[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 impressions of notable new titles Ape Out & the Toejam & Earl reboot, as well as the Lost Histories writing jam, the history of the 'game over' screen, the effects of Brexit on the UK game biz, and lots, lots more besides.
Only two weeks til GDC 2019 now, btw, and lots of things slotting into place. The Day Of The Devs showcase onsite at the show is out of control for starters - Spelunky 2, Void Bastards, Afterparty, Samurai Gunn 2, Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, an unannounced Double Fine game, & more? Sign me up, Sirs. And lots more besides.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
How Reggie Fils-Aime Became A Nintendo Legend (Chris Kohler / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"In the spring of 2004, the public perception was that Nintendo was in deep trouble. Going into the company’s E3 presentation in Los Angeles that year, fans wondered which of the company’s heroes might appear, in its time of need, to save it. Mario? Link? As it turned out, they did get a new hero, though not the one they expected."
Ape Out is the Saul Bass-inspired power fantasy I didn’t know I wanted (Jeremy Winslow / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"It’s a simple idea that doesn’t wear out its welcome — the entire game can be “finished” in around five hours. But don’t mistake that as a complaint. Like a great elevator pitch, Ape Out feels focused and purposeful, leaving me wanting more."
How Football Manager helped a goalkeeper score for his country (People Make Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"How Kai Mckenzie-Lyle scored a last-minute header for Guyana, thanks to [the video game] Football Manager."
Battle royale: the design secrets behind gaming's biggest genre (Keith Stuart / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"Even though the visual styles and narrative settings of these games are very different, the four giants of the genre adhere to a strict set of conventions. The islands are scattered with towns, villages, and industrial complexes, they all have rivers and bridges and offshore isles and they’re all roughly the same shape. But what makes them so compelling?"
$100K Mario seller: “It’s probably the wrong move, long term, to sell” (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Last week, a copy of the first printing of Super Mario Bros. in pristine condition sold for just over $100,000. This week, the collector who sold that gem told Ars that he's been preparing for this moment for years. The seller—who asked to remain anonymous to protect his privacy but goes by the handle Bronty online—told Ars he didn't even have an NES growing up."
a16z Podcast: Gaming Goes Mainstream (Marc Andreesen / a16z Podcast - PODCAST)
"So in this episode of the a16z Podcast, Marc Andreessen interviews [Activision's Bobby] Kotick on everything from the evolution of video games in the 1980s to gaming trends more broadly. What changes as gaming goes from "just for nerds" to "just for kids" and spreads more broadly into entertainment and cultural phenomena (esports, Fortnite, Pokemon Go, etc.)... both online and offline? [SIMON'S NOTE: originally from a conference late last year, but a vanishingly rare Kotick chat with an interesting non-game interviewer!]"
Retrohistories: The First Game Over (Chris Chapman / Retrohistories / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Here’s the new release: a short look at the etymology of the expression that, perhaps, best epitomises the field of gaming for the largest number of people... and how it goes back further than we might guess."
Life after harassment: ex-Silent Hill dev Tomm Hulett speaks out (Vikki Blake / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Hulett popped up in the fandom sometime around the spectacularly not-good Homecoming ("I didn't want to be seen as the Homecoming guy - I'd spent the last two and a half years trying to fix it to no avail"), but it was with Shattered Memories - the series' only foray into motion-control on Nintendo Wii - that his name became synonymous with the series... sadly, for all the wrong reasons."
A Quantum of Wobble, with Robin Baumgarten (Drew Messinger-Michaels / ETAO - PODCAST)
"In this episode, Robin wobbles on over to talk about Line Wobbler, Wobble Garden, Quantum Garden, and all the weird questions that they raise about what the hell games and art and arcades and galleries even are at this point in history."
Road to the IGF: Cassie McQuater's Black Room (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Gamasutra spoke with Cassie McQuater, developer of the Nuovo Award-nominated Black Room, to talk about deriving calm from the chaos of the internet, telling a modern fairytale through tabs and reimagined game worlds, and the challenges of creating a dream-like feel for this personal story. [SIMON'S NOTE: lots more IGF interviews here.]"
Brexit: Fear, Uncertainty Dominate UK Video Games Industry (Anthony McGlynn / Variety - ARTICLE)
"As far as Games4EU can see, there’s no scenario where players aren’t losing out long-term. In an age where online-play and digital marketing are the norm, stepping out of the single-market just devalues Britain’s say."
