This week's highlights include a gigantic video on the seminal The Secret Of Monkey Island, a look at Harry Potter vs. Fortnite in the mobile arena, and the future of The Binding Of Isaac, among many others.
Good mix of retro & modern, in article, podcast & video form, via this week's picks. And something I'm trying to do is to find more interviews with the creators of 'suddenly popular/interesting' games, like the Beat Saber chat I dug up this week.
My Gamasutra colleague Bryant Francis & friends are doing Twitch developer interviewswith a number of them - most recently City Of Brass, Omensight, Darwin Project & Frostpunk. But man, there's a lot of notable games nowadays that get released or popular without anyone even talking to their creators about how/why they made them. Which is... a bit odd?
Until next time,
- Simon, curator.]
Harry Potter looks to mobile gaming’s past, while Fortnite looks to the future (Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, a newly released mobile game set in JK Rowling’s magical universe, is not inherently a bad game. On paper, a Hogwarts RPG where you can take classes, sling spells, make friends with fellow students, and experience a new Harry Potter story is a great thing. The issue with the game isn’t that premise; my biggest problem with Hogwarts Mystery is actually Fortnite."
A'can: An ill-fated console from Taiwan (KWL / Johnson Lin / YouTube)
"A'Can is a 16-bit video game console that was released in Taiwan in 1995. An arcane console you may have never heard of. In this video, I'm going to talk about EVERYTHING I know about A'can. From the point of view of a Taiwanese. [SIMON'S NOTE: lots of footage and pics of the obscurest of the obscure, console-wise - thx Brandon Sheffield!]"
Devs share the most memorable things they've had to cut from games (Alan Bradley / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"So with an eye towards visiting the video game version of the Island of Misfit Toys, Gamasutra reached out to some game developers and asked them about some of the most memorable ideas they left on the cutting room floor, and why they had to leave them behind."
With Jupiter and Mars, Two Former Game Journalists Hope to Save the Planet(Jeremy Parish / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"Jupiter doesn't go it alone through the post-apocalyptic depths. She's accompanied by her friend Mars (names Mielke acknowledges he took from the cabaret standard "Fly Me to the Moon"). Mars races alongside Jupiter, always darting around the periphery of the player's vision and looking back at his companion."
The History of Atari In Japan (Gazillionaire / YouTube - VIDEO)
"The History of Atari In Japan! The Pong era, 2600 VCS aka 2800 era and Lynx / Jaguar era are all covered! [SIMON'S NOTE: some super rare Japanese Atari commercials in here too.]"
Queer representation in games isn't good enough, but it is getting better (Sam Greer / GamesRadar - ARTICLE)
"179. That’s the number of commercially released games my search found that feature queer characters. It might seem a lot, but in the grand scheme of thousands upon thousands of released games, it’s really not much. It’s even less when you consider how few of those characters are even significant."
Meet the Members of Congress Who Play Video Games (Rebecca Nelson / Politico - ARTICLE)
"Scott Peters had never played Mario Kart before, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to lose to Darrell Issa. Peters, a Democrat from San Diego who represents California’s 52nd Congressional District, battled Issa, a Republican from the neighboring 49th District, at last year’s Comic-Con."
RetroAhoy: The Secret of Monkey Island (Stuart Brown / Ahoy / YouTube - VIDEO)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: a wonderfully done 70 minute video about why the LucasArts classic is special, wow. Hadn't spotted this YouTuber before, but his recent hour-long Polybius documentary is also something special.]"
How Fortnite Captured Teens’ Hearts and Minds (Nick Paumgarten / New Yorker - ARTICLE)
"Fortnite, for anyone not a teen-ager or a parent or educator of teens, is the third-person shooter game that has taken over the hearts and minds—and the time, both discretionary and otherwise—of adolescent and collegiate America. Released last September, it is right now by many measures the most popular video game in the world. [SIMON'S NOTE: this profile was poked at quite a bit on social media - and it is weirdly 'looking down at games'-y in places, yeah.]"
Nintendo Vs. Sony - Man Of Steel (Business Wars / Wondery - PODCAST)
"It's 1949. 22-year old Hiroshi Yamauchi is the heir apparent for his family's playing card company, Nintendo. From humble beginnings as a scrappy street stall founded in Kyoto's back alleys to the largest card company in Japan by the time Yamauchi takes over, this isn't a company that backs down easily when a little competition comes in. But it was a company that changed its entire business over a couple of... cartoon characters."
