[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from curator/video game industry veteran Simon Carless, rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend. This week's highlights include Zelda's Switch inspirations, the modding scene of Cities: Skylines, & lots more.
As for other things going on this week - still relaxing after the end of GDC, & have been playing some Night In The Woods, which is charming & totally my speed of game, as well as Chime Sharp, which is still one of my favorite puzzle games, despite a slightly basic PS4 conversion.
No luck getting a Switch yet (since I only decided I wanted one after playing it at GDC after its release, haha), but there's plenty of stuff to keep us all going on PS4, PC, iPad & elsewhere, right? Talking of that final option, keep an eye on the Apple indie game celebration, which looks like it has some kickass timed iOS game releases like Mushroom 11, Beglitched & maybe Kingdom: New Lands. And onward to the links...
- Simon, curator.]
Breaking Conventions with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC session, Nintendo's Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Satoru Takizawa, and Takuhiro Dohta provide an in-depth look at how some of the convention-breaking mechanics were implemented in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. [SIMON'S NOTE: Yep, this is pretty much unmissable.]"
Horizon: Zero Dawn and the evolution of the video game heroine (Jonathan Ore / CBC News)
"Horizon: Zero Dawn, a massive open-world game set in a lush, post-apocalyptic jungle inhabited by robot dinosaurs, is one of the most anticipated games of 2017. Players take the role of Aloy, a young hunter in a far-flung future, well after most of human society has disappeared in a long-forgotten disaster."
Game Design Deep Dive: Decisions that matter in Orwell (Daniel Marx / Gamasutra)
"On a basic level, Orwell is a mostly text-based narrative game that constantly confronts players with choices of varying moral weight. Unlike a typical interactive novel Orwell does not present players with an explicit decision between a set of juxtaposed options (multiple choice) on how to continue the story or which action to take next."
Is Halo Broken? (Nathan Ditum / Glixel)
"Today, the series is overseen by 343 Industries, a Microsoft internal studio created specifically for the job. Most recently it helped Creative Assembly to release the in-universe strategy game Halo Wars 2, which is both quite good and unlikely to stop the series’ slow slide to the margins. So what can 343 do to fix Halo? Is it already too late?"
Balancing Metas (HeavyEyed / YouTube)
"Meta games and balancing are always interesting to me so I thought it'd be fun to go over how these things can work in different contexts and what forces meta games to evolve."
How two Cities: Skylines modders turned hobbyist work into life-changing careers (Joe Donnelly / PC Gamer)
"Today, Colossal Order and Paradox's city-building sim Cities: Skylines has one of the most prolific modding communities across all genres. Its Steam workshop page alone boasts well over a hundred thousand mods, and the number of keen enthusiasts flooding its forums is steadily growing with each passing update, expansion and portion of DLC."
Hookshots, Wii U Maps, And Other Things Nintendo Cut From Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Jason Schreier / Kotaku)
"To make a game as massive and astounding as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the developers at Nintendo needed to take a lot of experiments. As a result, they left a lot of ideas on Hyrule’s floor."
The 'Card-ification' of Competitive Gaming (Steven Strom / Red Bull eSports)
"Increasingly, though, developers are codifying the benefits of progression behind something new: virtual, collectible cards. From Clash Royale and Hearthstone on iOS, to Halo Wars 2, Paragon, Paladins, Battlerite and a helluva lot more on PC and consoles, digital cards are becoming the de facto method of displaying player skills."
'Rust Belt Gothic': lead writer Scott Benson unpacks the art that inspired Night in the Woods (Nate Ewert-Krocker / Zam)
"From Flannery O’Connor to Richard Scarry and Symphony of the Night, we talk with animator/writer/Twitterman Scott Benson about what makes everyone's favorite new indie adventure game tick."
Reviving Ocarina of Time's long-lost Ura expansion (Edwin Evans-Thirlwell / Eurogamer)
"The Legend of Zelda series has always dabbled in alternate realities - mirror worlds, sunken pasts, waking dreams, futures that might have been. This is the story of one such lost future, a dream originally dreamt by the developers of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, kept alive by a fervent underground community of fans, modders and artists."
Lights, Camera, Distraction: The Problem with Virtual Camera Systems (Jack Yarwood / Waypoint)
"The average gamer rarely notices the camera, and when they do it's usually to complain about what's wrong with it. This is in spite of the camera being the most important tool for communicating a chosen situation to the player. Done well, its presence can be almost imperceptible, framing the action perfectly. Done poorly, it can ruin the experience, causing frustration and disorientation."
