This week's highlights include a rounded look at Octopath Traveler, the dev making a DOS game in 2018, and the evolution of the PlayStation 1-style demake as a genre.
Another busy one this week - I barely even had to consult my list of notable sites, just going off tips & Reddit/social media-highlighted pieces. In the meantime, we've been doing a load of planning for Game Developers Conference 2019 (yes, the CFP is opening soon & we have neat new board members.)
So watch out for announcements around that soon if you'd like to submit talks, or know someone who should. Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
The New Vid Economy: Making A Living From Crowdfunded Game Analysis (Jacob Geller / Game Informer - ARTICLE)
"Brown’s videos are now his full-time job. But unlike massive streamers such as PewDiePie or Ninja, his subscriber count isn’t what keeps him afloat; instead, about one percent of his viewership provides his income through the crowdfunding site Patreon."
We Asked Nintendo, Microsoft, and 12 Other Devs How They Deal With Crunch (Waypoint Staff / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"There’s a chance [at E3] to have a broad reading of the industry. We wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, so in nearly every one-on-one interview we scheduled, we asked the developers sitting in front of us about a constant refrain at Waypoint: labor practices."
The Most Important Video Game on the Planet (Brian Feldman / New York Magazine - ARTICLE)
"Since it launched in July of last year, Fortnite has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence. The 100-player, last-man-standing video-game shooter is obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high-school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people."
Absolutely Brilliant! (David Buck / Tedium - ARTICLE)
"The British company Codemasters, best known for the Game Genie, didn’t let a pesky lack of license get in the way of creating some of the NES’ best games."
How Journey only truly made sense when almost everything had been cut (Johnny Cullen / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Jenova Chen, the co-founder of Thatgamecompany and creative director of Journey, played a lot of World of Warcraft during grad school. And he always knew that he wanted to make an MMO one day - a form of games that are synonymous, rightly or wrongly, with scope and scale."
‘StarCraft II’: How Blizzard Brought the King of Esports Back From the Dead (Will Partin / Variety - ARTICLE)
"If you’re an esports fan today, there’s a decent chance that your interest in competitive gaming began with Activision-Blizzard’s legendary strategy franchise, “StarCraft.” But it’s also, I’m sorry to say, likely that you haven’t touched the game in years."
Meet the dev making his first DOS game -- in 2018 (Samuel Horti / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Murray says he can’t say how different the process is from making games for modern systems because he’s never developed for them. But he’s following roughly the same process as he did for Planet X2—he writes the code in Notepad and then uses a compiler called A86 to convert the code into something that can run on MS-DOS."
The video games of Ecuadorean fishing village Santa Marianita (Kimberly Koenig / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Santa Marianita is the kind of place where you are born, where you stay and where you die, buried in the cemetery with mountain views. Yet wherever you go, people seem to find ways to play video games here, despite odds like agonizingly slow internet, limited technology access, low wages and even lower computer literacy. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is a really good piece about people who play games in places you might not expect.]"
Heavily Pixelated: S01:E01 - Graham (Scott C. Jones / Heavily Pixelated / Soundcloud - PODCAST)
"For the Season One opener of Heavily Pixelated Scott speaks with a man about his journey through divorce and how games like Destiny, Bloodborne and the Souls series helped him keep his head above water."
Tetsuya Mizuguchi on the creation of puzzle classic Lumines and its new remaster (Sam Byford / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"But despite the PSP’s considerable brawn, no title on the platform was quite as brilliant or enduring as a little 2D puzzle game called Lumines. Developed by Q Entertainment, Lumines was another example of Rez and Space Channel 5 director Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s exploration of the relationship between music and gaming. [SIMON'S NOTE: minor/interesting authorship note - Mizuguchi is not listed as creating the concept of Lumines on its credits, just as 'producer'. Does that matter? I have no idea, but it shows that game authorship of non-small team products can be complex, as per normal.]"
