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[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 new articles on AR game Minecraft Earth & intriguing new action adventure A Plague Tale: Innocence, as well as pieces on Rage 2, strategy guides, the intrigue behind Ingress, and a multitude more besides.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Rage 2 is a fun game that makes me feel like garbage (Chris Plante / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Every time I begin to enjoy Rage 2, it finds a new way to treat me like shit. There’s a lot of individual bits I’ve liked in Bethesda’s new post-apocalyptic shooter, created by the open-world geniuses at Avalanche Studios and the gunplay experts at id Software.. But never has a game so personally, directly bummed me out. [SIMON'S NOTE: A very personal story from Chris - here's some more in-depth impressions from VICE, which echo some mixed reviews in general.]"
Is Using a Mouse and Keyboard on Consoles Cheating? (Emanuel Maiberg / VICE - ARTICLE)
"Call of Duty multiplayer has a reputation for being a meat grinder... It's been years since I played a Call of Duty game on consoles, so I'm out of practice and should be tender for the grinder, but I'm kicking ass... I'd love to say that I'm just that good, but the truth is that I'm using a device that allows me to play with a mouse and keyboard (and other input devices that aren't officially supported)."
Telltale: The Human Stories Behind The Games (Noclip / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Who were the people behind the games at Telltale, and how did its sudden closure affect them? We talk to four former Telltale Games employees about the highs and lows of their time at the studio, and the human cost of games development."
28 years later, hacker fixes rampant slowdown on SNES‘ Gradius III (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Many gamers of a certain age (this author included) remember the early '90s disappointment of buying the SNES version of hit arcade shmup Gradius III... Now, Brazilian ROM hacker Vitor Vilela has righted this nearly three-decade-old wrong with a ROM patch that creates a new, slowdown-free version of the game for play on SNES emulators and standard hardware."
The Overwatch Workshop is already a hit, and it could be the future of the game(Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Early signs are encouraging. Blizzard says that 2.7 million games have been created so far, and creators have shared more than 60,000 game codes, letting others play around with what they’ve built. The mode has seen a steady stream of small updates since launch, focused primarily on stability and ease of use."
Examining SUPERHOT's Innovative Action, Three Years On (Writing On Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In which I revisit 2016's SUPERHOT to talk about how its originality goes far beyond its its delightfully simple gimmick; with the game using it as a jumping off point to pull apart almost every element of its genre."
China is the next battleground for Epic and Steam, but why haven't they been banned? (Steven Messner / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
""It's one of the ongoing mysteries of the modern age," Iain Garner told me. He's the co-founder of Another Indie, a Taiwanese-based indie publisher with extensive experience operating in China. "Everything I know about the Chinese government and how they operate and about how they've treated other similar things suggests that Steam should have been blocked a long time ago. But it hasn't.""
The Fight To Make Games Accessible For Everyone (Javy Gwaltney / Game Informer - ARTICLE)
"Microsoft’s hardware push was easily the biggest bulletin in 2018, and possibly for the past several years, when it comes to accessibility in the world of games. However, Sony has also been embracing the idea of accommodating disabled players – albeit in a much quieter fashion, but one advocates argue is just as important as Microsoft’s showy hardware push."
New to Blockchain: Turning In-Game Virtual Goods into Assets (Gregory Barber / Wired - ARTICLE)
"Chou believes blockchain tools could make in-game economies a bit more laissez-faire. He credits CryptoKitties, which arrived in 2017, with the concept... With a blockchain system, gamers could trade virtual goods securely, without developers having to manage the commerce; they could even arrange to take a cut of each trade. But CryptoKitties’ initial success—one of the cats was auctioned for $170,000 in 2018—was a red herring, Chou says."
Inside the Disarray Facing the Video Game Organization Behind E3 (Brian Crecente / Variety - ARTICLE)
"The video game association that conceived the industry’s national ratings system, handles all lobbying efforts and runs the massive annual E3 showcase is in disarray. The Entertainment Software Association is still staggered by the departure of its president and what numerous current and past employees tell Variety was a toxic environment rife with internal politics, witch hunts and in-fighting."
How Pinball Survived Video Games, the Mob and Politics (Wired / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this episode of Obsessed we meet Michael Schiess, a pinball enthusiast who collects and repairs old machines in an effort to preserve them for future generations."
