JS Joust & Co Sportsfunded By Its Friends

By Alec Meer on December 10th, 2012 at 3:00 pm.

It appears to be global law that most every Kickstarter success story must now involve the phrase “down to the wire.” And so the same must be said of Sportsfriends Featuring Johann Sebastian Joust. The four-game indie collection today went down to the wire with hours to spare on its $150,000 campaign, after an extended, Twitter-based flash mob did its best to cajole the world into backing an apparently struggling effort. Congratulations to all involved – may you all hold your Moves aloft in neon-hued celebration.

I’m very glad Sportsfriends got a second wind and made its target as it contains several most excellent game concepts from several excellent developers, and is definitely a concerted effort to do new things rather than suckle knowingly on the teats of the past (Oh lord, did I really just write that?). That it had a bit of a tough time and won out apparently only as a result of social network begging perhaps raises an awful lot of discussion points, though.

What held it back until all that heavy, and sometimes annoying, campaigning in the final hours? Is it that local multiplayer games are too far distant from what the mainstream wants? Is it that all these games already existed in some form so it was that much harder for the very casual observer to grasp why they should fund them? Is it that the set’s cult frontman, JS Joust, has for whatever reason been locked to indie gatherings and in-the-know cliques rather than shared especially publicly, so its legend was not quite as mighty as presumed? Is it that the whole thing just wound up preaching to the converted – as the relatively low (sub-4000) backer headcount might seem to suggest? Or was it that it was unfortunate enough to be a small name launching its Kickstarter at the same time as some very big names indeed?

Or all of the above. Or something else entirely. Again, honestly I’m glad it’s happening but I haven’t enjoyed some of the Twitter-based campaigning over the last couple of days – more because the line was IT IS YOUR DUTY TO DO THIS AND IF YOU DON’T SOCIAL MULTIPLAYER IS DEAD FOREVER than because of the sheer quantity of retweets and other plugs. If the world isn’t taking notice of the message, find a new message. Or perhaps a new audience, which I think was the root problem here – Sportsfriends didn’t seem to circulate terribly far beyond the social sphere it started off in.

Now it’s funded and will be released, it gets a second shot at that. And, while obviously I’m more about the PC version, if Sony know what’s good for them they’ll be helping to market the PS3 version as good reason to buy some of its Move dildoes.

A few hours yet remain on Sportsfriends, so you can still back it if you want early release versions and other goodies.

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28 Comments »

  1. Lambchops says:

    I can’t help but think it was struggling because all the journos/conference goers had already had their fun and banged on about it so much that the ordinary punters reckoned we wouldn’t be seeing the games anytime soon, even with a cash infusion.

    See also Spy Party, Monaco, Nidhogg. Remember Nidhogg?

    • trjp says:

      Once you have a ‘rep’ in indie circles, I guess it’s rude to actually deliver a finished product :)

      The thing is – creating a game is easy – FINISHING one is hard

      Amazing how many people don’t realise that until it’s – well – unfinished ;)

    • jayc4life says:

      Nidhogg was pretty damn fun, but the last time I played it was when, Eurogamer Expo 2 years ago, and barely a whiff since?

      Sure must be nice to be a multi-award-winning indie game when nobody outside of extremely controlled environments can actually play it. Even posts on its Facebook page are showing waning interest and people getting antsy about the lack of a known release window.

      Monaco, afaik, is in a closed beta environment and at least has people being able to play it. Can’t say I know much about Spy Party’s current status, however. I’ve not been following that game close enough.

    • Jakkar says:

      Monaco is in a very active testing phase, and a tremendous amount of fun already =) I wrote a filthy limerick for an RPS contest to get in, and have had a lot of fun and met some lovely folks in the community. It is coming!

  2. Dinger says:

    Well, JS Joust requires someone into exploring new frontiers of gameplay (PC Gamer), with a Playstation (Console gamer) and a cadre of like-minded friends. It then came out on Kickstarter, with a bunch of other games, each with a different controller requirement, and most on the PC. Kickstarter does best with the employed late 20s-40s gamer and with the younger sorts who are willing to make a lifestyle investment. In short, the SportsFriends prime market is a Venn diagram intersection that reads “Game Journalists”.

    • Derppy says:

      Playstation Move is the best motion controller in the market. PC doesn’t have much motion controlled games, so I welcome it.

      We are buying expensive racing wheels, joysticks and gamepads, PC works great in a living room and Valve is helping people realize it with Steam Big Picture. This is a good thing for PC gaming, to get rid of the idea you need a console to enjoy local multiplayer or couch gaming.

