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[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner, No More Robots advisor), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
The latest highlights include a look at new titles including Doom Eternal, Temtem & The Touryst, as well as pieces about Destiny historians, comedy in games, the state of video games in China, & plenty more besides.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Polygon’s 50 most anticipated games of 2020 (Colin Campbell / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"The new year is upon us, and with it comes the promise of new games, and even new games consoles. There are many games coming in 2020 that have yet to be announced, or that have not been given a release window. But as of now, here are the 50 games (listed alphabetically) that we’re most excited to see."
The “Roguelike” War Is Over (Jeremiah / Golden Krone Hotel - ARTICLE)
"What really grinds my gears is that the traditional roguelike community thinks mainstream gamers are privy to these debates that occur within a niche within a niche and that, since the 40 year history of roguelikes must be common knowledge to everyone, anyone who doesn’t understand it is deserving of a biting insult and a swift kick out the door."
Revisiting System Shock, and the birth of immersive sim design (Alex Wiltshire / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"Returning to System Shock today, by way of Night Dive Studios’ excellent Enhanced Edition, I’ve been realising just how far ahead Looking Glass was back in the mid-1990s. Well before the immersive sim was recognised as a subgenre, System Shock was showing how to create a world in which you feel completely enveloped, where everything fits in the fiction."
Trump’s rhetoric agitated two game designers. They responded with Kind Words (Elise Favis / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"For many, video games are an escape or respite from day-to-day problems, a way to absorb yourself in a virtual world. Kind Words, a game about sending positive messages to strangers, isn’t just a safe haven for players, but also an escape for its creators."
I’m playing Stardew Valley as Ernest Hemingway and I finally learned how to fish (Simone de Rochfort / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Fishing is the worst part of Stardew Valley. That’s OK, because Stardew Valley is an extremely good game. On the positive — or maybe negative — side, it has an addictive 12-minute day/night cycle that regularly tricks me into playing for hours longer than I mean to."
Hip Exorcisms and Robot Love: 8 Exciting New Chinese Indie Video Games for 2020 (Krish Raghav / Radii China - ARTICLE)
"Last year, we wrote that the most exciting shift in Chinese indie games was that local developers no longer needed to shoehorn “Chinese cultural elements” into their work — they’re just making exciting games for the whole world. We’re seeing the emergence of what you might call a Chinese “style” of game making: titles that offer distinct, idiosyncratic “takes” on popular genres or styles. 2020 is the year these two trends intertwine."
Playing the role – a week for video game actors (Kirk McKeand / VG247 - ARTICLE)
"This week we ran one feature per day about acting in video games. We covered topics such as the distinction between VO and performance capture, stunt performers, mocap, and vocal strain. We reached out to our friends in the industry for insider insight, speaking to actors, directors, casting agents, and more."
Why is it so hard to make a good comedy game? (William Hughes / AV Club - ARTICLE)
"The biggest difference is that there are far more games trying to tell jokes in the 21st century, whether it’s the running distillation of Reddit memes that powers the Borderlands franchise, “funny” lines sprinkled into otherwise boring games, or titles that were actually developed as comedic projects."
I Played Disco Elysium as an Absolutely Gigantic Fascist (Steve Scaife / Fanbyte - ARTICLE)
"Kim is in a truly impossible situation, yet handles the player character with admirable pragmatism, supporting your increasingly unhinged methods and even offering a little smile or pat on the back sometimes. He’s stuck with you, after all, and even in such a state of total personality annihilation, you get results, dammit."
Game Demos: Convention Build Guidelines (Victoria Tran & Tanya Short / Medium - ARTICLE)
"Game conventions can be one of the most tiring parts of marketing your game. But of all the stresses, one of the things you don’t want to end up with is realizing your game’s demo isn’t attracting anyone, is a buggy mess, or leaving the wrong impression on press. Then you end up running back to your hotel room and try to make an all new build the night before the show starts."
