Evil Dead: The Game: Interview With A Passionate Team
While sitting down a few weeks ago to play a few rounds of Evil Dead: The Game, I also got the chance to interview some of the team members; Jason (Creative Director)Ryne Williams (Producer) Tim Willits (Chief Creative Officer) Craig Sherman (Narrative Director). Then a few days later I sat down with Joe LoDuca (composer) and Steve Molitz (music director). With such an impassioned team and with a franchise near and dear to me and countless other fans I was excited to see what they had to say.
Justin: Bruce Campbell famously announced he was retiring the Ash Williams character after the cancellation of Ash VS. The Evil Dead. When you had this idea and came to Bruce, was he immediately in, or did it take some convincing?
Tim Willits: He was immediately on board because he is also part of the business arrangement. So we’ve had to get all approvals. I mean, he actually approved his own characters and was funny. I think it was from Army of darkness Ash. He didn’t like the character’s butt, so we had to keep changing them and sending him pictures of his butt. And then he’s helped us with some marketing things. Like we had a session where some people were there to interview him, and someone made the joke, you can play as the young ash or the old fat ash. And he was like, “Hey,” so he’s uh, he’s been great.
Ryan: Yes, he’s been super involved, so even with the content when we were recording even he approved the script for everything, and then when we were recording, you’d say that’s not Ash would say it this way. And we’d be like, say it that way. So yeah, we’ve been really lucky, and he’s been great. He’s in a lot of this; there’s a lot of Bruce’s voice we were like, this is his last ash. We’re gonna record the hell out of him.
Jason: Well, I think too. He enjoys this stuff. Because, you know, his voice is still something that he can utilize and likeness without having to go through all the craziness of doing a film right. This is a lot more we’re seeing that with a lot with VO talent, where actors like “ oh, man, I can do VO and still really enjoy this character and provide that provide for the fans.” And I think we got that here with Bruce.
Justin: I’m not sure if you guys can answer this, Have there been any talks about, like adding, like, stuff from the 2013 remake? Like Mia?
Tim: So let me give you my end of the game answer. We have post-launch plans, and we will have content drops.
As you know, there are many more characters, there are lots more demons and stuff, and not to confirm or deny anything, but we are big fans of the 2013 series with Jane Levy playing the main character. She did such a fantastic job. Also, Ruby from the TV series people have definitely talked to us about as well. So you know, again, we’re working out our plans right now. And, of course, we have to deal with all the IP holders, which have all been fantastic. Honestly, we’ve for different companies that we have to get permission for and MGM Lionsgate studio channel Renaissance. They’ve been wonderful to work with. So yes, we are definitely fans of that film.
Justin: Obviously, some THQ Evil Dead games were a bit underwhelming. Did you guys look at those when you were planning this out?
Tim: I think Jason is the only person who has played those games here because I have never played them, to be honest.
Jason: There’s a handful of them. They go way back to the ps1 era. They’re gems. They’re gems. They’re gems. We looked at a little bit of everything leading into this one, so you’ve got to see what they did.
Tim: But we actually, you know, so for us, we secured the CIO, our partner on this as Boston games, and they’ve been really great to work with, and they’ve helped us secure this license and work with our with the IP holders. So we actually had a license before we knew precisely the game we wanted to make. So we pulled a lot of our lessons learned from World War Z. It was that people like to play with their friends together. Just you and your buddies together on the same team against the AI. So, we secured the IP, got Bruce involved, and then said, Okay, what should we make and this? This is a far different horror asymmetrical game; you are not hiding in the shadows waiting to die. You are kicking ass because your ash and his kickass friends, and you’re in. You’re pushing the demons back to hell. So it definitely is very action-oriented. I would call it an asymmetrical horror action game.
Justin: So I’m assuming that crossplay was important from the get-go?
Tim: Yeah, not only because of the player pool but playing with your friends, you know, Friday night, get together, have a few drinks, play some Evil Dead? That’s what we want.
Justin: So I’m not sure how to correctly word this but is this game and the event considered canon in the Evil Dead Universe?
Craig: I will say this, everything in the game was approved by all the rights holders.
