[Hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving - it was a bit of a slow week out there in 'video game long reads' land, but still managed to find some good stuff out there. Especially happy to kick off with a piece about The Catamites, since 50 Short Games is genuinely one of my favorite releases of the past few years...
Incidentally, are there outlets who release longform articles or videos fairly often that I've been inadvertently ignoring? Hit me up and I'd definitely like to add them to my browsing list for this newsletter. Otherwise - that's enough blather from me (the words, not the knowledgable owl scholar) - let's get on with the links!
- Simon Carless, curator.]
The Catamites’ Games Might Look Rough, But They’re Remarkable (Luke Shaw / Waypoint)
"Working under the name "The Catamites", or "thecatamites" as it's so often seen styled online, Stephen Gillmurphy has been frustrating expectations and creating his own 'zine-like aesthetic across numerous free—and recently, paid-for—titles. They cover a gamut of esoteric and goofy references, from Coleridge in Pleasuredromes of Kublai Khan, to slasher movies in Drill Killer."
The Hi-Bit Era (Heavy Eyed / YouTube)
"We're at the dawn of a new era of games, The Hi-Bit Era. Hi-Bit games are a new form of pixel art that is starting to crop up more and more frequently, the term coined by Jo-Remi Madsen of Dpad Studios, the team behind Owlboy. So let's take a look at this dawning new era."
Hitman creative director looks back at Hitman’s first season and games as a service (Romain Dillet / TechCrunch)
"Hitman is a weird video game franchise. You incarnate an assassin-for-hire and you have to kill various targets in different cities around the world. But you get to decide how you want to do it. While many AAA games are putting a lot of emphasis on cut scenes, story lines and closed environments, game developer IO Interactive is taking an opposite approach by going all-in on sandbox gameplay."
How HBO created a Westworld VR experience that lets you step into the show(John Gaudiosi / Digital Trends)
"So, it’s no surprise the network has greenlit a second season of the sci-fi Western, which was initially inspired by Michael Crichton’s original film. For serious fans, however, there’s another way to experience the Westworld universe. HBO’s new internal virtual reality division spent the past year working with Westworld creators Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy to create an exclusive HTC Vive virtual reality experience."
How to Survive in Gamedev for Eleven Years Without a Hit (Jake Birkett / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2016 GDC talk, Grey Alien Games' Jake Birkett explains how to survive as an independent game developer without having a single hit game."
Inside the Ambitious 'Sleeping Dogs' Sequel We'll Never Get to Play (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint)
"Canadian-based game developer United Front Games went out of business last month. The studio wasn't widely known over its nine-year history, but it was responsible for Sleeping Dogs, one of the most underrated open world games of the past decade. In a just world, we'd be playing Sleeping Dogs 2. We almost lived in that world, too. Sleeping Dogs 2 was in development, according to two sources I spoke with, and I have the documents to prove it."
Discussion Interview Between The Producers of Gyakuten Saiban and Danganronpa (2016) (Dengeki Online / Gyakuten Saiban Library)
"On November 17th, 2016, Dengeki Online posted an interview with producer Eshiro of Capcom's Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) series, and producer Terasawa of Spike-Chunsoft's Danganronpa series. Both series celebrate an anniversary this year and the two producers talk about how the two first met, the way they produce their games, about how they think about fan reaction and ask each other questions on their respective franchises."
Q&A: 'Skyrim' Creator Todd Howard Talks Switch, VR and Why We'll Have to Wait for Another 'Elder Scrolls' (Chris Suellentrop / Glixel)
"Yet despite directing Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 – not to mention the mobile hit Fallout Shelter – Howard is not as widely known as some game designers with lesser pedigrees. Glixel talked to Howard about why Bethesda released a remastered special edition of Skyrim for PCs, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, whether Skyrim's success changed him, and why he's excited for the Nintendo Switch."
Zachtronics' Shenzhen I/O is a game for people who code games (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra)
"Last month, Zachtronics launched the Early Access version of Shenzhen I/O, a game about running away to China to join an electronics company, design circuits, and write code. It's a spiritual successor to TIS-100, the coder puzzle game that Zachtronics quietly launched last year. That title was the definition of niche -- it describes itself as "the assembly language programming game you never asked for" -- and it was virtually invisible to everyone outside of the specific audience it was aimed at: programmers."
Dave Hagewood Explains The History of Rocket League - Extended Interview(Noclip / YouTube)
"In this extended interview taken from our Rocket League series, Psyonix founder Dave Hagewood talks about his early days in programming, working at Epic, how Psyonix came about and their deep love of soccer playing cars."
