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.


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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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.


It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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