049: The Story of “Serial Killer” with Jack Malacat

In this episode, our heroes embark on a creative odyssey, gleaning insights from Jack Malacat’s unconventional journey into game design. They unravel the tapestry of Malacat’s experiences, from hosting lively parties to crafting the darkly engaging ‘Serial Killer’ game, navigating the realms of business and imagination.

Here’s what we chatted about:

  • 00:00 – Introduction to Jack Malacat and the game Serial Killer
  • 00:34 – Jack’s background and the inception of Serial Killer
  • 01:51 – Venom Haus, the game studio behind Serial Killer
  • 05:00 – Kickstarter campaign and community engagement
  • 09:00 – Iterative game design and manufacturing challenges
  • 15:00 – Future plans for Serial Killer and community expansions
  • 15:17 – Connecting with Jack Malacat and Serial Killer resources
  • 17:58 – Gameplay mechanics and player attributes
  • 18:42 – Jack’s UX title and favorite games
  • 19:28 – Jack’s earliest gaming memories and current favorites
  • 20:22 – The creative process and game design tools
  • 21:03 – Favorite dice and game design philosophy
  • 23:32 – Horror influences and upcoming projects
  • 26:06 – Essential tools for game designers
  • 26:30 – Final words and closing thoughts

As always, please note that the following is an automatically generated transcript. We’ve cleaned it up for readability, but there are gaffes and typos. Thank you for being super cool about it.

Jack Malacat: So serial killer is a game for humans with murderous thoughts sometimes.

And I think that the game makes it fun to actually talk about those things and not make it so serious. You know, like the traumas that you’ve had in your life the game will make it easier for you to actually open up to your friends and family and get to know them In a different level, like way different level, deeper than just, unicorns and rainbows with your friends that you drink with.

Where everything started.

Jack Malacat: This is the first game that I designed, and did not expect for this to become a career at all.

I used to live in Las Vegas and I used to host a lot of parties.

And if we’re not doing those 250-people parties, we usually play games. Cause I own like a crash pad business, which is almost like a secure Airbnb for pilots and flight attendants. And so most of the time, a lot of people just come and go, and so when a lot of people gather, we usually play games.

And When I moved down to Florida, I wanted to create a game for my friends so that I can host parties again.

The first people that played the game were actually my partner’s parents. I created a prototype on Game Crafter, just the first ever version of the game and we played it and they encouraged me to sell it.

I’m like, really? I don’t think a lot of people will buy this because it’s very dark. Like it’s pushing boundaries on what you play. I don’t think the rest of the world is going to receive this

Venom Haus

Tim Broadwater: Do you have a game studio, or is it just you, Jack Mallacat?

Jack Malacat: It’s yeah, it’s under a Venom Haus it’s spelled like venom v e n o m, but the house is h a u s when you say it You Fast, then it’s like venomous.

I didn’t create the business name until later when I already started selling the game because I didn’t think it was going to be a business like for me going on Kickstarter, I just wanted money so that I can produce the game.

When a lot of people actually wanted to support it and bought it then that’s when I’m like, oh, I guess it’s a business now.

Tim Broadwater: So, for transparency purposes, just I’ve played the game before, I played it actually with Joel, in Texas, of MegaMoth Studios,

Jack Malacat: that’s a you or another. Yeah, he mentioned

Tim Broadwater: Yeah, I played with him and Kervin and a couple other friends and then we started talking about our games and our processes, because we have plans to like, print it ourselves and ship it and do all the shipping labels out of our houses and all this stuff. And they were like, Oh my God, you need to talk to Jack because Jack is literally doing that.

And so, yeah, we have a lot of questions about, the route you went, doing it all yourself, if you could speak to that.

Jack Malacat: Yeah, we were moving so that the friends that we used to have were based in. Vegas or Chicago or Dallas. And so we’re in a completely new city. So we wanted to like, hang out with the people that we like at work. And that’s how it came to be.

Going into the game crafter, I just wanted to print something. I already saw how limited the abilities or your ability to design the box or the cards, it’s already so limiting.

Jack Malacat: I mean, I can see them producing like really good games and stuff, but my imagination, I guess, was running wild and, Because the product that I got, I’m like, Oh, it’s, you know, the software that made this possible cannot accommodate what I wanted to happen in the box.

So that’s when I searched for Oh, how can I make it and then they were very expensive sound like I need I don’t know Maybe test it first if I can People would buy this before I spend money, you know, and my friends already said like I want to play this game.

