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Talking About “BioShock Infinite,” Part 2

Talking About “BioShock Infinite,” Part 2 (photo)

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In the final part of my talk with Irrational Games’ Tim Gerritsen, the dev studio’s director of product development discusses building virtual cities, using history and the kind of player reactions the makers of “BioShock Infinite” want to elicit. (The first part of our interview is here.)

The themes in “BioShock” emerged very elliptically, almost like you glance at them and kept going, whereas in “BioShock Infinite,” you’re announcing straight out, here’s what we’re trying to getting at. Does that free you up or tie your hands more in terms of conceptualizing the game?

No, it definitely frees us up I feel because what you saw tonight is really the tiniest tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more that we can’t wait to show you guys and really reveal. And it was so condensed. You had 10 minutes to get all of these amazing beats. That was one of the concerns we had really. What do we show? How do we show it? We wanted to hit these beats and give you action and instant reaction to what’s going on. We feel just creating that setting and establishing it to the player we set expectations to you. But it’s a “BioShock” game. So nothing is as it seems.


What are the similarities between Rapture and Columbia? In terms of sheer size, how big is Columbia compared to Rapture?

That’s a difficult question. Rapture is a concept, there’s a mental aspect to Rapture. How big is it? I don’t think we as developers really knew. It was a real city — there’s places people live, places people eat, places people get entertainment, places people go to get away from it. There’s things we never showed you with Rapture. Same thing with Columbia. These are true cities. They’re both large. I couldn’t tell you though, even as a developer who worked on these, that one is bigger than the other. If we do our jobs right, that’s not something the player has to worry about. We want you to believe that this is a real city.

Are you worried about a possible chilling effect of setting this game so far back in time? Like, is this going to feel like homework? And how do you avoid that?

Absolutely, that is a concern. We had the same problem with “BioShock,” really. How many people understand 1959? For us, that’s our inspiration and it’s about the entertainment experience. We don’t want you to just boot the game up and get the screens that tell you, “In 1900, this is what the world was like,” and you go through page after page, and read it, or we give you the movie. That’s not what this is about. And that’s not who we are as Irrational. We create the immersion.

When you’re done, you feel like, “Man, I know what it was like to be in 1900” rather than “Oh, I know the actual history and data of 1900.” For us, that’s the difference. It’s about creating the entertainment experience where it feels authentic, and it feels real, and it feels cool. But yeah, for any minute you stop and go, “Oh, I’ve got to go boot up Wikipedia and figure out this s—,” that is not what this game is about.

It seems like there’s a little bit of Jules Verne in there too or am I just imaging that?

Well, certainly all of the grand ideas of that time are themes we’re exploring. There’s no one thing that we’re saying we’re basing it on. No game we ever work on is like that. We absorb all of these different elements and inspirations and put them in this stew and mix them up and come up with our own unique take.

Was there like a recommended reading list for the team to get all on the same page?

We definitely have that sort of thing internally, but it’s always changing and ever-growing. And we challenge each other. Every day, I kid you not, somebody is coming up with, “Oh, have you checked this out, I found this repository” — It could be advertisements, photographs. People have found actual films from that period, and not just entertainment films, [but] streets of the city during that time period. We are always challenging each other and immersing ourselves.


Comparing it to “Infinite” to “BioShock,” you had iconic characters in the Big Daddy and the Little Sister in those first two games. Rather than ask what they are, because I know you can’t answer that, do you think it will be fair to expect similarly iconic?

Absolutely, that’s what we strive for. At the end of the day, there’s going to be iconic aspects to this game. What are they? What you saw tonight, how does that relate? How does that affect things? When we started there were no sacred cows. We really believe that. So it was about shaking it up. It wasn’t about, “Okay, here’s the feature list from ‘BioShock,’ how do we recreate that in ‘BioShock Infinite’?” To us, this is almost a new IP. Because it’s almost shaking that tree and trying to come up with something completely different.

It seems like you guys are almost setting up a conceptual shift, where it’s not so much, will there be a sequel as what it will be. Do you think it’s fair to say that this game is kind of broadening the concept of “BioShock?”

Thinking about future games is a bit much at this point; we’re stressed thinking about this one. But certainly, what is the nature of “BioShock?” It’s definitely now about more just a location in a space at a time. We want to rethink the pieces that make up a “BioShock” game experience. Certainly, for us, the expression of “Infinite” in the title is that. That feeling of “Oh my God, there’s so much more to this than I originally thought.” So definitely, it’s a much more expansive thing than the first two games.

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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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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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