[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 roundup includes impressions of a plethora of new releases, from Superliminal to Jedi: Fallen Order and Pokemon Sword & Shield, plus behind the scenes at the ESRB, how World Of Warcraft changed things (for good and ill), and lots more besides.
More reviews again this week - partly because it's prime holiday release timing for AAA games. But there's so many titles of all shapes and sizes coming out on so many different platforms, it's pretty tricky to keep up. Which is, as ever, good and bad. Hope I can help you keep track a tiny bit!
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
‘Superliminal’ review: A game where ‘perspective is everything’ (Christopher Byrd / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"Have you ever had that uncanny sensation of waking up from a dream when, in reality, you are still dreaming? That disorienting feeling is the sensation that “Superliminal” pursues with astounding flair. This remarkably designed puzzle game, which is very much in the spirit of “Portal” and “The Stanley Parable,” uses perspective as a gameplay mechanic. Puzzles are solved by finding the right way to look at things."
What Mark Cuban got right/wrong about esports (Michael Cohen / Torte De Lini - ARTICLE)
"In a recent piece from Fair Game, Mark Cuban not only talked about how 5G will change how people will watch sports but also delved into the topic of esports, especially as an investor in North America. Regardless if someone thinks Mark is right or wrong, his opinion is not only highly-regarded among investors but also mirrors some skeptical thoughts of investors who are currently involved."
First Principles | Retrohistories (Chris Chapman / YouTube - VIDEO)
"We love to talk about historical firsts, but it's fraught with risk."
Need for Speed Heat Review: Better, But Still Getting Lapped By Forza Horizon (Mike Williams / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"Need for Speed has burning that rubber in one way or another since 1994. It a racing series that's been about underground street racing, cops and robbers, and exotic cars. It's been a realistic simulation racer and an arcade-y free-for-all. But in this generation, one that has winnowed the arcade racer nearly to death, Need for Speed has lost the race against its competition, and itself."
Steam search suggestions & premium positioning (Simon Carless / Game Discoverability Now! - ARTICLE)
"This time, I thought it would be interesting to look - incredibly specifically - at Steam search suggestions. That is, the games that pop up when you start typing in things in Steam search... it’s interesting that ‘discoverability’ discussion on Steam tends to focus more around features and ‘You Might Like’ recommendations, rather than search/SEO."
'World of Warcraft' Changed Video Games and Wrecked Lives (Patrick Klepek / VICE - ARTICLE)
"World of Warcraft was not Drew’s only addiction. There was alcohol, food, and smoking, too, but World of Warcraft went on for so long, and was so all encompassing. It still casts a shadow, years later, after he’s managed to get so many of his addictions under control. He lost two jobs over the game. His health fell into disarray. Friendships would come and go."
How Does the ESRB Rate Video Games? (Noclip / YouTube - VIDEO)
"For the first time ever, the ESRB opens its doors and unveils the process of rating video games."
The Sims 4 University is better than actual college (Cass Marshall / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"After my new Sim spent a long day hitting the books for my macroeconomics exam, I figured it was OK for her to take a break. So she headed down to an impromptu DJ party out in the wilderness. After studying all day, what’s wrong with one party?"
Q&A: Designing the foreboding Apple Arcade Soulslike Bleak Sword (John Harris / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Bleak Sword is a foreboding minimalist action game on Apple Arcade that draws easy comparisons to Dark Souls, with its brilliantly executed design. But it has enough personality and polish to be notable in its own right."
Doom creator John Romero on what's wrong with modern shooter games (Edwin Evans-Thirlwell / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"When I meet Romero after a media showing of Empire of Sin, his partner Brenda Romero’s Prohibition-era gangster game (hence the speakeasy), I’m eager for his thoughts on how today’s shooters differ from the pixelated provocateurs of the 1990s. His eyes brighten when I start talking about demons and power-ups."
The True, Secret History of the Creepiest Cult Game Ever Made (Matthew Gault / VICE - ARTICLE)
"Spend enough time watching YouTube videos with titles like “10 biggest mysteries in gaming” and you’ll see it: a low-resolution symbol spins out of the darkness and the words “Aum Soft” glow green below it. Black and white video of a man bouncing in a sitting position follows, then chanting, music, and finally footage of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, which unleashed Sarin gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995."
