Today sees the arrival of Fall Guys on PlayStation 4. Developed by UK-based studio Mediatonic, it's a 60-player online battle royale that happens to also be a cutesy, colourful platformer. We've been in love with the concept ever since its reveal at E3 2019, so we're pretty excited to hop into the madness. In fact, we couldn't wait to learn more, and so we went to the source.
We caught up with lead designer Joe Walsh and senior level designer Megan Ralph recently to discuss the game. Below, we cover topics like its Takeshi's Castle inspirations, how it came to be one of August's PS Plus games, and its potential moving forward.
Push Square: So, for our readers, can you give us the elevator pitch on Fall Guys? What is this game?
Joe Walsh: Fall Guys is basically the greatest knockout gameshow that the world's ever seen. So, if you've seen Takeshi's Castle, Total Wipeout, or It's a Knockout, that's what we're emulating here. We're really trying to create this gameshow that feels like something you've seen on TV, and emulate that feeling of lining up on the start line against 59 other, similarly useless, competitors. Then you're gonna get whittled down until there's one left. So it's somewhere between Mario Party and battle royale.
You mentioned the game's inspired by real world physical gameshows. Did you take literal inspiration from any of these for levels?
Megan Ralph: We've taken a lot of inspiration from those gameshows, so there's a lot of very similar elements. But [the levels] have all got a bit of a twist on them, so there's none that I could directly relate back.
We've also taken inspiration from kid's games. So, things like tag, and stuff like that. We've got a similar game called Tail Tag, which has just got a more visual flair to it. And sports -- we've got games that are very similar to actual sports games, like Fall Ball, which is two teams, two balls, two goals.
JW: If you look through a lot of the levels, there are sprinklings of Takeshi's Castle. You know that boulder run, where they've got little holes in the wall and they've got to run up and there's a giant boulder coming down at them -- that's something that felt so classically Takeshi's Castle, and we've got a similar thing in a couple of our levels. We're able to design what was in [the producer's] head if they had a blank cheque. We can basically build whatever we want, so we can just scale everything up and make everything even more insane and ridiculous.
You've got 25 round types in the game at launch. Can you talk about your plans post-release, and how you plan to keep people engaged?
MR: So we're gonna be releasing completely new rounds and some maps for existing rounds on the level side. We'll also be sprinkling in some different [level] variations and stuff.
JW: The idea is that each season is going to have a cohesive theme to it that's going to run through the levels and the costumes. We think that's gonna be really fun for us to take inspiration from maybe the time of year, or a different gameshow we really liked as kids, and build new seasons around that. Also, talking about replayability, it's really important for us that every time you play Fall Guys, it feels a bit different, you should have different challenges. So, post-launch, we're looking to push that further by having almost procedurally generated elements to our levels to really push replayability. We're working on that at the moment, and that should hopefully come post-launch. But the idea is that the costumes and the levels should just be hilariously fun and inspire people to play more and unlock new things.
Fall Guys is launching a few months before next-gen arrives. Are there any plans to bring the game forward to PS5, or is that too far in the future?
JW: I think we'd love to bring the game to PlayStation 5 one day, it would be really awesome. But for now, we're really focused on making launch as seamless as possible, getting as many people into the game as we possibly can, and making sure we have a really healthy community. Once we've got that, we can start to look forward and hopefully bring it to platforms like PS5 one day.
You said that you need a healthy community of players, and making the game available on PlayStation Plus is obviously a big step towards that. Can you talk about how you landed on that decision, and how that came about?
JW: PlayStation has really just let us get on with making the game. They were really excited about the initial concept, and quite quickly, we started talking about this game being a potential PlayStation Plus deal. Even before we started talking to Sony, we were having discussions in the studio about that being the best way we could launch this game. It just means that, day one, we should hopefully get this huge influx of players, and it means that matchmaking time is gonna be short, we can match people with others near them so your connection's really stable... It's always made total sense for us, so when PlayStation were like, "How do you feel about maybe being --" and we were like "Yes, definitely, PlayStation Plus, let's go!"
