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From Barnes & NobleWe've seen several books that promise to take you inside game design. A few of them have been excellent, but none are better than Deborah Todd's Game Design: From Blue Sky to Green Light. This book has the powerful ring of truth that can only come from experience (Todd's own, and that of the 30 expert game designers she interviews). Plus, it delivers the goods in well under 300 pages -- so you can devour it, learn from it, and still have time for an actual career.
Todd focuses on the mysterious front end of the process: the space between finding a truly brilliant idea and actually convincing someone to build it. So you won’t find a lot about game engines or DirectX. What’s here may be even more precious. For example: a hands-on “blue sky” improvisational exercise that, in Todd's words, “has had the most profound impact on opening up the flow of creative juices that I have ever seen.”
It sounds like brainstorming, but in Todd’s view, it’s not quite that: it’s what you do when the sky’s truly the limit. Brainstorming, which she covers next, actually helps you narrow your focus a bit, to what you might really want -- and can have -- in your game.
Then, step-by-step, Todd walks you through every element of game design: story (“the thousand pound gorilla”); character (getting more important every year); and environments, puzzles, and levels (the real meat of your game).
Drawing on insights from Dennis Wixon, the user research manager on Halo and Age of Empires, Todd walks you through real-world design testing. There’s a full chapter on flowcharting and storyboarding, and a full section of actual project artifacts, from Nihilistic’s design documents to Guitar Hero II’s weekly status reports. Even if you’re already in the business, this stuff’s superb. Bill Camarda, from the June 2007 Read Only