[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 a look at the baffling The Quiet Man, a piece on HQ Trivia's struggles to continue its success, and a look at how credits in video games still aren't going quite right - among many others.
(There's actually some startling eclecticism in this round-up, and that's before pieces on chess champions and The Tetris Effect that I had to bump to next week for space reasons! Darn, there's a lot of good 'content' out there...)
Also - before I forget - a shout-out for Hours Played: The First Hour, which is currently crowdfunding, and is noted supercut creator Duncan Robson's film inspired by Christian Marclay's amazing 24-hour art piece 'The Clock', but using clocks in video game footage. Go help make it happen - we'll try to show an excerpt at the GDC 2019 Film Festival if it's done in time!
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
China’s gaming crackdown should worry the industry elsewhere (The Economist - ARTICLE)
"Moral panics over new media are old hat... But new worries about the addictiveness of games, and the danger that poses to children in particular, have more substance to them and are already prompting a regulatory crackdown. The industry would be wise to get ahead of the problem."
The Quiet Man is The Room of video games and a once-in-a-generation trainwreck (Robin Valentine / GamesRadar - ARTICLE)
"Its premise is both simple and immediately intriguing: the main character Dane is deaf, and thus almost all of the game’s audio is muted, forcing you to experience the world as he does. And, on first glance, the set-up is solid enough too, if tropey... On both fronts, however, The Quiet Man bungles things utterly."
HQ Trivia was a blockbuster hit — but internal turmoil and a shrinking audience have pushed its company to the brink (Kurt Wagner / Recode - ARTICLE)
"HQ is preparing to launch a new game show, one that it hopes will legitimize its place as a rising player in the world of mobile entertainment. But it’s also dealing with some serious issues, including a declining audience for HQ Trivia and the aftermath of a dramatic change of CEOs."
The Tin Man of Far Cry 2 (Clint Hocking / Click Nothing - ARTICLES)
"A few years ago, on the tenth anniversary of the release of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, I posted some thoughts about the development of that game, and the impact it had on my life. Specifically I talked a bit about how the intense stress and long hours on that project affected me.... Anyway - I’m not writing today to rehash that debate. I’m writing because another tin anniversary has passed; this, the tenth anniversary of the release of Far Cry 2."
The Good Times Are Over for Japan’s Loot-Box-Style Gaming Bonanza (Yuji Nakamura / Bloomberg Businessweek - ARTICLE)
"Yet for Japan’s pioneers of mobile gaming—or, according to critics, gambling—the good times seem to be just about over. Mostly unable to produce follow-up hits, the companies are losing market share to more innovative rivals in China and South Korea, and their profits and share prices are tumbling."
Atari Asteroids: Creating a Vector Arcade Classic (Tony / Arcade Blogger - ARTICLE)
"As Atari’s best-selling arcade game of all time, Asteroids was literally a game changer. Released in December 1979, it was responsible for catapulting Atari into mainstream public consciousness. This was the game that single-handedly broke the stranglehold that Space Invaders had on the video game world."
BlizzCon 2018 Interview with Jeff Kaplan & Nicole Gillett: Ashe, Map Editor, Hero Development and More! (Reddit Moderators / r/Overwatch / Reddit - ARTICLE)
"This BlizzCon 2018 we had a chance to sit down with Overwatch Game Director and Vice President, Jeff Kaplan, as well as Associate Game Producer Nicole Gillet. [SIMON'S NOTE: Neat to see such a good Q&A coming from a Subreddit - maybe the next wave of citizen journalism, if done well?]"
Martin Amis on Space Invaders: how games criticism was born (Simon Parkin / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"Like Updike on golf, or Foster Wallace on tennis, Amis approaches video games with an enthusiast’s glee, deploying pleading prose that seeks to illuminate the subject’s hold on the writer. “Cinematic melodrama blazing on screen, infinite firing capacity, beautiful responsiveness, the background pulse of the quickening heartbeat” – Amis’s fascination is clear, his enthusiasm infectious."
Dude, Where's My Money? Part One: The Science of Steam (Nikolay Bondarenko / GI.biz - ARTICLE)
"Let's assume you plan to spend $100,000 to develop and market your game, then sell copies for $20 apiece. Here's the easiest way to calculate this: $100,000 / $20 = 12,000 copies until your investment begins to pay off. What, your math says 5,000? You're doing it wrong. Let's find out why. [SIMON'S NOTE: there's also a Part 2 out there.]"
