[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 creators building tiny houses in The Sims, impressions of BioWare's much anticipated Anthem, & a whole bunch of new games to check out - from the Resident Evil 2 reboot to FutureGrind through Metro Exodus, and a whole bunch more, actually.
Almost to the finish line on programming Game Developers Conference 2019 content - particularly happy with Vision Track picks this year, from Disney Imagineering through Valve on brain-computer interfaces (!!), but lots more big talk announces this week, including Tetris Effect, Mooncrash, a Panzer Dragoon classic postmortem, and so on and so forth. We try hard, at least!
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
DeepMind AI AlphaStar goes 10-1 against top 'StarCraft II' pros (A J Dellinger / Engadget - ARTICLE)
"After laying waste to the best Go players in the world, DeepMind has moved on to computer games. The Google-owned artificial intelligence company has been fine-tuning its AI to take on StarCraft II and today showed off its first head-to-head matches against professional gamers."
An extreme sports game with a story? FutureGrind’s developers talk cyberpunk(Samuel Axon / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Now FutureGrind is here, and I'm enjoying it just as much as I expected. In it, you ride bikes on rail-based tracks and perform stunts that draw from popular extreme sports titles like OlliOlli, SSX, and most of all Trials. But there are all sorts of unique spins (pun only sort of intended) made possible by the game's futuristic setting."
How Resident Evil 2 fell apart, then became one of Capcom’s biggest hits (Alex Aniel / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Compared to Mega Man and Street Fighter, the first Resident Evil was a more immediate success, putting it ahead of Capcom’s historical curve. Resident Evil 2 was thus born. For Capcom to maintain its momentum in the newly christened survival horror genre, though, Resident Evil 2 had to be better than its predecessor, much like Mega Man 2 and Street Fighter 2."
Road to the IGF: Jeremy Gable's Watch Me Jump (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Gamasutra sat down with Jeremy Gable, developer of the Excellence in Narrative-nominated Watch Me Jump, to talk about the similarities between theatre and games, how he took a play about the WNBA and made a game of it, and the importance of having imperfect choices in interactive fiction. [SIMON'S NOTE: lots more great IGF game Q&As popping up on Gamasutra, including Grace Bruxner's The Haunted Island & Mirror Drop, among others.]"
When risking everything pays off - Cuphead | Levels (Red Bull / YouTube - VIDEO)
"4 years, 3 world records, 1 family. Meet Studio MDHR: the makers of Cuphead. The game was built entirely by hand from their own home. With over 3 million copies sold, they reveal the untold tale behind their record-breaking game."
Why Resident Evil 2's City of the Dead scares us (Nic Reuben / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"If Romero's undead shoppers endure as a sneer at the narcotic lullaby of consumerism, then what more succinct symbol of a city helplessly disarmed is there than a police station commandeered by the dead? Even better if that police station happens to have been a museum. [SIMON'S NOTE: also see this more straightforward Motherboard review.]"
Pikuniku Is Not Your Average Game About A Red Blob With Legs (Keza MacDonald / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Do you want to feel like you’ve taken something mildly hallucinogenic and you’re watching foreign-language kids’ TV? I’ve got the game for you. The new PC and Switch game Pikuniku has been one of the few bright spots for me in what has felt like an overly long January."
Fortnite’s floating sphere exploded, leaving the island covered in snow and zombies (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Fortnite’s latest mystery is finally starting to unravel. Not long ago a floating sphere made of ice appeared in the game, leaving many players to wonder just what was going on. Now we have an answer, sort of: it exploded and a mysterious figure inside called the Ice King created a massive storm, which covered the entire island in snow. [SIMON'S NOTE: this Fortnite environmental storytelling is actually kinda great - check out a potted history of recent events in this post.]"
Anthem feels as good as Destiny, but has BioWare’s creative touch (Colin Campbell / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Although a shared-world shooter is a departure from BioWare’s solid action-RPG history, Anthem retains enough of the developer’s creative signature to mark it as more than just an attempt to regain ground lost to the genuine innovation that was Destiny. [Also see coverage from The Verge.]"
‘Diablo Junior’: Inside Short Lived ‘Pokemon’-inspired, Pre-‘Diablo Immortal’ Mobile Game (Matt Paprocki / Variety - ARTICLE)
"Some 16 years before the announcement of “Diablo Immortal,” Blizzard’s dungeon hunting, hack-and-slash series nearly went on the go. Not on mobile phones – that tech wasn’t there. Rather, Diablo almost came to life on a Nintendo platform."
