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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.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.