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IGN Offers Free Rent for Indie Game Developers

IGN Offers Free Rent for Indie Game Developers (photo)

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IGN’s been one of the heavyweights of internet video game culture for the better part of a decade now. Many see it as a bastion of hardcore gamer orthodoxy, as the network of sites often scores first looks at high-profile titles before anyone else. But, in a surprise announcement yesterday, IGN unveiled a new Indie Open House program that offers free office space to indie developers. Along with gratis accommodations, small-team developers will also get resources from IGN-affiliated companies:

 
·       24-hour access to IGN headquarters located in San Francisco’s SOMA district, including conference rooms and kitchens

·       Daily interaction with IGN editorial and executive teams, including face-to-face opportunities to receive feedback on your project while still in development

·       Participation in Demo Days and the opportunity to showcase your game(s) directly to publishers, retailers, online distributors and the IGN / GameSpy editorial teams

·       Free licensing of GameSpy Technology’s Open Services Platform supporting essential online features like Leaderboards, Matchmaking, Deep User Stats, In-Game Commerce and more across multiple systems

·       Consultation with GameSpy Technology’s Professional Services team at no cost

·       Customized demo space in GameSpy Tech’s booth at GDC 2011 in San Francisco

·       Free advertising and promotional opportunities showcasing your projects on the IGN Network (if applicable)

Submissions are open now and the winning developers will be chosen by a team of IGN executives and editorial staff, who are joined by Eddy Boxerman, founder of Hemisphere Games, responsible for the award-winning “Osmos.” I caught up with Roy Bahat, President of IGN Entertainment to find out about the genesis of the program.

Can you talk a little bit about what the thinking was to initiate this program?

So, pretty simple and straight forward, our goal is to serve the audience of gamers. And we recognized that–across so many different parts of what we do–indie teams are more and more important. They’re producing better and better product every year. And in a lot of ways, I think they really exemplify what making games is all about. They take creative risks. They do it with personality. They work for the love of the product that they produce. Of course, they want to produce excellent product too and many of them want careers in the industry, although not all. But we just respect the power of what they do, and think that the next generation of breakthrough games is very likely to come from that community.

There’s plenty of people who are doing financial prizes and traditional incubators where they make investments. And we realize that that’s not something we know a lot about how to do. But we have a community of people who love games and don’t make games. In the different divisions of IGN Entertainment, we thought, “Well, what if we just opened it up, and invited a few indie teams to work out of our offices, and basically give them access to each other?”

And that’s a really important point. One of the things we always hear from independent teams is how their greatest learnings always come from each other. So we just thought, let’s just formalize that and give them a place where a handful of teams can work together. And where, we as IGN, can develop relationships with them, and help them out. Once we realized we wanted to have this residency we just thought, “OK, what’s all the other stuff we can offer them?” We decided to set up demo days, where they can present to IGN editors, and get feedback an their games. Present to publishers and retailers, et cetera. We decided to give them advice on digital distribution, since we run a digital distribution service, Direct2Drive. Since we have the GameSpy online match-making technology, we decided to give them free access to GameSpy technology and advice on how to integrate that.

But that’s kind of secondary to the main event. The main event is really this residency, which is let them spend six months working side-by-side with other teams and with our folks. You never know what kind of serendipity comes out of that.

OK, so, in terms of the resources you guys are providing, will that include with things like workstations, Internet infrastructure, that kind of thing?

I actually think that plenty of folks like to use their own equipment. But we’re definitely providing them with office space, Internet access, all the stuff that kind of comes with that. Look, we recognize that they still have to bring a lot. We’re not giving them any money. We’re not paying for their accommodation if they don’t live in San Francisco. So like a lot of things in life, you’ve got to meet us halfway. But what we’re excited about is that it also comes with no strings attached.

The only requirement for the program is that you work out of our offices, and kind of participate. We don’t take any ownership rights in your game. There’s absolutely no obligation. You’re not committed to deliver anything. We respect that the creative process is unpredictable. And so, the fact that this program comes with no strings attached, is also we think a pretty special thing.

