[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 animators on Mass Effect: Andromeda's animation complaints, Remedy's very silly Hoodiegate, and lots, lots more - enjoy!
- Simon, curator.]
The Art of Fiction #6: Greg Kasavin (Sean Vanaman / Campo Santo Quarterly)
"I met Greg Kasavin in the winter of 2010 over enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant in San Rafael, on my lunch break from Telltale Games. Greg had just quit his job as a producer at 2K Games to join his former Electronic Arts coworkers at Supergiant —then a handful of unknown developers in a suburban home in San Jose — as a writer on the 16-bit throwback action RPG Bastion."
Animators Roundtable: The Mass Effect: Andromeda pile-on (Various / AnimState / Gamasutra)
"With so much attention being paid in the last week to the animation issues seen in the previews leading up to Bioware's next big release, Mass Effect: Andromeda, we thought it would be interesting to get a few experienced animators together to discuss the challenges animators face when dealing with these types of projects."
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - An Open World Adventure (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube)
"So, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an open world game. In this video, I look at how Nintendo used and ignored different bits of open world design to make a game that's all about exploration and adventure."
How the Risky 'Horizon Zero Dawn' Transformed the Studio Behind 'Killzone' (Keith Andrew / Glixel)
"After all these years of giving us great-looking games about shooting at space-Nazis, Guerrilla showed us what it was truly capable of: a hugely ambitious open-world role playing game that was not only critically lauded, but sold over 2.6 million copies in its first two weeks and provoked comparisons with greats like The Witcher 3."
From Indie to Fable & Back Again: 30 Years of "Wisdom" (Dene Carter / GDC/ YouTube)
"In this GDC 2017 talk, industry veteran Dene Carter discusses his overarching lessons learned from 30 years of experience making games at all scales, and how these experiences can help indie developers aiming to create high quality games while staying sane."
BritSoft Focus: All 4 Games (Julian Benson / Kotaku UK)
"Our BritSoft Focus series tends to look at UK developers, but every now and then we’ll also be shining the spotlight on UK publishers - particularly the unusual ones, as we did with PQube back in February. Channel 4 is one of these. Not because it’s a small outfit: Channel 4 is a giant public-service broadcasting company, mainly-funded by advertising but ultimately owned by the UK taxpayer."
How Breath of the Wild Fixes Zelda's Item Problem (Turbo Button / YouTube)
"The Legend of Zelda is one of my favourite series, but despite the amazing heights it reaches, it's always had a problem of items being far too specific and rigid. Let's take a look at just how Breath of the Wild fixes that problem, and how it makes interactions in this huge world feel so much more natural."
Morphblade And Imbroglio: Making A Game To Test A Critique (Tom Francis / Pentedact)
"I released Morphblade last week, which is a game I made in direct response to Michael Brough’s Imbroglio. They’re both games where you move around a grid of different tile types, and the one you’re standing on determines what you can do there. [SIMON'S NOTE: an interesting way to respond to a game - with another game!]"
Arcade to eSports: How Your Competitive Game Influences Player Culture and Values (Tom Cannon / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC talk, EVO cofounder Tom Cannon examines how the format of the arcade influenced the competitive culture of fighting game players, and why this culture endures today."
7 works of interactive fiction that every developer should study (Stefanie Fogel / Gamasutra)
"[Interactive fiction] is enjoying a bit of a resurgence today thanks to studios like Failbetter Games and Inkle. With that in mind, here are seven IF games that can still teach developers of any genre a lesson or two about narrative and design."
How escape rooms became the future of advertising (Bryan Bishop / The Verge)
"The SXSW conference has a history of being home to some of the most elaborate marketing events imaginable. Whether it’s a chance to stay over at the Bates Motel, visit the restaurant from Breaking Bad, or see Kanye and Jay Z perform, it’s as much a part of the show as technology talks and movies. But this year, a new style of tie-in swept the festival: the escape room."
Traversal and the Problem With Walking Simulators (Thomas Grip / Frictional Games Blog)
"To keep the player focused on the game's world is crucial to every game creator. During times of traversal this is even more important, at the same time as it's harder to achieve. So how do you keep your game interesting and avoid turning it into a walking simulator? [SIMON'S NOTE: Thomas is the designer of Amnesia and SOMA, which makes this particularly interesting.]"
When pigs flew: The strange history of Capcom's Big Bang Bar (Brian Crecente / Polygon)
"I was working on a story about buying refurbed game machines and he was my source. After working through the particulars, Tuckey interrupted my wrap-up by asking if I wanted to hear a real story. The tale he told, heard from the friend of a collector, was about a fabled pinball machine, a dream machine that was never manufactured, its design thought lost forever."
Hoodiegate: What goes into making the yearly Remedy hoodie (Thomas Puha / Remedy / YouTube)
"In 2016 Remedy embarked on a mission to create the ultimate hoodie in its 20 year history. Huge amount of research was poured into the project with several beta tests done in the wild. We documented all of this for you to see... [SIMON'S NOTE: this was from the end of last year, but only just saw it, and it's very cute/silly.]"
