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[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 look at evocative smartphone title Florence, the anniversary of Valve's Orange Box, and a Monster Hunter buddy team-up service.
BTW, a small change in my picks for this week. In general, I haven't really been reprinting preview or review pieces. But I realized that many of you would probably like to know about new games that are interesting! So I will be occasionally printing longer-form writing in those genres - this time, a review of Florence & a preview of Sea Of Thieves.
Until next time,
- Simon, curator.]
The Fire Fades: Dealing with the scourge of burnout in game dev (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Burnout. It's an imprecise term for a very specific, endemic problem in game development, one often (but not always) caused by the industry's proclivity for crunch."
Being Derek Yu: A Chat With The Creator of 'Spelunky', 'UFO 50' (Alan Bradley / Rolling Stone - ARTICLE)
"But when Derek Yu was making his first, tentative steps into game design, those figures were largely attached to huge companies, as often businessmen as creators, and the independent scene flourishing today existed only as some nascent chatter on some very niche websites."
The Rise of the Systemic Game (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"From Breath of the Wild to Watch Dogs 2, we’re seeing a boom in so-called “systemic games”. What does that mean, how do they work, and what makes them tick?"
Alt.Ctrl.GDC Showcase for GDC 2018 (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: Am so looking forward to playing all these alternative controller games on the show floor at GDC - I also get to judge them for the special alt.ctrl.GDC award we give out during the IGF Awards! But the interviews are worth checking out even if you can't try the games in person.]"
Sea of Thieves is huge, fun, and just what the Xbox One needs (Tom Warren / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"I’ve spent hours pretending to be a pirate, eating bananas in a peculiar fashion, smiling until I cried, and getting drunk to the point of dizziness — all with the help of an Xbox controller. British video game developer Rare, creator of classics like Battletoads, GoldenEye 007, and Banjo-Kazooie, has moved in a new direction with the upcoming pirate game Sea of Thieves."
How Limbo & Inside Use Tone to Create Space (Dan Root / YouTube - VIDEO)
"It's not often a game eradicates colours to focus on another aspect of design. Let's look at how Playdead's Limbo & Inside do this."
Keep playing, keep paying: Ubisoft seeks games with “longterm engagement” (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"An accompanying quarterly report Powerpoint presentation helps explain just why these long-lasting "live" games have become the company's primary concern. While "traditional" games tend to maintain only 13 percent of their revenue into their second year, "live" games bring in 52 percent of that first-year level into year two, according to Ubisoft's data. [SIMON'S NOTE: Ubisoft is being very explicit about what is _the_ trend for large console game companies right now.]"
Sex, Pong, And Pioneers: What Atari Was Really Like, According To Women Who Were There (Cecilia D'Anastasio / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Back in 1973, Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” was blaring from the PA in a California warehouse as two dozen women in flared jeans assembled Pong circuit boards. The smell of corned beef and marijuana wafted down the manufacturing line. Orders for Atari’s landmark table tennis video game were still pouring in on the crisp October day when Elaine Shirley first giddily entered the warehouse to join the all-woman crew of Pong cabinet-stuffers."
84: THE SECRET MEMBERS-ONLY BAR FREQUENTED BY FAMOUS ARTISTS, MUSICIANS, and NINTENDO EMPLOYEES (Kanae Nakamine / Tofugu - ARTICLE)
"Well, this is awkward. Recently, Koichi and I went to the bar "84" (pronounced hashi), a bar known in some circles as "the Mecca of Nintendo fans." People search for years trying to find this place, almost always with no success, but we were lucky. And, when we thought about our Nintendo mega-fan co-worker Michael, we felt even more like we didn't deserve going here. Oh well!"
The Ambitious Music of Tim Follin | Punching Weight (Stop Skeletons From Fighting / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Today on Punching Weight we wanted to celebrate a prolific, yet obscure video game composer: Tim Follin. He's composed some of our favorite retro video game music, from Silver Surfer to Rock 'n Roll Racing, and always managed so we decided to take a closer look at his career. [SIMON'S NOTE: OMG, I'm a gigantic Tim Follin fan and even ran a Tim Follin fanpage in the early '00s!]"
Florence's Unique Gameplay Captures the Daily Trials of Being in a Relationship(Caty McCarthy / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"Florence, the new game by the studio Mountains from Ken Wong (the lead designer behind Monument Valley), shows this side of love too, and then some. Florence is an interactive comic on iOS about love, life, and everything in-between. As a game, its interactions are minimal, from dragging a toothbrush back and forth to matching numbers at the main character's mundane accounting job."
Absolutely No Pressure: Continuing a Successful Game Series with Civilization VI(Ed Beach / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2017 GDC session, Firaxis Games' Ed Beach looks in depth at several of the key subsystems in a Civilization title and review what design changes were adopted (or abandoned) for each one."
Road to GDC: The Power of Helplessness in Video Games (Florent Maurin / Rolling Stone - ARTICLE)
"Why do we play video games? This is a complicated question, to which there's more than one answer. You may be attracted to the idea of slowly getting to master an intricate system of rules. You may crave for the almost intoxicating feeling you get when roaming through an open world."
Behind The Sunless Scenes (Tom Phillips / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Eurogamer was alerted to the upcoming layoffs and complaints of poor management at the studio several weeks ago, and over the past month I have spoken with around a dozen Failbetter staff, past and present, both before and after the company made its public announcement. These claims have found voice in Failbetter's former boss Alexis Kennedy..."
New Year’s Discussion with Sakurai, Ueda, and Kamiya (Famitsu / Sourcegaming - ARTICLE)
"For their first issue of 2018, the Year of the Dog, Famitsu held two conversations with two trios of developers who were born in other Years of the Dog, 1970 and 1982. Here’s a full translation of Team 1970’s talk, with Fumito Ueda, Masahiro Sakurai, and Hideki Kamiya. Read on to hear them discuss their earliest experiences with video games, their ambitions for 2018, and how long they plan to keep making games."
My Job Doesn't Exist Without the Support of Fans. How Much Do I Owe Them?(Patrick Klepek / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"These topics are always floating around my head, but became more pronounced after a recent incident on Twitch. On February 5, 2018, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds personality Dr DisRespect returned to streaming, and nearly 400,000 people tuned in to watch him mow down people—a new record."
Tone Control Ep. 20: Davey Wreden (Steve Gaynor / Idle Thumbs - PODCAST)
"A thirteen-foot-tall octopus named Edward Scissorhands rampages into your life and destroys everything you love. What do you do? If you're me, you interview him! This hellish creature, also known as Davey Wreden, is the creator of two of the most mind-bending indie story games in recent history, The Stanley Parable and The Beginner's Guide."
Adventure-Game Rock Stars Live in Conference (Jimmy Maher / Digital Antiquarian - ARTICLE)
"On August 24, 1990, CompuServe hosted an online discussion on adventure-game design which included Ron Gilbert, Noah Falstein, Bob Bates, Steve Meretzky, Mike Berlyn, Dave Lebling, Roberta Williams, Al Lowe, Corey and Lori Ann Cole, and Guruka Singh Khalsa. This is, needless to say, an incredible gathering of adventuring star power."
The Orange Box... 10 Years Later (Raycevick / YouTube - VIDEO)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: another excellent longform Raycevick video, this time on Valve's amazing game compilation, from back when they released lots of games themselves...]"
Being adopted by a Monster Hunter veteran is brilliant (Robert Purchese / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"I could be adopted. Not full-on adopted but Monster Hunter adopted. You see there's a service out there for timid Monster Hunters like me, who want to break into the series with the help of a friendly hand. A service offering personal mentors to coach people through the game."
[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 protected] 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!]