[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 a deep dive into Gorogoa, what went wrong in the making of Lair, and the concept of 'coziness' in games.
One note this week, because it's come up a couple of times - how do I pick the links I send out to y'all? Well, if I'm not favoring your piece or your outlet, it's really not that methodical - it's just articles and videos I come across on social media, Discord, Slack, and RSS feeds over the course of the week.
If I put together VGDC on a Saturday and I have less than 20 links, I do go to a list of 'good sites' to fill in the gaps, but I don't do that every week. So if you're not included this time, don't feel bad - the list is a bit more happenstance-y than you might think! I just cast a pretty wide net...
- Simon, curator.]
Designer Notes - Manveer Heir (Adam Saltsman / Idle Thumbs - PODCAST)
"In this episode, Adam Saltsman interviews independent game developer Manveer Heir, best known for his work on the Mass Effect franchise. They discuss the sunken cost fallacy and game development, why Mass Effect 3 would be a bad first game for a new developer, and when a game designer is like a baseball player and when it’s like a trauma surgeon."
Finer Points: How To Make Loot Boxes/Gachapon Not Suck (Sir TapTap / Sir TapTap - ARTICLE)
"Loot Boxes and Gachapon are all the rage these days; both the literal and figurative meanings of ‘rage’ in fact. While I frankly despise the practice and think they should absolutely never be in any game in almost any form, there’s a hell of a lot of ways they could be better and as a designer, it bugs me that even free Gachapons are usually done terribly. How can we make such an inherently abusive and exploitative mechanic better? Here’s all the considerations."
Jesper Kyd Documentary - Bound to Sound (Gameumentary / YouTube - VIDEO)
"During our recent trip to California, we took an extra day to go visit Jesper Kyd at his studio to get the footage we needed for our upcoming documentary on Darksiders. We ended up filming a full doc on him. This is the story of Jesper Kyd's journey to becoming a renowned video game composer."
Lair: What went wrong (Matt Paprocki / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"The approximately $25 million project, a game about dragons and fantasy warfare, took three years to develop, which included a yearlong delay. From faulty studio decisions, publisher strife and arguments regarding studio dynamics, Lair fought its way out from the studio that created it."
National Videogame Museum Tour + Behind the Scenes! (Frisco, TX) (Kelsey Lewin / YouTube - VIDEO)
"I genuinely enjoyed my visit to the National Videogame Museum and I hope this video is interesting for you guys! Huge thanks to John Hardie for the grand tour. [SIMON'S NOTE: This Randy Pitchford-financed museum from the Classic Gaming Expo crew is really rather good - if you're ever out in Dallas, go check it out!]"
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds – nihilistic, violent and the perfect game for our era(Keith Stuart / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"The island of Erangel is kind of beautiful. It has rolling hills and lush valleys, and there are little villages dotted along the coastlines. Just one thing, though. Everyone here wants to kill you."
The History of Sunsoft – Part V: The Golden Age Part 3 (Stefan Gancer / VGArc - ARTICLE)
"This fifth part focuses on the years 1990 and 1991. We are nearing the end of Sunsoft’s golden Famicom/NES era... I hope you enjoy this fifth part, and please look for my interview with Kenji Sada which will be published soon."
The AIAS Game Maker's Notebook: Christina Norman (Ted Price / AIAS - PODCAST)
"Christina Norman of Riot Games joins Insomniac Games' Ted Price to talk about League of Legends, game design, and how to foster a unique studio culture. Christina is a lead designer at Riot Games. In the past, she worked on the Mass Effect series as a senior programmer and lead gameplay designer."
Group Report: Coziness in Games (Various / Project Horseshoe - ARTICLE)
"Coziness is a common aesthetic in popular games such as Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, yet it is rarely discussed within design circles. Our group of designers did a deep dive to understand: What is ‘Cozy’? How do we make our games more cozy? [SIMON'S NOTE: this is part of multiple new reports from The Fat Man's ever-unconventional game design offsite in the Texas desert.]"
Interview with Jack Mathews (Darren Kerwin / ShineSparkers - ARTICLE)
"We are excited to be interviewing Jack Mathews, former Technical Lead Engineer on the first three Metroid Prime games. Jack discusses his time on the Metroid Prime Trilogy and highlights some interesting facts about their development."
