[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. This week's highlights include everything from a witty video appreciation of Kingdom's design to an Alpha Protocol retrospective, & lots more.
Plus, it's just two weeks to go until GDC 2017, which I co-organize, and I finally got around to writing that blog post I promised to do about the show. Game Developers Conference – seven new things you’ll love in 2017! is pretty much as advertised in the title, and as I mention: 'although we’d love you to get a full GDC 2017 conference pass, a number of these new things can be viewed/played with by Expo Pass holders. More neat things for more neat people!' Neat people like... you? Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Shinya Takahashi Is the 'Conductor' Taking Nintendo into the Future (Matt Peckham / TIME)
"Then there's Shinya Takahashi, 53, whose tenure with Nintendo dates to 1989. It comprises a multifarious career that bears passing resemblance to longtime Nintendo steward Satoru Iwata's rise from game designer to executive guiding light."
The unique shame of the video game critic (Simon Parkin / The Guardian)
"Early into the video game critic’s career, the statement “I write about video games for a living” assumes the fraught, almost tearful, character of a confession. Even in its highest form (something like: the sifting of art and entertainment in search of truth or beauty), the critic’s profession is something of a superfluity for the species."
Why It's So Hard To Make Games In China (Matt Sayer / Kotaku)
"It’s tough making games in China. Not only do you have to fight against the stereotypes of Chinese culture surrounding Kung Fu, gang warfare, and illegal street racing, you have to do so under the rule of one of the strictest governments in the world. [SIMON'S NOTE: I'm not sure I agree with the overarching premise of this piece, but it's interesting!]"
51 Questions And Answers About The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (Ben Hanson / Game Informer)
"The answers that we couldn't fit in our extensive March cover story on the game were saved for this rapid-fire video interview with The Legend of Zelda's creator Shigeru Miyamoto and series producer Eiji Aonuma. Game Informer's Ben Reeves sat down with these legendary Nintendo developers to pick their brain about Breath of the Wild's gameplay, Zelda lore, and much more."
The fallen price of indie games (Joel Goodwin / RockPaperShotgun)
"If you’re a developer who has no interest in zero price models such as free-to-play, finding the means to raise what is perceived as a fair price would seem like an important goal. Indie developers are entrepreneurs who face high business risk."
How An Oscar-Winning Film Studio Plans To Invade Games (Evan Shamoon / Glixel)
"Now, as Annapurna enters the video game fray with its new arm – Annapurna Interactive – it's determined to use its auteur-whispering powers for good by promoting the kinds of games and working with the kinds of creators it believes the world needs."
Side Quest Syndrome: Designing The Road Less Traveled (David Milner / Game Informer)
"Discovering a tortured, talking tree in a hidden oasis – a place that shouldn’t exist but somehow does – amongst the irradiated wastes of Washington D.C. A good side quest can come to define a video game, giving life to its world, telling tales more intriguing and nuanced than any lying along the critical path."
Meet the blockheads: a rare glimpse inside Minecraft's HQ (Keith Stuart / The Guardian)
"You wouldn’t know, turning into this nondescript street in Stockholm and padding up the stone steps to Minecraft HQ, that anything special was being made up here. The truth only becomes clear when you step through the door and discover the endless shelves filled with awards (including a Bafta) and the vast boxes of Minecraft merchandise piled in every corner."
Game On: why Japan's arcades are still winning (Leo Lewis / Financial Times Magazine)
"Keisuke Tsukada is on a roll. He sits in front of a screen, motionless except for his hands, which move at speed over a joystick and a set of bright buttons. As new fighters appear, he crushes them. The word “Perfect” keeps flashing across his screen. [SIMON'S NOTE: here's an archived version if it's giving you a hard paywall - or you can search via Google for a soft/no paywalled version. FT's paywall is weird & variable.]"
The Dying Man Who Found Hope in 'Breath of the Wild' (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint)
"Gabe Marcelo wasn't sure he could attend PAX Prime. This wouldn't normally be a big deal, but the 26-year-old's lifelong heart condition had taken a turn for a worse, and he'd been stuck in the hospital for a while. The problem: PAX might be his one shot to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the newest game in his favorite series, before he died."
