Just a few years ago, books about computer game design were as rare on the bookshelves as silk ties in the wardrobe of a game programmer. Then, around the turn of the millennium , a trickle of new books began to appear. One of the early ones that caught my eye was the first edition of this book, Game Design: Theory & Practice by Richard Rouse III. I noted that Richard has design credits on published games and the hard-won insights that conveys, as well as the descriptive skills to articulate those insights. I also appreciated the literal truth of the title of the book; it covers both the underlying theories behind game design while providing practical guidance on how to put those theories to use. But my favorite chapters of the book were the interviews. Richard persuaded an impressive array of talented and influential game designers to answer his thorough and insightful questions. So when Richard asked me to review and comment on this latest revision of his book and write an introduction, I jumped at the chance.
Game design is still a young craft, but a rapidly maturing one. No longer in its infancy certainly , computer and video games have been around for over 30 years, and despite a generous helping of Peter Pan Syndrome they ve achieved a virtual adolescence at least. This means that game designers have graduated from the trial-and-error stages of the early years and learned what works and what doesn t. In turn that has resulted in a growing shared knowledge base of universal principles of game design. My own quarter-century of experience in game development and research into the underlying rules of good game design have indicated that it is possible to both identify and teach the rules that have influenced every successful game for decades, and this book is a worthy contributor to that body of knowledge.
But the video games of the Pong era bear a pretty tenuous resemblance to the multi-million dollar extravaganzas of the current day, and many of the skills necessary to design a game have likewise changed and matured. Furthermore, games present a widely varied face to the world. Superficially, games like Centipede or Tetris are vastly different from The Sims or Civilization . So it is impressive that this book manages to identify many qualities that are common to all good games and the skills needed to create design documents for them, while doing a credible job of covering elements specific to certain types of games as well, such as storytelling, scripting, AI, and multiplayer design. The game analysis chapters dissect and appraise the internal qualities of games and so grant insight into both the games highlighted as well as the process of analysis itself. And the interviews delve into both the shared knowledge of renowned designers and their individual quirks and unique histories.
In short, I ve found this book to be remarkable at revealing the range of the creative game design process, as well as just plain fun to read. And I hope you will as well!