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[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 highlights include some early looks at From Software's anticipated Sekiro, the goofiness of GaaS bike sequel Trials Rising, and how Sim City inspired a lot of urban planners, among other varied and notable topics.
And... that was another week! Lots of great stuff in here - read that Dungeons & Dragons piece, if you haven't already - and it's just 7+-ish days until that Game Developers Conference thing I appear to be involved in organizing, so hope to see some of you there!
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Making games for a living means being in constant fear of losing your job (Katie Chironis / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Years later, I’ve realized that this fear and anxiety isn’t just common. It’s necessary if you want to have a long career. Games might fail fast and hard upon release, and studios can shutter overnight. There may not be obvious warning signs. It might even happen at companies with a large number of hit games. [SIMON'S NOTE: I saw a lot of my ex-AAA game dev colleagues sharing this one on social media - even for better paid non-indies, the industry can be surprisingly unstable.]"
toco toco - Devil May Cry 5, Resident Evil 2 Remake Directors special (Archipel / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this special episode toco toco, we headed west to Osaka to follow Hideaki Itsuno, director of the upcoming Devil May Cry 5 and the duo Yasuhiro Anpo & Kazunori Kadoi, directors of the critically acclaimed and recently released Resident Evil 2 remake."
Time to give rise to the rugged woman (Laura Francis / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"How is it that it's perfectly okay and completely acceptable for a man to age and remain cool and for a woman it's seen as a lot more unattractive and uncool? Older men are continuously embraced for their rugged, rough-around-the-edges gruff looks and tough-as-nails demeanor and always seem to be leading man material for video games."
Supergiant's Greg Kasavin on Hades, Epic Games Store, and the Beauty of Democratized Game Development (Caty McCarthy / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"At DICE Summit a couple of weeks ago, I met up with Greg Kasavin, a writer and designer with Supergiant Games. We talked about the learning experience of launching a fluid early access game (contrary to the studio's past content-complete at launch action-adventure games like Bastion and Transistor), and about its peculiar partnership with Epic Games Store, the newest digital PC storefront that's shaking things up on the market."
'Sekiro' Makes Me Feel Unstoppable (Even When I'm Dying) (Natalie Watson / Waypoint - ARTICLE & AUDIO DISCUSSION)
"From the few hours I spent with Sekiro, I can confidently say that I want to spend time moving through this world. In Bloodborne, my movement at times felt constrained. I was stuck to the ground, I could almost feel gravity pulling me down with all of its force. In Sekiro, the fact that I have a button assigned just to jump made a world of a difference. [SIMON'S NOTE: to say Sekiro is hotly awaited would be an understatement - more impressions from GameSpot and from PCGamesNunderline the interest.]"
Insomniac Games: From Purple Dragon to Incredible Spidey (Brian Crecente / Variety - ARTICLE)
"In another reality, Extreme Software would be turning 25 Thursday, a game studio made famous by its original creations of purple dragon, of orange interstellar raccoon, of human Resistance. Famous for creating, most recently, the best Spider-Man — some would argue best superhero — video game of all time. [SIMON'S NOTE: also see this VentureBeat interview with Insomniac's Ted Price.]"
‘Fortnite’ Creative Mode Is Changing How We Think of Game Design (Keith Stuart / OneZero / Medium - ARTICLE)
"Creative mode isn’t just a fun building toy; it allows players to add basic game rules to their island, including timers and player spawn points, and then to invite in friends. This isn’t just messing about; Creative mode allows you to become a game designer, creating your own battle royale tournaments."
Trials Rising is back to being ridiculous, thank god (Russ Frushtick / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"The Trials games have never been about realism. They’re physics-based motorcycle platformers where I’m trying to get a motorcycle across a pit of fire while fireworks explode around me... The series took a different path in 2014 with Trials Fusion and a futuristic setting... Trials Rising corrects this mistake in bombastic fashion. [SIMON'S NOTE: Long-time Trials fan, am having fun with the new one, even though it's Games As A Service/lootbox-ed up to the hilt.]"
Beyond the console: Xbox leaders detail Microsoft’s gaming future, led by xCloud streaming service (Nat Levy / Geekwire - ARTICLE)
"Game subscription services have been around for decades. But with the Project xCloud service it announced last year, Microsoft is betting that it can take games like Halo, which have always required powerful consoles, and move all that processing to the cloud, allowing users to play these games on their phones. If it can pull that off, the tech giant could open itself up to a huge new audience and usher in a tectonic shift in the gaming industry."
Clark Tank: Indie Sequels, New Steam Follower data & Bannermen! (Ryan Clark / YouTube - VIDEO)
"This week (recorded February 22nd, 2019), we take a look at Darkest Dungeon 2 release and what that means for indie sequels, Apex Legends and the Battle Royale genre, a new Steam Followers data scraping tool for pre-launch statistics, and we play and analyze Bannermen! [SIMON'S NOTE: the cutdown VOD version of the livestream, this week's revelation was the Steam public follower scraping, which is... not inaccurate in working out game popularity! (But also not a magic solution to sales estimates.)]"