My first thought upon hearing about this and reading the press release is that it kind of runs counter to the way that most people understand IGN’s interface with game coverage. You guys are kind of like the 800 pound gorilla, and you focus on the big mainstream stuff. Was there any thinking along those lines about counter-messaging, or is that all just in my head?

No, it has nothing to do with counter-messaging. But it has to do with reflecting the reality of how we think about the games business. We actually care about the whole gaming ecosystem. I mean, we’ve got an editor who’s solely focused on social games. And we’ve got folks who already have relationships with the indie community and cover indie titles. We believe that if we’re going to be serving the audience of gamers, we got to serve the full audience of gamers. We bought What They Play, which is a parent-focused game site.

So, it is definitely not the case that we are exclusively focused on the mainstream AAA releases. We think those are really important, too, but you got to look at the whole spectrum. And by the way, the lines are really starting to blur. We’re starting to see a lot of the AAA publishers and game developers really focused on the indie community as well. So, we see this as an example of where the whole industry is going.

Fair enough. And I think the other question, then, is about editorial coverage. Is it a little too close for comfort if they are going to be right next to the journalist who cover the games business at IGN? Can you speak to that a little bit?

Yeah, the coverage thing is actually pretty straightforward to describe. It’s always about how it’s done. Which is, the journalists at IGN are not obligated to cover these games and the indie teams are not obligated to disclose anything they don’t want to disclose. So you just happen to work in the same building. They are actually going to be on different floors, for what it’s worth. But it’s more how it’s managed than anything else. Do I think that an IGN editor will see a game they never heard of before and get interested in it and write about it? Probably. But we’re not making any promises. And they’ll write about it if they think, in their journalistic best judgment, it’s worth writing about. And the ultimate arbiters of that are the audience. That’s how we think of it. If people like to read our stuff, then we are doing something right, and if they don’t, then we’re doing something wrong. That’s kind of the ultimate guide for us, what gamers want to hear.

And applications are open now?

Yeah. We’re accepting applications right now. It basically is going to go in waves because we’re recognizing that this is like a first-time experiment for us and we are going to have to iterate and learn as we go. So, we are going to accept a first wave of applicants, and submissions close on October 10th, or something like that. And then we’ll accept a first group into the open house, and then we’ll add as we go.

And you’re guaranteeing a demo space at next year’s GDC. The demo days, are those things that you are going to set-up specifically for these titles?

Exactly. Exactly. That’s something that we’ve never done before that we’re going to set-up specifically for these titles.

Was the Indie Open House an initiative that somebody brought to you? Or has there been indie games that you’ve really enjoyed over the last couple of years and said, hey, we need to get involved in this somehow?

This is an idea that really came out of our digital distribution team, because they started working with indie games as games that were unlikely to be distributed at retail. Digital distribution turned out to be uniquely suited to these games. And so, we made a concerted effort starting about two years ago to reach out to the indie community. We sponsored this thing at GDC called the D2D Vision Award. And one of the winners were the creators of this game “Osmos,” which has since become a really big hit.

Yeah, I love “Osmos.”

Yeah, it’s a great game. And they were our winners. And actually one of the guys who built the game, Eddie is involved in being one of the judges for who should be invited into our Indie Open House. So this really grew out of us trying to figure out, kind of scratching our heads, and saying, what else could we do to get more involved in the indie community that would be true to who we are. Because we’re not a game developer. We don’t know how to make games. But we love games. And we got a great community of people in our company that love games, so how could we take advantage of what we have?

Yeah, and part of that is also distribution as well.

Yeah. I mean look, distribution, online game services, they’re all things we do, and media coverage obviously as well. And indie kind of touches all of those things. So we’re sort of crossing our fingers and hoping that good unexpected things come out of this.

It’s interesting. It seems like you’re basically are offering, not quite a blank check but like a staging ground for people to come and apply.

