[Welcome to the second week of 2017, and welcome to a bunch of new VGDC subscribers - hope you enjoy the links, recommend this whole thing to others if you dig it, and feel free to check out the archive of old newsletters if you need another few hundred Video Game Deep Cut links, blimey.
BTW, I'm hoping this is the (almost) final week we're featuring 'best of 2016' lists, haha, although this time I've run into some less conventional lists like top game OSTs, escape rooms, and overlooked iOS games of the year. And there's plenty of other neat stuff in here to break it up - not least a look at the most interesting games coming up in 2017. (The cycle begins anew!)
- Simon Carless, curator.]
Unknown alien ships are ripping commanders out of hyperspace in Elite: Dangerous(Lee Hutchinson / Ars Technica)
"After two years of teases and mysteries, something big started happening to players in space combat sim Elite: Dangerous over the last two days: players traveling in certain regions of space are finding themselves being yanked out of hyperspace and scanned by an enormous, enigmatic alien ship. This is the first time that any operational non-human spacecraft have been in the game."
14 Of The Best Hidden Gems Released In 2016 (Jared Nelson / TouchArcade)
" While there's a bunch of [iOS] games I'd love to have on this list, I've kept it trimmed down to the ones that I felt were great and beloved by a small group of people but just didn't get all that much attention during the year." [SIMON'S NOTE: The non-'obvious F2P games' iOS game scene is particularly overlooked by many, so make sure to check out all of the TouchArcade 2016 lists, including editor-specific ones and Top 100 Games Of The Year - LOTS of great stuff in here you might not know about.]
The making of Sapienza, Hitman's best level (Phil Savage / PC Gamer)
"Sapienza, the second level of Hitman, began as two words: Coastal Town. “This was the only direction we got,” says Torbjørn Christensen, lead level designer. “So we really had a lot of freedom to be creative.” That coastal town would become the game’s standout level, against which subsequent Hitman episodes are compared."
The Signal From Tolva Interview - A Dynamic World Ruled By Robotic AI (Kyle Bailey / Gameumentary)
"The game was recently announced back in August with a pretty impressive looking gameplay trailer that showed off a ton of what we’ll be seeing once we finally get our hands on it. In short: robots, guns, an alien world dripping with secrets, and a story shrouded in mystery. Obviously, when we first heard about Tölva and what Big Robot had planned for it, we knew that we needed to find out more."
The Ultimate Game Boy Talk (Michael Steil / 33th Chaos Communication Congress / YouTube)
"The 8-bit Game Boy was sold between 1989 and 2003, but its architecture more closely resembles machines from the early 1980s, like the Commodore 64 or the NES. This talk attempts to communicate "everything about the Game Boy" to the listener, including its internals and quirks, as well as the tricks that have been used by games and modern demos..." [SIMON'S NOTE: Also see Nintendo Hacking 2016& Console Hacking 2016 from 33C3 this year!]
UploadVR's 2016 Game Of The Year Winners (David Jagneaux / UploadVR)
"Since there were so many categories to decide and so many voices to hear, we actually had a true deliberation process in real-time using AltspaceVR... That entire process was recorded, so get your popcorn ready."
EVE Online’s free to play update might change your mind (Sin Vega / RockPaperShotgun)
"I almost uninstalled EVE Online partway through the oddly crashy character creation process. Somewhere out there is a parallel universe in which my only experience with the game is a distant memory of an unpleasant and rapidly abandoned free trial. What a terrible world that is. For you see, I was wrong about EVE. I suspect a great many people are, as perhaps do its creators CCP, who recently released probably their most significant update ever, called Ascension (aka the Alpha update)."
Play It Forward: Our 19 Most Anticipated Videogames of 2017 (Chris Kohler / Wired)
"Now that 2016 is finally, mercifully in the books, let’s look ahead the next 365 days of videogames—many of which we’re actually excited about.. At least a few of these may be delayed into 2018 or beyond. But for now, we’re just goin’ with what they tells us. Let’s get to the games!"
Who gets to be a Civilization? (Kyle Kallgren / YouTube)
"In Sid Meier's Civilization, what's the real difference between the civilized and the barbarous?"
