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Talking with Peter Molyneux, part 2

Talking with Peter Molyneux, part 2 (photo)

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My conversation with the co-founder of Lionhead Studios and Microsoft Game Studios creative director continues, as he holds forth on integrating cinematic techniques into his game-making and re-inventing gameplay staples to fit the ideas in “Fable III.”

One thing I noticed is that, even from the opening cut scene, this game feels a lot more cinematic in its presentation than “Fable II.” Things flow a lot smoother and there’s a lot of more exposition going on in the background, even when your companion character Walter is kind of walking and talking with you. Was this shift a conscious decision?

Absolutely, it was. In fact, we got a professional film director in, an American. A fantastically, amazingly talented person. He directed a lot of the shots and a lot of the action. We had a professional voice director in to direct the voice performances. Because I think you have to judge yourself harshly. In “Fable” especially and in “Fable II,” they were kind of like stories told through the eyes of a kid with a video camera. You get the extreme zooms and the pan shots and that’s it. But this time, now, it does feel much more formal and that totally adds to the drama. The sense is that you have to do this now. There’s all the mechanics and things that we’re proud of, yes. But you do need that level of professionalism in the other aspects. You need to think more like a movie director, when you are coming and trying to tell these big stories and that sharpness is just as important in these cut scenes as it is in the actual game itself.

What’s interesting about what you are saying is that, if you’re on point, it can dovetail into a maturation of presentation and a maturation of content, right? Because it feels like you are trying less for a bipolar continuum of morality and that you want a lot more finely gradated strata. And if it winds up feeling more movie-like, then you probably can delineate the themes a bit better. I mean, that’s probably your hope.

It’s true although, you’ve got to be careful. There’s this line that you cross where the person involved in playing feels less like a participant and more like an observer. And if you ever cross that line, then actually you just confuse people. For example, there’s that opening bit that you just played. It probably took you about about 13 minutes to play from start to finish. That used to be an hour and a quarter. And we used to have you wandering around the gardens, and you did something with your dog, and then this servant girl smashed this vase and all this stuff. It was just pulling you along from A to B to C to D, and you kind of felt like “OK, well, just take me to the next thing too.” We lost that sense of drama. What we had to do at the start, was we had to say “You’re a prince, your brother is an evil guy and something terrible has happened that starts this revolution.” Actually, even where it’s at now is going to be shortened down even more, in order to get you into character. We want you feeling like you’re part of this world, rather than feeling like you are observing this world. It just goes to show that you never stop learning how to, you know, do these things.

“Fable II” introduced a loyal pet dog as a way of streamlining the way you move about the world, as well as creating a constant emotional bond. What are you re-thinking this time around?

Since we’re so keen on customization, we wanted to give people a better way to interact with all their stuff. So, at a certain point in the story, you’ve discovered this sanctuary with Jasper, your butler who’s played by John Cleese. He has been unlocking different elements of it, kind of like the Batcave. At this point, you’re going to break into this renegade camp and Jasper lays out a disguise for you. Now, the way you get to sanctuaries is just pressing the start button. Just like any other game. Normally you press the start button and it brings up some abstract 2D screens, which have got options and configurations. That felt boring and confusing the last time we did it in “Fable II”. Instead, you just immediately jump to the sanctuary and get to what you need the same way you navigate around the game. We can just walk inside the door, we can walk inside of clothing room and you can see the shelves fill up with what you’ve found.

How else are you changing up the way customization works in “Fable III”?

All your weapons will morph and change in appearance, depending on how you use them. So, the curvature of a sword, the number of notches in the sword, the hilt of the sword really is dictated by the number of times you die, the number of times you use flourishes, etc. A sword that’s very straight means you’ve been using quite a lot of force in attacks. If you use of a lot of overhand swipes, it will be a little bit more curved. These notches here dictate the number of times that you’ve died. This handle has to do with with your moral alignment and your quest. All of these are combined together with thousands and thousands of different options and the same applies to the guns and the magic. So the weapons are very, very cool and look unique to you.

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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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