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Video Game Deep Cuts: Sayonara, Switch Lite, Wild Herds

This week's highlights include the gorgeous Sayonara Wild Hearts & the launch of the Switch Lite, as well as a doc on the making of Them's Fighting Herds, Borderlands 3, and lots, lots more.

[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner, No More Robots advisor), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.

This week's highlights include the gorgeous Sayonara Wild Hearts & the launch of the Switch Lite, as well as a doc on the making of Them's Fighting Herds, Borderlands 3, and lots, lots more.

And wanted to give a special shout-out to Kotaku this week for having a number of fascinating, well-reported stories. Under Stephen Totilo, the site continues to twin crackerjack investigative reporting alongside stories that go way deep inside the actual culture of games and game development - and I think that's a remarkable thing. Long may it continue.

Until next time...
Simon, curator.]


How People Find Your Game: Nintendo Switch Edition (Simon Carless / Game Discoverability Weekly - ARTICLE)
"Specifically, across all regions, there are now 2,821 games available for Switch (the vast majority on the eShop), with just 388 coming out in 2017, another 1,298 in 2018, and 1,135 so far in 2019. (That extrapolates out to 1,700 Switch games in calendar 2019 even if the release schedule isn’t accelerating. And let’s face it, it’s probably accelerating.)"

Apple Arcade Is Mobile Gaming Without All The Bullshit (Michael Fahey & Stephen Totilo / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"What a shock, then, that Apple Arcade is one of the best gaming launches we can remember, and that we can recommend it without making any apologies or exceptions for the stuff no one likes about mobile games. This thing is great. (SIMON'S NOTE: I've been very impressed with Apple Arcade - here's some top game picks from The Verge, and here's an interesting dev-related perspective from"

Borderlands 3 is a lot more Borderlands, in ways both good and bad (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Even a few hours in, Borderlands 3 has shown enough enemy variety to keep the shooting from getting stale, and beasts and humans alike show a great deal of personality in their animation and sound design. These opponents show a decent propensity for finding cover, flanking your position, and even running away for a better vantage point when it suits their strategy. [SIMON'S NOTE: in general, Metacritic has good scores for the game, btw.]"

The Secret To The Success Of BastionPyre, And Hades: No Forced Crunch, Yes Forced Vacations (Nathan Grayson / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"It’s been ten years since Supergiant Games opened its doors. The team put all of their hopes into the studio’s debut game, Bastion, an action-RPG with a narrator. It succeeded with flying colors. Since then, the studio has released Transistor, Pyre, and Hades, every single one receiving critical acclaim and financial success. The team’s big secret? Everybody’s actually happy about working there."

Teamfight Tactics with Greg Borenstein (The Spelunky Showlike / Libsyn - PODCAST)
"Riot Games’ Greg Borenstein joins us to chat about the design behind their red-hot autobattler Teamfight Tactics, as we discuss the benefits of embracing complexity, the rise of randomness, and what the game has in common with Sorry! You know, that Sorry!"

The 50 best video games of the 21st century (Keith Stuart & Keza Macdonald / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"Want to build worlds, become a crime kingpin, get lost in space, or enter the afterlife? Then our countdown of the 50 best games of the era has something for you."

Hideo Kojima Answers Our Questions About Death Stranding (Joe Juba / Game Informer - ARTICLE)
"While we learned a lot from watching those demonstrations, they also raised many questions about how Death Stranding works and what it tries to convey. What is the goal behind the asynchronous multiplayer? What do "likes" do? How has the game changed since its inception? [SIMON'S NOTE: here's a subtitled version of the gameplay demo, which may or may not make things clearer.]"

The Small But Important Change 'Celeste' Made to Its Celebrated Assist Mode (Patrick Klepek / VICE - ARTICLE)
"Lexa acknowledged Celeste handled its Assist Mode “well,” but said it “felt othering for many individuals when it mentioned ‘intended’ gameplay, leaving folks feeling insulted for needing the assists at all.” Some people decided not to play Celeste because of this, Lexa noted."

Tetris World Championship: Building Explosive Esports on 8-bit Nintendo (Chris Tang / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2019 GDC talk, Hitsparks Games' Chris Tang explores how the Classic Tetris World Championship format makes the most of NES Tetris' quirky killscreens, OCR technology, a passionate community low in toxicity and high in intellect, attachment to growing gaming events, explosive memes, and having an amazing role model for a champion."

Nintendo Switch Lite review: a triumphant return to dedicated handhelds (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"With the original Switch, Nintendo proved that games didn’t have to be designed around hardware, and that with the right device, you could enjoy the same game in a variety of places and situations. With the Switch Lite, the company has proved something very different: it can still build one hell of a handheld. [SIMON'S NOTE: Some more review links here.]"

