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Talking with Peter Molyneux, part 5

Talking with Peter Molyneux, part 5 (photo)

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In the final mega-sized portion of my interview with iconic game designer Peter Molyneux, he holds forth on what he’s been playing so far this year and bits of games that he’d like to steal. He also shares his concern about “Fable III” might fare this year and how a life of petty crime started him on the path to the video game business.

(Click the links for parts one, two, three and four.)

I’m just curious, did you play “Alan Wake?” And, if so, what did you think?

I liked it. I actually went to Remedy’s studios and saw them. They are brilliant. I mean, gee, they are so good at telling stories. I thought it was a brilliant, brilliant story, I really did. You know, I personally am greedy for these moments which kind of felt Hitchcock-y. I wished there were more of those moments. But yea, it was pretty good. What did you think?

Well, Alan has an unfortunate tendency to self-narrate. I just found it to be increasingly encroaching where he seemed to constantly say stuff like “I have to find the key to unlock the door…” I know that, Alan! Relax.

Yeah, yeah. [Laughs] He is that way.

But, don’t get me wrong, it’s still among my most favorite games this year.

It was very clever, a very cerebral story. When you got into the story, then I think it was really, really cool, but I know what you mean by that. There was something, it was kind of like a flaw in a diamond, there was something slightly off about that. I thought it still was an amazing effort.

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But I’m in the camp that would much rather play something like “Alan Wake”–something that’s thematically ambitious if a little flawed– than a “Halo” wannabe that nails all of its modest, deriative goals.

I do worry about “Fable III” in the middle of this, this huge sea of “Halo: Reach” and Kinect games and “Call of Duty: Black Ops.” I wonder if “Fable III” is going to keep its head above water, to be honest with you.

You’re still delivering something that lots of people aren’t, you know? I mean, I want to see what my sword comes out looking like. The entire game could be a holistic customization experience, with a lot of flexibility and mutability built into the system. And as much as we tend to want something emergent in games, the scripted moments still matter, too. A friend of mine and I were playing separate games of “Mass Effect 2” at the same time and we’d both stay up late and chat over IM saying, “Did you just do this? What happened for you in that one scenario? Those people died in your version?”

I love that so much. I love the sort of discovered experience. I really do and it’s just a wonderful thing for a creator to hear those stories. It’s great.

I’m not trying to wind you up here, but you talk about all of these titles that are coming out in the holiday season. How many of them rely on emergence as an organizing principle? A lot of them don’t. They rely on safer principles, more known quantities and that’s why they come out in the fourth quarter. They’re less risky. For example, if a game now doesn’t have online multi-player, it’s basically trash. Everything has to have a built-in community. But what I mentioned–talking about with friends about “Mass Effect”, about having our unique versions of “Fable III”–that’s a more organic, genuine community to me.

I agree with you, by the way, on the rise of all these games adding multiplayer. It’s not that so many games have multi-layer but it doesn’t seem to add at all to the experience. It’s just done to be part of the shopping list. “What, you haven’t got multiplayer? Oh well, that’s another reason you’re not going to be successful…” That’s not a reason to put it in.

When “BioShock II” came out, the hue and cry sounding from the hills was that it wasn’t a game that needed multiplayer. Like, at all. The first game made its rep from being narrative experience, a story-based experience. So what is multiplayer in that world giving me? What is a deathmatch mode in that game doing for the story?

It just didn’t fit. Same with “Uncharted 2”, actually. I played “Uncharted 2,” that had multiplayer, and you were kind of running around as characters from the game. And, it was kind of like why am I doing that? I loved Uncharted, I thought it was one of the best new titles of the last few years, but multiplayer was pointless. Have you played “Red Dead Redemption?”

Yes, I love it but, you know, there’s been a little bit of backlash…

What has the backlash been?

People think it’s padded, like the narrative isn’t necessarily as lean as it could be. But, if you ask me to choose between less and more, I’m generally going to choose more…

I loved it, I really did. I’ve only just got to the “Mexico”

A friend of mine said that, by the end of the Mexico stuff, he was feeling a little fatigued. He wanted a little bit more editing.

It’s very interesting because this is what we were talking about with gameplay and pace. Because there were a couple of times where I kind of felt that the letters on the map were a bit too much, just tell me which one is going to move me through the story. There’s one where I’m obviously going to end up falling in love with this girl or whatever; that’s what I think is going to happen, but do I want that? That’s all I wanted. Just tell me the shortcut and that would have been fine.

I think their big victory there is like in terms of tone. They just establish a tonality of the world that carries through, even if it’s stuff you do in other games. You know, with collectibles and stuff, they spin it so well that you feel like, “Alright, this makes sense in this world, even if it is just another thing for my trophy case.”

It all fits inside the world.

Rockstar really showed, I thought, a maturity in their game-making sensibilities. Maybe it is because it’s supposedly so autocratic over there, but this feels like the most mature thing they’ve done.

I agree. Certainly it’s more successful.

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It feels fully realized. You can see the influences peeking through, but they kind of synthesize that stuff into something entirely different and bigger. I mean, I’m not going to lie to you: the first time I was riding a horse and went to pick up some herbs, I was like, “I love this!” I didn’t care about unlocking a piece of clothing, but doing things like hunting animals and searching for herbs felt like they connected me to a world like in a different way.

There was some brilliant mechanics in it. I’d love to have had time to rip off a couple… but the tapping of the horse and the holding of the X button is brilliant.

The auto-follow. Yeah, that was really, really great. You surprised me buy saying you loved the “Uncharted” games…

Really? Why? [Laughs] I loved the second one because of its pace and you feel that the characters are really cared about. Yeah, it has its flaws and the plot is linear but, you know, the beauty of the landscape really transports you.

It’s interesting when you think of how far things have come. In fact, did a post on this “Insane Console History Video“; take a look…

Oh, wow…

It’s pretty much just a slideshow of old consoles.

Those are from my time… This is amazing!

08202010_Console_History_Still.jpgWhen I watched this, I was, like, “Oh, man, I’ve never even heard of some of these.

You see this one? This is how I started in the industry. And I saw this Binatone TV Master in the window of my local electronics shop and immediately ran home, stole money from my grandmother’s purse and went back and brought this. It must have been about 60 dollars. I got it home, played Pong on it and got bored after about a second. Then I took it apart and hid it under my bed. It was my big shame. It was my huge shame that I’d stolen this thing. I think my parents though there were porn mags under the bed, but I kept yelling “Don’t peek under my bed!”

It’s funny when you see the connections between things that are happening now and things that were happening then. A few of these things have super-elaborate gun peripherals and stuff, and it’s amazing because you would never get away with that today. Like, not at all. It shows how everything is cyclical too.

Yet it’s a complete different world.

And also like, again if you let this thing scroll all these companies you will never hear from again. They just fell by the wayside.

Some of these companies I remember. Look at those controllers! Wow, look at that. Aw, I remember this one! Now I actually hatched an entire plan to go and steal that.

You were a vagabond!

[Sheepishly] I was. Yeah, I was.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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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 IFC.com 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….

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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.

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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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