This week's highlights include a look at the making of Cultist Simulator, behind the scenes on the relatively recent - and troubled - Splatterhouse reboot, and lots more.
One major game I didn't feature (in the main links section!) this week is David Cage's just a little bit divisive Detroit: Become Human. But it turns out Ars Technica's Kyle Orland did a new version of his newsletter which focuses on some of that divisiveness re: unscored Metacritic reviews, so I'll just link you to that - thanks, Kyle!
Other than that, enjoy the great writing & videos. Until next time,
- Simon, curator.]
Splatterhouse 2010: What went wrong (Matt Paprocki / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"What came next involved finding an American development studio with a penchant for brawlers, a choice that would eventually haunt Namco Bandai. In retrospect, the casualties of Splatterhouse were significant: wasted development funds, a shuttered third-party studio and a newly opened first-party team — which then closed when Splatterhouse shipped."
Opinion: So, you want to talk about porn on Steam (Katherine Cross / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Thus, we come at last to Valve and their renewed effort to crack down on games with “pornographic content,” which is apt to repeat the mistakes of would-be censors and activists of decades past. In summoning these old ghosts, Valve could stand to learn the lessons so painfully absorbed by feminists in the 1980s and 90s: cultural criticism of erotic art is necessary, but categorical censure is next to impossible."
An art gallery MMO – we spoke to the creators of Occupy White Walls about the AI that guesses which art you like (Matt Cox / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"I had a few questions for developers StikiPixels about balancing money with creative freedom, whether OWW might become something that real world artists can use to support themselves, and how their fancy AI manages to suss out people’s artistic tastes. So CEO Yarden Yaroshevski collaborated with his team to give me some answers."
Embracing Push Forward Combat in DOOM (GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC session, id Software's Kurt Loudy & Jake Campbell detail the philosophy behind the combat design of 2016's DOOM and its implementation, and discuss the possibility for its inclusion in multiple genres."
What makes a great idle animation? (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"While very few devs agreed on what games had the most memorable or enjoyable idles (except Earthworm Jim, which everyone apparently loves), all pointed to just how much they made these characters feel alive for them, fleshing out the worlds they belong to with only a few frames of animation."
A Video Game By Any Other Name (Chris Chapman / Video Game History Foundation - ARTICLE)
"In July 1976, a reporter named Wendy Walker wrote an article for the Associated Press about a new arcade game she’d seen children playing in a shopping mall. The machine, Exidy’s Death Race, featured player-controlled cars scoring points by running over what appeared, to the reporter, to be human beings. (In fact, both the manual and the instructions on the cabinet called them ‘gremlins’.)"
How ideas of civilisation have shaped gaming (Philip Boyes / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"When I was a kid, I played a lot of Civilization 2. I played a lot of strategy games in general, but having a deep love of both history and sci-fi, the epic sweep of Civ 2 from prehistory to the stars held a particular appeal. I loved taking my little people from their huts and ziggurats to the world of science and advanced space-flight."
How To Animate A Fighting Game (Dan Root / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Want to know the difference between Street Fighter 2 and Street Fighter 5? Or the difference between Marvel vs Capcom and Marvel vs Capcom Infinite? Then just watch this video on video game animation!"
Nancy Drew is the most important game series no one talks about (Jess Joho / Mashable - ARTICLE)
"I will never forget the first time I became Nancy Drew. As a little girl, I wasn’t allowed to play video games — which meant I played video games, but only through well-executed schemes. At the crux of my early, forbidden play experiences was the Nancy Drew computer game series."
Bungie, Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica and Blizzard talk about crunch (Robert Purchese / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Senior figures from four of the world's biggest developers - Bungie, Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica and Blizzard - have talked about their studio's take on crunch. Crunch refers, if you're not aware, to studios working extended hours as they push towards a major deadline, usually launch."
