Video Game Deep Cuts: E.T. Solitaire – The Hob Odyssey

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from curator/video game industry veteran Simon Carless, rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.

Some of the highlights include how E.T. for Atari 2600 was reviewed on its release, a new Solitaire standout, a video on Hob’s design, and multiple Mario / Odyssey pieces.

One small change this week – a reader (Jess Haskins) suggested that I clearly label which pieces are articles and which are videos (or podcasts, etc.), because many of you bookmark/read the two in different ways, depending if you’re in a place where you can listen to audio or not. So I’ve done just that – good idea. Please give me feedback if you think it doesn’t work.

Adieu until next time!
– Simon, curator.]

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Pulling back the curtain on Overwatch’s development process (Bryan Francis / Gamasutra, ARTICLE)
“At Blizzcon last weekend, we were thrilled to sit down with lead visual effects artist Rachel Day and lead software engineer Bill Warnecke to talk about life on the Overwatch team from a developer’s perspective. As they explained it, everything from community toxicity to event management to character design impacts each team member’s role, something that’s reflected in Blizzard’s organizational structure.”

The Best Moment in ‘Wolfenstein: The New Colossus’ is a Total Mind Fuck (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint, ARTICLE)
“Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is an absurd game, but like its predecessor, The New Order, it skillfully navigates being touching, upsetting, subversive, and hilarious, depending on what’s most appropriate. The tonal whiplash is part of Wolfenstein’s charm, and the game constantly takes advantage of your cynical expectations.”

The Design Behind Super Mario Odyssey (Game Maker’s Toolkit / YouTube, VIDEO)
“Super Mario Odyssey’s success can be traced back to the design philosophies we’ve discussed on earlier episodes of Game Maker’s Toolkit. Let’s look at how these different ideas have been put into practice, in Mario’s latest game.”

The struggle to maintain EVE Online’s only graveyard (Steven Messner / PC Gamer, ARTICLE)
“Deep in EVE Online, in the backwater system of Molea, you’ll find something unlike anything else in all of its virtual galaxy. Orbiting the first moon of Molea II is a player-owned starbase, and floating around that starbase are over a thousand graves.”

Ranking the core Super Mario games (Jeremy Parish / Polygon, ARTICLE)
“Following the release of Super Mario Odyssey, it’s time once again to ask that ages-old question: Which Mario game is best? Rankings like this are wholly subjective, of course, and “best” is even more so. [SIMON’S NOTE: a list so controversial that sister sports site SBNation had to put out a rebuttal.]

The History of Sunsoft – Part IV: The Golden Age Part 2 (Stefan Gancer / VGArc, ARTICLE)
“In the first part about Sunsoft’s Golden Famicom/NES Age, I went through the games of 1988, among which Blaster Master was the crown jewel. In 1989 Sunsoft, returned to making arcade games and began making games for the PC Engine. But they also released a couple of classic NES titles. [SIMON’S NOTE: see right margin for the entire series, which includes a bunch of original interviews.]”

‘Battle of Azeroth’: ‘World of Warcraft’ Game Director Discusses Expansions (Heather Newman / Glixel, ARTICLE)
“Blizzard Entertainment announced this morning at its BlizzCon fan event that the latest expansion to the popular massively multiplayer RPG World of Warcraft will be ‘Battle for Azeroth.’.. We recently spoke with WoW game director Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas about the pain and process of developing a new expansion for a 13-year-old game with seven previous chapters.”

Meet the man behind YouTube sensation Noclip (Adam Cook / Red Bull, ARTICLE)
“Having spent a career talking on camera to an audience about what makes us tick and why we fall for the games we love to so much, it was perhaps inevitable that Danny O’Dwyer would end up creating something like Noclip. These are documentaries that focus on the stories behind games, offering insightful commentary from the people who were there, and made them the games they became.”

One designer’s ongoing quest to make the perfect mobile Solitaire (Andrew Webster / The Verge, ARTICLE)
“Thanks to the ubiquitous version that’s bundled with Windows, pretty much everyone has played a few rounds of digital Solitaire. But for Zach Gage, the most popular version of the game was lacking the variety and challenge found in the many real-world iterations of the card game.”

Hob Critique – It’s Like Zelda (Joseph Anderson / YouTube, VIDEO)
“One half of Hob is wonderful. And I don’t use that word as a lazy synonym for “good” or “great”. I truly mean that it’s full of wonder. This is found in Hob’s level and world design, although it also overlaps with visuals and some moments in gameplay as well. [SIMON’S NOTE: Sad that Hob’s devs just got closed down – full script for this video is here.]

