[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 roundup includes all kinds of E3 neatness from Los Angeles, including discussion of Nintendo's announcements, the PC Gaming Show, Microsoft's xCloud vs Google Stadia (or not!), as well as another 10+ links that aren't about E3 at all. (Just in case you got a bit overloaded.)
Hope this helps you understand the week a little bit!
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Building a Pirate's Paradise in Sea of Thieves (AI and Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this first episode I interview three developers - Andy Bastable, Rob Masella and Stuart Holland - about the early days of the games development, the underlying AI architectures and the procedural mission generation and balancing systems."
E3 proved that video game publishers want to become Netflix (Julia Alexander / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"With the first details coming out around the next Xbox and PlayStation, you might expect those upcoming consoles to be the buzz of this year’s E3. But instead, subscription services have become the talk of the show, as seemingly every console maker and game publisher looks to shift the way that games are sold."
EverQuest’s long, strange 20-year trip still has no end in sight (Andy Patrizio / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Twenty years ago, a company in Southern California launched an online game that would go on to serve as the model for many more titles to come in the massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG) space. And unlike many games that sought to replace it over the years, this one is still going today."
Nintendo's off-kilter approach to the generation game just let it storm E3 (Martin Robinson / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Nintendo's always marched to its own beat - it's what makes the company so fascinating, and just as often so frustrating. Sometimes that approach falters, sometimes it soars, and this week's E3 was a prime example of the latter."
The Real Life Landscapes of Fallout 1, Fallout 2, and Fallout: New Vegas (Noah Caldwell-Gervais / YouTube - VIDEO)
"This is an experimental travel project where I tried to follow in real life the maps and landscapes I'd digitally journeyed down in the original Fallout games and New Vegas. [SIMON'S NOTE: a little late on this, but it's 90 minutes long and the landscapes are gorgeous.]"
Dota 2 Majors are not guaranteed profitable events (Michael Cohen / Torte De Lini - ARTICLE)
"With that said, the public discussion about tournament brands earning a profit on their events has been troubling in recent years. This article seeks to reveal the range of costs and revenue for tournament brands as well as the challenges they face."
The best games, demos, and tech of E3 2019 (Sam Machkovech & Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"This year's E3 was the most thinly attended iteration we've seen in years—but that was by no means the fault of the games on offer. We left E3 2019 impressed by a variety of games old and new. While we're still working through a backlog of hands-on impressions, the Ars gaming braintrust is already ready to name its favorite games of the show—all of which were games shown with real, live gameplay."
For Men Who Hate Talking On The Phone, Games Keep Friendships Alive (Cecilia D'Anastasio / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"It’s a little heartwarming, then, that the men we spoke to said they rely on online games and voice chat to achieve the interpersonal closeness that can feel contrived or heavy-handed in a prearranged phone call. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the apparent paradox—phone, bad; game, good—but the men who took a stab at answering it had some interesting explanations."
The PC Gaming Show Is the Best E3 Press Conference (Cameron Kunzelman / VICE - ARTICLE)
"This isn’t a single company sharing its vision for the next few years through the single-minded alignment of projects from internal studios and external partners. This is hosts Sean Plott and Frankie Ward wrangling independent developers onto the stage and talking to them about their weird creations as an ad-hoc, freewheeling survey of what’s to come."
'Alt-Frequencies,' a radio drama for the social media era (Todd Martens / LA Times - ARTICLE)
"“Alt-Frequencies” plays with this timeless tension, having players vacillate between amplifying the drama or searching for truth. It’s a critique not just of media but of what we the people want from our news sources. Each radio station in the game — players on mobile phones will swipe rather than turn a dial — brings us to another opinionated viewpoint."
How Top Gamers Earn Up to $15,000 an Hour (Patrick Shanley / The Hollywood Reporter - ARTICLE)
"A decade ago, Benjamin Lupo’s hobby of playing video games was just that. Today, a gamer like Lupo could earn as much as $15,000 an hour broadcasting his gaming to the nearly 3 â¯million people who follow him on live-streaming platform Twitch. Lupo, who goes by the online avatar DrLupo, says it took him "two full years of streaming 40-plus hours a week" while working a regular job before he felt comfortable gaming "full time.""
Why Fashion in (Most) Games Sucks, and Why You Should Care (Victoria Tran / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2019 GDC talk, Kitfox Games' Victoria Tran explores the recent history of fashion in games and provides multiple tips for making your own character design runway-worthy."
