[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 design of Klei's Oxygen Not Included, a look at Nintendo's Arms, and much more.
Another early newsletter this week, since I'm off to Los Angeles for both PrE3 (Sony, Microsoft and Bethesda press events) and E3 itself. Always interesting to see what's going on with the massive games and platform holders at the show, even if the focus has drifted somewhat towards announcements and away from the LACC itself.
And in a 'winner take all' world, at least some of the games announced or showcased at the event will be multi-million sellers. (Not to be sniffed at, when it's difficult to burst through the insane mass of games jockeying for attention nowadays.) Until next time, and I'll try to have something for you despite E3sanity...
- Simon, curator.]
The Art Of Creating A Game (Brandon Martynowicz / CGSociety)
"My name is Brandon Martynowicz. I have been working in the game and film industry for the past 10 years, primarily as an Environment Artist. Recently I completed production as the Art Lead for the game: What Remains of Edith Finch... This article will be a high-level brain dump about how we, as a small art team, created the massive amount of content for What Remains of Edith Finch."
Building replayability into the intricate architecture of Tokyo 42 (Chris Priestman / Gamasutra)
"In the opening minutes of Tokyo 42, you’re accused of murder and have to flee your cramped flat with a stampede of bullets hot on your tail. Before long, you find yourself hustling to survive in the cloud-piercing heights of its futuristic city."
Level Design Workshop: A Narrative Approach to Level Design (Jolie Menzel / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC talk, Ubisoft's Jolie Menzel explains why a shared understanding of narrative gives a level designer a guide for everything from the pace of their level to an understanding for which assets should be placed where to tell a convincing story using physical space."
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."
The Art Of Everything (Laura Parker / California Sunday)
"On a recent Wednesday afternoon, David OReilly stopped by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to set up an installation of his new video game, Everything. OReilly — who, as a child in Ireland, dropped the apostrophe from his name, partly because it’s more visually appealing — was dressed entirely in black and white."
We Are Not Alone - Developers Respond To The 1000 Game Makers Thread (Joel Couture / IndieGames)
"After taking the time to speak to Steve Cook about the 1000 Game Makers Thread - a collection of gifs and links to unique, personal, and interesting games from around the world that Cook wanted to see supported, we sought out the developers who had been touched by his work."
Arms' Creators On Twintelle's Popularity And The Strange Lore Of The Game's World (Kyle Hilliard / Game Informer)
"Ahead of its release, we spoke with Arms producer Kosuke Yabuki and art director Masaaki Ishikawa about the game. We discussed a number of topics, like what it means to wake up with extendable arms one morning, why everyone is already obsessed with Twintelle before the game even is even out, and whether or not we can ever expect to see a cameo by Luffy of One Piece fame (we won't)."
The 50 Worst Games Of All Time (Miguel Lopez, John Davison, Simon Cox, Jody Macgregor / Glixel)
"We've all played games that are bad. If you've been a gamer for more than a few years, you've no doubt been exposed to your fair share of genuinely awful experiences – but which of them can be counted as the worst of all time? [SIMON'S NOTE: in general, I'm against 'worst' lists, but this one has some pretty obscure AND interesting games in there.]"
Activision Blizzard Aims for the Big Leagues (Michael Lev-Ram / Fortune)
"Activision Blizzard built a videogame empire around bestselling titles like Call of Duty and Warcraft. Now it wants to become the ESPN of competitive gaming. Will audiences play along?"
The Tyranny of Kawaii | Tokyo 42 (Toussaint Egon / Heterotopias)
"Of this we can be certain: the first, last, and greatest protagonist of cyberpunk is no “console cowboy”, but the city itself. Tokyo 42 understands this intuitively, its isometric perspective situating the genre’s debt to the lineage of modern architecture at the forefront of the player’s perspective."
Xbox Unleashed: Our deep-dive study of how millions use Xbox Live (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica)
"For three years now, Ars’ Steam Gauge project and the public sampling projects it has inspired (such as Steam Spy) have provided an important behind-the-scenes look at what kinds of games are popular on PC gaming’s most popular marketplace. Today, after years of work, we’re ready to unveil a new effort that similarly uncovers what’s popular among Xbox Live users on the Xbox One and Xbox 360."
Classic Game Postmortem: Sid Meier's Civilization (Game Developers Conference / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC classic game postmortem, Civilization creators Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley tell the story of how Shelley's background in board game design and Meier's history of sim game development blended together perfectly to create what is perhaps the biggest and longest-running strategy game franchise in the world."
The Story Behind Mass Effect: Andromeda's Troubled Five-Year Development (Jason Schreier / Kotaku)
"In 2012, as work on Mass Effect 3 came to a close, a small group of top BioWare employees huddled to talk about the next entry in their epic sci-fi franchise. Their goal, they decided, was to make a game about exploration—one that would dig into the untapped potential of the first three games. Instead of visiting just a few planets, they said, what if you could explore hundreds?"
Sunder - Interview with Rakuen developer Laura Shigihara (Sunder / YouTube)
"Sunder is joined by Laura Shigihara to talk about her new game, Rakuen, as well the development process of creating and releasing an indie game."
How Dangen Aims To Connect Indies With The Devs That Inspired Them (Cam Shea / IGN)
"Formed by a group of ex-pats who have been embedded in the Japanese games industry for many years – working at places like Capcom, Grasshopper Manufacture, Q-Games and Playism - Dangen is the latest small-scale publisher to emerge focused solely on indies."
Video Games Aren't Mindless - Or Heartless - Entertainment (Matthew Smith / Salon)
"In 1991 before I was even born, my father purchased a Super Nintendo Entertainment System for my older sister. That system spawned plenty of long play sessions of “Super Mario Brothers” and “Donkey Kong Country.” And while my sister regarded it more as a distraction than a marvel, I was entranced from the moment the 16-bit curtain rose."
We asked a landscape designer to analyse The Witcher 3, Mass Effect and Dishonored (Rob Dwiar / Eurogamer)
"Whether you're traversing an expansive open world, climbing crumbling ruins or sneaking between shadowy city corners, the landscapes and environments we see in games have never been better. Gone are the days of miracle-growing trees popping up at certain draw distances."
The Unusual Excellence Of Halo's Most Iconic Level (GB Burford / Kotaku)
"Soon to see its third re-release, Halo: Combat Evolved remains not only one of the best shooters ever made, but also one of the best video games. That's a pretty big claim to make, but Halo's got the levels to back it up."
Hirokazu Yasuhara - How to make a game "fun" (Digital Dragons / YouTube)
"There are so many fun games nowadays. And it is getting easier to make games by using various engines and tools. But it is hard to make them “fun” without game design, like as people can’t build high risen building without architecture. [SIMON'S NOTE: the codesigner of Altered Beast and Sonic in a rare design talk with my buddy Brandon Sheffield!)"
Layering challenges in Klei's survival sim Oxygen Not Included (Joel Couture / Gamasutra)
"With Oxygen Not Included, Klei Entertainment, developers of harrowing, sometimes-hilarious survival game Don’t Starve, tasks players with surviving in an even more inhospitable environment: outer space. Oxygen, minerals, water, entertainment, and a place to just exist within provide all new-challenges to players."
[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@example.com. 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!]