This week's highlights include the current fate of Michel Ancel's WiLD, a 'state of eSports' profile, Super Mario RPG archival interview goodness, & much more.
Well, we managed to get a ton of free GDC 2018 videos/presentations up on our GDC Vault website already, and now they're starting to post on the GDC YouTube channel, so if you'd like to watch things like the NieR Automata talk, the making of Night In The Woods, the Splatoon design postmortem, or death & A Mortician's Tale, you can go right ahead!
Oh, and am off to the Middle East on (non-video game related) business starting Sunday, so next weekend's roundup may be a little truncated. We'll seee!
Until next time,
- Simon, curator.]
'MLB The Show 18' Dreams of Escape from Politics, And Damn, It's Tempting (Rob Zacny / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"Yet the stakes involving that outside world are there, even as The Show 18 conjures the fantasy of turning away from them. There are the Houston Astros winning the World Series, three months after a hurricane inundated a city synonymous with the petroleum industry."
Muriel Tramis speaks about her career and the memory of Martinique (Phil Salvador / Obscuritory - ARTICLE)
"Muriel Tramis has a quiet but powerful legacy in gaming. As a designer and producer at French studio Coktel Vision starting in the late 80s, Tramis worked on about a dozen titles, like the puzzle series Gobliiins. But she may be known best for her socially charged games inspired by her family’s history on the Caribbean island Martinique, such as the colonial mystery game Méwilo and the incendiary slave rebellion game Freedom: Rebels in the Darkness."
How video games turn teenagers into millionaires (Bryan Lufkin / BBC Bright Sparks - ARTICLE)
"Alex Balfanz is an 18-year-old student at Duke University in North Carolina. Every day he has lectures or seminars, followed by assignments. Like many students his age, he devotes a couple of hours per day, and many more at weekends, to video games. But he’s not just playing them – he’s making them. And making a lot of money doing it."
Battletech arcades were decades ahead of their time (Lewis Packwood / GamesRadar - ARTICLE)
"Imagine an arcade filled with rows of rectangular pods. As you climb into one and slide the door shut, the only illumination in the otherwise black interior comes from a huge monitor and a cornucopia of blinking buttons. In front of you there’s a joystick and throttle, along with two foot pedals."
Competitive sniping game SpyParty finally hitting Steam after eight years (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"During last month's Game Developer[s] Conference, longtime coder and designer Chris Hecker invited me to a game demo event with a tidy premise. "We are going to talk about three things," he said as he began booting a six-year-old ThinkPad. I immediately laughed in response."
What Happened to 'WiLD,' Michel Ancel's Open World Game From 2014? (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"It’s been a little more than three years since Sony showed a trailer for WiLD, an ambitious open world survival game about—well, it wasn’t exactly clear, but it looked cool, and Beyond Good & Evil designer Michel Ancel was working it. For most people, you don’t need to hear much more than the name “Ancel” to get interested."
Twitch Isn't For Esports, It's For Streamers (Will Partin / Kotaku Compete - ARTICLE)
"The current esports boom began in part because Twitch offered a suite of viewing metrics that made it much easier for esports teams and tournaments to negotiate with sponsors. In turn, the growth of esports normalized the practice of watching videogames."
Know Your Inheritance (Soren Johnson / Designer Notes - ARTICLE)
"The most common thing to inherit, however, is game mechanics, usually from games in the same genre. For example, although Offworld Trading Company is an RTS, it’s notable for being one without units. However, we didn’t start there as we inherited from all the other RTSs before us – StarCraft, Age of Empires, etc."
Steam in 2017 (Sergei Galyonkin / Medium - ARTICLE)
"By the end of 2017, Steam had 291M that have played at least one game at least once. 22% of them joined in 2017, so if you were worried that Steam only appeals to the aging core demographics — it’s not. We don’t know the age distribution for sure, Steam has been adding more and more new users every year and is far from slowing down."
Iconoclasts (Spoilers) (Errant Signal / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Iconoclasts is a pretty neat game about shootin' things and solvin' puzzles and explorin' stuff. It's also a game about how roles and identities are built for you by society and how trying to conform or push back against those roles and identities can lead to suffering. Also: There are some really awesome boss fights. [SIMON'S NOTE: an excellent analysis video.]"
