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Video Game Deep Cuts: Bye Wii U, Hi 2017!

The latest Video Game Deep Cuts, picking the smartest longform video game articles and videos of the week, says goodbye to the Wii U & rounds up a whole host of 'Best of 2016' pieces.

[Happy holidays, all - that must mean that it's time to send out this, the penultimate Video Game Deep Cuts of 2016. Or possibly the final one, depending on how efficient I am at sending out this newsletter next week? :P

Lot of neat 'end of year' round-up stuff this week, as well as how San Francisco is depicted in games, some fascinating videos about VR and netcode, and a bunch of other neatness. Hope you enjoy, and until next time, have a great rest of holiday!

Simon Carless, curator.]


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Best of 2016: Gamasutra's top games, devs, events and trends (Various / Gamasutra)
"As 2016 draws to a close, it's been nice to look back over the year that was and reflect on what it meant for the art and business of game development. Trying to pin down what the last twelve months meant for everyone involved would be a fool's errand, of course; the best we can do is hope that the year treated you well, and shine a light on some of the most notable events, trends and games that shaped the industry as a whole."

How Cheat Codes Vanished from Video Games (David L. Craddock / Waypoint)
"In September 1993, Dan Amrich raced home from Electronics Boutique and jammed his shiny new Mortal Kombat cartridge into his Sega Genesis. After the SEGA logo flashed on his screen, Amrich's speakers pumped out heavy percussion as text describing three types of codes—ethical, honorable, and secret—engraved itself across a stony background. The last line caught his attention: Mortal Kombat adheres to many codes, but does it contain one?"

Moving Past Failure in Game Development (Joe Mirabello, Paul Kilduff-Taylor, Chaim Gingold / GDC / YouTube)
"In this GDC 2016 talk, developers Joe Mirabello, Paul Kilduff-Taylor, and Chaim Gingold talk about the different ways that game developers can be confronted with failure, and how each of them found a new path despite hitting what they thought was their lowest moment."

A Force aside: Eight notable Star Wars spin-offs (Graeme Mason / Eurogamer)
"The Star Wars universe contains such scope for extracurricular adventures, that it would have seemed churlish not to explore them. And explore them developers have, bolting on the characters from the sci-fi epic to whatever type of game they could label, package, promote and sell, usually creating new characters and worlds in the process. Here's some of the best - and worst - of Star Wars spin-off games from history."

'Last Guardian' Director Fumito Ueda On Creating Trico, Classic Anime, and His Doubts About VR (James Mielke / Glixel)
"Though Fumito Ueda was the driving force behind a trio of undeniable classics – Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and The Last Guardian – he's far from a "rockstar" developer. You won't find him sporting sunglasses during interviews, or making bold proclamations about the game industry."

Kid Icarus 30th Anniversary Documentary (Gajillionaire / YouTube)
"In 2016 there have been a long list of games that turned 30, most notably, The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest and Metroid. There is still one more game on the list, Kid Icarus, originally released on 19th December, 1986."

Super Mario's Reluctant Leap To The iPhone (Simon Parkin /  New Yorker)
"As recently as five years ago, Nintendo’s late president, Satoru Iwata, was adamant that Super Mario would never make the leap to smartphones. “If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo,” he said in an interview with Nikkei, in 2011."

Learning The Bizarre Digital Body Language of 'Botolo' (Nicole Carpenter / Waypoint)
"Competitive video games are often so complex that they can lose a bit of the human drama of performance. 'Botolo' represents another way."

How video game makers build a better SF, pixel by pixel (Peter Hartlaub / San Francisco Chronicle)
"The new hacker-activist video game “Watch Dogs 2” features a nearly photo-realistic version of San Francisco, so detailed that the graffitied walls of Clarion Alley in the Mission District are included. After an in-real-life visit to canine-friendly Dolores Park, the developers decided to include more dogs in the game."

How Super Mario became a global cultural icon (The Economist)
"The izakaya has a name, but it cannot be published. Its location is a closely guarded secret. Entry is restricted to members—celebrities, media types and otaku, a particularly devoted kind of pop-culture geek. They do not come for the food, though it is excellent, nor for the drinks, which are well mixed. They come for Toru “Chokan” Hashimoto, the Nintendo alumnus who runs the place, and for his friends and their memories."

The Independent Studio Behind Some Of Lara Croft Go's Best Levels (Chris Priestman / Killscreen)
"Accepting the offer to create a level pack for Lara Croft GO, the team at KO_OP Mode started to explore as many wild ideas as they could come up with, being as it were that Square Enix Montreal had given them full creative freedom."

Alan Yates on the Impossible Task of Making Valve's VR Work (Hackaday / YouTube)
"[Alan Yates] is a hacker's engineer. His job at Valve has been to help them figure out the hardware that makes virtual reality (VR) a real reality. And he invented a device that's clever enough that it really should work, but difficult enough that it wasn't straightforward how to make it work."

