[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.
The latest highlights include a crazy Dark Souls speedrunning exploit, Cyberpunk 2077 from a couple of different angles, and the lovely looking new title Luna The Shadow Dust, among a whole heap of other links. And it's nice to have some great writing to concentrate on in weeks like this, right? Hope you're all taking care out there.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Beautiful visuals and dreamy puzzles make ‘Luna The Shadow Dust’ an unusually enchanting game (Christopher Byrd / The Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"Developed by a small team of four people, “Luna The Shadow Dust” is an enchanting point-and click adventure that reminded me of the old “let me just get to the next screen” impulse. From the start, its beautiful hand-drawn visuals, dreamlike puzzles, and mysterious story line — which unfolds without a word of dialogue — drew me in and held my interest until the credits."
Myst (or, The Drawbacks to Success) (Jimmy Maher / The Digital Antiquarian - ARTICLE)
"So would it be forevermore. Myst would prove to be one of the most polarizing games in history, loved and hated in equal measure. Even today, everyone seems to have a strong opinion about it, whether they’ve actually played it or not. [SIMON'S NOTE: Ars Technica posted the full 2 hour Rand Miller video interview recently, too!]"
Happiness, Creativity and No Man's Sky ... with Sean Murray (Keza MacDonald / Spawnpoint - PODCAST)
"Spawnpoint is back with a great guest: Hello Games' Sean Murray, who talks about the pain and glory of running an independent games studio (and raising children). Making a game is hard enough - imagine trying to do it whilst also having three kids! I talked to Sean about No Man's Sky and the maddening peaks and troughs that come with both creative endeavour and child-rearing. [SIMON'S NOTE: other formats - Apple, Spotify - linked here.]"
Harmonix's Fuser bets on user creativity as the future of music gaming (Emma Kent / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
""A lot of our traditional games... are very different in that those games are either a recreation of, or performance to, an existing song," Harmonix exec Dan Walsh told me during a preview session. "Fuser is a music-mixing game where you are creating things as opposed to recreating things." [SIMON'S NOTE: don't normally cover game announce/interviews here, but I'm hella down for alll Harmonix music games, forever. And this is no exception.]"
Game Designers: The Next Generation (Shmuplations / Famicom Tsuushin - ARTICLE)
"These six developer interviews first appeared in the 5/93 edition of Famicom Tsuushin, in a special feature focused on new up-and-coming game designers (the original tagline was “Move over Horii, Sakaguchi, and Miyamoto! It’s our time now!”). Famicon Tsuushin also adorned each short interview with a photo of the developers at their desks, which I’ve included as well. [SIMON'S NOTE: I accidentally made a super-viral Tweet using the portraits in this article this week, haha!]"
How Dark Souls speedrunners exploited death to create the perfect skip (Lauren Morton / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"An emaciated Chosen Undead sprints down an ancient, ivy-covered staircase with a red-eyed attacker in pursuit. They've got a shield in one hand and nothing in the other, which isn't that surprising, given the other odd ways that speedrunners play games for very specific reasons. This is Dark Souls—the original—controlled by someone who understands the game much better than I ever will."
Can't Decide What To Play In Dreams? Try These (Ari Notis / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"So, partly as a showcase of some truly terrific user-created dreams, partly as a waystone in helping you choose what to play, here are five extremely cool games you can currently play in Dreams. Though some creators have made buzzy creations based on popular franchises, including Sonic the Hedgehog and Fallout, all of the following are original works."
'Cyberpunk 2077' And How We All Got Conned into Endlessly Rebuying Games (Patrick Klepek / VICE - ARTICLE)
"The darkly funny part is how such an offering can even be pitched as radical, because we have become so conditioned to expect—nay, demand—a chance to rebuy games we’ve already paid for. I, the person wishing Nintendo would put Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario Galaxy on Switch, am as guilty of it as anybody else."
The Coronation of Meghna Jayanth (Samuel Horti / EGM Now - ARTICLE)
"Between numerous cups of coffee—half regular, half decaf—she slips out to her small balcony for cigarettes but carries on answering questions through the open glass door, blowing her smoke sideways into the cold London air while smiling and joking. She seems like a woman who’s more optimistic about her work, and perhaps her life, than she’s ever been. And with good reason."
