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Talking with Simon Carless, Part 3

Talking with Simon Carless, Part 3  (photo)

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(For Part 1 and Part 2, go here and here.)

With the shift towards an online focus for the Austin event, there will be special attention paid to MMOs, virtual worlds and other server-based experiences . With so many games switching or originating in the free-to-play model, what are your thoughts on specific development challenges or business challenges, as it were?

We definitely have a business track where we cover this in a lot of detail. But I think the biggest challenge for game creators is they need to realize is there isn’t necessarily an independent entity who’s going to help them get their games to the users and help them kind of speak to their users and market their game.

Because I think in the past developers have been used to the developer/publisher relationship, where someone took care of that. You sort of just had to care about the game. And I think, to a certain extent that still exists, but to a certain extent that’s quite an artificial construct.

And I think the developers and the business people who are doing the best right now are those who start to understand things like how much does it cost to acquire a user and how is their long term profitability and things like that. Although that may seem in some cases to be anathema to creative game design. I think it’s actually not. Certainly, there’s no reason you have to do this, but if you want to be in the free-to-play online space in particular, and I think that’s somewhere it’s possible to make a good living, then you really want to look very closely at things like how you’re acquiring users, your content funnel, your user acquisition funnel rather as it’s often called, and how you’re reaching out to them, and how you’re keeping them interested. You can still be very creative within those areas even if it is a bit more for business specifically.

Right. Essentially what you’re saying is, being free is not enough. You gotta have more up your sleeve in terms of an engagement strategy with the player than just that.

I also think for some game designers, business model can be a dirty word. Certainly if you are an indie and you know how you’re going out. People maybe buy a $15 Xbox Live Arcade game or something. Then that’s not necessarily a problem. You can just act as you normally are. But if you want to take advantage of this more microtransaction-based stuff, then you have to re-orient your business and your design in what might be interesting and hopefully wholesome ways.

The other new track debuting online is the 3D stereoscopic development track. I’ll be honest, the first thing that struck me was, is it too soon? Is it too soon to have a whole track dedicated to that? So why don’t you talk a little bit about the thinking there.

Well, it’s interesting. I think, in some ways, it is quite soon. But there’s a specific reason for that, which is that there’s quite a significant lead time on making games. So, if you’re going to be making a game that you’re just starting on now. So, if you’re starting on a game now and it’s going to be finished in a couple of years time, then I think you should actually worry about things like stereoscopic 3D. By doing the 3D stereoscopic game summit, we are not saying, “3D is going to be massive in the market this year!” But what we are saying is that if you’re a game creator, and you look at what’s happened in the movie space, people are spending significant extra dollars to get to watch 3D movies and enjoying it.

And if you look at things like the Nintendo 3DS that’s coming out next year, which I personally believe is going to be a big wake-up call to people that 3D and games is actually extremely cool. Then I think that is the kind of thing that you need to be at least thinking about now even if you’re not in the middle of actually developing something.

That’s an excellent point. I know the conference will be having an online awards ceremony too. Talk about the Audience Award a little bit and where the nominees are coming from there?

Oh yeah, sure. So we are doing have an Audience Award. But, the way we decided to do the audience award is, that it is simply a popularity contest. Because we believe that’s kind of, you know, that’s almost the point. There’s a lot of people who hang out online and play online games. If you’re one of them, as long as you’re using a real email address and you’re a real player, you will get a vote. And we are just interested to see whose community is going to be the most vocal.

Obviously the majority of the rest of our awards are the kind of “by developer, for developer” kind of thing. The special award is for Richard Bartle, who co-created the MUD and who’s also going to be speaking. With the award for the “Ultima Online” guys, we are going to have a speech about that franchise as well.

So, the Audience Award, we thought we would really would open it up very widely. It will be interesting to see what will happen. In fact, in the Independent Games Festival, this year we had an online game that was nominated for the Audience Award, and they may end up winning. Those games seem to marshal their troops particularly well, so we’re interested to see whether similar things will happen this year with the Choice Online Awards.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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