Fall Guys - Good Game Design Analysis (short)
For the past few weeks i've been trying my hand at Fall Guys and... I love it. A truly unique twist on the battle royale genre with some amazing levels. So i’ve decided to delve a little into their design and do a small analysis. As a Junior I feel as if the best way for me to analyse the game is showing how the game avoids bad design and how the decision making of the designers helped make the game fun. But first, a brief overview:
Fall Guys is a platform based battle royale with tons of minigames that are reminiscent of gameshows like 'Takeshi’s castle' and provides players with competition and approachability on a new level. It is the most downloaded ps plus game in history with its simple, replayable, emergent levels that can create unique stories for players everywhere. Plus, the vinyl toy bean-like characters are perfectly balanced to feel usable but also hilarious to play as.
“You Have 30 Seconds to Figure Out This Level Before You Die” A column by Earnest Adams in which he reiterates the bad design behind throwing the player into an unknown place with no knowledge what to do, and giving them 30 seconds to escape before they die - this can sometimes add tension but its also punishing the player for no fault of their own. The levels in fall guys have a set of design pillars to follow: "different every time", "50-50 chaos and skill". You’d be forgiven for thinking the first two pillars corroborate the bad design technique - different and chaotic. However, a 3rd pillar; "game modes need to be explained in under 3 words" means the levels and game modes/objectives are so simple for the player to understand, you can even win on your first try.They also try to make each game feel like a playground game and use playground games as inspiration as they are easy to understand and everyone can get involved. Also, the fact they actually have a name and description for the level before you play makes all players aware of what they are doing. Aside from simple and few controls/abilities, this is what makes jumping into a level so seamless for players.
The fact the levels are well made and simple for the player to understand, anyone can compete with a chance of winning. Unlike Fortnite (and most other battle royales) which requires more skill and have more complicated mechanics (shooting,inventory system and building) Fall Guys only need the players to move and grab. They can also dive but we will class that as movement. This allows less skilled players to win and means the game is way more fun for the majority of people - especially casual players. Also, Lead Designer Joe Walsh said the game purposely has inconsistent difficulty amongst stages to stop it becoming exhausting. Acting as a sort of pacing for the game so players can relax in one stage but be filled with tension for the next.
The levels also use design techniques such as chokepoints and multiple choices (shorter but harder routes and longer but easier routes) of reaching the end to ensure everyone is forced into a chaotic moment whilst also stopping the experts from leaving the other players in the dust (more confident in taking a chance on the difficult paths).
Something that can often be misjudged is randomness in games. Games need to have the right balance of randomness and appearance of randomness. Fall guys nail the randomness in their game. The timing of all the platforms, the swinging axes, doors moving up and down all create a perception of randomness to the player. The fact that different walls move up and down at different timings (they probably move up and down at a set rate but they move differently to other walls) makes the levels feel more random and chaotic, but are most likely timed to perfection after balancing from their QA team. Some things in the game may actually be random but that's up to the designer's discretion.
Growth and Rulebreaking
Two key areas that are common faults in game design: lack of growth and breaking the rules set out in the game's world. Most games have growth by slowly giving the player new skill or abilities, in essence, making the game one big tutorial. However, Fall Guys give the player all their abilities at the start and never change them. But, where they grow and thrive is within the gameplay and levels. They have such unique and creative levels that can have vastly different gameplay stage to stage so that you are always doing something different. This completely avoids the repetitiveness and dullness that comes from no growth. Plus, their seasonal framework adds more content consistently meaning new gameplay and fun, not just a cosmetic change to a map *cough*. Also, as you play more, you become more familiar and confident with the levels, meaning you can focus on annoying other players aswell as trying to get through the stage. As for rule-breaking, this could easily be done by adding a level similar to 'Egg Scramble' but not allowing players to grab the object (or egg in 'Egg Scrambles' case). This would go against one of the core mechanics (grabbing) and would make the level hard and not fun for players. Anyway, this is mainly avoided by the fact the designers evidently know what they are doing and ensuring the levels are playtested and made to garauntee that if the players fail, it “felt like it was their own fault”(Joe Walsh) and not the games.
Overall, in this short analysis, we can see that Fall Guys counteracts common bad design, resulting in a fun, creative and joyful game that practically anyone can enjoy and win. The game may appear simple at first but I bet designing and creating a game or level with 60 people in absolute chaos is a mightier task than it first seems. Great job Mediatonic!
With thanks to Earnest Adams and Gamasutra for their articles which were filled with inspiration for this short analysis.