[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 history of Nolan Bushnell's Chuck E Cheese arcade restaurants, the backstory of Fallen London, and lots more.
Just a quick update this week, because I have to pop out of town for the weekend, but a small anecdote. I was consulting a very nice lawyer on something this week, and everything went great.
But on the way out - he knows I work around games - he said 'Just one thing - how do I get a NES Classic?'. Sigh - supply and demand fail on the highest scale, there. :P
- Simon, curator.]
Game Freak Is More Than Just A Pokémon Developer (Brian Ashcraft / Kotaku)
"Game Freak is best known for one thing: Pokémon. But while they created the iconic franchise, Game Freak isn’t afraid to let its developers get their sea legs making non-Pocket Monster games on non-Nintendo hardware. That’s why, in the past few years, Game Freak has released a number of totally original titles on platforms you might not expect."
Fostering VR teamwork in 4-player Star Trek Bridge Crew (Phil Hornshaw / Gamasutra)
"As a Star Trek fan, it’s hard not to get excited about the chance to slip on a virtual reality headset and find yourself manning a station on the bridge of a starship. That’s what Star Trek Bridge Crew offers players, at least at first."
Clark Tank: Steam trading card changes, Steam Prophet, and Dead Cells! (Ryan Clark / YouTube)
"Every second Friday at 1pm Pacific time we stay on top of the latest game industry trends by examining the Steam top 50, scrutinizing the latest Kickstarted games, and by playing the most prominent recent releases. Huge thanks to Ed Freitas taking the original stream and editing it down to create this video! [SIMON'S NOTE: thanks to Ed & Ryan for switching to the most recent streams for the Twitch to YouTube concatenated versions!]"
The Hunger Artists | Little Nightmares (Zach Budgor / Heterotopias)
"Svankmajer was on my mind as I played Tarsier’s Little Nightmares, a macabre platformer about Six, a young girl making her way through the knotted bowels of a steamship called the Maw."
Failure to Fame: How Dishonored Saved Arkane Studios (GameSpot / YouTube)
"In part 1 of a 3-part series, Arkane discusses their struggles to find success for 12 years, how Dishonored propelled them into the limelight, and helped revive immersive sim RPGs. [SIMON'S NOTE: Also see Part 2 & Part 3 of a v.neat series.]"
PlayStation U.S. boss reflects on birth and rebirth of PlayStation (Brian Crecente / Polygon)
"In 2014, riding high on the successful launch of PlayStation 4 and a surprisingly positive, surprisingly unanimous reaction to its E3 showcase the year before, Sony made an unexpected announcement. Jack Tretton, the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America and in many ways the face of that success, was stepping down."
Racing against collector creep (Jeremy Parish / Retronauts)
"Contrary to many recent alarmist reports I’ve seen recently, Tokyo’s retro game stores aren’t completely a desolate wasteland of empty shelves. A few spots in nerd destination Akihabara definitely do have a sort of post-apocalyptic feel to them, but that really only holds true for the the heavily trafficked ones that everyone picks over… primarily Super Potato, and to a lesser degree the Mandarake Galaxy shop in Nakano."
The Casual (but Regal) Swipe: Creating Game Mechanics in Reigns (Francois Alliot / GDC / YouTube)
"In this GDC 2017 session, Nerial developer Francois Alliot explains how the Reigns development team gave themselves a set of constraints defined by the swipe-based gameplay they were exploring to help create the tone they wanted to give to the game."
Robots, Pizza, And Sensory Overload: The Chuck E. Cheese Origin Story (Benj Edwards / Fast Company)
"In May 1977, a new pizza place opened for business in San Jose, California. At the time, calling it “unique” might have been an understatement. The brainchild of Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell - and, initially, an arm of that company - it featured entertainment provided by a cast of robotic characters led by a giant cigar-smoking rat with a bowler, buck teeth, and a Jersey accent."
The Complete, Untold History of Halo (Steve Haske / Waypoint)
"Somewhat ironically, Halo began from a strategic position, rather than being mapped from the outset as a shooter. The project evolved spiritually as a kind of outcropping from the clotted battlefields of Bungie’s 1997 tactical game Myth, trading a Braveheart aesthetic for more of a Starship Troopers vibe, and then rendering everything in anthill 3D."
Design Q&A: Crafting the heroes of Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm (Bryant Francis / Gamasutra)
"We wanted to learn a little more about how Heroes of the Storm tweaks and rebalances characters from other franchises and genres. Luckily, Kent-Erik Hagman, lead hero designer on the game, was willing to talk us through the process of conceptualizing, designing, and refining three heroes that show how Blizzard has put its own stamp on the MOBA genre."
Remodeling The Labyrinth (Jeremy Antley / First Person Scholar)
"In October and November of 2010, thousands of copies of GMTs Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001-? made their way from warehouses in California to distributors and customers around the world. Focusing on the contemporary conflict known as the Global War on Terror, Labyrinth stood in contrast to standard historical fare offered to commercial wargame enthusiasts: conflicts in which dozens, if not hundreds, of years spanned the gulf between player and subject."
Finding Duskers: Innovation Through Better Design Pillars (Tim Keenan / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC talk, Duskers creator Tim Keenan explains how his development process focused on building emotional states rather than features, refining the game's vision through experimentation, and building a clear player fantasy."
Internet Trends 2017 (Mary Meeker / Kleiner Perkins / CODE Conference)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: this gigantic 355 page .PPT is awaited every year for the depth of its data analysis, and it's interesting this year that there's a big chunk about video games, starting at Slide 80. Some interesting data, some interesting - if perhaps debatable - comparisons of game features and tech innovations, and lots more!]
The Story of Runic Games | A Gameumentary Short Doc (Gameumentary / YouTube)
"Gameumentary presents our debut short documentary, The Story of Runic Games. For the past few months, we've been working hard on this video, from our initial pre-production meetings last year, to our principal photography out in Seattle this past March, to the editing and tweaking that we've done just this past week--we've put everything we have into this short-doc."
Analysis: The Consequences of Reducing the Skill Gap (Core-A-Gaming / YouTube)
"My best attempt at explaining what's going on with Street Fighter V's direction."
Breaking Out of Prey’s Glass Box (Chris Priestman / Bullet Points Monthly)
"Break through the glass—this is Prey’s first lesson. To escape the counterfeit reproduction of Morgan Yu’s apartment you must introduce a wrench to the windows. The glass shatters on impact to leave an irregular shape, cut in jagged lines, tearing a hole into the otherwise convincing simulation of a city held within the windows."
Overwatch’s loot box system is Blizzard’s true masterpiece (Nick Statt / The Verge)
"More than anything, the anniversary event illustrates why Blizzard’s business model for Overwatch is such a successful departure for multiplayer shooters — and how it could become the gold standard going forward."
The Killer Groove: The Shadow AI of Killer Instinct (AI & Games / YouTube)
"In this video we take a look at the Shadow AI mode released in season 2 of the 2013 Killer Instinct reboot. The shadow system is capable of replicating a players performance in a non-player character after only three matches in the shadow dojo. We take a look at how this system records and acts upon data, but also the challenges faced in creating fighting game AI."
'Fallen London' and the secret to writing an infinite gothic game (Jessica Conditt / Engadget)
"Writing a video game is nothing like penning a novel. But writing a never-ending, nonlinear, text-driven video game about a hellish alternate London stuffed with gothic intrigue and nearly a decade of backstory? That's a different beast altogether."
[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!]