“If you want to enlarge someone’s head so it’s as big as the world and now you can’t see what you’re doing anymore,” says Sebastian Eriksson, CEO & Game Designer at Coffee Stain North, “it’s your choice. Do it if you want to!”
That sentence should give you a pretty good idea of where the Goat Simulator 3 team’s (impossibly gigantic) heads are at when it comes to this long-awaited, somewhat surprising sequel. (“We thought that we had made Goat Simulator 2, so we decided to name it 3, but when we realised that we haven’t done 2, it was too late. And here we are,” deadpans Creative Director Santiago Ferrero during a panel on the game at BitSummit.)
Just like the original, anarchic fun is set to be the order of the day, but where that game spun out from a game jam project to become an unexpected hit, Goat Simulator 3 has been in development for five years, and is much more ambitious, not just in size (with a map that’s 18 times bigger and 20-25 hours of core content), but in scope.
Goat Simulator 3 Screens
Like many of the best modern open-world games, Goat Simulator 3 will be driven by emergent, unexpected moments. Where NPCs in the original were truly brainless, they now take a much more active role in the world, and are divided into a number of different roles. “Police officers have their own abilities,” explains Santiago Ferrero, by way of example, “so if they see you do something [sketchy], they’ll stop and try to catch you. And then that can interact with something else in the world. If they catch you and throw you somewhere and you hit an electrical box that explodes there’s electricity flying, and then another NPC gets angry, runs up and starts kicking you.”
“And if the police car is electrified,” piles on Eriksson, “it will drive away by itself or maybe hit another person, then they’ll have to arrest themselves. Basically, the system will pretty much create chaos and different outcomes.”
The idea of elemental systems and AI all layered on top of one another certainly worked for a game like Breath of the Wild, but there the aim was for it to make intuitive sense, whereas here, it sounds as though the systems are allowed to run wild. “With the elements, we didn’t want to make it too real,” says Eriksson. “It’s not like only things that actually conduct electricity would be able to have electricity – no, we just put it on everything.”
And in typical Goat Simulator fashion, it’s not just fire and electricity, but oil and “stinkiness” too. “These elements all affect parts of the world in different ways,” Eriksson enthuses, “so for example, electricity will make cars go really fast and you can’t control them. Whereas, for a player… while you’re electrified you can actually shoot lightning bolts at stuff, and those things will zap away and it will spread, and it gets really crazy. And that goes for everything in this world. We’ve tried to build into it as much physicality as possible, and destruction, so this time around… you can pretty much destroy anything and mess with anything, and things will happen randomly and create really fun situations.”
And to help push the limits of the simulation, players are going to have a heap of power, too. In the first game (and its expansions) you were able to unlock a heap of different goats and other ways to modify the game. Alien Queen Goat could shoot eggs that would turn NPCs into Facehuggers and equipping a Jet Pack would see you spin crazily though the air, while toggling abilities like double jump and anti-gravity could help further modify the gameplay.
This mutator system has been replaced in Goat Simulator 3 by “Goat Gears.” We’ll still be able to change our base character (with nine different types of “goats”, including Tall Goat – aka a giraffe, Angry Goat – a rhino, and Tasty Goat – which I presume is a pig – available at launch), but there are then seven customisation slots (head, back, etc), with 350+ Goat Gears that can be equipped. Many of these are cosmetic, but there are plenty that “have abilities that change the way you play. Some of them shoot fireworks, some of them are just a tape measure where you can measure things in the world, so everything from gameplay to just nonsense,” laughs Ferrero. “It’s a mixed bag.”
“It’s basically the same as mutators,” he explains, “but we split them into their different components. So, like in space [in the last game] there was the Space Goat that had the helmet and the suit and you can get low gravity… Now the helmet is one gear, and suit is another, and the helmet has an ability. So we’ve split it up into components, so you can have a whole set of something, but one of the gears will have the ability of that set. And then you can toggle them on and off. You can have multiple gears at the same time and they all shoot – they all use the same input. So they all shoot at the same time and that creates more chaos.”
“For example, if you have a fire ability,” says Eriksson, “and also an ability to shoot fish – for some reason – you will shoot incendiary fish all of a sudden. We haven’t tried it all, so it’s going to be very exciting to see the players do [stuff like] that.”
Some of the goats have abilities too, which can then be stacked with your gear, and it all adds up to being able to have many more gameplay modifiers active than you were able to with the previous game. “It’s much more flexible this time,” confirms Eriksson, “because in the last game, when you put on multiple mutators, what you got was kind of an abomination most of the time, both in look and in feel. So this time, if you want to, you can still do that, but you can also wear something because it’s cool, and turn off the ability… So it’s much more flexible this time around.”
