[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's highlights include a look at NASA's new commissions in the video game space, the crunch-free development of Slime Rancher, and a very offkilter procedurally generated dating game, among other things.
As always, there's lots of good material here, from podcasts through videos to articles - please take the time to read, enjoy, and even Tweet at the creators if you liked it! (You'd be surprised how little people get complimented on the Internet. Or maybe you wouldn't.)
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
NASA Turns to Games For A New Generation of Space Art (Paul Dean / How We Get To Next - ARTICLE)
"NASA spent much of the 20th century commissioning painters and illustrators to imagine the future of space exploration. When Jeff Norris, the head of Mission Operations Innovation at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), wanted a way to inspire a new generation of potential engineers, scientists, and astronauts, he turned to a modern alternative to those artists: a games developer."
Steam - 2018 Year in Review (Tom B / Steam Community - ARTICLE)
"You may not remember this (or maybe you do), but the first couple of years for Steam were pretty rocky. We didn't have much beyond a rudimentary client, a way for users to buy games, and servers to deliver those bits (most of the time). Fast-forward to 2018 and the challenges we faced this year alone were far beyond what we could've imagined back when we first launched the Store. [SIMON'S NOTE: Valve being a lot more open than previously is... good!]"
What happened to the Queen's Golden Wii? (People Make Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"About a decade ago, the Queen was sent a golden console as part of a PR stunt for a forgotten Wii game called Big Family Games, but she never actually received it. Why not? Where is it now? We decided to try and find it for ourselves."
How 'Slime Rancher' Made a Ton of Money And Stuck to 40-Hour Workweeks(Patrick Klepek / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"As part of reporting this story, I spoke with several employees who do (or did) work under Popovich. Everyone was given an opportunity to speak off the record about their experiences, but all vouched for his claims about what it’s been like to make Slime Rancher, describing a studio where crunch was exceedingly rare and people are told to go home."
BadCupid: Procedural romance in a digital world (Emily Gera / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"And when you're making a procedural generation-laden game about love, compatibility, dating, and rejection, it's important to break down your thoughts on this sort of thing ahead of time. For the past several months, Tanya X. Short and her team at indie studio Kitfox Games have been developing BadCupid, a digital betting game that turns procedurally generated dates into a game of prediction."
Games and Crowdfunding in 2018 (Thomas Bidaux / ICO Partners - ARTICLE)
"Following the trends from the last few years, most of the Games category numbers are driven by the Tabletop Games projects, with Video Games representing about 1/10th of the money raised by them. Playing Cards are still very popular, with more than 400 projects funded. [SIMON'S NOTE: infinite graphs, but great detail on a 'revenue-growth stalled but still useful for community' video game crowdfunding scene.]"
The Grand Tour Game is a bad game, but an interesting vision for interactive TV (Oli Welsh / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Just a few weeks after Netflix released the Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch - Charlie Brooker's slick, game-literate hybrid of high-end drama and choose-your-own-adventure - its great rival in streaming video, Amazon, is here with a very different vision of the intersection of video games and television. It's The Grand Tour Game, an episodic, casual racing game spun off from the expensive antics of three elderly boors."
Your game studio doesn’t have to survive to succeed (Tanya Short / VentureBeat - ARTICLE)
"By this point, hopefully we’ve all laughed and moved past the idea that “just make a good game” is good business advice. However, it’s a little-discussed truth that there are smart, savvy indies that do indeed follow this advice, and indeed knowingly risk the closure of their studios. And even if those studios close, both leaders and employees can potentially come out the better for it."
Why Friendly AI Cheat in Ghost Recon Wildlands (AI and Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Sometimes if you want to make your game work as intended, you need to cheat a little bit. In this video I examine one of the best 'cheating' AI systems in recent years: the companion AI of 2017's Ghost Recon Wildlands."
Life Off the Grid, Part 1: Making Ultima Underworld (Jimmy Maher / The Digital Antiquarian - ARTICLE)
"3D graphics were, one might say, baked right into Looking Glass’s DNA. Paul Neurath and Ned Lerner, its two eventual founders, met one another in 1978 in a computer-science course at Wesleyan University, where Neurath was studying environmental science, Lerner physics. For the course’s final project, they teamed up to make a 3D space game rendered in ASCII text."
