[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from curator/video game industry veteran Simon Carless, rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend. Welcome to the latest issue!
This time, the 'end of 2016' rush seems to finally be over, & we're into 'new announcements' central as we zoom into the New Year properly. Of course, Nintendo's Switch reveal was the big deal this week - and you'll find comments from my Gamasutra colleagues in this digest.
For my part, I'm hopeful that between Nintendo's console and mobile businesses, they can keep ahead of the baying wolves that are, uh, their investors. And I think the company still makes some of the best games out there - even though their third-party outreach/support continues to be lacking.
Otherwise, we're full steam ahead on more programming for GDC 2017, and we announced a 'Classic Postmortem' from Yoot Saito for Seaman this week, to join others for Civilization & The Oregon Trail - & there's one more to come! Most of our lectures are up on our scheduler now, if not yet assigned a time, and there's some really great stuff there - did I mention I'm lucky to be working on this show?
- Simon, curator.]
2017 New Year's Cards From Around The Japanese Game Industry (8-4)
"Happy New Year! 2016 is finally over (thank goodness), which means it’s time for another installment of our yearly tribute to the best “nengajōs” (New Year’s cards) from around the Japanese gaming industry! We’ve told you of the time-honored tradition of nengajōs before, but if you’re new, or weren’t paying attention, head on over here for a quick run-down on what it all means, man."
GDC State of the Industry: Devs weigh in on Nintendo Switch, Vive interest surges (Staff / GDC / Gamasutra)
"Results from the fifth annual Game Developers Conference State of the Industry Survey are in, revealing trends in the games industry based on the feedback of more than 4,500 game developers ahead of GDC 2017 in February and March. The survey has revealed that game developers are feeling optimistic about Nintendo’s upcoming Switch console, and are unsure about the prospects of mid-cycle console refreshes like the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox’s “Project Scorpio.”"
PokéManiacs: the grownups who love Pokémon (Chris Tapsell / Eurogamer)
"Towards the end of last year, as Pokémon Sun and Moon were gearing up for launch, I had a few opportunities to attend a few Pokémon events. I knew I wanted to talk to fans, maybe get a sense of what they liked about the franchise so much, and in light of all the above the obvious angle was to figure out why, exactly, this game is so broadly popular."
'Elite: Dangerous' Is Headed for a Galactic Arms Race (Jack de Quidt / Waypoint)
"Late last week, players of multiplayer space sim Elite Dangerous were blindsided by the sudden appearance of several alien ships. Prior to this point, the enormous galaxy had been entirely human—mining stations, outposts, captains with names like "Kate" and "Paulo" and "Michiko.""
Twenty Things I've Learned About Game Development (Laralyn McWilliams / Gamasutra)
"I'm looking ahead at turning 52 this year, and all things considered, I'm glad to still be here--both here in games, and here on earth. Thinking about what it means to be over fifty in game development prompted me to tweet a list of what I consider the twenty most important things I've learned over the years."
The Last Guardian and the Language of Games (Mark Brown / Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube)
"The Last Guardian depicts a bond between a boy and his beast. In this video, I look at the ways Fumito Ueda explores and draws this relationship through gameplay."
Epic's Tim Sweeney on Virtual Reality and the Future of Civilization (Chris Suellentrop / Glixel)
"As the founder of Epic Games, Sweeney is the creator of the ubiquitous Unreal Engine that powers thousands of games on PC, console and mobile, and the chief executive of the studio that made Gears of War. Now, like so many technologists, he thinks virtual reality will transform not just his 25-year-old business but the entire world."
7 introductory levels that all game developers should study (Richard Moss / Gamasutra)
"First levels are hard. That's why we reached out to a number of developers to ask for examples of games that do them well. The following seven games all strike that balance between helping players learn how to play and setting mood and expectations for the hours ahead."
The Game Worlds We Make (Steven Johnson / How We Get To Next)
"I couldn’t see it at the time, of course, but that experience of designing my own baseball simulations turned out to be one of the great educational experiences of my childhood—for reasons I am only now beginning to understand, watching my own kids explore their game worlds, onscreen and off."