Google DeepMind could invent the next generation of AI by playing Starcraft 2 (Nick Cowen / Ars Technica)
"The announcement at BlizzCon 2016 that met with the most muted response was arguably the most revolutionary. While new content for the likes of Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, and Diablo III drew appreciative roars from the Blizzard faithful, the news that Google’s DeepMind branch—which is dedicated to developing sophisticated Intelligence—would be teaming up with the makers of Starcraft 2 to further its research on AI elicited more of a murmur."
Understanding The Body's Role in VR & AR Game Design (Robin Hunicke / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2016 VRDC session, Funomena lead designer Robin Hunicke explores some of the core challenges and opportunities that the body presents in VR & AR development, from controller design and gaze inputs to body posture, movement and gesture design."
Was Gamification A Terrible Lie? (Simon Parkin / How We Got To Next)
"The term “gamification” would not be coined for another 30 years, but it’s likely that researchers today would recognize Latham and Baldes’s intervention as a classic form. Gamification is a fresh neologism, but its core tenet is much older than bedazzling consultants might have their clients believe."
Harvest Moon Creator on His New Game and How Stardew Valley Carries on His Legacy (Matt Espinelli / GameSpot)
"Birthdays the Beginning is the newest game by the legendary Japanese developer Yasuhiro Wada--the father of the iconic Harvest Moon series. His latest project is a vibrant, charming god game that focuses on simple, easy-to-understand mechanics."
House-Hunting in Hong Kong With the App That Sees Dead People (Katie Kenny and Michael Forsythe / New York Times)
"Building on the success of Pokémon Go, a local company has created a smartphone app that superimposes property listings on street views. Point your phone at a building and the units for rent or sale pop up, complete with prices. But on occasion, cartoon ghosts appear next to an apartment tower, representing an unnatural or unexplained death that took place there. [SIMON'S NOTE: This isn't a game, as such - but what a fascinating use of game-like AR technology!]"
How turns make Thumper feel physical (Alex Wiltshire / RockPaperShotgun)
"“When people say they’re injuring their thumbs it’s too bad, but it’s kind of the best compliment you can ever get,” says Thumper’s co-designer and artist, Brian Gibson. “It means their nervous system is on fire when they’re playing.”"
NES Classic Edition Developer Interview: The Legend Of Zelda (Akinori Sao / Nintendo)
"The Legend of Zelda was a title released simultaneously with the Family Computer Disk System in Japan. Now, fans are focusing their attention on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the upcoming game in the series, which is scheduled for release on both the Wii U and Nintendo Switch systems. This time, I'll be talking with Miyamoto-san, Tezuka-san and Kondo-san about how the series originated."
More Charities Should Use Games to Do Good in the World (Julian Benson / Kotaku UK)
"It’s not just the big publishers who could make a difference. “There's a whole swathe of indie developers that got lucky and suddenly made tens of millions of dollars and I'd like to think that they should do some good stuff with it,” Harris says. “You can buy a nice car, PC, or house but some of these people are in their twenties and have made £10 million from their video game and you just think 'Give one per cent away to charity for fuck's sake'”"
The Designer Behind 'Senran Kagura' Explains Why His Games Are Full Of Barely Clothed Women (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint)
"Kenichiro Takaki is one of the few Japanese designers who openly talks about sexuality in games. We chatted with him about his reasons, the moments when games go too far, censorship, and more."
We planned for Brexit at Football Manager. So why did no one else? (Miles Jacobson / The Guardian)
"At Sports Interactive we’ve been making football management games for more than 20 years. We aim for Football Manager to be not only the best simulation of its type, but to create a world to escape into. People play the game for a long time – on average 240 hours a year. That takes them far into the future of their parallel universe. Brexit is going to affect football. So we had to have it in the game."
The rise, fall and future of Gmod Tower (Hannah Dwan / PC Gamer)
"Since its release in 2006, Garry’s Mod has grown into a hub for a host of other games and weird concepts, primarily developed by fans and small teams. There’s one, though, that really took the cake in its size and ambition: GMod Tower. First publicly available in July 2009, GMod Tower had one primary aim: to create a large social space within Garry’s Mod where people could chat, play together, and generally create a community that would accommodate and welcome anyone."
The RPG with jewellery slots in unlikely places (Robert Purchese / Eurogamer)
"I can safely say that in all my years playing fantasy video games I have never seen a jewellery slot for genitals. Nor have I ever considered that equipping something valuable down there may result in my willy being chopped off. Not a cheering thought, is it?"
[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every Saturday at tinyletter.com/vgdeepcuts - we crosspost to Gamasutra later on Sunday, but get it first via newsletter! Story tips and comments can be emailed to [email protected] MINI-DISCLOSURE: Simon is one of the organizers of GDC and Gamasutra, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]