This week's highlights include juicy math(s) in Slay The Spire, the creation of Totally Accurate Battlegrounds, and loads more.
Another crazy busy week - I didn't even look at a bunch of the regular sites I poll, relying on social media & aggregator sites alone. We really do have an embarrassment of riches out there - although I worry about the business model for many of the sites I'm linking below.
And oddly, the one-man Patreon-powered video creators may be more fiscally stable than your average article creator nowadays... who'd have thunk that, a few years ago? Let's hope there are more sustainable media business models soon, eh? Or a few more rich WaPo-style patrons.
Unrelated: I also just got a chance to watch Ready Player One for the first time - yes, I missed it in the movies, due to a hyperactive two-year old adorably crushing my leisure time. What a weird flick. But I wouldn't mind it if we turned the Internet off on Tuesdays and Thursdays?
Until next time,
- Simon, curator.]
Ex-Valve employee describes ruthless internal politics at 'self-organizing' companies (Tyler Wilde / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"Former Valve employee Rich Geldreich, who worked at the company between 2009 and 2014, has spent the past several days tweeting detailed accounts of the internal politics at 'self-organizing' companies—one of which he says is based in Bellevue, Washington, where Valve is headquartered. [SIMON'S NOTE: not sure how fair this is, but it's so rare to get any comments from ex-employees, even veiled.]"
DF Retro H2O! Water Rendering (DigitalFoundry / YouTube - VIDEO)
"DF Retro returns with a two-part showcase covering the history of water rendering in games, starting from the early 90s to and ending with the last-gen consoles! In this first part, we start with a look at 16-bit 2D raster tricks on Megadrive/Genesis, Super NES, NES and Game Boy before moving into the 3D era!"
The road to video game hell (Andreas Inderwildi / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"If the games we play are anything to go by, the depths of hell are one of humankind's favourite destinations when it comes to travels of the mind. Few fantasy RPGs or horror games could be considered complete without at least a quick excursion into the domain of demons and sinners."
Building a set piece on a budget: Designing Fe's deer colossus (Aron Garst / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"To the developers at Zoink Games, Fe is more than a 3D platformer about a fox in a stylized forest working to stop an invasion. It’s a rhythmic adventure that is laid out to flow at a certain speed: new abilities and areas are discovered at a pace that matches that flow without rushing or inhibiting the player."
GOG: Preserving Gaming's Past & Future (Noclip / YouTube - VIDEO)
"How do old games come back from the dead? We talk to the people at GOG about the work they do to hunt down & release classic games, and their mission to encourage more DRM free releases."
A Researcher Is Digging Up Largely Forgotten Queer Video Games (Gita Jackson / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"In the early 90s, two queer people in the Mission District of San Francisco made games about queer experiences. One was a fantasy role-playing game populated by gay characters, the other a lesbian adventure game. These two developers would never meet. It’s only now, through archival projects like LGBTQ Game Archive, that queer scholars have begun to piece together this history."
Masato Maegawa and Puzzle Games (Peter Barnard / Game Hihyou / Shmuplations - ARTICLE)
"Moving onto the action stage based puzzles. This was my favorite genre back when I shunned the Famicom and preferred to play on the PC8001 and PC8801. You’ve probably heard of some of the more famous examples of the genre like Flappy and Lode Runner."
How Landfall accidentally struck a vein with a joke battle royale game (Steven T. Wright / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"But while Landfall’s Totally Accurate Battlegrounds (or the delightfully-stupid acronym TABG) represents the latest evolution of this fun-over-functionality approach, and despite garnering millions of players over its short month-long lifespan, the developers behind the game say they never intended for their experiment to attract that sort of smash reception."
Out of the Wild West: Inside the Evolution of Games Writing (Caty McCarthy / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"Over the past six months, I've spoken to these underappreciated, often unsung writers. The off-site writers working per contract, helping sculpt massive games from within a big (or surprisingly not so big) team. The writers crafting NPC dialogue and weapon descriptions. The indie developers who are left to weather every aspect of writing and designing almost all on their own. The triple-A writers lucky enough to be brought into games from the start, against the once-norm."
