[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 the making of a Hearthstone card, a couple of neat Horizon: Zero Dawn video pieces, and behind the scenes on seminal 2D fighting game Samurai Shodown.
I also comment on this below, but the rise of 'creators making interesting content about their own games, especially in video form' is something I'm really starting to note and enjoy. (This week - Hearthstone, Runescape, Horizon: Zero Dawn, & more.) This makes sense, especially since some of these games make a lot of money and third-party options for making money covering those titles are way trickier.
Obviously, there's mixed feelings about this - is the only way you can cover games in-depth in the future as part of an embedded team funded by the game's creators? But there are also counter-examples like the excellent Spelunky making-of video posted by Danny O'Dwyer's Noclip below. So maybe a mix of sources will be just fine, absolutists out there! Until next week...
With Scorpio rising, Phil Spencer looks to the future of Xbox (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra)
"Here then is a rundown (edited for clarity) of our conversation with Spencer about everything from Microsoft's VR plans to the future of the game console business, and how Project Scorpio represents an attempt at "learning from some of our PC heritage.""
The Runescape Documentary - 15 Years Of Runescape (Jagex / Runescape / YouTube)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: good to see companies documenting their own history, even with the inherent rose-tinted glasses that might bring in - we still get SOME good historical context.]"
Tim Schafer Talks Shyness, Comebacks and Being Asked Not to Touch George Lucas (Chris Suellentrop / Glixel)
"During an hourlong conversation, Schafer talked to Glixel about his reputation as a project manager at LucasArts, his career-long fight for creative independence, and the troubled development of Psychonauts, followed by the game's remarkable staying power."
A Chat With a Live Streamer is Yours, For A Price (Laura Parker / New York Times)
"Andre Rebelo, a 24-year-old YouTube streamer from Vancouver, British Columbia, live-streamed himself playing the game Grand Theft Auto V on his YouTube channel, Typical Gamer, in mid-January. This time, he added something different for his audience."
Building Non-Linear Narratives in Horizon: Zero Dawn (Leszek Szczepanski / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 session, Guerrilla Games' Leszek Szczepanski explains how Guerrilla Games tackled sidequests and open-world activities in Horizon: Zero Dawn, by creating a quest system which has non-linearity at its base."
From GoldenEye To Yooka-Laylee: Grant Kirkhope Reflects On His Career (Zak Wojnar / Game Informer)
"If you’ve been a gamer for any length of time, Grant Kirkhope’s tunes have probably been stuck in your head at some point. His music defined some of the Nintendo 64’s greatest games, such as GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie – the latter being the direct inspiration for his latest project, Playtonic’s Yooka-Laylee."
The Making of Samurai Shodown (James Mielke / Polygon)
"With SNK in a bit of a revival at the moment, we went on a quest to track down some of the original Samurai gumi team members and learn more about the origins of the Samurai Shodown series. A chance conversation at Tokyo Game Show 2016 put us in touch with Yasushi Adachi, the original series creator."
Ironsights: A Big Buck Hunter Mini-Documentary (Twitch Creative / Twitch)
"The 22-minute story follows Sara Erlandson, Wisconsin bar owner turned Big Buck phenom and Twitch streamer, as she travels from her hometown of Beldenville to the World Championship in Austin, Texas."
The Socialist Surrealist Oikospiel Has a Wild Vision for the Future of Videogame Labor (Daniel Fries / Paste)
"Oikospiel, the new experimental game from David Kanaga and Ferdinand Ramallo, wants to make sure you’re paying attention. It doesn’t want you to get wrapped up in its story or relax and have fun playing a game. It’s constantly trying to jar you out of any trance or flow state."
Everything I Said Was Wrong: Why Indie Is Different Now (Liz England, Lisa Brown, Rami Ismail / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC session, Ubisoft's Liz England, indie designer Lisa Brown, and Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail break down why some of their older advice for starting indie developers hasn't held up, how they'd update that advice, and how developers can better think about giving advice to each other and interpret advice."
Snake Pass and the unexplored territory of the game controller (Philippa Warr / RockPaperShotgun)
"The way the input feels is intended to be a part of the whole experience – to the point where Liese was lobbying to ship without a mouse and keyboard option at one point because they hadn’t found one which adequately expressed the same physical elements of playing."
