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Indie Developers prep for “Summer Uprising” on Xbox Live

Indie Developers prep for “Summer Uprising” on Xbox Live  (photo)

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Indie games seem to have found natural homelands on Apple’s iOS platform and the many, many Android devices running Google’s smartphone software. People carry smartphones around with them all the time and the viral word-of-mouth that catapults games into being instant successes can’t really be matched in the home gaming market. However, the Xbox 360’s no slouch, either. It’s the second best-selling home console after the Nintendo Wii and the chance of a small but promising game reaching millions of eyeballs could change the fortunes of the dev team that made it.

That’s the impetus behind the Indie Games Summer Uprising on the Xbox Live Indie Games Channel. It’s a program that will cull a select few worthy games from dozens and give them prime spots on Xbox Live. The Indie Games Channel on the Xbox Live service can be a hotbed of game developer drama, because the titles that ultimately wind up available to players comes as a result of a peer review process. Allegations of collusion, snobbery and outright hackery crop up from time to time and egos can be fragile.

67 indie titles are in the running at present and they run the gamut from trippy, conceptual bio-pixellated shooter “Cell: Emergence” to Buddhist-inspired adventure game “The Spirit of Khon.” Some of the ideas and execution on display show real promise and it’s robably going to be really tough for devs to pick ten games to go into the Summer Uprising package. Players will have their chance to vote on what they want to play, too, when the fan vote opens up on the Indie Games Summer Uprising Facebook page. The winning games will be available to play from August 22 to 31, rolling out one per day. So, head over to the Indie Games Summer Uprising site, browse the games and watch some trailers. Your vote could help mint a new indie game sensation in a month’s time.

Which Summer Uprising nominee catches your fancy? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Hit indie smash “Limbo” coming to PC and PS3 soon

Hit indie smash “Limbo” coming to PC and PS3 soon (photo)

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Exclusivity’s been a dirty little engine of the video games business since its earliest days. Colecovision would sell you on the games and graphics that weren’t possible on the Atari and on and on it went. While there may’ve been some truth to claims of technical superiority in the ’70s and ’80s, the skills of developers on various platforms tends to be more commensurate across the board now. Some consoles do things in a technically different way than others, but they’re all capable of really amazing feats. It’s become more about talent than platform.

Yet the exclusivity wars continue and the biggest casualty is how they lock out great experiences from people who own the “wrong” game box. Some real angst comes with that. Xbox 360 owners toss and turn at night at never being able to play the PS3’s excellent “Uncharted” games and the Sony faithful gnash their teeth over missing out on the atmospherics of “Gears of War.” (It’s long been a fact that Nintendo operates as its own closed ecosystem, so there’s no real yearning about what it may be like to play, say, a “Metroid” game on a PlayStation. Gamers just know that that ain’t happening outside of apocalyptic circumstances.)The amount of money spent on developing high-end AAA games like those two franchises–positioned as system sellers for each console– somewhat justifies the fact that you can only play them on one system.

Even indie games get caught up in this territorialism, leading to the same kind of abortive conversations that end in “Oh, wait… you have a ‘Y’ system; you can’t play this awesome game. Sorry, bro.” PlayDead’s “Limbo” was one of those games. The macabre minimalist puzzle platformer was one of my favorite games last year and I’d rave about it to whomever I could, only sometimes realizing that a PC-gaming friend could only pine away for the black-and-white beauty.

Now, the reasons that PlayDead probably went exclusive with Microsoft are manifold. Being part of the Summer of Arcade promotion guaranteed a certain amount of buzz and attention for their first game. They could stop worrying about whether anyone would buy or play it, and focus on finishing the game. And, it looks like a stupid decision after the game’s success, but maybe they got doors slammed in their faces as they were shopping their dead-boy protagonist wares. Any way you slice it, “Limbo” seemed locked to the Xbox 360 for infinity. Starcrossed PS3ers even used game-making game “LittleBigPlanet 2″ to craft “Limbo: Son of the Forest,” an homage to PlayDead’s dark, fatalistic fantasy.

But, another truism of the games business is that, for the right price, nothing’s exclusive forever. Time was, you could only play a “GTA” game first on a PlayStation 2 and Sony was paying hefty sums for those timed exclusives. Oh, it’d eventually come to the Xbox but after a looonng six-month wait. But that all changed when the current console cycle happened. More simultaneous multiplatform release became the norm, with exclusivity winding up more rarefied.

The timed exclusive is nothing new, then, but the one “Limbo” appears to have just come out from under was so well masked that chatter about it winding up elsewhere dwindled. For their part, PlayDead never totally ruled out the idea that “Limbo” would be playable elsewhere. Still, the reports from the Korean Game Rating Board, which were later confirmed by the dev studio’s Dino Patti, came as a surprise to many. Patti’s since said that “Limbo” will be coming to both the PlayStation Network and Valve’s Steam service, though there’s no word on exact timing. Usually, post-exclusivity releases like this include a little something to sweeten the deal for newcomers. But “Limbo” was such a tightly crafted knot of gameplay that I’d wager that anything left on the cutting room floor probably wouldn’t add to the experience. So, give thanks, PS3 owners and PC gamers! A great game’s coming your way without having to shell out cash for another console. And guard your hearts against exclusivity. Except when, y’know, you can’t.

Do you think “Limbo” will be any better on PS3 than on Xbox 360? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Modders craft an all-new Star Wars game from “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare”

Modders craft an all-new Star Wars game from “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” (photo)

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Aside from the “Lego Star Wars” games developed by the Traveller’s Tales studio, it’s been a dark time for video game fans of the Skywalker mythos. Last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2″ got a poor reception from many. I myself was personally, very disappointed by the way its uneven storyline and cookie-cutter wasted the freshest take on “Star Wars” in years. Rumors have swirled that the video game arm of George Lucas’ empire suffered debilitating cuts in its development staff. Hopes for new entries in the “X Wing” aerial combat series or more massive Rebels-vs-Imperials skirmishes in the “Battlefront” games waned.

In short, it seemed like the video game potential for new games in the “Star Wars” milieu was dim. Yes, the “Old Republic” MMO that’s being built in partnership between EA, LucasArts and BioWare is due out this year but that one game may not be able to meet the cravings of various gamer disciplines.

But the work of a plucky crew of modders may be the best thing to satisfy players wanting to headshot legions of Stormtroopers. Germany-based collective the Black Monkeys just announced the release of “Galactic Warfare,” a PC mod of 2007’s “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” that’s been handcrafted to reseat it firmly in the Star Wars universe. The work of Skywalker love took two years to complete and is now free for players to experience starting today.

The thing that stands out in broad relief is how a group of modders can put in so much work to make a Star Wars game, while LucasArts hasn’t put out a game in this style for more than 3 years. Now, let’s be clear: the BlackMonkey modders aren’t creating their own engine from scratch. They’re using a toolset that’s already been proven and tested. But, still, BlackMonkey does a job that frankly outdoes some of LucasArts’ recent efforts. Here’s hoping that it won’t take too long for LucasArts to deliver a game that looks better, plays better and re-energizes the Star Wars gamer fanbase.

Which parts of the Star Wars Universe would you like to see modders tackle next? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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