Mediatonic Director On the Origin of Fall Guys

In just two weeks since its release, Mediatonic’s Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout has already become one of the most talked-about games of the year. The game, which debuted on August 4 for PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam, features a relatively simple yet addictive concept. Players take on the role of one out of up to 60 “Fall Guys,”  tiny, adorable, bean-shaped creatures, running a three-dimensional obstacle course, and fight to claim victory by being the last one standing. Along the way, the Fall Guys compete in a variety of mini-games, ranging from straightforward races to surviving ever more complex obstacles to playing games such as tag or log-rolling.

Fall Guys quickly became one of the best-selling games on Steam, with over two million copies sold within just a few days. It received extremely favorable reviews, being praised as fun to both play and watch in fact, it briefly held the title for the most-watched game on streaming service Twitch. The game’s unexpected popularity led to several crossovers with other beloved series. Characters such as Half Life’s Gordon Freeman and Team Fortress 2’s Scout were added as in-game skins, with more promised in the future.

Additionally, developer Mediatonic held a charity auction called “Battle of the Brands,” in which popular brands could donate to the charity SpecialEffect, which helps make video games more accessible for people with disabilities. The winning brand, which has not yet been announced, will receive an official skin in the game.

In honor of the game’s success, Mediatonic Creative Director Jeff Tanton took to Twitter to share with fans some of the secrets behind the game’s development process. He started by discussing his role as the person who reads, criticizes, and ultimately accepts or rejects video game pitches. Tanton admitted that, when designer Joe Walsh first pitched the concept in 2018, he was more than a little anxious regarding its potential success — but not for long.

Walsh initially presented the game to Tanton as Fool’s Gauntlet, a 100-player battle royale game struggling to survive in an obstacle-filled environment that would allow for both collaboration and sabotage. He was inspired by game shows, including Japan’s Takeshi’s Castle (which later aired in the US under the title Most Extreme Elimination Challenge) and the UK’s It’s a Knockout.

Tanton was nervous, feeling that the market was already becoming saturated with battle royale games and that there was no room for another, even one as unique as Fool’s Gauntlet. However, his nerves disappeared as soon as he had finished reading the one-page pitch. “I immediately forwarded it to one of our studio founders,” the Creative Director Tweeted. “[I was] so convinced of its greatness that I didn’t even bother to include any explanation or preamble.”

He then went on to describe Fool’s Gauntlet, which was briefly named Stumble Chums before ultimately being rebranded to Fall Guys, as the easiest game he had ever pitched, comparing it to the mythical experience of catching “lightning in a bottle.” The game was pitched to Devolver Digital, with whom Mediatonic had previously worked on titles including Foul Play and Hatoful Boyfriend, and then eventually to Sony when the plan for a PlayStation release was formed. The publishers shared the developer’s excitement, agreeing with Tanton that this was a unique concept even within the already crowded battle royale genre.

The original concept for many Fall Guys levels, as well as the characters themselves, were designed by concept artist Dan Hoang. Hoang based the design of the characters, colloquially referred to by the team as “beans” due to their resemblance to jellybeans, on the bizarre-yet-adorable “Yetiguy” line of figures produced by the brand kidrobot. The idea of the “beans” as small characters wearing large, oversized costumes was also drawn from Takeshi’s Castle, which often featured bizarre costumes as part of its many challenges.

Hoang was far from the only team member who Tanton personally complimented in his lengthy “behind the scenes” Twitter thread. Among them were Mockmaster, who designed the original version of the Fall Mountain course, the first full stage to be completed, Megan Ralph, who organized the game’s many levels, Amy Pearson, who finalized the design of the “beans” (including giving them butts!) and Rob Jackson, who developed the game’s candy-inspired color palette, which has led to many reviewers and critics describing the game as “good enough to eat”!

Finally, Tanton reminisced about the presentation the Fall Guys team was able to do at gaming convention PAX before the spread of COVID-19 shut down and canceled similar events worldwide. He described the PAX show as the first moment when the game’s entire development team knew that they were “sitting on something special” which, based on Fall Guys’ immediate popularity, they definitely were! He even included a special shout out to Oliver Age 24, the game’s Community Manager, who spent so much time discussing Fall Guys with convention attendees that he did not manage to eat anything other than fish and chips for the entire week.

He closed the Twitter thread with heartfelt thanks and praise for the entire Mediatonic team, stating that he is “proud to call them [his] colleagues.” In these uncertain times, Fall Guys has been the light-hearted, colorful, stress-reducing game that so many of us need, so it’s especially nice to know that the team behind it truly appreciates one another and this unique game which they have created.

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