If all goes well, Douglas Wilson, Ramiro Corbetta, Bennett Foddy and Noah Sasso plan to launch their respective games — Johann Sebastian Joust, Hokra, Super Pole Riders and BaraBariBall — digitally via the PlayStation Network by autumn 2013. They already have backing from Sony, which is set to provide support for the marketing behind the eventual launch, but the four developers want to ensure they have enough cash to develop the simple multiplayer games aesthetically (except in the case of Joust, which has no graphics and involves an epic battle to jostle a player’s controller out of their hands) and plan to hire coders to make the transfer to PS3, and, eventually, to Mac, PC and Linux.
Grouped together, these four games are Sportsfriends, a “quadrathlon-tastic package” that celebrates gaming at its best and most engaging: a competitive and performative spectacle. It is the coming together of a vision Foddy has for getting more real sporting passion into gaming. Speaking to Wired.co.uk in September at the annual Hide&Seek conference, Foddy presented the Olympics as the emotional ideal of gaming, saying: “Nobody cries after losing a video game… it’s what we struggle with, making the outcome matter.”
And this is what he’s hoping to achieve with the games launched via Kickstarter. By using crowdfunding to raise the money, the quartet hopes to prove to investors, other developers, games giants and the gaming public that there is a real desire for the re-emergence of these kinds of passion-fueled tactical games that put the real-life players in focus as much as their digital counterparts.
“By self-publishing this compendium, we want to show that the gaming public does indeed care about local multiplayer; that the future of this medium concerns more than just fancy graphics, but also innovative design and replayability; that sometimes, the best games of them all are the simplest,” the Kickstarter campaign statement reads.
“We want to draw attention to what’s happening in front of the screen, between the human beings playing and watching. Unlike your typical ‘bundle’ of games, we want to release something more tight-knit — one package of multiplayer games that all embrace a similar design philosophy. The four of us made our games around the same time, and we’ve all influenced each other. By collaborating on one project, we hope to make something that transcends any of the individual games.”
The idea is that by tweaking the graphics and design, as well as the overall gameplay, they will create a series with cohesive similarities running through that could make Sportsfriends something of an indie brand, ready to challenge traditional sports gaming giants like EA.
All the games will be transformed into more detailed, complex and heart-thumpingly tense versions of the original prototypes, all of which have had great success at events and exhibits across the globe. Foddy’s Pole Riders, for instance, will become Super Pole Riders. It brings the “awkward physics-based controls of the single player game QWOP to a local multiplayer battle,” explains Foddy, who promises to top his Olympic and unicorn-based keyboard games by introducing a satisfying new finale in Super Pole Riders: “you’ll be able to impale your opponent on your pole, and wave his lifeless body around as a kind of club”.
Excellent, and a small glimpse of the Foddy sadism we saw on stage at Hide&Seek, when he played a series of epic Olympic fails, while smiling, and asserting: “I’m not just taking pleasure in people suffering — though that’s a major component; the Olympics breeds this kind of drama and human suffering on an epic scale and that’s what’s inspiring about this to me.”
Indie gaming fans will likely contribute if only for the impressive perks on offer. Depending on how much an individual donates, they could receive the alpha version of each game shortly after funding ceases (around December or January), their names in the game credits or everything they need to play Mega-Grip (a Bennett-Wilson collaboration which has seen players jumping around on modified dance pads at art galleries across the globe).
Ahead of the launch, Wired.co.uk caught up with Foddy to find out how the group hopes to change social gaming, why the 80′s was the multiplayer heyday and what the best bit of an indie multiplayer revolution would be (people losing money to their grandmothers in Hokra grudges).
Wired.co.uk: Is this the culmination of what we were talking about the other month — getting Olympic-style emotion into play?
Bennett Foddy: Exactly. All four of these games can be played by four (or more) people at the same time, in the same room. Not everyone can run a game in a public space with an actual crowd of spectators, but once you get four players on the same couch, it immediately starts to feel like a real sport. You’re cheering each other on, trash talking, throwing your controllers around. When you play a game with three friends, face to face, the outcome of the game matters so much more, and the excitement level is a million times higher.