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Fall Guys dev on what’s next for the online multiplayer game show

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It’s easy to get lost among the crowds of gamers lining up to play AAA and indie games amid London’s EGX gaming event. Even stands can fade into the background, but this is not an issue with Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout.

The EGX presence of Fall Guys is.. intimidating to say the least. Developer Mediatonic, in partnership with Virgin Media, has created a huge, Travelator-esque challenge that requires participants to climb a steep slope while moving in the opposite direction. Participants will be awarded a golden paper crown. It’s almost as if you were participating in an in-game Fall Guys competition. However, the Big Yeetus hammers aren’t hurling you into the stratosphere.

Although it’s quite a bizarre experience, it’s perfectly suitable for Mediatonic and their clumsy jellybean gauntlet. How did this chaotic platform battle royale become the centerpiece of one of Europe’s biggest gaming conventions? Joe Walsh, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout’s chief game designer, spoke to us about the game’s success, and what’s in store for the future.

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Success is not all bad.

Image credit: Virgin Media/Mediatonic /EGX

It was August 2020 when Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout first launched. The peak concurrent player count for Fall Guys was just over 172,000, which was on Steam at the time of launch. PS4 servers were unable to handle the sheer volume of PlayStation Plus players who tried to play Fall Guys when it was made available as a free PS Plus offer.

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“It’s and will continue to be a breather in a multiplayer gaming area that’s full guns and shooting.”

Joe Walsh – Lead Game Designer

Walsh describes Fall Guys’ launch period as “incredible.” We were terrified before we saw the numbers. “It was incredible to see how many people played Fall Guys. Studio owners don’t know how the new IP will be received. We were concerned that 60 people would be able to go to a lobby to try a game.

 

Mediatonic’s rapid introduction of players was a shock, but nothing compared with the media wave that followed. Influencers and big-name streamers began to get in on the chaos.

Walsh says that it was surreal to see all the pop culture stuff happen. “TimTheTatMan breaking records on Twitch to win his first win, Sergio Aguero scoring diving headers at Fall Ball. Each day kind of one-upped each other so it was an incredible experience to do from home for sure.”

Fall Guys was not a success due to blind luck. Mediatonic was able to launch Fall Guys in an ideal storm. This happened because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced millions of gamers around the world to stay home. Many were looking for comfort in games that would allow them to escape the chaos outside. We saw this phenomenon with Animal Crossing.

Walsh says that “I believe we were in a strange position where we launched right during lockdown and I think many people were playing games or looking for activities during that time.” Fall Guys was perfect for that moment, because it’s so cheerful and silly and colorful. It was also the perfect antidote for all the sad things happening around the world this summer. We had so many people reaching out to us, saying that this was the game that kept them going and brought them joy at the end.

Fall Guys is a success because of that. It’s a breath of fresh water in a multiplayer gaming environment that’s jam-packed with guns and shooting.

Charming inspirations

Image credit: Mediatonic/Devolver Digital

It is not often that a multiplayer experience like Fall Guys can hold its own over such a long period of time. After all, the site boasts a large player base more than a year after it was launched. Fall Guys was inspired by a unique idea that resonates with people outside of the gaming community.

Walsh tells us that Fall Guys are different because they were inspired by television. It was a perfect timing, as Twitch’s growth coincided with our game. It is actually Takeshi’s Castle (MXC) in the US and Total Wipeout that are the real inspiration. For people who are a little older, it’s A Knockout.

“And those games shows are so incredible. They were my favorite TV shows growing up, and I have always wanted to be a contestant on them. That was the inspiration for Fall Guys. It’s the only game that draws inspiration from this area, and I believe that makes it unique. It’s a major reason it’s so popular.

These roots in popular televised games shows were a constant part of Fall Guys since its inception. Fall Guys is a large-scale game show that was created from the idea of many games.

“Initially, it was a worry that it would not work. Walsh tells us that it’s not something we’ve ever played before. In the first playtest, we played Door Dash into Tail Tag and Fall Mountain. We then narrowed it down to a winner among the 40 participants who were present in London’s studio. My creative director was the one who sat me down and said, “Yep, this is going to work.” It was unlike any other game we had ever played. Since the beginning of our work on Fall Guys, this through-line of gameshow-ness in knocking people out of their game and whittling down them has been part of Fall Guys.

