[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from curator/video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless, rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's highlights include musings on guns in games, a postmortem of Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, & a profile of a top retro YouTuber, among others.
Other news from this week? The indie publisher No More Robots - which I help out with for japes - announced the second game it's publishing, Not Tonight. It's, uh, a post-Brexit pub/club bouncer simulator (?!). Will be super interesting to see how it's received when it comes out on Steam this summer.
Oh, and unrelated but hilarious - is PC Building Simulator the most meta video game of 2018 so far? (It's doing pretty well!)
Until next time,
- Simon, curator.]
The history of violence buried deep in Far Cry 5's landscape (Gareth Damian Martin / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"The implication is obvious, these are not our homes, our landscapes, our places, but those that belong to a wide variety of others. Far Cry has stretched this otherness to include not just generalised African revolutionaries and tattooed Islanders but even humanity's own prehistoric ancestors."
Jason Rohrer: One Hour One Life (Hoomans - PODCAST & TEXT TRANSCRIPT)
"Jason Rohrer is an independent artist and developer using videogames as his artistic medium. His early creation “Passage”, an experimental game where the protagonist can focus on either accumulating wealth or enjoying companionship until death, is part of the New York’s MoMA permanent collection."
Valve has 1,700 CPUs working non-stop to bust CS:GO cheaters (Evan Lahti / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"This approach has been so effective that Valve is now using deep learning on "a bunch of problems," from anti-fraud to aspects of Dota 2, and Valve is actively looking for other studios to work with on implementing their deep learning anti-cheat solution in other games on Steam."
It could be the biggest change to movies since sound. If anyone will pay for it.(Steven Zeitchik / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"By bringing the piece to the mall, “Zoo” producer Dreamscape Immersive — it counts Steven Spielberg among its investors — hopes it has cracked a major challenge bedeviling the emerging form of entertainment known as cinematic VR. [SIMON'S NOTE: good mainstream piece on the challenges of getting VR more popular.]"
The Rise of Nintendo’s Original Gaming Master (Great Big Story / YouTube - VIDEO)
"As they moved away from the arcade and into the home, Nintendo searched for a spokesperson, one that could represent the company’s passion for gaming and that could speak directly to the U.S. consumer. They chose Howard Phillips, an employee working in the Nintendo warehouse. Little did he know that he was soon to become a gaming legend."
Real Guns, Virtual Guns, And Me (Kirk Hamilton / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Sometimes I imagine my brain is a collection of baskets that contain everything I know. There’s a basket for the English language, and a basket for music stuff. There’s one for Lord of the Rings lore, and another for Bloodborne monsters. Right alongside those is a worn but sizable basket that contains all my accumulated knowledge of guns."
Why Dandara's devs drew inspiration from Brazilian culture (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Long Hat House's Dandara, released last month, is a platforming Metroidvania of unique movements and a touch of Brazilian history. Inspired by (and starring an interpretation of) the Brazilian historical folk hero Dandara, players battle across an interconnected world in order to free an oppressed people."
#DevQuest – Episode 1: The Hard Way (Windows Developer / YouTube - VIDEO)
"The four-part series begins in Amsterdam as Adriaan de Jongh (Hidden Folks) prepares to travel the globe and find out what drives indie developers to make their games, their way. First stop: Prague. Adriaan meets up with Amanita Design—makers of Samorost 3 and Machinarium—and learns about the dedication and detail that goes into their unique style. [SIMON'S NOTE: all 4 videos in this Microsoft-commissioned series are up on YouTube already!]"
Bernie De Koven, Influential Game Designer and Scholar of Fun, Dies at 76 (Cameron Kunzelman / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"In The Well-Played Game, DeKoven’s most famous work, he tracks a difference between “fun” and “games.” Fun, DeKoven argues, is accessible all the time. Anything you do can be a conduit through which you access fun, and we’ve all played a giant trick on ourselves in the attempt to silo fun off into its own quadrant of the world."
The Nintendo King & The Midlife Crisis (Justin Heckert / Wired - ARTICLE)
"IT WAS DECEMBER in San Diego, the palm trees strung with tinsel in Ocean Beach. Pat Contri shuffled barefoot on the floor of his game room, black hair wet from the shower and curling above his eyes. He was in front of a wall of nearly 1,000 games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the greatest console ever released."
Darksiders: The Documentary (Gameumentary / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Gameumentary is proud to present our feature length documentary on the Darksiders franchise. We cover the story of Darksiders I, II the closure of Vigil Games and plenty more! [SIMON'S NOTE: this is impressively detailed, and feature-length to boot!]"
