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Sportsfriends: Building a Better Pole Riders

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In 2010, when I started making Pole Riders, my original plan was to make a straight pole-vaulting game, like the ones in Summer Games or Daley Thompson’s Decathlon, both games that were super-popular when I was six years old. Back in 1984, local multiplayer games were nearing the peak of their popularity. In the arcades, there were games like Joust and Track & Field, but at home, and in the public libraries, the Epyx compilations ruled the roost: not just Summer Games but Winter Games and the immortal California Games too. I was absolutely obsessed with the pole-vault event in Summer Games and for the longest time, I wanted to make my own version of it.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that I’m now involved in Sportsfriends, which is a spiritual successor to Summer Games – a compilation of four sports-themed games, to be played by up to four friends on the one couch. But unlike the old Epyx compilations, none of the Sportsfriends games play it straight. Hokra is a hockey game with no goals and no sticks. BaraBariBall is a volleyball game with no net, where the players routinely drown in a lake. J.S. Joust is a game that has no screen!


For my part, I’m making a sequel to my game Pole Riders, a game that crosses pole vaulting with polo and kung fu. I guess it didn’t turn out much like Summer Games, after all! The original is a free web game – go try it out if you haven’t already!

Pole Riders doesn’t get the most traffic on my website (that honour goes to QWOP) but it has the most passionate fans. At Maxis and Harmonix, homes of the Sims and Rock Band franchises, I’m told there are regular Pole Riders tournaments. And when I show the game at public events like Wild Rumpus or Babycastles, I’m always approached by challengers who want to beat me at my own game. Local multiplayer is like that – it inspires a kind of passion that singleplayer games don’t.


For the Sportsfriends compilation I’m building a better, more complete version of the game called Super Pole Riders. When I showed the original game around the world, I would always think of little changes that could make the game better. I wanted the kung-fu kicks to be crunchier. I wanted the arenas to be more vertical, more interesting and complex. I wanted the game to be playable by four or even eight players at a time, for maximum chaos. When games were locked in a stalemate, I wanted the players to be able to resolve the match by swapping their poles out for spears, poleaxes and warhammers, for brutal and hilarious combat.

I’m hard at work on Super Pole Riders, which is going to have all these features and more. I can’t wait to bring you the ‘real’ version of the game!

Questions? Let me know in the comments! And if you like the sound of Sportsfriends, I hope you’ll consider supporting our Kickstarter!


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