Final Fantasy 7: An oral history (Matt Leone / Polygon)
"An inside look at the creation and fallout of Square's industry-defining role-playing game, as told by those who were there."
Blizzard's In-Depth Tour Of Overwatch's Oasis Map (Game Informer / YouTube)
"In this exclusive Game Informer video, Blizzard's lead writer Michael Chu and assistant game director Aaron Keller speak with Ben Hanson about the process of developing the latest Overwatch control map called Oasis."
Will the Switch outsell the Wii U? Gamasutra staff weighs in (Gamasutra Editors / Gamasutra)
"Will the Switch outperform the disappointing WiiU? Recently-published results of the GDC 2017 State of the Industry survey suggest most developers believe it will. Is the price right? Are the games that were teased sufficiently appealing? Gamasutra staffers weigh in with their take on this topic below."
The Making Of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Darran Jones / Retro Gamer)
"In some respects, University Of Massachusetts graduate Rex Bradford secured his position in Parker Brothers’ videogame group by being in the right place at the right time. But getting to that right place involved a childhood of playing board games and extensively coding at university."
Rez: Infinite: How a techno street parade inspired Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s pioneering music video game (Lewis Gordon / FACT)
"Duplicity lies at the heart of Rez. The game lures you in with Tron-esque visuals and a techno soundtrack before delivering a sucker punch of gooey, new age trippiness in its final level. It was a disorientating reveal when the game was released back in 2001, and it’s lost none of its potency in the remastered Rez: Infinite, recently released for PS4 and PSVR."
8 Bit & '8 Bitish' Graphics-Outside the Box (Mark Ferrari / GDC / YouTube)
"In this GDC 2016 talk, Terrible Toybox's Mark Ferrari discusses and demonstrates some of his techniques for drawing 8 bit game graphics, including his celebrated methods for use of color cycling and pallet shifting to create complex and realistic background animation effects without frame-animation"
Frog Fractions 2 & the difficult art of mystery making (Chris Priestman / Killscreen)
"How do you follow up a game like Frog Fractions? That’s the question its creator Jim Crawford had promised an answer to for two years. On December 27th, 2016, he delivered with the release of Frog Fractions 2, which he had hidden away inside a fairy-themed city builder called Glittermitten Grove."
Why doesn’t Sid Meier still make Sid Meier’s Civilization? (Chris Bratt / Eurogamer / YouTube)
"In this second episode of Here's a Thing, Chris Bratt takes a look at the Civilization series and the design rules that ensure it keeps on changing."
How Designers Engineer Luck Into Video Games (Simon Parkin / Nautilus)
"Fairness is the unspoken promise of most video games. Controlled by an omniscient and omnipotent designer, a video game has the capacity to be ultimately just, and players expect that it will be so... And yet, when video games truly play by the rules, the player can feel cheated."
New year's resolution: Let's stop screaming (Rob Fearon / Eurogamer)
"I'm reminded in all too many ways of football during the 70s and 80s. A small crowd of people making enough noise and trouble, dragging people down with them until they are indelibly associated with what football is, until people can't talk about football without talking about the problem with football in the same breath."
An Excerpt From RPG Legend Richard Garriott's Memoir (Richard Garriott / Glixel)
"I wanted to write a game about virtue, a game in which the player was judged not only by the fact that they had risen to power, but by the path they had taken to get there and the lessons they had learned along the way."
Meet the Terrified Player Who Discovered Aliens in 'Elite: Dangerous' (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint)
""Sorry for the delay," said an apologetic Robert "DP Sayre" Bettig. "Life's been really busy lately." Bettig's been busy because last week, by complete chance, he became the first player in Elite: Dangerous to encounter extraterrestrial life."
Classic Game Postmortem: Ms. Pac-Man (Steve Golson / GDC / YouTube)
"In this 2016 GDC postmortem, former General Computer designer Steve Golson explains the technical process that led Midway to create Ms. Pac-Man, which went on to become one of the most successful arcade games in computing history. [SIMON'S NOTE: We also published Peter Molyneux's Populous 'Classic Postmortem' on GDC's YouTube this week, another classic.]
[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!]