Perfect Ten: the best MMORPG updates & expansion of 2016 (that aren't legion)(Eliot Lefebvre / Massively Overpowered)
"Sometimes you have to exclude something from a list. I could, for example, praise World of Warcraft: Legion for being a really good expansion yet again... but I already did that. Heck,we already did that. It won an award and everything. And it deserves that award, but let's be real, we did not suffer at all from a paucity of updates over the past year. So it's time to honor some of the other updates that were great this past year that haven't gotten enough recognition."
Game Design Deep Dive: Creating believable crowds in Planet Coaster (Owen McCarthy / Gamasutra)
"For Planet Coaster, we wanted to make the best-ever crowds in the SIM genre. That meant huge numbers, few intersections, and novel approaches to sound, art and animation. In Planet Coaster’s voxel-based sandbox we wanted to simulate 10,000 park guests at once and we wanted them to look like a real crowd."
Predictions for the 2017 Esports industry (Ferguson Mitchell / The eSports Observer)
"There’s no denying fact; a ton happened in 2016. Some things we foresaw—others came out of nowhere. The question on all of our minds: what’s on the horizon for esports? Here’s our predictions for 2017."
Why Let it Die's microtransactions are great for the game (Jeffrey Matulef / Eurogamer)
"Last month I wrote some pretty positive impressions of Grasshopper Manufacture's procedurally-generated "survival action" game Let it Die, though I was unsure how the game would hold up in the long run, what with its free-to-play micro-transactions based design that threatened to suffocate the adventure's more challenging later stages."
The women who make a living gaming on Twitch (Stephanie Convery / The Guardian)
"Two years ago Chelsea quit her job as a pharmacy technician to play video games. “I went to work one day and I was like, ‘I would actually be making more money if I had stayed at home and kept playing video games than coming here,’” she says. That week she handed in her resignation."
Room Escape Artist - 2016 Golden Lock-In Awards (David Spira / Room Escape Artist)
"We played and reviewed 152 room escapes in 2016. These 13 rooms are the games that we wish we could play again. There is no such thing as the perfect escape room, but these are the ones that still make us smile long after we escaped."
Vanillaware's Kamitani on Keeping the 2D Flame Alive in the Age of 3D (James Mielke / Glixel)
"We recently spoke with Kamitani about the challenges of making 2D games in the age of 3D, and about his company's upcoming mech saga, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim."
Original Sound Version - [Game] OST Of The Year (Various writers / Original Sound Version)
"What I sincerely enjoy about Original Sound Version’s Ost of the year is that all the authors for this site have different choices. I am a huge film score fan, and love sweeping symphonic scores which led to my choice for Ost of the year. I also highlight some arranged and inspirational albums too."
“I want to cheat on him and set him on fire”: why are we sadistic towards our Sims?(Amelia Tait / New Statesman)
"StarSweetieSqueaker is probably not a deranged psychopath living out sick, twisted fantasies of murder and torture. They are, most likely, an ordinary person – or at least, an ordinary The Sims player."
2016’s All-Star GOTY Spectacular (Chris Suellentrop & guests / Shall We Show podcast)
"What was your favorite video game of 2016? We asked 23 of the smartest people we know–game designers, podcasters, YouTubers, journalists, a screenwriter, a playwright–and got 19 answers. Counting Chris and JJ, that’s 25 people and 20 games in our second annual GOTY Podcast Spectacular. Plus, intense disagreement about the merits of 'The Last Guardian.'"
Opinion: Star Wars: The Old Republic, five years on (Katherine Cross / Gamasutra)
"On a lark, I decided to dive back into an MMO for the first time in years: Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, which has just celebrated its fifth birthday. Much to my surprise, the game is holding my interest. Part of the reason has to do with Bioware’s unique attempts to prevent SWTOR from being afflicted by the heat death of the genre. "
How to Make and Self-Publish a Game in 12 Months (Matthew Viglione / GDC / YouTube)
"This GDC 2015 talk goes over the path SomaSim's Matthew Viglione took when he decided to work with colleagues to make and self-publish their own game in the span of a year. "
The Games Of 2017 (Colin Campbell / Polygon)
"We picked this selection mainly on the basis that they've interested us enough to cover them previously. Restricting ourselves to 50 meant we had to leave out certain categories, such as annualized sports franchises, HD remakes, VR, mobile and games already in Early Access." [SIMON'S NOTE: Polygon's top games of 2016, with individual write-ups, only just finished too...]
[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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!]