Meet the Man Behind the Most Acclaimed Board Game in Years (Steve T. Wright / Glixel)
"Now, with the second "season" of Pandemic Legacy just around the corner, Glixel spoke with [Rob] Daviau to chat about the cardboard life, his former corporate overlords, and the travails of self-employment."
In the Land of 'Dying' MMOs: Dark Age of Camelot (Robert Zak / Kotaku)
"My second time-warp into venerable MMOs takes me to the cross-mythological lands of Camelot, where, after 16 years, a sizeable number of players remain embroiled in a never-ending war."
The importance of cultural fashion in games (Matt Sayer / RockPaperShotgun)
"Virginia’s career in cultural fashion began out of a desire for self-expression. After spending her childhood immersed in African culture, she couldn’t ignore the severe lack of traditional African fashion in The Sims’ wardrobe. With nobody else attempting to rectify the issue, Virginia was left with no choice but to take matters into her own hands."
Ron Gilbert: "From Maniac Mansion to Thimbleweed Park" (Talks From Google / YouTube)
"Veteran game designer Ron Gilbert has been making games since the 1980s, most notably as writer, programmer, and designer for LucasFilm Games / LucasArts, producing classics like Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Today he is putting the finishing touches on his crowdfunded pixel-art puzzle adventure Thimbleweed Park."
Pixelated popstars: Japan’s dance dance revolution (Jack Needham / Dazed)
"Rhythm-based video games dominate Japan’s arcades, and their popularity has influenced everyone from major pop stars to underground electronic producers."
A Video Game Immerses You in an Opera Composed by Dogs (Katie Rose Pipkin / Hyperallergic)
"In David Kanaga’s latest game, Oiκοςpiel, an immortal Donkey Koch (of the Koch brothers) commissions a group of dogs to produce a digital opera for an arts festival scheduled for 2100. [SIMON'S NOTE: this game won the IGF Nuovo (art) prize, and you may be able to work out why! Full interview text here.]"
Monkey Island (or, How Ron Gilbert Made an Adventure Game That Didn’t Suck) (Jimmy Maher / Digital Antiquarian)
"Shortly after completing Maniac Mansion, his first classic graphic adventure, Ron Gilbert started sketching ideas for his next game. “I wanted to do something that felt like fantasy and might kind of tap into what was interesting about fantasy,” he remembers, “but that wasn’t fantasy.” "
Shipping Kills Studios: A Study of Indie Team Dynamics (Danny Day / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2016 GDC Talk, QCF Design's Danny Day (Desktop Dungeons) explains how to keep your indie team alive after shipping a successful game."
Reverse-Engineering The Industry (Ernie Smith / Tedium)
"Third-party developers weren’t always quite so revered in the video game industry, but a pair of legal decisions helped them earn their place at the table."
Art of the Impossible (Joel Goodwin / Electron Dance)
"I played an amazing looking game this week, Fragments of Euclid by Antoine Zanuttini, a short first-person puzzler that appears to be set inside the art of M. C. Escher. For me, however, it's more like a dry run for William Chyr's Manifold Garden, a game I've been looking forward to for a while now."
The Dazzling Reinvention of Zelda (Simon Parkin / New Yorker)
"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which launched last Friday, represents the first true reimagining of the series. Gone are the typical corridors and blockages intended to funnel every player along the same worn narrative lines. In this Hyrule, a wilderness of hills and lakes and mountain peaks, you are free to go wherever you please."
Frustration Can Improve Video Games, Designer Found (Nathan Grayson / Kotaku)
"In video games, frustration is often viewed as a dirty word. If you’re feeling frustrated—like you’ve hit a wall and can’t find a way over, under, or around—the designers must have made a mistake. That’s not always the case, though. Sometimes, game makers try to make you feel irritated, or even livid."
Why I love Peggle and hate Peggle: Blast (Henrique Antero / Medium)
"Peggle is divine. Peggle: Blast is an aberration. This is a story on how a videogame first touched perfection and then became a vessel for evil. It could be compared to The Fall of the Abrahamic religions, when humankind was collectively expelled from Paradise— if the Demiurge was perverse enough to have invented microtransactions along the way."
The designers of Dishonored, Bioshock 2 and Deus Ex swap stories about making PC's most complex games (Wes Fenlon / PC Gamer)
"We put together a roundtable of familiar faces, all of whom have had a major hand in exploring or creating immersive sims. Our guests: Warren Spector (Otherside Entertainment), Harvey Smith and Ricardo Bare (Arkane Studios), Tom Francis (Suspicious Developments) and Steve Gaynor (Fullbright)."
[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@example.com. 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!]