This is the first time in a while a game will launch as a PS Plus game. The most obvious example is Rocket League, which became an overnight success thanks to releasing on the service. Are you hoping for a similar level of enthusiasm for Fall Guys?
JW: I think what's really exciting is that it has a similar appeal [to Rocket League] of... You watch it, and you get it. It's people running down an obstacle course, I could probably do that -- in the same way that Rocket League is. And so, what we hope is that it has that same accessibility. That's been really important to us designing the game, is to make the game accessible. Make it easy to spectate, and easy to understand what's going on.
MR: Yeah, it's also based on word of mouth, I think. It's gonna be people sharing the excitement with their friends, streaming it, and that sort of thing that's gonna give us a sort of leg up.
On Steam, those who pre-order get a special Gordon Freeman costume. Are there any plans for PlayStation-themed outfits for the PS4 version?
JW: We have lots of ideas and would love to add more familiar faces, but in the meantime we're inviting our community to throw their creative efforts out there for a chance to get it in the game in our Make a Fall Guy Competition.
Speaking of streaming, what do you think of Fall Guys' chances as an eSport? It certainly has that broadcastable quality to it.
MR: So I feel like this has come up a couple of times, probably over the last two weeks. It's funny because, even though we know that we're aiming at streamers, and we'd like people to share it like that, [eSports] is just not something we've designed around. We obviously want it to be accessible for people to use it as a competitive game, but, I know that when we were looking at the levels, we weren't designing with that in mind. I think that's actually helped, because I think the levels would probably be worse if we were aiming specifically [at eSports]. We've really focused on just making them fun and accessible. Hopefully, if [eSports] comes out of that, it would be really exciting, but it hasn't been in our wheelhouse.
JW: I think you never know, really. It would be really exciting to see what people pick up and do with it. The game is structured as a gameshow, so there is a lot of potential for people to run or host their own gameshows on a Saturday night and stuff. That would be really exciting. We have people in our Discord making their own eSports teams already, and the game's not even out yet, so you never know!
I love the idea of people running their own game shows, and commentating on matches!
JW: Yeah, we sort of deliberately didn't add commentary to the game, because we wanted to leave that space open for people to commentate themselves.
We've touched on it already, but Fall Guys has lots of potential as a livestream game. Have you thought about interactive elements on Twitch? Viewers affecting the levels?
JW: Yeah, I'd love to do that. It's on our backlog. There are a couple of things on Twitch that Fall Guys shares some DNA with, and I think it would just work perfectly to have the community get involved. Maybe have a say in what round gets picked, or add modifiers to the game, for example, would be really exciting. Trying to get the audience involved would be a really exciting way to take Fall Guys in the future.
Are there any other plans you can talk about? I know some have been asking for local multiplayer options, is that something you may look to later on?
JW: Right now we're holding fire and just seeing what the community really demands when the game comes out, because we really have no idea how people are gonna receive it. We're just gonna be listening, really. And we talked about it, you know, things like cross-play, and squads mode is another big thing that gets requested -- those kind of features we're really excited about.
Local and split screen multiplayer is lower down the list, because we see the game as so great when it's 60 people together, that's really what the whole thing has been designed for, is to create this sense of chaos. You never know, though. Weirder things have happened.
Who of the two of you would get furthest in a game of Takeshi's Castle?
MR: Absolutely Joe, 100 per cent!
JW: I was doing monkey bars this morning, I've been training for that moment!
We actually did a couple of obstacle courses early on in development as a team. We all went to these giant inflatable courses, and recorded video and stuff of ourselves. We came away with some ideas for obstacles, some of which have made it into the game, so it was a good learning experience. I think Fall Guys is a better game for our failures getting covered in mud early on in development.
Do you have any favourite games or rounds in Fall Guys?
MR: This changes so much, but at the moment I'm loving Slime Climb. It's like a crazy obstacle course gauntlet race to the top, but there's slime rising from the bottom. So it's sort of a mix of a race and an elimination round, and I'm terrible at it. It's one of the few rounds where I freak out completely, and I'll almost always get taken out on that round. And it's really simple obstacles, I just freak out!