Kingdom: The Best Game Ever (Cool Ghosts / YouTube)
"This week Matt takes a look at Kingdom, which by pure coincidence also happens to be the best game ever. Enjoy! [SIMON'S NOTE: one of my favorite games of the last couple of years gets a typically thoughtful Cool Ghosts analysis. One of the devs turns up in comments to say: 'even though it's probably not the best game ever, your review is the best review ever for our game', heh.]"
Steam Discovery 2.0 analysis: Valve shares latest metrics (Alden Kroll / Gamasutra)
"This blog post explores how Discovery Updates 1.0 & 2.0 have affected customers’ abilities to find great games, while also examining the growth of user investments on Steam and the increasing number of successful games on the platform."
'Press Forwards' and the pleasing death of agency (Robert Yang / Radiator Blog)
"The "press forward" genre (or "PFs") is one of my favorite examples of emergent level genres. Instead of challenging players to hone reflexes and maneuvers on a track, a PF beckons the player to simply hold down "forward" as a mindbogglingly complex track swirls around them."
Back When Screenshots Really Were Screen Shots (Jaz Rignall / USGamer)
"As I unplugged my USB from my Mac, I started thinking back to my early days working on games magazines in the 80s and 90s, and what an utter palaver taking screenshots used to be. There was no easy solution back then."
Small Games a Big Opportunity for US Video Game Retail (Mat Piscatella / NPD Blog)
"There are fewer publishers, and on average those remaining publishers are bringing fewer games to retail than they were at the start of the decade. This has resulted in a dramatic reduction in release count; one that just so happens to correlate quite well to packaged retail sales."
The Age of Incline: RPG Codex's 2012-2016 GOTY Results (Felipe Pepe / RPG Codex)
"Then came 2012, and things changed. Or it felt like they changed. This began what many called The Age of Incline, a hopeful return to our past glory. Now, five years later, how did it all turned out? We decided to find out, setting up a poll for users to vote on all games from 2012-2016."
Basic Game Literacy - Why It's Hard to Learn How to Play (Extra Credits / YouTube)
"Even if we reduce game literacy to just "being able to play," the number of genres and platforms make it surprisingly difficult for even experienced players to claim well-rounded literacy. But the creative rewards for a game literate community could be immense."
Building a Board Game Empire on Disney’s Shoulders (David Sax / Bloomberg Businessweek)
"On a large, reclaimed-metal conference table in the lofty, brightly painted Seattle offices of Wonder Forge—among roaming dogs, treadmill desks, a surfboard, and Snoopy and Darth Vader figurines—the company’s latest board game is ready for play."
D.va From Overwatch Has Become A Symbol of Hope In Real Life (Nico Deyo / Kotaku)
"According to Overwatch lore, D.va is a pro gamer who serves and inspires her country. In real life, D.va’s role is starting to mirror her in-game persona, as she becomes a symbol of hope for women in South Korea."
How a guild of deaf players conquered World of Warcraft's toughest raids (Luke Winkie / PC Gamer)
"Most serious raiding guilds use voice chat to bark orders or refine strategy between wipes. In an age of Discord, built-in microphones, and automatic audio channels, connecting with your fellow players outside the chat box is easier than ever. But Antle is deaf, and wasn’t afforded the luxury of coordinating over voice comms."
Gabe Newell opens up about Valve's VR plans (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra)
"2016 was a big year for virtual reality devs: muliple headsets became commercially available, and with them came new markets that are filling up (though perhaps not as quickly as you might like) with potential customers. So what's next?"
Revisiting Alpha Protocol, Obsidian's flawed but fascinating spy RPG (Phil Savage / PC Gamer)
"Alpha Protocol is peak Obsidian—or, at least, peak Obsidian before Pillars of Eternity set a new, more stable direction for the studio. It’s a wonderful mess, full of great ideas, but hampered by the sort of behind-the-scenes development troubles that plagued the studio for so much of its life."
[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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!]