A reading list for game developers

David O'Reilly's Basic Animation Aesthetics : Discover the secret to making your games not look, or sound, or feel like crap. I really think that this is the easiest way to make something beautiful.

Terry Gilliam teaches animation : This embodies the spirit of indie, for me. Here's the meat of it (but the rest it completely worth watching too) : "I think if you’re going to learn about animation, you’ve got to learn about cutout animation. The whole point of animation to me is to tell a story, make a joke, express an idea. The technique itself doesn’t really matter: whatever works is the thing to use. And that’s why I use cutout - it’s the quickest, easiest form of animation that I know"

Anna Anthropy on the first screen of Super Mario Bros (and the rest of the design tag on her blog) : Anna teaches (by example) the most important thing about level design : teaching the player (by example) how to play.

Jonathan Whiting runs a course on level design on Tigsource : And this is worth reading, too, on that. Where Anna breaks down a masterpiece into component parts, Jonathan builds up from the raw materials.

"Let's Play: the first room of Anomalous Materials in Half-Life 1" by Robert Yang : And here's the equivalent of Anna's piece, but for 3D. This has more of an emphasis on architecture than on teaching, which I think is broadly a difference between 2D and 3D games.

(Honorable mention to the developer commentary in 30 Flights Of Loving)

Michael Brough's blog : Just the whole blog. Not so much for particular insights, but more: this is what high-level design insight looks like. (This is the same point as most of these, to be honest. Robert Yang talking for 10 minutes isn't going to teach you 3D level design - but he can show you what that looks like, and then you can use your own wit to operate on that level yourself)

Robert Penner's Easing Equations : A good part of being a game designer is having a understanding for feel. I now know how long .3 of a second is. Familiarity with these easing equations is not necessary, but a very common part of that.

Juice it or lose it - a talk by Martin Jonasson & Petri Purho : Similarly, here's a walk through the full range of juice you can pump into a game. But I disagree with some of their rhetoric -- where they start is not necessarily worse than where the end up. It depends on the effect you want to convey.

Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology by Valentino Braitenberg (cheeky pdf link) : A brilliant book. It's not about games, but it is about how simple rules can lead to engrossing entities that people will attribute emotion and intent to.

Nordic Larp by Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola (direct pdf link) : So much variety here! And so much depth, too. I found this book an inspiration.

The Well Played Game by Bernie DeKoven : This is a book about communities, about why play is valuable, about competition, about our responisbilites when making or playing games.

The sentence “The experience starts when you first hear about it and only ends when you stop thinking and talking about it.” (Tassos Stevens, Coney) : Just that sentence, I think that sentence is really important.

The Manual (or, How To Have A Number One The Easy Way) by The KLF : A lot of people have a distate for marketing. I don't. I think this book might be why.

How To Explain Your Game To An Asshole by Tom Francis : I would also add that I think that having a game that sounds good under these conditions is one of the most important factors to success.

Kieron Gillen's How To Use And Abuse The Gaming Press And How The Gaming Press Wants To Use and Abuse You : Despite being advice that's approaching a decade old, it's still relevant and right.

This one is cheeky, but : my own previous post, Rules for making games covered a lot of this ground, and I think holds up well.)
15 July 2014