      • trjp says:

        Interested in your definition of ‘best’ motion controller.

        In theory that’s the Kinect – the problems with Kinect are that it requires people to live in warehouses (and endure a lot of shit games and shitter adverts)

        Wii obviously has the widest support (and with the exhancer doodah is pretty decent) but – well – it’s the Wii…

        So PS Move gets it by default – even tho there are about 4 games and they all suck then? :)

        • Smashbox says:

          The kinect is an unmitigated technological failure. It’s not a bad software library holding it back, it’s the fact that it just doesn’t work.

          Move is simpler in design, but it does what it’s meant to well.

        • Derppy says:

          It’s the most accurate and responsive, movement feels pretty much 1:1.

          Kinect is just terrible. I think it’s impressive the software works even a little bit, but it’s not enough. It’s a gamble if the system recognizes half of your actions. Luckily the games have such ridiculous amount of assists to compensate, that you can pretty much just flail your arms around and beat them. Cool concept, but maybe in 10 years camera and 3D tracking technology is at a more reliable point.

          Wiimotes work much better than Kinect, but lack accuracy. It recognizes simple stuff like pointing and swinging left and right pretty well, but it doesn’t feel very natural, so I’m mostly just annoyed when Wii games have a motion control gimmick.

          Playstation Move is in a different league and at least for me it’s the first motion control device that feels natural and accurate. There’s not much games for it, but the games that exist work great. Even precision games like table tennis are viable, because the racket turns in your hand and collides with the ball just as you’d expect.

          I’m just saying that if I’m going to play motion controlled games on PC, I absolutely want to use PS Move for it. Go and compare it to the other motion control devices and you’ll know why.

      • InternetBatman says:

        The lack of an accurate gauge to judge how well supported it is on PC means we’ll never know how good it is until we plunk down a sizeable wad of cash.

  3. epmode says:

    The fact that the games are focused on the Playstation Move controller kept me away for sure. I didn’t even want to think about how much it would cost to play on PS3, let alone PC, where a standardized controller doesn’t exist.

    • JonKristinsson says:

      Only 1 of the games is a Move controller game. The rest (4 games if you pledged $15, 12 games at $60) are fine on a regular controller.

  4. aeolist says:

    It’s a hard thing to sell when I’ve been hearing about JS Joust from podcasts and online articles for years now and I still have no idea what it actually is.

  5. AJLange says:

    I commented on this on Electron Dance also (he had some similar points)… basically, while I backed this project, I’m pretty sure I backed it for other people. I think making J.S. Joust the headliner here was kind of a problem, in that a) it requires Move controllers b) it requires a lot of space. Neither of those things are things everyone has, and are willing to experiment with in this way. It actually took me a while to realize that not all the games required Move/a ton of space and that in fact some of them could be played sitting down. (None of the pictures on the KS show gamers sitting down. I know, that’s not the idea; they’re party games and supposed to be social and at least somewhat physical. But we don’t all have giant rooms full of people to play these games in.)

    I would guess that there’s not too much crossover between people who want a big local multiplayer party game and people who tend to back Kickstarters. Like it or not, even though it might not be true, gamers still treat KS like a store to pre-order games in development.

    • InternetBatman says:

      They said they didn’t even know if it could come to the PC in the original pitch.

      • 13tales says:

        They said (to my knowledge) that they weren’t sure they could bring it to WINDOWS. Not the same thing as not coming to PC, for all that most Windows-based gamers might think it is.

        AFAIK it’s a bluetooth problem. Whereas the game was (as I understand it) developed on Mac where there’s a lot more uniformity of bluetooth chipsets and drivers, Windows bluetooth drivers vary wildly in how friendly they are, and the PS move controllers (being designed for use on a single, very specific, non-PC platform) aren’t the most tolerant of beasts. If it wont play nicely with windows, then a customised single-purpose Linux distro that you boot via USB is one possible option, I understand.

        When I played it (Freeplay games festival in Melbourne a few months back) it was running on an imac.

  6. Lucas Says says:

    The big reason I didn’t back it was simply that the biggest name–J.S. Joust–requires fancy hardware I do not have. I don’t have Playstation Move. J.S. Joust is pretty much off limits to me, then.

    The rest are multiplayer-only hypothetically sports themed games, and if I’ve learned one thing from a developing board game hobby it’s that it’s a lot easier to convince people to play something they want to play than something with “Ball” in the title.

  7. InternetBatman says:

    I think this was a textbook example of how not to do a kickstarter.

