[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 how Bennett Foddy Got Over It, the crazy new(ish) ending for Desert Golf, and some (slightly) nicer loot box implementations.
Wow, I think we're FINALLY mopped up on the 'best of the year' round-ups from 2017 - there's some great leftover niche examples in here, from escape rooms to soundtracks to MMOs - and we're getting way into the 2018 spirit now.
Go click on all the links, and see you next weekend, folks!
- Simon, curator.]
The Gaming Dynasty That Began In A West London Flat (Harry Rosehill / Londonist)
"Living in a flat in west London in the early seventies, good friends Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson would while away the long evenings with their favourite hobby; playing board games. It was particularly niche back then, but somehow the two managed to turn their hobby into a million pound business."
Hellblade and Living with Psychosis | Sidcourse (Leonardo Da Sidci / YouTube - ARTICLE)
"In this episode of the Sidcourse, we take a personal look at Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice and living with psychosis. Video games are a unique medium and through it, developers are able to craft experiences that allow players to empathise with different situations. In recent years, it's been an incredible medium to address the topic of mental health."
In Search of the First Video Game Commercial (Kate Willaert / Video Game History Foundation - ARTICLE)
"Before Pong there was Odyssey, the first home video game console. When Magnavox released it in the fall of 1972, they encountered a number of obstacles in educating consumers about this brand new technology. Odyssey creator Ralph Baer recounted in his book, Videogames: In The Beginning. [SIMON'S NOTE: another VGHF Writing Fund product - go back VGHF today!]"
How do you do 'loot boxes' right? F2P MMO game devs weigh in (Alan Bradley / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"As much as recent high-profile stumbles have been monopolizing coverage, there are a huge number of smaller developers that have been doing loot boxes elegantly for a long time, and they often rely on them to keep the lights on and to continue development/support."
This Year In Videogame Blogging: 2017 (Eric Swain / Critical Distance - ARTICLE)
"Understanding 2017 needed no such effort. The violence against truth, knowledge and wisdom intruded into our lives on a daily basis. We are a site dedicated to spreading what pieces of truth, intelligence and wisdom on the medium of games as we can gather. The powers that be in 2017 seemed to be against those ideals."
The rise, fall, and rise of MDickie—or, how to be the best worst game developer(Chris Stokel-Walker / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Recently, Mat Dickie boarded a train out of London and came across a kid, face-down in a smartphone game, sitting in Dickie's ticketed seat. As the furious tapping played out in front of him, Dickie contemplated whether he should hassle this transit gamer or just find an empty spot elsewhere. The solution ultimately revealed itself when the developer got close enough to catch a glimpse of the boy's screen: Wrestling Revolution 3D."
Prey & Immersive Sim Design (Ricardo Bare & Raphael Colantonio) (Noclip / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Back in March we sat down with Ricardo Bare & Raphael Colantonio (who has since left Arkane) about the difficulty in designing immersive sims, and the long journey both they and the Prey IP took to get to this point."
Are arcade shooters really dead? (Matt Suckley / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"In June of last year, Housemarque launched an arcade shooter named Nex Machina. After years of Sony exclusives like Resogun, Nex Machina gave PC players their first taste of Housemarque's style of refined twin-stick shooter since The Reap came out in 1997."
Designer Interview: The aesthetics of frustration in Getting Over It (Alex Wiltshire / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Foddy’s own experience is illustrative of the continual tussle that plays in the heart of Getting Over Itbetween its willfully infuriating game design and human psychology. It’s a space in which a daunting situation causes you to choke, to fail to perform a move you’ve perfected in any other circumstance, and something Foddy has explored across such previous games as QWOP, CLOP, GIRP and Get On Top."
OSVOSTOTY 2017: Ryan's Picks (Ryan Paquet / Original Sound Version - ARTICLE)
"2017 flew by and was a very memorable year for game music, much like 2016! Personally, I am a huge film score fan, and have a deep appreciation for video game soundtracks that feature an orchestral sound. Not surprising my choice for game soundtrack of the year checked that box. [SIMON'S NOTE: all of the 'Soundtrack Of The Year' picks at OSV are very interesting.]"
The making of Supreme Commander (Graeme Mason / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"I interviewed its designer and coder, Chris Taylor, a few years ago to discuss this trailblazing game [Total Annihilation]; now we're chatting again, only this time to celebrate Total Annihilation's spiritual follow-up, Supreme Commander, released just over ten years ago."
Massively OP's 2017 Awards Debrief And Annual Recap (Massively Overpowered - ARTICLE)
"As we did in 2014, 2015, and 2016, today I’m going to recap our annual awards and other meta articles from the end of 2017. We gave out 19 formal awards this past year, all in addition to dozens of other recaps, roundups, listicles, predictions, bloopers, oddities, polls, provocations, and retrospectives. It was by far our biggest content dump to date, even bigger than last year! [SIMON'S NOTE: As I said on Twitter, Massively OP is super overlooked as an excellent documenter of today's MMO news and culture.]"