Justin: Obviously, with Evil Dead Rise in post-production now. So we probably wouldn’t hear anything there. But if they continue the franchise, I wasn’t sure if this would be referenced, or like this event of everybody coming together?
Craig: You know, we haven’t been involved with the new film…. yet. But yeah, like I said, as far as that question about is this, you know, is this canon? I will say that it is all approved by everyone, like Sam Raimi was involved. And, you know, obviously, Bruce was involved and approved everything, so it definitely fits. I don’t. I don’t know if I want to say whether it’s officially canon or not.
Justin: Awesome, yeah, I figured you wouldn’t be able to answer that, so even that is good to know!
Craig: Yeah, sorry, I’m not going to answer it. But. But there’s nothing here Sam hasn’t said. So yeah, that doesn’t work.
Justin: The real question now is how often do you all play?
Tim, Craig, Jason, Ryan: Oh, all the time!
Tim: We test weekly. Multiple times. You know, every single attribute damage, health, and all that is on the back end. So we can adjust things without forcing people to download a build, which is nice because when we get this game out, we will quickly find out what OP needs a little tweaking.
Justin: Other than the woods, Have you guys thought about adding in like an S-Mart level where it’s kind of, I’m assuming, like a Costco kind of tight quarter like a smaller, more condensed level?
Tim: So we do have a season pass. We do content that is coming up. We have been discussing and looking at kind of environments and what it is because there are still some other cool environments, but yeah, we just need to make sure that whatever environment is built fits with the gameplay.
Justin: Cool. I mean, I’m looking forward to May 13. So let me tell you that.
Jason: We just hope y’all have fun, and you know, like so We have fun all the time with this game, and we want it to be fun and do right by the Evil Dead fans. I think y’all can see the DNA of that pretty obvious as soon as you load up the main menu and hear the music.
Ryan: There is so much more to find, too. It’s a real love letter to the fans.
I later sat down with film and TV series Composer for Evil Dead Joe Loduca and Saber Interactive Music Composer and Director Steve Molitz to talk about composing for Evil Dead: The Game.
Justin: Joe, having composed for countless films and TV series, what was the most significant difference for you composing for (I believe) your first video game? Was the process different?
Joe: Not really. I was given free rein. My first task was writing the Main Title, and I set my own requirements. Something that would get players excited about the game referenced the breadth of the EVIL DEAD saga. It’s orchestral with the support of electronics, and it feels at home both in the gaming world and in the Dead-verse. Next, I composed the Deadites and the Survivor lobbies, setting the stage and anticipation for gameplay. I didn’t have to concern myself with the visual element in my case.
Justin: Steve, what was it like directing and figuring out what style of music would go with a video game adaptation of such a beloved franchise? Did you approach it differently than World War Z?
Steve: My primary goal as a game composer is always to make sure the music best supports the gameplay and enhances the player experience. Before I wrote any of the music, I took a deep dive into the character models, environments, gameplay mechanics, story, etc., so I could really connect with the creative tone of the game. The Evil Dead franchise covers so much ground, from horror to comedy to fantasy, so the music has the freedom to explore all those different genres and emotions.
The music really had to keep the adrenaline pumping for World War Z while we battled relentless swarms of zombies. For Evil Dead, there’s plenty of high-octane intensity, but there’s also a lot of time and space to explore the ominous tension found in the dark shadows of the forest…
Justin: Steve and Joe, how did you put yourself in the mindset for putting the music together for Evil Dead The Game? Spend time in a cabin in the woods and find a book bound in human flesh inked in human blood and see what would happen?
Joe: Steve and I discussed the game environment as organic and orchestral with electronic elements. Then we went about our separate charges. In my case, I’ve revisited this world over several decades, so it’s like going home, albeit a scary, dilapidated, and dysfunctional one.
Steve: I started by rewatching all the films and the TV series, but then I actually did spend some time in a cabin in the woods while writing this music!! I rented a cabin in upstate New York to access my inner Professor Knowby and write without any distractions. Things were going well until I started hearing strange noises from the fruit cellar…
Justin: Joe, you have been attached to the Evil Dead series since its first outing. How has it been coming back to it through the years?
