Video Game Deep Cuts: Falcon Scores Weed, Needs Vacation
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
[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 roundup includes intriguing debuts from Falcon Age and Vacation Simulator, a historical tour of The Division's New York, John Romero's finishing of the DOOM saga, the trickiness of marketing your weed tycoon game, & heaps more besides.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Sekiro, Difficulty & the Importance of Perspective (Danny O'Dwyer / Noclip / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Could Sekiro benefit from an easy mode? Does increased accessibility put the developer's creative vision at risk? Perhaps the truth isn't a matter of fact, but a matter of perspective. [SIMON'S NOTE: OK, maybe the last on this particular subject, but a good op-ed in video form. OK, fine, one bonus Simon Parkin opinion piece entitled 'Sekiro, Baba Is You and the politics of video game difficulty', if you'd like.]"
Making Video Games Is Not a Dream Job (Jason Schreier / New York Times Opinion - ARTICLE)
"The video game industry is richer than it has ever been. Its revenue in 2018 was $43.8 billion, a recent report estimated, thanks in large part to hugely popular games like Fortnite and Call of Duty. These record-breaking profits could have led one to think that the people who develop video games had it made. But then the blood bath began."
The Epic/Steam War is Here And Game Devs are All For It (Damion Schubert / Zen Of Design - ARTICLE)
"It is possible to both think that Steam has been a remarkable and amazing part of the gaming ecosphere, and still be excited that they’re no longer getting a free ride... It probably single-handedly saved PC gaming, definitely has been the engine that drives indie gaming for the last decade, and will be a pillar of the industry for years to come. That being said, I’m super excited by the Epic Store as a developer, and I hope they get more exclusives."
A Post-Apocalyptic Tour of New York in a Multiplayer Shooter Game (The Atlantic Selects / YouTube - VIDEO)
"The digital war zone of "Tom Clancy's The Division," a dystopian multiplayer shooter game, is reappropriated for a pacifist city tour of dystopian Manhattan. Our absurdly humorous tour guide comments freely on the city's urban design and architectural past while trying to avoid being killed by stray bullets."
Why the music industry needs the video gaming industry's help to scale virtual concerts (Cherie Hu / Music Business Worldwide - ARTICLE)
"Music companies need this shift more than ever: historically, they’ve struggled to sustain social music and concert experiences on their own dime, facing obstacles such as the miniscule reach of VR or the fickleness of standalone social apps (remember Twitter Music, or Turntable.fm?). The digital gaming industry’s expertise in pricing models and user engagement—and the cultural caché and social glue that games like Fortnite have amassed over the last several years—could help finally rewrite this narrative for good."
Exploring the secret depths of Bubble Bobble's design (John Harris / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Secrets can tell you a lot about how a game was designed, and Taito's classic Bubble Bobble is full of them. Today we're off on a trip to visit one of the least-seen, a secret room that shows up if you get to level 20 without dying. I've been there several times, and I'll show you how you can reach it too, and fairly! But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's introduce the game first…."
Surviving in the wild: Assassin's Creed maker Patrice Désilets on Ancestors, his first game in nearly a decade (Tom Phillips / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"I hadn't expected Désilets to dwell on the past but he is, as he says at one point, known as "the historical guy". These war stories are his lineage. Désilets talks excitedly of being shut out on the Montreal pavement, and how some of his former co-workers came down to meet him."
You Can Never Go Home to GeoCities Again (Tanner Howard / Slate - ARTICLE)
"The cycle of adoption and abandonment, and the ways in which our virtual lives have been formed by this engagement in the past several decades, is integral to two new games that seek to memorialize shuttered virtual spaces. With Wrong Box, released in February, and Hypnospace Outlaw, published in early March to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web, players are transported into manifestations of the digital past, referencing web platforms popular during late ’90s and early 2000s."
Shirley Curry: The Gaming Grandma Documentary (Gamumentary / YouTube - VIDEO)
"The story of Shirley Curry is the embodiment of the idea that games are for everyone. On her 83rd birthday, follow the journey of Shirley Curry as we explore how Skyrim, YouTube and thousands of passionate fans changed and enriched a grandmother's life."
Icon of Sin: Doom and the Making of John Romero's Sigil (David L. Craddock / ShackNews - ARTICLE)
"Doom is widely considered to be id Software’s opus. That makes Sigil, the game’s unofficial fifth episode, all the more special. Due for release as a free download in the spring of 2019, Sigil features nine levels, all designed top to bottom by Romero. Icon of Sin charts the steps Romero walked to return to designing maps for Doom after a quarter century away, and features interviews with some of the individuals who teamed with him to give Sigil an extra shine."
Google's Play Store is packed with nasty, violent games aimed at kids (K.G. Orphanides / Wired UK - ARTICLE)
"Young children can download and play games packed with shooting, stabbing, gore and microtransaction gambling on Google's Play Store – even when parents turn on controls to make them toddler-friendly. All these games and apps have one thing in common: they’re marked as being safe for young children. Yet many of them are anything but."