How Gorogoa is a game about fitting things together (Alex Wiltshire / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"Gorogoa is a game about fitting things together. Fitting a detail in one image with a detail in another and see how it produces something new. And in making it, developer Jason Roberts found that making things fit was one of the greatest challenges he faced, whether those things were puzzles into the game’s tiles, sequences into its story, or details into players’ heads."
The video games industry isn’t yet ready for its #MeToo moment (Keza MacDonald / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"There is nothing inherently wrong with a journalist trying to dig up leads. It’s what we do. But on this topic, at this time, it is extremely misguided. Women do not want to be pressed to share their trauma."
Generation Tony Hawk: How a genre busting PlayStation game shaped the UK skate scene (Hannah Nicklin / Ready Only Memories - ARTICLE)
"It’s late summer 1999, I’m 15 years old and I’m hearing punk music for the first time. Eventually I’ll find my way through the genre amongst mislabelled Napster downloads, a 13-track capacity mp3 player, the tape-to-stereo jack in my older friend’s car, and Fat Wreck and Vagrant samplers handily filed under ‘P’ at HMV."
This 19-year-old Kiwi farmer accidentally became a character in a US board game(Max Towle / The Wireless - ARTICLE)
"Those who responded to Yoshiya Shindo on the boardgamegeek message board quickly worked out what had happened. A year-and-a-half ago, Kotahi-Manawa Bradford and his friend were messing around on Wikipedia and created a fake entry on the "Legendary Japanese Monsters" page."
Iconoclasts developer talks making a game that just 'feels right' (Gamasutra staff / Gamasutra - ARTICLE & VIDEO)
"Iconoclasts, out this week on Steam, PS4, and PlayStation Vita, is the product of developer Joakim Sandberg, who spent seven years tuning and tweaking the side-scrolling adventure game to his personal taste. The result is a game that's strikingly precise, and one that reflects the passions and interests of its sole developer."
#8: The Latest Male Idols to Sweep China are Imaginary (Magpie Kingdom / Medium - ARTICLE)
"Earlier this week, authorities shut down a slew of dating apps (and arrested hundreds of people) after it was revealed that the “sexy ladies” they were charging their customers to talk to were actually bots. Yet at the same time, hundreds of thousands of young women were knowingly spending money to talk to imaginary boyfriends — thanks to a mobile romance game called Love and Producer. [SIMON'S NOTE: Go subscribe to Magpie Kingdom's newsletter - there's VERY little good writing about Chinese games & culture in English, and this is a highlight.]"
How Monster Hunter Went From Japanese Phenomenon to Global Success (Nadia Oxford / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"Monster Hunter's enormous appeal as a social pastime is also one of the main reasons it failed to catch fire in North America until quite recently. Now, non-Japanese fans of the series are hard at work trying to woo new tribe members and make them feel welcome with a warmth that's not seen often enough in the gaming community."
How MidBoss encodes a player's game data in shareable 'death cards' (Jay Allen / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"When a MidBoss player finishes a run—usually by dying—they can post a "death card" with the circumstances of their death or transcendence to Twitter. The embedded image doubles as a save files to allow other players to replay from the same seed or salvage loot from the failed run, since all of the information is steganographically encoded into the PNG image file."
You Are Spending Too Long Making Games (Jake Birkett - Grey Alien Games - ARTICLE)
"It’s common to hear that a game has grossed $X and if that number is big it sounds impressive. But the reality is that, depending on the actual costs to develop that game, it might not have broken even yet, and might not ever do so!"
Accurate vs Useful Feedback in Rhythm Games (Nathan Scott / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Accurate feedback is not necessarily useful feedback."
Sierra at the Cusp of the Multimedia Age (Jimmy Maher / The Digital Antiquarian - ARTICLE)
"By 1990, life for the programmers and artists who made adventure games for Sierra On-Line had settled down into a predictable pattern. Even-numbered years were King’s Quest years, when the company pulled out all the stops to deliver a new iteration of their flagship series that incorporated all the latest technologies — that looked and sounded better than anything they had ever done before. [SIMON'S NOTE: Once again, spectacularly well researched.]"
2018 New Year's cards from around the Japanese gaming industry (8-4 - ARTICLE WITH PICTURES)
"Happy (belated) New Year... we’re back with another installment of our yearly tribute to the best “nengajōs” (New Year’s cards) from around the Japanese gaming industry! If you’re a nengajō newb, we forgive you; point your clicking devices and/or fingers here for a peek at some previous entries before diving into the latest batch of game industry goodness: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017"
[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!]