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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
How do you create great games? And, in an industry that’s become serious “big business,” how do get the chance to create great games? In Game Creations and Careers: Insider Secrets from Industry Experts, longtime game industry journalist Marc Saltzman covers every corner of the business, bringing together the insights of no less than 150 of its leaders.
The names will be familiar to any serious gamer. There’s Nintendo’s legendary Shigeru Miyamoto, who conceived characters such as Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, and Link from the Legend of Zelda series. There’s Square’s Hironobu Sakaguchi (the Final Fantasy Series). Jason Rubin from Naughty Dog (Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter). Shinji Mikami, Studio 4, Capcom (Resident Evil). Brendan McNamara, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe/Team Soho (The Getaway).
You name the topic, Saltzman has found folks with a real track record and a willingness to speak candidly. Here’s insight into developing for Playstation 2, Xbox, or GameCube...and PDAs or cell phones. Practical guidance on music, audio, game art, and animation. Hard-won expertise on building intuitive user interfaces and game controls. The fundamental game programming theory every developer needs. The essentials of artificial intelligence. And plenty more.
Saltzman starts with pre-production -- especially the critical game design project phase. “All the glitz and glitter poured into games these days -- expensive art, animation, real actors, the best musicians -- can’t cover up for poor gameplay.” To that end, he brings together articulate, enlightening, usable design advice for every genre. There’s a full chapter on designing action/arcade games; another on strategy games; as well as detailed coverage of design sports games, simulations, adventure games, puzzles, RPGs, and persistent online worlds.
You’ll learn what it takes to create truly memorable characters. For example, as OddWorld’s Lorne Lanning (creator of protagonists like Abe and Munch) observes, “You need to know as much about them as you can conjure up: What they like and dislike, what their dilemmas are, what makes them tick. These are the things that give characters depth.” And you need that depth before you even begin to design your character’s appearance.
Saltzman and his interviewees explain how to create design documents and storyboards that help you instead of hindering you. (There’s even a 15-page Master Design Document Template you can use as a starting point.) You’ll learn how to write great interactive scripts; master the complicated and specialized arts of mission and level design; test your game; plan for technical support and customer service, and more.
For many readers, the most useful section is the one on breaking in. Here, Saltzman covers all your options: creating shareware games, finding game agents and headhunters, formal education at design schools; web-based resources, and more. Saltzman knows the industry inside out, as a columnist, and author of ten books on gaming -- everything from the Game Design: Secrets of the Sages series to Gamer’s Web Directory: Sites, Cheats and Secrets. You can’t get more “inside” than this. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.