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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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