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Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design

Book Description

Want to design and build cutting edge video games?  Not sure where to start?  Or just want to tweak the projects you're already working on?

Then this is the book for you!

Written by leading video game expert Scott Rogers, who has designed the hits; Pac Man World, God of War, Maximo vs. Army of Zen and SpongeBob Squarepants.  This book is full of Rogers' whit and funky style which demonstrates everything you need to know about designing great video games.

Level Up! has been written with all levels of game designers in mind.  The first chapter is aimed at readers new to game designing…but if you're not a beginner then feel free to skip the first chapter and delve straight in to the serious stuff!

It covers the entire video game creation process, allowing you to learn:

  • How to develop marketable ideas

  • What perils and pitfalls await them during a game's pre-production, production and post-production stages

  • Creative ideas to serve as fuel for your own projects from game theme and environments to gameplay mechanics

All in all it's an indispensible guide for video game designers both 'in the field' and the classroom.

Other topics covered:

  • Understanding what gamers want

  • Compelling character design

  • Working with player actions

  • Techniques for non-human characters

  • Camera techniques - the camera as a character

  • Designing UI and HUD

  • Beautiful level design

  • What game designers can learn from theme parks

  • Combat, puzzles and game mechanics

  • Fun and UNFUN

  • How to make the world's greatest Boss battle (and why not to do it)

and tons more - including the business of design, creating design documents, the pitch and more.