How ‘Ape Out’ Creates a Soundscape Worthy of Smashing (Steven T. Wright / Variety - ARTICLE)
"That said, when Boch’s dizzying array of tom-tom fills and snare strikes are pounding against your eardrum, it’s hard to pull back from pile-driving your captors into a fine pulp. The nuances of this highly-sophisticated system can be equally as difficult to grasp when you’re swinging away, but they’re discernible once you pay attention. [SIMON'S NOTE: check out this spectacular playthrough to get a general idea!]"
Fantasy's Widow: The Fight Over The Legacy Of Dungeons & Dragons (Cecilia D'Anastasio / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Gail Gygax and I were sitting in the living room of a lace-trimmed, flower-filled bed and breakfast in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin when she told me about the time she discovered what she believed was a plot to kill her. [SIMON'S NOTE: article of the week, with notably nuanced/careful reporting despite the complexity of the subject, please read, thank you.]"
Road to GDC: The Future of Gaming Is AI (Emily Short / Variety - ARTICLE)
"Game developers dream of building gameplay that automatically adapts to the player’s skill level, where no player ever leaves because they got lost, frustrated, bored, or harassed by other players. Game writers talk about designing stories where every choice the player makes, however small or large, affects the rest of the narrative so that every play experience is unique."
From video game to day job: How ‘SimCity’ inspired a generation of city planners(Jessica Roy / LA Times - ARTICLE)
"For many urban and transit planners, architects, government officials and activists, “SimCity” was their first taste of running a city. It was the first time they realized that neighborhoods, towns and cities were things that were planned, and that it was someone's job to decide where streets, schools, bus stops and stores were supposed to go."
Why Synergies are the Secret to Slay the Spire’s Fun (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"I have been obsessed with a card battling roguelike called Slay the Spire. And a big reason for that is how the game uses synergies. What are they, and why are they so cool? Let’s find out."
Below and the difficulty in crafting difficulty (Sam Greer / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"Between its challenging combat, punishing survival mechanics, brutal permadeath and very slow pace, Below undoubtedly has a lot of barriers to entry. But a difficult, unforgiving and unloveable game? There’s nothing I like more! [SIMON'S NOTE: this game is certainly divisive. Which is interesting, actually!]"
The devil within: Hideaki Itsuno on 25 years at Capcom (Martin Robinson / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Hideaki Itsuno last sat in the director's chair for 2012's Dragon's Dogma - a standout title in a sometimes troubled era for Capcom's last generation - but you can trace his history with the company much further back than that. "After I got out of college, I thought to myself, well, I could be a teacher, that might be okay," he tells us on the London leg of Devil May Cry 5's final press tour, the interview taking place at the top of a mist-shrouded Shard. [SIMON'S NOTE: there's reviews of DMC5 out there too, of course - seems to skew gonzo/old school carnage-y?]"
There is a second valley past the Uncanny Valley or How developing an AR horror game put me in the hospital. (Bryan Mitchell / Medium - ARTICLE)
"This hypothesis began in 2013, when I was watching the film Gravity in 3D at the cinema. There was a moment when shards from an exploding satellite flew at my face and I jumped in my seat. For a split second, part of my brain/body thought I was going to die. [SIMON'S NOTE: not sure I agree with the conceptual premise, but this is a gripping piece of writing.]"
Game Center CX 15th Anniversary – Special Long Interview With Shinya Arino(Continue / One Million Power - ARTICLE)
"It seems like the staff really wanted Dragon Quest to be the game for the 250th episode... But even though it was the 250th episode, I didn’t clear it until the 251st. So that was a little bit strange (Laughs). [SIMON'S NOTE: you've seen Game Center CX, aka Retro Game Master, right? It's the absolute best & I'm horrified it doesn't have an official VOD release in the West - there's just a very limited amount of episodes officially out there. Please watch & enjoy.]"
Episode 141: Michael Vermeulen and Derek Bradley of Ashen (Humans Of Gaming / Libsyn - PODCAST)
"Michael Vermeulen and Derek Bradley of Ashen join Drew and Chris this week to talk about their indie darling title. Hailing from South Africa, the duo talk about the development of their Souls-like game and the "take care of people" environment of the studio that they have tried to foster and how it is reflected in the game Ashen."
The attention economy is dead (Bijan Stephen / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"The attention economy is dying, and it’s not pretty; there is only so much time in the day to pay attention to things, and we as a society have reached the limit. (By things I mean ads.) Fortnite, though, has managed to stay culturally relevant and even grow since its 2017 launch — which is unusual. And that’s because its creator, Epic Games, has figured out how to get people to keep paying attention."
[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!]