Kingdom Hearts 3 gameplay world premiere: Pixar’s magic even works on RPGs (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"From my admitted outsider perspective, Kingdom Hearts is two things: an action-RPG series that injected speed and Disney cuteness into Squaresoft's sluggish early-'00s period... and a mess of confusing plots and spin-off games that combine underwhelming mechanics and nonsensical developments to make my head spin. [SIMON'S NOTE: there was a massive E3 critics week-themed hands-on for this title - here's another useful take - and... I think I'm just a bit fascinated with KH3, which is SUPER weird for such a high-budget title.]
Yousif Alroumi - Don't Die Interview (David Wolinsky / No Don't Die - ARTICLE)
"All right, so let's start this. My name is Yousif Alroumi, and I'm from Kuwait. I'm the founder of a company called Fikra, which is an event management company dedicated to doing videogame-related events in Kuwait and the Middle East. I'm 35 years old."
Why the Cultist Simulator devs built their Lovecraftian game on a house of cards(Carli Velocci / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Despite the shift in studio, however, Cultist Simulatorreads a lot like it comes from Failbetter. The world of the game is more akin to ours than the fantastical underworld introduced in Fallen London, but it still has those aforementioned trademarks dialed up to a whole other level. The UI is even more minimalist and the card system is front and center."
‘I’m Han Solo’: The Story Behind Star Wars Kinect and the Most Infamous Jason Derulo Parody of All Time (Brian Feldman / New York Magazine - ARTICLE)
"Kinect Star Wars, which came out in 2012, is from a very specific time in the Star Wars universe, released just months before Lucasfilm announced that it had been purchased by Disney. It represented a major attempt by Microsoft to push the Kinect, a camera that connected to the Xbox 360 and tracked the player’s body..."
The CIA made a Magic: The Gathering-style card game for training agents, and we played it (Shannon Liao / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Last year during SXSW, the CIA revealed it designs elaborate tabletop games to train and test its employees and analysts. After receiving a Freedom of Information Act request, the CIA sent out censored information on three different games it uses with trainees — and thanks to Diegetic Games, an adapted version of one of them will soon be available to the public."
'Cost Per Hour' Is a Terrible Way to Judge a Video Game (Matthew Gault / Motherboard - ARTICLE)
"What I’m not interested in, however, is a breakdown of the worthiness of a game based on its cost divided by the time I’ll likely spend playing it. I don’t need to know how many dollars each hour of content will cost me. Green Man Gaming (GMG)—a digital storefront for video games—thinks players might want to know, though."
Inside the Indie Mind: Zach Barth (Zachtronics) (GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC talk, Gamasutra EIC Kris Graft talks to Zachtronics founder Zach Barth (TIS-100, SpaceChem, Opus Magnum, Shenzhen I/O) discussing topics such as inspiration, puzzle design, and his overall game development philosophy."
Even Fleeting Time With ‘Dreams’ Is Memorable (Brian Crecente / Variety - ARTICLE & VIDEO)
"With just a dozen or so minutes to spare, a Media Molecule spokesperson walked Variety through an abbreviated version of its demo, explaining the process of making games out of existing pre-created art, while slapping together a level in almost no time. [SIMON'S NOTE: linked this so you can watch the video at the bottom of the story, which is impressive. Dreams is another title I'm fascinated with, but also a little confused by re: mainstream popularity. But we'll see!]"
Being The Boss Of Dragon Age (Wesley Yin-Poole / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Mike Laidlaw can still remember his first day at BioWare, even though it was over 15 years ago. He even remembers the date he answered the phone and found out he had got the job: 23rd December 2002. Laidlaw was used to answering the phone; at the time he was working at Bell, Canada's largest telecommunications company, in the province of Ontario."
The Dynamic Interactive Narratives Of Dynamix (Jimmy Maher / The Digital Antiquarian)
"Yet in the vast territory between these two poles were many other developers experimenting with the potential of adventure games, and in many cases exploring approaches quite different from either of the two starring players. One of the more interesting of these supporting players was the Oregon-based Dynamix, who made five adventure or vaguely adventure-like games between 1988 and 1991 — as many adventure-like games, in fact, as LucasFilm Games themselves managed to publish during the same period."
[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!]