You Can't Save The Galaxy In A Day (Razbuten / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Outer Wilds is my favorite game of 2019 (maybe...ever?), and it helped me learn an important lesson: you can't save the galaxy in a day. And that is okay..."
Q&A: Evolving the combat design of id Software's Doom Eternal (Bryant Francis / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"At a press event in LA last week, Doom Eternal game director Hugo Martin sat down with Gamasutra to discuss the game's evolved design, and what changes were needed to make a satisfying sequel. According to him, much of Doom Eternal's design evolved out of the circumstances created by the game's new abilities like "dash" and a new flame belcher weapon."
Destiny Has a Historian, And His Full-Time Job is Making Lore Videos (Patrick Klepek / VICE - ARTICLE)
"In the days leading up to Destiny 2: Shadowkeep last fall, I was determined to get back into Destiny in a big way. This time, it would be different. This time, I’d finally understand the notoriously convoluted lore, the bits of inscrutable storytelling many Destiny fans swear by."
The Closing Walls Around China’s Independent Game Developers (Khee Hoon Chan / EGM - ARTICLE)
"Local developer Eddy Hu witnessed the steady growth of an indie game developer community in the 2000s—one he was an active member of. “We had a forum online called indieplanet .net. A lot of indie game developers gathered around in that community,” he said. ”From that community, we got Coconut Island [a renowned Chinese studio and publisher] after that, and a lot more indie games.”"
Why Don't Mystery Games Need Mechanics? (The Architect Of Games / Adam Millard / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Mystery stories, detective fiction, whodunnits- they're all a part of a nebulous genre of narratives that involves deducing clues and figuring out abstract puzzles before it's too late. We've got great examples in literature, cinema and even TV, but where are all the great mystery videogames?"
The Touryst is a bite-sized, open-world vacation game (Michael Moore / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"The Touryst is a platformer / adventure game where you play as a tourist visiting an archipelago of vaguely Pacific-inspired tropical islands. There you can sunbathe on the beach, attend a sunset dance party, scuba dive, visit a jazz club, go spelunking for diamonds, or investigate the mystery behind the ancient alien ruins on each of the islands."
My mom crossed the border in real life. I only cross it in a video game. (Patricia Hernandez / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Everything over the last 15 hours has led to this point: my brother and me, standing before a wall. The wall. I wasn’t sure we’d make it here. We are, after all, two kids who hiked our way down to the border, only a few dollars to our name. The odds, and more importantly the law, are against us."
The miles we walk: How physical maps can guide the development of sprawling game worlds (Daniel Lipscombe / GamesRadar - ARTICLE)
"A paper map, much like any physical object, grounds us in reality, but as technology guides us into new avenues of exploration, digital maps within games have to garner the same hold over the player. Death Stranding, for instance, utilises its map in-line with modern advancements via the ability to plot routes, monitor the weather and topography, and even tilt the DualShock 4 to shift the map's perspective and provide a better representation of mountainous regions."
Meeting Blitzchung, the Hearthstone pro banned for his politics (People Make Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"We travelled to Hong Kong to meet Blitzchung, the Hearthstone player banned by Blizzard last year."
Temtem is the best Pokémon game in years (Cian Maher / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"Temtem is consciously contemporary in some important and affecting ways – much more so than Pokémon proper. Instead of the infamous “Are you a boy? Or are you a girl?” opening question, Temtem asks you to choose He/Him, She/Her, or They/Them pronouns. You get to sample a bunch of run animations, which can be very robust, like a cartoon Usain Bolt, or a bit more fun and flamboyant."
Balancing Act: How Developers Make Games "Fair" (Richard Moss / EGM Now - ARTICLE)
"It’s one of those things that you know when you see it: This game’s so broken, you think, that everyone’s just spamming the same strategy all the time and there’s no point even playing anymore unless someone fixes the balance. But what about when the balance is good? Or it feels just a little bit off? How do you know? How does anyone know? And what even is game balance?"
[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every weekend at tinyletter.com/vgdeepcuts - we crosspost to Gamasutra later, 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!]