[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from curator/video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless, rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's highlights include Bennett Foddy on the pitfalls of perfectionism, a piquant analysis of Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, and lots more besides.
It's the 78th weekly Video Game Deep Cuts (without ever missing one!), and we finally made it over 1,000 subscribers, thanks to a reader linking the Ars Technica DMCA piece we linked last week & prominently plugging the newsletter - thanks for that.
A brief reminder - I'm Simon, I used to make demoscene music & design video games, now I help run GDC and Gamasutra (for my dayjob) & advise/invest in an indie game publisher and work with the Video Game History Foundation & MobyGames (for lulz), and I consume a LOT of video game media, digest it, and excrete it out in your general direction. Thanks for reading!
Until next time,
- Simon, curator.]
The state of iOS game development, according to the creators of Alto’s Odyssey(Samuel Axon / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Ars spoke with three key members Team Alto—creative director Ryan Cash, producer Eli Cymet, and designer/developer Jason Medeiros—about what's new in Odyssey, what iOS game development looks like right now, what implementing Metal support for the first time was like, how Android distribution differs, and more."
How Slay the Spire's devs use data to balance their roguelike deck-builder (Samuel Horti / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"So just how have Seattle-based Mega Crit managed to keep the game feeling so tight? And how do they approach the mammoth task of balancing a game this intricate? The key, developers Anthony Giovannetti and Casey Yano tell Gamasutra, is player feedback. Specifically, it’s about collating data on every single run and turning that into informed, specific changes to particular cards and enemies."
What Makes Celeste's Assist Mode Special (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Developer intention can often come at the expense of accessibility and player preference. In this video, I look at some recent games that have found a middle ground."
Weta Gameshop, Dr. Grordbort's Ray Guns and The Hunt For Magic Leap Gaming (Brian Crecente / Glixel - ARTICLE)
"If it weren’t for Magic Leap you might be playing a new version of Team Fortress 2 created by the Weta Workshop special effects artists behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy. [SIMON'S NOTE: big Weta fan here - I own several physical Dr. Grordbort's guns, haha - but it's going to be interesting to see how they make it work in AR, esp. given it's their first interactive game product.]"
Double Fine's indie publishing biz aims to grow and help devs 'rise above the noise' (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"It's been roughly four years since the debut of Double Fine Presents, the indie publishing business Double Fine has been loathe to brand an indie publishing business. Presents has been intriguing from the start: an indie game publishing program in all but name, run by an established indie studio with a history of getting burned by other publishers."
Bennett Foddy on the pitfalls of perfectionism (The Creative Independent / Kickstarter - ARTICLE)
"It’s better to put something out there that’s flawed and have people respond to it and criticize it and then come back to their criticisms with another piece of work than to try to sit and endlessly polish something until it’s completely beyond criticism."
DF Retro: Panzer Dragoon/Panzer Dragoon Zwei: Sega Saturn Masterpieces (Digital Foundry / YouTube - VIDEO)
"DF Retro takes a look at two genuine Sega Saturn classics - Panzer Dragoon and the phenomenal Panzer Dragoon Zwei. The technology, the ports, the art direction - these games are wonderful pieces of work worth celebrating today."
Road to GDC: I’m Not A Doctor, but I Simulate One in VR (Noah Falstein / Glixel - ARTICLE)
"We are moving into a future where games train our doctors, monitor our health, and treat our illnesses. It may seem a bit outrageous now, but if comic books led me into a career making video games and often become the basis of mainstream movies, why can’t video games inspire the next generation of doctors and become the basis of medical treatment?"
Into the Breach turns mech vs. kaiju battles into a game of sci-fi chess (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Into the Breach is a turn-based strategy game, along the lines of the Advance Wars series, where players control futuristic mechs fighting off an invasion of giant, bug-like alien monsters. It’s basically Pacific Rim crossed with XCOM, and it’s from the creators of the addictive spaceship simulator FTL: Faster Than Light. If any of those words sound appealing to you, you’re going to like Into the Breach a lot. [SIMON'S NOTE: my 'this is a review & you should really check this game out' link of the week...]"
Video Game History is Black History (Jeremy Saucier / Strong Museum Of Play - ARTICLE)
"Although Africans and African Americans have been (and remain) underrepresented in game development professions, pioneering black engineers and game designers such as Gerald “Jerry” Lawson and Ed Smith played important roles in the burgeoning video game industry. Working in Silicon Valley in the 1970s, Lawson led the team that designed the Fairchild Channel F (1976), the first home video game console with removable game cartridges."
How Augmented Reality Is Shaping The Future Of Play (Arielle Pardes / Wired - ARTICLE)
"If you ask 13-year-old Keanu Snyder what he wants for his birthday, he won't tell you about Nerf blasters or Playstation games. He’ll tell you all about augmented reality. Maybe a new shooter game that lets you zap digital targets around the house, or an experience that makes you feel like you're traveling the solar system like a galactic explorer. [SIMON'S NOTE: related - 'The AR & AI tech taking New York Toy Fair by storm'.]"
