Why goats are the future of gaming
'Goat MMO Simulator' is not actually an MMO. It's something way better8
I'm a Microwave with legs, a force of true chaos. I have catapulted myself across the map and into a town full of evil sheep warriors who are running around on fire. (They weren't on fire before I got there, but in my defense, they attacked first.) Looking at my inventory, I have an apple, a chair, and the person who gave me my first quest. As I try to jump into the second floor of a house, a sheep headbutts me and I fall through the entire map. For a few seconds, I'm a ragdoll trapped in a glitch between worlds. And then I'm back where I started, at the bottom of a conveyer belt standing over innumerable lifeless goat bodies.
But then something truly weird happens. A goat magician asks me to join his guild. And then the text request disappears. It was right there in the ever-present bottom-left chat window. And now it’s gone, lost to a list of fake messages. I’m honestly not sure if I imagined it anymore.
Thing is, I know Goat MMO Simulator isn't an actual MMO (word order, in this case, is very important). Coffee Stain Studios's free add-on to its surprising breakout hit Goat Simulator (over 1.1 million sales and counting) is itself a surprisingly smart send-off to the massively successful online role-playing genre. Released today for PC, Mac, and Linux — just one week after World of Warcraft's fifth expansion, it takes everything that people loved about Goat Simulator — its sandbox world of over-the-top physics and bombastic humor — and gives it a sense of purpose. There are ridiculous quests to do, things to fight, and secrets to stumble upon. And again, it's free — if you've already bought into the idea of Goat Simulator, this is just icing on a (probably explosive) cake.
I had questions, though, so we reached out to Goat Simulator's game designer Armin Ibrisagic.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How long did it take to actually build this?
Yeah the button you click to make the MMO in the trailer isn't that accurate. This is what our PC, Mac, and Linux team has been working on since this summer.
Why pretend it's an MMO?
We figured that we've done pretty much everything in Goat Simulator already. You can play as a demonic giraffe with a jetpack that knocks a car into a gas station. It felt like MMO was the natural next step.
It's also kind of an in-joke for developers. People tend to have unnaturally big expectations from game developers. The public always underestimates the huge amount of work it takes to make a game. We've had countless requests to just "patch in multiplayer, come on man, it can't be that hard, don’t be lazy!" by players that don't understand that it would take years and we would have to rebuild the entire game from scratch. With the trailer, we wanted to make fun of the simplified view that people have of game development.
Any worry that people are going to react negatively when they realize it's a single player experience?
This is something that we've discussed a lot at the office and we don't want our players to ACTUALLY react negatively when they realize it's not actually a real MMO. I myself think it would be hilarious if someone who already bought the game earlier is like, "wow, they patched in MMO support?!", plays for 10 minutes, and then is like "Heeeey wait a second!!" — and then laughs. That would be the ideal reaction for me. What we don't want is people buying the game, thinking that it's an MMO and then feeling conned. We feel we're pretty safe with that since the expansion is free (would be worse if you paid $5 and then felt conned), but we still don't want a new customer to come in and expect an actual MMO and then feel tricked by us. That's also why we decided to have such a small delay between revealing the expansion and releasing it, and having no press embargo at all from the reveal of the expansion until the release of it. Hopefully that'll minimize the chance of players feeling that we've tricked them. We realize we probably could have gotten a lot more sales if we actually DID trick people, but that's not something we want Coffee Stain to do.
Also, to be fair, the expansion is called Goat MMO Simulator. It's an MMO simulation. Totally not the same thing as, say, Goat Simulator MMO.
Is anything about it really multiplayer? Is the chat room pre-written?
[Laughs] Nothing at all! The chat is pre-scripted. I've had a lot of fun with that one. I'm very sorry, everyone.
Was there ever a moment where you legitimately thought about making this an actual MMO?
[Laughs] Yeah, well there's the joke, even if we wanted to make an actual MMO, it would take us 10 times more money and employees than we have, and even then it would be closer to six years of development than the current six months.
What was left on the cutting room floor?
