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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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