falling over isn’t as easy as it looks
How we helped MediaTonic make Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout a massive multiplayer success.
What’s the secret behind the success of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout?
Just three weeks after launch, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout became the most downloaded Playstation Plus game in history. But these crazy characters stumbling towards victory required a lot more craftsmanship than you might think…
Mediatonic’s vision was highly ambitious: to use Unity to create a session-based, surprisingly wholesome battle royale with comical physics for up to 60 concurrent players. The studio had plenty of experience with Unity, but their focus until that point had been on mobile games that didn’t rely on real-time, high-performance networking.
Could we, as the experts in multiplayer, help them work out whether such a game was even possible? And could we help them make it?
We jumped at the chance to work side by side with the Mediatonic dev team to create the original prototype for Fall Guys. This was a rare opportunity to kick off a multiplayer project with zero code already written.
“MPG really knows multiplayer. They quickly understood the technical challenges we’d face and provided the best co-dev team possible to help us tackle those challenges and deliver our vision.”
Fully integrated multiplayer development
Our role was to design and engineer the core multiplayer gameplay, dealing with the client/ server model, physics, animation and player character control.
After some early prototyping, we were confident that with the capabilities of Unity and expertise of MPG, we would be able to deliver on the vision for the game.
Over the next 18 months, Mediatonic focused on all the creative elements that go into making a great game, sharing their ideas for level design, features and mechanics. Our team of engineers and technical artists worked alongside them to overcome the technical challenges and minimise risks.
Falling over isn’t as easy as it looks
A big part of what makes Fall Guys so successful is how Mediatonic’s artists have made the Fall Guys themselves look, behave and tumble with such characteristic cuteness. This seemingly simple art style has been fine tuned to perfectly illustrate the gameplay and maximise appeal. Making this work in Unity and synchronising all the animation for 60 concurrent players was no small feat.
Our approach was to keep things simple and our eyes on the prize
It’s very easy to get swept up in trying to implement features using complex initiatives or high level abstractions that prove to be a hindrance down the line. By keeping things clean, simple and optimal, we made it much easier to get the game into a shippable state.
One of the most satisfying things about working on Fall Guys was showing the world that Unity is capable of delivering such a game – even when you’re using a hand-modified version of the UNet networking library.
"Trying to get 60 physics-heavy characters in a small space all networked and playing nicely has been a really tricky, interesting and fun challenge. We had to write a new ragdoll system as the third-party one just didn’t network properly and was killing the frame rate. I worked very closely with Joe (the Lead Designer) to get the character controlling and feeling like he envisioned. To see players on Twitch or YouTube spontaneously burst out laughing as their Fall Guy tries to stumble to victory has been very rewarding."
Over 11 million purchases on PC, and the most downloaded title OF ALL TIME* on PlayStation Plus. So what is the secret behind this monumental success?
While the game seems to many to be a surprise hit, MPG’s Head of Art, Harvey Parker, foresaw Fall Guys as a game that would become an important release.
"Every so often a game comes along that captures the public’s imagination and defines a moment. With the right game design, perfectly illustrated with a visual style that is both appealing and instantly identifiable, and all the engineering hurdles elegantly overcome, every area of development hits a sweet spot. And this is where the magic happens."
Fall Guys is one of these magical games.
*Data correct as of December 2020
“We had a fantastic experience with MPG.
Lovely people who know their stuff and will always deliver for you.”