Behind the scenes of 2020 phenomenon Fall Guys

Lead game designer Joe Walsh discusses the creative process behind hit multiplayer game Fall Guys, including its origins in the world of madcap game shows and why clever design is key to its success

“I wanted to try and make a multiplayer game for people who don’t like multiplayer games,” says Joe Walsh, lead game designer on Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout – the madcap battle royale game that became an overnight phenomenon when it was released in August this year.

Players were quickly hooked on the game’s zany obstacle courses, its crazily costumed jelly bean characters, and a knockout style of gameplay that sees people eliminated in each round. Its infuriating and joy-inducing mix of luck and skill also proved highly addictive – and it can’t have hurt that Covid-19 was keeping many of us indoors with hours of time to kill.

According to Walsh, Fall Guy’s roots lie in the world of game shows such as Takeshi’s Castle – which challenged participants to make their way round seemingly impossible obstacle courses before taking part in a final showdown, and storming the castle against Count Takeshi. As well as evoking the same silliness that the show delighted in, Walsh says the Mediatonic design team wanted to bring a new kind of multiplayer experience to people.

“It feels like multiplayer games appeal to a very specific type of person,” Walsh told CR. “You have to be competitive, and you have to be comfortable with not having fun as you learn the controls and the game. One of the things that jumped out was those moments in Takeshi’s Castle where you see people helping each other climb over those giant walls, and even though people are technically competing, they’re working together. This wholesome [idea of] family fun and relationships between competitors seemed like a really interesting space to experiment in.”