[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 Julian Gollop on Phoenix Point, the making of Typeshift & the SteamProphet contest.
Lots of interesting links this week - am particularly taken by the article on the tumultous community of Elite: Dangerous, which I thought was far less tumultuous than Star Citizen. (Well, it probably still is.) But it reminded me that when you make a game that's in a state of constant change, you'll get all kinds of views on its artistic direction - especially on the polarized Internet. Which can be tiring, and rough, but isn't a lot of the Internet? 'Til next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Giant Sparrow creative director talks about the freaky beautiful haunting of Edith Finch (David Nieves / ComicsBeat)
"What Remains of Edith Finch is developer Giant Sparrow’s (published by Annapurna Interactive) follow up to their critically acclaimed debut The Unfinished Swan. While the first game was a unique tale of an orphan boy who navigates a literal blank world by throwing paint everywhere. What Remains of Edith Finch is an eerie beautiful collection of stories about a cursed family house in the Pacific Northwest."
The Occupation and the perils of politics in games (Chris Priestman / Eurogamer)
"At 11.36am on March 22nd 2017, White Paper Games announced The Occupation with a trailer and a press release. Set in 1980s north-west England, it's a first-person narrative adventure that follows a journalist caught up in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that left 23 people dead."
Milwaukee's War on 'Pokémon GO' Could Change Tech Forever (Jordan Zakarin / Inverse)
"Even now, almost a year later, Sheldon Wasserman sounds surprised when he describes what went down in Milwaukee’s Lake Park last summer. “People are beginning to run across the streets, parking is absolutely overloaded, the police are now ticketing, food trucks are showing up,” the Milwaukee County Supervisor remembers."
Picture in a Frame (Amr Al-Aaser / Medium)
"I think a lot about how we frame things... It’s something that feels repeatedly relevant in games, a space where the practice of describing games as “x meets y” or “game x with twist y” is a common format for arriving at an explanation of a title."
Still Logged In: What AR and VR Can Learn from MMOs (Raph Koster / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC session, MMO designer Raph Koster talks about the social and ethical implications of turning the real world into a virtual world, and how the lessons of massively multiplayer virtual worlds are more relevant than ever."
Meet the superfans still playing Populous: The Beginning (Oliver Milne / RockPaperShotgun)
"So how come there’s still an active group of Populous players keeping the flame alive nearly twenty years later? I got in touch with some of the community’s longest-standing members to find out. [SIMON'S NOTE: this one's a bit old, but had no idea third parties got unofficial matchmaking running for the game.]"
RPG Codex Interview: Julian Gollop on Phoenix Point (Infinitron / RPG Codex)
"Phoenix Point uses willpower as a key stat. A character's willpower rating determines initial and maximum will points for a battle. Will points are spent on most special actions and abilities. Will points can be lost through injury, morale effects (such as comrades dying or facing a horrifying monster) and special enemy attacks."
The future is in interactive storytelling (Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Michael Mateas / The Conversation)
"Marvel’s new blockbuster, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” carries audiences through a narrative carefully curated by the film’s creators. That’s also what Telltale’s Guardians-themed game did when it was released in April."
How Zach Gage fine-tuned the difficulty curve of TypeShift (Rollin Bishop / Gamasutra)
"TypeShift, the latest game from acclaimed mobile developer Zach Gage, is part crossword, part anagram, and all puzzle. Rather than simply ask a player to solve a single jumbled word, or even several, TypeShift — which is available on iOS and Android — instead asks players to create any number of words out of several tiers of letters until they’ve used every single one."
How Final Fantasy 7 Revolutionized Videogame Marketing and Helped Sony Tackle Nintendo (David L Craddock / Paste)
"In late July 1997, Sony Computer Entertainment America buzzed with excitement. SCEA was in possession of Final Fantasy 7’s gold master discs, media containing finalized code. Over the next few weeks, they would undergo mass production—pressed to millions of CD-ROMs, packaged inside jewel cases, and shipped to stores in time for the game’s summer launch across Europe and North America."
The state of Elite Dangerous (Wesley Yin-Poole / Eurogamer)
"On 25th April 2017, Cambridge-based developer Frontier released patch notes for its two-and-a-half year-old space game Elite Dangerous. Buried within those patch notes, under the section "General Fixes & Tweaks", was a line that set the game's vociferous community alight: Farmed salt from the community for usage later."
Spaceplan - Based on a Misunderstanding Of Stephen Hawking (Scott Manley / YouTube)
"It's a 'make numbers go up' game with a bit of a space theme and potatoes, lots of potatoes, solar masses of tubers."
