Some of the highlights include pieces on Nex Machina's intense gameplay, Shadow Of War's Nemesis system, & the latest Dishonored game's choices.
Barely managing to keep the 'every week' streak alive here on week 55 of the newsletter, due to a trip to New York immediately followed by our VRDC Fall 2017 event here in San Francisco - which went great, btw, pics here, write-ups here, & select talk videos to appear on GDC Vault & YouTube soon. But made it in the nick of time! And lots of goodness here.
'Til next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Raw Data devs share their missteps so you won't make them too (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra)
"Survios’ Raw Data has been one of the standout successes in virtual reality game design. But at VRDC Fall 2017 in San Francisco today, a pair of Survios devs took the stage to talk about how development went wrong along the way -- and what they’ve learned from the experience."
Space Lions - Shut Up & Sit Down's TI4 Documentary (Shut Up & Sit Down / YouTube)
"Today, we present a first for the board game industry. Please enjoy our amateur attempt at a documentary on the history of the game – which is really the history of Fantasy Flight Games – and the development of the new, shiny, 4th edition."
Build, gather, brawl, repeat: The history of real-time strategy games (Richard Moss / Ars Technica)
"At 25 years old, the real-time strategy genre remains relevant for its ideas and legacies. And with it deep in a lull, now is the perfect time to give it the same in-depth historical treatment that we've already given to graphic adventures, sims, first-person shooters, kart racers, open-world games, and city builders."
Game Design Deep Dive: Maintaining tension in Nex Machina (Henri Mustonen / Gamasutra)
""Instant action. Eliminate downtime as much as possible" was one of our guiding principles when designing the core gameplay. We wanted players to be immersed from the very start of the level and to keep the action ongoing. This meant we needed to cut as much excess fat as possible and figure out what was really necessary to get the feeling you are on the "knife's edge"."
The Enduring Influence Of Metroid (Andrew Webster / The Verge)
"Metroid, which debuted in 1986, would go on to spawn one of Nintendo’s most-revered franchises. The ongoing adventures of bounty hunter Samus Aran differed quite a bit from the company’s other big names, like Zelda and Mario. In comparison, Metroid was dark and solemn, with a looming feeling of isolation and a powerfully alien sense of place, inspired in large part by the first Alien film. [SIMON'S NOTE: Here's a bonus link - a new Nintendo.com interview with the Super Metroid creators!]"
Why Video Games Cost So Much To Make (Jason Schreier / Kotaku)
"Video game publishers are notoriously secretive about the budgets behind their games, but when a number does slip out, it can be shocking. Games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make, which is tough to fathom—until you do the math. [SIMON'S NOTE: of course, there are less and less game studios that can afford this burn rate, & more and more quality non-'expensive country' & bootstrapped games out there, making game market financials.... complicated right now.]"
The Violent Path Feels Damn Good in 'Dishonored: Death of the Outsider' (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint)
"With Death of the Outsider, an expansion to Dishonored 2 and possibly a conclusion to the series, I've completely flipped. Blood is on my hands, the body count has risen—and it feels good."
Infocom: The Documentary (Jason Scott / YouTube)
"As part of the 2010 documentary GET LAMP, director Jason Scott talked to creators, management, fans and academics about the Infocom story, and produced this 45 minute overview of this unique and wonderful company."
Death To The Author: killing creators in Dishonored, Portal and BioShock (Hazel Monforton / RockPaperShotgun)
"When we meet the creators of fictional worlds, we often want to kill them - whether its Bioshock’s Andrew Ryan and his deadly Rapture, GlaDOS and the sadistic test chambers of Portal, or Kirin Jindosh and the Clockwork Mansion."
Owlchemy shares lessons learned making Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra)
"A few months ago, Owlchemy Labs followed up its success with Job Simulator by releasing Rick & Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, a VR game that expands on Owlchemy's stock-in-trade ("pick up and play with things") while also incorporating elements of Adult Swim's hyper-popular animated show. [SIMON'S NOTE: the rest of our VRDC Fall 2017 session write-ups - plenty of neat stuff - is over here.]"
