[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 behind-the-scenes on Hidden Folks, an interview about the Coin-Operated Americans book, interviews from E3, and much more.
Well, am back from Los Angeles, attending E3, which was - well - not that different that anyone might expect. Lots of hype and excitement for large AAA games, most of which do have guns all over them (looking forward to more Tim Rogers dispatches like this from Kotaku!), a somewhat overcrowded E3 itself thanks to the consumer influx, and enough games for everyone to be excited about at least one.
For me, that Super Mario Odyssey trailer was enough for me to pre-order the game to play with my son - and finally work out how to get a Switch, which is coming in a couple of weeks. [Sidebar: it's actually a bit crazy how much Nintendo was being counted out by many - including perhaps me. Then, whomp, two games later (new Zelda, new Mario) they're the belle of the ball again.]
But that's why E3 works as high drama, soap opera, and metacommentary hub of the year for video games - we've all got a hot take, and hot takes are king. (Also why there's not a GREAT deal of E3 coverage in this week's VGDC, heh. Not that we're 'hot take allergic', but you can get that on YouTube & Twitch right now in real-time if you'd like.) Anyway, 'til next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Developer Q&A: Balancing storytelling and player choice in Prey (Alex Wiltshire / Gamasutra)
"Talos-1 runs on eels. This large space station, setting to Arkane Studios’ recently released emergent sim Prey, deals with its residents’ effluent by sending it to large vats where it’s consumed by the things."
Nintendo of America Boss Fils-Aimé On Comebacks, the Future of the DS and Surviving the Wii U (John Davison / Simon Cox / Glixel)
"It's almost exactly a year since we last spoke with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé at E3 2016. On that occasion he was standing fifteen feet above that Disney-like Nintendo E3 booth, which was dedicated solely to the forthcoming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild."
Why 'Super Mario Maker' Didn’t Kill the Mario Hacking Community (Jess Joho / Motherboard)
"Yet, playing hyper-polished feats of design like Super Mario Maker leave some longtime fans of the franchise nostalgic for the days of janky programming, kill screens, and brutal challenge. That's why the heroes of the Super Mario World (SMW) ROM hacking community remain stubbornly alive, even long after the release of an official Nintendo Mario level creator."
Coin-Operated Boys: An Interview with Carly Kocurek (Dan Royles / Nursing Clio)
"Carly Kocurek’s Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade (Minnesota, 2015) examines the origins of modern video game culture in the “classic” arcade era, spanning the release of Pong in 1972 and the industry’s first major collapse in 1983. She traces the formation of the “technomasculine” during that period, as the arcade became increasingly defined as the province of young men."
How we make a game called Hidden Folks (Adriaan de Jongh / Imgur)
"Hey there! I'm Adriaan, one of the two developers behind Hidden Folks, a game for smartphones and computers in which you search for hidden folks in hand-drawn, interactive, miniature landscapes by unfurling tent flaps, cutting through bushes, slamming doors, and poking crocodiles!"
Offworld Trading Company: An RTS Without Guns (Soren Johnson / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 Game Developers Conference talk, Mohawk Games' Soren Johnson dives into strategy game history to explain how he and his team developed Offworld Trading Company, a strategy game with little combat."
These Maps Reveal the Hidden Structures of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Books (Sarah Laskow / Atlas Obscura)
"Reading a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book can feel like being lost in a maze and running through twists and turns only to find dead ends, switchbacks, and disappointment. In the books—for those not familiar with them—you read until you come to a decision point, which prompts you to flip to another page, backward or forward."
A Falconer Enters the World of Video Games (Simon Parkin / New Yorker)
"The story of how Nricco Iseppi, a master falconer, came to Riot Games has, among the company’s staff, acquired the malleability of myth. According to one scriptwriter, it began when Riot had an orange grove planted on its multimillion-dollar campus, in Los Angeles, a place already bristling with perks and mod cons."
Interview: “Rez” creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s unusual life evolves humanity (Staff / Denfaminicogamer)
"One midnight, during an internal office chat at the Denfaminicogamer editorial department were the words “They’re crazy.” This was right at the end of 2016 after PS VR was released. As it were, the editorial departments odd excitement resulted in an impulsive interview about VR Contents “Rez Infinite” at the end of last year. This article is a written version of that insane seven hours interview. [SIMON'S NOTE: the translation isn't perfect, but this interview is AMAZING - you rarely see Japanese creators asked historical questions in this kind of depth.]"
