IndieCade 2011: Johann Sebastian Joust

By Ozzie Mejia, Oct 10, 2011 3:00pm PDT

Copenhagen Game Collective is not known for creating conventional games. They're constantly thinking outside the box, looking for different, more exciting ways to utilize the gaming hardware at their disposal. Last year, CGC enthralled many IndieCade 2010 attendees with their oddball contribution, B.U.T.T.O.N. (Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now), and took home the Wild Card award, as a result. This year, CGC brought another bizarre and creative game to IndieCade 2011 called Johann Sebastian Joust.

Johann Sebastian Joust is the brainchild of Douglas Wilson, PhD candidate at IT University of Copenhagen. The idea of the game is similar to tag. Players hold PS Move controllers and stand spread out in a circle. As the game's music begins playing, participants must move to the pace of the music. The object is to tag other players' controllers in order to eliminate them--while keeping your own controller steady--with the last person standing being declared the winner. The music--which is a remixed version of BWV 1047, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, Movement ii (Allegro), by developer Nifflas--starts off intentionally slow before speeding up. Anyone who moves too fast hears an explosion sound-effect on their controller and sees its flickering light, indicating they've been eliminated.

I played several rounds of Johann Sebastian Joust and enjoyed every second of it. The pace was constantly frantic. Even with the music moving at its slowest, other players couldn’t help but try and sneak in a swipe of the hand to try and eliminate someone. Once the music sped up, there were hastened movements and light-hearted shoving all around. Strategies would vary from game-to-game, depending on who was playing, since Johann Sebastian Joust games can be enjoyed with players of all ages. I quickly learned that holding my controller in a "Statue of Liberty" pose to keep it away from the children was not wise, as one of the taller players simply reached over and tapped my controller to eliminate me. Even in constant defeat, Johann Sebastian Joust was some of the most fun I had at IndieCade this year and it looks like it’s going to make a wild party game.

Wilson describes Johann Sebastian Joust as "a physical, digital folk game." He noted that the inspiration for the game came from his research during his time at IT University of Copenhagen, where he has been researching physical computer games. "I've been interested in games where people look at each other, rather than the screen," said Wilson.

Wilson said he went into development with the mindset of, "How can we make a simple digital game where it's not really screen-based, not really graphics-based, but where you're mostly using music and people's movements?" Wilson also talked about several instances of trial and error, with regard to finding the right piece of technology for Johann Sebastian Joust.

"Originally, we used Wii-motes, and that was pretty good, but I was using somebody's hacked Wii, not on a Wii dev kit, so the Wii-mote connection was a little fussy and it was hard to get it working reliably," Wilson explained. "So then I made my own hacked API for the PlayStation Move controller. And that was real hard, but we got it working now and it's running off my Macbook Pro and things are looking good."

Development is ongoing for Johann Sebastian Joust, and with hacked pieces of equipment involved, a release date for the public is difficult to determine at this point. Wilson also revealed that this game is more of a side-project for him while he finishes his PhD dissertation. However, he pointed out that those who donated to Brandon Boyer's Venus Patrol website project on Kickstarter will receive an alpha version as it becomes available. Wilson is currently aiming for Johann Sebastian Joust to release for the PlayStation 3 at an unspecified date.

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