The iPhone X’s notch is basically a Kinect (Paul Miller / The Verge)
"Sometimes it's hard to tell exactly how fast technology is moving. "We put a man on the moon using the computing power of a handheld calculator," as Richard Hendricks reminds us in Silicon Valley... But Apple's iPhone X provides a nice little illustration of how sensor and processing technology has evolved in the past decade. [SIMON'S NOTE: some interesting game-related possibilities here if this tech gets into more phones!]"
Creating the Art of ABZU (Matt Nava / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC talk, Giant Squid Studios' Matt Nava offers insight into the unique art style of Abzu, and the processes that he and the team at Giant Squid developed to create it."
How Tomb Raider got lost in the wilds (Christian Donlan / Eurogamer)
"Have you heard of the North Pond Hermit? It's a wonderful story: strange and wistful. For 27 years a man named Chrisopher Knight lived in the wilderness of Maine, sleeping in a camp beautifully hidden amongst boulders and sneaking out, every few weeks, to steal supplies from the surrounding homes."
"You Are Not a Real Gamer" (Keza MacDonald / Kotaku UK)
"The first time someone told me I wasn’t a real gamer, I was at a friend’s birthday party when I was 10 or 11. At this point I was a nerdy little girl, probably at the height of my childhood obsession with video games. I’d been playing them for long enough to figure out what it was that so enthralled me about them, and had started writing little reviews in my school notebooks in the style of the games magazines I read religiously."
Upgrading the Nemesis system for Middle-earth: Shadow of War (Bryant Francis / Gamasutra)
"In Shadow of War, Monolith is upgrading the Nemesis system to tell more emergent orc stories. At PAX West this year, we were able to talk with design director Bob Roberts about how Monolith is upgrading its emergent narrative tech."
Beep: A Documentary History of Game Sound (Festival Cut) (Beep / Vimeo)
"No longer just the “ugly stepchild” of the games industry, Beep traces the history of game sound from the Victorian penny arcades through pinball and to today’s massive industry of soundtracks and live music."
15 Years Later, Looking Back on Animal Crossing's Sugarcoated Dose of Reality(Caty McCarthy / USGamer)
"In the world of Animal Crossing, you never want to upset resident mole Mr. Resetti. The only way to really rile him up is to turn off your game without saving. It loses your progress, as a consequence of course, but it also makes Mr. Resetti chew you out for a fleeting moment upon rebooting."
Gamasutra plays Ark: Survival Evolved with lead designer Jeremy Stieglitz(Gamasutra / YouTube)
"A few weeks ago, Ark: Survival Evolved left Early Access and launched into 1.0 on Steam, Xbox One, and PS4. We sat down with lead designer Jeremy Stieglitz to talk about the game's development process, and what he's learned about making games in Early Access."
Games on the Mersey, Part 1: Taking Scousers Off the Dole (Jimmy Maher / Digital Antiquarian)
"Once upon a time, the BBC played host to a half-hour current-affairs program called Commercial Breaks, which endeavored to document innovative businesses and emerging markets in Margaret Thatcher’s new, capitalist-friendly Britain. In April of 1984, Paul Anderson, one of the program’s stable of directors, began to shoot an episode about the computer-game industry, as seen through the eyes of Liverpool’s Imagine Software and Manchester’s Ocean Software. [SIMON'S NOTE: read all 3 parts of this - amazing stuff.]"
PUBG vs. Fortnite: A game-genre copycat face-off heats up (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica)
"It's inevitable: every time a wildly successful video game comes along, imitators quickly follow in its footsteps. The tradition began with Pong and Pac-Man clones, and that practice has continued on PCs, consoles, and smartphones ever since. "Homages" at best and "blatant ripoffs" at worst have always been a part of the game industry."
The state of the VR industry: devs weigh in (Rich Moss / Gamasutra)
"Virtual reality has had a shaky 18 months. After years of hype about the world-changing potential of its second coming (following a dud first wave in the 1990s), its poster child headset the Oculus Rift launched to a lukewarm reception."
[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 & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]