    1. Announce you’re releasing on consoles first and PC later, and the headline game may or may not come to PC.

    2. Pick several games that run several different pieces of hardware, some of which your audience may have. List it in several different places so its hard to see what you get and what will run on what. Don’t make a chart, because that would ruin the page.

    3. Have an incredibly high filler to content ratio in your updates.

    4. Don’t talk to RPS which is good a shunting highly focused people to your project.

    5. Achieve cross platform compatibility through a custom version of linux that boots from a thumbdrive.

    6. Charge for the same game twice if someone wants to play it on two platforms.

    I swear, it’s like everyone’s vying to break Brenda Brathwaite’s record on the worst kickstarter pitch yet.

    I’m irked by this, because I really, really wanted to support it. I will have a couchputer soon, and I want to play games with my partner on it. She loves motion control, and I like it too.

    But when $15 for a few fun local tech demos balloons into $15+ $100 (for movex2) + $40 for x-box pad equivalentx2 it becomes a different proposition. Then you have no idea how well it will be supported when the new consoles come out, and how many more games will use this hardware, how many pieces of hardware you need, and there’s the regular uncertainty that comes with every kickstarter game.

  8. Feferuco says:

    I am a casual observer. Why did this need 150k?

    • InternetBatman says:

      There are four people working together. Without rent on a combined place to work, no profit, and rock bottom everything else it would cost about $80k per year. If you give them $300 a month for emergencies/ spending money it balloons up to $96k a year. If it takes a year and a half to make that’s $144k. If they rent out a building to work together that they don’t live in, have dependents, or live in a large city it gets more expensive.

      It’s being semi-published by Sony to make up for the extra cash they need.

  9. alexheretic says:

    JS Joust seems to involve forming a rough circle and interacting with your neighbours until they’re individual phallic device has been sufficiently jerked. I can’t help but think it a champion, and metaphor for the worst part of the indie movement, and coverage of indie games in press.

    At best the game is an expensive form of British Bulldog where you don’t have to run as much.
    Don’t get me wrong, Bulldog is fine. I’m just not really interested in gimmicky tech variants.
    Have I missed something here?

    • Crafty_Banana says:

      Well, yes and no. Clearly, it isn’t the same game as British Bulldog – the focus is on stability and balance rather than (depending on how you play Bulldog) either speed or raw force. You can create approximations of the game in low tech ways, but that then won’t incorporate things like varying the speed you can move in time with the music. Beyond that, the presence of the ‘tech’ aspect tends to give people license to take part in forms of play they might be hesitant to otherwise.

      Ultimately, it doesn’t appeal to you, and that’s fine. But simply dismissing the game as a low tech Bulldog is missing the point: the games are different, in important ways, and it’s a bit like wondering why people bother with FPS’ when they could just run around in the woods pointing their fingers at each other and saying ‘bang’, or strategy games when we already have chess.

      Edited due to my inability to spell proper

    • AlephAleph says:

      Try to find somebody who has actually played JS Joust and does not think it´s great. The only way to show how good the game is is to actually have you play it, unfortunatedly.

      • 13tales says:

        This.

        Joust is pretty special. It’s one of the most instantaneously and purely enjoyable “multiplayer” experiences I’ve had in a good long while. There is zero barrier to entry for the new player (once you’ve got a game setup, obviously); you can explain the rules/how to play in the space of a sentence, but the strategic/tactical possibilities are many, and take much longer to unfold.

        Sure, it’s superficially similar to a number of playground games, but to stop there and shrug it off on that basis is to ignore the depth of careful thought and experimentation required to make something so simply enjoyable. Suffice to say that as with many game concepts that cross from the real world into the digital space, there is much to be gained by having an infallible and impartial mediator.

        I know I’m sounding fanboyish. Just keep your eyes open for an opportunity to play it, and give it a try. It really is good fun.

  10. AmateurScience says:

    I think it’s kind of an acknowledgement that what is great at events and shows doesn’t naturally translate into something people would buy for their home.

  11. Thiefsie says:

    No move controllers, no guaranteed release in Australia, and no guaranteed Windows support = no kickstarting from me. That and the fact the games look virtually finished apart from PSN licensing… and also not single player at all… (Joust I can understand)

    How ridiculous does that trampoline game look… haha

  12. malkav11 says:

    For my part:
    1) not interested in console games anymore
    2) not interested in competitive multiplayer games
    3) not interested in local multiplayer for PC games if PC version materializes
    4) not interested in motion control or similar gimmicks enough to justify buying hardware for same, even if limited instances such as JS Joust might actually represent something that can only be done with such a controller and not just a shitty way to play a regular game.
    5) plus a lot of other Kickstarters that are things I definitely -do- want competing for my money.