The Runescape lifers (Austin Wood / Eurogamer, ARTICLE)
“Security are scratching their heads over how to search them. Cosplay is one thing, but the two sword-toting armour-clad cosplayers strutting proudly toward the Battersea Evolution venue are something else entirely. One’s wearing a standard but nevertheless impressive suit of armour, while the other’s decked out in aged bronze seemingly styled after Cthulhu.”

Audio Design Deep Dive: Scoring Wolfenstein II with the Baschet sonic sculptures (Martin Stig Andersen, Gamasutra, ARTICLE WITH AUDIO CLIPS)
“LIMBO, INSIDE and Wolfenstein II are actually the only games I’ve worked on so far; my background is in composition, especially electroacoustic composition (which is all about extracting music from everyday sounds) and electronic music. But to be honest, I very much prefer working with visual media.”

Call of Duty, Wolfenstein, and the Joy of Killing Virtual Nazis (Simon Parkin / New Yorker, ARTICLE)
“Wolfenstein 3D and its celebrated precursor, Castle Wolfenstein, from 1981, were the earliest examples of what would become a dominant genre in video games. It didn’t take long for other designers to realize that the Second World War made for an ideal dramatic backdrop, and that Nazis, with their pristine Hugo Boss uniforms and irredeemable yet easy-to-parse philosophy, made for ideal antagonists.”

Review Roundup: Was E.T. Really the “Worst Game Ever”? (John Harris / GameHistory.org, ARTICLE)
“We dug up nine significant reviews of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial from the period surrounding its release to find out what critical consensus was at the time, and to see what its average review score might look like if these reviews were published today.”

Keygen Music: From Cracktros to Demoscene to 8-bit Black Metal (This Exists / YouTube, VIDEO)
“Keygen music is as deliberately difficult as black metal or really esoteric mysterious guy hardcore, but so much more fun. [SIMON’S NOTE: About crack-intro music FOR games, so this counts, right? Sadly it doesn’t update so much nowadays, but This Exists is a great YouTube channel – here’s another vaguely game-related video, on ‘automatic Mario’.]

The surprising Islamic beauty of ‘Engare’ (Jessica Conditt / Engadget, ARTICLE)
“The first question I ask Mahdi Bahrami is, “How do you say the name of your game?” He laughs and responds smoothly, “Yes, it’s called En-gar-ay.” Engare is an eye-catching game. In Steam’s sea of gritty multiplayer shooters, pixelated platformers and cartoonish RPGs, it immediately stands out.”

Kan Gao on the benefits and drawbacks of designing in RPG Maker (Joel Couture / Gamasutra, ARTICLE)
“Kan Gao, director and designer of the sleeper hit indie adventure title To The Moon and the upcoming sequel Finding Paradise, has demonstrated the remarkable versatility of RPG Maker, utilizing RPG Maker XP to create moving games with some truly heart-wrenching moments.”

Soothsayer in the Hills Sees Silicon Valley’s Sinister Side (Maureen Dowd / New York Times, ARTICLE)
“A barefoot Buddha with dreadlocks, perched in a crazy fun house in the leafy hills of Berkeley, Mr. Lanier is a founding member of the digerati. The 57-year-old computer scientist, musician and writer has been christened the father of virtual reality. [SIMON’S NOTE: not explicitly about games, but the OG Shingy should not be ignored.]”

Writing ‘Nothing’: Storytelling with Unsaid Words and Unreliable Narrators (Mata Haggis / GDC / YouTube, VIDEO)
“In this 2016 GDC talk, narrative designer Mata Haggis explains how game and narrative designers can embrace ambiguity in storytelling to push the boundaries of the video game medium.”

2 Years of Gremlins, Inc.: demographics (Sergei Klimov / Gamasutra Blogs, ARTICLE)
“In October 2015, our studio Charlie Oscar released a digital board game Gremlins, Inc… The data below is based on the sales on 4 platforms: Steam, Humble, Sonkwo and GOG. The numbers are based on copies sold, not revenue collected, as we wanted to measure the audience – rather than the economic impact of a particular region. [SIMON’S NOTE: some fascinating stats on what languages it might be best to localize your game into!]”

One Of The Most Famous Faces On Twitch Refuses To Let The Haters Win (Luke Winkie / Kotaku, ARTICLE)
“According to Mychal “Trihex” Jefferson, there really isn’t much of a difference between speedrunning video games and lifting weights. “You have to be goal-oriented,” he recently said as he beamed live and uncut from a private Discord call. “It’s very easy to get into a speed game and feel intimidated, insecure and inadequate about how bad your times are, and you can get overwhelmed and salty.””

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[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 vgdeepcuts@simoncarless.com. 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!]

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