DID YOU READ

“World of Warcraft” offers first chunk of game for free

“World of Warcraft” offers first chunk of game for free  (photo)

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Up until recently, there was a stigma attached to free-to-play games. Most examples of the category live on the web, in browser-based games or on Facebook, where an entertainment experience gets doled out in a slow dripfeed. Those experiences get specially formulated to be just addictive to get you to come back–and they’re free after all—but also dangle purchasable items or features to either speed things along or give you a competitive edge. Microtransactions like buying a new kart in “Free Realms” or calling in the Mighty Eagle to smash through a pesky level in “Angry Birds” get players paying for perks, long after they start playing. You’ve probably got a “Farmville” or “Cityville” addict in your News Feed. What you don’t know is how much real-world cash they’re dumping to keep their little patch of virtual world just the way they want it.

Free-to-play’s a model that mushroomed abroad in countries like South Korea, where the gaming culture’s different. People tend to log into game profile accounts at internet cafes where they spend time going through games like Nexon’s “MapleStory.” Technologically, free-to-play games have to support almost any PC so they’ve tended not to be the most graphically impressive or experientially deep titles. But, even as Nexon’s raised the bar with titles like its visually impressive action RPG “Invictus,” and Supercell’s shoot-em-up RPG “Gunshine” wins over doubters, the mass of gamers have ignored F2P titles.

That ignorance will be very difficult to maintain with recent events. Last week saw two of the biggest online multiplayer juggernauts revise their business models, as Valve’s “Team Fortress 2” and Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft” both announced free-to-play reconfiguration. Both titles enjoy robust communities and recurring content refreshes, the latter of which was generally free anyway. But their financial models were wildly different, making the fact that they’ve both gone F2P fairly significant.

Most players got “TF2” by paying a one-time price, getting it either at $60 alongside the first Portal as part of The Orange Box compilation release in 2007 or at $20 as a standalone title. But, as is their wont, Valve’s been delivering free content updates for nearly the entire lifespan of the game. So, really not much is changing other than the price of entry’s being voided. In the new TF2 ecosystem, there’s a line of demarcation between free and premium users but all you need to do to become a premium user is to buy something from the “TF2” in-game store. And, if you bought the game before it went F2P, then you’re automatically a premium user. “TF2” enjoys a loyal user base thanks to its balance, art style and humor but many are unhappy about the free-to-play change, saying that it’s going to sully their community with hackers, cheaters and n00bs. Personal skill level’s a big deal in an online shooter like “Team Fortress 2,” so there’s some basis to these concerns. But the draw of an award-winning game that’s completely free will do more than just expose vulnerabilities.

Valve CEO Gabe Newell talks about the idea of entertainment-as-service, where consumers don’t view entertainment as a one-off but as a place they can regularly return to and interact with others who share their passion. By going free, “TF2” adds to that population. It also helps that Valve’s Steam digital distribution service serves developers both big and small who want to reach PC gaming audiences, so if players come for free “TF2” they stay some other game that catches their fancy. Most significantly, Valve says that they’re not modulating the experience and that all of the game content can be accessed for free. All the stuff that you can pay for–those iconic hats and similarly coveted in-game items–can be gotten through achievements, crafting or drops, meaning that you can make, earn or find them. So, you don’t have to pay to enjoy the game. But, if you’re impatient or lusting after some in-game fashion, you can shell out cash if you want.

The scenario with “World of Warcraft” is slightly different. Blizzard’s powerhouse runs on a subscription model, where its millions of users pay around $15 a month to romp through mythical Azeroth as members of either the heroic Alliance or marauding Horde. Curious first-timers would get the first 14 days free after installing the game onto a PC but, now, Blizzard’s changing structure of that first free taste. New players will be able to play for free until they reach level 20. The level cap–the highest plateau of achievement in an MMO like “WoW–rises with every expansion pack. As of last year’s Cataclysm expansion, the level cap for “WoW” is 85. So, if you’re playing up until level 20 for free, then you’re getting about a quarter of the game for free. It’s excellent bait to hook players onto an experience that’s been already proven addictive by a population of 12 million people. Hell, if you’re going to invest your time to play all the way to level 20, you’re not going to stop, are you?

Now, even as the benefits of growing their player populations are apparent, both “Team Fortress2” and “World of Warcraft” were doing well enough that they didn’t need to go F2P. But, it’s the kind of move that will start other publishers and developers thinking and that might result in a seismic shift in how online gaming looks.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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