Classic Game Postmortem: Seaman (Yoot Saito / GDC / YouTube)
"In this GDC 2017 Classic Game Postmortem, Yutaka "Yoot" Saito speaks at length about his work creating 'Seaman', a game that left an indelible mark on the fabric of both the game industry and pop culture at large."
What I learned playing "SteamProphet" (Lars Doucet / Gamasutra)
"At least 249 indie games have launched on Steam in the past 13 weeks not including VR or F2P games. That's more than 30 games every week, on average. In their first month... 75% made at least $0, 10% made at least $1K-9K, 7.5% made at least $10K-49K, 2% made at least $50K-99K, 5% made at least $100K-999K, Exactly one made > $1M."
Knack 2 is an atonement (Colin Campbell / Polygon)
"Knack 2 director Mark Cerny is one of the most accomplished game developers of the last three decades, most especially in platform adventures featuring likable characters. From Marble Madness to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, from Crash Bandicoot to Ratchet & Clank, he's made his mark on a multitude of verdant, primary-hued worlds, where colorful critters boing and bounce."
Game Dev Insight: A Chat with BioWare Cinematics Lead Tal Peleg (Shinobi602 / Shinobi Speaks)
"I’m super happy to be able to share a nice chat I had with Tal Peleg, a Cinematics Lead at BioWare. His previous animation work includes a bevy of notable titles such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, Uncharted 4, The Last of Us and Dead Space 2 among others. "
Why is motherhood so poorly portrayed in video games? (Kate Gray / The Guardian)
"And games, you may be startled to discover, are not too great at portraying motherhood – though they seem to have fatherhood all figured out. Did you know that once you have a daughter you suddenly become aware that women are people, too? Who could have seen that coming?"
Ten Years Ago, Dead Or Alive Launched The Careers Of The Highest-Paid Women Pro Gamers (Maddy Myers / Kotaku Compete)
"Vanessa Arteaga had been playing fighting games since she was a child, long before she became one of the highest-paid women in competitive gaming history—but her tens of thousands in winnings still pale in comparison to the millions that her male peers have made in competitive gaming in the years since."
'Civilization' Creator Sid Meier: "I Didn't Really Expect to be a Game Designer"(Chris Suellentrop / Glixel)
"At GDC, Meier talked to Glixel for almost an hour with boyish enthusiasm about what makes Civilization work, why Firaxis turns to a new lead designer with almost every sequel, and that whole thing with having his name on the box."
Jeff Kaplan reveals the Overwatch Balance Triangle (Here's A Thing / Eurogamer / YouTube)
"On this week's episode of Here's A Thing, Chris Bratt talks to Overwatch game director, Jeff Kaplan about the 'balance triangle' his team uses when thinking about hero design."
How Inside’s levels were designed (Alex Wiltshire / RockPaperShotgun)
"Playdead don’t design games in the same way that other studios do. They’re the result of a process where nothing is written down. There’s no script and no design document. No member of the team owns any aspect of what they make and what will go into the final game. Everything is up for change."
Why This Very Queer Strategy Game Downplayed Its Queerness While Crowdfunding (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint)
""Essentially the game comes out to the player—if they notice, and not everybody does," said All Walls Must Fall programmer Isaac Ashdown, who lives in Berlin with his husband. "The fact is that the game isn't really 'about' being queer, but it's set in Berlin nightclubs, and those can be pretty queer spaces.""
These are the developers creating new games for old consoles (Andrew Webster / The Verge)
"If you want to play Dustin Long’s most recent game, you’ll need a console that was first released more than 30 years ago. As a young musician in New York, Long found himself drawn to the chiptune scene, where artists craft sounds using classic gaming hardware."
Burn The Bikini Armour: Actionable Tips For Better Character Design (Victoria Smith / Play By Play)
" By taking a look at the worst and best of costume design in games - as well as primary sources and the basics of visual design - you can elevate your character designs and create something truly unique. Nobody wants to appear on the Worst Dressed list, so why should your game characters be any different?"
I Paid Women To Play Overwatch With Me, And It Was Fantastic (Cecilia D'Anastasio / Kotaku)
"Earlier this week, on Fiverr.com, I selected Biu’s “Basic” package which, in exchange for $5, granted me her company for five Overwatch games. In her profile’s image, a helicopter selfie, Biu is wearing a t-shirt with Zelda’s Link and sticking out her tongue."
Designer Interview: Crafting Flinthook's hookshot wasn't easy (Alex Wiltshire / Gamasutra)
"There are many ways to express the concept of throwing out a line from a player character that attaches to a surface, something that’s familiar to many first- and third person 3D games, from Ocarina of Time to Spider-Man 2. But the hookshot is curiously underused in 2D platformers. Tribute Games’ new action platformer, Flinthook, might give some pointers as to why. Not because Flinthook isn’t good. Quite the opposite, in fact."
[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!]