Xbox boss Phil Spencer on the future of gaming: 'The business isn't how many consoles you sell' (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"The head of Xbox just unveiled a new console, but Phil Spencer isn’t too worried about selling you one. “I don’t need to sell any specific version of the console in order for us to reach our business goals,” he told me in an interview yesterday, the day after Microsoft held its annual E3 keynote. [SIMON'S NOTE: also see this Matt Booty interview via Eurogamer on Microsoft's strategy.]"
Watch Dogs Legion is the most impressive E3 demo I've played in years (Samuel Roberts / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"Watch Dogs Legion has no default protagonist. Those rumours about being able to play as any 'NPC' in the game were true—while it takes a little work to recruit each individual to Dedsec, you build up a pool of swappable playable characters. [SIMON'S NOTE: here's more on this from Kotaku - and congrats to GDC board member Clint Hocking, who looks on track to ship his first game since Far Cry 2, and in style!]"
Meet the angry gaming YouTubers who turn outrage into views (Ian Sherr / Cnet - ARTICLE)
"Starting last year, a new cadre of negative YouTube gaming commentators came to prominence. Almost in unison, they each enjoyed spikes in audience and view counts, attracting hundreds of thousands of subscribers. That translated into millions of views a week as they dissected the video game industry's missteps, misadventures and controversies."
The economics of making indie games are wack (Jake Birkett / Grey Alien Games / Patreon - ARTICLE)
"I’ve been doing this since 2005, so 14 years, and I’d love to continue for a long time because I enjoy the lifestyle and I love making games, but... wow, it is hard to make a living from this. So anyway, I wanted to explore some numbers so you can see why I think the economics of making indie games and selling them on Steam is wack. [SIMON'S NOTE: you can quibble elements of this, but it's true that it's tough out there.]"
Stardock and Star Control creators settle lawsuits—with mead and honey (Lee Hutchinson / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
""We solved this problem like most problems—with booze and bees," joked Stardock's Brad Wardell in a phone interview earlier today with Ars (he was joined by Reiche & Ford on the line, as all three are in Los Angeles for E3 at the moment). [SIMON'S NOTE: this is mainly a news story, so I wouldn't normally include - but those settlement stipulations!]"
Stop worrying about timed exclusives and worry more about games industry consolidation (Graham Smith / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"Microsoft might be a changed company since those days, but some of these pressures seem like the inevitable consequence of having been purchased for a lot of money by a much bigger company. Even if everything goes perfectly, what are the chances of more niche games like Pillars Of Eternity, Wasteland and Hellblade continuing to emerge from these larger structures?"
Cyberpunk 2077’s E3 demo: the good and the bad (Charlie Hall / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"This year’s demo of Cyberpunk 2077, the highly-anticipated role-playing game from CD Projekt Red, looked both better and worse than the demo shown last year. The scope and scale of the game world on display was extraordinary, but the team is clearly still finding its way with the game’s combat. [SIMON'S NOTE: more here from Eurogamer.]"
Against Gravity is building a VR world that won’t stop growing (Lucas Matney / TechCrunch - ARTICLE)
"The quest to create a social auditorium in virtual reality has eaten many VC dollars over the years. While plenty of contenders have emerged, it’s likely Against Gravity’s Rec Room has been the most creative in its approach to capturing a niche market while plotting how to build a sustainable business based on users in VR headsets talking to one another."
The History of Roguelike Deckbuilders - From Playing Cards to CCGs and Beyond (Extra Credits / YouTube - VIDEO)
"We cover the evolution and history of cards as games! From playing cards, to trading cards, to Magic: The Gathering, to Hearthstone, and beyond..."
Developers don’t want to show gameplay at E3 anymore, and who can blame them? (Jeremy Peel / VG247 - ARTICLE)
"Game developers try to show, not tell, when teaching you about how a game works. But on the stages of E3 this year, they haven’t been showing very much either. Some conference reveals were short films... others were sizzle reels... But far rarer was the seamless gameplay footage that purported to show off exactly how a game would play, moment by moment."
Microsoft’s xCloud can’t and shouldn’t be compared with Google Stadia right now (Nick Statt / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"I do have hands-on impressions with both Stadia and xCloud: They both work, they’re both impressive, and I’ll share more below. But you can’t properly compare xCloud with Stadia right now, and trying to do so is unfair to both Microsoft and Google. Here’s why."
[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!]