“And of course in multiplayer,” adds Ferrero, “customisation is something that’s a lot more important. You want to express yourself, you want to be different, especially when I’m playing mini-games, you want to see who’s who in a different way. And that’s also where this weird competitive/annoyance comes in, that another player can have very annoying gear that totally disrupts how you play a mini-game. And we’re not gonna stop you. That’s up to you guys to figure it out.”
“You can set up house rules if you want to keep your friends,” jokes Eriksson.
Online multiplayer is absolutely one of the crucial changes that’s going to set Goat Simulator 3 apart from the first game. Indeed, “that’s a feature that we really built the game around,” says Eriksson. Yes, the original had splitscreen (and we’ve taken advantage of that a lot in my household), but now we’re talking four player splitscreen and online play. Considering how much mischief players could get up to in the original, with a new engine and much larger world, the threequel is going to be nuts, and this time the game is very much designed to make it seamless.
There are seven mini-games, for instance, such as Hoofball (think Rocket League, except with goats instead of cars), but as is Goat Simulator’s way, while you can initiate them in sensible places (such as on a soccer ground), they can also be triggered at any time, anywhere in the world. “On top of a mountain or in the middle of the road or inside of a convenience store – wherever you want,” says Eriksson, allowing you and your friends to break into a game at any point. Not only could this be a whole lot of fun, but the world itself can intrude on the game in countless ways – a player could be hit by a car, arrested by a cop, and so on.
Another mini-game the team has revealed is “Floor is Lava,” which as the name suggests, is “where lava rises in the world and if you touch it you die. The last person alive wins,” says Ferrero.
Other examples of four player integration include the fact that “all four players can jump in the same vehicle and drive around and… boost,” says Ferrero. “It’s still as janky. It’s very – ‘arcadey’ is maybe the wrong word – but it’s not a stiff driving experience. You can drive kind of crazy. We don’t want you to just fast travel.”
And to that end, traversal has been a real focus. “We want you to have fun,” explains Eriksson. “The world is so much bigger this time, so you need different ways to get around. That’s where one of the new mechanics came in as well – we’ve added grinding to the game this time. You can grind wires and other things, just to get around really fast.”
Yes, as if jet packs weren’t enough, now we’re going to have goats grinding around an open-world. And I get the feeling this is just one surprise of many. “I don’t think we ourselves knew how ambitious the project was when we started it,” says Eriksson. “And it has grown a lot as well,” adds Ferrero. “That’s the blessing and the curse with Goat Simulator, that we cast the net so wide with the topics and ideas and feelings, that it’s hard to say no to something. So everything that sounds cool, we were like ‘yes, yes, let’s add it’… but now this is a ten year project! So we had to set a deadline [to ship the game]. And I guess that has been quite hard, but it’s also a positive side… the game is very packed – it’s dense with content and the content is also varied both with the themes and also just humour-based stuff.”
And as mentioned earlier, this world is many times larger than the original Goat Simulator, so what did the team want to achieve with the setting? After all, the series has gone to space, medieval fantasy lands and much more. “In the beginning, we knew that we wanted to have something that’s kind of grounded… more like the first map in Goat one,” explains Ferrero. “There are some things that are totally whack and crazy, but… at first glance it’s not weird.
“And then for inspiration of the look of the map, the top view… I think GTA5 was a big inspiration, like, there’s a little bay area and that kind of stuff. So we want to have variety since it is a big map and we have, I think, seven different main areas, like the farm, suburbs, a mountain area, a little forest, a dam that looks down into downtown and a residential area. There’s a lot of different height variations and feels.”
“But you will definitely end up in super weird themed places as well, beneath the surface,” adds Eriksson, “there’s a lot hiding I would say.”
The structure is very open ended, too. “You can tackle the content in any order that you want to,” explains Eriksson, “but there is an overarching progression system this time that will lead you closer to an actual ending. So that’s new with this game, but it in no way hinders the player from playing the way they want to.
“It’s non-intrusive progression,” adds Ferrero, “…it forces you to play the sandbox, exploration side of Goat Simulator. And then there’s always this bigger storyline happening. But then the quests are – some of them are very like Goat one – you come into an area, there’s something happening, you have to solve a puzzle or do something. And then some of them are maybe little bigger, a little more ambitious in size and in outcomes.”
It’s exciting to see this huge next step for a series that started out as a gag, especially since the original is still in the mix, so many years after release. “People are still playing it now,” Santiago Ferrero says with a smile, “so there’s still something there in the essence of Goat [Simulator] that brings people back. And I think that’s what we’re trying to expand on in Goat Simulator 3 – okay, we’ve added a lot of content, but we’ve also added a lot of systems to make [it so that] even when the content’s done, there’s still a lot of fun here to have.”
Goat Simulator 3 is coming to PC, Xbox Series S/X and PS5 on November 17, 2022.
Cam Shea has worked at IGN since before the before times, and has played more Breath of the Wild than just about any other game. When he’s not playing games he’s mixing records.