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Talking with Peter Molyneux, part 1

Talking with Peter Molyneux, part 1 (photo)

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Peter Molyneux’s made a career off of psychologically manipulating gamers. His popular early PC games “Populous,” “Black & White” and “Dungeon Keeper” put players in the deity-like roles where they decided the fates of whole worlds.

08162010_Peter_Molyneux_Fable_II.jpgMolyneux’s next breakthrough came with “Fable,” a third-person action RPG where the look and attributes of your avatar changed depending on where your actions fell on a moral continuum. If you were a dastardly rogue, then your complexion would grow pallid and you’d sprout horns from your forehead. The reactions of other characters in the world would change, too, depending how you conducted yourself. “Fable II” continued in the same vein, giving players a broader range of social actions to engage in, including marriage (even same-sex unions). The sequel also added a dog companion, which aided you in almost every aspect of the game’s quests.

“Fable III” is taking a different tack as it extends the series’ action/RPG formula. It kind of goes back to Molyneux’s earlier games by putting players in charge of a whole kingdom. But, you’re not at a celestial remove in “Fable III.” You get to see how your decisions affect the citizens in the gameworld, which ramps up the psychological tension behind the decision-making.

Molyneux has a reputation for being garrulous and perhaps a bit over-promising when he talks abut games, but the truth of it is he continues to be excited and energized by the possibilities of game design. I got the chance to talk to Molyneux during his barnstorming tour for “Fable III” and the first part of a mammoth interview starts below.

How would you explain “Fable III” to someone who’s not familiar with the series? Both in terms of the game’s plot and in terms of what you’re trying to accomplish?

So, what are we trying to create in “Fable”? For me, what we are trying to create is an experience where somebody feels, they feel involved in a story that they haven’t experienced before. That’s very, very important for me. This is the foundation rock of everything I know about, I’m going to show you know. What I’ve created first of all, is a story which has a normal traditional arc just like every story does, just like every film, every book, they pretty much have this same arc. It’s all about growth and power. “”Fable III” is all about the hero’s journey, but also about what comes after. Half of this game is all about a very standard heroic journey where you start off as a rebel. There’s this king called Logan; he rules over a country called Albion. And, with Albion, we are really talking about England. He is this tyrannical, evil ruler who also happens to be the lead character’s older brother. England’s had lots of these rulers– Henry VIII was one of them–all of his decisions are causing untold suffering in the land of Albion. You could say this is like the Philippines were or like Yugoslavia was, you could set it in either of those countries. We put you in the role of a rebel, a rebel that has to bring together people to take on the crown and overthrow the crown. Now, traditionally, you would storm the castle, the baddy would die in some spectacular battle and the prince takes the crown. But what we wanted to give players is a story which gave them a little bit more meat on the bones than that. So, we say when you go to take on the king and you overthrow the king, you become king yourself. Why not make that the halfway point of the story? Why not make the remainder of the story about the promises that you have made on the journey to becoming king yourself? And those promises are very similar to those our politicians and our rulers or rebels make to us, the poor people. And, then when you become king, the realization dawns that it’s very, very hard to keep all of those promises. That becomes an interesting story in my mind because it’s a story about power that has relevance in today’s world.

08162010_FableIII_Screenshot_Female Hero at Bowerstone Docks.jpg

You’re basing Albion on a mythologized historical England but you’re clearly drawing from the current political moment, too…

You know when, as wonderful as Obama is–he’s a great incredible president, you know, I look up to him as iconic–but he did make promises. He made them did for probably very good reasons, which I can’t know, especially being an Englishman. But Guantanamo Bay is still open. You can see on Youtube, where he said it would be closed in a year. When even great rulers–like Obama in today’s world–make us promises that they don’t keep, it has got relevance. So that’s the bedrock of what we’ve got in “”Fable III”.

The next thing to talk about, very quickly, is who you are when you play this game, who do you want to be. Are you a core gamer that’s absolutely fanatical about combat and fighting and killing and being ultra-good and dextrous and fast, someone who knows where those buttons are instinctively? Are you someone who is fanatical about storytelling? Or are you someone who prefers a kind of lighter experience, who actually is just going to pick up this controller and you know just mash this button and not really care about being with the gamers? Are you going to care about the customization and what your hero looks like? Are you someone who is going to care about going and talking to people in the world, chatting people? Maybe chatting up a girl or a boy–or the same sex if you want to– and then getting married and setting up a home and having children and just completely going off on fewer quests? “Fable III” is the sort of game that allows all of those types of things for all of those types of players. For me, in today’s world, it’s all about accessibility and it’s all about if I should be able to hand you this controller and you should be able to play this game and do what you want to do, but still be involved in the drama.

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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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