Oh wow, let's see. We brainstormed a lot of different ideas and a lot of prototypes were scrapped halfway through. I don't have any footage, but I remember many character classes that were cut. We wanted to make a priest that had two abilities: one was to give NPCs communion (pouring wine on them), and the other was baptizing, which would let him re-name any NPC or item in the world. The baptizing feature took too long though, and we decided we could make three other classes for the same amount of time that it would take us to make the priest, so we had to cut him. But it was pretty fun. We also wanted the Rouge to actually look like a stealth-oriented make-up artist, but our 3D artist thought the goat looked ridiculous with a pink wig and a Gucci bag, so we remade the Rouge to actually look like a Rogue.
Did you intentionally time the release around the new World of Warcraft expansion?
I think WoW must have found out our release date somehow and timed their expansion to come out one week before ours. That's why we DDoS'd their servers last week.
When you hit level 101 in Goat MMO Simulator, you'll get an achievement called "Better than Warlords of Dredmor"— Armin Ibrisagic (@Arminposts) November 20, 2014
We'll definitely patch it up in case there are any problems with it, but in case we make another expansion we'd prefer to do something completely different instead of just adding more content to the current maps. But how do you top an MMO Simulator? Hmm.
Why free? Seems like even as a joke, you could've found a way to justify premium content.
Thing is, we developed Goat Simulator for 10 weeks and it's sold more than all our other games combined. We've sold over 1.1 million copies today, but the most common feedback people give us is that the game needs more content. So we just felt that we wanted to give back to our community. We sold so many copies during release that we could afford to keep working on the game for nine months after the release completely for free. If people appreciate our efforts and tell their friends to buy the game, we might even make back the money it cost us to make the expansion, which would be awesome.
Also, like I mentioned earlier, if the expansion would cost, say five dollars, then it would be way worse if someone actually bought the expansion thinking it's an MMO. Since it's free though, hopefully it doesn't matter that much.
Can you break down those sales by platform?
We've sold 1.1 million copies on PC, Mac, and Linux. I don't have any public sales numbers for the mobile version yet; I think we're going to wait until it's a really cool and even number and then go out with it in a press release or something. That'll be cool.
Speaking of, will the iOS or Android versions get the MMO?
We've only made this expansion for PC, Mac, and Linux. Right now we're just focusing on making the mobile version more stable and adding support for more devices. Once we do add content, it'll probably be the city map from Patch 1.1 since the Goat MMO Simulator map is way, way too big for mobile devices. We'd probably have to optimize the map for as many months as it took us to make it from scratch, cut it up into 10 pieces, and then in the end the UI would feel super wonky on Mobile. That doesn't mean that it'll definitely never ever happen ever, just that we have no plans for that at the moment.
I feel like I've read somewhere about how you all have turned more towards experimentation. Can you talk any about how that's changed your creative process? Does it mean having to scrap more projects?
Our development process for Goat Simulator is definitely a big change from how we used to make games. We used to plan everything two years ahead, and then try to follow that plan as closely as possible. Now, we just make things we think are fun and put them into Goat Simulator. Our creative process for the new expansion has been that everyone in our team gets to make and add whatever content they want into the game. Sometimes people collaborate if they need help across other disciplines (like if a certain quest needs both animation and programming), and sometimes they make something by themselves. Honestly I could do an entire interview just about the way we develop content for Goat Simulator, it's so different from what we did before we made the game.
We're also way more reactive than proactive now — people always ask me what our plans are for the future and I always say that I don't know because we haven't discussed that yet.
Any other genre-bending ideas? Goat MMO go-kart racing or Goat Mortal Kombat?
The Goat Juggernaut has started now and there is no way of stopping it. It will consume all genres.
I have to ask. Tell me about the physics of the goat tongue.
The tongue was actually implemented using existing Unreal Engine 3 features. It's basically a grappling hook extension that comes out of the goat's mouth. We initially wanted to make it so that the goat would bite onto things to carry them around, but it was hard to position your goat close enough to bite something, so we figured that we needed a "grab" function with at least a little range, someone tried making that the tongue, and as soon as it was in the game we laughed so much that we had to keep it. Now it's like one of the most iconic features of Goat Simulator, which is really funny.