This week's highlights include a look at innovative 'alternative arcade' Two-Bit Circus, a retrospective on the creation of GoldenEye for the N64, and lots more besides.
The newsletter's going out a little early this week, primarily because I have to take my kid to the zoo this weekend (priorities, y'all!) But seriously, loads of interesting games coming out even though we're not at 'holiday 2018 primetime' for releases, which starts with Insomniac's PS4-exclusive Spider-Man on September 7th & goes rapidly busytimes from there.
This week alone, there's debuts for Tomorrow Corp's latest, 7 Billion Humans, also Drinkbox's Guacamelee 2, a Switch-first release for Bad North, which I've been intrigued by, and lots more besides. Can you keep up? Nope, and you shouldn't even try...
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
The game changers: meet the creatives shaking up the gaming world (Simon Parkin / The Observer - ARTICLE)
"Just as the kaleidoscopic dramas of Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina, the pseudo-non-fiction murk of Alan Moore’s comic From Hell and the domestic pragmatism of Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals meet under the fat banner of prose, so the body of video games becomes an ever broader church. It is impossible to enforce orthodoxy in a medium where shifting technology defines the canvas. [SIMON'S NOTE: An article in association with the V&A's London games exhibition, which I continue to be excited by.]"
The 10 Secrets to Indie Game Success (and Why They Do Not Exist) (Paul Kilduff-Taylor / Medium - ARTICLE)
"Since we started out, indie game development has ascended from being the preserve of back-room tinkerers to the lofty heights of an aspirational career path. This kind of cultural shift can lead to the rise of meta-industry of advice-peddlers who do not have directly relevant experience of developing and releasing successful games."
Meet some of the indie devs quietly pushing the JRPG genre forward (Steven T. Wright / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Over the past few years, it seems as though the breathless paeans enthusiastic fans have sung for the ‘90s “golden age” of JRPGs has finally reached the ears of their slumbering god, Square Enix, which has deigned to publish some newer games that strike at this once-depleted vein."
How Dead By Daylight proved analysts wrong and became one of the biggest games on Steam (Wes Fenlon / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"Since its release in 2016, the horror game of hide-n-seek, one powerful killer pitted against a group of weak survivors, has sold more than four million copies. I talked with game director Mathieu Côté about Dead By Daylight's growth, developing a game alongside a passionate community, the challenges of asymmetrical multiplayer, loot boxes, and more."
Amazon Has YouTube Envy (Lucas Shaw / Bloomberg Businessweek - ARTICLE)
"Amazon in recent months has been pursuing exclusive livestreaming deals with dozens of popular media companies and personalities, many with large followings on YouTube. Twitch is offering minimum guarantees of as much as a few million dollars a year, as well as a share of future advertising sales and subscription revenue, according to several people who’ve been contacted by Twitch. [SIMON'S NOTE: more about Twiitch expanding beyond games - but still very relevant for all of us.]"
Researchers gave AI curiosity and it played video games all day (Tristan Greene / The Next Web - ARTICLE)
"The more times the bricks are struck in a row by the ball, the more complicated the pattern of bricks remaining becomes, making the agent more curious to explore further, hence, collecting points as a byproduct. [SIMON'S NOTE: Creepy but interesting, eh?]"
Helping Players Hate (or Love) Their Nemesis (Chris Hoge / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC talk, Monolith Productions' Chris Hoge describes philosophies and features implemented in the design of both Middle-earth: Shadow of War and its predecessor, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor to give players an antagonistic relationship with their enemies. [SIMON'S NOTE: the Middle-Earth sequel wasn't too well appreciated, but still some interesting design decisions here!]"
ROM sites are falling, but a legal loophole could save game emulation (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"But what if there might be a middle ground that could thread the needle between the legality of original cartridges and the convenience of emulated ROMs? What if an online lending library, temporarily loaning out copies of ROMs tied to individual original cartridges, could satisfy the letter of the law and the interests of game preservation at the same time? What if such a library already exists? In fact, it has for 17 years."
How Two Bit Circus is turning its 21st century carnival into one giant game (Bryan Bishop / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Throw out the term “amusement park,” and it conjures up visions of roller coasters and rides and costumed characters in massive, franchise-themed lands. But inside a warehouse in the downtown arts district of Los Angeles, a company called Two Bit Circus is building its own idiosyncratic riff on the idea, focused on the power of games."