Jedi: Fallen Order shows that a good Star Wars game doesn't have to be original (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"There’s little about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order that actually feels new. The latest game from Titanfall and Apex Legends studio Respawn, Fallen Order is an action-adventure game that’s something of a mish-mash of its contemporaries, blending elements of Tomb Raider, Breath of the Wild, Uncharted, God of War, and more, before slathering the concoction with a fine layer of Star Wars mythology."
A Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Disco Elysium on the Past and Present (Alistair Hadden / Medium - ARTICLE)
"The first embodied person we meet in Disco Elysium tells us she has overheard our character, Harry Du Bois, shrieking that he doesn’t “want to live as this kind of animal anymore.” The line is played for laughs, but there’s black ice underfoot. What kind of animal is Harry, anyway?"
Game Design Deep Dive: Crafting mystery through gameplay in Nauticrawl (Andrea Interguglielmi / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Hello! My name is Andrea Interguglielmi and I’m the developer/artist behind the mysteriously intricate game, Nauticrawl. Before finding myself back in full time indie game development, I took a long detour through the movie industry, working as a VFX tools dev and technical director."
Pokémon Sword and Shield review - a shadow of a former great (Chris Tapsell / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Pokémon Sword and Shield's beginnings are much like any other in the series. You start at home, in the especially bijou hamlet of Postwick. You say goodbye to your mum and meet your friendly rival, heading past rolling fields of Wooloo and crumbly country lane cottages. You collect your starter, cutely and intricately animated in their little line-up, as you make your choice."
A Panel Shaped Screen meets thecatamites (Giada Zavarise / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"I’m happy to make weird games!! But it does bum me out a bit to think that there are people who’d enjoy a weird digital comic-environment-toy thing and that they’ll never see it if it’s contained in this box. I really was inspired by stuff like LSD and Yume Nikki as well, but I sort of… Needed to go to them through comics."
New York Tango: How Finnish Music and Culture Define Control (Sari Kirijarvi / EGMNOW - ARTICLE)
"Interestingly, though the game takes place in New York City, the Finland-based Remedy has made sure that numerous elements of Finnish culture have spilled into the game. Specifically, Control’s soundtrack is full of Nordic vibes that contribute to the game’s particular sense of sensory diversity and dissonance."
The Personal Story Behind Parvati, the Surprise Star of 'The Outer Worlds' (Patrick Klepek / VICE - ARTICLE)
"There’s lots to like in the early hours of The Outer Worlds, the new sci-fi RPG from Obsidian. The colorful alien world. A disdain for capitalism. Dropping endless points into a dialogue stat. But more than anything, what stands out is Parvati Holcomb, a shy but infectiously curious resident of Edgewater who’s retained a sense of optimism under the crushing weight of a company town engineered to break spirits."
Designing League Of Legends' stunning holographic worlds opening ceremony (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Last year, the team followed the dragon with an AR K-pop group that became a viral hit. This past weekend in Paris, they did something similar with a lengthy, three-song ceremony that included a virtual hip-hop group. The difference was technology. This time the performance was powered by holograms that helped further blur the line between the real world and the virtual realm of League of Legends."
Why Gone Home is the most important game of the decade (Nicole Carpenter / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"When The Fullbright Company released Gone Home in 2013, the developer called it a first-person narrative exploration game. Everyone else — critics and fans alike — had a different name for it: a walking simulator."
“He’s on fire!”: How a club bouncer starred in the making of billion-dollar arcade hit NBA Jam (Reyan Ali / VG247 - ARTICLE)
"The strangest thing happened to Willie Morris, Jr. Back in early 1992, when he was tearing up the courts of Chicago by day and bouncing a club by night, Morris was cooling off after a pickup game when a man introduced himself. He was making a video game about basketball, and he liked the way Morris played. He wanted to put him in the game. Morris thought he was joking."
Pokemon is everywhere now. Long live Pokemon. (Cian Maher / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"I remember playing out the back garden when I was six years old, armed with nothing more than a plastic bucket and spade. I had recruited several fellow trainers from the vicinity, all aspiring Pokémon masters between the ages of four and eight, to join me on my expedition."
[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!]