[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 an overview of a very odd old Mac game, Keita Takahashi on making games in tough times, and a close look at Life Is Strange 2.
So, we're starting to get into primetime for the (relatively few) major AAA game releases of the 2018 holiday season, and you'll see them - from Forza Horizon 4 to Shadow Of The Tomb Raider and beyond, with Assassin's Creed: Odyssey up next - starting to seep into these round-ups.
But honestly, great games ship pretty much every week of the year nowadays. It's just a matter of finding the ones you like. Hope this round-up helps you locate a few of those?
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
There are too many video games. What now? (Steven Wright / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"By de Paco’s count, there are now hundreds of indie studios sprouting up all around his native Spain, and only 10 of them are actively turning a profit off their games. He describes a private developer group chat on the messaging platform Telegram that illustrates the trevails of chasing the misty specter of building your dream game."
How Forza Horizon 4 raced to the heart of Britain (Keith Stuart / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"It’s like a digital road trip, right down to our familiar road signs, and our pothole-scarred byways. But selecting Britain as a location wasn’t an easy option for Playground. “My starting position was no, that’s not something we should do,” says creative director Ralph Fulton."
Meet the pioneering Japanese indie behind La-Mulana (Alex Wiltshire / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"And from Demon’s Souls on, there are other challengingly enigmatic exploration-based games which delight on springing fatal traps on the unwary. But they don’t quite follow La-Mulana’s surprisingly powerful combination of crushing difficulty and lighthearted weirdness."
My day at Coalchella, the music festival inside Minecraft (Morgan Park / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"I like EDM and love Minecraft, so I had to see what the hell Coalchella was going to be. The lineup featured a bunch of independent artists I had never heard of before, most of which come from a tight-knit Soundcloud community, as well as some more recognizable names."
The bestest games of EGX (Hivemind / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"After four days of hosting panels, interviewing developers, streaming games on camera and poking at as many as we could on the show floor, Team RPS has returned from the hallowed halls of EGX. Now that we’ve nestled back into our treehouse nooks, it’s time to talk about the best things wot we saw. [SIMON'S NOTE: Eurogamer has a similar round-up, and disclaimer - No More Robots' upcoming '90s web-browser mystery weirdness Hypnospace Outlaw is on both lists, hurray?]"
The importance of sitting in 'Life is Strange 2' (Jessica Conditt / Engadget - ARTICLE)
"Back on the road, it's just become clear that Daniel doesn't know his dad is dead. The realization hits me like a truck as Sean provides a noncommittal response to his young brother's question. This is where the tension of Life is Strange lives, in the minuscule moments between sentences."
Don’t like visual novels? These games might change your mind (Katherine Cross / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Visual novels have long ventured to places that more mainstream games avoid. A genre-cum-medium of interactive stories that often feature static anime-influenced art, they also tend to be more diverse than more mainstream titles — including how they depict queer relationships."
Three pain points in the production and design of Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Staff / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"This month, Shadow of the Tomb Raider capped off the new trilogy that began in 2013. As development moved over from Crystal Dynamics to Eidos Montreal, we were curious about the design and production processes that go on at large triple-A studios that bring games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider to life -- and the obstacles these developers encountered."
How Overcooked’s Kitchens Force You to Communicate (Mark Brown / Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Overcooked is one of the best co-op games I’ve played, because it seems to force players to not only work with each other - but talk to each other. In this video, I’ll explain how the kitchens themselves encourage this behaviour."
The Hidden Gems Of TGS 2018 (Kimberley Wallace / Game Informer - ARTICLE)
"TGS always has the obvious hitters, from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts to Capcom’s Resident Evil and Monster Hunter. But that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to the show. Part of the fun is finding the impressive, if lesser known, games among the chaos."
Waffenhund Panzer: A Metal Max Retrospective (George / The Land Of Obscusion - ARTICLE)
"Today, post-apocalyptic worlds are nothing new in video games, with some of the most cherished, popular, & influential franchises of all time utilizing them. All the meanwhile, though, there was Metal Max, & later Metal Saga, which takes this generally serious worldview & does its own zany things with it; one could even consider it a parody of the genre."
Carmack compares Oculus Quest hardware power to last-gen game consoles (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"That relative lack of hardware power is going to require some developers to adopt "a different programming style that's been necessary on the PC," Carmack warned. "With a modern PC, you have so much extra power, you don't need to be a hotshot programmer to make a game people love. You don't really have that convenience on any mobile platform, really, but especially not on our platform.""
The Rise And Fall Of The Company Behind 'Reader Rabbit' And All Your Favorite Educational Games (Abigail Cain / The Outline - ARTICLE)
"Each May, as the elementary school year was winding down, our teachers would send us home with a new educational CD-ROM — hoping, I assume, that it would keep our young brains from rotting away during the lazy summer months. As a result, I spent many a 100-degree Texas day indoors, glued to our family’s outdated computer monitor."
Keita Takahashi on Wattam and the Superfluousness of Video Games (Caty McCarthy / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"Takahashi's latest game is Wattam, a game he explains is "about respect for all life." But our conversation about it is accented as much by laughter as it is somberness. Light-hearted observations and answers derail onto grim paths. I understand the tendency."
Breaking Through: Psychosis and the Making of Hellblade (Dominic Matthews & Tameem Antoniades / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC talk, Ninja Theory's Dominic Matthews and Tameem Antoniades discuss the approach taken by a small team of 20 to deliver a AAA quality game that strives to push the boundaries of narrative within gaming, with a particular focus on the team's approach to researching and collaborating around the subject of psychosis, in order to deliver a compelling and thoughtful depiction."
Controller Gaming on PC (Ian / Valve / Steam Blog - ARTICLE)
"By supporting so many controller types we've learned about which controllers are being used on the platform and by accommodating customization we've learned how players prefer to interact with different genres. Today we'll share figures on which controllers have been connected to Steam, how controllers are being used, and what happens when a new controller is released on the platform."
Video games introduced electronic music to a generation, almost subconsciously (Aisha Hassan / Quartzy - ARTICLE)
" The games’ musical refrains varied in length, and were crucial because they would “energize and motivate the player,” and keep them hooked for hours, Dwyer says. “This is the mid ‘80s and early 90’s,” he adds, “It was prepping a generation of kids around the world for a future of listening to electronic beats and loops.” [SIMON'S NOTE: found some of Season 2's episodes, which were tricky to source, over on Mixcloud.]"
Myst at 25: How it changed gaming, created addicts, and made enemies (Benj Edwards / Fast Company - ARTICLE)
"Just a few days ago, as Hurricane Florence approached my home in North Carolina, I popped a disc into my 1990s Atari Jaguar CD gaming console. A familiar animated logo popped onto the screen, and I found myself transported back to a world I knew well decades ago."
Uncle Buddy’s Phantom Funhouse (Phil Salvador / The Obscuritory - ARTICLE)
"The mindboggling part of Uncle Buddy’s Phantom Funhouse how much there is. It’s presented as a collection of HyperCard programs from the belongings of an artist named Arthur Newkirk. It includes his digital art books, a fortune telling program, a 52-page article from an academic journal analyzing an album he recorded, his personal correspondences, and a program from a sci-fi convention he attended."
Classic Game Postmortem: Ultima Online (Raph Koster, Starr Long, Richard Garriott de Cayeux, Rich Vogel / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC session, Raph Koster, Starr Long, Richard Garriott de Cayeux & Rich Vogel talk about the things that went wrong and right during the development and operation of Ultima Online."
[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!]