With the announcement of games like Grass Simulator, and I Am Bread, it seemed like the horse that is the quirky, physics-based simulator game was about to be getting its proverbial execution and subsequent beating. Yet, Coffee Stain Studios, developer of Goat Simulator, unleashed Goat MMO Simulator update upon gamers last week, showing that you can invigorate a game in an unexpected way. The best part may also be that it’s free DLC for the original game’s owners. Now players can choose if they want to inhabit a goat in the regular game world or if they want to be a goat in a fantasy MMO environment complete with quests and classes. Yet it’s not a real MMO - it’s a simulated MMO.
The features in Goat Simulator’s DLC follow in the tradition of fantasy MMO tropes and begin with classes like rogue, hunter, and warrior, then throw in Goat Simulator’s Microwave for good measure. There are quests and content that lets you feel like you’re going on an epic adventure.
Yes, it’s absurd, but the devs and community are all still in on the joke, and that’s the beauty of the whole thing. Coffee Stain knows it has a jokey, unusual hit indie game that revels in its sometimes broken mechanics. People laughed to the tune of about a million copies. The community has asked in some form for MMO style features, so what better time to release them than when the biggest MMO in the world has just released a major expansion? Nobody would mistake Goat Simulator for WoW, but it’s obvious that it draws from the latter to poke fun and give players another way to play. Without any real content patches in months, the joke might have worn thin for many, but this new content should get some people to play again for a while with the new territory for its parody to take on, and that’s something even real MMO developers can learn from.
Given that the studio is giving its community a piece of what it requested, this is something that reflects both the studio listening to its community as well as giving them (and the greater gaming community) a surprise in the process. When announced, some actually thought it might be a real, active MMO add-on for the original game; an idea not dispelled by the trailer. Making it free should help relieve some of the sting in finding out it isn’t the massively multiplayer online game of your dreams.
The release notes promise “MMO simulation so good you’ll think it’s real” and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The MMO genre is, at best, a little stale for many (and choice colorful words to describe the genre exist from those further dissatisfied), so it’s a logical step to parody MMOs. Other media has done it. Yet the Goat MMO Simulator seems to be doing it with love, and the community should be able to appreciate the fun being enthusiastically poked at the genre in this new DLC by just how closely it aims to both mimic and add its own series of oddities.
MMORPG developers too can learn from this DLC. Listening to the community in certain instances is one notion, but offer up surprises, maybe switch up the genre’s more worn tropes, add in some odd elements that nobody thinks could realistically work (depending on IP), or even question some of the popular driving components in the genre. I’ve stated my belief that the attempts to copy or try and overtake WoW mostly ceased several years ago after a few failures at doing so. Yet, while a game like WildStar has tried to utilize satire and biting, broad humor, other elements have bogged that game down. Sometimes the desire to make every player epic can wind up drying out the whole experience. Maybe a dash of absurdity (though maybe not *as* self-aware as Goat Simulator is) could shake things up a bit. That doesn’t even mean the game has to be absurd, just the thinking that relies less on convention.
The MMO featuring wars between goats and sheep might not be real, but it has a few out of the box ideas that could be scaled and utilized, even if just for inspiration to withdraw back to a more childlike curiosity and perceived invulnerability. Many of us came to MMORPGs with a sense of wonder and found communities, and yes, heroism. Maybe what we need now is a good laugh and a feeling of being ordinary. A few goats tooling around an MMO simulator is bringing new life to a game and genre some felt was petering out. Imagine the possibilities.