I started playing the Five Nights at Freddy’s games when my son, Kyle, told me I had to play it. He was a teenager at the time and had been playing for a while. I saw how excited he was with the lore and the amount of YouTube videos there were, all with different theories about the game, so I gave it a try. And loved it. The lore is so deep and the fans can have a conversation with the creator through their fan art and videos. Scott Cawthon would put secrets in the game and fans would find them and share their theories. It was a wonderful back and forth I had never seen before.
So when my friend, Jason Topolski, contacted me and asked if I wanted to do some contract design work with him and Steel Wool Studios, I jumped at the chance to be part of that conversation. A few months later, I became the Design Director and VO Director.
The thrill of a slow burn.
I prefer slow burn horror instead of shock and gore because it gives you the same feeling as a rollercoaster. In a show like the Haunting of Hill House, you brace yourself for the dip you know is coming. It’s a way to have all the excitement and heart racing tension, without the actual danger.
Designers are fans who are paid to play.
When you are a designer on an existing franchise, you need to be a fan. I liked Star Trek before I worked on the game Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, but I became a Trekkie once I joined the team. I’d watch episodes of the original series over and over again until I felt I had Gene Roddenbery’s voice. I did the same thing for Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two until I could think like Walt Disney.
You haven’t succeeded at design until the player is so immersed in the moment that they don’t realize you aren’t the original creator.
So, when I started working on Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach, I immersed myself in all things FNAF. I had already played the first four when my son had suggested it, but that was years ago. So now I played FNAF Help Wanted VR which had the previous games. I’d replay levels until I understood the essential core of what made the games so much fun.
I dived into the YouTube videos. I love getting a fan perspective on how much they enjoy the game. It gives me more context on what part of the game is working and what part of the games aren’t.
My favorite places to explore.
My favorite part of the game is a toss-up between Endo Warehouse and Daycare. In the Endo Warehouse, the Endos are frozen until you look away, so you have to balance looking at each of them to prevent them from coming after you. At one point, there are a bunch of them staying still until you look away. It’s intense.
The Daycare Attendant was amazing to work with. He’s this kind of creepy sort of happy until the lights go out and then he shows his true colors. You have to keep your flashlight charged so you can hide from him while you reset the generators. Again, it was a unique experience than what you’re used to. I still get jumped when I crawl through the play structures.
Creating the character Little Music Man.
My favorite character, however, is the little Music Man in the vents. When I joined Security Breach, I took one look at the vents and knew they needed something. Looking back through the games, I came across the Music Man from Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator, and I knew a tiny little version of him would be perfect. Especially when you hear a music box and know he’s coming for you. It was amazing to see the YouTube playthroughs when they got to that part, watching them jump and knowing I caused it.
I can’t tell you how great it feels to see fan art and know something I worked on with my friends inspired it. It’s amazing to see their talent, their passion and their love for all the characters. There’s not a single aspect of the game that hasn’t gotten some love on the internet, from cosplay, to memes, to full 3D videos. It’s inspiring.
To see fans embrace something we create is why we do what we do. It’s all about them