[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from curator/video game industry veteran Simon Carless, rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's highlights include what editors think of Nintendo's Labo accessory for the Switch, a masterful look at the making of Sierra's incendiary Police Quest IV, and lots more.
Phew, barely snuck this newsletter out under the wire, what with the GDC 2018 press tour, a bunch of BIG announcements coming out next week around Japanese speakers for the show, our 'state of the game dev industry survey', plus preparing for Descenders' Steam Early Access release, and just, well, real non-work life as well! But there's a ton of good links clustered in here - go after them, my faithful bloodhounds!
- Simon, curator.]
Painting nuclear horizons while gibbing Ghouls - meet Fallout 4 VR's roaming artist (Kirk McKean / PCGamesN - ARTICLE)
"Liz Edwards is running for her life. She ventured too far, searching for the most picturesque horizon in Fallout 4’s Commonwealth, then turned a corner and there it was: a Yao guai - this salivating, mutated black bear, towering over her in virtual reality. So she did the only thing she could do and deposited herself straight into the irradiated sea."
Tone Control 18: Nina Freeman (Steve Gaynor / Idle Thumbs - PODCAST)
"Despite a variety of exciting sonic interruptions, Steve and Nina soldier on to talk through her work a s Nuovo Award-winning indie game designer of titles like how do you Do It?, Cibele, and Lost Memories Dot Net, and her experience becoming a level designer on Tacoma at Fullbright."
At The Overwatch League's Opening Night, I Witnessed The Strange, Thrilling Future Of Sports (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Blizzard has an ambitious plan to turn a video game into the next big spectator sport. With the developer’s recently launched Overwatch League, a global pro circuit with a dozen teams spanning the globe, the company is betting that the structure of a traditional sports league like the NBA or NFL is exactly what it needs to thrust the burgeoning world of e-sports into the mainstream."
The Rise and Fall of EA Sports Big, as Told by the Creator of SSX (Piotr Bajda / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"From defying the laws of physics as a freestyle skier, to inventing an Olympic sport and creating EA Sports Big, a brand that would stick in the collective memory of a whole generation of gamers, nobody else can boast the same unbelievable career trajectory as Steven Rechtschaffner."
Mini Metro: When Less is More (GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2017 GDC session, Mini Metro developer Jamie Churchman takes a look at the successes and failures of visual design in Mini Metro, and examines how user interface and visual design decisions play a role in creating a rewarding experience for the player."
Awesome Games Done Quick 2018: Our Favorite Moments (Ozzie Meija / Shacknews - ARTICLE)
"Awesome Games Done Quick 2018 has concluded. The charity speedrunning event has raised over $2.2 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation... There were many memorable moments from throughout the week and to help say goodbye to Games Done Quick for another six months, Shacknews is taking a look back at some of our favorite moments from the event."
The 10-year making of Iconoclasts (Austin Wood / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"Joakim 'Konjak' Sandberg is not very health-conscious. For the past seven years, he's been developing Iconoclasts full-time completely on his own. It's been a heady mix of design, delays and, occasionally, depression, but Sandberg's masterwork will finally release on Tuesday, January 23."
Nintendo Labo: Overpriced or innovative? (Editors / Engadget - ARTICLE)
"Weird Nintendo is often the best Nintendo, or so it is said. After all, two of its biggest successes (the Wii and the Switch) are far from ordinary consoles. Now, with a year of huge Switch sales behind it, Nintendo is getting even weirder with Labo -- cardboard accessories that kids can build themselves and use to immerse themselves in a game's world. [SIMON'S NOTE: There were a billion 'hot takes' on the Labo - here's just one of them!]"
The World's Top-Selling Video Game Has a Cheating Problem (Lulu Yilun Chen, Yuji Nakamura, and Sam Kim / Bloomberg Technology - ARTICLE)
"Tencent Holdings Ltd. is going after the cheaters and hackers that infest PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds as it prepares to bring the world’s top-selling game to China. Ahead of its official debut this year, the biggest gaming company on the planet has enlisted Chinese police to root out the underground rings that make and sell cheat software."