Indie game publishers are the new indie rock labels (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Double Fine Presents is part of a steadily growing wave of boutique indie game publishers that are changing this dynamic. The trend started with Devolver Digital, a sort of punk-rock label for games, that published titles like Hotline Miami and Downwell, and provided developers help without taking a big cut of sales or trying to take ownership of their game."
Helping players relate to the heroine of Night in the Woods (Gamasutra staff / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"A couple months ago, before Night in the Woods went on to take home the grand prize at the 2018 IGF awards, we spent an hour on Twitch chatting with co-creator Scott Benson about the game's origins and development. More notably, we were able to really dig into into the design of the game's feline protagonist, Mae, and what choices the Night in the Woods devs made to help players feel engrossed in her story. "
Exclusive Interview – Adam “Doseone” Drucker talks Score Wars and the Galaga Championship (Villordsutch / Flickering Myth - ARTICLE)
"This weekend the Internationally-renowned arts and entertainment group Meow Wolf is hosting Score Wars in Santa Fe. Its first annual live and live-streamed video gaming event and at this major event, in amongst the gaming records set to be broken is the Galaga World Championship, with the three main contenders arriving from New Zealand, Australia and the USA."
The Problems With Illegible Text In Video Games And Some Solutions To Fix Them (Gita Jackson / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Joe Humfrey, art and code director at game development studio Inkle, believes that the primary goal in designing text for video games is “making sure every word is effortless to read.” It turns out that making sure players can read and understand on-screen text is a more complicated task than you might think."
Selected Stories from the Days of Laura Bow (Duncan Fyfe / Campo Santo Quarterly - ARTICLE)
"To prevent piracy, the 1992 floppy disk version of The Dagger of Amon Raforced players to answer trivia questions about the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. The solutions were printed in the game’s manual. However, Campo Santo’s Claire Hummel can solve that copy protection puzzle in five seconds without even owning a copy of the game, and that’s why she’s the art director for In the Valley of Gods. [SIMON'S NOTE: also in this Campo Santo Quarterly, an excellent West Of Loathing chat.]"
Making a civilization-scale crafting system for Jason Rohrer's One Hour One Life (Alex Wiltshire / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"There’s no inventory in One Hour One Life. And yet this online survival game features grand total of 463 craftable objects. At least, that’s how many there are on the day this is being written. Developer Jason Rohrer is aiming to add another 9,500 over the next two years."
Why We Spend Real Money on Fake Clothes in Free Games (Rebecca Jennings / Racked - ARTICLE)
"[Fortnite] is free. That is, if you’re cool with playing as the random avatar that the game assigns you, which, as previously mentioned, I am not. And clearly, I’m not alone: Tons of Fortnite players are paying real money to transform their avatars into astronauts, teddy bears, sentient Roman statues, or simply cooler-dressed versions of themselves."
Far Cry 5 Review: Finally, A Video Game For Cowards (Joshua Rivera / GQ - ARTICLE)
"Every once in a while, a video game comes along that reminds you how thoroughly craven the medium can be. Far Cry 5, the latest in Ubisoft's long-running franchise about cathartic first-person chaos across exotic locales in the grip of charismatic villains, wants to tell you that it's swinging big. [SIMON'S NOTE: the 'it's controversial but it's totally not about politics' stance is tricky to perfect - but maybe Far Cry 5 did it?]"
Super Mario RPG – 1995 Developer Interviews (Family Computer Magazine / Shmuplations - ARTICLE)
"This October ’95 interview with Super Mario RPG director and then-Square employee Chihiro Fujioka sheds some light on the collaborative process and the division of duties between Square and Nintendo, with a particular focus on expressing the “essence of Mario” within the parameters of seemingly dissonant structures like isometric game maps and conventional RPG tropes."
Taxonomy of Fishing Mini-games (Davide Aversa / Gamasutra Blogs - ARTICLE)
"Fishing is probably the most common mini-game in gaming history. Before I started working on this article, I never realized how many games include fishing as mini-game. The list is huge. Fishing is everywhere. It seems that it is impossible to have a game without allowing the character to have a relaxing time fishing in a pond."
Of Mice And Men (Simon Parkin / 1843 Magazine - ARTICLE)
"The player enclosure at the Overwatch World Cup looks like a cross between the green room of a talk-show and a slovenly student apartment. A shantytown of brushes and wet-wipes clutters a line of hair-and- make-up stations."
[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!]