Dying in World of Warcraft is complicated, and it’s only getting worse (Cass Marshall / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"World of Warcraft boasts an epic fantasy setting, where orcish grunts and human knights head to the battlefield to settle a multi-generational conflict that reaches across space itself. In these battles with elves, dwarves, and demons, it’s no surprise that people die a lot in the Warcraft setting. But surely, that’s where the story ends for these heroes and villains, right? Death and taxes and all that?"
Still fighting: meet the developers of Hong Kong protest games (Khee Hoon Chan / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"In light of the protests sparked by the unpopular extradition bill in the country, more games like Liberate Hong Kong have emerged. These are often rudimentary and unpolished, due to many being developed and published within a short time-frame - Liberate Hong Kong, for instance, was made in just two weeks - but they are still powerfully evocative."
How to Make Games Funny: Three Designers Discuss Comedy Games (Holly Green / Paste - ARTICLE)
"Three recent titles demonstrate how comedy can be cultivated within the confines of a subjective interactive experience. The Elizabethan spoof Astrologaster is a dramatic irony comedy, where the audience has an omniscient understanding of the events, and finds humor in the failures of the characters. What The Golf, a goofy physics game, is a subversion comedy, using a break in the player’s expectations to make them laugh. And Untitled Goose Game is straight-forward slapstick, relying on comic mischief and situational humor."
War Stories: How Crash Bandicoot hacked the original PlayStation (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE/VIDEO)
"When you hear the name Crash Bandicoot, you probably think of it as Sony's platformy, mascoty answer to Mario and Sonic. Before getting the full Sony marketing treatment, though, the game was developer Naughty Dog's first attempt at programming a 3D platform game for Sony's brand-new PlayStation. And developing the game in 1994 and 1995—well before the release of Super Mario 64—involved some real technical and game design challenges."
How Generation Zero was fixed (Alex Wiltshire / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"“We felt really good,” product owner Paul Keslin tells me. But that feeling soon changed. The game was beset by crash bugs and complaints of repetitive play, and its Steam review scores tumbled. For its small development team, the reception was a shock – “Immediately, the feeling was not a good one”. The post-launch plan was thrown in the bin, and so began the long job of turning the game around in the eyes of its players."
Push-button warfare: How artists use games to capture drone strike horror (Hart Fowler / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"The use of video games as a platform for “high art” is as much in its infancy as the use of drones in warfare. And games are illuminating the horror of this new kind of warfare in a unique and modern way. Joseph Delappe’s Killbox (2015) and Palao Pedrici’s Unmanned (2012) both use the interactive format to give players a new appreciation of the issues surrounding drone warfare."
Steam sales case study: 'Academia: School Simulator' (Simon Carless / Game Discoverability Now! / Substack - ARTICLE/NEWSLETTER)
"We’re back with a behind-the-scenes analysis of another Steam game’s sales. After previous analyses looked at Golf Peaks and the games of Bad Logic Studios, many thanks to Ryan Sumo for allowing us to check out lifetime revenues for Squeaky Wheel’s Academia: School Simulator on Steam since its late 2017 launch (up to mid-December 2019). [SIMON'S NOTE: this game grossed $1 million, & now you can see when and how.]"
Fallout 76 players are spending months getting their characters sick (Patricia Hernandez / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Perhaps the most elusive disease that players have chased is called The Whoopsies, a hazardous condition that decreases your character’s Luck stat by 2 points. One player reportedly spent over 676 hours — about a month of real-world time — trying to harness the disease, likely in pursuit of a challenge."
‘Making Cyberpunk Red almost killed us’: Mike Pondsmith on the return of the tabletop RPG, catching up with 2020’s future and Cyberpunk 2077 (Peter Ray Allison / Dicebreaker - ARTICLE)
"“Most cyberpunk, including my much beloved Blade Runner, is pretty depressing because one of the elements of it is that the people involved are not the heroes,” observes Pondsmith. “Cyberpunks don't save the world; they save themselves. If saving the world comes out of that, then that's great.”"
In My Waking Life (Jacob Farmer / EGM NOW - ARTICLE)
"There are many encounters like this in Red Dead Redemption 2. Encounters that are easy to miss. That can be missed. Designed as choices, these moments become decisions to be triaged. Do you finish the mission or investigate that haunting voice in the woods calling for help? Walk by the crowded campfire on your way into Saint Denis and you’ll miss that heart-rending story about Lenny’s father, born into slavery."
[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!]