[A warm welcome to the latest VGDC newsletter from Los Angeles, where I've been checking out USC-based independent games event Indiecade for the weekend - as well as meeting up with a colleague and some other game industry contacts.
The other notable video game thing this week for me was that I got my PlayStation VR. Though I could only try it for an hour or two before flying down here, it's the non-realistic arcade-y titles - Thumper, Superhypercube, Rez Infinite - that have really got my attention.
PSVR feels very different to the full body movement gameplay of the Vive, but there's something beautiful about inhabiting a neon world of hyperreal color. Not sure that's as mainstream a wish as Sony would like, but it's mine, & I'm sticking with it...
- Simon Carless, curator.]
PSVR devs discuss the challenges of designing for the platform (Joel Couture / Gamasutra)
"Virtual reality has finally arrived on Sony’s console, with the HMD formerly known as Project Morpheus hitting store shelves today. PSVR is releasing with no shortage of virtual reality experiences to try out, including games like Thumper, Battlezone, Wayward Sky, Allumette, Superhypercube, Harmonix's Music VR, and many more. Gamasutra reached out to the developers creating games for it (or porting games to it) to find out what it was like to develop for the PSVR."
When Starting a Fight in Video Games, Cautious Long Range Is Most Popular, But Men Like To Rush In (Kaleb Embaugh / Quantic Foundry)
"In this post, we’re taking a look at different combat approaches. Do you play as a stealthy assassin or do you rush in for action that is up close and personal? Do you try to avoid combat altogether? Maybe you prefer to soften up your targets from long range? 1,266 gamers participated in this research survey."
Nioh director Fumihiko Yasuda on difficulty, player feedback and what's changing (Jeffrey Matulef / Eurogamer)
"Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo's samurai action game Nioh has had quite the development history. Announced at E3 in 2005 and finally coming to PS4 early in February, the historical fantasy title has changed hands several times with multiple developers re-jigging it into all sort of different beasts."
Skill Points Episode 1: Momentum & Attention with Davey Wreden (Steve Swink / YouTube)
"How do game makers value their work, and how do they square the day-to-day realities of trying to make games with their own desire for happiness, comfort or company? These questions and many more are brought up in this chat between game devs Steve Swink (Scale) and Davey Wreden (The Beginner's Guide, The Stanley Parable.)"
5 lessons game devs can learn from the continued success of pachinko (John Szczepaniak / Gamasutra)
"Pachinko may seem like a specifically Japanese and specifically arcade-based phenomenon. But you need look no further than Peggle to see the influence it's had. And there are lessons that all game developers can take from the success of pachinko."
Video games where people matter? The strange future of emotional AI (Keith Stuart / The Guardian)
"Over the last five years we’ve seen a huge design shift away from linear narrative adventures and toward open-world games with procedurally generated landscapes and the capacity for emergent stories. In many ways what’s missing from the highly naturalistic worlds of Grand Theft Auto and Witcher is characters that have their own agendas and internal lives – that can provide on-the-fly challenges for the player, or just register your existence in the game world."
Why Game Trailers Never Show the Actual Game (Maddy Myers / Bloomberg)
"The trailer for the video game Assassin’s Creed: Unity starts with a bird’s eye view over a packed city square in Paris, 1789. A revolution is at hand here: A poverty-stricken boy sobs as his mother is beaten by a castle guard; a chambermaid fights off the sexual advances of a nobleman."
The Last Stand of Jack Tramiel: The Atari ST vs The Commodore Amiga (Kim Justice / YouTube)
"We couldn't leave Jack Tramiel without a documentary covering his final act. Having considered retirement for a couple of months after his unceremonious departure from Commodore, Jack came back at the head of Atari, seeking revenge. Inevitably, war between the Atari ST and the Amiga follows. But who came out on top?"
Westworld’s creators were inspired by Red Dead Redemption and BioShock (Simone de Rochefort / Polygon)
"It’s no secret that Westworld’s executive producers Lisa Joy Nolan and Jonathan Nolan drew inspiration from video games for their new HBO show. They discussed video games and their influence on Westworld at the show’s New York Comic Con panel."
Games and the Future of Low-Skill Work (Edward Castronova)
"In this whitepaper I use trends from automation and video game revenue models to make the following predictions about the future of low-skill work... within twenty years, game playing will be a significant source of income of the low-skill workforce. Wage-playing will be the primary means by which the extreme gains of the wealthy will trickle down to the poor."
The 2016 GDC Experimental Gameplay Workshop (GDC / YouTube)
"This 2016 GDC session is the latest in a 14-year series documenting some of the boldest, most innovative game prototypes seen at GDC. Watch as MCs Robin Hunicke and Daniel Benmergui help showcase games like Fantastic Contraption, Tandis, Walden, and Everything, from creators like Northway Games, Mahdi Bahrami, Tracy Fullerton, and David O'Reilly."
