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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 plenty of Animal Crossing neatness (reviews, franchise overviews, code recreations of villager dialog), as well as DOOM Eternal (sorry, I'm shouting), Roundgard, death loops, Tony Hawk & conspiracy theories, social distancing & games, and lots, lots more besides.
For those reading this in newsletter form - this is likely the last time this newsletter will be sent out via TinyLetter! So look out for a new newsletter host for it in the near future, as well as some potential new formats & even an optional paid sub that will get you extra GOODNESS. More on this very soon...
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
2020 Independent Games Festival & Game Developers Choice Awards (GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Enjoy this (pre-recorded) broadcast of the 2020 Independent Games Festival & Game Developers Choice Awards! [SIMON'S NOTE: although GDC couldn't happen, the awards still went on in virtual form, even including virtual acceptance speeches! Thanks to everyone who made this possible, especially master behind-the-scenes wrangler Sandesh & the hosts for their swift adaptation. And bonus: Day Of The Devs: GDC Edition Direct with Greg Rice & Tim Schafer is pretty darn good.]"
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a chill, charming life sim that puts you in control (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Animal Crossing has always been a slow burn. It’s not the kind of game you marathon for hours at a time. Instead, its joys reveal themselves over days, weeks, and months. It’s a quirk of the premise: Animal Crossing is a laid-back life simulator that takes place in real time, forcing you to wait for things to happen. This also makes it an acquired taste."
Tales From Discoverabilityland: March 2020 (Simon Carless / Game Discoverability Now! - ARTICLE)
"As you may recall, I’ve been a fan of Steam’s discoverability advances in recent months. They’ve been rolling out a number of their Steam Labs experiments into the actual full Steam interface/website. The latest of these is the Steam interactive recommender, which - reminder, “uses a machine learning model..."
Can machine learning revolutionise game development? Stadia thinks it can (Chris Wallace / MCV Develop - ARTICLE)
"Google has taken this time-saving philosophy [of the Stadia] and applied it to game development itself – by experimenting with machine learning technology. And this work is touching on elements as disparate as content creation, balance testing and language-based interaction. [SIMON'S NOTE: Google's spending a lot of $ on interesting R&D here - will be interesting to see if it pays off in the long run.]"
What Online Multiplayer Is Like For Someone Who Doesn't Play Games (Razbuten / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this episode of Gaming For A Non-Gamer, I tossed my wife into the wide world of online multiplayer. It went about as well as you guessed it would. This is what online multiplayer is like for someone who doesn't play games."
How Prince of Persia slew the Apple II’s memory limitations (Lee Hutchinson / Ars Technica - ARTICLE/VIDEO)
"Mechner's game had a long road from development to the screen, but what I learned from our interview with the man is just how much the Apple II's memory limitations shaped the game's final form—even though none of those limitations applied to the platform on which I (and the majority of players, going by sales numbers) first experienced PoP."
How a would-be priest explores the horror of God in videogames (Edwin Evans-Thirlwell - RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"Part visual novel and part collection of footnotes, The Exegesis unfolds from multiple vantage points: an inquisitor, following up hints of an impending apocalypse; the novel’s ostensible author, who has provided a commentary that is at odds with the text; the author’s friend, trying to piece everything together; and Yan himself, at once creator and observer."
The History Of Adventure (Chris Klimas / MICA Game Lab / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Chris Is a Baltimore-based web developer, game designer, and writer. He created Twine and now works on it with a group of really smart people all over the world, he finds the intersection of words and interactivity irresistible. We are also lucky enough to have Chris teach Game Design and Interactive Fiction classes here at MICA. [SIMON'S NOTE: excellent lecture on the history of (Colossal Cave) Adventure.]"
How Mick West Went From Making Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to Debunking Conspiracy Theories (Blake Hester / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"It took West a long time to get from his career in games to his current career debunking conspiracy theories. But as far as West is concerned, his two career paths aren't as dissimilar as they may seem on the surface. In his opinion, he may not be where he is now without that background in programming, testing, and debugging video games. And it's only because of his work in the video game industry that he's able to do the deep-dive analysis on conspiracies he's now known for."
Countdown to Doomsday: Shacknews celebrates Doom Eternal and the Doom franchise (David Craddock / Shacknews - ARTICLES)
"Ahead of its release this Friday, Shacknews is hosting Countdown to Doomsday, a slate of features that celebrate Doom Eternal's imminent release and the 26-year (and counting) history of the Doom franchise. [SIMON'S NOTE: lots of good stuff in here, including Pete Hines talking about the game & a big Doom Eternal making-of article. The game itself? People really like it, man.]"