Minecraft Earth: block building game moves into the real world (Keith Stuart / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"Minecraft Earth is best pictured as Pokémon Go with building blocks. When you enter the game, you see an overhead map of your surroundings (Microsoft is working with StreetMap), overlaid with the quaint blocky look of the Minecraft world."
How Final Fantasy IX's Strategy Guide Turned Out So Horrible (And Other Answers From A Veteran Guide Writer) (Jason Schreier / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"“The thing about strategy guide publishing is that it’s a parasitic industry,” says Doug Walsh, who spent 18 years writing video game guides for the two biggest publishers, BradyGames and Prima. Perhaps that’s why the infamous Final Fantasy IX guide turned out the way it did."
Exploring the games that are trying to turn everyday life into a slapstick comedy(Aaron Potter / GamesRadar - ARTICLE)
"For Bossa Studios' Luke Williams, finding hilarity in the humdrum is all about ever so slightly tweaking what players expect from certain situations. "Like Surgeon Simulator before it, I think the humour in I Am Bread comes from making one thing absurd in an otherwise ordinary, mundane world," he reveals."
Why Make Games? Lessons from Frostpunk and This War Of Mine (GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2019 GDC session, 11-bit studios' Przemyslaw Marszal and Michal Drozdowski explain their unique approach of the design and development processes behind Frostpunk and This War of Mine, and how they lead their team and build a specific work culture to make their vision come true. [SIMON'S NOTE: Also notable this week from GDC's YouTube - The Making of Divinity: Original Sin 2& the super-in-depth but amazing Marvel's Spider-Man: A Technical Postmortem.]
Review: Photographs (Richard Hoover / Adventure Gamers - ARTICLE)
"With its colourful retro-style graphics and soft music box-like tunes, I came into EightyEight Games’s Photographs expecting a cute if perhaps melancholy experience, and was therefore totally unprepared for what followed. Interspersed with a series of related minigames of varying difficulty and satisfaction, its five separate tales are not fun in the conventional sense, but nor are they meant to be. Instead they’re genuinely complex character studies that are difficult to watch (and participate in), and yet impossible to look away from. [SIMON'S NOTE: A definitely slept-on game from the creator of You Must Build A Boat.]"
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a Beautifully Bleak Experience (Leo Parrill / GameCrate - ARTICLE)
"Video games have the unique ability to bring us to new worlds, or to show us what our world was like in times past. These digital historical recreations can educate us about our shared past, entertain us with fanciful historical revisionism, or, in the the case of A Plague Tale: Innocence from Asobo Studio, horrify us. [SIMON'S NOTE: I enjoyed this 'Review In 2 Minutes' video from Gameumentary, too - a very interesting game.]"
Exile: The 8-Bit Metroidvania You've Never Heard Of (Retrohistories / YouTube - VIDEO)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: Not that well known outside of Europe, I remember Exile well, and its emergent gameplay really is something else, especially for 1988 - great video.]"
How an Augmented Reality Game Escalated into Real-World Spy Warfare (Elizabeth Ballou / VICE - ARTICLE)
"Meng had spent the day traveling from her home in Beijing to Shanghai and then Nanjing, assembling a trusted squad of eight people that she rarely met in-person. They told park officials that they were there to do some overnight birdwatching with their telescopes, but that was a lie. The telescopes were just for show. Meng and the others were there to execute the final step in an international conspiracy to open a secret line of communication to another Resistance position in Alaska."
The Challenge of Cameras (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Choosing a camera for a 3D game is a huge challenge, because cameras can serve gameplay and aesthetic goals at the same time. What happens when these goals clash?"
What Microsoft and Sony’s streaming partnership means for gaming’s future (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Seeing two fierce console competitors announce a gaming partnership makes it easy to jump to conclusions about what the future of the gaming market might look like. We're sure there will be countless speculative articles and YouTube videos opining on how this partnership portends the "End of the Console Wars" for these two companies."
Last Day of Spring is about ways to be a supportive friend and LGBTQ ally (Michael Moore / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Last Day of Spring is a sequel to one of my favorite games from last year, One Night, Hot Spring. The original visual novel followed a 19-year-old transgender woman named Haru as she goes on an overnight hot spring trip for her oldest friend Manami’s 20th birthday. It deals with a lot of Haru’s experiences about not being treated or seen as the woman she is and the anxieties those experiences create. [SIMON'S NOTE: the whole Short Play column at The Verge - about games that can easily be completed in a weekend - is great.]"
[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!]