BioShock's Jewish Roots Run Deep (Cody Mello-Klein / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"The iconic lighthouse that players encounter in BioShock’s opening moments stands like a beacon, ushering lost souls to Rapture’s doors. Symbolically, It’s like an art-deco Statue of Liberty. Except instead of inviting the huddled masses with words of welcome, Rapture’s opening sonnet poses a question: “In what country is there a place for people like me?”"
Power of the Pack: Success via Community-Based Development (Philomena Schwab / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC session, Stray Fawn Studio's Philomena Schwab (Niche) explains why building a community around your game in development is an excellent way to connect with people early on, and provide you with constant feedback that can serve as a great motivator to push through the tough times of development."
Designing a 'demake' in 2018: The making of PS1 love letter OK/NORMAL (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Kortelahti’s work demaking games wasn't born from a deep interest in exploring the subject matter. His work in low-poly modeling just happened to get a bolt of inspiration from a contest that was going on, resulting in a passion that would lead him into working with this visual style."
Behind the AI and Storytelling of Spec Ops: The Line (AI & Games - VIDEO/ARTICLE)
"On the surface, Spec Ops is but another cover shooter in the mould of Microsoft’s Gears of War or the Ghost Recon series by Ubisoft, but this presentation hides a much darker tale told against the backdrop of war-torn Dubai. [SIMON'S NOTE: People continue to be fascinated with this game, years later.]"
ArenaNet ‘folded like a cheap card table,’ says fired Guild Wars 2 writer (Colin Campbell / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Until last week, Price worked as a narrative designer on Guild Wars 2. Earlier this month, she wrote a lengthy Twitter thread about the differences between writing characters for linear, narrative-driven games and player characters in MMOs. A prominent Guild Wars 2 streamer and YouTube known as Deroir chimed in to disagree.."
The 80s and 90s PC games still unbelievably being updated today (Christopher Livingston & Wes Fenlon / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"The life cycle of a game isn't easy to predict. Some start strong and burn out quickly, others endure for years before slowly fading away. Some crash and burn on day one while others are kept alive by players, modders, and community creators long after they might have otherwise slipped away."
Octopath Traveler is a modern take on classic Final Fantasy on the Nintendo Switch (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"You miss those classic games because they just don’t make them that way anymore. This is particularly true of the 16-bit era Final Fantasy games for Super Nintendo, which ushered in a new wave of Japanese role-playing fans in the 1990s. There are plenty of games that have tried to recapture that magic over the years, but few have done it as successfully as Octopath Traveler, which launches on the Nintendo Switch this Friday. [SIMON'S NOTE: have heard VARYING feedback on this game, but critical reception is pretty darn good so far!]
The 'Civilization V' Players Trying to Perfect Democracy (Matthew Gault / Motherboard - ARTICLE)
"Democracy is messy. Different groups want different things, special interests clash, and what’s good for the majority isn’t always good for the individual. In the US, we live that reality every day and it’s hard to imagine turning it into a game. But that’s exactly what some enterprising Redditors did."
What game devs can learn from Japan's most interesting puzzle magazine (John Harris / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"While these puzzles may vary considerably in style, they all have certain facts in common. First, they all have exactly one solution, which can be figured out through logical deduction from the clues given. Second, unlike “cultural” puzzles like crosswords, none require outside knowledge (other than of the basic rules) to complete."
Video games and mental health: 'Nobody's properly talking' (Alysia Judge / BBC Newsbeat - ARTICLE)
"The industry often defends itself against accusations it's harmful by pointing to player testimonies that games helped them through difficult periods, or allowed them to build strong communities of friends. But "the evidence for long-term benefits is just as sketchy as the evidence which says there are problems," Andy says."
Mark Cerny and Amy Hennig: A fireside chat with master game makers (Dean Takahashi / VentureBeat - ARTICLE)
"Amy Hennig and Mark Cerny are both 53 years old, and they attended the University of California at Berkeley at the same time. And while they both have achieved great things during their careers in video games, they haven’t crossed paths that often."
[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!]