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IndieCade 2010: Playstation Gives Indies Home Away From Home

IndieCade 2010: Playstation Gives Indies Home Away From Home (photo)

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The last thing I was expecting to see in Culver City was the Playstation brand’s significant presence at this year’s IndieCade. Now, it might’ve been blasphemous to the indie orthodox that Sony exec John Hight was on a panel about funding game development or that the awards ceremony happened in the huge lobby of the Sony Pictures corporate offices. But going to one of the festival’s gallery locations revealed that Sony’s enlisted the wit and ingenuity of indie dev studios to infuse its social hub with more flavor than it’s ever had before.

A virtual space where players could craft avatars and socialize each other, Playstation Home launched some months after the PS3 debuted and landed with a resounding thud. Though it sported better graphics than “Second Life”–on which it was clearly modeled–Home didn’t have enough by way of population or inherent quirkiness to compel people to stop by for more than the initial cursory visit. All you could really do was decorate a virtual abode, text chat and throw weird emotes at strangers. Yeah, jumping and dancing with other visitors was fun for the first three times you did it but felt real shallow real quick. For a virtual meeting space connected to a game console, Home lacked games of any real distinction.

However, Playstation’s partnered up with several studios to develop original game experiences inside Home and they resemble nothing else available on the service. The first game I looked at was “Super Awesome Mountain RPG” by Codename Games.

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Producer Diana Hughes (pictured above with Jesse Vigil) explained that it’s a giant digital board game, but one where anything can explode, depending on how you roll the dice. The titular mountain was home to a crazy scientist who built a massive amusement open to all, only to have the enormous and suddenly self-aware mechanical dragon trap him on the peak. Your task is to climb the mountain and rescue the scientist. After picking a game piece–which come in the form of differently abled rogue, mage and knight doll figures–players progress along a tiled board where they can engage in monster combat, acquire weapons or pick up clockwork device power-ups. The boss fight against the dragon changes depending on which game piece you use and the one I saw for the mage had you playing a Simon Says-style minigame to cast a spell that won the day. Based in downtown LA, Codename started development on “Super Awesome Mountain RPG” this June and are aiming at a 2011 release date for the game. It’ll be a free demo at first and then will be available for purchase.

Where “Super Awesome Mountain” gives you characters to move around a game board, the Home offering by The Odd Gentlemen lets you use your existing avatar. The studio that made this year’s acclaimed “The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom” will be rolling out “Slaphappy Sam’s Stage Show” in December. “SSSS” offers up to six players the chance to compete in a rock, paper, scissors-style face-off. On a vaudeville stage that will be located on Home’s central plaza, you and others can secretly choose from one of three moves that can all potentially cancel each other out. Attack lets you punch slap or drop a piano on opponents, Block swats away Attacks and Reflect bounces Attack moves onto other players. However, if you choose Reflect when no one’s attacking you, you’ll take a lot of damage. Each player starts with 20 hit points and the goal is to be the last one left standing. The game’s a simple yet sticky bit of risk-vs.-reward game design that makes your Home avatar feel like more than a glorified paper doll. The Odd Gentleman’s Paul Bellezza said, “We wanted to use Home avatars and basically abuse them.” The subversive element doesn’t end when you get off the “Slaphappy” stage, either. You’ll be able to buy abuse items (like that piano) and keep them in your apartment. “Slaphappy” will offer custom emotes, too, so that you can unique animations to communicate with. “Slaphappy Sam’s Stage Show” will be out in December and will be free for the first month.

These two titles give an encouraging glimpse as to how indie game-making entities and corporate publishing outfits can benefit each other without either party becoming dysfunctional. The faster turnaround process for indie studios offers lower risk and investment while the huge reach of a platform like the PS3 enables indies to disseminate their work more widely. Here’s hoping Sony broadens its indie outreach in similarly smart ways as time goes on.

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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.