The Garden Ages | Myst series (Sam Zucchi / Heterotopias)
"How do the linking books in Myst read? These books are, in-universe, written out in the alphabet and language of a dead civilization. The text details the world that the writer wishes to visit: an island is described, its qualities delineated in some detail, and a linking pane appears on the first page, ready to literally transport the reader to the object described."
The RPG Scrollbars: In search of urban fantasy (Richard Cobbett / RockPaperShotgun)
"There’s a real urban fantasy gap in the gaming industry, and it’s never made much sense. We see a thousand Tolkienesque fantasy games a minute (rough napkin calculation) and the future’s typically so bright, even the lens flares need shades. Yet when it comes to that line where the mundane meets the magical, mostly what we’ve had for the last few years is false hope."
E3 Was Different This Year, And It Wasn’t Just The Crowds (Nathan Grayson / Kotaku)
"It’s the first day of E3. I’m walking the show floor—or more accurately, oozing across it, slug-like, followed by a trail of my own sweat. I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with swathes of people. Across the way, crowds of people whoop and holler, each of them hoping to win swag they can stuff in their floor-length swag bags. 15,000 new people are in attendance this year. [SIMON'S NOTE: one of the most considered of the 'what's up with E3 this year?' articles.]"
7 examples of accessibility design that developers should study (Richard Moss / Gamasutra)
"Games are for everyone. And in recognizing this, ever-increasing numbers of developers are making a point to incorporate more accessibility features and options like remappable controls, configurable subtitles, resizable HUDs, and more."
The big interview: Xbox boss Phil Spencer (Wesley Yin-Poole / Eurogamer)
"It was with all this in mind that I sat down with Xbox boss Phil Spencer at the Galen Center in Los Angeles to talk Xbox One X. At £449, I'm not sure who the console is for ("there is a customer out there who's looking for the premium experience"). I fear for Microsoft's first-party studio setup ("I do think we have an opportunity to get better in first-party")."
The State Of Virtual Reality (Brian Crecente / Polygon)
"One could argue that the age of virtual reality kicked-off during last year's Game Developers Conference, an event that nearly coincided with the launch of two of the technology's most important head-mounted displays in recent history: the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive."
EA Boss Andrew Wilson's Vision of Gaming's Future Will Blow Your Mind (John Davison / Glixel)
"The intervening years were tumultuous and challenging. Changing the company to deliver on that vision was a bumpy ride, but now 10 years later, Wilson is eager to convey what the new Electronic Arts stands for, and its vision for the future of games. [SIMON'S NOTE: Much snark online for some of the 'vision' in this interview, particularly the Emily Dickinson bit.]"
Ex-Puyo Puyo producer reveals some of the classic puzzler’s earliest prototypes (Kishi / Retronauts)
"Last week, Compile founder Moo Niitani announced two previously unreleased works from the defunct developer’s glory days on MSX2 computers. Later this month, Dominon and Dominon X are both coming to Project EGG, D4 Enterprise’s prolific download service for old Japanese computer games."
Don't Change a Thing! The Challenges of Evolving Solitaire (Russell Carroll / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC session, MobilityWare's Russell Carroll shares the experience of updating Solitaire for a modern mobile audience, and what features they were able to update while grappling with intense resistance to any changes made to the core game. [SIMON'S NOTE: I've known Russell - who used to run indie site GameTunnel - for a LONG time, and this talk is as much about management philosophy as it is solitaire - it's super well-considered.]"
Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.) (Peter Suderman / Reason)
"Video games, like work, are basically a series of quests comprised of mundane and repetitive tasks: Receive an assignment, travel to a location, overcome some obstacles, perform some sort of search, pick up an item, and then deliver it in exchange for a reward—and, usually, another quest, which starts the cycle all over again. You are not playing the game so much as following its orders. The game is your boss; to succeed, you have to do what it says."
7 roguelikes that every developer should study (Stefanie Fogel / Gamasutra)
"With that in mind, we asked developers to name some of their favorite roguelikes - or games in other genres influenced by roguelike mechanics - and the lessons they can teach people today. And, many of these games are free and/or open source, which makes them easy to download, play, and study!"
[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!]