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If Fall Guys isn't already on your radar, it absolutely should be. The Mediatonic-developed battle royale comes with a pretty simple pitch, but one that's certainly attention-grabbing: 60-player online action inspired by game shows like Takeshi's Castle and Total Wipeout. I mean, what more could you want?
For Mediatonic, Fall Guys is all about capturing the essence of those classic shows by throwing out an onslaught of unpredictable rounds and devilish obstacle courses. This is a game that wants to make you feel like you're finally competing in Takeshi's Castle... just without the televised humiliation and physical pain that I assume comes from being in a show like that.
Ahead of Fall Guys' long-awaited August 4th release date on Steam and PlayStation 4, I sat down for a chat with lead game designer Joseph Walsh and senior level designer Megan Ralph. We talked about using Takeshi's Castle as the starting point for development, how they've created a battle royale that's accessible for everyone, and what we can expect from the game at launch and beyond
What is it that sets Fall Guys apart from other battle royales?
Joe: Oh, I think I think the first thing, for us, is the ability for us to create gameplay that's fun - even when you're losing. I think that's the big differentiator for us. We love playing battle royales, but not everyone on the team is particularly good at them, myself included, and it can be very frustrating when you don't have the dexterity, or you don't have the map knowledge to do well.
With Fall Guys we've had this quest to sort of make failure fun. It's this Rich chaotic experience. The second the klaxon goes you're playing the game at its very peak, and it only increases in chaos from there... but I think really it comes down to that accessibility and that ability to help everybody have a good time, even if you're not doing well.
Megan: The fact that I can play around and lose horribly, and get hit by something and still have as much fun laughing at myself that I would if I'd have won... that's so different to me than other battle royales and competitive games. I love that element of it.
You've been holding some beta tests over the last few weeks - how has the reaction been so far?
Joe: It's been really good. I think people get it. A big thing has been seeing people who watched the trailer at E3 last year come play the beta and tell us this is exactly what they thought it was going to be. To feel like we've delivered on the promise so far has been a huge boost to the team.
Megan: I feel the same. It's such a strange concept, and such an unusual thing to put out there. To see that people get it and respond to it... it's been such a boost for everyone on the team.
On the subject of Takeshi's Castle, was that particular show always a point of inspiration for you guys, or did that come later?
Joe: I mean that was the initial pitch that we gave to Devolver [Digital, publisher]. We were literally just like, 'hey we should make a game that's like Takeshi's Castle!'
It was really the starting point. It's the inspiration for a lot of our early levels. We spent a long time watching Takeshi's Castle and recording GIFs and footage of the game, and that's inspired really quite heavily how the character feels to control.
Even things like the dive move came from watching Takeshi's Castle and seeing the way people throw themselves across gaps. There's something about landing on your belly in such a way that feels very game show, and that became one of the pillars that we worked towards: Fulfilling that feeling that you're actually on a game show.
How have you approached striking the balance between having these clumsy characters, and making sure they're actually fun - and fair - to control?
Megan: From a level design point of view, one of the most fascinating things for me was designing challenges that lean into how imprecise the characters are. Normally when you design levels, you want all of the metrics down. You want to know how far everything has to be apart for jumps, and that kind of thing.
We actually found that with Fall Guys, it's better to create an environment that's a little bit unstable, and a little bit imprecise... because it's just a bit more fun!
Joe: Yeah, you want to design levels where you can catch your head and fall over, or you don't quite make the jump and you trip. The levels are designed to bring the most out of this clumsy character, but it was also really important that you never really feel like it's random.
This game is more competitive than we realized, so it became apparent quickly that the character needs to respond to your inputs fairly, in a way that you don't see in a lot of ragdoll games.
Super Smash Bros. was a franchise that started life as a party game before becoming this behemoth on the competitive scene. Do you think Fall Guys could follow a similar path?
Joe: We actually have a couple of people on Twitter that've started their own Fall Guys esports team and the game's not even out yet! They've already decided that this is the game they're gonna go pro at.
Honestly, we haven't given much thought to what a Fall Guys esports league would look like... but I'm very much excited to see that how the community takes this game and runs with it, because it doesn't take itself too seriously. I do think there's opportunity for a different type of esport out there that maybe isn't quite so... serious, I guess.
Meg: On that point, I'm glad we didn't approach any of the design from a competitive perspective, because I think it would have been worse. It's nice that we made things that we thought would be fun, and the competitive angle has become a possibility from that point.
Joe: I think I think what we've also found as well is that people are finding next level strategies in the levels. There are shortcuts and strategies emerging just from our betas that we didn't design, but suddenly people are figuring out the quickest routes and doing jumps that we had no idea that were possible.
