[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's roundup includes a look at Nintendo's spritely Super Mario Maker 2, more impressions of IGA's much-awaited & Castlevania-ish Bloodstained, and a surprising new invasion in EVE Online, as well as Valve Index being looked at in detail, a highlighting of Zero Punctuation's Yahtzee, and a plethora of other neat links.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Valve Index makes VR prettier, but it's the controllers that steal the show (Kris Graft / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Let’s get this out of the way and say that the “knuckles” controllers are the best part of the whole package, and are some of the most exciting pieces of hardware to hit the VR market as of late. Game developers have already been working on making existing games compatible with the controllers’ low-latency finger tracking, and new games and applications that take advantage of the feature are on the way."
Ours Is the Grind and the Glory in Dandy Dungeon: Legend of Brave Yamada (Drew Messinger-Michaels / ETAO - ARTICLE)
"When I wrote about Onion Games’ wonderful operatic bullet hell BLACK BIRD, I referred to their fourth wall-demolishing mobile dungeon-crawling puzzle-RPG Dandy Dungeon: Legend of Brave Yamada as “now sadly defunct.”... But now Brave Yamada has risen again, in the form of a comprehensive rerelease for Switch, and this vastly weird, weirdly vast game has another chance to confuse and delight and compel and charm."
How Supergiant Created a Decade of Excellent Games (First Five / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Supergiant Games turns 10 this year! And after ten years and three-and-a-half development cycles, it feels like they've somehow managed to spend that entire decade making nothing but incredible games without a single stumble. That's no small feat, so that begs the question: How and why are they so consistent? And what can the rest of the industry learn from their success? [SIMON'S NOTE: also see the 'How Supergiant Games Create Music & Art' video over at Noclip.]"
Sonic 06 with Jordan Morris (How Did This Get Played / Earwolf - PODCAST)
"Jordan Morris (“Jordan, Jesse, Go!”, “Bubble”) joins Nick and Heather on the very first How Did This Get Played to discuss the 2006 reboot of Sonic The Hedgehog, Sonic 06. They talk about it’s many departures from a mainline Sonic game, the creepy romance between Sonic and a human woman, strange voice acting, the sexiness of Rouge the Bat and more!"
The Anita Sarkeesian story (Colin Campbell / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"It’s difficult to square this cheerfully fuck-’em-all Sarkeesian with the serious person familiar to viewers of her hit YouTube series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. In the most popular first season of that show, she delivers her detailed script — the grim evidence of industry-wide sexism — without much in the way of humor."
The Changing Face Of Arcade Games In 2019 (Matt Paprocki / GameSpot - ARTICLE)
"1980's nostalgia took off. Gen X and millennials grew up, as did their disposable income. It took a decade--two even--but arcade games made their comeback. Looking at the rising collector's market for vintage machines and the likes of Wal-Mart embracing machines with their shelf space, it's almost like they never left."
Observation (Zero Punctuation) (The Escapist / YouTube - VIDEO)
"This week Yahtzee reviews Observation. [SIMON'S NOTE: Partly because he's on the larger Escapist YouTube channel still, I'd almost forgotten about Zero Punctuation, but this documentary teaser jogged my memory, and there's still plenty of other speeded-up British sarcasm-fests up regularly on YouTube from ZP, for example A Plague Tale: Innocence most recently.]"
EVE Online is in chaos after an unprecedented alien invasion (Steven Messner / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"On Wednesday afternoon, thousands of players across the lawless regions of null-sec space, where EVE Online's fabled player-created empires battle for supremacy, were ambushed by fleets belonging to a mysterious non-player faction known as Drifters. While hostile NPC factions have always been in EVE Online, they've never posed a collective threat to its entire playerbase. Until now."
Episode 52: Frank Lantz on the Logic and Emotion of Games (Sean Carroll's Mindscape / Preposterous Universe - PODCAST)
"Games play an important, and arguably increasing, role in human life. We play games on our computers and our phones, watch other people compete in games, and occasionally break out the cards or the Monopoly set. What is the origin of this human impulse, and what makes for a great game?"
Bloodstained is the Castlevania game you’ve been waiting for (Sam Byford / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"At the risk of being reductive, there’s very little to say about Bloodstained: Ritual of the Nightother than this: it is good... and that’s because its developers pulled off their one job: revive the “Igavania,” a specific style of Castlevania game that producer Koji Igarashi worked on at Konami for a little over a decade."
