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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 a look at Flappy Bird's effect on the indie game scene, The Division 2's politics (or lack there-of), info on Harry Potter: Wizards Unite & Days Gone, & a whole buncha other great articles & videos.
Don't really have much time to type because, uh, it's Game Developers Conference 2019 time, and with various people coming into town ahead of the show, I have the briefest window to prepare this. See you on the other side!
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
How Failbetter Games devised Sunless Skies' facets progression system (Jack Yarwood / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"According to Chris Gardiner, the narrative director at Failbetter Games, a lot of players had given feedback that they had “wanted to like Sunless Sea more than they did”. But the game’s fiddly progression system and lack of tangible reward had stopped them from becoming more invested."
What Inclusion Means to Players (Jenny Shea / Medium Gaming - ARTICLE)
"I was in middle school when Super Smash Bros came out on N64. To say that I loved this game would be an understatement. I loved the characters (Kirby was my main), the maps, the thrill of the competition, all of it. So, when my local Blockbuster announced they were hosting a Smash tournament, I was excited to show off my skills and meet others who loved Smash as much as I did."
How Final Fantasy 7 Revolutionized Videogame Marketing and Helped Sony Tackle Nintendo (David L. Craddock / Paste Magazine - ARTICLE)
"Bamberger wrote marketing documents and circulated them within SCEA, describing the game Final Fantasy 7 as a tent-pole release. “In the movie industry, you have tent-pole films, those that will make or break a studio for a given year,” he said. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is actually from 2017, but I found it in the latest Video Game eBook Storybundle, curated by Craddock. It's a great example of a super-rare historical interview about video game marketing - an overlooked part of the biz!]"
Anita Sarkeesian talks about exposing gaming’s most toxic trends with sheer data (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Six years ago, the nonprofit media organization Feminist Frequency debuted its "Tropes Vs. Women in Games" series, a comprehensive look at how the game industry characterized female characters in consistently negative ways. In hindsight, its creator, Anita Sarkeesian, describes that series as "a hit," and not in the way you might think."
Flappy Bird Will Have Its Revenge On Indie Games (Em Reed / EmReed.Net - ARTICLE)
"A few weeks ago I marked the anniversary of a particularly shameful incident in the history of indie games, if we define that history as beginning with a sudden influx of venture capital and resulting cultural expectations in parts of the online hobbyist and amateur videogame scene. I’m of course talking about the removal of Dong Nguyen’s Flappy Bird from the App Store."
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is a more complex Pokémon Go for superfans (Nick Statt / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"For Niantic Labs’ next trick, the augmented reality game studio is diving head-first into another knotty fandom, the world of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, with scores of dedicated fans, a rich history of lore to explore, and untold storylines to tell."
Teenagers Say EA Brushed Off Reports Of Sexual Harassment By Sims Influencer(Gita Jackson / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Last week, a Sims streamer and YouTuber in EA’s Game Changer program was accused by several people in the community of sexually harassing minors online. Although he stepped down as a Game Changer on March 5, people in the Sims community are still left wondering why this wasn’t addressed months ago, because some of the people who say they were victimized by him say that they reported his actions to The Sims’s development team in December of last year."
BÌ¶aÌ¶dÌ¶ Good Game Design - Clicker Games (Idle Games, Incremental Games)(ingeniousclown Gaming / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Snoman Gaming recently made a video talking about how Clicker Games are "Bad Game Design". I disagree, and I take it upon myself to deconstruct his video and arguments. As a content creator who has created videos for this genre in the past, I felt it was my SWORN DUTY to defend against these travesties."
Meet the sound designer going to great lengths to capture sounds for games (Andy Kelly / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"When you pilot a yacht in Just Cause 3, you don’t think about the sound of the engine—at least consciously. Your brain acknowledges that, yes, this sounds like you’re behind the wheel of a yacht, and the illusion is created. But recording the sound of that boat’s rumbling engines, and the roar of the ocean as it moves through it, involved a real 60-foot yacht, a man named Watson Wu, multiple microphones and a lot of puke."
Diversifying Play with Greg Johnson (The Spelunky Showlike / Libsyn - PODCAST)
"ToeJam & Earl creator Greg Johnson gets funky with us, as we deconstruct his latest entry in the series - Back in the Groove - and discuss his approach to playfulness and accessibility in roguelikes, the lack of cultural diversity in games, and much more."
