[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's highlights include an article about Facebook Messenger's AR microgames, a detailed look at Valve's upcoming Artifact card game, & lots more besides.
So here's a cornucopia of good links for the week - spanning all kinds of craziness. And it's been a pretty busy week or two in terms of new game releases, too - with Marvel's Spider-Man (linked below!) the talk of the Internets.
And then there's Dragon Quest XI making it to the West, Two Point Hospital(Theme Hospital++, from some of the original devs!) & SCUM (uh, incredibly dystopic multiplayer shockfest from Devolver & friends) breaking out on Steam. And lots more to come soon...
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
The 16 surprising new games that made PAX West an absolute blast (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"But as Ars' sole PAX West attendee, I needed downtime to genuinely process the remainder of what I saw. And after a week to think on it, I'm ready to identify this year's stand-out games. [SIMON'S NOTE: a useful necessarily subjective round-up, and note the mention of Square/Human Head's fascinatingly weird The Quiet Man, which mystified many at the show.]"
DOOM: The Fake Outrage (Shaun / YouTube - VIDEO)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: all extremely meta, but this is a well-done video about how an ambiguous joke in the next DOOM game's trailer about 'mortally challenged' demons managed to fuel the outrage machine & magnify the tribalism.]"
A Beginner's Guide To Pinball Designers (Dennis Kriesel / This Week In Pinball - ARTICLE)
"The most fundamental element in any pinball playing experience is the playfield design itself. Home to the game’s action, playfield design began as the main challenge of creating a good pin and remains a major element even as software aspects have grown in importance. [SIMON'S NOTE: more of a glossary than anything, but this is a majorly underdiscussed area outside of pinball fan circles.]"
15 Types of Hyper Casual and Arbitrage Games (Yaniv Nizan / Soomla - ARTICLE)
"These changes set the ground for the emergence of Arbitrage Games. Some people call them Hyper Casual Games but actually some arbitrage games are just good old casual games and in general the main difference with this trend is not the game genre but actually the business model. [SIMON'S NOTE: you may be grumpy about them, but it's worth understanding the trend! Found via Kenneth Liu's 'Kliuless? Gaming Industry ICYMI'newsletter, which is new & good!]"
Marvel's Spider-Man - Insomniac's technology swings to new heights (John Linneman / Digital Foundry / Eurogamer - ARTICLE & VIDEO)
"From a technological standpoint, Marvel's Spider-Man represents the pinnacle of Insomniac's prowess, albeit one that shows a clear process of evolution starting from Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive, gaining considerable polish and refinement in 2016's Ratchet and Clank. [SIMON'S NOTE: it's doing pretty damn well critically, too - smart of Sony to grab it as a PS4 exclusive.]"
The 25 Games We Can't Wait To Play This Holiday Season (Staff / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"It’s far too much for any one person to play, so we created this handy guide so you can keep track of the most exciting games and be ready for when they come out. The guide is in chronological order — aside from a few stragglers without specific release dates — to make things as easy as possible. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is pretty useful, yep - and I still think this holiday is a bit LESS packed than normal for AAA due to big publishers wanting to stay away from Red Dead Redemption 2.]"
Game Design Patterns for Building Friendships (Daniel Cook / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC session, Spry Fox's Daniel Cook explains how to keep human beings from being treated as interchangeable, disposable or abusable when designing multiplayer games. [SIMON'S NOTE: not multiplayer-specific, but Spry Fox's super cute - and not super F2P exploitative - Alphabear 2 came out this week for mobile!]"
The Weird History Of The Super NES CD-ROM, Nintendo's Most Notorious Vaporware(Chris Kohler / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Nintendo never released a CD-ROM gaming system. But for a while in the early 1990s, it flirted with the idea. That protracted will-they-won’t-they romance produced pages of breathless gossip columns in video game magazines, a mountain of vaporware, some terrible Zelda games, and one priceless prototype."
Was that a reference to Magritte? Video games: Design/ Play/ Disrupt review (Keza McDonald / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"But there are no Pong or Pac-Man arcade cabinets, short profiles of technological innovators or glass displays of old PlayStations in the V&A’s Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt exhibition, opening this week. This is the first such major exhibition to treat games as a modern cultural force, and it begins its examination in the mid-00s."
