[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from curator/video game industry veteran Simon Carless, rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend. Welcome to the latest issue!
This time around, boy - the REAL world has been a bit terrible/farcical, hasn't it? At least we have video games to entertain and/or move us. (Though of course there is an article about how Obamacare helps U.S. indie developers in here, so you don't get off politics-free.)
And it's been another busy week prepping for GDC 2017, which I help to oversee, of course! We announced Tim Sweeney (ZZT, Unreal Engine) will be getting our Lifetime Achievement honor at the Choice Awards, we confirmed a Deus Ex 'classic making-of' from Warren Spector, & we started our Road To The IGF series over at Gamasutra chatting to the Independent Games Festival finalists for this year. And I may eventually get around to writing that 'what's new this year' blog, who knows? Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
How Astroneer makes crafting fun (Alex Wiltshire / RockPaperShotgun)
"Astroneer is a space game about hoovering up alien materials with a magic gun and listening to them plop into your backpack. And in this Astroneer has cracked something very special in crafting and resource management: it’s actually fun."
A Time of Beginnings: Legend Entertainment (or, Bob and Mike’s Excellent Adventure-Game Company) (Jimmy Maher / The Digital Antiquarian)
"As the dust settled and the shock faded in the months that followed the shuttering of Infocom, most of the people who had worked there found they were able to convince themselves that they were happy it was finally over, relieved that a clean sharp break had been made."
Nintendo Switch Ain’t for Mom and Pop—It’s for Die-Hard Fans (Chris Kohler / Wired)
"Here’s my read on this: With Switch, Nintendo is focusing on what, for lack of a better term, one might call “Nintendo gamers”—die-hard aficionados of its franchises who also enjoy games in a similar vein, like Japanese role-playing games, puzzle games, and retro-styled games."
William Pugh's journey from The Stanley Parable into Crows Crows Crows (William Pugh / Gamasutra)
"William Pugh of Crows Crows Crows talks about life after The Stanley Parable, establishing himself separate of Davey Wreden, and building a wave of good will that he hopes to translate into success."
Britsoft Focus: Jeff Minter (Rich Stanton / Kotaku UK)
"When I was first thinking of Britsoft Focus, one name was stuck in my head: Jeff Minter. Some will have known his games for over three decades, others will have no idea who he is, but for me – especially when I think of the British industry and the developers I especially admire – the man his fans know as Yak is impossible to ignore. He is the indie godfather. [SIMON'S NOTE: There's also a piece about Jeff's new game Polybius.]"
A Conversation with Zelda Veteran and ‘Breath of the Wild’ Producer Eiji Aonuma (Mike Diver / Waypoint)
"Aonuma’s been a part of Zelda since ‘Ocarina of Time’, and is the ideal person to tell us about latest game's vast world and the possibility of a future gender-swapped Link."
Writing Lara Croft (Wesley Yin-Poole / Eurogamer)
"Back in 2010, after a stint working on the early version of Eidos Montreal's Thief reboot, Rhianna Pratchett set to work writing a very different Lara Croft. The brief from developer Crystal Dynamics was clear: this new Tomb Raider would be a reboot for the long-running series, a game that would drag Lara Croft kicking and screaming into the modern era."
Eleven Flavors Of Frustration (Bennett Foddy / Foddy.net)
"Not all frustrations are alike; they taste different. Some of the flavors are overused, and some are used only by accident. Some are rare: flavors for the frustration aficionado... Anyway, here are a few of the flavors that I like."
How a robot got Super Mario 64 and Portal “running” on an SNES (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica)
"Can you really, playably emulate games like Super Mario 64 and Portal on a stock standard SNES only by hacking in through the controller ports? The answer is still no, but for a brief moment at this week's Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) speedrunning marathon, it certainly looked like the impossible finally became possible."
Press start to continue: Our most anticipated games of 2017 (Gameological Staff / A.V. Club)
"In 2016, a deep well of excellent, surprising releases made gaming a bright spot in an otherwise miserable year. With its breadth of ambitious originals, daring sequels, a new console from Nintendo, and the possible release of two of the most anticipated games of all time, 2017 has us even more jazzed."
Preserving video game history is about more than nostalgia (Jonathan Ore / CBC News)
"Compared to film, theatre or music, video games are a relative newbie in entertainment and popular culture. But gaming's lineage does go back to the 1960s, with landmark titles such as Spacewar!, Pong and The Oregon Trail. As the interest in gaming's impact on pop culture grows, historians and archivists are playing a real-life time trial to preserve parts of its history before it disappears forever."
