Fall Guys designer on existential questions, Daft Punk, and which BAFTA they'd most like to win
Fall Guys' lead game designer, Joe Walsh, also reveals whether his bean-shaped creations sleep.
When Fall Guys launched on PC and PS4 last summer, the developers from Mediatonic had an instant smash-hit success on their hands. And now the colourful gameshow-inspired title is nominated for five BAFTA Games Awards, with the ceremony taking place tonight (25th March).
The success story of Fall Guys is still being written, too: it's recently launched its fourth season of post-launch content, bringing a sci-fi tinge to the chaotic multiplayer fun; the game is also launching on Xbox consoles and Nintendo Switch this year, meaning even more players will surely jump in; and there's also the small matter of Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, who swooped in recently to acquire Mediatonic and provide long-term support for Fall Guys.
Whether or not the BAFTA Games Awards host ends up virtually handing an award to the Mediatonic team tonight, there's no denying that Fall Guys has done incredibly well. Ahead of the ceremony, then, RadioTimes.com chatted with Fall Guys' lead game designer, Joe Walsh. We spoke about the game's journey so far, which BAFTA he'd most like to win, and a whole lot more.
RT: Take us back to the genesis of Fall Guys. Am I right in thinking that you had the initial idea?
JW: Yeah. Essentially, we were having a meeting in the studio about a completely different game idea, which we were all very excited about. And through that conversation, we were just talking about fun activities that you could do with lots of people, that were online, that were multiplayer. And then I think we just suddenly thought, 'No one's made a game that's like Takeshi's Castle'. That's this weird mix of teamwork and competitiveness, but it doesn't take itself too seriously.
It seemed like there aren't really multiplayer games out there like that, and there aren't any multiplayer games that will focus on humour. And that was just something that we thought was really funny. And the initial thing, which is always a good sign, is when you can't believe nobody else has made this game already. So there's like a period of frantic Googling to try and find the Takeshi's Castle game that already exists, which means your day's gonna be ruined. And we just couldn't find anything that was even remotely close to what we had in our head. And things moved pretty quickly from there.
I mean, we had absolutely no right to be making this game. Like, we've never made a real-time multiplayer game before, we've never made a platformer like this before that is 3D and based in physics. And so for all intents and purposes, it shouldn't have worked out. But we managed to get something out the door. And people seem to have responded incredibly well to it. And now we're in the process of just building it up, adding more and more, and trying to create what we call 'the greatest game show on Earth'. And that's the whole point of Fall Guys, to create this game show for people to jump on and enjoy.
Did you ever think, back then, that it would become as big as it did?
We joked about, maybe, if we could get 100,000 people to download the game in six months, that would be a success. And there were a lot of serious conversations about what if, on day one, 59 people download the game, and we can't even fill a single lobby full of people. What happens to Fall Guys, in two weeks after launch, when everyone's forgotten about it? Because anytime you make something new, anything creatively, you really have no idea whether or not it's going to be good. And we'd done tests, and we'd taken it out to various conferences around the world, but you just really have no idea.
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And then I think, you realise that this pressure builds over the course of development - like, people are invested in this, people spent a lot of money making this game. Games are incredibly expensive to make, especially games like Fall Guys. There's a lot of pressure on this idea that you had, that was an offhand comment initially. And then suddenly, it's millions of dollars at stake. And it was a huge outpouring of relief when we had the first figures back in, and we knew that the most-downloaded PlayStation Plus game of all time, one of the biggest new launches on Steam this year. I mean, it's just a huge outpouring of relief, more than anything else. And then the excitement that now you get to build on it. And now you have a fan base, a passionate fan base that you can work with. This is really, really exciting and really, really rare.
Was there a Plan B if it hadn't worked? What would've happened if nobody did play it?
I really don't know. I think it would have been a slow process to try and figure out what on Earth we could have done, or turned it into a co-op game or something like that. It would have been a pretty massive 180, I think, so I'm very, very relieved that it did work out.
And how does it feel now, to be nominated for five BAFTA Games Awards?
Oh, you have to laugh really, because it's a game about jelly beans falling over. I mean, it's just ridiculous. But I think it goes to show how people were really looking for a game like this - something that's colourful and accessible and full of joy - over the past year. I think Fall Guys has come at a great time for people, where they were looking for something to take their mind off the insanity of the outside world. And I think that it's nice to look at the BAFTA nominations - especially, I think, Best Family Game is a really big one. I think that really shows that Fall Guys has achieved one of its lofty goals of bringing families together around video games for the first time. And so yeah, it's really, really amazing to be in the running for sure. It's a shame we don't get to dress up nicely and go to an awards ceremony or something, but sat on a Zoom call will have to do.
As well as the Family category, you're also up for British Game, Evolving Game, Multiplayer and Original Property. If you could pick just one to win, which one would you choose?
I think if I could pick, I would say Original Property, just because it's so hard to make something new and so rare to get the opportunity. Because a lot of the time when you come up with new ideas, they get to a certain point, and then someone somewhere is like, 'Oh if you took this existing IP, that would just instantly lower the risk of this game coming out. Because we'd already have a fan base, we'd already have interest'. And so it's really, really, really hard to make something brand new, and to build that world.
