[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 a great GDC video about storytelling in Slime Rancher, the surprising plot of Human Head's canned Prey 2, and a 'design deep dive' into mobile standout Card Thief.
After being a bit thin on the ground in recent weeks, pleased to see that videos again make up about half of the picks for this week's VGDC. One of the points of curating this newsletter is to look beyond Let's Plays (although I've been very much enjoying BaerTaffy's Dead Cells playthroughs!), and so the larger, more contemplative analysis videos only pop up every few weeks. And at once, apparently! If you have YouTube channels that you think I'm missing, hit me up, and otherwise - enjoy the picks again.
- Simon, curator.]
Writing The Next Dragon Age (Tom Phillips / Eurogamer)
"Last September, Fallen London and Sunless Sea creator Alexis Kennedy announced his signing to a mysterious BioWare project - one which would see him working alongside Dragon Age mastermind Mike Laidlaw and lead Dragon Age scribe Patrick Weekes. To BioWare watchers, it was obvious what project the writer was joining."
Do Games Still Need Experience? (HeavyEyed / YouTube)
"Experience Systems are one of the cornerstones of gaming, but has the medium outgrown them? Let's talk about it."
'Far Cry 5' Is About Living Under Fear in America (Austin Walker / Waypoint)
"Pressure. Dan Hay, creative director and executive producer of Far Cry 5, is standing in front of a TV displaying the word pressure, written out in all caps. PRESSURE. He's telling a room of games journalists about the game he's wanted to make since the 2008 recession, one that engaged with the rise of rural, American militias during Obama's presidency."
Blizzard on hero design, balance, and the future of Overwatch (Bo Moore / PC Gamer)
"Overwatch is currently celebrating the anniversary in-game with a three-week commemorative event, featuring 11 new legendary skins, three new arena maps, a handful of balance changes, and a pile of other cosmetics. To mark the occasion, we chatted with game director Jeff Kaplan and principal director Geoff Goodman about the past, present, and future of Blizzard's mega-hit FPS."
Love, Peace, Revenge, and Crowdfunding: Keiichi Yano Raps With Us About Project Rap Rabbit (Jeremy Parish / USGamer)
"The rumored collaboration between Parappa the Rapper creator Masaya Matsuura and Elite Beat Agents designer Keiichi Yano came to light last week. Despite an awkward start for its Kickstarter campaign, the duo's venture—currently known as Project Rap Rabbit—nevertheless seems promising."
A Thousand Tiny Tales: Emergent Storytelling in Slime Rancher (Nick Popovich / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC session, Slime Rancher designer Nick Popovich explains how the slime's vibrant, unpredictable behavior is the game's "secret sauce", and how that behavior is crafted from surprisingly simple systems."
How Dr. J and Larry Bird Helped Build a Video Game Empire (Patrick Sauer / Vice Sports)
"This year, Electronic Arts celebrates its 35th anniversary. They might not have gotten there without the groundbreaking game 'One-on-One: Dr. J. vs. Larry Bird.'"
Inside Frank Cifaldi's Mission To Save Gaming's History (Ben Hanson / Game Informer / YouTube)
"In this excerpt from The Game Informer Show podcast, The Video Game History Foundation's Frank Cifaldi talks to Ben Hanson about the purpose and extreme challenges behind preserving as much video game history as possible before its gone forever. [ SIMON'S NOTE: I'm on the board of the VGHF, and it is 'a very good thing'. Please back us on Patreon, thanks!]
Designer Notes 27: Lucas Pope (Adam Saltsman / Idle Thumbs)
"In this [podcast] episode, Adam Saltsman interviews independent game developer Lucas Pope, best known for the immigration officer simulation Papers Please. They discuss how Naughty Dog taught him to mercilessly cut features, why it might be a good thing if Obra Dinn is bad, and how Adam has time to do these interviews."
An Independent Interplay Takes on Tolkien (Jimmy Maher / DigiAntiquarian)
"When Brian Fargo made the bold decision in 1988 to turn his company Interplay into a computer-game publisher as well as developer, he was simply steering onto the course that struck him as most likely to insure Interplay’s survival."
Veteran game developers reveal their childhood creations (Richard Moss / Polygon)
"When Oliver Franzke was eight years old, his parents bought an East German knockoff of the Commodore 64 called the Kleincomputer 85/4. He started to learn the programming language BASIC on it in between sessions on a friend's C64 playing LucasArts' adventure game Zak McKracken."
Gaming Through New Eyes (Dansg08 / YouTube)
"This is a short documentary about Toby Ott, a man who was born with Bilateral Anopthalmia, or in other words, without eyes. This didn't stop him from discovering the medium of video games, and his childhood interest grew into a lifelong passion. This is a whole new perspective on video games, from the imagination of someone who has never known what it is to have sight."
Reissues shouldn’t be limited to the hits we already know (Ryan Payton / Polygon)
"The act of preserving and appreciating the history of games doesn’t rest only on the shoulders of fans and journalists; platform holders and IP owners carry a unique responsibility to propagate games from the past."
7 Japanese RPGs game developers should study (Stefanie Fogel / Gamasutra)
"The Japanese role-playing game is one of the most enduring video game genres, and there are myriad good lessons to be learned from the classic JRPG formula. With that in mind, we reached out to some game makers and asked them to name some JRPGs that they believe all developers should study."
The cancelled Prey 2 had an incredible plot twist (Here’s A Thing / Eurogamer / YouTube)
"Chris Bratt investigates the Prey 2 we never played, sharing the game's plot twist, ending and unannounced features."
After Eight Years, One Developer's Dream Project Is Finally on Steam (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint)
"Eight years ago, Ben Johnson had graduated college and needed something on his resume. Johnson decided to make a game. The Australian programmer figured it would take a few months to make his mixture of Diablo, Grand Theft Auto 2 (the overhead one), and an obscure indie shooter named Soldat. It took much longer."
Why PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' Violence is Important (Writing on Games / YouTube)
"In this episode of Writing on Games I discuss PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds; one of the most meaningfully violent games I've played in a long time. Let's take a look at how the game's design forces you to examine multiplayer violence in a new light."
Game Design Deep Dive: Creating tension in Card Thief (Arnold Rauers / Gamasutra)
"Card Thief tries to create the experience of being a thief who sneaks into a castle, steals the objective, and escapes the building without being seen. While series like the original Thief or Metal Gear Solid have taken on the stealth genre mainly in the 3D space, I wanted to create a card-based version of the same concept."
Meet the dad who quit his job to run a Minecraft server for autistic kids (Luke Winkie / PC Gamer)
"The rules of Autcraft are simple. No bullying, no griefing, no stealing. There's a survival arena and a hide-and-seek minigame module, all under the watchful eyes of a small cabal of moderators. Stuart "AutismFather" Duncan is always a private message away."
Owlboy: The Motivational Power of Inspiration (Simon Stafsnes Andersen / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC session, D-Pad Studio's Simon Stafsnes Andersen talks about the 9-year development cycle of Owlboy and explains how the team was able to stay inspired working on one game for 9 years, and shares lessons to help developers stay inspired with their game ideas until they're complete."
Why do devs love Slack, and how do they get the most out of it? (Chris Priestman / Gamasutra)
"It seems like the majority of people working in or with small and middle-sized game studios and teams use the cloud-based chat app these days. Put a call out to game developers asking which of them use Slack and you will get a lot of responses."
[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!]