A Tetris pro helped me survive Tetris 99’s first big tournament (Nicole Carpenter / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Prior to Tetris 99, I played Tetris casually; I pulled out the classic version on my phone or Puyo Puyo Tetris on the Switch to kill time. Those aren’t exactly the qualifications of a tournament winner. So to give me an edge up heading into the Tetris 99 Maximus cup, I asked seven-time Classic Tetris World Championship player Jonas Neubauer to coach me in brick-dropping."
Giving Workers Equal Power Isn't Radical. This Studio's Done It For Years. (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"KO_OP describes itself as an “an artist run game studio,” and is your quintessentially quirky modern video game developer, having worked on everything from experimental soundscape projects like Skipping Stones, to the monster face puzzle solver GNOG, and even expansion packs for the Tomb Raider mobile spin-off, Lara Croft GO. Despite this, it’s not what makes KO_OP stand out. It’s the way KO_OP, as a developer, is structured; KO_OP is also a co-op."
The Division 2 and the Severing of Politics from Video Games (Simon Parkin / The New Yorker - ARTICLE)
"In February, the French video-game publisher Ubisoft sent an e-mail to its company mailing list with the subject “Come see what a real government shutdown looks like in the Private Beta.” The message came just after President Trump’s thirty-five-day closure of the U.S. government and was intended to promote The Division 2, the latest video game to emerge from the Tom Clancy-industrial complex."
Amazon’s Alexa has 80,000 Apps—and No Runaway Hit (Matt Day / Bloomberg Businessweek - ARTICLE)
"Echo-branded smart speakers have attracted millions of fans with their ability to play music and respond to queries spoken from across the room. But almost four years after inviting outside developers to write apps for Alexa, Amazon’s voice system has yet to offer a transformative new experience. [SIMON'S NOTE: yes, there are quite a few games for Alexa, even if you haven't noticed.]"
The Design Philosophy of Famous Game Designers | Sid Meier, Will Wright, Miyamoto and Kojima (The Game Overanalyser / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this this video, I examine the design philosophy of various designers, and attempt to draw comparisons between their various perspectives. Although people as varied as Will Wright and Miyamoto may seem worlds apart, there are commonalities in the perspectives of game designers that suggests a united vision for the future of game design."
Why ‘Days Gone’ Isn’t a Zombie Game (Brian Crecente / Variety - ARTICLE)
"“I’m a firm believer of starting in the middle and letting the player figure it out as you go.” “Days Gone” creative director and writer John Garvin describes the upcoming PlayStation 4 game as a piece of interactive post-apocalyptic fiction; survival horror cast in a story told through the journeys of a motorcycle one percenter."
How it feels to release an indie game in 2019 (Xalavier Nelson Jr /Polygon - ARTICLE)
"But I also see friends post increasingly desperate Twitter threads about their long-tail sales being decimated by storefront algorithm changes, and long-awaited independent games are often released without making a dent in the sales charts. Our game is dropping into this bewildering void, where nothing makes sense and everything seems to be in flux."
Nintendo at 130: 'It’s on us to create that wow moment for players' (Keza MacDonald / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"“It never gets any easier,” laughs Hisashi Nogami, who has lived through several risky Nintendo launches since he joined the company in 1994, from the endearingly toy-like GameCube to the awkward-looking original Nintendo DS. “With anything new it’s the unknown, and people don’t like trying unknown things – they’re always going to be a bit hesitant.”"
Flash Developer on the Death of Flash (Brad Borne / YouTube - VIDEO)
"What's a Flash Developer think of the upcoming 'Death of Flash'? Here's a rant over a time-lapse of me animating in, well, Flash! [SIMON'S NOTE: from the dev of noted Flash stand-out Fancy Pants Adventure, in relation to Shockwave's downloads being discontinued.]"
Generation Zero rises above the doubts about its concept (Nic Rueben / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"The plan was idiot proof. One of us would lob the flares we’d snagged from the church tower to distract the bipedal machine almost as imposingly tall as the church itself, while the other sprinted toward a nearby car and dumped out a backpack full of gas canisters. The firearms we’d collected were so many makeshift plastic straw pea shooters against the hulking automaton’s thick armour plating."
[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!]