Making Games Better for Gamers with Colourblindness & Low Vision (Mark Brown / Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this series of videos, I’ll be sharing guidelines and best practices for making games more accessible to a wide range of disabilities. This time, I’m looking at design choices and menu options that will affect those who are colourblind or have low vision."
People Keep Trying To Scam Their Way Into Free Video Games (Jason Schreier / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"When Sean Noonan announced the Steam release date for his game, an infinite runner called Jack B. Nimble, he started getting emails from people who wanted review copies. Normally, this would be great news for any developer. Getting enough attention from media outlets and streamers can pull a game from the dregs of Steam and turn it into a skyrocketing success. But something didn’t seem right."
Harsh headlines, failed festivals and, finally, friends: Pokémon Go, two years on (Louise Blain / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"While the monthly community days, where trainers spill on to the streets to hunt down swathes of one particular Pokémon, are exciting for the team, it’s the real-world events where Niantic is pushing the boundaries of how the game is played. In Lincoln Park, thousands of people who had flown in from across the world followed a tailored 1.8-mile walking tour, passing giant mobile cell towers specially installed to cope with the extra network traffic."
Winter Storm Draco - Annotated Source (Ryan Veeder / Gamasutra Blogs - ARTICLE)
"Whenever I release a text adventure through my Patreon, I also annotate the source text from one of my earlier games as a gift for my top-tier Patreoneers. But these secret annotations can only be kept a secret for so long. One of my top-tier Patreoneers (the same guy who requested that I publicly release the source for The Statue Got Me High) recently asked me about releasing some more annotations. I picked a game with some code that I remain mostly unashamed of even three years after writing it: WINTER STORM DRACO. [SIMON'S NOTE: dear reader, IT WAS ME.]"
Know Your Market: Making Indie Games That Sell (Erik Johnson / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC talk, Infinite Monkeys Entertainment's Erik Johnson analyzes trends in the Steam marketplace and explores how his game, 'Life Goes On', failed to match the market."
Fortnite Is so Much More Than a Game (Keith Stuart / Great Escape / Medium - ARTICLE)
"Through a variety of clever design decisions, Epic has constructed a true digital Third Place, a hangout where players are given a huge amount of autonomy to seek out the experiences they want. As a child of the late 1970s and early 1980s, it hit me a few weeks ago that Fortnite feels like a skatepark."
The Surprising History Of The French Bread Studio (Thomasaurus / Bas Gros Poing - ARTICLE)
"Thus, even though today's French Bread is a traditional company of around 10 employees, its origins are rooted in a culture that did not exist in the West at the time. The doujinaims to create content referencing but also diverging from an intellectual property, sometimes without licensing."
Stardew Valley: How To Find Comfort in Nihilism by Finding Meaning in Watering Virtual Crops (William Corley / ZEAL / Medium - ARTICLE)
"So maybe you play videogames to numb the pain of existence, and you pick up Stardew Valley because it looks cute and light hearted, and with each virtual day that passes you realize more and more exactly how alien this world free of consequences is. [SIMON'S NOTE: This is a really odd essay which is also very, uh, 'now'.]"
Just Like Real Life, EVE Online Wars Are Won With Propaganda (Lee Yancy / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"To help keep other players energized and ready to fight, EVE’s most dedicated tacticians have a long-standing tradition of producing spectacular propaganda to help drive their in-game efforts. Just like in real-life conflicts, propaganda is , information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view."
An Oral History Of 'GoldenEye 007' On The N64 (Quinn Myers / MEL Magazine - ARTICLE)
"'GoldenEye lives on mostly because of nostalgia, at least for those of us still around from 21 years ago. The game is no doubt a classic and it holds up well today gameplay-wise, but new gamers have trouble with the low amount of polygons used for the models.'"
Twitch streamers are divided on Ninja’s choice not to stream with women (Julia Alexander / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Why do some streamers choose to cast with people of the opposite sex, while others refuse? Responsibility. Friendship. Change. Unification. Those were some of the words several of the streamers we spoke to used when responding to the question. The answers seem simple, but co-ed streaming isn’t."
[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!]