A Real-World Battle Over Dancing Avatars: Did Fortnite Steal the Floss? (Elizabeth A. Harris / New York Times - ARTICLE)
"In 1973, the performer Hugo Zacchini sued Scripps-Howard Broadcasting after one of its news programs aired his entire act on television — an act in which he shot himself out of a cannon at an Ohio county fair and landed in a net 200 feet away. Today, a new set of cases is nudging the legal boundaries of who controls certain performances. [SIMON'S NOTE: Yes, there's been a LOT of articles on this, but this one goes a lot deeper, legally!]"
Thoughts On Detroit: Being Human (Thomas Grip / Frictional Games Blog - ARTICLE)
"Quantic Dream learns with each game, and adresses their issues with new features. But with new features come new issues, and lots of juicy design lessons. In this blog post I will talk at length about affordance, then touch upon branching and themes. [SIMON'S NOTE: notable because Thomas is the designer of Amnesia: The Dark Descent & Soma, and one of the smartest design minds around!]"
The Best New Music Festival Is in 'Minecraft' (Lewis Gordon / Noisey - ARTICLE)
"When Charli XCX bellowed “what the fuck is up Firefest,” I felt a rush of tingly excitement even though I hadn’t made it through the festival gates yet. As the popstar spoke during A. G. Cook and Umru’s set, that prickle of euphoria rushed through the expectant crowd. Collectively we lost our shit and spammed a chat with a string of heartfelt expletives and candy-colored emojis."
Humans Who Make Games Ep.1: Edmund McMillen (Adam Conover / Starburns Audio - PODCAST)
"For our first episode, Adam talks to Edmund McMillen, the creator of Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac, and more! We track Edmund's journey through his beginnings as a struggling comic book artist, how he found an audience for his work online, and how he continues to push himself and innovate."
GOG's 10 year journey to bring old games back to life (Alex Wiltshire / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"10 years ago, not long after a young CD Projekt had founded a development studio and released The Witcher, the company founded something else: GOG.com. Back then, though, GOG wasn't just GOG. It was Good Old Games, a new digital store aimed at selling only old games."
Should Roguelikes Have Persistent Upgrades? (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Roguelikes are defined by randomly generated levels and permadeath. But that permadeath can be a point of contention for players who like making tangible progress. So maybe there’s a way to add a sense of advancement to roguelikes?"
The Epic Games Store as described by Sergey Galyonkin (Daxy / ResetEra - FORUM POST / PODCAST SUMMARY)
"I recently found out about a really interesting Russian-spoken podcast that Sergey Galyonkin co-hosts called [in English]: "How Games Are Made." Galyonkin is currently the Director of Publishing Strategy at Epic Games and also the person behind "Steam Spy." [SIMON'S NOTE: I'm very surprised that Galyonkin was so transparent about Epic Games Store's strategy in public - maybe he thought people weren't going to pick up a Russian language podcast? This seems to have backfired somewhat, since some people aren't happy with his 'influencers getting a revenue cut for referrals' views. He did clarify things in a large Twitter thread, but there weren't any significant flubs in the OP, so him calling it 'an incorrect summary' is a bit naughty/damage control.]"
Mall rats, Vidiots & addicts: Anti video game propaganda from the '80s (Cat DeSpira / Retro Bitch - ARTICLE)
"Newspapers of the day, the place most adults received their news from, teemed with anti-video game propaganda beginning in early 1981. Even The Surgeon General of The United States, C. Everett Koop (R), an ultra-Conservative who held superstar status during the Reagan era thus considerable sway over public opinion, called video games “dangerous” in the Fall of 1982."
The Spelunky Showlike: 10: Keyforge with Richard Garfield (The Spelunky Showlike / Libsyn - PODCAST)
"The creator of Magic: the Gathering, Netrunner, King of Tokyo, and so much of the modern gaming culture we love joins us to talk about finding cohesion in the beautiful randomness of his latest design: the world’s first Unique Deck Game, Keyforge."
Into the Bruxnerverse: getting to know the frogs and aliens of Grace Bruxner (Jody Macgregor / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"Grace Bruxner almost delayed the release of her latest game, The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game, which is a cute adventure about a frog trying to find a ghost. But then she changed her mind because she wanted to make sure it released near Hitman 2. Close enough that news stories mentioning both would be on gaming sites at the same time."
[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!]