DID YOU READ

Interview: Team Bondi’s Brendan McNamara on “L.A. Noire,” Part 3

Interview: Team Bondi’s Brendan McNamara on “L.A. Noire,” Part 3 (photo)

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[Find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.]

Back to making the game, you guys were in development starting in 2004. Console transition happened from PS2 and Xbox 1 to Ps3 and Xbox 360 around 2006. At what point did you have the whole hardware epiphany, in terms of what the upcoming systems could do? Or is that something that didn’t even come into play with the way your process worked?

When we first started out, we were with Sony, and we had a lot of access to what the early PS3 hardware was. To a certain extent, the early hardware was touted to be a lot more powerful than what it ended up being. Having said that, it’s still a powerful console and there’s plenty of processing room in it, too. So to a certain extent, we went for a lot more than we should have. I think that’s kind of a good thing in a way. Because, now, the game still holds up even though we’ve been working on it for a long time.

I remember one milestone in particular in terms of the tech stuff really coming together. We’d been working on this case which is for another beat desk in the precinct house, where we had a case where someone was cashing bad checks. You could go to jail for that in those days. The player has to interview a bank manager and that was the first time we ever had someone go and speak to any one character with a MotionScan head. He was talking to you and he was thinking about what you were saying. And we had your partner there, too.

And when we first got that working, we showed that to all the people at Rockstar in New York. The producer, Jeronimo Barrera, he asked us to put a camera in so you could move the camera around the scene in 3D, so you could see that it was actually the game’s real graphics engine and that you weren’t just actually looking at a video.

And what year would that have been?

Oh, probably around late 2007, early 2008. The other thing you got to remember about our development on “L.A. Noire” is that it was written almost like a text adventure in a way. The character would say things and they’d say things back to you. It’s slightly different than making the usual game because the logic of it says, I’ve talked to you but I haven’t talked to Bruce, so I have to talk to somebody else. So I have one part of the information, but I don’t have another. I haven’t picked up a clue. So I do that.

So there’s millions of logic bombs that you could possibly have in the script depending on who you talk to, and what order they talked to you, and what you found. But to a certain extent, the game had to go through all of that, and to go through all that QA testing before we could start recording. Because once you start recording in MotionScan, then you have all the usual problems of a film, in terms of continuity. We recorded Aaron, and Aaron was in there for a long time recording.

But, if we recorded him six months later again, he might have got fatter, skinnier, or changed his hair. So the whole process is slightly different to a conventional game where you can go back in and keep recording audio all the time. You need to arrange for a lot more actor availability and factor in that they might have actually changed.

Right. That’s an interesting point. Because you are using actual talent for visuals and not just voice, you’re dependent on their whole performance in a much more important way than traditional mo-cap.

Yeah. You could have a scene because we screwed up on QA’ing the dialogue. And we go in and shoot the scene again, and his sideburns are like a couple centimeters shorter. And when you’re talking to him you see that part of his hair go up and down. That’s the price of the fidelity we achieve with MotionScan.

That’s pretty awesome. But you of course can fix some of that stuff in post-production, I imagine?

No, it’s really difficult to fix. Because you’d have to go in there and change lots and lots of frames. There was a sequence which we were trying to find for ages, where he sneezed in the rig, Aaron Staton. I mean, it’s not the kind of thing you’ll use over and over again in the game, where he’s sneezing constantly. Where are we going to put that? But when he does sneeze, you can actually see his face go red for a few frames as his skin goes red. Then you can see it calm back down again. It’s pretty amazing, but that kind of thing makes it so we have to nail specific takes on the initial performance capture.

That’s intense. So talk about Aaron Staton and the casting. How did you get involved with him? Rockstar started working with celebrities–Ray Liotta in “GTA: Vice City,” for example–and then they moved away from that. What were the choices that were made about who to get for what particular roles?

Well, the idea was, we didn’t think that we needed particularly anybody who was like a huge name. We just wanted quality actors. Obviously, Hollywood is a great place for that. So we used a casting agency called Schiff/Audino. And Laura Schiff, she cast the “Mad Men” TV series. And it was just kind of by a lucky accident. Like, I didn’t even really know “Mad Men.” It had been out here but I didn’t know the series very well.

And [Rockstar exec] Dan Houser, who’s in New York, he’s a fan of the series and a fan of the writing. And he said, “There’s this guy Aaron Staton on the show. I think he could really do it and he’d be great.” And we didn’t think we could get him at the start because he was doing the show. Laura approached him and, of course, he had to read through the material. It was just the outline because the game’s got 2200 pages of script. But, he liked it and he came down to have dinner and a chat with us. And we just thought that we’d get on.

And once Aaron signed up to do it, loads of people from “Mad Men” kept ringing us up, saying, “Oh, I want to be in it. I want to be in it. Can I be in it?” Because they just heard that it was this kind of new type of video game and going to be done in an interesting way. So, we were really lucky there. We got Kartheiser and all sorts of people from “Mad Men” in the show.

That’s a pretty great package deal to get.

Yeah. We got all sorts of people who have done many different things in Hollywood. And we got John Noble as well. And John’s kind of a different story. Because John is obviously Australian. He does “Fringe.” We talked to him maybe as far back as 2005 about it and he came into Sydney and we showed him what we were trying to do.

And he thought it was kind of wild and crazy and didn’t know if we could do it or not. We stayed in touch. Whenever we were doing a test, if he was home for Christmas or something, he’d come in and do a test for us which was amazingly kind of him. And then when we finally got down to the show, he just took some days off, took a weekend off from Fringe and came down and did all his stuff in two days for us which is amazing.


So, now that you guys are kind of in the homestretch. And you’re probably eagerly waiting what the reception is going to be. Have you thought about that much?

Yeah. We are eagerly awaiting with all fingers and toes crossed. Because it is radically different to what anyone else would have played, I think. If cop show is really familiar, I think your frame of reference in terms of games is zero.

Exactly. That’s an interesting point. This is the kind of thing that we always talk about when we talk about video games as a medium. What’s the give and take between a video game and other mediums? It seems that when other mediums try to pull from video games, they get the most broad, nuance-free ideas from video games about shooting lots of dudes, and cool camera angles, and stuff.

But when video games pull from other mediums, sometimes, it’s like very basic plot structure or character motivation, and not anything a little more sophisticated. So it seem like you guys are trying to be a little bit more shaded.

Oh, yeah. And we’re trying to take games to places they haven’t been. Like I said, in this game, asking questions is as important as pulling the trigger. And who has ever done that before? It’s a totally new experience for video game audience. But if the future of games is just drive somewhere and shoot somebody, it’s not a very interesting future.

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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.