Yeah. We wanted to cast the net as wide as possible. We’re hoping that the applications are going to be really competitive. And then we’ll get to choose teams that are super-committed and then they’ll get a lot out of it and we’ll get a lot out of it.

So what’s the requirement for an application at this point? Do they have to have a playable prototype? Or what?

No, they don’t have to have playable prototypes. The requirements are all actually posted online. They basically have to describe their team and their game concept and a few other things. And then, we’ll look at kind of a balanced set of criteria that we have posted.

But I expect that we’ll have people at very different phases of development. We don’t have a particular point of view on exactly what phase of development this program is best suited for. And that’s something we’ll learn. We’ll try out a few different things. We might learn that something like this is really useful in the concept phase but less useful in the beta testing phase. I’m just making up an example. Once we get into it, we’ll just have to kind of improvise as we go.     

Can the six month program residency be extended?

Yeah. It’s a six month program with renewal at our discretion, basically.

So this is not like a one time thing?

No, no. We’re planning to run this continuously, kind of an ongoing basis. But it’s an experiment, so we have to kind of see how it goes. But our idea is to continue to run it and basically do it on a rolling basis, where, we accept this first group in, and then a few months later, we take in another group. Some people will rotate out, and some people will rotate in and we’ll just see how it evolves.

Do you think that there’ll be more PC-centric development or a focus on consoles?

We’re not taking a point of view on what platforms people should be developing for. So this could be people developing social games. It could be iPhone and Android games. It could be Xbox Live Arcade. It could be PSN. It could be WiiWare. It could be PC downloadables, browser-based games. We’re sort of wide, wide open to the broadest possible range of any monetization model. We care a lot more about the game concept, the team, the energy level of the team, that kind of stuff, than we do about what platform they’re developing for.

You say any monetization model, is there going to be profit-sharing of any kind?

No, no. We have no participation. What I meant was I don’t care whether they’re developing like a downloadable game that you pay for up front. Or something that’s free to play with micro-transactions. Or just flat-out free. I don’t care. Look, we’ve all seen the breakout games that have become real big successes. “Osmos” is a wonderful example. A lot of people anointed “Audiosurf” as another. And both of those games are games that I thought were just terrific. And I think those games also influence game design as a whole because people look at them and they see what they like and they start to adapt and evolve. So, we just want to be part of that process.

 

Fair enough. And I think the other big question, then, is about editorial coverage. Is it a little too close for comfort if they are going to be right next to the journalist who cover the games business at IGN? Can you speak to that a little bit?

Yeah, the coverage thing is actually pretty straightforward to describe. It’s always about how it’s done. Which is, the journalists at IGN are not obligated to cover these games and the indie teams are not obligated to disclose anything they don’t want to disclose. So you just happen to work in the same building. They are actually going to be on different floors, for what it’s worth. But it’s more how it’s managed than anything else. Do I think that an IGN editor will see a game they never heard of before and get interested in it and write about it? Probably. But we’re not making any promises. And they’ll write about it if they think, in their journalistic best judgment, it’s worth writing about. And the ultimate arbiters of that are the audience. That’s how we think of it. If people like to read our stuff, then we are doing something right, and if they don’t, then we’re doing something wrong. That’s kind of the ultimate guide for us, what gamers want to hear.

And applications are open now?

Yeah. We’re accepting applications right now. It basically is going to go in waves because we’re recognizing that this is like a first-time experiment for us and we are going to have to iterate and learn as we go. So, we are going to accept a first wave of applicants, and submissions close on October 10th, or something like that. And then we’ll accept a first group into the open house, and then we’ll add as we go.

And you’re guaranteeing a demo space at next year’s GDC. The demo days, are those things that you are going to set-up specifically for these titles?

Exactly. Exactly. That’s something that we’ve never done before that we’re going to set-up specifically for these titles.

Was the Indie Open House an initiative that somebody brought to you? Or has there been indie games that you’ve really enjoyed over the last couple of years and said, hey, we need to get involved in this somehow?

