[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 several pieces about Untitled Goose Game, of course, but also articles or videos on Noita, Later Alligator, What The Golf, The Last Of Us 2, an unreleased MC Hammer game (!), & a plethora of others.
It's a busy time of year in video game land, and glad you can tour the highlights with me! Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Do you need a publisher to 'make your game sell'? (Simon Carless / Game Discoverability Weekly / Substack - ARTICLE)
"Actually, a good starting point might be to strip it back another layer still, and ask - ‘What does a (digital) video game publisher do for you?’ Only when you break down their services and costs, can you make a value judgment about whether you need a publisher for discoverability purposes."
Spending $60 on a video game doesn’t make sense anymore (Patricia Hernandez / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"It used to be, if you wanted a video game at launch, you’d pop into a store and set down $60. Maybe that store was brick and mortar, or maybe it was a digital boutique, but the expectation was always the same. You pay a premium, and you get to own the game. In 2019, the calculus is entirely different."
The bad place: Go to hell in ‘Afterparty,’ Night School’s follow to hit game ‘Oxenfree’ (Todd Martens / LA Times - ARTICLE)
"“Afterparty” was born during a walk through a cemetery. Death. Sin. The Afterlife. The core ingredients of the narrative adventure came to Night School Studio co-founders Adam Hines and Sean Krankel during a casual stroll through Forest Lawn, a few blocks from their Glendale office."
Clark Tank: Post PAX Recap, Valve's Changes, and Dicey Dungeons! (Ryan Clark / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Every third Friday at 1pm Pacific time we stay on top of the latest game industry trends by examining the Steam top 50, scrutinizing the latest Kickstarted games, and by playing the most prominent recent releases. [SIMON'S NOTE: lots of meaty things in here, and also a plug for my Game Discoverability Weekly newsletter, so I'm a happy bunny.]"
Clowns, dog food and Christmas Miracles: the secret history of Wilmot's Warehouse (Nate Crowley / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"“Companies like Amazon have removed the agency from the people who work in warehouses,” explains Hogg. “There’s no longer a joy to be had in optimising the layout, because a computer is doing it for you. All people have to do [in these situations] is run around to where they’re told. These jobs are demeaning and dehumanising, and people deserve better than that.”"
To Make Later Alligator, Smallbu Had to Wrestle with Game Design (Zack Kotzer / EGMNOW - ARTICLE)
"The city is something of an anachronistic space, with flip phones cohabiting with barbershop quartets and trolley cars. The city looks informed by ragtime ’80s family restaurants, but more animated than the clockwork tiltings of any Rock-afire Explosion. Alex Small-Butera’s family is from Long Island, and the region’s inherent tackiness fed into the game’s direction."
Making Merch For Your Indie Game (Grace Bruxner / Medium - ARTICLE)
"Games without a strong visual identity might struggle to work in product form. It’s totally possible, but will take more work to create something recognisable. It’s fine if your game is popular enough that the merchandise doesn’t need to read as the game, but because merch is such a good marketing tool, having something that translates appealingly and recognisably is important."
Review: What the Golf? (Jordan Devore / Destructoid - ARTICLE)
"What the Golf? is as good as I hoped it'd be, which is to say, "very." I'm honestly relieved! The game takes an otherworldly view of golf, twisting and turning a basic premise in increasingly outlandish ways not unlike something out of WarioWare. It's funny – and, crucially, fun. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is my favorite game of the Apple Arcade launch - and it's coming to Switch/PC in due course too.]"
How Sid Meier Almost Made Civilization a Real-Time Strategy Game (Ars Technica / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Sid Meier, the creator of the popular Civilization video game series, goes behind the scenes of the development of the franchise's first entry. Sid explains some of the challenges they came across while transitioning the game from real-time to turn-based strategy."
The Last of Us 2 is "a story about the cycle of violence", says co-writer Halley Gross (Rachel Weber / GamesRadar - ARTICLE)
"Halley Gross is a co-writer on The Last of Us 2, and the sort of person that's so effortlessly cool that you feel a sudden urge to formally invite them to be your new best friend. Before joining Naughty Dog for this dark tale of vengeance, Gross worked on prestige shows like Westworld, and brings a whole new perspective to the art of crafting a game narrative. [SIMON'S NOTE: lots more early impressions of TLOU2 out there - it sounds, uh, intense.]"
