DID YOU READ

Classic Game “Another World” Coming to iPad

Classic Game “Another World” Coming to iPad (photo)

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Also known as “Another World,” “Out of This World”constantly gets mentioned as one the creative high points of the video game medium, even more than two decades after its release. Eric Chahi’s sci-fi adventure centered on scientist Lester Chaykin, who gets accidentally transported to an alien world where he must break out of jail and conquer a variety of puzzles and enemies with a hulking helpmate. “OOTW” was practically a wordless affair and pioneered the use of the now-ubiquitous cutscene for storytelling and dramatic purposes.

Chahi participated in the Game Development Conference’s Classic Post-Mortem series, where designers of beloved games like “Pac-Man,” “Doom” and “Bejeweled” talked about the birthing of their creations. Throughout his hour-long talk, he highlighted the technical limitations of making a game 20 years ago. For example, he explained that the computers of 1989 could only render 16 colors, so some hues were used more than once. The fleshtone was also the color used in backgrounds to suggest sunlit mountains. Chahi used rotoscoping for the game’s fluid movement, which tied into why he gave Lester red hair. “I was filming myself to create animation,” offered the energetic Frenchman, “and I didn’t want to see myself running around on screen and getting killed by slugs or whatever.”

The process of “OOTW” creation was very improvisatory and Chahi admitted to making it up as he went along. He described coding a game all by himself and making a custom programming language that fused Visual BASIC and raw code to roll out the graphics and gameplay sequencing. Development was a lonely experience, he said, but one that allowed him to listen to his inner self. The question became, “How can I surprise my expectations as a player?” That’s where plot points like teleporting Lester in to water and then having him emerge into a foreign planet. Nothing was planned ahead with a story outline or anything like that. From there, he focused on fluctuating the pacing: an escape from an enemy on one screen leads to swinging back on a vine to the previous, where he is saved by mystery character. That mystery character, fans know, winds up jailing Lester. Chahi spoke about how the game’s laser gun was influenced by Star Wars, saying that the energy weapons “introduced visual dynamism” into the George Lucas movies.

His original plan for combat was hand-to-hand fighting but then re-organized around the gun and the initial level design was originally running from shelter to shelter. Chahi changed the shelter idea to the game’s shield which itself is a sort of a movable shelter. Again, limitations informed the dev process because, back then, it’d be too hard to manage death and respawn data.

After 17 months (in December of 1990), only 1/3 of the game was done so Chahi shifted gears to creating building blocks that could be easily replicable. Narratively, the alien
Friend became the center of story, which itself grew into a succession of meetings and separations. “The improvisation led me to crate a game about the meeting of two strangers,” Chahi said. He also showed slides that explained how playing with foreground and background space allowed him to layer narrative and create a sense of scale. One of the best parts of the talk was when how he described the meetings with publishers could’ve changed the direction of the game. The point-&-click gere was popular in the late 1980s and Chahi himself was a fan. Virgin Games suggested that the action game would’ve been less difficult (and potentially more popular) if it were a p-&-c. Chahi thankfully balked, realizing that it’d be too difficult to go back and re-do work for a new gameplay design. The publisher he wound up with, Delphine Software, didn’t interfere and let him work in peace. Still, by June 1991, “Out of This World” wasn’t not done yet; it was ¾ finished but a November release still seemed dubious for the game.

Nevertheless, Chahi took it upon himself to paint the game’s beautiful cover illustration. He explained that, to him, the art on a box is the first bond between player and game and publishers of his previous titles had gotten it all wrong. Delphine let him draw the cover illo but it was done as he was in final crunch. “It took me three weeks that I honestly didn’t have.” More problems arose, too, like the lack of playtesting. Chahi managed to fix some major issues but it still came out very unbalanced. When Interplay became a publisher of other versions, they did a lot of playtesting and the game underwent a second round of polish. But they also wanted to make it longer, so it got harder.

“Out of This World” found its way to other platforms because of a warm reception, but that grew more conflict for Chahi. In porting the game to other consoles, Interplay wanted to change the intro music for the game. Chahi was vehemently opposed and the ensuing arguments happened via fax. In an attempt to get the last word, he sent an infinite fax. The mischevious communication hack consisted of a strip of printer paper taped end-to-end so it continuously loops back into fax machine. The message on the paper? “Keep the original intro music.” Chahi sent it overnight and the Interplay office came in to find reams of angry infinite fax on the floor. But, the infinite fax tactic was to no avail. Finally, Delphine stepped in and claimed that, as the original publisher, they had final say on the music and they chose to honor Chahi’s wishes. Other issues cropped up like the censorship of alien female nudity. A scene in the extraterrestrial baths showed three females in the nude from the back, with three pixels creating the virtual butt-crack. Those offending pixels got removed and problem solved.

“Out of This World” stands as an incredible testament to the skills and vision of a lone developer. Chahi was indie before there even was indie games and making the game took up a huge chunk of his life. His iconic hero reaches the game’s finale close to death and Chahi testified that, “At the end of development, I was exhausted and this was the reason that Lester almost died at the end of the game.” But, both Chahi and “OOTW” continue to live and he ended the talk by saying a 25th Anniversary edition coming to iPad in the near future.

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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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