Almost a year ago we spoke with House House developer Nico Disseldorp about the development of their 'immersive slapstick sim' Untitled Goose Game. With the eagerly anticipated game set for release on 20 September, we checked in with Nico to hear about their journey over the past year.
Release is almost here! When we spoke previously, Untitled Goose Game was set for an early 2019 release – can you talk us through the opportunities that arose that changed your trajectory?
Oh boy! Last year when we were aiming for a 2019 release we had a version of the game that had pretty much all the foundations in place. I guess we imagined at that point it would be finished shortly, and then we'd quickly get it working on Switch at the end. That plan moved around a bit and we ended up developing the Switch version in parallel. This meant that we had an early Switch demo that we could show at PAX, and Nintendo were really nice and showed it at a bunch of places too. Although I'm not sure how much that specifically contributed to the game coming out later than we thought- most of it was probably just us wanting to take extra time to get things right.
It feels a bit bad to announce a delay, but I think most people are very understanding - they know the game will be better for having the extra development time. I do wish we were better at estimating how long things will take us, but sometimes I think you have to be a bit optimistic with your deadlines. Maybe if we'd aimed for September 2019 it might have taken us until 2020.
You’re juggling a lot of relationships – your publisher Panic, releases across both Switch and PC – how has that changed your journey over the past year?
We are working with more people than ever before, and that's taken some getting used to. We’re not normally a very remote workplace, most of what we do happens in a single room, but getting a game released takes a lot of work from a lot of different people. There are lots of discussions happening every day in different time zones and lots to coordinate. We are very fortunate that Panic, and the people they work with, are really across things here and leading many of those relationships for us - for the most part they are the ones emailing Nintendo and Epic daily.
You mentioned last time we spoke that the audience was resonating really well with the games concept. You recently showed at PAX West – what was the response like?
I went to PAX West last year and it was a surreal experience, there were lots of very friendly and enthusiastic people who wanted to see our game. I was completely overwhelmed by the reception. There were crowds gathered around the TV laughing together at the game, and people lining up for an hour for a chance to play.
I think I get a lot out of seeing a game I'm working on played by different people and in different contexts; friends, strangers, game players, non-game players, individuals, couples, groups, office visits, parties, exhibitions - the more varied the better. And PAX was definitely a stand out in that regard!
We couldn't go in person this year because our hands are full with release stuff, but Panic showed the game again and I hear it went well!
You mentioned previously there’s a lot of physical comedy in your titles – do you think that’s something that’ll continue?
Good question! I'm not sure if comedy will be the starting point, but maybe it could still be funny/ Like the goose game definitely started with a joke first and the rest of the game came later - we just kept trying to think of funny things for a goose to do until we figured out what kind of game we had. But that wasn't the case with our last game Push Me Pull You. For that we tried to make a sports game and it ended up being funny anyway.
I think part of making a comedy game is just noticing when your game is already doing something funny, and then completing the joke. Most games I play have loads of funny moments, but in serious games these moments feel like they happen by accident. Maybe a comedy game is just one where it's made clear to the player "yes, this bit is a joke".
What have been the major challenges over the past year for you as creators and business people?
Getting a game this size actually finished! Over the course of development I feel like we got pretty well practiced at making funny stuff for a goose to do, but once that part was finished we suddenly found ourselves doing all these very different jobs that we had far less experience with, like dealing with translations, looking for bugs on all different platforms, going through console technical checklists... it's like we suddenly got new jobs as ‘game releasers’ rather than game makers.
What do you think has changed in the Victorian games industry over the past year and what are you most excited about?
To be completely honest I've had my head down more than usual when it comes to other things in Victoria. I've been kept a bit too busy with the game. As for upcoming Victorian games I've got my eye on - I'm excited to play Knuckle Sandwich, Wayward Strand, Heavenly Bodies and of course more Frog Detective.
What’s next after Untitled Goose Game hits shelves (digital or otherwise)?
I think even after the game comes out on September 20, the goose game will be our main focus for a while yet. I've released a commercial videogame exactly once before, and I'm not really sure what you are supposed to do right after the game comes out. I guess our next step will be a response to whatever happens once people start playing. Looking a bit further into the future, we have more game ideas that we get really excited about, but it's impossible to guess which idea will be right until it's actually time to make something. When we finished Push Me Pull You we thought we had some fully formed game ideas ready to go, but then we threw them all away to make a game about a goose. So who knows what could happen.
What do you hope people most take away from their playtime with Untitled Goose Game?
My biggest hope is that the game is a starting point for people to express themselves and perform for each other. Maybe it's like what I said about comedy games before. In pretty much every game players do things that are really interesting, expressive or funny, but it's not always easy for other people to see what happened, or how it works. Hopefully with Untitled Goose Game players can do something funny like that and it will be easy for the people around them to watch and come along with them. They will be able to show their private audience sitting next to them on the couch "yes, this is bit is a joke".
Untitled Goose Game by House House is available on Nintendo Switch, Mac & PC from September 20.
Untitled Goose Game was funded through Film Victoria’s Assigned Production Investment – Games program. Applications for the current funding round close 1 October.