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[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 the art behind Thimbleweed Park, the rise of RimWorld, and much, much more.
For anyone counting, this is week 31 of picks, and I'm still managing to keep up the weekly pace - primarily because my regular social media trawls during the week allow me to stack up links to post at the weekend! And this is still without regular RSS feed checking - so there's got to be a bunch more stories I'm missing. Ah well.
So much good stuff out there - and I really enjoyed some of the more esoteric stories in this week's set, including the piece on Tamagotchi collectors and the visually impaired Roguelike players. There are all kinds of unique, wonderful video game nerds under the sun, aren't there? Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
The Stress of Game Development - Tips for Survival (Extra Credits / YouTube)
"Making games is hard. You need all kinds of technical and creative skills, but most importantly, you need to know how to manage the many kinds of stress that come with it."
Game Design Deep Dive: Watch Dogs 2's Invasion of Privacy missions (Christopher Dragert / Gamasutra)
"In this article, I will describe some of the technical challenges and design decisions that drove development of the Invasion of Privacy feature in Watch Dogs 2. Areas of focus will include managing branching scenarios, motion capture challenges, controlling NPC state, maintaining dialog flow, and NPC coordination."
Video Games Aren’t Addictive (Christopher J Ferguson & Patrick Markey / New York Times)
"Is video game addiction a real thing? It’s certainly common to hear parents complain that their children are “addicted” to video games. Some researchers even claim that these games are comparable to illegal drugs in terms of their influence on the brain — that they are “digital heroin” (the neuroscientist Peter C. Whybrow) or “digital pharmakeia” (the neuroscientist Andrew Doan)."
The Job Simulator Postmortem (Alex Schwartz & Devin Reimer / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 postmortem, Owlchemy Labs' Alexander Schwartz and Devin Reimer analyze the challenges of building, sharing, shipping, and sustaining Job Simulator on multiple platforms with examples showing both successful and less-than-successful design prototypes and how iteration led to the final product."
The Underground World of Tamagotchi Collectors (Alyssa Bereznak / The Ringer)
"On October 26 of last year, a user named “psychotama” made his first entry in what would become a detailed online diary, otherwise known as a “Tama log.” “I’m not quite sure how to begin,” he wrote in purple Comic Sans. “My journey with Tamagotchi began about 13 years ago.”"
'Make me think, make me move': New Doom's deceptively simple design (Kris Graft / Gamasutra)
"Doom is known for its speed and straightforwardness – move fast, shoot demons. It's a seemingly simple combination that, at the franchise’s best, evokes an ultraviolent cognitive flow. But Doom’s apparent simplicity belies a core design that is difficult to achieve."
From 'Zelda' to 'Witcher 3': Why We're Still Talking About 'Skyrim' (Alex Kane / Glixel)
"How Bethesda's 2011 masterpiece – and the colossal online culture of fan art, memes, and music surrounding it – forever changed the game for fantasy RPGs."
Precious Moments, Hype and High School: A Conversation with 'Persona 5' Director Katsura Hashino (Sayem Ahmed / Waypoint)
"Hashino tells me that seeing the anticipation for the game build, as previously announced street dates passed and more information on the game crept out via the press, was both "encouraging and scary.""
How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons (Noam Scheiber / New York Times)
"The company has undertaken an extraordinary experiment in behavioral science to subtly entice an independent work force to maximize its growth. [SIMON'S NOTE: you may have seen this, but thought it particularly interesting that GDC board member Chelsea Howe was also quoted in here re: F2P-style coercive psychology evils.]"
Why games like 'Super Mario 64' had terrible cameras (Mike Rougeau / Mashable)
"The camera is the interactive window through which we experience video games; the term describes not just our perspective and view of a digital space, but the freedom of or restrictions on how we as players control that viewpoint."
A Year after Firewatch (Colin Campbell / Polygon)
"With sales of more than a million copies, developer Campo Santo is now working on its next project: unannounced as yet. I sat down with writer Sean Vanaman to talk about the direction he wants to go in next, and how he feels about Firewatch one year after its launch."
Kevin Horton Is a Cryogenics Engineer Turned Retro Gaming Savior (Nicholas DeLeon / Motherboard)
"By day Horton, 43, is an engineer at a cryogenics company (he's worked at the same company since high school). But online, he's better known online as Kevtris (in reference to a Tetris clone he developed in the mid-1990s), where he is the brains behind a series of critical technological breakthroughs that allow gamers to play classic video games like The Legend of Zelda and Metroid on modern televisions."