One Player's 21,000 Hole Quest to Beat the Seemingly Endless 'Desert Golf'(Patrick Klepek / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"This week, Luke Yagnow joined an elite club, becoming the second (known) person to beat Desert Golfing, a game not meant to be beaten. After four years of patience, somewhere between 300 and 400 hours of persistence, and help from the designer of the game, Yagnow has finally achieved his goal. There’s no more Desert Golfing to play."
Devs answer: What were the overlooked gems of 2017? (Alan Bradley / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"I reached out to devs in a number of different roles across the industry and asked them what overlooked games from 2017 they’d most like to highlight, and was rewarded with an excellent, diverse list of hidden gems."
2017 Golden Lock-In Awards (David Spira / Room Escape Artist - ARTICLE)
"We played and reviewed 258 room escapes in 2017. Our escape rate was 96.12%. That’s 10 losses, including one game that appears on this list. We traveled more than 58,000 miles in search of the finest escape rooms in the world."
Amid a rising tide of games, devs reflect on state of the Switch market (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"With so many positive claims coming from developers, it almost seems foolish for others not to develop for the Switch. However, with a new console comes new software needs, new controller concerns, new companies to deal with, and all kinds of other factors that devs will want to consider."
“The least-worst idea we had”—The creation of the Age of Empires empire (Richard C Moss / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"With a new Age game in development and a "definitive edition" reboot of the original just around the corner—and given our recent foray into the evolution of the entire real-time strategy genre—we thought it'd be interesting to dig into the history of this RTS series. After all, RTS games like Age have introduced millions of impressionable youths to the delights of... well, history."
Polygon’s 2017 Year in Review: video game essays from designers, authors and critics (Chris Suellentrop / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"For a week, Polygon asked me to bring my fantasy universe to the real one. We’ve invited a few of our favorite game developers, and a few of my favorite game-playing writers, to reflect on the games we played in 2017. Happy New Year! [SIMON'S NOTE: this is a stellar series of articles, so I'm linking them all: Cara Ellison (Dreams) on What Remains of Edith Finch ; Ian Dallas (What Remains of Edith Finch) on Super Mario Odyssey; Charles Yu (novelist and Westworld writer) on Universal Paperclips and Subsurface Circular ; Virginia Heffernan (Los Angeles Times columnist) on Everything; Charles Webb (Mafia 3) on Nier: Automata; Ken Levine (BioShock) on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; Ana Marie Cox (With Friends Like These podcaster) on BioShock Infinite in the Trump era; Jacob Solomon (XCOM) on Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle; Halley Gross (The Last of Us Part 2) on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds; Steve Gaynor (Gone Home) on Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus; Meg Jayanth (80 Days) on Butterfly Soup and Dream Daddy; Amy Hennig (Uncharted) and Sean Vanaman (Firewatch) on making games in 2017."]
Star Citizen, I am disappointed (Robert Purchese / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"tar Citizen is a bit like an Instagram account: what you see looks amazing but the reality is hollow. As it stands, at major milestone alpha 3.0, Star Citizen does not convince as a game. But as a picture-postcard-maker - as a demonstration of technology - it's virtually peerless."
Running a Kickstarter project that’s late (Matej 'Retro' Jan / Retronator - ARTICLE)
"It’s been two and a half years since I launched my project Pixel Art Academy on Kickstarter. Anyone that runs a campaign has to set an estimate for delivery of the rewards. I estimated mine for September 2016. It’s 2018 now, and I’m nowhere near done."
Keiichi Tanaka explores the history behind Nintendo’s now-legendary “MOTHER”(Keiichi Tanaka / Denfaminicogamer - ARTICLE)
"In this column, author Keiichi Tanaka talks with game creators of the 80s and 90s whose excitement and occasional excess helped shape the industry in its adolescence. Episode 5 focuses on Shigesato Itoi, creator of one of the Famicom’s finest RPGs: “MOTHER”. [SIMON'S NOTE: an artful cartoon, even!]"
Classic Tools Retrospective: Tim Sweeney on the first version of the Unreal Editor(David Lightbown / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"The first article in this series was an interview with John Romero about TEd, the Tile Editor he created at Id Software, that went on to ship over 30 games. For the second article, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to Tim Sweeney about the first version of the Unreal Editor, or UnrealEd. We spoke at the Unreal booth during the GamesCom 2017 conference in Cologne, Germany."
The Tired Old Hack Alternative Game Of The Year Awards 2017 (Chris Scullion / Tired Old Hack - ARTICLE)
"Well, 2017 is finally coming to an end, and you know what that means: it’s time for every video game site to give its end-of-year awards. I mean, it would be if most of them hadn’t already posted their awards in early December so they could all enjoy well-deserved Christmas breaks."
[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 & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]