Last Friday, the survival horror game pre-released at Gen Con 2016, will hit the stores at the end of September. The game is designed by the Italian game designers Antonio Ferrara and Sebastiano Fiorillo, the same authors of the horror card game Stay Away!, which had launched in 2014 with a successful Kickstarter campaign. The novelist Antonio Ferrara and the architect Sebastiano Fiorillo have in common a passion for horror movies and books, and for games, which led them to develop upon these passions and create Escape Studios. In this interview, let’s find out more about them, while getting ready to face a long weekend of terror...

Ares Games: When did you start playing board games? Which were your first favorite games?

Antonio Ferrara (AF): I have no doubts about this. My first game was the unforgettable Brivido (Which Witch?). My explorations in the bewitched castle influenced my taste in games. Growing up, It was my favorite game when I was a kid. I got hooked by Cluedo, Scotland Yard and the everlasting HeroQuest.

Sebastiano Fiorillo (SF): No doubts for me, either: I am just a few months younger than Antonio. My very first games were Brivido, l’Isola di Fuoco (Treasure Island), Heroquest and a not-so- famous game, which had always fascinated me for its originality: “Gli Acchiapatesori”, an exciting treasure hunt with pirate ships. Years later I started to approach other classic games like Clue, Risk and the innovative Atmosfear.

Sebastiano Fiorillo and Antonio Ferrara, authors of Last Friday.

Sebastiano Fiorillo and Antonio Ferrara, authors of Last Friday.

Ares: How did you start to design games? At which point did you decide to move from players to game authors?

AF: It all happened by chance, as an encounter with Sebastiano. One evening we were at dinner and we came across the idea of designing a game inspired by Carpenter’s “The Thing”. So there our first game was born: Stay Away!

SF: Since I was a child, I always had the passion for designing and modelling. Even as a player, I always loved to customize my favorite games and to create new adventures. Maybe just as any child is, I was already, spontaneously, a little designer. Then later- thanks to Antonio- I rediscovered at an adult this passion, and I decided to focus especially on the graphic design and illustration.

Ares: Are you full time game designers, or do you create your games as a hobby/part time job?

AF: I can’t still consider it as my real job, but with the imminent release of Last Friday and some other games in the pipeline – one of them which I specially care about - I hope this activity can become a full time job soon.

SF: In my daily routine as an architect I work on completely different things, even though my job requires an amount of creativity anyway. At the moment, this is simply a hobby and as long I will have fun with it, I will continue.

Ares: What are the major references in your work – literature, movies, or games?

AF: For me, it’s all of them. I very much like horror and mystery overall, and I think it undoubtedly influences the games I create. I try to create a game which I’d like to play. I must be enthusiastic about what I do, otherwise I’m not very productive.

SF: For me inspiration can come from anything, even if, because I am more focused on graphic design, often it comes from the visuals of movies and comics, as well as videogames and other board games. But I try to always reinterpret everything with a personal view, and by diving into the game’s atmosphere.

Stay Away!, the first game designed by Antonio Ferrara and Sebastiano Fiorillo.

Stay Away!, the first game designed by Antonio Ferrara and Sebastiano Fiorillo.

Ares: How about your creative process? Do you start with a theme or with the mechanics?

AF: Maybe it’s a little unusual, but I always start from the theme. A game is a story to tell, an experience to give to the people who will play it, and so I think it’s right to start with the subject matter you want to express. I develop the game mechanisms which I think are better suited to the theme and to the kind of game I want to make. The process can seem complex, but it comes naturally to me. Theme and mechanics blend into each other as I design the game.

SF: As I got started in this game design adventure with Antonio, I completely agree with what he says. Talking together, we often get enthusiastic about an idea or story element which just comes out unexpectedly... and then it starts to naturally take shape.

Ares: You have created several games together. How did you start this partnership, and how does it work?

AF: Actually, Sebastiano and I met by chance while developing a game for mobile devices. Later we realized we’d rather work on board games, and so here we are. He is able to find the mechanical problems in a game (there are always so many) and very good at illustrating and creating the right mood to define the visual identity (Sebastiano - after all these compliments, remember you owe me a pizza 🙂 ). I am in charge of the theme and the initial draft of the prototype. In some way, we really complement each other.

SF: You could have just told me you wanted a pizza, it was not necessary to pay me all these compliments! 😉 However, I also have a lot of good to say. Yes, Antonio is excellent at nailing down the initial concept at once, and creating mechanics that retain its spirit. And then we start to refine the rules, to imagine the settings and then we do so many playtests, to get everything balanced. We don’t work on mechanics and graphics separately; we like to make them progress at an equal pace, so that one does not prevail over the other, and both remain consistent with the original idea.

Ares: How often do you play games? What kind of games are your favorites, as players?

AF: For many years I didn’t play many board games, but I am now catching up! I am playing at least once a week. I very much like the games with a strong theme, especially American games. “German-style” games I play more infrequently, mostly because most of my gaming buddies don’t like them. In general, I am fine playing about anything, as long as I am in good company!

SF: Lately and unfortunately, I am not playing regularly. In my free time, I am mostly playing the games we’re developing. I have fun with them, and they are still games, aren’t they?

Last Friday, the survival horror game.

Last Friday, the survival horror game.

Ares: Do you enjoy playing your own games after they are published?

AF: Help! This is a tricky question. I should tell you that I always play them, that there is not a day I don’t play one of my games, but the truth is very different. There is so much work behind a board game, so many tests, so many sleepless nights, that when the game arrives I can hardly look at it. I play it only if someone asks, and at shows and conventions. I have a lot of fun when I do, but I am surely not the one that forces his friends to spend an evening playing my games… I’d rather play a new game, one I am not so familiar with yet.

SF: Well, this is true for me as well. The emotion of playing our games, either with friends or new people, is always there. However, when you spend so much time working on a game, the feeling of curiosity and novelty that a new game always brings along is lost. Moreover, each time I play, I cannot avoid asking myself “and if we had made this action work in this other way?”, “maybe we could have made this design differently”… in short I end up not really “playing” but working on it again!

Ares: Looking to the games you have designed, do you have a favorite? Which one and why?

AF: I believe the favorite game of an author is always the next one, the game you are developing at the moment you are asked this question. For me, I can say that Stay Away! and Last Friday are equally close to my heart. The first one has given me so much gratification and continues to do so. Last Friday is releasing soon and is a game I am very confident in.

SF: For me, Stay Away! is surely the top from an emotional point of view. We put all of our energy and hope on it, without knowing if it could succeed, so it was especially exciting to get it finished. But each new game you are working on is always the one you concentrate all your efforts at that moment, and so it’s very difficult for me as an author to give an impartial opinion.

Ares: Are you currently working on one or more new games? Can you talk about any upcoming project(s)?

AF: And what if someone steals the idea? 🙂 I am joking of course. I just finished a game which was submitted to a publisher that I cannot name, and I am finishing “Tales of Evil” (provisional title), which I consider to be an “experience” more than a game. I must say this game I really love the way the game is shaping up, and this is a good sign!

SF: At the moment, I am not… but I hope to start working on Antonio’s next game soon!

Ares: Any advice for people wanting to become a game designer?

AF: Make the game you wanted to play when you were a kid, but with the awareness you have as an adult, and surely the players will realize they are looking at a game with a soul.

SF: Have fun working on it, allow yourself to become enthusiastic, but don’t lose the ability to evaluate yourself. Also, get your games tested by as many people as possible, you may be fond of your ideas but you must not be afraid to throw them away if necessary to improve the game.

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