Let's talk about... violent video game research (Mark DeLoura / Gamasutra Blogs - ARTICLE)
"Politicians pursue these conversations because of the concerns they hear from their constituents. Moral panic about new technologies is not uncommon -- witness the flood of concerned articles about smartphone overuse, for example, or you can flip all the way back to Plato and read his concerns about the terrible impact learning to write would have on people's willingness to exercise their memory."
Predicting 2018 sales based on past data (Jake Birkett / Grey Alien Games - ARTICLE)
"Cash flow is super-important. I need to know how much money I can expect to earn from game sales, tax breaks and whatever else may come my way in order to know how much runway (months I can afford to pay myself to work) I’ve got... In order to predict cash flow for 2018, I looked at my 2016 sales and worked out how much revenue has dropped by in 2017. Then I used that drop to predict 2018 sales (see below). [SIMON'S NOTE: a very practical article for devs with a game catalog, but interesting stuff nonetheless...]"
EA Spouse, 14 Years Later: How One Person Tried Correcting EA Culture (Matt Paprocki / Glixel - ARTICLE)
"A minute past midnight on November 10th, 2004, Electronic Arts labor practices came under fire in a Live Journal post titled “EA Spouse.” In the weeks and months to come, the anonymous EA Spouse was found to be Erin Hoffman-John, author and wife of an EA developer. In the first full paragraph, Hoffman asks, “I have a good challenge for you: how about safe and sane labor practices for the people on whose backs you walk for your millions?”"
Three Short Arguments on The Secret of Monkey Island (Innuendo Studios / YouTube - VIDEO)
"The adventure game has long positioned itself as the genre that treats games as a storytelling medium in the same way the novel treats prose and film, television, and theater treat performance.... But The Secret of Monkey Island, what I’d argue is the most influential graphic adventure game ever made, has a theme. In fact, it has two. [SIMON'S NOTE: do not miss this, it's RATHER good - read the transcript if you have to.]"
Cave STG – 15th Anniversary Interview (Arcadia / Shmuplations - ARTICLE)
"This interview first appeared in the March 2010 edition of Arcadia magazine. While the machinations of Cave have been covered exhaustively on shmuplations, this interview still manages to have some new, meaty conversation about the design of Dodonpachi, Esp.ra.de, and Ikeda’s early days at Toaplan. [SIMON'S NOTE: Nice to see Shmuplations back after a looong hiatus.]"
Reimagining failure in strategy game design in Into the Breach (Alex Wiltshire / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"What’s in a failstate? For many games, from RPGs to tactics games, failure comes with the death of your characters. Your party might have met a sticky end in the bowels of a dungeon, or your fighters might have perished at the hands of mercenaries in a battle. Success, on the other hand, is getting them through unscathed. Into the Breach, the excellent new turn-based mech tactics game from Subset Games, developer of FTL: Faster Than Light, is different."
Where The Water Tastes Like Wine review - the joy of sharing stories (Edwin Evans-Thirlwell / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Created by Gone Home programmer Johnnemann Nordhagen in partnership with a scattered throng of writers, Where The Water Tastes Like Wine sees you wandering a rich yet desolate continent, collecting tall tales and sharing them so that they can prosper and mutate. The game's key thrill is of hearing a yarn you know well come back to you in a new, outlandish guise. [SIMON'S NOTE: another 'please read the review and check this game out' klaxon.]"
Tone Control 21: Meggan Scavio (Steve Gaynor / Idle Thumbs - PODCAST)
"Anyone who's been to GDC knows, it's a massive, vibrant, overwhelming, inspiring event. As a game developer, it's one of the most important weeks of the year-- and holy hell, it seems like a lot to manage, generally! So I spoke to Meggan Scavio, longtime General Manager of GDC (who's now moved on to be President of the AIAS, running the DICE conference instead) about her years helping to shape what GDC is, and how she came to run some of the biggest and most exciting game development events in the world."
Designing Florence to convey the ineffable feeling of being in love (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"“Florence is like a map of a whole relationship," says dev Ken Wong, creative director at Mountains. "Being able to find yourself on that map, or remembering that you once walked the same path and made it through, is reassuring.”"
The Story Behind the All-Woman Team Who Invented the Otome Genre (Anne Lee / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"Otome games can span thematic genres from samurai drama to sci-fi, and sometimes include RPG or simulation game elements. However, despite the fact that they have gradually gained popularity outside of Japan with titles such as Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom and Amnesia: Memories, there is little information in English about the ground-breaking development team that started it all."
The Secret Hunters Of Destiny (Jason Schreier & Kirk Hamilton / Kotaku - PODCAST)
"For the past few weeks, Kirk Hamilton and I have been producing a special scripted episode of Kotaku Splitscreen, our weekly podcast. It’s about the Secret Hunters of Destiny, a group of hardcore players who spent thousands and thousands of hours digging into the nooks and crannies of Bungie’s popular shooter. Since Destiny launched, the game’s intrepid Secret Hunters have found elation, disappointment, and plenty of exotic weapons."
[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!]