The GDC conference hall is only half finished ahead of tomorrow's big opening. Forklift trucks buzz around as burly men wrestle with ten-foot posters. On the far side of the hall three men are gathered around one of the few working screens in the show, laughing hysterically. On the screen there's a goat. The goat is flying. The goat hits a wall and falls over. It is funny.
Goat Simulator isn't a complicated game. It's not even about accurately simulating a goat. You earn points for flinging your floppy self into trees, building sites, shops, cranes, cars, and people, and you can chain one calamity into the next for score multipliers. Your actions are recognised in flashing announcements at the bottom of the screen, in a loose parody of Tony Hawk. I hurled my goat through the window of a convenience store. He bounced and sailed over snack counter, earning me an award for "Jumping over chocolate".
High scores aren't really what Goat Simulator 2014 is about, either. You run, jump, and press Q to limply ragdoll. Then the goat hits a wall and falls over, and it is funny.
That's the only joke, and the punchline never changes, but you can introduce variation with your goat's magic tongue. Press E to lick a piece of environmental detritus and it'll infallibly stick. If you're flying through the air the stickee will orbit the goat madly like a wrecking ball causing collateral chaos for extra points. I threw the goat into traffic, somersaulted through a construction site, and crushed a pagoda.
It didn't take me long to discover that the tongue works on people. I lurked in a field, hiding in the long grass. Ahead, picnickers frolicked, jumping around happily as though they hadn't even seen the reports of a suicidal goat in the area.
You can dash with the shift key, which causes the goat's comically stunted running animation to speed up a little. My victim didn't even have time to mutter "clever girl" before the goat struck from the reeds. The goat's tongue latched onto an unfortunate red-shirted woman, who was promptly dragged several hundred metres into the rotating blades of a combine harvester. Instead of mincing the pair, the blades propelled them 20 feet into the air. 200 points!
Coffee Stain Studios aren't even supposed to be working on Goat Simulator. It started life as a game jam experiment, but the viral success of the YouTube footage changed their plans. Now it's heading to Steam for $10, and will have Steam Workshop support. The team hope that the easily modded Unreal Engine will encourage players to submit new levels, new goats, and mutators. They'll include a few of their own to get things started, like a GIANT GOAT. It surely won't be long until moon-gravity, super speed, and more Carmageddon-esque mutators are programmed in. Modders will inevitably start modding in player characters that aren't goats. I'm hoping for an Octodad crossover.
Alone, it'll likely offer half-an-hour of amusement, but Goat Simulator seems to exert a strange power over passers by. One of the guys who was supposed to be finishing off a booth had stopped work to watch the goat fall over, and couldn't stop laughing. I can imagine it gathering small groups of onlookers when the conference halls open properly. I think it'll make a great pass-the-pad party game when it's released on April 1.