Friday, March 6, 2015

"The Art of Computer game design" by Chris Crawford - book review


In this post I will share my thoughts on a game design book called "The Art of Computer game design" written by Chris Crawford. There are eight chapters, plus some additional info like interview with Chris and what education should a game designer have. This book was originally written in 1982 by Chris, and in 1997 Prof. Sue Peabody decided to make this book available to wider public over the Internet.

It contains very useful info on what a game is, what are the parts of a game, what is a puzzle, why do people play games etc... I am quite satisfied with this read, so if you are planning to become a game designer or you are planning for you next game project, this is the first game design book you should read. I think it is not enough, for more info read another book, like this one

Computers have evolved a lot since 1982 but in basis games haven't changed much. The only update to your knowledge you have to do is with computer devices and I/O devices. Basics of a computer games have been established trough 1980s and still are basics of todays games. There are many classic games on which nowaday games are built upon.

So here is how this book is structured:
  1. What is a Game? This chapter covers what is a game compared to what is a puzzle and story. It covers four aspects each game should have, representation, interaction, conflict and safety. Also several types of games, like board games, card, games, athletic, children's and of course computer games.
  2. Why do people play games? This chapter covers why do people play games, its because of fantasy or exploration, proving oneself, social lubrication, exercise and need for acknowledgement. 
  3. A Taxonomy of Computer Games. This part separates games in several categories and explains each category its properties. Skill and action games, combat games, maze, sports, paddle, race and miscellaneous games. Next there are strategic games, adventures, D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) games, War games, games of chance, educational and children's games and at the end Interpersonal games.
  4. The Computer as Game Technology. Game technologies, computers and precepts for computer games, what should a computer game contain. Don't transplant a game, meaning if a game is good as a card game that doesn't mean it will work good as a computer game. The design of the game should circle around the I/O because the I/O is the greatest limitation of computer games. Try to keep everything clean, store less and process more, maintain unity  of the overall design. 
  5. The Game Design Sequence. Each game should have a goal and a topic. First choose what is the goal of the game and then choose how to present that goal to the player by choosing a topic. Do a lot of research and preparation, DO NOT start with coding at this phase. Develop I/O structure, game structure, program structure and evaluation of design. Prepare for programming, do the programming, play-test your game and find play-testers to test it for you. And at last, post-mortem, fingers crossed that you have done a good job.
  6. Design Techniques and Ideals. Covers some techniques how to solve problems when designing your game, something like: vast resources, artificial smarts(AI algorithms), limiting information presented to the player and pace. It also covers relationships between opponents, something like, symmetric games, asymmetric games and triangularity. Each game should have smooth learning curve and illusion of winnability. There will be several good features that you may want to put in your game, but you must choose only one of them and discard others.
  7. The Future of Computer Games. This chapter covers the extrapolation of technology, revolution of technology, the mass market and increase in diversity of games, but roughly games will not change fundamentally.
  8. The Development of Excalibur. This chapter explains how was Excalibur built for Atari 8-bit computers(1983), and Crawford says that what this book covers is ideal case, but rarely when you are building your game, conditions will be near perfect. Excalibur was in development for about one and a half year and it was a failed project. 
  9. Reflections. Interview with Chris Crawford
  10. The Education of a Game Designer. This last part is a must read, since it will tell you the pitfalls you can make if you try to become a game designer, and how you should start your career.
My final thought would be 4/5 for this book. It covers all you need to start with game design but its old and it doesn't cover novaday computers which might make you read newer book. Anyway I think you should read it.