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[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 look at the innovative title The Pedestrian, the people still composing music in Mario Paint, the odd 'dead MMO' setting of PAGAN: Autogeny, and lots more besides, from streaming legality to Valentine's Day gaming for couples.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Revisiting Mortal Kombat: the legend, the tech and the console ports (John Linneman / Digital Foundry & Eurogamer - ARTICLE & VIDEO)
"The DF Retro video embedded above covers off every official - and unofficial - version of the game we believe to be in existence. The Acclaim conversions are all present and accounted for, home versions for PC and Amiga are also covered, plus we take a look at the pirate versions of the game developed for the markets still gaming heavily on NES/Famicom-based systems in the early to mid 90s."
The Pedestrian is so much more than its great aesthetic (Michael Moore / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Logic puzzle games tend to fall into one of two groups. Sometimes they’re like sudoku, where once you learn the basics of how to solve the puzzle you can just repeat that ad infinitum. Or they can be like the Professor Layton games, where each puzzle is discrete and requires you to relearn everything to solve it. In either case, it’s often hard to tell if you’re actually getting better at the puzzles as you play through them. There is often little sense of progress. But that’s not the case with The Pedestrian."
How Stanley Kubrick’s hexagonal carpet pattern is invading video games (Ewan Wilson / The Face - ARTICLE)
"One pattern that seems to knock everyone dead is the carpet from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. You know the one: a maze of garish orange hexagons, winding its way round the illogical space of the Overlook Hotel. It’s one of the most referenced carpets in film history, from Pixar’s original Toy Story to the Oscar-winning Birdman, and now video games are paying homage too."
The Core Mechanics of Shovel Knight, ft. Yacht Club Games (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Making a signature move for your platforming hero is hard work: just ask developer Yacht Club Games, who has had to make four of them for Shovel Knight, Plague Knight, Specter Knight, and King Knight. In this video, I talk to Yacht Club about the design decisions behind these iconic platforming actions."
The Ragtag Squad That Saved 38,000 Flash Games From Internet Oblivion (Cecilia D'Anastasio / Wired - ARTICLE)
"A burning meteor is headed for the wide, weird world of online Flash games. Adobe will discontinue support for Flash at the end of 2020, rendering the delightful—and sometimes disturbing—’90s- and aughts-era browser games unplayable. It’s bigger than losing access to classic time-wasters like Desktop Tower Defense and Line Rider."
The (still) uncertain state of video game streaming online (Willie Clark / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"As these streamers and personalities have grown in popularity, so too has the discussion over the rights of streamers and developers in regards to said content. Are streams covered under fair use with content creators allowed to make money off of them? Or should the original creators of the games have a say in how their products are used in the public eye, not to mention a chance to generate profit?"
Wattam: Keita Takahashi and the Power of Play (Writing On Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"The games of Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) have predominantly focused on allowing us to reexamine the world around us, to use play to convey a message of hope about our future. This vision, however, always ends up clashing with the financial realities of game development and industry at large, leading to a palpable feeling of frustration or cynicism within a lot of that same work."
Post-launch Steam data: Cultist Simulator in numbers (Lottie Bevan / Gamasutra Blogs - ARTICLE)
"There are many great articles on how to market your game to launch, but there isn't much on what to do afterwards. Here’s an attempt to bridge that gap. The below is a close look at Cultist Simulator‘s storepage traffic breakdown from Steamworks. I’ve taken snapshots of the game’s performance over the past two years and thought about what this tells me about post-launch marketing. I’ve restricted myself to speaking only about Steam to avoid data overload."
Meet the musicians who compose in Mario Paint (Elizabeth Henges / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Mario Paint remixes, however, are not simply chiptune remixes. Composers have to deal with an unusual set of tools, including weird limits on notes and tempos, barking 16-bit dogs, and more in order to create their music. It’s a challenge to create music with these strange rules in place, but the challenge is what brings these composers to the medium in the first place."
15 co-op games to play with your partner this Valentine’s Day (Valentina Palladino & Jeff Dunn / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"The days leading up to Valentine's Day can be stressful... But instead of spending money on expensive gifts that your partner may only enjoy for a finite amount of time, we at Ars want to encourage you to spend quality time together—and what better way to do that than to pick up the joysticks and play some video games?"