The story behind Dead Cells - Motion Twin (Levels / Red Bull Gaming - VIDEO)
"With no boss, equal pay and equal say, this fiercely independent studio are doing things differently. But when huge success comes so unexpectedly, how will this team of eight reach new heights without losing touch of what makes them so awesome? This is Motion Twin!"
Everyone hates my big stupid horse in Red Dead Online (Cass Marshall / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Red Dead Online, much like Red Dead Redemption 2, gives the player a horse as their primary means of travelling through the world. In Red Dead Online, your horse cannot die, and players carefully weigh the pros and cons of each horse for each competitive task, unless you are me, in which case I just picked a giant horse and all of my friends fucking hate him. Meet Hayseed, my loyal friend."
Psychonauts and surviving the publisher shuffle (Brendan Sinclair / GamesIndustry.biz - ARTICLE)
"We spoke with Double Fine founder and studio head Tim Schafer at DICE earlier this month, and he took exception to the idea that his studio's experiences with publishers have been especially uncommon in games. "It's hard out there for a developer," Schafer said. "Our company is not unique in that we've had a rollercoaster ride with different publishers for sure, but it's just part of the business.""
Point and shoot: what's next for photography in video games? (Jordan Erica Webber / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"Considering the growing fatigue many players have with killing things in video games and the tempting prospect of instant sharing and social media virality, perhaps more developers will use photography to let players interact with game worlds, and with other players."
Video: How Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun punished the computers of the day(Lee Hutchinson - ARTICLE/VIDEO)
"For this episode of War Stories, we've arranged a nicely technical chat with Westwood co-founder Louis Castle (who also worked on the studio's noir Blade Runner adventure) to dish on the challenges and issues the studio faced with developing Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, the direct sequel to C&C and one of the most well-regarded games in the entire series."
Sid Meier at the End of History: the Philosophy and Politics of Alpha Centauri (Yaz Minsky / YouTube - VIDEO)
"An examination of the 1999 strategy game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri-- its history, the way it comments on the political anxieties of its own time, how it grapples with the legacy of the Civilization games, and what it has to teach us."
Designing for tough choices in cosmic horror game The Horns (John Harris / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"The Horns is a tremendously evocative text horror game for iOS, PC, and Mac that puts the player in a world overcome by monsters, forcing adventurers to make difficult choices in order to survive. We spoke with the game's developer Dene Carter via email to ask about designing his world of cosmic horror."
The Writing Jam Rolls On! What we found in the Lost Histories [writing] jam (Em Reed - ARTICLE / ROUNDUP)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: here's the original pitch for the Lost Histories Jam, which is focused on "how to capture overlooked videogames through personal histories"!] "Fortunately we got 18 submissions and all of them definitely represent what I was hoping for when I decided to propose this theme. ON TOP OF THAT many pushed the format and scope of their work beyond what I could have imagined!"
Embrace Cheerful Chaos in 'Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove' (Danielle Riendeau / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove is kind of a weird game. It’s a bit of a patchwork of a series, overall: originally a very funky (literally) isometric roguelike on the Genesis that was at once a celebration of black culture, 90s cartoon sensibilities, funk music, adventure games and… roguelikes way before they were cool, it then spawned a number of sequels."
Open Letter to the Mobile Developers (Jason Rohrer / One Hour One Life forums - FORUM POST)
"One Hour One Life, like all of my work over the past fifteen years, is placed in the public domain... But now, One Hour One Life for Mobile, also an unofficial adaptation, is causing enormous confusion. This is the first time that an adaptation of my work has become commercially successful, and possibly more successful than the original... Now suddenly, the details matter. These issues are complicated and without many precedents. [SIMON'S NOTE: Jason Rohrer is great, and this issue is fascinating AND crazy.]"
There’s not enough time to play all of these online shooters (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"I started experiencing this tension, this battle for my time, soon after Apex Legends came out. While they offer wildly different experiences, Apex and Fortnite fit into my life in the same way; I don’t play them for long sessions, but instead get in a few quick matches every day or so, usually in the evening."
The Rise And Fall Of The Frag Dolls, A Group That Blazed Trails For Women In Gaming (Elizabeth Ballou / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"From its inception in 2004 to its dissolution in 2015, the Frag Dolls caused contentious debate. Did the women it employed have real talent, or were they glorified booth babes? Was an all-women team necessary, or did it set women gamers back? According to Wilson and her fellow Frag Dolls, the answer is simple: The Frag Dolls gave a diverse set of women confidence and career opportunities in a time when few other organizations took those chances."
[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!]