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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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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.