Talking with Simon Carless, Part 3

Talking with Simon Carless, Part 3  (photo)

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(For Part 1 and Part 2, go here and here.)

With the shift towards an online focus for the Austin event, there will be special attention paid to MMOs, virtual worlds and other server-based experiences . With so many games switching or originating in the free-to-play model, what are your thoughts on specific development challenges or business challenges, as it were?

We definitely have a business track where we cover this in a lot of detail. But I think the biggest challenge for game creators is they need to realize is there isn’t necessarily an independent entity who’s going to help them get their games to the users and help them kind of speak to their users and market their game.

Because I think in the past developers have been used to the developer/publisher relationship, where someone took care of that. You sort of just had to care about the game. And I think, to a certain extent that still exists, but to a certain extent that’s quite an artificial construct.

And I think the developers and the business people who are doing the best right now are those who start to understand things like how much does it cost to acquire a user and how is their long term profitability and things like that. Although that may seem in some cases to be anathema to creative game design. I think it’s actually not. Certainly, there’s no reason you have to do this, but if you want to be in the free-to-play online space in particular, and I think that’s somewhere it’s possible to make a good living, then you really want to look very closely at things like how you’re acquiring users, your content funnel, your user acquisition funnel rather as it’s often called, and how you’re reaching out to them, and how you’re keeping them interested. You can still be very creative within those areas even if it is a bit more for business specifically.

Right. Essentially what you’re saying is, being free is not enough. You gotta have more up your sleeve in terms of an engagement strategy with the player than just that.

I also think for some game designers, business model can be a dirty word. Certainly if you are an indie and you know how you’re going out. People maybe buy a $15 Xbox Live Arcade game or something. Then that’s not necessarily a problem. You can just act as you normally are. But if you want to take advantage of this more microtransaction-based stuff, then you have to re-orient your business and your design in what might be interesting and hopefully wholesome ways.

The other new track debuting online is the 3D stereoscopic development track. I’ll be honest, the first thing that struck me was, is it too soon? Is it too soon to have a whole track dedicated to that? So why don’t you talk a little bit about the thinking there.

Well, it’s interesting. I think, in some ways, it is quite soon. But there’s a specific reason for that, which is that there’s quite a significant lead time on making games. So, if you’re going to be making a game that you’re just starting on now. So, if you’re starting on a game now and it’s going to be finished in a couple of years time, then I think you should actually worry about things like stereoscopic 3D. By doing the 3D stereoscopic game summit, we are not saying, “3D is going to be massive in the market this year!” But what we are saying is that if you’re a game creator, and you look at what’s happened in the movie space, people are spending significant extra dollars to get to watch 3D movies and enjoying it.

And if you look at things like the Nintendo 3DS that’s coming out next year, which I personally believe is going to be a big wake-up call to people that 3D and games is actually extremely cool. Then I think that is the kind of thing that you need to be at least thinking about now even if you’re not in the middle of actually developing something.

That’s an excellent point. I know the conference will be having an online awards ceremony too. Talk about the Audience Award a little bit and where the nominees are coming from there?

Oh yeah, sure. So we are doing have an Audience Award. But, the way we decided to do the audience award is, that it is simply a popularity contest. Because we believe that’s kind of, you know, that’s almost the point. There’s a lot of people who hang out online and play online games. If you’re one of them, as long as you’re using a real email address and you’re a real player, you will get a vote. And we are just interested to see whose community is going to be the most vocal.

Obviously the majority of the rest of our awards are the kind of “by developer, for developer” kind of thing. The special award is for Richard Bartle, who co-created the MUD and who’s also going to be speaking. With the award for the “Ultima Online” guys, we are going to have a speech about that franchise as well.

So, the Audience Award, we thought we would really would open it up very widely. It will be interesting to see what will happen. In fact, in the Independent Games Festival, this year we had an online game that was nominated for the Audience Award, and they may end up winning. Those games seem to marshal their troops particularly well, so we’re interested to see whether similar things will happen this year with the Choice Online Awards.


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…


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. 


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

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



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.


Self Defense

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


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