Clark Tank plays: Northgard! (Brace Yourself Games / YouTube)
"I'm veteran indie game developer Ryan Clark, and this is the Clark Tank! Every second Friday at 1pm Pacific time we stay on top of the latest game industry trends by examining the Steam top 50, scrutinizing the latest Kickstarted games, and by playing the most prominent recent releases. [SIMON'S NOTE: Love Ryan's Twitch stream, and this is an experimental edited-down version of a recent stream, xposted to YouTube.]"
Doom (2016): To Hell and Back (David Craddock / Shacknews)
"Marty Stratton knew a good sound when he heard it. He had studied commercial music composition at University of Denver and, with bachelor degree in hand, had headed out west in 1995 determined to land a job in the entertainment industry. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is a GIGANTIC, almost book-length piece, and very well done.]"
The stray dogs of The Silver Case (Gareth Damian Martin / Eurogamer)
"For Goichi Suda, those murders would begin a fascination with grotesque crimes that would reappear throughout his career. He was still at developer Human Entertainment at the time, but only a year later, Suda, eager to pursue new ideas, set up his own studio: Grasshopper Manufacture."
Behind the Card | Amara: Warden of Hope (Blizzard / YouTube)
"Peek behind the curtains to see what went into creating the cards Awaken the Makers and Amara, Warden of Hope. [SIMON'S NOTE: more deep dive content created by the team making the game - in this case Hearthstone!]"
The first decade of augmented reality (Ben Evans / Ben-Evans.com)
"In February 2006, Jeff Han gave a demo of an experimental 'multitouch' interface, as a 'TED' talk. I've embedded the video below. Watching this today, the things he shows seems pretty banal - every $50 Android phone does this! - and yet the audience, mostly relatively sophisticated and tech-focused people, gasps and applauds."
How emergent AI encounters can be beautiful in The Signal from Tolva (Bryant Francis / Gamasutra)
"The Signal from Tolva, which comes from the creators of Sir, You Are Being Hunted, is yet another game about science-fiction robots from UK developer Big Robot. And while creative director Jim Rossignol told us yesterday on the Gamasutra Twitch Channel that’s partly because it’s easier to animate beings that don’t have facial animations, he also said it’s because there’s something beautiful about what happens when you program groups of A.I to have their own missions. [SIMON'S NOTE: we're doing a lot more live Twitch chats with devs recently on Gamasutra - here's a good example!]
From hacker to Valve and back again (Brian Crecente / Polygon)
"Before co-founding her own augmented reality headset company, Jeri Ellsworth was a technology chameleon, finding niches in electronics and mechanics, mastering them and helping redefine how they worked."
Horizon Zero Dawn - Neil Druckmann Interviews Hermen Hulst (PlayStation / YouTube)
"Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann sat down with Guerrilla Games managing director Hermen Hulst to discuss the studio's shift away from Killzone, and the long process of bringing Horizon Zero Dawn to life."
Gaming under socialism (Paolo Pedercini / Molleindustria)
"But the question of what gaming would look like in a socialist world has haunted me for days. Not only because I’m a leftist and I care about games, but because of how it relates to many crucial issues of 21st century radicalism. [SIMON'S NOTE: so Ivory Tower it hurts, but thought-provoking, fo sho.]"
How Steam brought shmups out of arcades and into a new PC renaissance (Matt Paprocki / PC Gamer)
"How Steam and passionate fans pulled shoot-em-ups out of exile in Japanese arcades and back into the limelight."
How Ninja Theory's Canceled Co-op Game Led To Hellblade's Bold Future (Ben Hanson / Game Informer)
"With our new cover story on Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, we've shown off plenty of gameplay footage from Ninja Theory's game. Today, the game's creative director Tameem Antoniades explains more about how the talented studio arrived where they are today. [SIMON'S NOTE: good honest video interview with Antoniades here on 'the space between AAA and indie'.]"
Searching for the truth of a fake world at EVE Fanfest (Adam Smith / RockPaperShotgun)
"Like many EVE players, he’d come to Fanfest, a gathering of hundreds of players, devs and press in Iceland, to represent his in-game character. People wear the insignia of their corporations and alliances, and chant those same names at presentations and pubs. As a spectacle, it’s fascinating, but it’s also confusing."
Spelunky - Noclip Documentary (Danny O'Dwyer / Noclip / YouTube)
"For almost a decade players have gleefully explored Spelunky's refined brand of player discovery and emergent gameplay. In this documentary, we talk to the game's creators about building the rules of its procedurally generated worlds."
[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!]