[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 videos on the making of Raw Data & the surprise debut of Scanner Sombre, plus the history of seminal NES emulator NESticle.
A quick and early newsletter this week, since we're in Texas for a few days visiting friends game-centric & non game-centric - among them Venus Patrol/ex-IGF supremo Brandon Boyer (& world's cutest megadog Scout), as well as Gamasutra publisher/EIC Kris Graft.
One thing I did find interesting from the links I still managed to excavate, though - the recent GDC video linked below about the making of VR standout Raw Data has a fairly high dislike-to-like ratio compared to other GDC videos (more dislikes than normal).
Why? Well, partly because the game dared to hit Early Access at $40 USD with a fairly linear story, by the look of it. If the hope was that VR would ensnare the 'core gamer', I'm starting to wonder whether VR experiences are even core gamer-compatible in terms of narrative, linearity & replayability. Which would be a pretty big stumbling block, if true... Anyhow, until next time?
- Simon, curator.]
The future of dialogue in games (Alex Wiltshire / PC Gamer)
"Getting to discover the politics and personalities of a new location should feel like a reward, but the same formulaic text dump from city to city can make you feel awfully weary. Being NPCsplained at with screeds of exposition and feeling you’re taking little meaningful part in it all, game dialogue can make you want to run back into the hills."
[Game] Story - What Is It Good For? (Thomas Grip / Gamasutra Blogs)
"This "go write a book instead" attitude isn't new. One of my favorite articles on the subject is Jesper Juul's "Games Telling Stories?". Interestingly, I pretty much agree with all of the points that Juul raises, but reject most of his conclusions. I think that video games are very well suited for telling stories and that there is no inherent conflict. [SIMON'S NOTE: another response to that Bogost article, of course!]"
Early Access Lessons From Raw Data (Chris Hewish & Mike McTyre / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 VRDC at GDC session, Survios' Chris Hewish and Mike McTyre break down the technological and artistic challenges, insights, and decisions that continue to influence and evolve the development of Raw Data and helped it climb the Steam charts while still in Early Access. "
When Fans Take Their Love For Twitch Streamers Too Far (Cecilia D'Anastasio / Kotaku)
"It was one in the morning when the Twitch streamer Ellohime heard a knock at his front door. He had been grinding away at a PC game that night in December 2015 while his infant daughter and fiancée slept. His 22-year-old brother was crashing in the central Florida home, too, and it wasn’t unheard of for him to invite friends over at odd hours. Ellohime left his desk and went downstairs to the door."
Analysis: 'Scanner Sombre' (Errant Signal / YouTube)
"Scanner Sombre is the latest game by Introversion Software, the team that brought you Uplink, Darwinia, DEFCON, and Prison Architect. It's definitely pretty, but what if anything is going on beneath the surface?"
Inside Marvel vs Capcom Infinite: an in-depth interview about accessibility, combos, ditching cross-platform play and sweat equity (Alex Donaldson / VG247)
"I sat down with producer Mike Evans and associate producer Peter ‘combofiend’ Rosas to talk about these challenges and chat about Infinite’s gameplay systems in-depth. Rosas in particular is a voice that carries some weight with the fans – he’s a community hire of Capcom’s, and is famous in the fighting game tournament world for performing one of the greatest fighting game comebacks of all time with a lone, vulnerable Spencer in MVC3. He knows his Marvel. Here’s our chat."
Epic, near-EVE-worthy troll sabotages Elite: Dangerous community event (Lee Hutchinson / Ars Technica)
"In the vast simulated galaxy of Elite: Dangerous, a years-old mystery concerning an unknown region of space called the Formidine Rift was poised to take a dramatic leap forward on Saturday. An NPC going by the name of Salomé was preparing for a frantic, fast return to the main inhabited core worlds with information that would advance the mystery’s plot. Eliteplayers could choose to try to escort Salomé to safety, or could try to gun her down."
Gamasutra Plays Playerunknown's Battlegrounds with Brendan Greene (Gamasutra Team / Twitch / YouTube)
"The Gamasutra crew sits down with Playerunknown, aka Brendan Greene, to talk about the success of Bluehole's latest game Playerunknown's Battlegrounds. [SIMON'S NOTE: the Gamasutra crew are doing more and more live Twitch chats with devs, & here's a particularly notable recent one - more archived on YouTube here.]"
