept for the game came first. We didn’t think it would be possible to get the license to the short story, but when it happened it just fit so nicely with the concept.
CR: Who Goes There? joins the growing family of semi co-op games where you may not even realize until it’s too late someone has been working against you. What is it about that style that appeals most to you?
I enjoy the part of the game that keeps you on your toes. There have been plenty of times I have been infected as the doctor and had to figure out how to use my blood test (since everyone already knew I had it in my hand) without giving away the fact that I’m infected.
CR: The game largely plays as a co-op survival game (especially since as everyone starts off human), but during the evacuation scene, it tonally shifts into something closer to social deduction. Was that change for the final showdown deliberate from the start or did that evolve over the course of development?
It was a little of both, I think. We definitely wanted some social aspect to be involved and as we developed the game we found they just naturally fit in the final phase of the game too well to pass up.
CR: Most people know the story thanks to John Carpenter’s 1982 movie, The Thing. Did you deliberately borrow elements from the movie when developing the gameplay, or was there a concentrated effort to avoid watching it instead?
We have always been fans of the movie – it’s a classic. But most of our inspiration was from the descriptions in the short story itself. The movie just follows the short story so closely that at times it can feel like we were making it based off the movie.
CR: The game’s seemingly most innovative attribute is an item crafting system where you can keep upgrading your equipment with the right resources. How did that come about?
That part…just kind of evolved out of necessity. We knew we wanted players to trade, especially, so there would be threat of getting infected. So we needed a reason for players to search and gather resources.
CR: Which item do you personally always like to go about creating, assuming resources allow for it?
I always like going for a Mechanic Coat and a Barricade. The coat is nice because it will allow players to search for only 1 Action instead of 2 Actions. The barricade is a great item to help players build XP, and it also gives players hope if they have to bunk alone. Of course, I don’t always get to build these items. This game makes you think on your feet, and sometimes you have to roll with the punches.
We were all very surprised by all the support we received. We tried not to think about it too much though until the campaign was finished and we had more time to let it sink in. It was a wild ride, but we didn’t have much time to celebrate since there was still a lot of work to do getting the game ready for production.
CR: Finally, let’s say you were trapped on that Antarctic station trying to survive a shapeshifting monster. How do you personally feel you’d fare at fending it off? Asking for our friend ALF…
I think we could hold our own! We always plan out how we would survive in horror movies here, but there would be plenty of paranoia.
Who Goes There is a surprisingly faithful adapatation of the original story, whereby a group of isolated members of an Antarctic expedition accidentally revive a shapeshifting alien who promptly goes around consuming and replacing crew members one by one, reaching a crescendo of fear and paranoia over who is still human and who is the alien at the climax of the story. This game stays true to that intention. Initially a purely co-op survival game, it is entirely possible – though not guaranteed! – that by the end of the game one or more people are no longer on Team Human. As the concern and distrust builds, players must decide for themselves at the game’s conclusion who gets on the escape helicopter and who they leave behind. The wrong choice could doom the human players…or even the world. So, you know, no pressure.
That sort of thematic intrigue isn’t something we have the means of recreating here. As it happens, we were having a phone conversation with a friend over at the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, and they happily provided some samples for simulation purposes. How fortunate, right? They say it will definitely amplify the realism of the experience. Which we figured, great! So we’ve decided to put a couple of these care packages in with a copy of the game and send it along to one lucky contest winner. We did scratch ourselves in the process of packaging it all up though, and we have to ask:
Photo Credits: Dwarven Smithy cover and photos by Flatworks Gaming.