Everybody went like from my friend group wanted to play this game. And when we did we had so much fun. So I’m like, if my friends liked it and we’re, I can consider myself like one of the Very basic bitches that occupy this planet. So to me, if we liked it as a party game, then maybe more people would want it in their houses too.

So that’s how it came to be. And then when I did Kickstarter, like it, it showed, you know, I didn’t I started writing the game in January. And launched the campaign in April,

Tim Broadwater: Did you have any gauge before the Kickstarter apart from Yourself and your local group of friends? This is going to do well, or people want to play [00:05:00] this, you know?

Jack Malacat: I won’t lie. I actually told my partner, I’m about to become a millionaire because I, for some reason you know, we need that delusional side of our brain to really push a project through and take it to, to the end, because otherwise, if you don’t believe in yourself, then, people will feel that you don’t, you’re not fully confident in what you’re doing.

And I wasn’t confident because I know. And a lot of people would want to play it. I know that it’s going to be super niche, but in my mind, the way I came into it was, there are already so many things I can sell in conjunction with it.

This brand. Serial killer. I could take for example, if I wanted to take this to gym goers, so you could be like serial killer of guns or serial killer of squats.

Michael Schofield: dude. Yeah.

Jack Malacat: So that’s how I approached this thing as in like completely business when I took it to Kickstarter. So then when Kickstarter was literally just an affirmation. Basically, that it will work if I work really hard on it and here we are now this is literally my day job now.

Tim Broadwater: The box is phenomenal, it literally has stuck such stopping power and people see, Oh, a coffin box and red with the word serial killer, and it’s just okay, I like games that are like Grindhouse I love Let’s summon demons.

I like games that have some punch and some violence to them. So, I definitely think you were right. You already have an expansion out. Or do you have multiple expansions?

Jack Malacat: Yeah, I have four expansions and working on more because I get like my, the people that bought the game are super involved that they would email me updates on what happened when they played it with their friends and stuff. And they would give me a lot of ideas. So I’m like, Oh, I guess, you know, we got to make some more expansions.

I, I’ve been planning to do a. a discord group just to make like maybe a people’s expansion because a lot of people are super dark. I’m like, Oh shoot. I never even thought about these possible deaths, but these people thought about it and Oh, that’s, that would be awesome to be in a card.

And I’m excited about it, but yeah to go back to the box. I know you guys are doing a coffin box as well.

Tim Broadwater: That we actually have a coffin player card, but not a box.

Jack Malacat: Not a box anymore. I thought, yeah, I thought that game was really awesome. Like when I saw him yeah, these are the types of games that I would really sit down and learn the rules and play it.

Cause you, you already have I, for one, am already a supporter of what you’re doing. And there would be a lot of others out there. And when they see that you are perfecting the game while you’re in the process of releasing it. I think that’s something that people see as a passion because people don’t see the hard work that gets they often just see the final product.

Or, yeah, so they won’t be able to appreciate, how much you put into the game if they don’t know that you’re constantly improving it. And I think that’s, one of the reasons why people would want to stick by you, sign up for your email newsletters, and because they want to be part of a journey.

Tim Broadwater: Yeah, I think we’re so concerned about getting it right out of the park. You know what I mean? Just off the get-go, make sure we do enough testing and the prototype feels good. And then when we kickstart okay, we’ve made it. And we’re not actually thought about, no, you can keep improving and iterating on it past the kickstart, or the first kickstart,

Michael Schofield: I’d argue all of the prior folks that we’ve talked to up until this point. do, what we’re doing, which is iterate, they take it to the packs unplugged year one, year two, year three. They just keep going until it’s perfect. And then they let it go. your approach is very much how you would like. Software, right? Where you just release something like super small, it doesn’t even have to be awesome.

It just has to be there and then you iterate it. And I guess we’ve been thinking about hardware just much differently.

Tim Broadwater: Yeah. When did you feel comfortable Oh, there’s something enough here that I can version it or start getting it out there.

Jack Malacat: So I know that my market is people like me who are fucked up in the head. We get to know you, but yeah. So I know that a lot of people can relate to it.

Right up from the get-go, but I really didn’t care if it was going to be a super niche game like what people online were telling me when I was campaigning for it yeah, I [00:10:00] don’t see this becoming big or, you know, it’s going to be maybe a hundred people play it in the entire world. And to me, I’m like a hundred people is still a hundred people, you know?

And I really just want to create the best version of the game that I thought about, so to me, it didn’t matter. To any designer. It shouldn’t matter that it’s not perfect yet. The people who understand whatever you’re creating, they’ll be there.

