[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 Destiny 2's Forsaken expansion, an investigation of how game credits are handled for remasters, & lots more besides.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Shadow of the Tomb Raider review: Fighting for my life and loving it (Daniel Starkey / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"By opting for a more intimate and dramatic look at gore and violence, and then treating those lives as disposable, at least in terms of play, Shadow brings home some uncomfortable feelings. But, in a medium that's been so steeped in viscera, perhaps the excessive bloodshed has its place."
An Ode to Two Dots, the Game That Eases My Anxious Mind (Gila Lyons / Vice Tonic - ARTICLE)
"In Two Dots, the goal is erasure. It’s a game with just the right amount of strategy and luck to make it compelling, satisfying, and calming. [SIMON'S NOTE: as I said on Twitter: 'This is interesting because the idea of mental downtime via games being positive is seldom discussed, & the literal flip side of 'grind-y games make you addicted and that's bad'.'"]
The World Design of Super Metroid | Boss Keys (Mark Brown / Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Making a Metroidvania is an enormous design challenge. How do you let a player loose in an interconnected world, without them becoming lost or frustrated?"
Spider-Man's Quiet Moments Are Its Most Important (Javy Gwaltney / Game Informer - ARTICLE)
"With all that in mind, I wanted to take some time this week to write about what I think Spider-Man does best: devoting copious amounts of its real estate to quiet narrative moments that allow characters to transcend simple characterization and instead become complicated people we care about."
Destiny's creators made the game less addictive – and players rebelled (Alex Hern / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"The developer wanted to respect players’ time, but the players themselves – or at least, the most vocal part of the community – wanted the game they had come to treat as a hobby to continue providing reasons to play. So in the new Destiny 2 expansion, Forsaken, randomised weapon drops are back, along with more ways to fill time shooting aliens and robots on beautiful planets."
Exploring the First Microprocessor Video Games (Ethan Johnson / The History Of How We Play - ARTICLE)
"There are a lot of contenders for what might be called the first microprocessor game. Keith Smith has covered this on his blog in a series of posts and I will be covering two major contenders in my upcoming series. However there are stories that have yet to be synthesized and researched to a large degree..."
How Game Apps That Captivate Kids Have Been Collecting Their Data (Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Natasha Singer, Aaron Krolik & Michael H. Keller / New York Times - ARTICLE)
"Before Kim Slingerland downloaded the Fun Kid Racing app for her then-5-year-old son, Shane, she checked to make sure it was in the family section of the Google Play store and rated as age-appropriate. The game, which lets children race cartoon cars with animal drivers, has been downloaded millions of times."
Watch the Trailer for a New Documentary About the Most Hated Filmmaker in Video Games (Matthew Gault / Motherboard - ARTICLE / MOVIE TRAILER)
"From House of the Dead to Alone in the Dark to Postal, his films are so bad that they don’t even work as ironic entertainment. Boll makes willfully bad video game adaptations and ultra violent schlock that even the most jaded stoner would turn off in favor of finding something funny to watch on YouTube. [SIMON'S NOTE: I was NOT expecting a Uwe Boll documentary, & don't quite know how to feel about it.]"
DED LED (DED LED / Itch.io - PDF BOOK/MAGAZINE)
"DED LED is an independently organized collection of articles, essays, and reviews originally posted to the videogame website Kill Screen between 2013 and 2016. Websites come and go, and great work dies with them. DED LED preserves a body of videogame writing created by a slate of 49 talented contributors, acting as a vertical slice of a critical scene over a 4-year period. [SIMON'S NOTE: lots of great writing here, and a free download.]"
Why Don't Remakes And Remasters Always Credit the Original Developers? (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"These days, it’s common for games to let players pull up a credits scene in the options menu, and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is no different. That section of credits, however, is solely dedicated to those who worked on the remaster. There is no mention of the original development staff, without a discernible reason why. [SIMON'S NOTE: A deep dive into what is often VERY weird crediting on game remasters.]"
‘The Good Life’ Delivers Sense of Wonder to Mundanity of Life (Michael Futter / Variety - ARTICLE)
"Crushing debt isn’t often funny or enjoyable, but with Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro and his White Owls studio, there is a bright side to everything. Best known for campy survival horror game “Deadly Premonition,” he visited PAX West to show off a demo of his Kickstarter-funded “The Good Life” and its cheeky exploration of the unknown. [SIMON'S NOTE: don't generally cover previews on VGDC, but found Swery's explanation of how he thought up this game's premise really... touching?"]
Riot Games Says It Wants To Clean Up Its Mess, But The People Who Made It Are Still There (Cecilia D'Anastasio / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"In mid-August, in front of an audience of his own employees, Marc Merrill, a co-founder of Riot Games, the studio behind League of Legends, admitted fault. According to two sources watching, he apologized, his voice choked up, and he began to cry. Twelve years after Riot’s founding, it had become clear to its employees, League of Legends’ community, and the public at large that Riot was not the utopian games company it had set out to be."
Destiny 2's Forsaken expansion might be the best the series has ever been (Nick Statt / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Forsaken massively improves on almost every element of Destiny 2, either by incorporating a working piece from its predecessor or reworking an existing and dysfunctional element until it’s reached a happy medium. There are still flaws and annoyances and kinks to work out, but those pale in comparison to the improvements Bungie has made."
How much do indie PC devs make, anyways? (Part 8) (David Galindo / Gamasutra Blogs - ARTICLE)
"“I won’t do this to myself next time. Next time, things will be different.” I vividly recall this promise to myself as I sat in my chair, hands shaking as I completed another 48-hour round of coding. It was September 2017, one year since I initially delayed Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!, one month since I had delayed it again from August, with hours left until Steam automatically released CSD 2, and the game was still not finished."
Building Companion AI in Far Cry Primal (AI & Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Far Cry Primal introduces a new mechanic that allows players to tame wild animals and use them as weapons in their battle for Oros Valley. In this video I take a look at the history of the companion AI systems and the problems faced along the way."
How Exapunks represents hacking without limits (Alex Wiltshire / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"For its makers, though, Exapunks is a game about limitations. Its format is the result of hard decisions about how much space you get to write your code in, how much freedom you get to solve its puzzles, and how it’s presented on your screen. And even now, creative director Zach Barth isn’t totally sure he and his team got it right."
Playing Games Can Be Hard Work. So Can Choosing Which Ones to Display (Alex Marshall / New York Times - ARTICLE)
"Last week, Marie Foulston stood in the Victoria and Albert Museum trying to explain what was so groundbreaking about a host of recent video games. At the same time, she was trying to play one, controlling a horse onscreen that was, absurdly, driving a taxi cab."
What 4,000 hours of Kerbal Space Program taught this father about space, engineering, and passion (Steven Messner / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"In the three years since Kerbal Space Program officially launched on Steam, Daniel 'ShadowZone' has spent a cumulative 166 days playing it. That kind of streak feels right at home in the endless multiplayer battles of DOTA 2 or MMOs like World of Warcraft. But to spend 4,000 hours playing a single-player space simulator seemed impossible to me."
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout is like a polished PUBG (Wesley Yin-Poole / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"The first thing that strikes you about Blackout, Call of Duty's take on the phenomenally popular battle royale genre, is how smooth it all feels. There's a polish to the experience that's leagues above Blackout's most direct rival in the battle royale space, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds."
Developing Spore: An oral ('Sporal'?) history 10 years on (Aron Garst / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Over the entire course of development, as the team at Maxis grew from an idea in Will Wright’s head to a team of over 100 developers, every designer that touched some aspect of Spore new it was something incredible. Even if the initial concept would have to change and scale over the course of development."
[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!]