Interview with Anthony Pepper, Senior Designer behind Fall Guys
Mediatonic’s Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is easily one of the most delightful releases of 2020 so far. A brand new and family-friendly take on the battle royale genre that is easy to pick up and play, but nearly impossible to master. I simply can’t stop playing the game, even though I almost always want to crawl into a corner and cry whenever I am drafted into the yellow team for the egg hoarding minigame. As mentioned in my review, it’s basically impossible to play this game without a gigantic smile on your face.
We had the opportunity to talk to Anthony Pepper (aka ‘Peps’) , senior designer at Mediatonic. He has done a mixture of feature design, level design, and prototyping, plus has been on the project since nearly Day 1 back in late 2018.
What was the thought process that led to the development of Fall Guys? How did the team come up with this idea for a game show-themed battle royale game?
We have a lot of internal pitching at Mediatonic for ideas we are interested in developing. Back in 2018, one of our designers, Joe Walsh (now Lead Designer on Fall Guys), pitched the concept of a 100 person Takeshi’s Castle to our Creative Director, Jeff Tanton, and it immediately caught on. It surprised us that no one had done anything like it before. That’s a rare thing in games. It was just a really vivid idea that jumps off the page, and everyone it was presented to immediately ‘got it’.
You worked as one of the game’s main level designers. I’d like to know how did you come up with ideas for these levels and if copious amounts of watching old tapes of Takeshi’s Challenge and Wipeout were part of the design process?
We have certain design pillars we want each of our level concepts to meet. Not just so it makes a good level, but so it makes a good Fall Guys level. Copious amounts of Takeshi’s Castle and Wipeout research was part of the process for sure; in fact, every designer that joined the project had to spend their first few days in front of YouTube!
For me, a lot of inspiration came from thinking back to childhood. Those sorts of really physical, fun obstacle courses in parks, or chasing people in the school playground. That general sense of chaotic fun and whimsy and lots of falling over. Let’s take Jump Club for example. This is an extremely simple concept, a small circular platform with two spinning spokes that get faster and faster, and Fall Guys have to time their jumps to avoid tripping and falling into the slime. Well, the initial inspiration for this was skipping ropes. So, what happens if you are asking lots of players to constantly jump over a skipping rope in a confined space? The concept then evolved from that.
It was such a fun interaction, that I used the same mechanic in another of my levels – The Whirligig, where those same jumps are utilised as part of a long obstacle course.
In particular, I’d like to know a bit more about the design philosophy behind the most (in)famous round in the game, See Saw. The minigame fans love to hate, but also hate to admit they actually love.
I cannot reveal any of See Saw’s dark secrets I’m afraid. Please never ask me about it again. Next question.
Did the team decide right from the get-go that they wanted a super cutesie art style for the game’s characters, or did that idea come about later into production?
Fall Guys is inherently slapstick and radiates a sense of fun, so it was always very important to the team that the world felt physical and that the characters were vibrant and colourful, so this was in our heads from the very start. We also had a lot of discussions about the theme of the game. Where was it set? Were Fall Guys sentient? Was it a TV show? Were they aliens?
All these questions fed back into how it looked. On top of this, the style also evolved during development, especially while we were answering our own questions about how a Fall Guy should feel to control. Once you start asking things like ‘Can a Fall Guy grab?’ or ‘Can a Fall Guy punch?’; that has consequences for the character design and that radiates out into the design of the larger world. The Art and Animation teams did an incredible job in combining their vision with these factors, with the result being the very colourful, joyful experience you see today.
The Steam version of Fall Guys features Gordon Freeman and Alyx-themed skins. Whose idea was to implement them in the game: Mediatonic’s, Devolver’s, or Valve’s? Was it easy to convince Valve to include these skins in the game?
It was a collaborative thing! Working with Devolver as our partner really helped us in getting these collaborations agreed. Since the game’s launch, well, you have seen our social media account. People have A LOT of ideas for skins and costumes and I think the popularity of the game is only going to help us!
Do you think Fall Guys should eventually become a staple esport?
We’re going to let the Fall Guys community decide things like that! It’s safe to say, we have been absolutely blown away by the game’s reception, and the amount of streamers and pro gamers who have been playing it is completely crazy to us. And just the other day, Devolver ran a streamer tournament on Twitch. So who knows!
It’s safe to say that Fall Guys is one of the biggest multiplayer hits of the year. Its community is creating tons of memes on a daily basis, and even celebrities are streaming matches online. What are you guys planning in order to keep the momentum going? Are you going to eventually include new minigames or add crossplay support?
We will absolutely be supporting the game with new rounds and ways to keep things feeling fresh. The rounds are the lifeblood of the game, and we have plenty of creative ideas for more of them, even more so after the amazing feedback we’ve received from our players. We are also looking at a bunch of features that we hope the community will really welcome. As for crossplay, that’s something we would love to do at some point down the line, and while we have nothing to announce, we are looking into it!