What really matters is what you think about your game, and you produce it, release it upon the world, and share it, and it doesn’t matter if you’re the only one that’s gonna play it, you made something that, that you’re proud of.

Jack Malacat: That’s all that matters.

Michael Schofield: The best thing you can do for like a, like the best user experience approach you can do, the best music you can make is to make it. Not for anyone else, just for you, just, and then put it into the world and you have to trust that there’s a market out there.

And if there’s not, then you still made art, you know?

Tim Broadwater: Similar to what you’re saying is just you know, it’s, I made this for me and, you know, other people will resonate with it because there’s millions and billions of people

Jack Malacat: I mean, if they don’t like the people who don’t resonate with it, then they’re not like you and in the first place, there’s no there’s no way you can convince somebody to like something when they’ve already decided anyway. Most people have already decided what kind of movies they’re going to watch, and what kind of games they’re going to play.

So there’s no point in trying to reach out to those people. This is also the reason why I always positioned myself like, no, it’s a party game. Serial killer is something that you can teach somebody how to play in 30 seconds. And so that everybody could just have fun, let loose, and be murderous for a night.

Tim Broadwater: And it’s interesting because you, depending on the group that you play with and the cards that you draw, you know,

Really seeing Ooh, like what type of things irk Michael or how dark is Tim, you know?

And there is like a conversation piece there because I actually, when I was playing it in Texas, we had one that came up, and, a friend was just like, Oh, I’m actually choosing this because I don’t like anything that mixes like sex and violence together.

And that was Oh, I mean, it had an offshoot conversation about it and everything, because I know a lot of people like Hellraiser, but then there’s that feel of like sexy blood and sexy torture. Like people don’t, you know, and so, but that would, I never knew that about that person. And that was interesting.

And then it actually said Oh I don’t really that either. I mean, you know, so it’s it was it is definitely a conversational party game.

Jack Malacat: Yeah. And usually, those are the things that I want to know about people that I let in my life anyway. So let’s say we’re hanging out. So I’m letting you in my life and I don’t care what you do or how much money you make, or what I care is like, how does your mind work? if we’re going to be trapped in this house where the apocalypse is, are we compatible, or are we going to clash?

Because you have beliefs that I don’t believe in, you know, stuff like that. But yeah, going back to manufacturing the game. I myself, I’m experiencing paralysis by analysis right now because I’m trying to make the game, I don’t know, the best version of itself, and I thought.

Oh, no, I think, you know, the best path forward would be to actually show the deaths. So I would want to have artwork on the cards and like really push the boundaries of what’s a card game. Well, some card games can show deaths or murder scenes and stuff. And, I shot myself in the foot by making this decision right now, because I literally have to make about 350 different artworks

Tim Broadwater: Oh yeah. Yeah.

Jack Malacat: and now I’m stuck because I’ve only made 80 so far out of the 350. ,

Tim Broadwater: I think your process is also interesting. You sound like a disruptor, like basically someone who’s just this is my idea. I know it’s good. It’s for me. Oh shit. Other people like it. And I put, so I’m going to do it. Oh shit. People want it to grow.

So I’m going to let it grow. And it seems very different than not different in a bad way or good way. I just, it just seems You hear these are the steps you follow, the five steps for, you know, and it’s just, you were like, no chaos.

Jack Malacat: Yeah, that’s exactly how it works. But you want to know all this like you can’t break rules until you know them. So, there is value in knowing all the rules, and the five steps to creating a board game. And then so that you can break them, you know,

Tim Broadwater: Yeah, Hannah, who was on our podcast

Michael Schofield: Fox and studios.

Tim Broadwater: like literally was just like Oh yeah, we blind play tested first. And I was like, what? And they were just like, [00:15:00] no, yeah, we just gave the game to people with the rules first and he was like, we learned so much. And so it was just interesting to hear how different people playtest, help different people design, and then how some people, you know, how they continue to grow the game or their community.

So that’s really cool.

Tim Broadwater: What’s coming up with serial killer? Where can people go to find more about it? how could people connect with you?

Jack Malacat: So Serial Killer, you guys, I’ve been working tirelessly to provide you, with the best version of the game. And now I’m working on putting more artwork on the game. I’ll put my journey on the website as well: serialkillercardgame.com. Right now you can find the game from Amazon, which is the easiest way.

And I’ll have overnight shipping if you want, or you could get 50 percent off on the coffin box, which has all the expansions of the game. It’s on sale right now as a spring cleaning thing, because we are working on so many other things and we would want to clean our inventory out before we move on to merch and expansions. Yeah. So yeah, a serial killer card game. com it’s also on Amazon and on TikTok, my handle is, serial killer for some reason, but it’s still available.

