[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 an article series about gaming in prison, behind the scenes of Night Trap, & how satirical soccer game Enter The Kickmen got made.
Lots to check out this week - the 47th I've delivered a newsletter without missing one, for anyone concerned about how my OCD is holding up. I particularly liked a lot of the longform YouTube analysis videos in this round-up. It's surprisingly tricky to find good examples sometimes - not least because they can get drowned out in your subscription feed by YouTubers who post more regularly. But there's some really smart ones in here - from Spec Ops: The Line to The Stanley Parable & beyond.
Oh, those things I said would happen this week? You can enter the 2018 Independent Games Festival now, we have a great new GM for GDC in the form of Katie Stern (& an expanded content role for Victoria Petersen!), former GDC GM Meggan Scavio is going to do great things at the AIAS, and I'm an investor and advisor for Mike Rose's new indie publisher No More Robots, which is publishing Ragesquid's procedural downhill biking game (?!) Descenders. So that's a few things! Check 'em out, & more links next week...
- Simon, curator.]
Swearing at the Screen — A Brief History of Rudeness in Text Adventures (Alexander Hadziioannou / Kotaku UK)
"“Don't be ridiculous” the invisible narrator snapped, dismissing some long-forgotten typed request, and several decades later I still remember it. It was the first computer game I'd ever played, an early 80s text adventure titled Madness and the Minotaur on my swanky new Dragon 32, and my uncle had joined dad and I to marvel at the shiny new toy and help us with the intricacies of English prose."
Night Trap: 25 Years Later : Documentary (My Life In Gaming / YouTube)
"Join Night Trap Director and Co-Creator James Riley as he takes a look back at the making of one of the most influential and controversial video games ever made."
One Man’s Two-Year Quest Not to Finish Final Fantasy VII (Simon Parkin / The New Yorker)
"In 2012, David Curry, a thirty-four-year-old cashier from Southern California, came across a post on an online forum by someone who went by the handle Dick Tree. It contained a herculean proposal: Tree planned to play the 1997 video game Final Fantasy VII for as many hours as it took to raise the characters to their maximum potential, without ever leaving the opening scene, which unfolds in a nuclear reactor."
Afterthought Overkill (Marc Laidlaw)
"When I was about twelve years old, sometime around 1972, I wrote a few pages of a science fiction story about a futuristic form of entertainment. About all I remember is that it featured huge banks of lenses projecting holographic images into the middle of a round stage, and that the audience participated in the performance somehow. [SIMON'S NOTE: not new, but many - including I - missed it on Marc's blog. It's about the making of Half-Life.]"
The New Colossus: Building Wolfenstein II atop a million small decisions (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra)
"Jens Matthies loves to grow things. Tomatoes, strawberries, grapes, onions, brightly-colored peppers; you name it and, if you could grow it in a house (or on a balcony) in Sweden, he's probably done it. Some years his garden lays fallow, when his work at Uppsala-based studio MachineGames gets too busy. This is one of those years."
Gaze Of The Abyss (Joel Goodwin / Electron Dance)
"Earlier this year I wrote an essay called Art of the Impossible about Fragments of Euclid (Antoine Zanuttini, 2017) and William Chyr’s as-yet unreleased Manifold Garden. In classic Electron Dance fashion, I ended on a throwaway thought that bore closer inspection. I moaned about the tendency for beautiful art games to rely on what you might call “tried and tested” mechanics to drive them. I don’t think of them as tried and tested, more like “unambitious and disappointing”."
Spec Ops The Line... 5 Years Later (Raycevik / YouTube)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: an excellent VERY longform appreciation of a game that wasn't quite a big commercial hit, but dealt with war and combat in an incredibly interesting way.]"
Dots That Go for Walks: How to Maximize Minimal UI (Margaret Robertson / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC talk, PlayDots' [SIMON'S NOTE: and former Edge Magazine editor!] Margaret Robertson takes viewers through a set of design principles that show how the simplest visual elements can be brought to life in game interfaces through thoughtful implementation."
A Body, Divided | Pathologic (Jared Mitchell / Heterotopias)
"In late 1770, the citizens of Moscow were starting to exhibit symptoms of the bubonic plague. Though subdued throughout the winter, the plague was not taken seriously by the people, who did not burn the possessions of the infected and still engaged in business in public despite their symptoms. As a result, a breeding ground was created for the disease, which by next summer ran rampant."
The sacrifice Gigantic’s team made to save it from development hell (Steven Messner / PC Gamer)
"Chris Chung tells me he's an optimist. I'm inclined to believe him because I'm not sure how many people could keep faith after everything his studio has been through. In February of 2016, Chung had to do something that no boss ever wants to do. He gathered Motiga's 75 employees in their Bellevue, WA office and told them that there was no money left to pay them."