Crossover craziness

Image credit: Mediatonic/Devolver Digital

Fall Guys’ uniqueness is not only due to its gameshow inspirations but also because of the many licensed crossovers with other movies and games.

“If you’ve seen The Truman Show, you know that there are people in high places in charge. I believe that the story behind the game show is one that I’m excited to get into a bit more detail.”

Joe Walsh – Lead Game Designer

We’ve seen Fall Guys work with indie songs like My Friend Pedro, Among Us, and more surprising crossovers like Nier Automata and Disney’s The Jungle Book. There’s no shortage of red tape when there are so many big companies involved.

Walsh states that it all depends on the brand they’re working with. We love indie collaborations because they reflect our history as indie developers. You can simply call or email the person who made the game and ask them if he/she would like to be part of Fall Guys. These conversations can be very fast.

“When you work with bigger things, such as Disney, for Tron or The Jungle Book, the process is slower because there are more people involved. Disney is a large, massive company. However, I believe that Fall Guys is unique because it can be Spelunky man, Shovel Knight or Flynn.

Fall Guys looks set to stay put. It remains one of the most loved online multiplayer games on Steam. A Xbox SeriesX/S edition is also on its way.

Walsh says that it’s not just crossovers that will shake up Fall Guys. Mediatonic could start to offer a more engaging narrative about the story of everyone’s favorite multiplayer gameshow.

Walsh says, “I think one thing that I’m really excited about starting doing is building the Fall Guys world in a more narrative driven manner, in a sense.” “Like before when we went to the winter theme, Fall Guys were just there and then suddenly, they’re in a future and it all seems quite arbitrary because they have never had the resources or time to figure out why they’re where they are.”

“If you’ve seen The Truman Show, you know that there are people in high places in charge. I believe that the story behind the game show is one that I’m excited to get into a bit more detail.”

Keep things fresh

(Image credit: Mediatonic)

Although it sounds like the Fall Guys team has already begun to plan for some ambitious things for the future seasons, the task of changing up the Fall Guys formula is not easy.

Walsh says that it is definitely challenging. Fall Guys can be difficult because each round is different, making it harder to make large-scale changes to the game. We cannot flip or transform an island the same way Fortnite or Warzone can.

“So, we’re looking at ways to make Fall Guys more ambitious and bigger changes as we go. The best thing about growing the team has been that we have the ability to plan and go into action.

“I believe there are many ideas we can experiment with. People are always looking for Hex-A–Gone or other levels that give them more control and allow them to play with emergent gameplay. It will be fun to explore this stuff more. There are only so many obstacles we can make. “But I believe there is so much more we can do together with Fall Guy than we have had the chance to explore.”

It’s not easy to come up with new ideas or concepts. Walsh says that there are likely to be a few more Fall Guys who make the grade than the one that made it.

Walsh said, “Oh, yeah. There’s definitely a lot,” referring to the number of low-level ideas that are scrapped. “Squid Game is the largest TV show in the country and one of them has been mentioned recently. It opens with Red Light Green Light. This is something we have tried. We never got around to prototyping it because we didn’t understand how it worked.

“In a videogame there’s something about motion, which is in reality it’s very difficult to stay still. You just need to put the controller down in a videogame. We were so adamant that we wouldn’t do Red Light Green Light at that time. It didn’t make any sense. Now that I see how popular Squid Gam has become, I would love to give it another shot and see if it could be done in Fall Guys.

Future jellybeans

Image credit: Mediatonic/Devolver Digital

What does Mediatonic as a studio have in mind for the future? Walsh said that while Mediatonic is focused on growing Fall Guys and making the game the best it can be, it doesn’t plan to rest on its laurels.

Walsh says, “We’re committed to growing Fall Guys” and fulfilling the task that Walsh set: Making the World’s Greatest Game Show. Walsh says, “I believe there’s so many more things we can do that at least another year worth of content we know we want to do.” If you consider the life span of Rocket League, Fall Guys would be a great addition to those games. They are real staples games with a long history.

“We are incredibly proud to be out for a whole year. That puts us in a unique position. Mediatonic is not a single game studio. However, our vision does not allow us to stop looking for the next Fall Guys. We are always looking for new game ideas and getting [our] excited.

We now have a larger team and the experience to make something like Fall Guys. We had never before released a real-time multiplayer game with 60 players. So we have a lot of experience that we can use in the future.

 

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