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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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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