01/19/21
Nintendo Switch

Going Under dev reflects on a scene-hoggin’ table and the power of narrative design

In Going Under, you’ll take on the role of an unpaid intern exploring the ruins of failed tech startups. While you’ll meet a cast of colorful characters, there was one inanimate character that stole the show. Narrative designer and lead programmer Caelan Pollock explains the legend of the Bacon Table.

Going Under: Bringing home the bacon

“Hi everyone! I’m Caelan Pollock, the narrative designer & lead programmer for Going Under. If you’re new here, this is a satirical roguelite set in the near-future where failed tech startups turn into cursed dungeons.

One of the game’s most important locations is the overworld—the office of the carbonated meal replacement startup where the protagonist finds herself employed. Right off the bat, we brainstormed what we could place in that environment to make it clear it’s the most insufferable ‘fun office’ startup imaginable. A lot of those initial ideas made it in, like colorful slides, or a big obnoxious fountain right in the middle of the office. Others got left on the cutting room floor (ball pit…).

For some reason, Nick, the game’s art director, was super stoked to have a single weirdly realistic object in the game. He settled on this wavy, lovingly textured, natural-wood desk for the meeting room. And it just looked wrong…like a huge slab of realistically textured bacon. His reasoning was along the lines of, ‘If it’s out of place compared to the rest of the art style, it’ll represent an object that’s out of place in the office’s design aesthetic,’ or something like that. I’m not an art director, so it seemed a little silly to me. But by the time he asked the team’s opinion, he’d already put it in the game, and no one wanted to die on the hill of asking him to remove it.

What we didn’t expect, though, was how the fans would react. We hadn’t released so much as a public demo for Going Under at this point, so anyone following our Twitter for development updates was hungry for screenshots revealing new content. And when we posted the ‘Bacon Table’ along with a public poll to resolve the argument of whether to keep it, the results were nearly 50/50, with passionate arguments occurring on both sides. Some people seemed disgusted by its existence amongst the game’s otherwise crisp and stylized visuals, whereas others immediately fell in love and demanded that it stay. After seeing how much controversy this one table had caused, we had no choice but to keep it.

Bacon Table’s legacy continued, becoming one of the strongest community memes in the early stages of development. We’d post some screenshots of a new dungeon and people would be like, ‘Where’s the bacon table?’ Regardless of the context, someone would find a way to bring up that table. So (spoilers), I wrote that it gets destroyed in the game’s second act, and Nick, in turn, had no choice but to model the destroyed version. Let this be a lesson that the narrative designer always wins in the end.”