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Game Design Perspectives
Author: Various, Edited by Francois Dominic Laramee
Publisher: Charles River Media
ISBN: 1-58450-090-5
Purchasing: [Amazon.Com] - RRP US$39.95
Reviewed: 11th September 2002

Front Cover Shot:

Overview

Games are rapidly becoming mass market, the audience they draw now is considerably larger than just 3 years ago. Publishing companies are investing millions into just one project.

Therefore the risks are quite high for investors, so they'll only go with ideas they think will make enough money to offset the initial investment. This is where good game design and planning becomes extremely valuable.

Another Game Design Book

There have been several books before this covering the same ground. One of the established best books 'Game Architecture and Design' by Rollings and Morris has effectively gone out of print (Coriolis folded a few months back), if you have a copy then lucky you, but for everyone else there's now a gap in the market...

This book differs from the two previous books on this website ('Game Design' by Bob Bates was the other), yet shares a common feature with 4 of Charles River Media's most popular books - a collection of works by many different authors. The Game Programming Gems Series (v1, v2, v3) and the AI Game Programming Wisdom series (v1) both employ lots of authors to share their own unique view on the subject.

This particular book lines up 27 authors from various areas of the industry to share their experience and thoughts on the game design process. For those of you familiar with the aforementioned Game Programming Gems series / AI Game programming wisdom series there are several recurring authors.

Content

The content, because of the large number of authors, is very varied - obviously, each author has his (or her) own opinions and interests. This works in two ways: firstly, it makes for a much more interesting read as opposed to a text-book like volume that progressively works through all the important areas. On the other hand, it lacks the feeling of being a complete coverage of the field, like a text book might.

That said, the book does a good job of covering all the major bases involved in designing a game, and they are laid out in a comprehensive and useful structure. Each section encapsulates a set of related articles, and the order of the sections roughly follows simple->hard/advanced. The first section covers 'design documents' and the last part 'managing a game development business'. As the editor states in the preface, the book is intended to cover something for everyone interested in, or involved in the games industry - from the programmer to the designer to the manager.

The other interesting thing shown by this book is its consideration of the potential market, not just the current market. The figures change fairly regularly, but at time of writing the average games buyer/player is male, 16-25. It would make sense to some that games are aimed at this audience, but there are several chapters (in section 6) that cover the non-traditional audiences (eg, women/young children etc...). The few games of recent years that have exploited this market have been phenomenally successful from a business point of view.

Words of Wisdom

The authors involved in the creation of this book are some of the best available - those particularly familiar with the industry may well recognize a few names here and there. This in mind, there are many pieces of advice - from the whole chapter down to one-or-two sentences - that are priceless.

I'm pretty sure that if more development teams paid more attention to some of the points mentioned here we'd get considerably more high-quality computer games released. As a simple piece of mathematics:

Price of book (RRP): $39.95
number of chapters: 47
price per chapter: $0.85 each

It's a fairly crude metric, but there are more than enough chapters in this book, by some great authors, that are worth far more than $0.85!

There is also a CD included, albeit without a huge amount included - a few sample design documents and screenplay programs.

In Conclusion

The only let down for this book is that it doesn't quite flow in the same way that a book by one author might, and in particular it doesn't flow together as well as "Game Architecture and Design". However, that doesn't make it a bad book - there is still a huge amount of be picked up from this book, and from a beginners level it would be very easy to improve the quality of any game-design. For it's price:quality ratio, it's not likely to be beaten for quite some time.

Good Things Bad Things
• Includes many of the more recent advances in game design theory • Doesn't flow as well as a book by a single author.
Considers more than the traditional gaming audience Not quite as complete a coverage as other books.
Combined, the advice and information gained easily justify the cost of the book  
Written by some of the best authors available.  

 

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