How modders are removing enemies from games to create stress-free experiences (Sam Greer / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"Mods for games are usually additive. New features, forgotten content… mods are usually about putting more into a game. Yet in recent years we’ve seen the rise of a particular kind of mod that takes things away. Specifically, taking away a game’s enemies or threats."
‘Golden Axe: Beast Rider:’ Inside a $15 Million Blunder (Matt Paprocki / Variety - ARTICLE)
"After a change in executive leadership in late 2004, Sega sought developers for a number of potential franchise reboots. Sega’s intent was to break into the American marketplace with something appealing to a western audience. Developer Secret Level, having worked with new Sega CEO Simon Jeffrey during his time at LucasArts, chose to pitch their vision of “Golden Axe.”"
Cease and Desist – Parodies and Infringement in Video Games (Kurt Kalata / Hardcore Gaming 101 - ARTICLE)
"This article covers a list of games that contain materials that could be considered infringing, and then altered for subsequent re-releases, either in later revisions or in ports down the line. Not every case here actually had legal action brought against them, or were even threatened – in some cases, it seemed like the publisher/developer realized there could be a potential problem and made the changes proactively."
Exclusive: Valve walks us through Artifact’s new demo (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Garfield may be an experienced and thoughtful game designer, but he's not a gentle instructor. I have to goad him into describing exactly how the game works. In my first moments playing the game (which I'd briefly sampled at an event in March), he urged me to hit the corpse-lined ground running. [SIMON'S NOTE: I think this game is going to be big - it looked super-slick at PAX West.]"
Defying Gravity games communities outside of London (Jordan Erica Webber / Creative Economy / Medium - ARTICLE)
"Several people I spoke to for this series pointed out that improvements in technology and infrastructure mean that game developers don’t have to locate themselves in London.. But people still want a community, and the UK has several regional organisations and events aimed at bringing together local developers and providing them a sense of group identity, or tempting new talent to relocate from elsewhere."
Facebook’s next big augmented reality push is multiplayer games (Edgar Alvarez / Engadget - ARTICLE)
"On a recent visit to its Seattle office, where Facebook's Real Time Communication team is based, we got to take a look at some unreleased AR games for Messenger. The hope, Facebook says, is that these multiplayer experiences can make the app even more popular than it already is."
Retrohistories: Under the Radar: The Sabotage of SimCopter (Chris Chapman / YouTube - VIDEO)
"This is the story of a 'bug' in Maxis’s 1996 open world game SimCopter that wasn't what it appeared to be, and how it was intertwined with the origin story of one of the world’s most infamous pranksters."
Three days in the woods with Psychonauts 2 backers (Blake Hester / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"It’s late, approaching 1:00 in the morning. It’s the end of a long weekend of laughter, eating burgers, drinking and celebrating. Collected are families, fans and 40 to 50 employees of the game studio Double Fine. They’re all here for the same reason: to celebrate Double Fine’s upcoming game Psychonauts 2."
The Cell Structure: How Supercell Turned the Traditional Org-Chart Upside Down (Ilkka Paananen / Supercell / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC talk, Supercell's Ilkka Paananen digs into the management lessons he's learned as a company founder, sharing his experience from building an unconventional organizational structure for Supercell (Clash Of Clans, Clash Royale, etc.)."
The YouTube stars heading for burnout: ‘The most fun job imaginable became deeply bleak’ (Simon Parkin / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"For years, YouTubers have believed that they are loved most by their audience when they project a chirpy, grateful image. But what happens when the mask slips? This year there has been a wave of videos by prominent YouTubers talking about their burnout, chronic fatigue and depression. [SIMON'S NOTE: This led to a Hank Green piece, 'How am I not burned out?', that I'd recommend everyone who has a job that's also a passion should read.]"
Watching a real urban planner play SimCity is incredibly satisfying (Mark Wilson / Fast Company - ARTICLE & VIDEO)
"SimCity is one of the greatest video game franchises of all time, if only because it demonstrates something important: Designing a city from scratch is very hard, and it’s impossible to make everyone happy all the time. That’s even more evident thanks to UC Berkeley PhD student Dave Amos, who studies urban planning and whose commentary on the game offers a hilarious criticism of both game design and planning bureaucracy."
[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!]