The Social Distancer’s Guide to Gaming (Gita Jackson / VICE - ARTICLE)
"So you're stuck inside, bored, and have decided to play some video games. I'm here to help you on that journey. Maybe it's your first time playing games. Maybe you're coming back from a long break. Maybe your friends bullied you into getting Apex Legends because you're probably not going to see them for a month."
Inside PlayStation 5: the specs and the tech that deliver Sony's next-gen vision (Richard Leadbetter / Digital Foundry - ARTICLE)
"What's exciting about this presentation is that Sony presents a vision for next-gen that recaptures some of the pioneering spirit of its early consoles by delivering state-of-the-art, exotic custom silicon with a razor-sharp focus on taking the gaming experience to the next level. But at the same time, the design embraces the developer-friendly ethos that proved so successful with PlayStation 4."
Baer Plays Roundguard (BaerTaffy / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Baer plays Roundguard, an adorable Peggle-like roguelike with a Dicey Dungeons-esque story theme and cute characters. [SIMON'S NOTE: don't link a lot of Let's Plays here, but Baer is entertaining and goes deep on Roguelikes, so this one makes sense! Also, love the game, which is also on Apple Arcade - here's The Verge's review if ya missed it.]"
Magic: The Gathering and Keyforge creator Richard Garfield on 35 years of making the games he wants to play (Matt Jarvis / Dicebreaker - ARTICLE)
"From a board game about leading a clan to rabbits to take over a fantasy land (Bunny Kingdom) to his reimagining of the trivia game (the recent Half Truth), Garfield’s games vary widely in theme and gameplay. The element that connects almost all of them is the designer’s continual effort to explore something new that interests him."
Indie Game Dev: Death Loops (Derek Yu / Make Games With Derek - ARTICLE)
"In this article, I will identify two traps that many indie game developers fall into that either prevent them from finishing their projects or extend the length of the development to a point where there is tremendous pressure for the game to succeed. I call these traps "death loops" because of the fatigue and burnout they can cause (and how easy it is to get stuck in them). The article will also offer some suggestions on how to break out of these loops."
While the sports world falls silent, esports and streamers fill the void (Noah Smith / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"American stadiums have lain dormant for two weeks since the coronavirus silenced nearly all sporting events. But in the vacuum, competitions rooted in online arenas are filling the entertainment void in a world increasingly confined to digital environments."
28 great GDC talks you can watch for free right now (Wes Fenlon / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"But wait—GDC maintains a vault of recorded talks stretching back years, hundreds of which are available for free. I've sorted through them to pick out a boatload that will keep you entertained, and teach you a little something about games, in these strange times of self-isolation. From the archives, here are 28 great GDC talks, telling the behind the scenes stories of PC gaming."
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – the video game where we can still be together (Sarah Maria Griffin / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"My first step into this softer life came when I was commuting more than two hours a day to college. My Nintendo DS was a comforting escape from the juddering trains and slow buses, and the tender world of Animal Crossing was the opposite of the heightened drama of being a teenager."
ASCII art + permadeath: The history of roguelike games (Richard C. Moss / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Roguelike games have grown in popularity over the 40 years the genre has existed, even though they implement ideas that might seem anathema to popular gaming: extreme randomness, ASCII graphics, permadeath, enormous complexity, and more. Yet these days, you can just about sneeze and hit something that has at least been influenced by roguelikes."
There’s Something Hiding in Petscop (Phillip Moyer / EGM Now - ARTICLE)
"Something like Petscop couldn’t really have existed at any previous point in time. It’s a series of videos that, at first, appear to be just amateurish uploads of footage from an unreleased video game, complete with halting, unpracticed voiceovers by the player. It’s the kind of thing you might stumble across during a deep dive into YouTube, among the thousands of Let’s Plays and game analyses that get uploaded on a daily basis."
Animal Crossing's Dialogue (Mix & Jam / YouTube - VIDEO)
"The villagers from Animal Crossing express a lot of their emotions through dialogue, and this is one of the main reasons why players create such big connections with them. I wanted to experiment and see if I could achieve a similar system, using Unity! [SIMON'S NOTE: All the source code is available for this too - super cool!]"
[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!]