The 134 people that Blizzard Entertainment is trying to make redundant (People Make Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"We visit Versailles to get a glimpse at what can happen when the games industry unionises. [SIMON'S NOTE: more great work from Chris & Anni here - please watch if you can.]"
Preservationists Are Saving Video Game History, One Upload at a Time (Nicole Carpenter / OneZero - ARTICLE)
"How much is history worth? In May, the video game world got an answer of sorts: $14,000. That was the winning bid for a prototype of a cancelled game developed for the original Famicomâ—âthe Japanese name for the Nintendo Entertainment System from the 1980s, with its pixelated graphics. Indy: The Magical Kid was based on a series of Japanese choose-your-own-adventure books."
Zelda Wouldn't Be Great Without Its Wild 2D Experiments (Ishaan Sahdev / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Given the shorter development times and lower budgets of the 2D games it makes sense that Nintendo is more prone to experimenting with different ideas while creating them. Whether that experimentation comes in the form of touch controls, or multiplayer, or non-linear structures, very few 2D Zeldas are alike."
We asked, you answered: Rebecca Ford reviews your Warframe frames (Lee Hutchinson / Ars Technica - ARTICLE & VIDEO)
"About a month ago, Ars posted a couple of calls to action in our forums and on Reddit: we wanted to take your coolest Warframe designs and get them in front of the game's developers at Digital Extremes to see what the company thinks of the community's creations. Digital Extremes told us they don't have a great way of sorting through all the different player designs on the backend, so we asked you to show us what you got. [SIMON'S NOTE: cute concept for an underdiscussed smash hit game.]"
Inside the race to (finally) bring pinball into the internet era (Jared Newman / Fast Company - ARTICLE)
"The venerable pinball maker Stern, which now produces 90% of the world’s machines, is working on its own connectivity system for release later this year, threatening to make Scorbit redundant for the vast majority of newer games... However Scorbit’s and Stern’s plans pan out, the race is now on to bring pinball—a defiantly offline hobby for decades—into the internet age."
'Mario Maker 2' Is Brilliant, But I Hope Nintendo Doesn't Fail the Community(Patrick Klepek / VICE - ARTICLE)
"What to make of a game whose pitch is an evolved set of creation tools I want nothing to do with? The addition of slopes, whose absence from the original game was so glaring it became a meme in the community, pleases me… conceptually? But for me—a player who never makes his own levels—the ability to drop a slope onto the screen means nothing without the action of someone else... [SIMON'S NOTE: people seem pretty impressed overall - though it's clearly not a quantum upgrade. But with the original being so joyful, bet there's plenty of bonus joy to go around.]"
How the Heck Do We Talk About Outer Wilds? (Errant Signal / YouTube - VIDEO)
"The Outer Wilds is a game that is difficult to talk about, because it's a game about discovering itself. Which means the more I talk about it, the more I take the game away from you. And that's a difficult position to be in when this game makes me want to talk about it *so badly!*"
How id built Wolfenstein 3D using Commander Keen tech (Fabien Sanglard / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"The following excerpt is a chapter of "Game Engine Black Book: Wolfenstein 3D", an in-depth examination of the history, code, and development of id Software's influential Nazi-killing first-person shooter. This chapter reflects on the game's origins and how it was built atop the success and tech of id's Commander Keen, itself created out of the bones of a failed attempt to sell Nintendo on a Mario 3 PC port."
Wizards Unite is a bloated, slow, Harry Potter-ified Pokémon Go (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Wizards Unite tries to expand the Pokémon Go formula with a few new features and a completely new visual and gameplay theme. But its barrage of timers, currencies, missions, and screens full of text does something interesting: it proves in its failures how much more elegant and focused Pokémon Go really was."
Slay the Spire: Metrics Driven Design and Balance (Anthony Giovannetti / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2019 GDC session, Mega Crit Games' Anthony Giovannetti discusses how the dev team approached balancing for Slay the Spire. [SIMON'S NOTE: also newly up on GDC's YouTube this week - the mythically awesome '1,500 Slot Machines Walk into a Bar: Adventures in Quantity Over Quality' from GDC 2019.]"
The Human Cost Of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (Jason Schreier / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"One Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, the developers at Treyarch held a happy hour event to welcome the summer interns. There was pizza, beer, and jubilation for everyone at the studio behind Call of Duty: Black Ops 4—except the quality assurance testers, who had to leave shortly after they got there."
[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!]