Adapt or Die: The 15-Year History of 'Ratchet & Clank' (Giancarlo Valdes / Rolling Stone - ARTICLE)
"Insomniac Games experience director Brian Allgeier and long-time writer TJ Fixman took the stage at the Game Developers Conference this week to discuss how they’ve been able to keep the franchise relevant for so long. [SIMON'S NOTE: this GDC talk is now up for free on GDC Vault along with large chunks of the rest of the show.]"
GDC Wrap-up Part 1: Notes on Indie Publishing (Spring 2018) (Adam Saltsman - ARTICLE)
"Anyways, the entire industry continues to change rapidly, especially on the platforms and publishing side of things, where we’re in a particularly chameleonic state at the moment. Which is why I’ve timestamped the actual title of this post. Consider this a sell-by date on this big carton of advice milk. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is suuuuper good.]"
Why aren’t more black kids going pro in esports? (Latoya Peterson / The Undefeated - ARTICLE)
"But within the esports juggernaut, there is a pronounced and growing racial gap in the player pools. African-American representation on the major teams and in the highest-profile events is abysmal. There are high-profile players of color, such as Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black and Dominique “SonicFox” McLean, but why are there so few other black players making it to the top of the various leagues?"
Tourette Quest 2.0 (Lars Doucet / Gamasutra Blogs - ARTICLE)
"Years ago, the first version of Tourette Quest got an insane amount of media coverage relative to the tiny amount of work I put into it -- and that scared the heck out of me. I knew people were being drawn in mostly for the concept, but the substance wasn't delivering. And even worse, the messages people were drawing from it were not what I was trying to get across. I was failing to communicate. This time, I think I've done a better job."
Ready Up: Competitive Team Fortress 2 (Geel 9 / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Ready Up: Competitive Team Fortress 2 is a film about the competitive Team Fortress 2 esports scene, a scene that has thrived continuously on the community's support. From pro players and viewers, to casters and producers, as well programmers and designers, the film explores a look into the creation of competitive 6v6 over the past 10 years. [SIMON'S NOTE: another feature-length niche documentary, wow.]"
Ready Critic One (Laura Miller / Slate - ARTICLE)
"Over any given weekend, I get a lot done. I chop down scores of trees, mine dozens of boulders, and build fire pits and wooden chests with my bare hands. I construct townhouses and copper refineries and weaving mills. I visit taverns run by my many friends and save some of them from certain death."
The Renegade Game Designer Who Aims to Challenge the Industry’s Attitudes Toward Sex (Merritt K / MEL - ARTICLE)
"Yang’s work is interesting because it’s both beautiful and complex as well as frequently at the center of the industry’s confused and tortured relationship with sex. (It’s much, much, much more comfortable with violence; after all, the quintessential modern video game is a first-person shooter.)"
Nier: Automata's Director: 'I Might Be Broken In Some Way' (Jason Schreier / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Without his mask, Yoko Taro looks like anyone else at the Game Developers Conference. He has a thin grey beard and wears a black hoodie with short, flowing sleeves that wouldn’t seem out of place at Hogwarts. His head is shaved, and his face is round, but otherwise he doesn’t resemble the giant Nier mask that has become his trademark over the past few years."
How we used Discord to build a dream community for our game Descenders (Mike Rose / Discord Blog - ARTICLE)
"We dig the decision to bring the in-game factions inside of Discord. It’s an awesome way to keep people engaged and connected with the community. We’re also stoked and surprised by how players helped flip negative reviews to positive after launch. [SIMON'S NOTE: I hang out in the Descenders Discord a lot, and it really is good-natured!]"
Art Design Deep Dive: Crossing Souls' striking '80s-infused pixel art (Juan Gabriel Jaén and Daniel Benitez / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Hello everyone! here we are, the art department of Fourattic to talk about Crossing Souls and the art decisions we made to accomplish its unique look. In Crossing Souls, we clearly wanted to represent an '80s aesthetics as accurate as possible, addressing both the traditional cartoons and the pixel art style in a single project."
Where The Water Tastes Like Wine Postmortem (Johnnemann Nordhagen / Medium - ARTICLE)
"I’ll approach this in classic Game Developer Magazine (RIP) format, starting with the things I think went well, and then the, uhh, other side, but I’m also going to talk a little bit about the reception and success of the game. [SIMON'S NOTE: that sales story - unpleasant but 'the new normal' for many less commercial indies.]"
[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!]