Interactive Fiction Appears at the Whitney Biennial (Chris Klimas / Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation)
"The 2017 Whitney Biennial has something curious to offer fans of interactive fiction. Among the works shown this year are With Those We Love Alive and howling dogs, Twine works written by Charity Heartscape Porpentine. [SIMON'S NOTE: short article, but great news, & the linked interview is also notable.]"
From Rational to Emotional: Designs that Increase Player Retention (Jim Brown / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 session, Epic's Jim Brown provides specific examples of design techniques that encourage the formation of enduring emotional ties that could enhance both retention and enjoyment for players in game design."
A Brief History Of Speedrunning (Kat Brewster / ReadOnlyMemory)
"A good speedrun is hypnotising to watch – this goes for ones showcased at GDQ, or the ones which get circulated around the internet for their insane jumps or cutscene skips or lightning fast movement. They’re a dizzying show of hard won skill and palpable effort. The video of a world record time which knocks an hours-long campaign into minutes can be jaw-dropping."
In Their War With The Wall Street Journal, Top YouTubers Just Played Themselves (Patricia Hernandez / Kotaku)
"Over the last couple of weeks, anger has been bubbling on YouTube over the news that major brands pulled advertisements on the platform in an effort to avoid being matched with objectionable content. The reports, which were published by the Wall Street Journal, were met with such skepticism that they sparked scandalous conspiracy theories among YouTube’s top creators."
After tragedy strikes, a dev's friends strive to complete his game (Chris Priestman / Gamasutra)
"Former Harmonix programmer Roger Morash had been working on his passion project, a co-op platformer called Shard, for years before he died in January of this year. "
Inside the Shady World of PlayStation Network Account Resellers (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint)
"A few weeks ago, Mic Fok got a weird email. The person writing it claimed they'd been playing Overwatch on a PlayStation Network account for more than six months, but the password had changed recently. But why would Fok know anything about this random dude's account?"
(Not) a Thimbleweed Park review (Matej Jan / Retronator)
"Thimbleweed Park started as a spiritual successor to Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island. “It’s like opening a dusty old desk drawer and finding an undiscovered LucasArts adventure game you’ve never played before.” [SIMON'S NOTE: mainly linking this for the amaaazing vintage Mark Ferrari art linked within, tho the whole thing is cute!]"
Playing roguelikes when you can’t see (Kent Sutherland / RockPaperShotgun)
"For most of us, traditional roguelikes are intrinsically inaccessible. They’re notoriously difficult, their design is complicated and often opaque, they can have more hotkeys than there are keys on the keyboard, and their ASCII-based visuals mean that it’s often unclear what’s happening on the screen. It’s these exact qualities, however, that ironically make roguelikes accessible and even appealing to blind or low-sight players."
The Game Beat Weekly: Digital Foundry and Microsoft make it "exclusive" (Kyle Orland / Tinyletter)
"That kind of server-melting traffic shows why it would have been somewhat crazy for Eurogamer to turn down Microsoft's invitation to see Scorpio up close at their Redmond headquarters last week. But agreeing to an exclusive of this magnitude also risks coming across as a mere mouthpiece for a company you're supposed to be covering with a kind of detached objectivity."
The Witness - Noclip Documentary (NoClip / YouTube)
"What lies at the heart of Jonathan Blow's island of mystery? We talk to the famed indie designer about how one of his earliest design ideas blossomed into The Witness."
A Pioneer Story: How MECC Blazed New Trails (Joe Juba / Game Informer)
"Decades ago, as computing migrated from research labs and universities and into the mainstream, one company in Minnesota was instrumental in bringing technology into classrooms. Thanks to its focused mission and talented staff, the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) used exceptional software like The Oregon Trail to engage and educate a generation of students – and establish an unforgettable legacy."
Inside 'RimWorld', the Cult Sci-Fi Hit That Just Keeps Growing (Chris Priestman / Glixel)
"Since its earliest public release on Steam Early Access in July, RimWorld – a sci-fi space colony sim – has amassed more than 600,000 players, and it's not even a finished project."
[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, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]