Difficulty is about trust and communication, not ‘hard’ vs. ‘easy’ (Jennifer Scheurle / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Maybe one of the best things to remember, however, is that there is no right answer to the question of “how hard is too hard” or “what is the right kind of difficulty?” But breaking everything down to “hard” and “easy” is a concept that has been outdated for some time."
Untitled Goose Game review - a delightful troublemaker (Martin Robinson / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Untitled Goose Game knows that geese are dicks, and makes a virtue of it. Indeed, it makes an entire game out of it, because here you are the goose, terrorising a small village that gently unlocks as you progress through the short adventure. [SIMON'S NOTE: this game may have gone a tiny bit viral this week. Also see: 'All I Want To Do Is Create Havoc As A Terrible Goose']"
How a joke about the milkman inspired Psychonauts' best level (Samuel Horti / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"The Milkman Conspiracy started, as many great things do, in a Thai restaurant. Or maybe it didn't. Tim Schafer can't remember exactly. Somebody—perhaps him—came up with the phrase 'I am the milkman, my milk is delicious', and it may or may not have been during a Double Fine team meal."
6 Fun Ways You Can Die In Noita | Noita Impressions (RockPaperShotgun / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Astrid keeps getting killed in Noita in a variety of gruesome, fascinating, and ultimately quite funny ways. So, instead of just telling you what Noita does and how it works, here she is to tell you some fun ways to die, and you’ll no doubt learn a thing or two about the game along the way."
Video games industry levels up in fight against climate change (United Nations Environment - ARTICLE)
"Some of the biggest names in the video games industry... formally committed to harness the power of their platforms to take action in response to the climate crisis... resulting in a 30 million tonne reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030, will see millions of trees planted, new “green nudges” in game design and improvements to energy management, packaging, and device recycling. [SIMON'S NOTE: just highlighting this because it's just the start of what is needed to make a difference here. More on this soon!]"
The Story of Ulillillia (Atrocity Guide / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In 2001, a peculiar individual who was capable of fascinating feats of creativity was discovered by the Something Awful forums. What follows is the story of Nick Smith, AKA "Ulillillia" [SIMON'S NOTE: yes, there's some video game elements here, and via it I found the whole Atrocity Guide YouTube channel, which is excellent & also has videos on ARGs like EA's Majestic.]"
How Untitled Goose Game adapted Debussy for its dynamic soundtrack (Dami Lee / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Untitled Goose Game was able to make use of six of Debussy’s Preludes thanks to copyright laws, which dictate that tracks become public domain 70 years after the death of the composer. “This is why the copyright system exists to expire. In 2019, it opens it up for people to experiment and play, and give different context to such vital pieces of music,” he says."
A dictionary of Baba Is You's most difficult words (Alex Wiltshire / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"But conditionals, the class of words in which not fits, caused all manner of headaches. “Like on, such as baba on grass is you, where Baba becomes you only when standing on grass.” Since the full game’s release, he’s had to issue various fixes to get the game to understand things like baba not on not rock is you."
Soulfire: The MC Hammer Game We Couldn’t Touch (DillyDylan / Gaming Alexandria - ARTICLE)
"The premise of the game was that the player (as M.C Hammer) would’ve been seen fighting zombie creatures known as “soul suckers”, converting their lost souls into posse members. An average level would be a street scene, similar in vein to something like Double Dragon. Hammer would introduce the level, the music would start, and Hammer the avatar would start dancing."
I want to play your game but I can't: Overland and its journey with dyslexia (Robert Purchese / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Rebecca Saltsman, co-founder and CEO of Finji, developer of Overland, was demoing at PAX East last year when a player came up and said, "I want to play your game. This is totally my genre but I can't play it - I can't read anything on screen because of my dyslexia. The words are too frustrating.""
[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!]