Joe: It is the gift that keeps giving. I would have never imagined that my first film commission would continue to surprise me with new challenges – movies, a TV series, live concerts, and recordings.
Justin: Steve and Joe, since there is such a library to be able to sample from, did you pour over the entire series to pull out key returning themes? For example, Ash has an ever-evolving “hero” theme. Did you reference each one, or did one film (or the TV series) stand out above the rest for tying into?
Joe: Neither of us quoted any music from the franchise. Instead, each of us tried in our own way to evoke the spirit of the EVIL DEAD scores, with wild strings, unearthly textures, and heart-pounding rhythms.
Steve: We didn’t use any of the preexisting Evil Dead music, but I definitely drew plenty of inspiration from the spirit of all the fantastic compositions Joe has done over the years. I love the way his compositions feel like musical vignettes, each telling its own little story within the broader narrative of the Evil Dead universe. I tried to follow the spirit of that blueprint, but I also made sure the game’s music developed its own identity. Part of that had to do with the fact that I created a different soundtrack for each of the two gameplay modes. So the music is much more triumphant and adventurous when you play as a Survivor, and when you play as the Demon, the music is much more sinister and menacing. I really wanted this soundtrack to be a living, breathing part of the game’s universe, and I wanted there to be a certain element of unpredictability within the compositions.
Justin: If both of you had to pick your favorite piece of music from the whole series, which would it be?
Joe: If you are referring to the whole body of my EVIL DEAD work, for me, it is BUILDING THE DEATHCOASTER. It is an epic, classic melody.
Steve: I’d choose the Main Theme that Joe wrote and recorded for this game!! It’s an instant classic, in my humble opinion. Nicely done, Joe!!
Justin: Sam and Bruce seem to have had a lot of say in the development of Evil Dead The Game regarding lore and even the character models. Does this extend to the audio side of the product?
Joe: Steve and I were the de facto music department, with Steve at the helm for the overall development. Our collaborators gave us their complete trust to do what we felt was right.
Steve: What Joe said!
Justin: Having played a few matches for our preview, everything is knocking out of the park. From menu music and load screens to building intensity throughout a match. Steve and Joe, you both, from what I have seen, have done an outstanding job, and the fans of the series have quite an experience waiting for them. Do you have a favorite moment from working on Evil Dead The Game that you’d like to speak to?
Joe: Meeting up with Steve and getting a glimpse of his world and his music was special for me.
STEVE: Not sure if I can isolate it to one specific moment, but I really enjoyed the collaborative process everyone shared while making this game. It was such an honor and a pleasure to work with Joe, and I really learned a lot from his seemingly infinite expertise and experience. I also had the pleasure of bringing in some incredible musicians for the soundtrack (Ryan Liatsis, Silent Skies, and Eric McFadden), and they each brought so much talent and creativity to this project. And under the passionate leadership of Jesus Iglesias, the development team in Spain really set the bar so high by creating such a visually stunning (and fun!) game. This is the fifth game I’ve done with Saber Interactive’s Madrid studio, and all the camaraderie and trust we have built really allows us to take a lot of risks with the music and sound design. The Lead Audio Director (Fernando Román) brought such an innovative spirit to production, and he really did a brilliant job of creating such a compelling and immersive audio experience within this game universe. I’m very grateful for all of these creative collaborations, and when people finally play the game on May 13th I hope they’ll be able to hear how much care and passion went into the creation of this soundtrack! And now…we invite you to fire up the boomstick, and COME GET SOME!
The way that everyone who has worked on Evil Dead: The Game talks about the experience and the love that has gone into the project speaks volumes to what the fans can expect when we all finally get our hands on it.
Evil Dead: The Game comes out May 13th, 2022, for PS4/5, Xbox One/ Series S/X, and exclusive for PC on the Epic Games Store.
For more Evil Dead articles and coverage, keep it locked to DreadXP, and for more horror gaming fun, check out the Real Professional Podcast and the trailer for the Dread X Collection 5.