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With “Mass Effect 2,” DLC Stands For “Downloadable Continuity”

With “Mass Effect 2,” DLC Stands For “Downloadable Continuity” (photo)

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If any trend’s been rising to prominence in big-studio console video games this year, it’s been the offering of downloadable content.

Though digital distribution’s making inroads toward becoming a viable release strategy, most high-profile games still come out as packaged products on discs. Usually, after a player’s done with the content on the disc, they’ll amble on down to their local Gamestop and get some cash back or credit towards another purchase. There’s a robust secondhand market in the video game business that traffics in buying those discs back and selling them again below the MSRP. This has been a troubling practice for game publishers and developers, who don’t get any money from those second, third or fourth purchases.

Part of the rise of DLC has been to combat this aftermarket. Additional characters, unlockable maps or exclusive weapons get offered to people who buy the game new, most often via a single-use code that comes in the box. The other reason DLC’s become such an important pillar is the increasing ubiquity of multiplayer game modes.

07022010_borderlands.jpgAs recently as five years ago, single-player games in the vein of “God of War” or “Devil May Cry” could dominate the sales charts. But multiplayer blockbusters like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” “Halo 3,” “Left 4 Dead” and “Borderlands” have re-aligned the kind of success major game publishers are shooting for.

Multiplayer-centric titles set up an ecosystem that’s self-perpetuating: players show up just to face off against each other and all they need to keep doing that is a trickle of shiny new somethings that keep the experience fresh. What’s happened in the aftermath of the secondhand and multiplayer shift is a mandate for DLC from console makers, one which requires a fresh batch of content as soon as a month after a game releases.

I realize that all of the above makes sounds terribly dry and business-like. But that’s where the motivations are coming from: get the player, stop the player from trading in that game a week after he buys it, keep the player tethered into the ecosystem. DLC makes business sense, because it’s a way to keep earning money from the original investment from developing the original disc release.

07022010_splintercell.jpgThe graphics engine, the artificial intelligence algorithms, the data miners for multiplayer match-making… whether they’re licensed from other entities or crafted in-house, they cost time and money to implement. If dev studios and publishers can squeeze more out of those tools, then they stand to get a greater return on investment.

For example, Ubisoft announced that they’d be pumping out free weekly DLC for their recent hit “Splinter Cell: Conviction.” It’s a genius move, one that guarantees fans are popping that disc in once a week, if only to see what the new stuff is. While the offerings have been as varied as new guns, maps and multiplayer missions, there’s been nothing that continues Sam Fisher’s story as told in the game.

And, to me, that’s where the missed opportunity is. Not enough of the DLC getting dangled in front of players is built with the goal of extending the storytelling experience. But, one company’s doing exactly that, and it’s paying off in spades.

07022010_zaaed.jpg“Mass Effect 2” was released by Bioware (and Electronic Arts) in January of this year, coming pre-loaded with around 50 hours of story and gameplay. It’s the second part of the Edmonton-based developers’ sci-fi trilogy, continuing the story of Commander Shepard, a paramilitary avatar you create and make unique depending on how you respond to the choices the game gives you.

The way Bioware’s approached DLC has been to grow out the universe you’re playing through. The free launch-day DLC was a new character — grizzled merceneary Zaeed — who you could add to your squad. But beyond just the tactical option his manpower provides on your missions, Zaeed also gives you a new story to experience with its own backstory, complications and hard choices.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.