Ever since it was first announced, Untitled Goose Game has enjoyed hugely positive reaction from all quarters - it's a rare thing to get excited about merch for a game we hadn't even played at the time, but there's something about this obnoxious goose and his stealthy slapstick antics which strikes a chord with us (and, it seems, a lot of other people too).
Following a delay from earlier this year, the goose is honking to Switch this Friday and we were lucky enough to have Michael McMaster from Melbourne-based developer House House answer some of our questions about the goose, the game and its untitled name. Honk.
Nintendo Life: How did the idea of controlling a horrible goose in a stealth-farce game come about? Have you had bad experiences with waterfowl in the past?
House House: We’re from Melbourne, Australia, where geese aren’t particularly common, so we weren’t drawing from personal experience. Geese are just funny: in August 2016, Stuart posted a stock image of a goose to our Slack and said we should make a game about it. This was a joke, but we riffed on how funny geese are for a while, and a few months later circled back around to the idea to take it seriously.
The game has a distinctive flat colour art style that almost makes it look like a storybook – was this part of the initial design or did it evolve throughout development?
A major influence for the game was children’s TV programming from the UK, which is what we were exposed to growing up – Postman Pat, Fireman Sam, Brum, etc. This is probably where the “storybook” feeling comes from – the townsfolk, for instance, are modelled after the faceless miniature people from shows like Thomas the Tank Engine.
House House hail from Melbourne but the game has a very ‘English Country Garden’ vibe – what was the thinking behind the setting?
As above - a lot of the world’s design is rooted in our understanding of the UK through the lens of idyllic children’s television shows from the early '90s.
Untitled Goose Game has generated extraordinary buzz since its reveal – what is it about the game that you think has captured people’s imagination? Is it something about letting players release their inner troll? Is there an inherent charm to nuisance geese?
When we started working on this game, I think we considered the idea of a game about a goose that runs around hassling people a bit of a niche appeal. It turns out people have a lot of feelings about geese! I think it has a lot to do with how threatening they are, in a kind of mundane way – although we’ve never encountered them ourselves, I think we’d underestimated how many people had, and nearly everyone from the Northern Hemisphere that we’ve spoken to about the game has relayed their own stories of traumatic goose encounters. It seems like we’ve tapped into a relatively universal experience without meaning to.
The game was originally scheduled for early 2019 before it got pushed to September. How has this extra time impacted the game?
The honest and boring answer is that even with a very rigorous production schedule and strict deadlines, it’s very hard to predict how long games take to make. We announced that “early 2019” window in mid-2018, and it seemed generous enough, but games almost always take longer to come together than you expect them to. Thankfully we’ve used that time well, and we’ve been able to make something that we’re very proud of – looking at the finished thing, there’s nothing in there that feels like a compromised version of our original vision. It didn’t feel great to have to announce a delay, but we were glad to see such overwhelming support and understanding from fans who seemed to get that these things take time.
With all due respect (we love your title!), there seems to be a recurring theme of matter-of-fact names when it comes to video games starring birds – we’re thinking Bird Game, Angry Birds, Flappy Bird… What’s the story behind the name ‘Untitled Goose Game’? Is there just something about avian video games which makes titles tough?
We settled on the name through necessity more than anything – we’d submitted the game (without a title) to Fantastic Arcade, a games festival in Texas, and after it was accepted we suddenly had a deadline to announce the game ourselves before the lineup was announced. We never settled on a good enough title, and the deadline to announce was fast approaching, so we uploaded our first gameplay video as “Untitled Goose Game”. I guess that stuck? Although basically every viable title has been suggested to us at this point, we’ve never found anything we liked more than what we’ve already got.
Your previous game Push Me Pull You released before Switch launched. With its focus on local multiplayer, it seems like a natural fit on Nintendo’s console – are there any plans to revisit it in the future?
Push Me Pull You was our first game and holds a very special place in our hearts, so we’d love to port it to Switch just for the sake of bringing it to new audiences. Having said that, we know from experience that although local multiplayer games have a very dedicated niche audience, they aren’t necessarily the most commercially successful games, so it’d be a question of whether we could justify the work it’d take to bring it to Switch - though we’d never say never.
Following Untitled Goose Game’s release, do you have plans for further updates, DLC or other goose-based content? What’s next for House House?
We’re not quite ready to discuss this at the moment, sorry. (smiles)
Many thanks to Michael for taking the time to answer. Untitled Goose Game is launching this Friday 20th September - look out for our review soon. In the meantime, let us know how you plan to make a nuisance of yourself below.