What Happened to 'Miegakure,' the Game That Promised the 4th Dimension? (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"We’ve all played lots of games in 2D and 3D, but 4D? That’s genuinely new, and it’s been the lingering promise of Miegakure, a wild puzzle game from designer Marc ten Bosch that’s been in development since 2009. Nearly a decade later, Miegakure is almost done. Maybe? [SIMON'S NOTE: this whole series is neat.]"
Porn Game Developers Are Making Big Money Thanks To Crowd-Funding (Luke Winkie / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Akabur, one of the true frontiersman of porn games, is finally cashing in. His two most popular erotic games, Princess Trainer and Witch Trainer, remain free for anyone to download on his website, but the public is paying him over $5,000 a month to facilitate his work."
Making the World Give a Damn About Your Game in 2018 (Mike Rose / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2018 GDC talk, No More Robots' Mike Rose discusses what currently works (and what doesn't) when attempting to sell a game in 2018."
How The Sims Became a Champion for LGBTQ Representation in Gaming (Kennan McCall / New Normative - ARTICLE)
"Like all new IPs, The Sims was seen as a risky gamble before its release in 2000, and encountered several hurdles and road blocks all through its development. Yet, one of the game’s riskier inclusions — the ability to make characters LGBTQ — proved to be a saving grace, drawing positive publicity to the title when it needed it most... And it all started with a Crunch-Time fueled mistake."
How Nyamakop designed Semblance's spongy, deformable terrain (Jack Yarwood / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Making a 2D platformer in Unity is usually a relatively straightforward process. But that’s not always the case for some developers. While working on their debut game Semblance, available for Nintendo Switch and PC, the South African studio Nyamakop struggled both technically and in terms of its design, on account of the game’s deformable terrain."
Gaming’s toxic men, explained (Colin Campbell / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"This story is not another attempt to chronicle the activities of racist and misogynist men who harass women and people of color on social media and in multiplayer games. Nor is it an existential inquiry into their particular niche in the video game community. Rather, this story asks: Where do they come from? Why they are here? And what allows them to stay?"
Game Studio With No Bosses Pays Everyone The Same (Nathan Grayson / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"The game industry is not exactly known for valuing workers. Big studios are rife with soul-destroying crunch and end-of-project layoffs. French studio Motion Twin, developer of the Castlevania-inspired roguelike Dead Cells, is trying something different: Workers own and manage the company. There is no boss."
Chill out: a new wave of relaxing video games shows there's more to them than violence (Sam Greer / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"Chill out games that focus on growing and relaxing rather than shooting or racing are not a rarity. They are not given the same exposure as their blockbuster counterparts, but they are plentiful and popular. Stardew Valley, the creation of one determined developer, Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone, has reportedly sold over 3.5 million copies."
What Works And Why: Juicy maths in Slay The Spire (Tom Francis / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"When games offer you abilities and perks that boost your stats, they often do it in a meager, fiddly way... So here’s an example of what I mean by juicy maths: Corpse Explosion from roguelike card game Slay the Spire."
How One Line of Ancient Code Haunted a Major MMO For Six Months (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"One of the most common refrains you hear from game developers is a simple notion: It’s shocking any game is released. They are complicated, unwieldy beasts held together by the digital equivalent of duct tape. It’s no surprise when they fall apart."
The TV Show that didn't want you to know it was a Video Game (People Make Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Three episodes into People Make Games and Chris has become entirely self-indulgent in the topics he's researching. Here's the story of how Total War ended up on the telly as a show called Time Commanders."
How to make a game about drinking with Satan (Blake Hester / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Sean Krankel, founder and CEO of development team Night School Studio, sounds surprised when I tell him his company is nearly four years old. In his head, he says, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. In his head, he says, it’s still weird to not be the studio just making the company’s first game, Oxenfree."
[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 & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]