K/DA, Riot Games’ pop girl group, explained (Julia Lee / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Have you seen a girl with a demon face bandanna all over your social media feeds? Or maybe a fox girl with dyed blonde hair? It’s all part of the world of League of Legends, which has its own fictional K-pop group, who appeared at this weekend’s World Championship Finals."
My Gamer Brain Is Addicted to the Peloton Exercise Bike (Ed Zitron / Motherboard - ARTICLE)
"And somehow, an expensive bike with a computer attached to it has meshed with my obsessive gaming habits. The incremental jumps in power, the calories burned—all of it ties into that same weird place in my brain that says “this is good, I will do a lot of it,” to the point that I bike so much my legs are giant, sore tree trunks and my ass hurts."
This queer horror game forces you to literally tear yourself apart (Julie Muncy / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Early on in The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories, the heroine dies. For video games, this isn’t that unusual. What is unusual is what happens afterward: she picks herself up, snaps her bones back into place, and keeps going. J.J., a college student with flowing blonde hair, has a missing friend to find, and if she has to tear her body apart to get where she’s going, she will."
How bad crediting hurts the game industry and muddles history (Richard Moss / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"You'd think that game credits would be simple. It's just a list of names and roles, after all. How hard can that be to get right? But credits are rarely simple, because neither is game development. And yet credits are an invaluable, underappreciated aspect of game making."
Boss Up: Boss Battle Design Fundamentals and Retrospective (Itay Keren / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC session, Untame's Itay Keren discusses the various aspects that make a well-designed, effective and memorable boss battle. [SIMON'S NOTE: from the maker of the super-popular 'How Cameras in Side-Scrollers Work'talk.]
What Does Epic Games Owe Artists Who Inspire Fortnite Emotes? (Function With Anil Dash / Glitch / PODCAST)
"Epic Games' Fortnite is one of the most popular video games in the world, and a big part of that popularity comes from their emotes -- dances and other gestures which are used in the game as taunts or celebratory moves. However, many have called out Epic Games for these emotes, claiming that they have been stolen and renamed in Fortnite without permission or citation from their creators or sources."
From Software’s VR Game Deraciné Is Short And Unsettling (Chris Kohler / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Deraciné, the first PlayStation VR game from Dark Souls maker From Software, definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s a brief, slow-paced, story-heavy game set in a boarding school... Deraciné is more about experiencing the world and obsessively combing it for clues to its odd supernatural story."
We Asked Eight Studios From Across The World How They Deal with Crunch (Aron Garst / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"What follows are eight interviews with members of the game industry, from Japanese studios with thousands of employees to a 50-person team in Italy to a two-person studio in Sweden. Many were very open about the challenges that crunch brings to game development while others didn’t want to answer at all."
Nintendo’s New Games Are Miserable for People With Disabilities (Mark Brown / Medium Gaming - ARTICLE)
"It’s an unspoken downside of innovation: Sometimes a push into new technology can leave certain people behind. Ideas like virtual reality, touchscreens, and 3D television might promise new experiences for most of us. But for people with disabilities, they can mean motion sickness, muscle pain, or worse."
11-11: Memories Retold review – a first world war game in which no shots are fired (Steve Boxer / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"Creating a commemorative first world war game is bold, given the traditionally blunt approach to warfare that video games have, but boldness is to be expected of Wallace and Gromit creators Aardman Animations. The mission of 11-11: Memories Retold, released before the centenary of Armistice Day, is to provide insight into the war, particularly for younger generations."
Conversations in Skyrim VR (Aaron Reed / Medium - ARTICLE)
"Against my better judgment, my partner has talked me into trying Skyrim VR. I loved Skyrim, but have complex feelings about VR: I’m all about being immersed in rich, explorable environments, but also get nauseous very easily, so most VR games with motion are non-starters."
How a book binds the Return of the Obra Dinn (Alex Wiltshire / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"Towards the end of Return of the Obra Dinn’s four-and-a-half years in development, Lucas Pope had a friend come over to playtest it. He sat him down, explained how it’s a firstperson mystery game in which you discover the fate of the Obra Dinn, a merchant ship lost on its voyage into the Orient. Then he gave him the controls."
Going the Distance: Building a game - and community - over six years (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Distance bends and twists the racing genre, bringing it closer to parkour and survival rather than focusing solely on quick laps... Gamasutra spoke with Jordan Hemenway, creative director at Distance developers Refract, to talk about taking racing in new directions, and building a game with a community over several years."
[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!]