[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 Fullbright's Tacoma and Supergiant's Pyre, as well as a guide to the essential twin-stick shooters & more.
LOTS of links this week - a bumper crop, in fact, and there also happens to be more good writing out there because we just launched the latest Video Game eBook Storybundle, as of Wednesday.
Again compiled by myself, with the Video Game History Foundation as the optional charity, it includes exclusive eBooks on Undertale (from Joel Couture) & ROM hacking (from John Harris), & the first-ever eBook version of the acclaimed Indie By Design interview/profile book.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
How Viscera Cleanup Detail makes menial work fun (Alex Wiltshire / RockPaperShotgun)
"Viscera Cleanup Detail is a game about cleaning. You’ll wash blood and slime from floors and walls and pick up rubbish, bullet casings and body parts. Your slop will spill, your ichor-covered boots will leave prints over surfaces you’ve worked hard to scrub, and you’ll drop an oozing limb just as you thought you’d made things right."
A Critical Reexamination of No Man's Sky (Writing On Games / YouTube)
"It's been one year since the release of No Man's Sky and despite Hello Games releasing two major updates, the game's player base has all but evaporated. With that in mind, I jumped back into No Man's Sky so you don't have to; reflecting on the game's past, examining the updates and discussing why the game's biggest problems may be unfixable."
Night In The Woods Treats Depression Like A Part Of Life (Chloe Spencer / Kotaku)
"Video games have a spotty history when it comes to addressing mental health. Often, people with mental health issues are demonized, portrayed as the nefarious villains in games like Outlast or Far Cry 3. In other games, mental health is reduced a sanity meter or other mechanic, such as in Amnesia or Darkest Dungeon. But 2017’s Night in the Woods presents a different way of looking at mental health in games."
Deus Ex (Errant Signal / YouTube)
"The Summer of 0451 Continues with Deus Ex! This episode ended up a bit... unwieldy. I really wanted to tap in how the game has changed in ways both good and bad since its release in 2000. At the same time, it's a game I've been wanting to cover in the abstract since I started this show, and I think I may have jam-packed a few too many digressions in there - I think this is the longest single episode I've ever done!"
For 20 Years, This Man Has Survived Entirely by Hacking Online Games (Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai / Motherboard)
"Manfred's character is standing still in the virtual world of the 2014 sci-fi online multiplayer game WildStar Online. Manfred, the real life person behind the character, is typing commands into a debugger. In a few seconds of what seems to be an extremely easy hack, Manfred's virtual currency skyrockets up to more than 18,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 18 quintillion."
How a board game company defined video game ads for 20 years (Chris Sims / Polygon)
"But your brain can only add that information once you already have the game. Getting your audience to meet you halfway before that happened is where advertising came in during the ‘80s and most of the ‘90s. And that advertising only made sense in a few places before gaming became a more mainstream hobby. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is a bit all over the place, but has some super neat - and some shameful - print ads in it.]"
League of Heels: A Video Game Wrestling Documentary (League Of Heels / YouTube)
"From a goof among friends to an international sensation, see and hear for the first time never-before-told stories about the rise of the video game wrestling empire that is League of Heels. Bursting onto the video game convention scene three years ago, League of Heels took the world by storm with its clunky-trainwreck charm."
'Tacoma' Creators Talk Diversity, Evolution and 'Gone Home' (Brian Crecente / Glixel / Rolling Stone)
"It has been more than three years since The Fullbright Company's game Gone Home captivated audiences, swept game of the year awards and sparked a debate about what it means to be a video game. This week the studio releases Tacoma, its second game, to an audience which, to some degree, still seems hung-up on that singular definition."
Shoryuken interview: Daigo Umehara on his manga, reaching for Capcom Cup, and the meaning of Evo (Zavian Sildra / Shoryuken)
"With sponsorship deals with Red Bull, Twitch, Hyper X, and Cygames, a book about his history and fighting game philosophy (The Will to Keep Winning), and a recently-translated manga that tells the stories of his rise to prominence in the Japanese arcade scene (Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers!), Daigo Umehara is very embodiment of the professional fighting gamer."
Deconstructing Ori and the Blind Forest's Best Bit (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube)
"Everyone who has played Ori and the Blind Forest will remember the Ginso Tree. In this video, I break the level down - beat by beat - to show you why it's so special."
What's the ideal time frame for announcing your release date? (Alan Bradley / Gamasutra)
"The announcement of a firm release date for a hotly anticipated game can be a media event in itself. Case in point: Peter Moore's "Halo 2 November 9" tattoo. But nailing down the perfect time to announce a release date is a tricky gambit -- and extremely important."
