[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.
This week's roundup includes a look at a whole heap of new games, including Control, Knights On Bikes, Ancestors, and Astral Chain, as well as a retrospective interview with Seaman designer Yoot Saito and a whole heap of other excellent articles.
Not much more to say, since I'm just back from PAX West in Seattle, the only video game event where you can see 'Keanu Reeves' from Cyberpunk 2077 riding a velociraptor. (Maybe that should be their tagline for next year?)
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Roblox and the Wild West of teenage scammers (Ana Diaz / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Rez was 16 years old and bored when he bought Stateview Correctional Facilities, a prison simulation game on Roblox. For $17.50, Rez gained access to a community of 300 people. Two months later, Stateview Correctional Facilities had exploded to 100,000 players, and was making around $5,000 a week. That’s when everything came crashing down."
As Game Budgets Balloon, Indie Devs Learn to Work Smarter (Samuel Horti / EGM - ARTICLE)
"It’s the type of creativity indie devs must show if they hope to stay within their budgets, which are a fraction of those afforded to triple-A studios. Some of those ideas, like No Code’s homebrew motion capture, are effectively shortcuts: ways of solving a problem without spending as much money as a larger studio would."
Open-source flash emulator hopes to preserve a generation of Flash games (Vikki Blake / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"In a bid to preserve a generation's worth of Flash games, a new open-source project hopes to create, and share, a Flash emulator. The project - which comes just a few weeks after Adobe announced plans to "end-of-life Flash" - hopes to secure a way to play Flash games in your browser via emulation. [SIMON'S NOTE: more of a news story than we generally have here, but highlighting because this is incredibly important for a big chunk of video game history.]"
Netflix's Carla Engelbrecht Chooses Her Own Adventures (Antonia Hitchens / Wired - ARTICLE)
"The woman sitting beside Engelbrecht reported that, while watching the movie, she had “just wanted Stefan to get a good job, finish the game, and meet a nice girl,” Engelbrecht tells me later. “She'd completely forgotten that this was Black Mirror”—a frequently dark and sometimes meta science-fiction show about the human relationship to technology—“but she had this deep empathy, and she was so invested in his success.”"
Astral Chain: The Kotaku Review (Mike Fahey / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"“Action game.” That’s what Astral Chain’s publisher Nintendo calls it. That’s what its developer Platinum Games calls it. That’s what we called it when we first reported on its existence. But Astral Chain is so much more than just an action game. I’d go as far as saying that “action game” is the least of what Astral Chain is. [SIMON'S NOTE: this one sneaked up on us but looks great, review roundup from ResetEra.]"
Clark Tank: Defiant Shutdown, Ooblets Announcement, Steam Diving Bell and Oxygen Not Included! (Ryan Clark / YouTube - VIDEO)
"This week we talk Defiant shutting down, the Ooblets Epic Game Store announcement, and take a look at Steam charts before diving in to play Oxygen Not Included. [SIMON'S NOTE: reminder, these are VODs on Twitch that are edited down for easier watching on YouTube a few weeks later - but always have GREAT intel in them.]"
The Story of Sonic Team – 1997 Developer Interview (Shmuplations - ARTICLE)
"This interview with Naoto Oshima and Yuji Naka was originally featured in the January 1997 issue of Sega Magazine. While it was titled “The Story of Sonic Team” there, it is really more an account of Naka and Oshima’s early days and the first Sonic the Hedgehog development."
Bungie on this year's break up, and building a better future for Destiny (Tom Phillips / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Shadowkeep feels similar in some ways to Destiny 1 expansion Rise of Iron. Both arrive at the turn of each game's third year and both feature a familiar location expanded and altered by its story. But Rise of Iron was also built while Bungie was busy readying Destiny 2 in the background. How do Shadowkeep and this year's upcoming seasons fit in with what's next?"
The frustrating, enduring debate over video games, violence, and guns (Aja Romano / Vox - ARTICLE)
"The frenzied debate over video games within the larger conversation around gun violence underscores both how intense the fight over gun control has become and how easily games can become mired in political rhetoric."