Dan Marshall rewrote all the rules for Behold the Kickmen (John Bridgman / Gamasutra)
"Dan Marshall of Size Five Games has been an indie developer for over a decade now. He has turned early successes with Ben There, Dan That!, and Time Gentlemen, Please! into a full-time job, which has led to well-received titles like Privates, Gun Monkeys, and The Swindle. His newest release is Behold theKickmen, which is, according to Marshall, “a silly anti-football game” (Or anti-soccer game, in the American parlance)."
Spry Fox - Lessons Learned, 2017 (David Edery / Unity Dev Day Mexico / YouTube)
"Durante el keynote inaugural del Developer Day México 2017, contamos con David Edery, CFO y Co-Fundador de Spryfox, estudio detrás de éxitos como Triple Town, Alphabear y más. [SIMON'S NOTE: the talk is in English, and showcases the success of one of the smarter businesscentric - but still super creative - multi-bet indies out there.]"
iPhone Gamers, Brace Yourselves for the App-ocalypse (Cyrus Nemati / Slate)
"If you’re an iPhone user still addicted to Flappy Bird, be ready to experience withdrawal symptoms. When Apple launches iOS 11 in September, the company will drop support for old 32-bit applications—which is most apps released before 2014. Apps that haven’t been updated by their developers to run on the more efficient 64-bit architecture will cease to work."
Falcom's President Shares the Studio's Secret to Surviving in the Brutally Competitive Games Industry for More Than 30 Years (Kat Bailey / USGamer)
"How would you like to run your favorite studio? That's what Falcom president Toshiro Kondo has been doing for more than a decade now, ever since founder Masayuki Kato stepped down in 2007 and asked Kondo to succeed him. Kondo has been playing Falcom games since roughly 1989, when he picked up Ys III for the first time."
The Stanley Parable, Dark Souls, and Intended Play (Folding Ideas / YouTube)
"Clickbait title: Watch These Hot Games Intentionally Misbehave... Anyway, The Stanley Parable and Dark Souls are both really good games with very different approaches to narrative, you should check them out."
The past, present and future of Battlegrounds - according to PlayerUnknown (Vic Hood / Eurogamer)
"PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has taken the world by storm. Since its release on Steam Early Access in March, the title has sold an incredible 6m copies. It recently hit 422,618 simultaneous players on Steam. With such incredible success comes incredible attention, and a community hungry to know what's next."
Why Hollywood Studios Are Slow to Embrace Virtual Reality (Matt Donnelly and Matt Pressberg / The Wrap)
"Are virtual and augmented reality truly the Next Big Thing for Hollywood? While every major studio is investing in VR experiences, so far most are short, under-10-minute extensions of big franchise fare like “Alien: Covenant” or video games expanding on familiar characters like Warner Bros.’ “Batman: Arkham” that have little to do with traditional storytelling."
80 Days at the British Library (Jon Ingold / Inkle Studios)
"One of the most exciting connections we've made since the release of 80 Days is with the British Library in London, who - despite being busy archiving every published book in the UK ever - have found the time to run the occasional workshop exploring interactive fiction. The most recent event for us was Off the Page; a day of talks on the subject."
Legends Of Game Design (Game Developers Conference / YouTube)
"In this 1997 GDC panel, Jonathan Wilson moderates a panel of legendary game designers in the prime of their work, including John Romero, Chris Roberts, and Nolan Bushnell. [SIMON'S NOTE: going WAY back into the archives here, thanks to some CD-ROMs that Jason Scott recently uploaded to the Internet Archive.]"
At Play In The Carceral State (Various / Waypoint)
"There are over two million prisoners in America—men, women, and children who are confined to prisons, jails, or detention facilities. And despite the fact that they cannot walk to a GameStop or load up Steam, many of them play games. This week, Waypoint is devoting a substantial portion of our publishing schedule to exploring this part of games culture. We're calling it At Play in the Carceral State."
A Tale of the Mirror World, Part 7: Winners and Losers (Jimmy Maher / The Digital Antiquarian)
"Atari had high hopes for the superlative implementation of Tetris they released for the Nintendo Entertainment System on May 17, 1989, and its initial performance fulfilled all of them, more than justifying their ambitious opening production run of 300,000 cartridges. Indeed, in the first month alone, fueled by positive press and even more positive word of mouth, the Tengen Tetris burned through half of that stock, with sales increasing week over week. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is the end (?) of a gigantic 7-part series on the making of Tetris - read 'em all!]"
[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 protected] MINI-DISCLOSURE: Simon is one of the organizers of GDC and Gamasutra & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]