JW: We have one called Hit Parade, which is like your classic obstacle course. It's got like giant swinging wrecking balls, balance beams over slides... When we initially pitched the game, we always had this idea in our head. But we've got to a point now, with 25 levels, that you forget some of them exist. We'll be playing the game and one will come up, and I'm like "Wow, I totally forgot we made this level a year ago!"
How's the game structured? Obviously you matchmake with 59 other players and are put into a series of rounds -- how is it all put together?
JW: The way it works is, we have this thing called The Director in the background, which is essentially someone on the mixing desk deciding what's coming next. So it will look at how many players are in a round and what they've played so far, and will pick what it considers the best round for this set of players. We know that we want a game to last about five rounds long, so [The Director] will make sure it strings things out and eliminates the right number of people, and will say, "Oh, you haven't played a team game in a while, let's throw a team game in". So we have this AI architecting the experience for players, but you don't really notice it very much. It all feels kind of random, but we're actually doing a lot of work in the background to make sure the variety's there.
MR: And just going back to the gameshow element, one thing I love about our game is, even if you get knocked out in the first round, you can still spectate all the other rounds. And it feels like a gameshow when you're doing that, so you can skip between players and have a personal cam on everyone. I would think that people would jump out as soon as they get eliminated and jump into another round, which they can do, but most people stick around and watch who gets the crown at the end.
JW: Yeah, there are levels that are even better as spectator rounds, because spectators kind of know things that other people don't; they can remember where the hidden path was, and so you find yourself shouting at the screen. "What are you doing?! That's the wrong way!" It's really really fun.
You've been doing quite a lot of play testing with closed betas. What's some feedback you've had from those that you've been able to act on?
JW: We've been tweaking the grab mechanic quite a lot, because we get a lot of feedback about the grabbing. You can wrestle onto another player. People were saying they like the mechanic, but they felt kinda powerless while they were being grabbed. So we added like a jump button, so if you're being grabbed, you can mash the jump button and you'll pop free, and that other person will be pushed back. We're trying to find the balance there between just the right amount of shenanigans, but not letting players be completely toxic. It's been great to get so much feedback, and we've had lots of feedback on levels, too.
MR: I think for me, the most valuable thing about the betas is being able to watch the levels being played at full capacity from people who don't know them intimately. Seeing 60 people hammering through an obstacle course and seeing what the choke points are, and the parts that you could do flawlessly, and line up all the jumps... It's been really valuable for us.
Finally, what are your thoughts on getting Craig Charles in to run some commentary?
JW: [Laughs] I would love that. That would make my life if we could get Craig Charles commentating the game. That would be the dream.
So you'd go back on your philosophy of not including commentary to get Craig Charles in the VO booth?
JW: That would be amazing. A Craig Charles commentary pack... I'd pay so much money to have that in the game!
BR: We should try and get Takeshi Kitano to do it, then you'd have the original voice!
JW: Yeah, that'd be great.
Any closing thoughts?
JW: Craig Charles, get in touch.
But yeah, it's just so exciting to be considered alongside that [PS Plus] roster, and to have us get out there. Like, the game is gonna be full of players on day one, and we'd just encourage everybody to download it on 4th August and try it out. We feel like it's such a breath of fresh air to multiplayer gaming, and people who usually feel like they're not into multiplayer games online. Download it, give it a go, you've got nothing to lose. I'm pretty sure you'll have a blast.
MR: Yeah. I think it's been really encouraging to see such a small team getting this much support from Sony, it's been amazing. Like, Shu announced the release date on the Devolver [Direct], things like that. They've really got a lot of faith in us, and I think it's really boosted everyone. You don't really know where you stand when you're developing sometimes, but yeah, I'm really happy and confident with the game.
Fall Guys is out today on PS4, and is free to PS Plus members for the month of August. A huge thanks to Joe and Megan for taking the time to talk to us. This interview has been edited for readability.