Michael Schofield: Wild.

I’m following you

Jack Malacat: it.

Michael Schofield: now.

Jack Malacat: We’re also on YouTube. I just hired a content creator so that we’ll be able to post more social media content for all of the people who are following Serial Killers. So we’ll be more active, I promise on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and we are about to create our. Twitter and LinkedIn page so that we can connect with more people in the future, so stay tuned for that.

Tim Broadwater: D12, and this cool intro, and then it goes into the questions.

Jack Malacat: Yeah, that’s actually what I noticed earlier when I was listening to the podcast is like, oh, my God, I love their sounds. It reminds me so much of the, yeah, the cartoons that I watched when I was a kid and More recently stranger things.

Tim Broadwater: Oh yeah.

Jack Malacat: Yeah, I’m like, ah, this is awesome. I’m

Tim Broadwater: very much like your game, to where each season we’ve like, how can we add value, and how do we listen to people, and how do we make it better? And so we’ve kind of, by the fourth season, I think we’ve got like what something that at least that people seem to be a positive feedback, you know, so

Michael Schofield: To your point though, we’re just like, fuck it. We’re going to make a design, a podcast. And we started, we’re like, we’re never going to interview anybody ever. Cause I interviewed podcasts are stupid. And then,

Tim Broadwater: you can get bored of talking to each other.


Michael Schofield: Yeah, it’s not that quirky. All right.

D12: The best Q&A ever

Michael Schofield: when you attack, which attribute do you use to use your strength, your dexterity, your charisma, your wisdom?

What do you use to fight?

Jack Malacat: On the fight, definitely my strength. Yeah yeah. Because, I mean. What could you really do when you’re in a battle? I mean, are we speaking, if we’re in a board game, sure. Like we’ll have magic powers and stuff, but in the real world yeah,

Michael Schofield: No I love it. It’s the very like the jujitsu answer where we’ve had some people be like charisma because I love to like tear people down, but I love the idea that it’s oh, you’re in like a real fight and you’re like, it’s like you are mother smells of elderberries and they just punch you in the face.

Michael Schofield: If you could make up any UX title to give yourself, what would it be?

Jack Malacat: The Prince of Darkness.

Tim Broadwater: I love it. Prince of Darkness. Perfect.

What game should everyone play at least one time?

Michael Schofield: In

Jack Malacat: chess. I learned chess when I was four and by when I was six, I already defeated the entire, my entire household, including my parents and my uncles. And I think chess. teach us a lot more than just strategy. So yeah, if you don’t know how to play chess you have to play at least once.

Tim Broadwater: I agree.

Michael Schofield:

Michael Schofield: What is your earliest, awesome game memory?

Jack Malacat: I grew up in the Philippines, so when I was a kid, like there wasn’t, it wasn’t really video games or board games, like we had chess and Scrabble, but we used to play outside a lot. And my favorite game is the squid game and we have a version of it.

Michael Schofield: What really?

Jack Malacat: yeah, not the shooting part, you know,

Tim Broadwater: Where you see if [00:20:00] people

Jack Malacat: where they draw it on the ground.

Tim Broadwater: yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Jack Malacat: Kind of like the, almost a hopscotch, but not really. So we have that version and I think we played that so much when I was a kid. But when it comes to like board games, probably Scrabble.

Tim Broadwater: Nice.

Jack Malacat: I know I’m so boring.

Tim Broadwater: It’s not boring at all

Tim Broadwater: What game are you playing the most of?

Jack Malacat: Oh, right now we are every time we get together with family and friends, we play this game called Liverpool. It’s like an old, yeah, it’s an old people game. It’s like a gin rummies, they said. And it’s, it gets very competitive wherein my partner’s 83-year-old great aunt would slap my hand if I did something and we would play this game over cocktails and stuff.

So yes, I guess that would be our guilty pleasure because we get drunk towards the end of the game. Yeah.

Michael Schofield: What is your favorite dice?

Jack Malacat: The one that I can think of right now is the metal dice from Fire Tower from its deluxe edition that could literally pierce the board game floor, it would make dance on it. So that’s why it’s so memorable. And so we have

to throw the die.

Inside the box so that it doesn’t damage your table or anything because it’s so heavy. It’s like a metal thing.

Tim Broadwater: Oh my gosh.

Jack Malacat: It’s like a bullet heavy.

Michael Schofield: Do you take the Paragon path or the Renegade path? Do you play the bad guy or the good guy?

