DID YOU READ

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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.