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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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