I Am the Cheapest Bastard In Indie Games (Jeff Vogel / Spiderweb Software - ARTICLE)
"So I am going to say some stuff about making and budgeting video games and why I am a bozo and why I am cursed to be a bozo forever. Along the way, I'm going to explain to you the whole indie games biz, from soup to nuts. If you like indie games, I think you might find how I survive interesting. [SIMON'S NOTE: in 2019, he's really NOT the cheapest, but this is still super interesting stuff.]"
Fortnite Maker Wants to Sell More Games, and Build a Platform to Do It (Jason M Bailey / New York Times - ARTICLE)
"Toppling Steam will not be easy. Changing the habits of entrenched users can be difficult, and even companies with large audiences have struggled in the digital distribution space. Twitch, the streaming service owned by Amazon, and Discord, the chat program used by many gamers, recently shuttered their public storefronts."
Gaming’s ‘MeToo’ moment continues as more women come forward (Rachel Kaser / TheNextWeb - ARTICLE)
"What started as a small collection of voices on Twitter has now ballooned into a full-blown movement, as more and more women in gaming come forward with accusations against men who’ve allegedly abused or assaulted them. Several women came forward earlier this week to disclose the names of men who’d sexually abused them or engaged in predatory behavior, and now many more have followed."
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey Was Turned Down by Over 40 Investors (Hirun Cryer / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"After four arduous years in development, Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey released earlier this week from Panache Digital Games. But the journey to release was far from smooth, as studio head Patrice Désilets told me at Gamescom. [SIMON'S NOTE: here's a PC Gamer review which explains how the game is pretty, uh, unconventional.]"
Why the sound of a gun had to be nerfed in Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (People Make Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"The curious case of a weapon that sounded so good, players thought it was overpowered."
The music industry wants in on the capitalist dreamworld of video games (Lewis Gordon / Dazed - ARTICLE)
"Video games can be a casual, chill pastime, and streaming – particularly if it takes place in a low-key environment, like an artist’s home – might be a means of solidifying relationships between fan and artist while making the latter feel more authentic."
Knights and Bikes review - Cyclists of the round table (Donovan Erskine / Shacknews - ARTICLE)
"What immediately hits you when jumping into Knights and Bikes is the fantastical art style. The island of Penfurzy and its inhabitants look like something plucked straight out of a children's story book. This creates a very warm and cozy atmosphere."
20 years after Seaman, Saito reflects on creativity and making new, strange things(Kris Graft / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Yoot Saito is someone who makes a point of doing things differently. Whether it's the pinball-cross-tactics gameplay of Odama or the gross-but-lovable voice-activated virtual pet in Seaman, Saito's intent has been to surprise players with new kinds of interactions."
These Architects Are Using Video Games to Rethink Modern Living (Erin Hudson / GetPocket / Narratively - ARTICLE)
"Fletcher and the team researched hundreds of smaller islands and finally found a possible reference in the volcanic Azores off the coast of Portugal. With long histories of human culture on the Azores, Fletcher and his team could make informed decisions about which sides of the island would get the most wind and sunlight, which determined what plants would grow or not. [NOTE: actually from 2017, and resurfaced via Pocket, but still good.]"
Control - A Review (Mike Williams / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"Remedy Entertainment feels like a studio that's been searching for the right game for years. It's been rooting around the same space, third-person action adventure with a tinge of weirdness, action games probing the fabric of reality, revealing the secrets underneath. You can trace this line from Max Payne, to Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and now Control. [SIMON'S NOTE: As OpenCritic rounds up, reviews for this evolution of Remedy's style are generally positive.]"
Why King Of Fighters Dominates Latin America's Fighting Game Scene (John Learned / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"What’s the fighting game you remember the most from the arcades of your youth? Street Fighter II? Tekken? Mortal Kombat? If you’re from Latin America, there’s an excellent chance that the first game that jumps to mind wasn’t any of those, and the game that defined your formative arcade experience was actually SNK’s The King of Fighters."
[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!]