Mordhau Players Are Having A Great Time By Ignoring All The Rules (Luke Winkie / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"But if you dig deeper, you’ll discover that Mordhau is capable of empowering a very different kind of medieval daydream, one where there is no drama, or vainglory, or tyranny, one that resembles the hearty debauchery of a market square underneath Elizabethan ramparts. On “duelyard servers,” the kingdom is at peace, and the battles are a distant memory."

Former Donkey Kong champ threatens to sue Guinness over record removal (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"The somewhat disorganized and rambling evidence package is an almost overwhelming amount of information to take in, including data from the chain of custody of the tapes used in Twin Galaxies' investigation, discussion of Nintendo technicians certifying Mitchell's boards as authentic, and obscure technical details of how arcade (and emulator) gameplay can be captured on video."

Larian Studios breaks into Valve for Divinity: Original Sin 2 (Larian Studios / YouTube - VIDEO)
"What happens when you use magic to bypass an ironclad security system that includes the best creations that Valve games have to offer? Watch Swen as he attempts to pull off the greatest heist of all. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is literally an ad/promo for cross-play between Steam and Switch, but it's so damn cute and authentic that I thought I'd link it! This is how you do marketing videos, devs.]"

Too Big to Bail: Why Dead Cells’ Creators Built an Evil Empire (Steven T. Wright / EGMNOW - ARTICLE)
"What do you do when your game is too successful? That’s not a problem (if you can even call it that) faced by many in the ever-tightening world of games, where an increasing number of competently made or downright brilliant projects go relatively unrecognized. But for the French game studio Motion Twin, best known as the developers behind the mega-hit Dead Cells, it’s a conundrum that’s plagued staff meetings and after-work events alike."

Fame, backlash, and money: Meet the young women making games for millions of fans (Cass Marshall / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"There are millions of young women between 13 and 25 on Episode. The app, which is dedicated to reading and creating stories, has quietly created a new generation of game developers. While some rise through word of mouth and enjoy the thrill of feedback, acclaim, and readers, others get featured on the front page of the app and earn money through their creations. But there’s an air of politics to the world of Episode that sometimes boils over into backlash and bullying."

The Story Behind Those Bizarre, Incredible Lily’s Garden Ads (Brian Feldman / NYMag - ARTICLE)
"It’s heavy stuff. A devastating tale of love and loss told in just 11 seconds. And then the title appears: the cheery Lily’s Garden logo appears floating over her slumped body. Below appears an enormous button enticing the viewer to “PLAY NOW.”"

The Animation of Hollow Knight (Video Game Animation Study / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Hollow Knight is an interesting game. It's put under the 'metroidvania' genre, as that's what describes it quickest and easiest, but it's far beyond what the genre encompasses. I found it difficult to get into the first time, because I didn't get why the you couldn't see yourself on the map, and that the map didn't update where you were. That's because it's not your average metroidvania. It's so much more, draws in lots of different things from so many other genres of games, I'd be willing to call it an offshoot of a metroidvania."

'Sayonara Wild Hearts' Is a Brilliant, Beautiful Celebration of Pop Music (Patrick Klepek / VICE - ARTICLE)
"Sayonara Wild Hearts, the latest from the visionaries behind Year Walk and Device 6, is my Rez. It’s an interactive pop album, a fusion of game and music, a shooter and a rhythm game. It’s an experience that’s Carly Rae Jepsen by way of Anamanaguchi... [SIMON'S NOTE: also available on Apple Arcade, notably.]"

The making of Devotion, China's least favourite horror game (Edwin Evans-Thirlwell / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"There is obviously a longer story to tell about how Devotion's fate reflects the Chinese state's sensitivity to criticism, the culture of Chinese patriotism online, and the country's strained relationship with Taiwan, but when I approached Red Candle for an interview in February, it was simply to hear about the creation of a complex and powerful artwork."

Making Them's Fightin' Herds: The Story of Mane6 (Hold Back To Block / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In our latest documentary, we take a look at the origins of Mane6 and their work on Them's Fightin' Herds to see just what goes into making an indie fighting game. [SIMON'S NOTE: a very professional video doc about a My Little Pony-style 2D fighting game!]"

An oral history of 'Snake' on Nokia (Quinn Myers / MEL - ARTICLE)
"While testing the early versions of the game, I noticed it was hard to control the snake upon getting close to an edge but not crashing — especially in the highest speed levels. I wanted the highest level to be as fast as I could possibly make the device “run,” but on the other hand, I wanted to be friendly and help the player manage that level."


[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every weekend at - 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!]

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