How Blizzard Saved Diablo III From Disaster (Jason Schreier / Kotaku)
"On May 15, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people across the world loaded up the Battle.net Internet client and slammed the launch button for Diablo III, a game that the developers at Blizzard had been making for nearly ten years. Fans had waited patiently for this moment, counting down the days until they could again click-click-click their way through demons in a hell-ish hodgepodge of gothic fantasy."
How to design a great Metroidvania map (Wes Fenlon / PC Gamer)
"So how do you create a Metroidvania map? How do you design an interconnected world that keeps backtracking entertaining, giving the player freedom to explore but retaining some control over how they progress? Is there a secret formula, a sacred text? I put those questions to the creators of Hollow Knight, a fantastic Metroid-inspired adventure set in the decaying kingdom of Hallownest, which reminds me of Don Bluth's The Secret of Nimh (but with bugs, instead of rats)."
Hironobu Sakaguchi and FF programmers’ try to rival DQ (Denfaminicogamer)
"The 1980s and 1990s was the “adolescence” of the game industry. Wanting to find out more about the passionate, young, overeaching past of the game designers that struggled during that time, this report manga was created: “Passion of Game Designers ~ in their ‘early’ days”. [SIMON'S NOTE: A unique manga approach to game history.]"
Tracing the panoramic obsessions of Destiny (Gareth Damian Martin / Eurogamer)
"When the Destiny 2 Beta opened up the game's new hub, The Farm, for a single hour last weekend, I'll admit I was intrigued. Beyond the crimson jungles of Nessus and the pair of multiplayer maps the slim test made available, The Farm is the space that will become the new home for players of the series."
Cartoon Network's new series OK KO blurs the line between games & animation(Andrew Webster / The Verge)
"The first time Ian Jones-Quartey met up with the game developers at Toronto studio Capy, it wasn’t what you’d call a typical pitch meeting. At the time, Jones-Quartey — a writer and animator who has worked on series like Steven Universe and Adventure Time — was still early in development on his next project, OK KO! Let's Be Heroes."
Revamping Tacoma to be more than 'Gone Home on a space station' (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra)
"'So, how do you really want to set apart what you’re doing with Tacoma from what you did with Gone Home?' That's the kind of question that made Fullbright cofounder Steve Gaynor realize the studio's next game might be in trouble."
Suburban Decay | Yuuyami Doori Tankentai (Brian Crimmins / Heterotopias)
"For Japan, the 1980s was an era of boundless financial optimism, and at the heart of it all was real-estate development. While it is true that post-War reconstruction saw a significant amount of expansion, the bulk of Japanese building occurred during the 1980s. Speculation and lax economic policy led to a rise in land prices and a subsequent economic boom."
Trump’s policies are hurting the US game industry, say EA and Take-Two (Samit Sarkar / Polygon)
"President Donald Trump got elected with a promise to put “America first” — American corporations, American workers, American interests. But six months into his tenure, two of the video game industry’s biggest publishers remain frustrated with his administration’s policies."
Pyre devs explore why small, 'dumb' touches lead to memorable games(Gamasutra Staff / Gamasutra)
"Supergiant Games scattered a ton of different variables throughout its game Pyre that help players take ownership of the game as they play. One such variable gives players the ability to help a character, Shae in the video above, remember her name by selecting one from a number of options, all rhyming with the sound 'ae'."
Design Epiphanies from Qwirkle and Other Games (Susan McKinley Ross / GDC / YouTube)
"In this GDC 2017 session, Idea Duck's Susan McKinley Ross discusses the design epiphanies that have most influenced her award-winning work and offers examples of how these insights affected the final versions of her games. [SIMON'S NOTE: another from the Board Game Design Day we programmed at GDC 2017, and interesting stuff, I think, from a lady board game designer.]"
'Walden, a Game' Creator Talks the Sublime, Life's Tough Questions, Games (Tracy Fullerton / Glixel)
"In 1970, the British mathematician John Conway devised a fascinating set of rules for infinite pattern generation. These rules, when enacted on a two-dimensional grid of cells, each of which is either "populated" or "unpopulated," can produce a staggering array of algorithmically interesting "organisms.""
Clark Tank: DLC attach rates, Ark-like games, and Kingdoms & Castles! (Ryan Clark / 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. This week (recorded on July 28, 2017) we discuss DLC attach rates, Ark-like games, and we play and analyze Kingdoms & Castles."
7 twin-stick shooters that game developers should study (Stefanie Fogel / Gamasutra)
"The twin-stick shooter, at its core, seems like a simple concept. Using two joysticks, the player can rotate and move in any direction. One stick controls movement, the other is used for firing. But there’s a lot going on under the hood, according to Eugene Jarvis, one of the founding fathers of the genre."
[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 & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]