And we're still figuring out what the world of Fall Guys is - it's like, every day someone asks me, 'Well, do they sleep? Or how are they born? Or what's on the other side of the slime mountain?' And it's like, I don't know, we're gonna have to figure that out. And so I think, for us to have built a world and built something from the ground up and to be recognised by BAFTA for doing that, is pretty incredible. And so I think, maybe slightly selfishly, that's probably the one I would take.
And now I just want to ask you, do they sleep? And how are they born?
[Laughs] I actually had some long conversations about it. I think we've decided that they don't sleep, and that they're pretty much just constantly competing or thinking about competing. The 'how are they born' one is an ongoing conversation. But it's gonna be exciting. I'm hoping we get to expand the world of Fall Guys a bit more. Because when we were making it, the answer to a lot of those questions was just 'they just compete - that's all they do'. And mostly that was because we didn't have any time to think about these existential questions.
Because it was like, well, if the game isn't fun, and if the game doesn't work, no one's gonna care about the existential side of Fall Guys, so let's just close all those doors. And now it is a success, we can start reopening those doors a bit, and start playing around with it, which is really really fun. We've gone to the future for season four, and being able to think about the idea of a Fall Guy falling in the slime and then waking up 2000 years later, it's the first time we've actually been able to think about things like that, which has been really good.
How far into the future do your plans go now? Do you feel like you can do pretty much anything?
We are still very much, pretty much working on the next season, because when you're working on it, you really don't look much further ahead than the launch window. And we're still, with each release that we do, trying to get a little bit further ahead. But yeah, there's still a big question mark around where we're going with this stuff. But that's part of the fun, having those conversations about where on Earth we could take it next, with the added success and the added resource that we now have, we can push push ourselves to do things - we never could have done a futuristic season, four months ago, and now we really have an amazing team, that are getting bigger, who can allow us to do these really cool things.
Do you have plans for events and things you'd like to do in real-life when you're allowed?
Yeah, I would really love for us to be able to do some to put on some big events for the fans. Like the idea of doing a fan thing one day, like a big event, where we can get the most passionate Fall Guys fans together would be amazing. We have no idea what that would look like. I mean, the dream would be to build some of these obstacle courses in real life and have a bunch of Fall Guys fans come and try them out, or something like that. You know, those kinds of things, we just haven't been able to talk about them at all up until now. So it's very exciting to have that opportunity to maybe explore that stuff next year.
In terms of crossovers with the wider pop-culture world - obviously, you've got Godzilla back in the game at the moment - but do you have a wish list of franchises that you'd particularly love to team up with yourself?
I think that there are definitely some massive ones, but we've already really ticked off some huge ones. I think one of the ones that I was most happy with was, even when we launched the game, the preorder bonus for the game was Gordon Freeman [from the Half-Life series]. And that's just such an iconic pillar of the gaming industry - at the time time, that was like, 'Oh, I've no idea where we could even go from there. Surely we've peaked'. And now you play the game and you see Sonic standing next to Godzilla standing next to the goose from Untitled Goose Game. And it's just so insane that we have all of these characters together.
It really is like completely ridiculous, right? I think that's the great thing about Fall Guys is that you can pretty much put any costume on them, and people have enough of a sense of humour that they allow us to do something weird with it. I guess the one that we can't do now, which is a shame, is Daft Punk. That would have been the dream, especially with the futuristic season. I think we were as sad as anybody to hear that they are no longer making music, because we would have loved to have done a Daft Punk skin pack for the season. That would have been pretty amazing.
Your company has been acquired by Epic Games recently. What does that do to your plans? I'm imagining that it kind of accelerates them and makes a lot more things possible?
Yeah, it basically does. I mean, it gives us the opportunity, it gives us the backing to push the game into new areas that we would have basically had to have figured out from scratch ourselves. And now Epic give us the opportunity to just have so much more weight behind some of the really, really challenging things that they've solved on their other games. And it's long-term backing for Fall Guys - they're really committed into making this game truly the biggest gameshow they possibly can. And so, with their backing, they're basically happy to let us just like power on and bring the game to new and exciting frontiers. It is just amazing to have them on board.
How does it feel to be the new benchmark for how well a new multiplayer game takes off?
I love reading articles about, like, 'What's the new Fall Guys? What's the next Fall Guys?'. I can't wait to see what comes out, because I think that Fall Guys has proven that there is a really big opportunity for games that are multiplayer that aren't violent, and that are fun for everybody and are accessible. And I think you've seen things like, obviously, things like Among Us have been hot on our tails, and we're really now owning the colourful bean multiplayer space in a way that didn't exist before.
But yeah, I really think that hopefully there are a lot of developers around the world now thinking, 'Oh man, now that Fall Guys has shown that it's possible, that gives us the backing now to go and do something completely different that people wouldn't have expected', and multiplayer will be increasingly less dominated by white men with machine guns. And we can do a bit more in that space, which is really exciting.
The BAFTA Games Awards 2021 begin at 7pm tonight, Thursday 25th March.
The Awards will be live streamed on all major social platforms including BAFTA’s Facebook, Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, and for the first time, Steam.
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