Road to the IGF: Oleander Garden's PAGAN: Autogeny (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Gamasutra spoke with Oleander Garden, sole developer of PAGAN: Autogeny, to learn about the feelings that were stirred up in creating a purposely dead gaming world, how dead MMOs can feel like abandoned malls, and the melancholy that comes with visiting our old, empty digital homes. [SIMON'S NOTE: part of a whole host of IGF-related interviews still in progress on Gamasutra - check 'em all out!]"
Thief: Deadly Shadows will still have you fearing the light some 16 years on (John Walker / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"I was a little afraid of returning to this one. Not because I knew it’d mean returning to The Cradle, even though I was very intrigued to see if it would still work. But because I once scored it 90% in a magazine, and I really didn’t want to be wrong."
'Spider-Man' Developers Want More People to Know How Games Are Written (Patrick Klepek / VICE - ARTICLE)
"Paquette and I were speaking about a unique collaboration between Sony, Insomniac, and Marvel: a hardcover book with the story script for Spider-Man. The book came out last week, and provides a look at one of the more important aspects of why the game was so beloved."
The mobile games market is getting bigger -- and not just for the top ten (Craig Chapple / GamesIndustry.biz - ARTICLE)
"The top ten grossing games generated an estimated $9.7 billion in combined revenue during 2019, up 5.2% year-on-year. That figure represented approximately 15.8% of all user spending in games on the App Store and Google Play last year. In 2018, the top ten accounted for 17.2% of all user spending in games. [SIMON'S NOTE: mobile F2P gaming is still staggeringly large revenue-wise, for better or worse.]"
The Sims turns 20, unlike your Sim who will probably always be 20 (Aiden Strawhun / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Like many players of The Sims, I’ve always not-so-secretly delighted in finding creative ways to help my Sims meet their doom. This one however, was not exactly intentional. And that’s part of what’s always made the series so memorable — the strange stories we get to tell are completely out of the box and, quite frankly, sometimes a little sad."
The Clark Tank - Indie industry analysis & playing Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! (Ryan Clark / Brace Yourself Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"I'm veteran indie game developer Ryan Clark, and this is the Clark Tank! Every third Friday at 1pm Pacific time we stay on top of the latest game industry trends by examining the Steam top 50, scrutinizing the latest Kickstarted games, and by playing the most prominent recent releases."
ALT.CTRL.GDC Showcase: Twined (Joel Couture / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Twined tasks players with working together to jump higher and higher while they're tied together, using communication and separate sliders to reach new heights. Gamasutra had a talk with Elias Faltin, producer at Tissue Drop Games, to talk about what interested them in having players talk and plan with each other to progress and the appeal of exploring human interactions through the game's controls. [SIMON'S NOTE: part of a bunch of alt.ctrl.GDC interviews that are starting to rollout - love these physical controller games.]"
Steam - 2019 Year in Review (Steamworks Development / Steam - ARTICLE)
"We also worked on finding new ways to surface recommendations to users. For example, during the Winter Sale, we experimented with sending customized emails that recommended five games selected for that user by our machine-learning recommendation engine. We found that the user opt-out rate for this was low, and that users who received recommendations were more likely to discover interesting products. This is an area we expect to continue to experiment with in the future."
Britain's Game Workers Are Largely White, Middle Class, and Depressed (Natalie Clayton / VICE - ARTICLE)
"It’s pretty easy to joke about how many dozens of beardy white blokes named Mark or John or Dave you’ll run into on show floors and behind studio doors. But there’s a quieter problem that the survey reveals, one less talked about on convention floors: the industry’s got a real problem with social mobility."
A history of Simlish, the language that defined The Sims (Brennan Kilbane / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"A game-specific language was critical to Wright’s first plans for the Sims universe. Sims had to communicate with one another, and with the player, in a way that was recognizable. But Wright was adamant about severing Simlish from the world’s existing languages."
Why Forums Can Be Great for Indie Community and Discoverability (Philomena Schwab / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2019 GDC talk, Stray Fawn Studio's Philomena Schwab explains how forums (and some useful plugins) can still be useful for indie developers looking to build stable online communities around their games."
[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!]