The self-destructing game of 1986 (Ben Bertoli / Polygon)
"Influenced by the classic Tom Clancy novel, "The Hunt for Red October," as well as the Cold War warning video "The Day After," Snyder modeled the game around nuclear sub battles. ... The hook was that if you failed to save the star-crossed captives, your game would more or less self-destruct, refusing to boot for any future gameplay."
EVE Online pilot places a $75,000 bounty on rival alliance (Steven Messner / PC Gamer)
"In what might be the largest real money bounty ever placed in a video game, one EVE Online player is offering $75,000 to be shared among pilots willing to help him evict one of EVE's most notorious alliances from their territory."
Miyamoto Spills Donkey Kong’s Darkest Secrets, 35 Years Later (Chris Kohler / Wired)
"Miyamoto has given countless interviews about Donkey Kong over the course of his career, but in this chat, he spilled all sorts of secrets I’d never read before. It’s long been known that the game’s protagonist was named “Mr. Video” and “Jumpman” by Miyamoto, but that it was Nintendo’s American branch that christened him “Mario” due to his resemblance to their landlord, Mario Segale. But did you know that Donkey Kong was supposed to have human voice samples? Or that Nintendo had a company bathtub?"
Critical Path Project - 'Girls Level Up' (Critical Path Project)
"A hopeful voice in the conversation about the future of women in videogames. A brief documentary about LearnDistrict cofounder Laila Shabir and the Girls Make Games summer camp venture she launched back in 2014 in an effort to help girls learn to -- well, make games."
The DeanBeat: This player spent $2 million in a mobile game - then he led a boycott (Dean Takahashi / Venturebeat)
"Gree, the Japanese game company that owns mobile games such as Modern War, hit the gold mine with Stephen Barnes of Houston. The 59-year-old owner of an appliance store has spent more than $2 million in Modern War, as one of the leaders of a clan that has been around for more than four years. He also helped stage a boycott where 144 teams stopped spending and demanded that Gree make fixes in the game."
Cinemaware's Year in The Desert (Jimmy Maher / Digital Antiquarian)
"It Came from the Desert was the first of the interactive movies not to grow from a seed of an idea planted by Bob Jacob himself. Its originator was rather David Riordan, a newcomer to the Cinemaware fold with an interesting career in entertainment already behind him. As a very young man, he’d made a go of it in rock music, enjoying his biggest success in 1970 with a song called “Green-Eyed Lady,” a #3 hit he co-wrote for the (briefly) popular psychedelic band Sugarloaf."
How Video Games Are Changing The Way Soccer Is Played (Rory Smith / New York Times)
"Before his first few appearances as a teenage striker for Arsenal, Alex Iwobi used to cast his eye over the names of the opposition team, trying to identify his direct opponent. In most cases, he would find himself up against a player he had never faced. His manager, Arsène Wenger, and Arsenal’s coaching staff would offer counsel, but in lieu of experience Iwobi also would turn to another trusted resource. “I’d look at his name,” he said, “and then try to remember how good he was on FIFA.”"
Really Bad Chess makes chess fun even if you’re really bad (Andrew Webster / The Verge)
"After playing Really Bad Chess for the past week, I’ve found myself with a much better understanding of the game, and how the various pieces interact with each other. “The thing that’s weird about Really Bad Chess is that at the beginning it feels neat and strange and weird,” says Gage, “but by the end of the game you really just feel like you’re playing chess.”"
The Extremely Strange World of Infinite Dungeon Video Games (Lauren Young / Atlas Obscura)
"Peter Burr spent hours trapped in a dungeon. He sat in the glow of the pixelated green and black screen of his Apple IIe, exploring the dark dangerous tunnels of an ancient tomb in the 1982 adventure computer game Aztec. Instead of seeking the jade idol and escaping from the tomb, Burr found himself engrossed in dwelling deeper and deeper into the virtual abyss."
Game Design Deep Dive: Making debugging into a mechanic in Beglitched (AP Thompson / Gamasutra)
"'While debugging is considered to be one of the more odious aspects of programming, I felt that under the right circumstances, it could actually be exhilarating,' says AP Thompson, designer of Beglitched."
Forging The Dragon (Yakuza Fan / YouTube)
"Welcome to our brand new video series "Forging The Dragon" - an in depth behind the scenes story of how Yakuza (Ryu Ga Gotoku) was made. From inception to its Japanese release, we're covering the story of Toshihiro Nagoshi bringing his idea to life."
[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every Saturday 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, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]