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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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