Game Design: From Blue Sky to Green Light

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This book takes a real-world, in-depth journey through the game-design process, from the initial blue sky sessions to pitching for a green light. The author discusses the decision and brainstorming phase, character development and story wrap, creation of content and context outlines, flowcharting game play, and creating design documents. Special features include examples of both classic and contemporary games, and interviews with many of the game industry’s brightest professionals who share their insights on key elements in game design, and their analysis on what makes a game a blockbuster hit. This book is a perfect guide for the novice, student, and game enthusiast interested in learning the nuts and bolts of the computer-game industry.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
We'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

From the Publisher
" this first! If you want to break into the business, this book will help you shorten the long, hard road many of us have traveled."" -Christofer Sundberg, Avalanche Studios, Just Cause, Avalanche Studios, Just Cause, March 2007

pulled off a remarkable feat: she's produced a book that's both inspirational and practical. Listen to her and the other video game industry experts she interviews, and save yourself years of forehead-slapping."" -Corey Bridges, Multiverse, Multiverse, March 2007

Chapter 3: The Yin and Yang of Brainstorming
""Every good brainstorming session starts with a 15-minute discussion of Star Trek."" - Noah Falstein , quoting Ron Gilbert -Game Career Guide, February 2007

""Next-Gen.Biz Podcast Episode 22: Deborah Todd, author of the book Game Design: From Blue Sky to Green Light talks about the challenges of creating a game in today’s tough commercial environment."" -Next Gen Biz, March 2007

""Mary DeMarle is helping shape the script for Ubisoft's new Splinter Cell game. In an interview printed in new book Game Design by Deborah Todd, DeMarle has recounted the exact design process behind the latest game, explaining that the writer and development team are working very closely, with the design and screenwriting disciplines helping inform one another."" -Michael French, Develop, April 2007

""We'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. ... Even if you’re already in the business, this stuff’s superb."" -Barnes & Noble, June 2007

""Interviews with top game producers supplement the author's position as an award-winning designer and writer, with exercises and a puzzles checklist at book's end for maximum learning and reinforcement. Any college-level collection strong on games development needs this."" -Midwest Book Review, June 2007

""One of the better books that's been published about some of the processes involved in game development...[with] pacy, intelligent writing and clean design... this provides a good overview of subjects such as design, story and characterisation."" -EDGE, May 2007

""Covers the creative aspects of game design... Students, you’ll get a pretty good overview by reading this book...Instructors, if you’re teaching a practical game design course...this book will cover you. Professionals, [it's] worth a read just to see what others have to say on the subject... You should read this just so you have some experience backing you up (even if it’s not your own)."", September 2007

A K Peters is pleased to announce that Game Design has been selected as a finalist for the Game Developer Magazine's 2007 Front Line Awards, which anually recognize the year's best game-making tools in the categories of programming, art, audio, game engine, middleware, and books. Front Line award nominees represent the most innovative, user-friendly, and useful products from behind the scenes of the world's best video games. -Game Developer Magazine , November 2007

. . a remarkable insiders' look into the exploding, often chaotic world of video games, from blue sky to green light to the final boxed game on the shelf. Game Design is an invaluable resource for beginners and established pros alike!"" -Matt Costello, GXB Interactive, GXB Interactive, March 2007"

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568813189
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 2/27/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

1. The Games Industry in All Its Glory
2. In the Beginning, There Was Blue Sky
3. The Yin and Yang of Brainstorming
4. Story in Game Design—The Thousand-Pound Gorilla
5. Characters Rule
6. The Hat Trick of Game Design—Environments, Puzzles, and Levels
7. There's a Whole Lot of Testing Going On
8. The Many Faces of GDDs
9. And Now for Something Completely Different—Flowcharts and Storyboards
10. Life is a Pitch, and Then They Buy
A. CSI Case Treatment
B. Nihilistic Documents
C. Death Jr. II Documents
D. Guitar Hero II Weekly Status Report
E. CSI 3 Camera System
Game List
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The Century of the Video Game

It's been said that the motion picture was the quintessential twentieth-century form of entertainment. It is very possible that it will be said that the twenty-first century belonged to the video game.

Both art forms strive to deliver an immersive experience that breaks down the barrier between the medium and the audience. But the result of this immersion is very different for each medium. With film, greater immersion makes the experience voyeuristic because you're always in third-person mode, watching. It's critical that you identify with someone or something on screen, but you don't control them. In games, though, greater immersion makes the experience personal. You control the action, you become a participant. It's arguably a more powerful personal experience.

For both games and movies, technology is a critical component of creating an immersive experience. Working with James Cameron, I have a healthy respect for the role of technology in entertainment. In our case, we constantly challenge ourselves to find technologies that we can apply to stories, e.g. Titanic and Avatar, that could not otherwise have been told.

But the danger, in both movies and games, lies in confusing technology with content. For all the attention you can grab with special effects, if the movie is poorly written, or the game is poorly designed, all you'll end up with is a good-looking (and expensive) flop. Let the technology enable you, but use it in service of the theme. I've learned that a successful movie must have a theme that's bigger than the genre. You leave the plot and the effects in the theatre, but the theme you take with you. You think about it as you walk to your car. You talk with your friends about it the next day. And just maybe it opens up a new avenue of self-discovery. The same is true for a successful game: the theme is bigger than the game. That only happens with great game design.

Hence this book and Deborah Todd. Deb is uniquely qualified to guide you through this topic. She's not just an entertainment-industry veteran—she's a veteran of two entertainment industries: Hollywood and video games. Throughout her career, Deb's constantly innovated new ways to deliver entertainment through gameplay. Along the way, she's targeted almost every conceivable demographic with almost every kind of property: from preschoolers to teens to CAD engineers, with original concepts and licensed franchises, from engaging educational content to pure entertainment. And from the start, she's spoken and written about the right ways to marry technology and entertainment to create great games.

As you immerse yourself in this industry, you'll find it both challenging and rewarding. It's a wide-open frontier, but Deb can guide you only so far; so always be thinking of new ways to create engaging, cutting-edge entertainment that makes a lasting impression on your audience. This is where hard work meets heady fun. It's where your collaboration with a team results in something that's far greater than the sum of its parts. Keep your wits and your will, and you'll be able to tell your grandkids that you were there at the start, helping make this the century of the video game.

—Jon Landau

Jon Landau is an Academy Award®-winning producer and COO of Lightstorm Entertainment, Inc. In addition to producing James Cameron's Titanic, Landau is the former Executive Vice President of Feature Film Production at Twentieth Century Fox. Landau and James Cameron are on the board of advisors for The Multiverse Network, Inc., which is building the world's leading network of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) and 3D virtual worlds.

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