A Farewell to Wii U, the Game System for Nobody (Chris Kohler / Wired)
"Sure, with The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild there’s one more high-profile game coming to Wii U. But Nintendo is also releasing the new Zeldafor its upcoming new console, Nintendo Switch. And it’s not even promising that the game will be there for its March launch, just a vague “2017.” By the time Zelda finally ships, you may have already upgraded your console."

Can virtual reality move beyond immersive experiences to tell stories? (Jack de Quidt / The Guardian)
"Game designer Jack de Quidt asks Oculus whether its VR headset – and Touch controllers – will really deliver new narrative experiences."

IF Only: Looking back at 2016 in Interactive Fiction (Emily Short / RockPaperShotgun)
"We have, at last, reached the end of 2016. I’m not going to do a top-ten list — both because a lot of the games I might put on this list are things I’ve already covered elsewhere in previous columns, and because I think some of the most interesting things to happen in 2016 were about trends rather than single hits. But here are a few highlights of the year past.

"How the Makers of 'System Shock' and 'Ultima Underworld' Rediscovered Their Roots (Alex Wiltshire / Glixel)
"Sometime in early 1990, Paul Neurath showed the team at Origin Systems – creators of legendary games like Ultima and Wing Commander – a tech demo he'd built with programmer Doug Church and artist Doug Wike. It was for a new game, presented in a way that had never been seen before – in fully-textured first-person real-time 3D"

Our favorite games of 2016, Part 1 (Various / AV Club)
"Every December, instead of searching for a group consensus, Gameological looks back at the year in games through individual perspectives. These are the staffers’ personal takes on a few games that have stuck in their minds for whatever reason—big or small—and does not represent any sort of institutional expression. These are simply the games we liked. Also see: Part 2."

Esports Sees Profit in Attracting Female Gamers (Gregory Schmidt / The New York Times)
"Mark Religioso, a brand manager for the video game publisher Bandai Namco Entertainment, wants more women to be involved in the professional gaming arena known as esports, where players compete in video game tournaments to win thousands of dollars in prize money."

Rocket League: A Netcode Analysis (Battle(non)sense / YouTube)
"In this video we take a look at the netcode and servers of Rocket League."

Our Favorites: Each USgamer Staff Member Picks Their 10 Best Games of the Year (USgamer team / USgamer)
"Our consensus Game of the Year for 2016 will be going up next, but we all have our own Top 10 favorite games of the year. As usual, our lists ran the gamut from triple-A shooters to racers to quirky little roguelikes like Shiren the Wanderer. Naturally, you probably have your own favorites, so do us a favor and share them in the comments."

Inside the early office culture of Blizzard, in their own words (Tom Marks / PC Gamer)
"Blizzard turned 25 this year, and we've planned a whole week of coverage to celebrate. We already looked at the history of its games on PC, the story behind Battle.Net, and even a look at the origin of the Blizzard name. But beyond the games, what was it like to work at Blizzard in the early '90s? [SIMON'S NOTE: PC Gamer also put out pieces on the story of Battle.Nethow Blizzard got its name, and a complete history of its PC games.]"

Fifa: the video game that changed football (Simon Parkin / The Guardian)
"Jan Tian stood in nervous silence in the departure hall of Beijing Capital International Airport. Beside him, his sister held an envelope containing a thousand yuan, close to her entire year’s wages. It was May 1993 and China’s capital was humid, its parks ablaze with tulips, crab apples and red azaleas. But Tian, who had graduated from Beijing University a decade earlier and now worked in Vancouver for the video game company Electronic Arts, had not come to sightsee."

Some videogames I liked in 2016 (George Buckenham / V21)
"Gosh, it's been a long year. I hope I'm not missing anything great from January, but I probably am. [SIMON'S NOTE: liked this personal top list from an independent designer who's also been involved with Beasts Of Balance, a super interesting Jenga-y physical game x app that I've been playing & that I recommend you check out.]"

The Best Time-Wasting Of 2016 (Adrian Chen / New Yorker)
"The only thing I enjoyed about my smartphone in 2016 was playing games on it. A good mobile game can transform the tiny screen that produces so much anxiety into an endorphin-delivery system more effective than anything non-chemical. Stripped down by necessity, the games represent pure escapism. "

Analysis: Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor (Errant Signal / YouTube)
"This is a game about cleaning up junk on a spaceport with an incinerator device. It's also a game about poverty! So you know it's gonna be fun. In all seriousness: Most of my videos end in an awkwardly cliche attempt to wrap up complex or interesting arguments with a hokey summarization, but this is one of those videos where I feel like the last bit holds up better than the arguments that precede it."

Gamasutra's Best of 2016: Phill Cameron's top 10 games (Phill Cameron / Gamasutra)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: Gamasutra contributors also each wrote up a personal top-five list -- and you can read them here: Kris GraftAlex WawroBryant FrancisKatherine CrossChris BakerAlissa McAloonChris Kerr, and Brandon Sheffield. Check 'em all out - there's some good stuff in here!]"

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[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!]

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