The Xbox One is struggling because video game exclusives still matter (Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge)
"Perhaps the most revealing example of the power of exclusives is Microsoft’s Xbox One, the console that’s struggled to find its niche with first-party games. While Sony has recently offered a variety of games in a short window of time, and Nintendo has, well, Zelda, Microsoft hasn’t quite found its footing."
Chasing the First Arcade Easter Egg (Ed Fries)
"It all started with a soon to be released project I am working on called “Fixing Gran Trak 10” about the first car racing arcade video game from 1974. I had completed the electrical repairs and was trying to interview as many people as possible who were involved with making the game. One of the interviews was with Ron Milner. Ron’s an interesting guy. He was an engineer and inventor at Atari’s secret think tank in the mountains – Cyan Engineering from 1973 to 1985."
Why Opening Loot Boxes Feels Like Christmas, According To Game Devs (Cecilia D'Anastasio / Kotaku)
"Opening Overwatch loot boxes or Halo 5 REQ packs adds a special drama to a gaming session. The crate shakes. A jingle chimes. Lights peek out from the cracks. It swells with potential. Game developers make subtle design decisions that stoke the hope that keeps players opening mystery boxes, crates and packs. And not just on the stats side of things—just as important are the cosmetics of the experience."
Nioh: Talking with Samurai (Fumihiko Yasuda / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2017 GDC session, Koei Tecmo Games' Fumihiko Yasuda explains how and why the samurai-themed action game was released into a brief early access period, and goes through the key lessons learned from that exercise, the applications of collected data, the reception of the open communication with their fans, and implementation of the feedback gathered."
The Game Beat Weekly: Game reviewers face their own "crunch time" (Kyle Orland / Tinyletter)
""Eating a big steak dinner is great. Being forced to eat 30 steak dinners in the span of a week approaches torture." This is the best analogy I've heard for describing the "hardship" of reviewing an epic-length game on a tight embargo deadline (I think Ben Kuchera was the one to first mention this great saying to me, and it's definitely stuck). [SIMON'S NOTE: Kyle's newsletter hasn't published much of late but is def. worth subscribing to!]"
Hajime Tabata Reflects on the Transformation of Versus XIII to Final Fantasy XV (Jeremy Parish / USGamer)
"Now that the dust has settled on Final Fantasy XV and its strong global sales appears to justify hopes for future chapters in the long-running RPG franchise rather than toll its death knell, producer Hajime Tabata can afford to look back and wax philosophical on the project."
A Brief History of Walking Simulators (Sidcourse / YouTube)
"In this episode of the Sidcourse, we take a look at first person adventure games. Or as they're more commonly known; walking simulators. Walking simulators weren't as loved by the mainstream audience outside of the critics in the beginning. Over time, things have changed and as indie developers grow this genre of games, we can see them blurring the line between mechanics and narrative."
Interview with Matt Lees at GDC (Jessica Fisher / Gameosity)
"During my visit to the Game Developers Confrence (GDC) I had a chance to sit down with Matt Lees of the popular board game site, Shut Up & Sit Down. We got to chatting about the conference, the board game industry, bears, and SU&SD’s Kickstarter for their Monikers expansion."
The Obsessive World of 'Zelda' Timeline Fanatics (Luke Winkie / Glixel)
"One of Legend of Zelda superfan Michael Damiani's favorite discoveries is inside Hyrule Castle in the acclaimed 2002 GameCube title, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. If you skip down the stairs below the altar that holds the Master Sword, you'll find several stained glass windows peering into a lonely, waterlogged basement."
'Fallout: New Vegas' Writer Chris Avellone: "Fantasy is Not My Happy Place" (Miguel Lopez / Glixel)
"Chris Avellone's credits read like a recitation of the computer RPG canon: Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale. But talking to him, you get the feeling that the veteran writer and designer has only recently begun to reap the benefits of his profile."
My Mains: Ryu (Patrick Miller / Medium)
"Hey, it’s Patrick. I’m trying out a short blog series about character design in competitive video games! Simple format — five things I like about a character, and one thing I’d like to fix. Check it out and let me know if it’s a thing you’d want to read more of! Also see: Pharah, Chipp, Thresh, and Athena. [SIMON'S NOTE: Patrick is an ex-Game Developer magazine EIC and fighting game scene guy who's now at Riot, and writes smart stuff!]"
The Video Game That Claims Everything Is Connected (Ian Bogost / The Atlantic)
"I am Rocky Mountain elk. I somersault forward through the grass, toward a tower of some sort. Now I am that: Industrial Smoke Stack. I press another button and move a cursor to become Giant Sequoia. I zoom out again, and I am Rock Planet, small and gray. Soon I am Sun, and then I am Lenticular Galaxy. Things seem a little too ordinary, so I pull up a menu and transform my galaxy into a Woolly Mammoth. With another button I multiply them. I am mammoths, in the vacuum of space."
[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, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]