How to keep a charity gaming marathon going for 160 hours straight (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"While the production looks relatively simple from the viewer's side of the Twitch stream... a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to keep the games running and the donations flowing smoothly for an entire week. To see what things were like from the other side, I headed down to Herndon, Virginia, earlier this week to see some of the work that goes into making the Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) marathon into the well-oiled machine that it is."
Super Mario Odyssey - It's No Masterpiece (Joseph Anderson / YouTube - VIDEO)
"This video took forever. Nier Automata was meant to be next but after playing Odyssey I decided I had enough to say about it that I should go for that next. The video was meant to be 45 minutes. You saw how that turned out. [SIMON'S NOTE: Two hours (!) to make a controversial statement - but interesting nonetheless.]"
The cost of games (Raph Koster / Gamasutra Blogs - ARTICLE)
"As many pointed out, getting hard data on game costs is difficult. When I did my talk “Moore’s Wall” in 2005, I did some basic research using mostly publicly available data on costs, and extrapolated out an exponential curve for game costs, and warned that the trendlines looked somewhat inescapable to me. But much has changed, not least of which is the advent of at least two whole new business models in the intervening time."
Crunch: The Video Game Industry's Notorious Labor Problem (David Milner / Game Informer - ARTICLE)
"From the 2010 Christmas holidays until May 2011, Krzysztof Nosek, the multiplayer programming lead on Call of Juarez: The Cartel, was working himself into the ground. Due to some "unlucky business negotiations" with publisher Ubisoft, Techland hadn't been given enough time to finish the game."
Life is Strange: Nightmares (Critique Quest / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Hello everyone, feel free to head on over to my channel if you'd like to see my latest Spotlight video, where I talk a bit about the nightmare sequence in DONTNOD_Ent's #LifeisStrange finale, Polarised!"
What do owners of the Patriots, Rams, Grizzlies and Flyers have in common? A big bet on eSports. (Noah Smith / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"The setting was consistent with a big league pro football, basketball, baseball, soccer or hockey event, but the competition here was a team-based video game, and the new league is the latest development bringing competitive gaming, familiarly known as eSports, closer to the mainstream."
AdventureX | Brian Moriarty about his Lecture in and the End of The Witness | I Saw What I Did There (Brian Moriarty / AdventureX / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Brian Moriarty (Wishbringer, Trinity, Loom) recounts the strange, convoluted and often hilarious story of how an unabridged video of his 2002 Game Developer’s Conference lecture ‘The Secret of Psalm 46’ became the ultimate Easter egg in Jonathan Blow’s acclaimed puzzle-adventure game The Witness (2016). [SIMON'S NOTE: LTTP, and I missed a Brian Moriarty talk ABOUT a Brian Moriarty talk - please don't make the same mistake I did!]"
The secret to The Signal From Tölva’s punchy combat (Samuel Horti / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"The Signal From Tölva’s pace is slow, but its gunplay is anything but. Chris called it "fizzing" in his review and he was spot on: its bright lights and sci-fi sound effects make its weapons come alive, and after each battle you want to head immediately to the next waypoint in search of another set of enemies to blast apart."
How Sierra and a Disgraced Cop Made the Most Reactionary Game of the 90s (Duncan Fyfe / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"When Ken Williams, the chief executive of Sierra On-Line, brought the company's newest game designer to the office, some staff stayed home. Better to get in trouble with management than meet the man accused of fostering a culture of police brutality on a city-wide scale. [SIMON'S NOTE: don't miss this article. Seriously.]"
Years after predicted “death,” game consoles are doing better than ever (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"It's hard to remember now, but we're only four or five years out from widespread and confident predictions that the game console market was effectively dead or dying. In 2012, Wired cited mobile disruption and "the whole box-model mentality" in declaring the death of the console."
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's dungeon design | Boss Keys (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"19 months, 16 games, 13 videos, and 130 dungeons later, and we finally finish our breakdown of the dungeons in the Zelda series, by looking at 2017's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild."
[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!]