DOlly Parton once said, “It costs a lot of money to look cheap.” Similarly, making a purposeful play seems more complicated than it seems. Working on the sequel to 2014’s meme-rich Gat Simulator, Stockholm-based studio Coffee Stain North has made a fine art of looking shambolic. (There was no Goat Simulator 2, by the way. That’s part of the joke.)
If you missed it at the time, the premise of the sim is simple: you inhabit the least accurately simulated animal ever, wreaking goat mayhem in an objective-less sandbox world, earning points along the way for damaging things, performing Tony Hawk-style tricks and licking things. Sometimes the goat travels on a plane, sometimes it is kidnapped by strangers; sometimes it turns evil and sacrifices another goat in a fiery pentagram. It’s dumb. No sense. And that’s the point. So how do you follow it up with something substantial?
“It’s been more difficult than expected,” explains Santiago Ferrero, the game’s creative director, of the quest to find the sweet spot on the Venn diagram between fun, fun, and just plain bad. “It’s like bedhead hair. It should look like you just rolled out of bed, but in reality, you’ve spent a lot of time in front of that mirror. The same goes for buggy and stupid.”
For the past five years, Ferrero and the team have been working with this dilemma. Goat Simulator started out as an experiment in viral video game jamming, but now it’s an expansive world, with more to do for the person holding the controller and a proper beginning and end. It’s also an online multiplayer game – something that, despite its popularity on social media, the first game didn’t have. Now, friends can roam remotely as a herd of four customizable goats. “Our philosophy has always been that multiplayer enhances everything we add to the single-player experience,” says Ferrero, “and it’s proven itself time and time again… Think of the first Goat Simulator as a comedian rehearsing material in front of a mirror, and Goat Simulator 3 as they could finally take the stage in front of an audience.”
Making it work, however, has required some sophisticated goat technology. “Simulating a goat is no big deal,” shrugs perhaps the world’s foremost expert on goat simulation. “But simulating four goats, online, with all the destruction and physical simulation involved, really requires almost NASA-level technology. This has been quite a challenge.”
So what will those goats do together? Your team can start one of seven different mini-games, anywhere and anytime – with different consequences. For example, if you start a round of Hoofball – think Rocket League with goats instead of cars – in the middle of the road, then you can also run in the middle of the match. “We’ve tried to make them as dynamic as possible to be able to adapt to all kinds of locations, but some of them being less than optimal or even buggy is part of the fun,” he says. Ferrero. “The dynamic world, together with the various equipment of the players’ goats, will create endless changes and chaos.”
There are a lot of self-consciously weird gags in Goat Simulator and players love it. People are prone to leave seriousness at the door and embrace silliness. You can count on the sequel to be filled with asides, ridiculous customization options, and unpredictable outcomes, and when it gets into people’s hands, it’ll really live up to its Really Dumb Stuff potential. “We really don’t know what to expect, and neither do the players,” admits Ferrero. We’ll find out in a Reddit link, meme account, or Twitch stream when the game launches this November — though the first game might be hard to swallow.