When violent games want you to play nice (Claire Hosking / Polygon)
"So much of video game narrative consists of finding justifications for mass murder. The enemies are baddies/zombies/demons/splicers! Killing everyone is the least bad of two bad outcomes! You get the point."
The Arcade Blogger: Centuri Aztarac: Finding THE Holy Arcade Grail… (Tony / Arcade Blogger)
"Let me start by saying that this is the most amazingly poignant tale I’ve come across in arcade collecting circles. I’ve written before about incredible rare arcade “finds” that have happened over the years, including the yarn about the Sundance cabinet found in a long-abandoned building, and of course the epic Fun Ship raid."
Game Developers Speak Up in the Face of Obamacare Repeal (Joseph Knoop / Waypoint)
"Coster's story is far from the only one that illustrates the impact the Affordable Care Act has made on the game development community... While certain companies like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts provide their employees with traditional benefits packages, indie developers, contract workers, and freelancers are often left in the cold with little in the way of support for their own employees."
Yooka-Laylee devs: 7 biggest game design changes since the N64 era (Willie Clark / Gamasutra)
"What’s old is new again. For proof, look no further than Playtonic Games’ Yooka-Laylee, a throwback 3D platformer in the vein of titles like Banjo-Kazooie andDonkey Kong 64. Playtonic is well-suited to the project - many members of the team are ex-Rare devs who worked on those 1990s classics."
Practical Creativity (Raph Koster / Game Developers Conference / YouTube)
"In this 2014 GDC Next session, MMO designer Raph Koster explains what science tells us about creativity, and offers practical straightforward steps that any game designer or developer can make use of in order to get more creative. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is a little bit older, but new on YouTube, and another amazing talk from Raph, who is one of the best game development speakers out there.]"
War-torn South Sudan gets its very first Global Game Jam, despite UN warnings of genocide (Alejandro Tauber / The Next Web)
"As violence escalates in the worlds youngest nationstate of South Sudan, an unexpected event has popped up; the countries’ very first Global Game Jam in capital city Juba. I spoke to organizer Lual Mayen to ask him how he went about organizing such a lighthearted event in a country that’s on the brink of a “Rwanda-like” genocide, according to the U.N. Human Rights Council."
Full transcript: Rooster Teeth’s co-founder Michael “Burnie” Burns on Recode Media (Peter Kafka / Recode)
"On a recent episode of Recode Media, hosted by Peter Kafka, Rooster Teeth co-founder Michael “Burnie” Burns talked about subscription models for web content, audience depth and breadth as a winning formula, and making money from web video before YouTube came along. [SIMON'S NOTE: not 100% about games, but interesting stuff from the Red Vs. Blue machinima co-creator.]"
Fight - A League Of Legends Documentary (League Of Legends / YouTube)
"In Muay Thai, League, and life - you have to fight to win. Especially when there’s a championship on the line. Tanet “Jacky” Puangngoen is a Muay Thai boxer and League of Legends player with over 3,000 games as Darius. FIGHT follows Jacky’s journey as he competes in the Hong Kong Muay Thai."
Beyond 50/50: Breaking Down The Percentage of Female Gamers by Genre (Nick Yee / Quantic Foundry)
"You’ve probably heard the often-quoted statistic that about half of video gamers are women, illustrating how gaming is now a mainstream activity enjoyed by both men and women... Using survey data from over 270,000 gamers on the specific game titles they enjoy playing, we’ve put together some findings on the percentage of gamers in different genres that are female.
Social Animals: Werewolves Within and the Virtual Tabletop (Justin Achilli / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2016 VRDC session, Red Storm Entertainment's Justin Achilli reveals how Red Storm developed 'Werewolves Within' with a focus on social gameplay, challenging the notion of VR as a solitary activity and translating the experience of face-to-face gameplay "around the table" into the medium of VR."
The costs of developing Easter eggs (Blake Hester / Polygon)
"Easter eggs... provide ways for developers to communicate with their players. By including references to pop culture, jokes, hidden pictures of the development team or secret weapons and items, the bonuses allow developers to break the fourth wall and wink at whomever is holding the controller."
[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every weekend 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@example.com. 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!]