But rather than patch that stuff out. We've just embraced it. If that's the way people are going to play this game, that's awesome. It's been really fun to watch those strategies evolve, and I think it will continue to happen once the game goes live.
Fall Guys is definitely the kind of game I could see blowing up on Twitch and YouTube - was that ever something you guys considered and factored in during development?
Joe: Yeah. I mean, it's been a huge consideration really, because the game is inspired by television shows. It feels like a natural fit for streaming sites. As soon as you see Fall Guys, you instantly get what's happening. There are these tiny characters running towards the finish line, and you just get it. That's something that can't be said for a lot of big twitch games, you know?
I think it's been really important for us to consider that throughout development. Each level should be as good - if not better - to spectate than it is to play.
Meg: Yeah, there are just so many moments when you're capturing this game that you can always share with people, and that's really cool.
Joe: The game has to be instantly funny, and has to always create new ways to make you laugh, because we want people to always find new and interesting clips to share. That's really important to us.
The main focus of Fall Guys is as a 60-player online battle royale, but can we expect any kind of local multiplayer?
Joe: So for launch, we're not having any kind of local multiplayer. We're definitely going to be keeping an eye out once the game is live just to see what the reaction is like. We know split screen is something that's very close to a lot of people's hearts, but I think for now we're really focusing on just having 60 people in a lobby.
I think what we're launching with is this really tight, really awesome experience that people are just going to want to jump in play with their friends. It's interesting too, because you can go in as a squad and you can work together... but eventually you're going to have to turn on each other in the end. I think that's also something that's very unique to the Battle Royale space. I've not really seen it done yet.
How many rounds will Fall Guys have at launch?
Meg: So we'll have 25 rounds total in the game at launch. Everything from races and obstacle courses through to team games and survival rounds where you need to try and be the last player standing. There's gonna be a good variety of stuff in there - we've even got some logic and memory based games, which should be interesting.
And what are your favourite rounds so far?
Joe: At the moment my favourite round is one called Hit Parade, which is basically this obstacle course we designed. We wanted to be inspired by things like Total Wipeout as well, which are much more... dastardly obstacle courses to put people through.
Hit Parade takes you across balance beams, and through this insane maze of spinners... and then there's like the really classic pendulum Corridor before this giant slime Mountain that you have to climb. Basically took all of our favorite objects from Total Wipeout and Takeshi's Castle and smushed them into this one hellish level. Every time I play it I'm excited to get through and change my strategies each time.
Megan: I think my favourite at the moment is Fall Ball, which is our take on football. It's two teams, two goals, two balls... and no other rules. So you've basically just got to get the ball in the other team's goal, and it's chaos. It's utter madness, and it's great.
How will you keep coming players coming back to Fall Guys?
Megan: Hopefully the sheer variation of rounds. And obviously with 25 rounds there are going to be different sequences of levels each time you play. We're also looking at a few things in the future to sort of mix things up as well as seasoned content. So we're going to be adding levels and different variations of rounds to the game over time. All that's going to add up to a pretty good mix, I think.
Joe: Definitely. We really wanted it to feel like an episode of Takeshi's Castle when you just have no idea what weird combination of things they're going to ask you to do. That's exactly how Fall Guys feels when you play it.
You're never sure how a game is gonna go, and I think that replayability is is really crucial. And on top of that, we'll be doing things like adding more and more rounds. Hopefully like a year down the line we've got like, 60 different game modes, and it's just even more variety.
And what would be your top tips for success in Fall Guys?
Joe: Good question. There's loads of strategies, but just throwing your Fall Guy onto his front is the difference between going through and being eliminated and obviously you have to dive across the finish line for style points every single time. So that's my top tip. Dive everywhere.
Megan: I think my top tip is don't always try to be the front of the line. We've got a few rounds where it just pays to be behind a little bit... and nobody ever tries to do that! In certain rounds you can get bumped or fall into a trap if you're ahead, and because of that you're going to get delayed and it's just going to hurt you in the end. So I think staying behind with a little bit is actually good advice all around.
Joe: Yeah, let the other people be bait.
Finally, what do you want to have achieved with Fall Guys? What do you want players to take away from the experience?
Joe: I think for me it's like bringing competitive multiplayer to an audience who don't feel represented by the current crop of games. This is an opportunity for those people to pick up a controller, jump online and compete with other people around the world. And I think that that's a really exciting proposition for us. It's to bring the game to a new audience.
Megan: Yeah, very similar to Joe. I really want the game to have a competitive feel, but also feel like it's for everyone. Something that everyone can enjoy - I think that's rare in this space, and I'm really proud of what we've done.
Fall Guys is coming to PlayStation 4 and PC on August 4th.
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