This is an idea that really came out of our digital distribution team, because they started working with indie games as games that were unlikely to be distributed at retail. Digital distribution turned out to be uniquely suited to these games. And so, we made a concerted effort starting about two years ago to reach out to the indie community. We sponsored this thing at GDC called the D2D Vision Award. And one of the winners were the creators of this game “Osmos,” which has since become a really big hit.

Yeah, I love “Osmos.”

Yeah, it’s a great game. And they were our winners. And actually one of the guys who built the game, Eddie is involved in being one of the judges for who should be invited into our Indie Open House. So this really grew out of us trying to figure out, kind of scratching our heads, and saying, what else could we do to get more involved in the indie community that would be true to who we are. Because we’re not a game developer. We don’t know how to make games. But we love games. And we got a great community of people in our company that love games, so how could we take advantage of what we have?

Yeah, and part of that is also distribution as well.

Yeah. I mean look, distribution, online game services, they’re all things we do, and media coverage obviously as well. And indie kind of touches all of those things. So we’re sort of crossing our fingers and hoping that good unexpected things come out of this.

It’s interesting. It seems like you basically are offering, if not quite a blank check, then a staging ground for people to come and apply.

Yeah. We wanted to cast the net as wide as possible. We’re hoping that the applications are going to be really competitive. And then we’ll get to choose teams that are super-committed and then they’ll get a lot out of it and we’ll get a lot out of it.

So what’s the requirement for an application at this point? Do they have to have a playable prototype? Or what?

No, they don’t have to have playable prototypes. The requirements are all actually posted online. They basically have to describe their team and their game concept and a few other things. And then, we’ll look at kind of a balanced set of criteria that we have posted.

But I expect that we’ll have people at very different phases of development. We don’t have a particular point of view on exactly what phase of development this program is best suited for. And that’s something we’ll learn. We’ll try out a few different things. We might learn that something like this is really useful in the concept phase but less useful in the beta testing phase. I’m just making up an example. Once we get into it, we’ll just have to kind of improvise as we go.

Can the six month program residency be extended?

Yeah. It’s a six month program with renewal at our discretion, basically.

So this is not like a one time thing?

No, no. We’re planning to run this continuously, kind of an ongoing basis. But it’s an experiment, so we have to kind of see how it goes. But our idea is to continue to run it and basically do it on a rolling basis, where, we accept this first group in, and then a few months later, we take in another group. Some people will rotate out, and some people will rotate in and we’ll just see how it evolves.

Do you think that there’ll be more PC-centric development or a focus on consoles?

We’re not taking a point of view on what platforms people should be developing for. So this could be people developing social games. It could be iPhone and Android games. It could be Xbox Live Arcade. It could be PSN. It could be WiiWare. It could be PC downloadables, browser-based games. We’re sort of wide, wide open to the broadest possible range of any monetization model. We care a lot more about the game concept, the team, the energy level of the team, that kind of stuff, than we do about what platform they’re developing for.

You say any monetization model, is there going to be profit-sharing of any kind?

No, no. We have no participation. What I meant was I don’t care whether they’re developing like a downloadable game that you pay for up front. Or something that’s free to play with micro-transactions. Or just flat-out free. I don’t care. Look, we’ve all seen the breakout games that have become real big successes. “Osmos” is a wonderful example. A lot of people anointed “Audiosurf” as another. And both of those games are games that I thought were just terrific. And I think those games also influence game design as a whole because people look at them and they see what they like and they start to adapt and evolve. So, we just want to be part of that process.

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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_Comedy-Crib_Sisters-Weekend-Series-Image

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).

IFC_Comedy-Crib_Sisters-Weekend_About-Image

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.

SistersWeekend_102_MPX-1920x1080

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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GIFs via Giphy

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.

via GIPHY

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!

via GIPHY

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….

E.coli-class-

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.

ecoli-computer

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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