If you’re playing a game like it’s a fantasy. I would play the bad guy because I don’t get to play that every day.

Jack Malacat: So definitely. Yeah. I would like to be a villain.

Michael Schofield: What is your favorite genre? Alternate history, horror, cyberpunk, goth.

Jack Malacat: I definitely am. I gravitate towards horror, I think also because when I was a kid, like there were so many horror comics in our house, and for some reason, I wasn’t even scared that was actually, you know, how like comics have so many onomatopoeiae to it. So that’s how you learn how to read.

Tim Broadwater: slash

Jack Malacat: Yeah yeah, so I, I have, I’m very fond of the horror comics that unfortunately, because, you know, in the Philippines, we have our own folklore and stuff, and it was all about that, and These days, like they don’t really produce those stuff anymore. So I guess I’m lucky to be part of that generation to still, as we’re able to experience it.

Michael Schofield: have you thought about making a horror Filipino folklore game, like bringing this to life?

Jack Malacat: Yeah, funny that you asked that because the game that I’m working on right now, that. It’s going to release next year and is all about the folklore from different countries. So the things that you know, usually never heard of, because obviously like here in the United States, we’re used to like our own horror stories, but yeah, I’m really interested in bringing those stories to life and it’s going to be a board game slash card game.

It’s going to be so much darker than serial killer,

Michael Schofield: What’s your favorite horror movie real quick? Sorry. I’m just, I just, this is what we talk about all the time. So what’s your favorite horror movie?

Tim Broadwater: That could be

Jack Malacat: My favorite movie. Oh my goodness. I was, I got really scared with the ring series, the Japanese version.

Tim Broadwater: Yes.

Michael Schofield: I’ve never actually seen the

Jack Malacat: those were

Michael Schofield: version. Yeah. like,

Ringu. yeah.

Jack Malacat: terrifying. Yeah, so definitely those because. There’s not a lot of horror movies that scare me. Oh, and the most memorable one, which is the haunting of Emily Rose.

Tim Broadwater: that’s a good one,

Jack Malacat: It’s the acting was so good, but it happens every 3 am. So me and my friends, like after we saw the movie, we actually started waking up around three. And that’s, that was why it was so scary. Cause I’m like, why am I waking up around 3 am now? So.

Tim Broadwater: It’s the witching hour. It’s the devil’s hour.

Michael Schofield: So that was Jennifer Carpenter who was like, like the sister and Dexter, the serial killer. So for a very brief time, I worked for our college newspaper as the movie review dude, and, the only movies I did were these horror movies that came out.

So I wasn’t there long. And I wrote, I think 2000 words on Emily Rose because of the acting. She was like the new scream queen and I’m going to grab a clip for the podcast, but when she’s going through the names of all the people who

are like inside her or whatever.

Jack Malacat: And the names of the demons.

Tim Broadwater: Let me ask you this. Have you seen [00:25:00] Sadako versus Kayako?

Michael Schofield: This is the next question. Yeah

Tim Broadwater: Taking this in.

Jack Malacat: no, I haven’t

Tim Broadwater: That

Jack Malacat: That one.

Tim Broadwater: Ringu versus It’s like The Ring vs. The Grudge. So Ringu vs. Gwon, I

Jack Malacat: Oh, I’ve

Tim Broadwater: And then they do a Freddy vs. Jason moment. And it is amazing. And it is, you I think it’s on Shudder. But if you’ve not seen it, you probably can watch it on YouTube, but it’s really good.

Jack Malacat: Okay. Yeah. No, I’ll definitely check it out. I’m interested because yeah The Ring and the Grudge, like those are the scariest movies I’ve seen through my entire childhood,

but yeah, again, like going back to like folklore, like that reason why they were so scary was because they’re so new to the world. Like they, nobody really seen anything like that yet. So I think like bringing out, you know, different folklores from different countries and putting them all together, I think, yeah, it would be a really interesting game.

So we’ll see.

Michael Schofield: What is your favorite tool of the trade as a game designer? What is your favorite tool of the trade?

Jack Malacat: Tool. Photoshop? Is that what you mean? Is that what you mean?

Michael Schofield: got totally,

Jack Malacat: Yeah, definitely. You can do everything in it. So, yeah. It’s like a game designer’s friend, for sure.

Michael Schofield: Lights come down like you’re sitting around a table with friends. The camera finally pans to you and you’ve rolled your dice and it came up a one and you have failed your death saving throw.

You are dying. What are your final words?

Jack Malacat: Oh, well, not my night.

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