Interview with Tales of Evil Designer, Antonio Ferrara
I have never met anyone who doesn’t like 80’s movies. As I sit here preparing for my inbox to fill up with an influx of rebuttals, I think back to the influence that movies like Child’s Play, Friday the 13th, and Poltergeist had over the course of film history and on us. When I learned that someone was creating Tales of Evil, a modular board game with original stories inspired by classic 80’s horror movies: I had to know more about it. We spoke with Tales of Evil designer Antonio Ferrara, who was also the designer for Last Friday and Stay Away!, to learn about about the game.
This interview has been translated from Italian.
First, a question that we always like to help us get to know you a little bit better: What’s your background in gaming and what inspired you to pursue game design?
The first memory I have is at the beach house in Scario (South Italy) and I remember that the girls who lived next to me always played a mysterious game with a nice rectangular yellow box and I used to hear them while they accused Colonel Mustard of killing someone somewhere. I was really small, but I was intrigued by that mysterious game and then one day I finally asked them to join their game, only for said request to be rejected as “I would not understand the game”, even though I did. I think this trauma has marked my whole life as a player and creator of board games.
As a kid we would often stay at the Capannella, a gazebo in our grandparents’ house in Sorrento where I spent most of my childhood/adolescence. I was thirteen or so and I loved Super Cluedo (Clue) and one day I decided to change it and proceeded to invent a murder mystery game for all my friends. The game revolved around a madman wandering around a house and the others had to figure out who the killer was without getting killed. There were so many beautiful things in that game that obviously also influenced the construction of Stay Away! and Last Friday. I still have the prototype based on the material of Super Cluedo and I think that sooner or later I will [work on] a new game based off it.
Tell us a bit about Tales of Evil and why you chose an 80’s horror theme. What were your favorite movies and how did they inspire your design?
I was born in 1976 so there are many recurring elements of that period that I love, such as playgrounds, friends, movies, music, adventures, bikes, video games and board games. I had a good story to tell with this atmosphere and so I decided to embark on this madness.
Tales of Evil is Antonio Ferrara. I have put all my being in it and my life flows fluently in this title. It also allowed me to merge my main passions together: Books, board games, video games, movies, music, mysteries, monsters and the years of my adolescence, when the world had the taste of fried donuts of the amusement park and when I’d ride my bike alongside my best friends.
In the game, the group of players and their characters are referred to as Pizza & Investigation. That sounds like it could be something from your childhood. How’d you come up with the name?
I’m from Naples, and pizza is an institution for us. It is my favorite food, and as a boy we ate a ton of them with my friends. ‘Investigation’ is easy since the guys deal with revealing mysteries. So what could be better if not Pizza & Investigation? It’s a name that kids would give to their gang, right?
Each story in Tales of Evil has multiple endings. Tell us a little bit about how that works. Do the endings change based on player choice or with their success and failures?
There are checkpoints. From the first chapter onward, there will be tons of branching paths and choices that will directly influence the outcome of the game. Example: We take the right or left road? Do we fight or run away? Each chapter has a goal to complete and based on how we play we could do it or not.
When you fail the mission the terrified boys run away from the house and you have two choices:
1) To try again the chapter, but taking different paths Example: the door from which they entered is now barred and the boys will have to find another way.
2) Continue without completing the objective. Example: they could not find the big key and therefore in the following chapters they will not be able to access certain areas of the house. Or if they are able to access them they will always have to find an alternative way. This makes sure that each play-through will be unique and infinitely replayable.
How does your saving system work?
The game includes a save point at the end of each chapter and this allows players to not lose any items and equipment between sessions. So, at the end of a chapter, players can decide to suspend and place the material in the appropriate spaces in the box. They can then start playing again another day and resume their adventure exactly where they paused it.
You mention that characters grow over time. What does that look like and how does it impact the game over time?
The characters grow according to the equipment they will find during gameplay, but they grow up too, so [future] expansions are planned in which the boys will grow together and will have to face new mysteries and more difficult challenges.
I think the most unique part of Tales of Evil’s design is the Fusion system. Talk to us about how that works.
The Fusion, as I call it affectionately, is the fusion between our reality and the game. Who has never dreamed of ending up in a game or of being able to interact with the characters invented in their own reality? That’s possible in Tales of Evil. Thanks to various narrative expedients you can take part in the story by partaking on some small real life activities. The game might ask for you to grab a cup in your kitchen in order for your character to collect some water, for instance. You will enter the game and the game will enter reality.
The example of the fusion system that you reference in the Kickstarter campaign is a case where players might need to put batteries into a flashlight for their character to use it in game. Will there ever be an instance where someone’s resources at home might prevent them from experiencing a part of the game?
There will always be an alternative if you can’t or don’t want to do Fusion-related activities. The same goes for the actions to be taken on the spot. However, I’ll reveal a little secret: the system is not absolutely binding and we are including a book of secrets for those who do not want to use the Fusion.In this case, instead of making a phone call, viewing a video, or whatever is required, the player can open the book of secrets and read a transcript. We also want to scatter a few pages of Peter’s diary and other secrets across the game’s world. We are limited only by our own imagination.
Do you have any plans to expand the story in the future?
I already have the RPG ready to be tested and I would like to expand the universe of Pizza & Investigation not only with the expansions of the game, but also books, movies, games, comic books, etc. I hope that in the next few years I can devote myself, body and soul, to the universe of Pizza & Investigation. A world in the world where everything is possible, as long as there are still batteries.
Of all the stories in Tales of Evil, which one is your personal favorite?
I really like the moments between one chapter and the next where the boys gather their ramshackle campers and discuss the current situation. I like the parts in which they clash with the town bullies or when they decide to embark on secondary missions. I love when they confront old Jack from the recovery shop. There are real challenges to face in order to unlock new equipment.
By the way, there’s something I’ve never said before: each chapter ends with a boss fight, each fight being unique in its own right. These are epic battles in which players will have to roll dice, dive into the Fusion and make crucial choices. These are very exciting moments in which anything can happen.
What stretch goal are you most excited to share with players?
[Beware! You’re entering light spoiler territory.]
The Glow in the Dark dice. They are beautiful and lend themselves very well to some challenges of the Fusion [mechanic].
Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?
What I can say is that this experience,- I don’t want to simply call it a “game” – is exactly what I would have loved to play back in the day. It was thought of with the mindset of a player rather than that of a game designer. This is the secret of Tales of Evil. The game that I wanted to play as a kid, but with the awareness of adulthood.
Tales of Evil offers a new take on how interactive board games can be. While the Fusion system offers optional interactions, players will benefit from a more interactive experience by leaning into the game to the fullest. Maybe ordering a pizza while you’re investigating would go nicely was well.
Antonio Ferrara’s Tales of Evil is currently on Kickstarter and has exceeded it’s funding goal. If you’re interested in getting your copy of the game and unlocked stretch goals, it will only set you back $51 and is estimated to be delivered October 2019.