Tumbleseed and the obscure mechanical arcade machine that inspired it (Andrew Webster / Verge)
"It never went on to become a huge hit, but for game designer Greg Wohlwend, Ice Cold Beer proved inspirational. So much so that he, along with a small team, set about taking the core mechanic and expanding on it for the new video game Tumbleseed. “We’ve got to be true to the source material,” says Wohlwend of the development process, “out of love and respect for this awesome game that not a lot of people know about.”"
Boom, Headshot! (Martin Annander / Gamasutra Blogs)
"However, let’s not rail against violence. That’s not what this is about. Violence can be thrilling, its narrative exciting, and the skills required to master the gameplay can be quite rewarding to attain. We’ve played first-person shooters for decades for reasons other than murder. [SIMON'S NOTE: from a couple of weeks back, but only just spotted it - a powerful partner to Ste Curran's 'Double Tap' GDC 2017 talk?]"
How the Mixed Reality Game 'Bad News' Brings Towns Like 'Twin Peaks' to Life (Steven T. Wright / Glixel)
"We were inside a sprawling exhibition hall at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,where a trio of PhD students from the University of California, Santa Cruz are showing off their project, Bad News – an interactive experience that, much like a play, incorporates aspects of real-world performance."
The Story of NESticle, the Ambitious Emulator That Redefined Retro Gaming (Ernie Smith / Motherboard)
"The product of a talented programmer who designed a hit shareware game while he was still in high school, NESticle was so good that everyone looked past the fact its name was basically a dick joke."
In Gacha We Trust: The Appeal of Japanese Free to Play Games (Allen Kwan / Medium)
"Richard Garfield recently penned a manifesto on free to play (F2P) games that encourage spending, or what he calls “skinnerware”. While there is perhaps a little bit of irony in the fact that the person responsible for creating one of the bigger “skinnerware” games, Magic the Gathering, writing a manifesto decrying the exploitative nature of these types of games, reading his post made me reflect on the F2P games that I play. [SIMON'S NOTE: this editorial is a little old, but popped up on social media recently & is well worth revisiting!]"
Faithfully updating the art of a classic in Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (Joel Couture / Gamasutra)
"Ben Fiquet spent a great deal of time playing the 1989 Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap as a child, wandering around its wondrous worlds. The game made a strong impression on him. These feelings would well up again, years later, when Fiquet found himself working on the recently-released remake, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap."
Rock and Roll Days of StarCraft: a Development Retrospective (StarCraft: Remastered / Blizzard Entertainment)
"The year was 1997, and Blizzard art director Samwise Didier’s ’65 Mustang was producing an alarming amount of smoke. The ancient vehicle was held together by little more than duct tape and prayer, and by the time Didier pulled into his garage one sunny Southern California afternoon, it was clear that neither countermeasure would suffice for long."
Interview: The creator of the Conquests adventures on what made them special (GOG.com)
"During the steady stream of Quest and Larry games that established [Sierra's] legacy, a couple of less-known but no less-loved titles came along: Conquests of Camelot and Conquests of the Longbow. To celebrate their long-awaited arrival on GOG.com we've approached their creator, Christy Marx, for a chat on what made them so special to her and to so many adventure game fans."
'Hearthstone' Director Ben Brode Talks Surprise Success and Tough Choices (Joshua Calixto / Glixel)
"As Hearthstone’s director, Ben Brode has a firm understanding of how much is riding on the game’s complex design. If he and his team tune things to be too random, the competitive scene suffers. Nerf a card too much, and players start to feel like their monetary investments are losing value."
Tom Hall: 5 key design lessons I learned directing Wolfenstein 3D (Jon Irwin / Gamasutra)
"Wolfenstein 3D came out exactly 25 years ago, on May 5th, 1992. Nothing was the same after that day. “We knew it was new and special, but we were pretty blown away by the reception,” says Tom Hall, the director and co-designer of the game."
A three-year-old Elite Dangerous mystery is finally unravelling (Wesley Yin-Poole / Eurogamer)
"Elite Dangerous players have taken a significant step in solving a mystery that has befuddled its most rabid secret-hunters ever since the game came out. The Formidine Rift mystery, as it's known, kicked off back in 2014 with the release of Drew Wagar's novel Elite Reclamation. Since then players have searched for clues in an attempt to solve this mystery. This week, a major discovery was made that suggests a solution is near."
Lessons from Escape Rooms: Designing for the Real World and VR (Laura E. Hall / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC session, escape room designer Laura E. Hall discusses the design fundamentals and structures necessary for creating real-world experiences that offer not only entertainment, but create immersion and transportation for players in order to understand how "physical play" can be a foundation for virtual reality design and beyond. "
[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!]