D.olly Parton once said, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” Likewise, making an intentionally janky game seems trickier than it looks. Working on the sequel to 2014’s divisively meme-rich Goat Simulator, Stockholm-based studio Coffee Stain North has made a fine art out of looking shambolic. (There was no Goat Simulator 2, by the way. That’s part of the joke.)
If you missed it back then, the premise of the sim is simple: you inhabit the least accurately simulated animal ever, causing caprine chaos in a sandbox world with no objectives, earning points along the way for damaging things, performing Tony Hawk-style tricks and licking stuff. Sometimes the goat rides around with a jetpack, sometimes it gets abducted by aliens; sometimes it becomes evil and sacrifices a fellow goat on a fiery pentagram. It’s dumb. It makes no sense. And that’s the point. So, how do you follow it up with something substantial?
“It’s been harder than expected,” explains Santiago Ferrero, the game’s creative director, of the quest to find the sweet spot on the Venn diagram between buggy, fun, and just plain bad. “It’s like bedhead hair. It should look like you just stepped out of bed, but in reality, you’ve spent way too long in front of that mirror. The same goes for buggy and stupid. “
For the last five years, Ferrero and the team have been working through that dilemma. Goat Simulator started off as a viral-video game jam experiment, but it is now an expansive world, with more to do for the person holding the controller and a proper beginning and end. It’s also go online multiplayer – something which, despite its social-media popularity, the first game didn’t have. Now, friends can roam remotely as a herd of four customisable goats. “Our philosophy has always been that multiplayer enhances everything we add to the single player experience,” says Ferrero, “and that has proven itself over and over again … Think of the first Goat Simulator as a comedian rehearsing material in front of a mirror, and Goat Simulator 3 as finally being able to take the stage in front of an audience. “
Making it work, however, has required some sophisticated goat-tech. “Simulating one goat is no big deal,” shrugs arguably the world’s leading goat simulation expert. “But simulating four goats, online, with all the destruction and physics simulation that entails, really takes almost Nasa-level technology. That has been quite a challenge. “
So, what will those goats do together? Your squad can start up one of seven different mini-games, anywhere and anytime – with varying consequences. For example, if you start a round of Hoofball – think Rocket League with goats instead of cars – in the middle of the street, then you might also get run over mid-match. “We’ve tried to make them as dynamic as possible to be able to adapt to all sorts of locations, but some of them being less optimal or even buggy is part of the fun,” says Ferrero. “The dynamic world, together with players’ different goat gear, will make for endless variation and chaos.”
There are a lot of self-consciously wacky gags in Goat Simulator, and players love it. People are keen to leave seriousness at the door and embrace the silliness. You can count on the sequel being packed with sideways jokes, ridiculous customization options and unpredictable outcomes, and when it gets into people’s hands it will really fulfill its potential for Really Dumb Stuff. “We truly don’t know what to expect, and neither do the players,” admits Ferrero. We’ll find out on a Reddit thread, meme account or Twitch stream when the game launches this November – though the first game may be hard to b (l) eat.