“Halo” creators looking to help launch indie games into orbit

“Halo” creators looking to help launch indie games into orbit  (photo)

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No matter how big you wind up getting, everybody starts off small. Bungie–the powerhouse development studio behind the mega-hit “Halo” franchise–started off as a partnership between friends in Chicago, where they boxed copies of their self-published games by hand. Even though the Mac platform had a smaller base of potential customers, the nascent Bungie focused on making games for Apple’s computers. One moderate success was an RPG called “Minotaur: The Labyrinths of Crete,” which moved a whopping 2,500 copies. Not a lot by any means, but enough to keep them making games. And it’s a good thing, too, because after “Minotaur” came “Marathon,” the first title that wan Bungie a significant following and one that hinted at the design philosophy that would inform the “Halo” games. After years of a slow and steady build, “Halo” was the game that got Bungie acquired by Microsoft, as well as lionized by millions of fans the world over. 2010’s “Halo: Reach” marked the end of an era for Bungie, though. In a surprise move last year, Bungie left Microsoft (who still retain the rights to “Halo”) to chart their own destiny, and entered into partnership with Activision to create a new intellectual property meant to sprawl out over a ten-year span.

So, yeah, there aren’t many companies bigger than the Seattle-based dev collective nowadays. But, the recent announcement of a new initiative by Bungie makes it clear they remember their humbler beginnings. Dubbed Bungie Aerospace, it’s a project that aims to help incubate and disseminate smaller games in the mobile and social markets. While most of Bungie works on their new mystery IP–which they’ll own outright–a small team’s dedicated to all things Aerospace. Part of that involves helping fund a project code-named “Crimson” by indie studio Harebrained Schemes. Not much is being said about “Crimson,” but it’s due out for Android and iOS this summer. When it does come out, Bungie will use Bungie.net, the website that’s home to their most loyal fans to get word-of-mouth started. Aside from their experience and track record of success, Bungie.net is another part of the company’s formidable ecosystem, one they didn’t have to let go when “Halo” stayed with Microsoft. The combo of resources and marketing make Bungie Aerospace a rare bird. It’s a developer associated with a hardcore game franchise actime almost like a publisher for smaller dev teams. Over at Kotaku, Bungie’s community manager Eric Osborne describes it this way:

We want to give them some of our proprietary rocket fuel, whether that be resources, audience, funding or what have you and let them showcase their great games.

There isn’t a checklist I could give you about: ‘These are the three things we’re looking for. It really is about finding teams that we believe are passionate about making games. That may sound like a naive, optimistic approach, but, when it comes down to it, that’s what makes a game great: the people who are building it. If we believe in them and see the experience they are building is something that would resonate with us, that’s a pretty good metric to think that maybe we should be working with these guys.

When you think about it, it’s heartening that Bungie Aerospace is being started as a launchpad for other smaller games to fly off of. Having become masters of their own destiny again in this, their 20th anniversary year, no one would blame Bungie for focusing squarely on their own future success. Yet, the pay-it-forward ethos of Aerospace revolves around the idea that shared success benefits the entire video game medium and that not every game has to be a “Halo.” And with the prestige of a studio like Bungie behind it, it probably won’t be long before an Aerospace game goes into hyperdrive.

Do you think Bungie’s efforts in the indie game space will be fruitful? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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