Your Weekly Kusoge
Goat Simulator is a joke. A deliberate kusoge. It also wasn't meant to be sold to the public. After making their second Sanctum release, the developers decided to wind down by spending one month tinkering and, for the most part, dicking around with physics engines, creating a crude send-up to the extreme sports games like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Except with a goat. Because hey, if cats can make a craze online, why not choose a zanier animal? Most of the models themselves were plucked from royalty-free sites for modest fees, including the titular goat herself. After all, it wasn't as though they were being serious with it. The title and logo itself is a parody of the boring sim computer games about farming and trains. Their month of work was showcased on the company's YouTube page, glitches and all. Even greatly unfinished, the footage became a sensation, leading for clamor for a fully-fledged game, glitches and all. All those bugs and screw-ups in the engine were a feature prominently placed as a bullet point, and on April 1st months later, the title was placed on Steam, making the sale seem almost like a hoax. Goat Simulator shortly became an easy mark for the Let's Player community, making it a "YouTube game" and its major source of advertisement.
The software that was sold is a novelty sandbox. With tongue so firmly in cheek, there is little in means of a goal but to go around as a hooved beast to get into whatever crazy situation animals shouldn't. Keeping with it mimicking Pro Skater, there are tricks and stunts to pull off, but the focus is on exploring and causing ruckus. As a goat, you can ram and kick objects, causing things to be flung into the stratosphere, thanks to the left-broken physics. Your own furry body tends to be hurled in such high-flying acrobatics as well, thanks to many objects you encounter being built seemingly out of explodium. For a more personal touch, the goat can lick things. Everything. The tongue and objects stuck to it tend to warp and bug out in the most insane ways, whipping and shooting around until you try to let go. Aside from licking and attacking, there are also buttons to run, jump, fall to the ground, bah/scream, and something special for you to figure out. What you do with these tools is up to you as you goat about.
Unfortunately, it'll turn out that there won't be too much to do. The amount of levels are scarce and pretty tiny, made worse that the game originally only released with one stage to play around in. That said, the sandbox to toy with is dense within its limited structure, having many miniature setpieces to play havoc in. The default level has a goat tower, a gas station, houses, a construction zone, a pool and a slide, a zero gravity testing chamber, and more to interact with, but there's little much to return to once you've seen what each little segment has to offer. The developers were very coy in their precarious placements of "secrets" and Easter eggs to stumble across, exhorting with some contingent tasks or baited objects. It's like the team is snickering as they say aloud stuff like "Boy, there's a working treadmill sitting in this open garage. I sure hope nothing tries to walk on it!"
Along with simple tricks like a front flip or getting airtime, special stunts are rewarded with another mark on the checklist of assorted destructive duties. Many of these unique tasks and secrets are given humorous names, like "Michael Bay" for blowing up the gas station, or "Fuck the Police" for hopping over a fence. However, as ludicrous and random as these exercises are, a player can exhaust most of them in about an hours' play with little reason to replay these actions. Outside of these silly stunts, there are timed races and trick scores to compete for online leaderboards and golden goat statuettes to find hidden throughout the stage, but many players won't be goaded (goated?) to spend as much time as these as offering sacrifices for demonic powers or breaking just all the furniture inside a house for useless points.
For those seeking more substance, there was a trickle over the next few months. The game was open to the Steam Workshop for the community to make as many zany mods that'd likely crash the game in a hilarious fashion before the studio released a second official level to play. This coastal city section proved to have less density of adventuring to do than the previous, spreading the special events thin with a white-collar highrise and a carnival to gallop through. A meatier expansion was given for free in November 2014 with Goat MMO Simulator, offering players a mock mini-offline one player MMO world to traverse. Players could choose whichever standard RPG class they wish, only made sillier as a goat (It even had a Microwave character class that can make itself explode. How random, amirite!?). Though it parodied quests and areas seen in many cookie-cutter fantasy RPG settings, along with having a reason to attack things, the execution demonstrated how taxing fiddling with busted controls and physics can really be when having to be more serious with trying to fight monsters. Its kind of farce can also be seen as a weak take-that, making oh-so-blatant winks to the player for surface jokes about MMOs and by-the-book role playing fantasy titles. Or neomg random for random's sake.
This speaks for the major inherent flaw: is the novelty worth it? All the humor derived from watching the goat's neck twitch against a wall loses its charm if you have to restart the game if you get stuck motionless within said wall. Is butting your 60th human into the sky or doing your hundredth 1080° backflip in the air after an explosion still as funny? Do you gain anything playing the game rather than witnessing a stream of a net celebrity screaming about it on a video that'd last roughly as long as your own experience? Or are you left with a shallow buggy anarchic pile of code that makes your goat skip across water like a stone and tells the same joke everyone else has heard and grown tired of?
Actually, the bigger issue may lie with the gamers. Not counting those wishing for gameplay lasting about as long as a movie for $60 a pop, the rise of Early Access and intentionally glitchy messes for silly out-there videos along with the demand for Goat Simulator to be fully released speaks for many willing to tell developers to shut up and take their money for these experiences. Danny O'Dwyer at Gamespot even argued that gaming "should be dumb once in a while" like this title.
And for that, Coffee Stain Studios was able to become profitable from a frittered programmed amusement to let off steam, enough to port it to iOS and Android and even have versions for Microsoft's consoles a year later. For those with money to burn, there are plenty of options to live life as a troubling farm animal that tends to make things go boom and defy gravity.