Goat Simulator: Developing an Unstoppable Cult Favorite

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What if the protagonist of the next Grand Theft Auto was a fluffy bovid? What if that animal hated its town and decided to cause a ruckus? Enter Goat Simulator – a sandbox-skater hybrid brought to you all the way from Sweden by independent developer Coffee Stain Studios. First released in 2014 for Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android, the game puts players into the role of a goat hell-bent on destroying the open-world suburban setting it’s roaming. Much like the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series, the game includes ragdoll physics and lets players gain points by doing crazy tricks and causing as much mayhem as possible.

Interest in the game keeps growing, so Coffee Stain Studios teamed up with publisher Double Eleven to launch versions for Xbox One and 360 on April 17, 2015. Arman Ibrisagic of Coffee Stain Studios answered our questions about the cult favorite game and its development process. “I watch a ton of YouTube videos during my work hours, and sometime last winter, I found funny videos of goats,” Ibrisagic told us. “I just figured ‘Hey, someone should make a game out of this,’ and I pitched the idea to my coworkers. After the third pitch, I finally managed to get people to start working on a prototype with me.”

Ibrisagic used the power of Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 to turn his vision into reality. The entire project took about ten weeks from the moment it started up until its first release on Steam. “The development of Goat Simulator would have never been so fast had we not used Unreal Engine 3,” Ibrisagic said. “We’ve used it before, so we knew that it would save us a lot of programming time. I shudder to think what would have happened if we had made the game from scratch or in another engine.”

One of the quirkiest aspects of the game’s development was the choice to incorporate ragdoll physics, which are seldom used in the gaming world. According to Ibrisagic, the reasoning behind this decision was simple: maximum silliness. “Ragdolls are really, really funny,” he explained. “Usually it’s something that developers have to tone down because it can look totally unrealistic, stupid, and ridiculous, but that’s exactly what our game is all about.” Gameplay is centered on committing “acts of chaos,” which allow players to rack up points. The idea behind this, according to Ibrisagic, came from a YouTube video depicting a goat terrorizing the citizens of a town.

The twenty members of Coffee Stain Studios used an abstract, unstructured workflow for the game, working on whatever they wanted during the development process. “Our workflow was very different compared to what the norm is in the gaming industry,” Ibrisagic said. “This means that we had no actual project plan, we just let people work on whatever they preferred. We’ve found that people are way happier and more creative working like this. A structure like this doesn’t work for all games, but for Goat Simulator, it was perfect.”

Along with its free-for-all workflow, the game also was built on a budget, one that didn’t allow the studio to hire any voice actors. “We just let our own employees record all the sounds,” Ibrisagic explained. “I think at least one of the goat screams in the game is my voice. The rest of the sound effects, we just bought over the Internet.”

Over the past year, Goat Simulator has become Coffee Stain Studios’ biggest hit ever. This success inspired the team to keep working on the game, and they’ve added more and more content along the way. “Right now, with the latest free expansion we released, the game is probably five times bigger than it was on release,” Ibrisagic said. “I suppose we’ll just keep working on it as long as people think it’s fun.”

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