Fall Guys is the feel-good hit of the summer - a fun battle royale as fun to watch as it is to play. And for developer Mediatonic, a stratospheric success, with millions in sales.
But how did it all happen? In a fascinating Twitter thread, Mediatonic creative director Jeff Tanton runs through Fall Guys' journey from idea to release, offering some fantastic insight in the process.
Fall Guys by @mediatonic has been out two weeks now and in that time has smashed our modest, and then wildest expectations of success.— Jeff Tanton (@Jeff_Tanton) August 20, 2020
This is how the initial @gosujoe pitch came about and why this moment means so much pic.twitter.com/7F2WCzLHzc
For example, Fall Guys wasn't always called Fall Guys. It was once called Fool's Gauntlet, and at another point called Stumble Chums, which I'm a big fan of.
But, as Tanton explains, Fall Guys became Fall Guys because of the nature of the characters. "... our characters that would fail for our amusement, but crucially always get back up again. Always. They would be heroic in their indefatigability."
That's probably where 'Fall Guys' as a game title first appeared (RIP Fool's Gauntlet and 'Stumble Chums') - our characters that would fail for our amusement, but crucially always get back up again. Always. They would be heroic in their indefatigability. pic.twitter.com/Cjbc1FIE2w— Jeff Tanton (@Jeff_Tanton) August 20, 2020
There's plenty more to the thread, including the one-page internal pitch for Fall Guys (then Fool's Guantlet), which was created by lead game designer Joe Walsh. You can see TV show Takeshi's Castle referenced in the doc.
The initial idea was for a 100-player battle royale, but this was revised during development. As Tanton says, "over a certain size, the games stopped being readable or fun."
(as you can see, we went for a big round 100 initially, but revised that during development for a bunch of reasons - one of the clearest being that, over a certain size, the games stopped being readable or fun)— Jeff Tanton (@Jeff_Tanton) August 20, 2020
Tanton pitched Fall Guys to about 10 publishers over a few days at the Game Developers Conference 2018. Devolver, the company behind Hotline Miami, ended up picking it up. Good call!
Devolver should have been the easiest, we'd worked on Foul Play and Hatoful Boyfriend and been friends ever since, but watching these people flll the room as I was setting up the AV shook me.— Jeff Tanton (@Jeff_Tanton) August 20, 2020
If they're friends... this could just be flat-out embarrassing for everyone involved.
Development continued, Mediatonic showed the game off at PAX to a positive reception, and the rest is history.
"It's hard to imagine now but we had no idea whether Fall Guys was going to be a success," Tanton concludes.
"As a studio we've taken some tough knocks in the past and picked ourselves up again - there's a resilience and learning through that, a humbleness that I think runs through the studio culture.
"It also means we had a whole bunch of muscle memory around near-misses and might-have-beens, but not for 'completely unprecedented levels of success and attention'. When I say it was a shock I mean I spent the first week kind of numbly updating social media and shaking."