Exclusive: Stats Show How Rarely Game Campaigns Are Played (Mark Delaney / TrueAchievements - ARTICLE)
"As we did with our recent coverage of the grindiest achievement list in the history of achievements, we collected a ton of stats to look at this trend, not just as it applies to Call of Duty but also to see how story modes fare in other games as well. Let's start with Activision's flagship franchise. [SIMON'S NOTE: some people replying to me on Twitter noted significant issues with this data, not least that achievements can include multiple difficulty levels. But it's still data to poke at...]"
Sonic the Hedgehog – Developer Interview Collection (Nintendo Dream, BEEP, and Famicom Tsuushin / Shmuplations - ARTICLE)
"This collection of interviews chronicles the conception and development of the original and wildly successful Sonic the Hedgehog game, with comments from core team members Yuji Naka (programmer & team leader), Naoto Ōshima (designer & art director) and Hirokazu Yasuhara (planner) as well as the art director for the game’s sequel, Yasushi Yamaguchi."
7 games worth studying for their excellent sound design (Richard Moss / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"To that end, we sought the input of some of the top sound designers in the games industry to help highlight seven games with great sound design that every dev should study — whether they be in an audio-related discipline or not."
The past, present and future of The Binding of Isaac (Russ Frushtick / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"The idea for these updates, called Booster Packs, was simple: “What if people make really cool stuff and we can put it officially in the game? It would encourage people to make cooler stuff because there was a chance for it to be in the game,” McMillen said in an interview with Polygon."
HOW BEAT SABER WAS MADE!! Beat Saber Developer Interview With Jan Ilavsky(Virtual Reality Oasis / YouTube - VIDEO)
"I interview Jan Ilavsky, the creator of Beat Saber to find out how Beat Saber was made. Jan talks about how he got into game development and how he ended up making Beat Saber, the virtual reality smash hit! [SIMON'S NOTE: this is the breakout VR hit right now - a platform which probably needs them! So, interesting to see a chat with the dev.]"
Uses This: Mat Dickie (UsesThis - ARTICLE)
"The software I use isn't necessarily the best there is. They're mainly old programs that I got into the habit of using and couldn't leave behind. My brand of game development is old-fashioned in every way, but I'm a pragmatist who sticks to what works. [SIMON'S NOTE: two things - firstly, UsesThis is a REALLY good niche blog about what computer tools people use, and secondly, seeing Mat sitting in a Tesla in his profile pic reminded me of this recent profile & how it's incredibly surprising (but not?) that his bizarre brand of games have eventually made him quite rich!]"
Xbox Adaptive Controller first look: A new, necessary gamepad (Jessica Conditt / Engadget - ARTICLE)
"Taking input from AbleGamers, Warfighter Engaged, SpecialEffect, Craig Hospital and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, the Xbox accessibility team designed the Adaptive Controller with a new type of player in mind. The Elite may have been a step in the right direction in terms of inclusion, but it still relied on a handful of assumptions, like the fact that players had two hands and complete control of their fine motor functions."
Practical IP Law for Indie Developers 301: Plain Scary Edition (Christopher Reid / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC session, lawyer Christopher Reid gives indie developers a practical understanding of copyright, trademarks, and other intellectual property relevant to game development, and explains how these types of IP work, why indies should care, how they can protect themselves, and what practical tools they have when there's a dispute."
God Of War Gets The Stress Of Parenthood Right (Keza MacDonald / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Video games’ version of paternalism is usually reductive: parents and children rarely stray from the roles of protector and charge. You, the player, are almost always the parent (and always a father), chaperoning a character who is vulnerable."
Less management, more success: Inside Supercell's 'upside-down' organization(Kris Graft / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Supercell did things “upside-down”—that is, the creative people essentially run the company and management makes sure to get out of their way. Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen, after years of working at companies like Digital Chocolate where organizational charts were “right-side up,” theorized that traditional game companies found success not because of their structure, but in spite of it."
High Scores: Jukio Kallio’s “Minit” Soundtrack Embraces Lo-Fi Sounds (Casey Jarman / Bandcamp - ARTICLE & MUSIC)
"If there is a perfect balance of lo-fi, epic, and cute, Helsinki-based composer Jukio Kallio’s soundtracks nail it every time. The 29-year-old musician, who sometimes uses the alias Kuabee—or, in earlier days, Kozilek—has carved out a fascinating niche in scoring games, making music that can feel both extraordinarily tense and brilliantly silly."
[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!]