DID YOU READ

Interview: Team Bondi’s Brendan McNamara on “L.A. Noire,” Part 4

Interview: Team Bondi’s Brendan McNamara on “L.A. Noire,” Part 4 (photo)

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[Find Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.]

The developers at Team Bondi have essentially tried to build a deduction engine, where the player’s given clues and tasked to figure things out. Can you talk about how building something that’s intuitive and not necessarily inherently mechanical posed some challenges to you?

In terms of the integration? That went through a million iterations. Originally, we were going down the street of natural language programming, which would’ve ben almost like a chat-bot, where you could talk to things and it would respond back to you from a database. And trying to make that kind of interesting, and trying to work out where it went, and then trying to attach a voice to that.

Because if you did do that kind of a chat-bot kind of thing, then you have potentially millions of lines that it needs to say back in an interesting kind of way. So, after awhile, we worked out that we were four or five generations away from when that’s going to be possible in a game. And then we went down a route where you can try to intimidate information out of everybody. That’s one of the other things about he LAPD back in the day; they were probably more hands-on than nowadays, but in a kind of firm-but-fair way. But, then I started walking around the office as people were playing and testing, and I just watched everybody just slapping people constantly.

Well, slapping IS fun… But, how do you go from that to the gameplay seen in the latest trailer?

So, it was this kind of joint slap-a-thon around the office. After seeing that, we sat down for awhile and tried to say, “OK, well if the key thing in our game is to decide if someone’s lying or not, how are we going to make a contest out of that?” The only way you could really do that was to make those people withhold information or give you misinformation. That’s when we got to this kind of, “truth, lie, or doubt what they’re saying” mechanic. And that kind of blew the script wide open.

Because we had to have three responses for every question. And we had to be able to take the story slightly a different way, depending on how you did that. I think that was kind of a key moment for the game. Everybody’s got to find their gameplay, so that’s how we found ours.

And speaking of trailers, in the second one from a few weeks ago, you guys teased the serial killer. Do you feel that’s giving away too much at this point, with a couple of months to go before the game comes out?

In some ways, yes, but in other ways, no. It’s funny, looking at the Web, and everyone’s saying the game’s all about a serial killer. But that’s just the homicide desk. The traffic desk has a different kind of plot that runs through it. And the arson desk has different things. And the vice desk has different threads that run through those cases. That’s definitely not what the overarching game is about. But there’s actually more unsolved murders than we had time to cover, which are real and from the period.

When I was shown the game, Rockstar mentioned the amount of research that went into the game in terms of drawing from real-life cases from 1947. And you guys are actually solving cold cases. Not solving them, but basically making up solutions.

Yeah. We’re trying to. One of the first things we did when we were doing the research is we went to the L.A. public library and we almost went blind on the microfiches there. And we’ve got every newspaper from 1947. So the News, The Examiner, The Times and The Daily Record.

So, we’ve got all four of them here, got printed copies of them. And we strolled through all of that stuff. And the great part of that is, if it’s a murder for instance, you can see it’s sort of day one, the Black Dahlia, and then you can follow it through issues right up to–which happened in January, and you can follow it right through to about August where the case just keeps going through the papers.

And the papers were coming out four times a day in those days. Newspapers were how you got your news and your entertainment. So you could follow those kinds of things. So it’s interesting to see some of the cases, how they developed, and what the evidence was, and all that kind of stuff. That part of it, from the point of view of doing the research, is really good. There are other cases like the Black Dahlia, which is probably America’s Jack the Ripper, and totally unsolvable. So you get to go through all that. The research phase, it was quite good fun.

So, to wrap up, is there another genre of film or literature that you would love to kind of play around in the way you have in noir?

Yeah, there is. And [Rockstar exec] Sam [Houser] and I talk about this all the time because we see the last 10 years in games (or even before that, really) as kind of a journey to what sort of entertainment we actually want to make. And this is another step along that route. Because now we’re saying that human interactions and humanity is going to be part of video games.

So instead of punching people here, you can actually talk to them and you can read what they’re saying and decide whether you’re going to emphathize with them in someway or another. So it’s just another thing you add to the tool kit of people making games. It just means that you can have a chance to get it to a bigger audience, and take it to completely new places. Yeah, I have some new ideas. Sam and I are kicking those around at the moment.

But, nothing you feel you are at liberty to share?

Well, I keep telling people I want to do a romance but that makes people laugh.

No, not at all. It’s funny to hear you say that. Because if you can compare comics and video games, romance comics used to be huge for 30 or 40 years, and they just kind of disappeared. And the same people we revere for making awesome superhero comic books in the ’60s and the ’70s–like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby–did that romance and lovey-dovey stuff in the ’40s and the ’50s.

Yeah. I know. The whole thing is like, can you make characters that you really care about? The ones that you care about as much as in your favorite film or novel? I just think everything we’ve done on “L.A. Noire” is just another step along the route to doing that.

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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.