Vacation Simulator review: Slap on some SPF %number%, have fun with VR robots(Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Job Simulator enabled that kind of "if you see it, you can mess with it" fun, only without much of a game-like structure. 2017's Rick & Morty: Virtual Rick-ality added a "campaign" to this idea, but the results felt a little thin. With today's Vacation Simulator, out now on SteamVR and Oculus Rift (and coming soon to other platforms), Owlchemy Labs has learned from its prior games to deliver the pinnacle of VR goofiness—and all of the antics (and limits) that such a description implies."
Best PR, Marketing & Community Talks / GDC 2019 (Thomas Reisenegger / Medium - ARTICLE)
"As videos from the GDC 2019 talks are now online I thought a list of the best (aka my favourite) talks from the areas PR, Marketing and community building and management might be handy. Most talks can be watched for free unless noted otherwise."
Falcon Age is a game about cute birds and fighting colonialism (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Like many game designers, Chandana Ekanayake keeps a big document full of potential concepts, one that he keeps updating as ideas come to him. One that’s stuck around is the concept of being a falconer: having a bird that you could train and care for, while working together to solve problems. “I thought the whole idea of having a falcon as a mechanic might be interesting,” he says. [SIMON'S NOTE: Waypoint's review is intriguing, but a bit more mixed.]"
YouTube Is Developing Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Programs (Lucas Shaw / Bloomberg - ARTICLE)
"YouTube is developing choose-your-own-adventure-style shows, exploring a new storytelling format that could increase viewers and ad sales for the world’s largest video website... Producers have tried for years to tell stories that let viewers pick different outcomes, but only recently has the technology advanced enough to entice large investments from some of the world’s top media companies."
Inventing the Future Through Serious Games (Emily Gera / Variety - ARTICLE)
"Adam Berenzweig considers the gesture recognition technology of “Minority Report” an ergonomic disaster. The constant whipping around of arms. Fingers that strum and tap at the air as if you’re conducting an orchestra. For all the cool gadgets that Hollywood science fiction can produce, the reality is they’re usually just impractical and uncomfortable."
Weed is worse than murder, if you're selling a video game (Jessica Condit / Engadget - ARTICLE)
"Weedcraft Inc. came out on Tuesday, and by Wednesday a handful of prominent and small-time YouTubers had been hit with ad-review requests, age-gate requirements and outright demonetization on their videos of the game. On Facebook, Devolver couldn't get a single ad for the game approved and, on launch day, its page was restricted."
Steam Quirks For Developers (Tom Francis / Pentadact - ARTICLE)
"Talking to people at GDC and Rezzed, especially people just starting in game dev, made me realise I’ve accumulated a load of non-obvious knowledge about how Steam works and how best to use it. Info like this tends to get passed around between established devs, at events and in closed circles, but newer devs and those excluded from these groups don’t get access to it."
Prince Harry Wants to Ban Fortnite? Here’s What He’s Missing (Jennifer Senior / New York Times Opinion - ARTICLE)
"As a mother, I’ve never been much of a calamity howler, and having once written a book about parenthood, I know enough about the history of childhood to understand that most new forms of entertainment are met with gales of protest that in hindsight seem ridiculous... Why — and how — had [Fortnite] so quickly become the rabid preoccupation of so many? A great deal of the answer is that Fortnite is social."
Clark Tank: Cadence of Hyrule, Steam Top 50 & Risk of Rain 2! (Ryan Clark / Brace Yourself Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"This week (recorded April 5th, 2019), we take a look at our launch trailer for Cadence of Hyrule, discuss Industries of Titan on Epic Store, talk about demoing at shows like PAX, analyze the Steam Top 50, and we play and analyze Risk of Rain 2! [SIMON'S NOTE: congrats to Ryan for that insane Crypt Of The Necrodancer x Zelda hookup, btw!]"
The Rise And Fall Of Telltale Games (Elise Favis / Game Informer - ARTICLE)
"As he waited for the hundreds of employees to trickle into the room, Telltale CEO Pete Hawley cracked some jokes, easing the tension for a moment before discussing the matter at hand. The entire studio had received the meeting invitation just an hour and a half beforehand, and confusion spread quick."
Avo, Stadia, Arcade, Bandersnatch, and the New Grammar of Television (and Games)â—âPart 1: Form is substance (Dan Hill / Medium - ARTICLE)
"This is part one, looking at mobile interactions and lean-in, lean-out. Part two unpicks the broader context of platforms and formats. Part three explores the new grammar of television and games. Part four summarises an optimistic narrative for tech and format invention. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is fascinating, high level, & covers an AR app I didn't even know existed, so go at it!]"
It's Still Emulation: Saving Video Game History Before It's Too Late (Frank Cifaldi / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2019 GDC talk, Digital Eclipse producer Frank Cifaldi gives practical advice to those keeping old games in print, goes over the current state of video game preservation, and tells you how you can help to make sure video game history never disappears, no matter what your profession is. [SIMON'S NOTE: GDC 2019 talk videos now flowing freely onto YouTube - also up this week, the Command & Conquer classic postmortem & Cory Barlog on reinventing God Of War, among others!]"
The Past And Present Of Dragon Age 4 (Jason Schreier / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"In December 2018, developer BioWare teased the next Dragon Age game, hinting at a mysterious future for the popular fantasy series—one that’s enticing, but seems very far away. Why, more than four years after Dragon Age: Inquisition, is Dragon Age 4 still so early in development? The answer is complicated, and reflective of BioWare’s turbulence over the past decade."
[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!]