Designing the sublimely soothing mobile game, Valleys Between (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Valleys Between is a game of nurturing nature -- of protecting a valley. It’s a game that puts nature at your fingertips, having you help guide the growth of your valley by swiping up or down, growing grass and trees with a motion. Through your touch, you will bring animals and life to this place, and hopefully, balance to a crumbling world."
Nearly 50% Of Devs Support Unionization, Per New GDC State Of The Industry Report (Alex Wawro / Game Developers Conference - ARTICLE & REPORT)
"The survey compiles responses from nearly 4,000 game developers, and reflects that nearly half of game developers support game industry unionization, as well as uncertainty around Steam’s revenue-sharing model, and insights into the amount of time developers have spent working overtime hours in so-called “crunch.” [SIMON'S NOTE: all kinds of great data here on what devs are currently thinking, via my GDC colleagues.]"
The promise of a game world you can touch (James Holland / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"I'm led into a room containing a bank of computers. I'm ushered, cheerfully enough, to the first station. There's a mouse, a keyboard, and something keyboardesque, but square, and without symbols on each of its black keys. On the monitor is a basic, 90's-looking floating-bubble screensaver. I'm not sure this is what I expected."
Facebook knowingly duped game-playing kids and their parents out of money(Nathan Halverson / Reveal - ARTICLE)
"Facebook orchestrated a multiyear effort that duped children and their parents out of money, in some cases hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and then often refused to give the money back, according to court documents unsealed tonight in response to a Reveal legal action. The records are part of a class-action lawsuit focused on how Facebook targeted children in an effort to expand revenue for online games, such as Angry Birds, PetVille and Ninja Saga."
After Three Hours of 'Metro Exodus,' I Was Surprised By How Much I Laughed(Austin Walker / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"“Listen up!” A rough voice crackles over the radio. “The baron is about to speak.” The baron, I’ve come to understand, is the leader of the Munai-Bailer (or “oil-rich”), a group of slavers that have a stranglehold on the desert wasteland’s oil. And then, without missing a beat, the voice of the henchman returns with similar cadence."
When esports blew up, DDR moved to the suburbs (Gregory Leporati / Engadget - ARTICLE)
"Even in a packed arcade, David Maiman stands out from the crowd. He's wearing a black T-shirt with multicolor DDR arrows darting across the front, his long, dark hair curling down to his shoulders. As he walks into his local arcade in suburban Long Island, he's almost like a celebrity, shaking hands with the manager, snapping selfies with fellow players and cheering on his friends as they set high scores."
Sea of Thieves is enjoying a resurgence on Twitch (Cass Marshall / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Sea of Thieves is enjoying an excellent start to 2019. After a series of free expansion packs, events, and balance tweaks throughout 2018, the game is getting a whole new audience, thanks to some of the biggest names on Twitch. The most recent expansion pack, Shrouded Spoils, is largely to thank for the recent surge of interest in the game. [SIMON'S NOTE: worth noting, trend-wise - games as a service can have all kinds of twists and turns in fortune nowadays as they develop!]"
So You Want To Compete With Steam: Epic, Discord, Kartridge, and RobotCache(Lars Doucet / Gamasutra Blogs - ARTICLE)
"As I said in Stores vs. Developers vs. Customers vs. Publishers, it's far too easy for "analysts" like me to elevate one stakeholder's viewpoint above all others. In my social media bubble, the default point of view is that of developers, particularly indies. There's nothing wrong with this particular perspective, but you're here because you want to compete with Steam, and that means balancing all parties' interests while still looking out for your own. The blinders have to come off."
Our Full Hidetaka Miyazaki Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Interview (Game Informer Staff / Game Informer - ARTICLE)
"As part of our trip to see Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice at From Software’s offices in Tokyo, Japan, we got to chat with the game’s director and company president Hidetaka Miyazaki. While you’ll see quotes from him we’ve used in our past coverage of Sekiro, there are some interesting and fun bits of insight throughout our entire conversation."
Meet the designers who make a living building tiny houses on The Sims (Katharine Schwab / Fast Company - ARTICLE)
"Deligracy’s channel has become so popular that she quit her job as a junior graphic designer because she was making more money from YouTube. Some of her most popular videos, which get tens of thousands of views, aren’t of the most elaborate houses Deligracy can dream up: Instead, her audience is obsessed with tiny homes."
[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!]