Table of Contents

  1. Copyright
  2. Publisher's Acknowledgments
  3. FOREWORD
  4. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
  5. PRESS START!
    1. IF YOU ARE ANYTHING LIKE ME ...
    2. NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE MY JOB
        1. GAME DESIGNERS HAVE MORE FUN
        2. NO ONE ON YOUR TEAM WANTS TO READ YOUR DESIGN
    3. WHO IS THIS BOOK FOR?
  6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: EVERYTHING I LEARNED ABOUT WRITING A BOOK
  7. 1. WELCOME, N00BS!
    1. 1.1. A BRIEF HISTORY OF VIDEO GAMES
    2. 1.2. GAME GENRES
    3. 1.3. WHO MAKES THIS STUFF?
      1. 1.3.1. PROGRAMMER
      2. 1.3.2. ARTIST
      3. 1.3.3. DESIGNER
      4. 1.3.4. PRODUCER
      5. 1.3.5. TESTER
      6. 1.3.6. COMPOSER
      7. 1.3.7. SOUND DESIGNER
      8. 1.3.8. WRITER
    4. 1.4. HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT PUBLISHING?
      1. 1.4.1. PRODUCT MANAGER
      2. 1.4.2. CREATIVE MANAGER
      3. 1.4.3. ART DIRECTOR
      4. 1.4.4. TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
      5. 1.4.5. AND THE REST ...
    5. 1.5. Level 1's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  8. 2. IDEAS
    1. 2.1. IDEAS: WHERE TO GET THEM AND WHERE TO STICK THEM
    2. 2.2. WHAT DO GAMERS WANT?
      1. 2.2.1.
        1. 2.2.1.1. GAMERS WANT GOOD GAMES
    3. 2.3. Why I Hate "Fun"
      1. 2.3.1.
        1. 2.3.1.1. YOU HAVE NO GUARANTEE THAT YOUR GAME IDEA IS GOING TO BE FUN
    4. 2.4. BRAINSTORMING
    5. 2.5. BREAKING WRITER'S BLOCK
    6. 2.6. Level 2's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  9. 3. WRITING THE STORY
    1. 3.1. THE TRIANGLE OF WEIRDNESS
    2. 3.2. TIME TO WRAP IT UP
    3. 3.3. CREATING CHARACTERS
    4. 3.4. A FEW POINTERS ON WRITING FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES
    5. 3.5. WRITING FOR LICENSES
    6. 3.6. Level 3's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  10. 4. YOU CAN DESIGN A GAME, BUT CAN YOU DO THE PAPERWORK?
    1. 4.1. WRITING THE GDD, STEP 1: THE ONE-SHEET
      1. 4.1.1. ESRB RATINGS
    2. 4.2. WRITING THE GDD, STEP 2: THE TEN-PAGER
      1. 4.2.1. THE RULE OF THREES
        1. 4.2.1.1. THREE IS A MAGIC NUMBER
      2. 4.2.2. TEN-PAGER OUTLINE
    3. 4.3. THE GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT (AND THE AWFUL TRUTH ABOUT WRITING THEM)
      1. 4.3.1.
        1. 4.3.1.1. EVERYTHING IS LIQUID
    4. 4.4. GAMEPLAY PROGRESSION
    5. 4.5. THE BEAT CHART
    6. 4.6. ABOVE ALL, DON'T BE A SCHMUCK
    7. 4.7. Level 4's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  11. 5. THE THREE CS, PART 1—CHARACTER
    1. 5.1. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
      1. 5.1.1. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
        1. 5.1.1.1. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
    2. 5.2. PERSONALITY: DO WE REALLY NEED ANOTHER BADASS?
    3. 5.3. LET'S GET PERSONAL
    4. 5.4. FINALLY, WE TALK ABOUT GAMEPLAY
    5. 5.5. WHY WALK WHEN YOU CAN RUN?
      1. 5.5.1.
        1. 5.5.1.1. WALKING IS NOT GAMEPLAY!
    6. 5.6. THE ART OF DOING NOTHING
    7. 5.7. MIGHT AS WELL JUMP
    8. 5.8. HOISTS AND TEETERS
    9. 5.9. WHAT GOES UP, MUST FALL DOWN
      1. 5.9.1. ME AND MY SHADOW
    10. 5.10. THE WATER'S FINE... OR IS IT?
    11. 5.11. BE KIND TO OUR FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS
    12. 5.12. USING ALL OF THE PARTS
    13. 5.13. WE ARE NOT ALONE
    14. 5.14. WHO ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
      1. 5.14.1.
        1. 5.14.1.1. WHAT DOES THE PLAYER NEED TO SUCCEED?
    15. 5.15. Level 5's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  12. 6. THE THREE CS, PART 2—CAMERA
    1. 6.1. GET IT RIGHT: CAMERA VIEWS
    2. 6.2. FIRST PERSON CAMERA
    3. 6.3. THIRD PERSON CAMERA
    4. 6.4. GIVING UP CONTROL
      1. 6.4.1. SO YOU'VE DECIDED TO LET THE PLAYER CONTROL THE CAMERA
      2. 6.4.2. SO YOU'VE DECIDED TO NOT LET THE PLAYER HAVE CONTROL OVER THE CAMERA
      3. 6.4.3. SO YOU'VE DECIDED TO LET THE PLAYER SOMETIMES HAVE CONTROL OVER THE CAMERA
    5. 6.5. TWO AND A HALF D
    6. 6.6. ISOMETRIC CAMERA
    7. 6.7. TOP-DOWN CAMERA
    8. 6.8. SPECIAL CASE CAMERAS
    9. 6.9. TUNNEL VISION
    10. 6.10. CAMERA SHOT GUIDE
    11. 6.11. CAMERA ANGLE GUIDE
    12. 6.12. CAMERA MOVEMENT GUIDE
    13. 6.13. OTHER CAMERA NOTES
      1. 6.13.1. ALWAYS POINT THE CAMERA TO THE OBJECTIVE
      2. 6.13.2. NEVER LET THE CHARACTER GET OUT OF THE CAMERA'S SIGHT
    14. 6.14. MULTIPLE PLAYER CAMERAS
    15. 6.15. Level 6's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  13. 7. THE THREE CS, PART 3—CONTROLS
    1. 7.1. ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT HUMANS ARE PLAYING THESE GAMES
      1. 7.1.1. ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT HUMANS ARE PLAYING THESE GAMES
        1. 7.1.1.1. ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT HUMANS ARE PLAYING THESE GAMES
    2. 7.2. DANCE, MONKEY, DANCE
      1. 7.2.1.
        1. 7.2.1.1. AS THE BUTTON IS PRESSED, THE ACTION SHOULD HAPPEN
    3. 7.3. CHARACTER OR CAMERA RELATIVE?
    4. 7.4. SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL
    5. 7.5. Level 7's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  14. 8. SIGN LANGUAGE—HUD AND ICON DESIGN
    1. 8.1. HEALTH BAR
    2. 8.2. TARGETING
    3. 8.3. AMMO GAUGE
    4. 8.4. INVENTORY
    5. 8.5. SCORE
    6. 8.6. RADAR/MAP
    7. 8.7. CONTEXT-SENSITIVE PROMPT
    8. 8.8. THE CLEAN SCREEN
    9. 8.9. ICON HAS CHEEZBURGER3?
      1. 8.9.1.
        1. 8.9.1.1. KYSS = KEEP YOUR SYMBOLS SIMPLE
    10. 8.10. DON'T GET QTE
    11. 8.11. HUDS, AND WHERE TO STICK 'EM
      1. 8.11.1.
        1. 8.11.1.1. YOU SHOULD NEVER HAVE TO PRESS A BUTTON MORE THAN THREE TIMES TO REACH ANY GAME SCREEN
    12. 8.12. THERE ARE OTHER SCREENS THAN THE HUD
    13. 8.13. THE PAUSE THAT REFRESHES
      1. 8.13.1.
        1. 8.13.1.1. GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE (AND NEVER, EVER BE BORING).
    14. 8.14. A FINAL WORD ON FONTS
    15. 8.15. Level 8's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  15. 9. EVERYTHING I LEARNED ABOUT LEVEL DESIGN, I LEARNED FROM LEVEL 9
    1. 9.1. THE TOP 10 CLICHÉ VIDEO GAME THEMES
    2. 9.2. THE NAME GAME
    3. 9.3. EVERYTHING I LEARNED ABOUT LEVEL DESIGN, I LEARNED FROM DISNEYLAND
    4. 9.4. THE BEAT CHART
    5. 9.5. RE-USING RE-USE
    6. 9.6. THE GARY GYGAX MEMORIAL MAPPING SECTION
    7. 9.7. THE DAVE ARNENSON MEMORIAL MAPPING SECTION
      1. 9.7.1. WALKING IS NEVER, EVER GAMEPLAY!
      2. 9.7.2. IF IT EVER FEELS LONG OR BORING, THEN IT IS
      3. 9.7.3. EVERY FINGER SHOULD HAVE A REWARD AT THE END, EVEN IF IT'S JUST A TRASHCAN
    8. 9.8. WRAPPING UP MAPPING
    9. 9.9. ILLUSIONAL NARRATIVE
    10. 9.10. GRAY MATTERS
      1. 9.10.1. IF IT LOOKS LIKE THE PLAYER CAN GO THERE, THEN THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO
    11. 9.11. LEAVE THE TRAINING LEVEL FOR LAST
    12. 9.12. Level 9's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  16. 10. THE ELEMENTS OF COMBAT
    1. 10.1. 400 QUATLOOS ON THE NEWCOMER!
      1. 10.1.1. "PEOPLE WANT TO PLAY GAMES THAT MAKE THEM LOOK COOL
    2. 10.2. NOW YOU HAVE TO KISS ME
    3. 10.3. ON MOVING
    4. 10.4. ON GUARDING
      1. 10.4.1. "WATCH OUT!
    5. 10.5. STATE OF THE ART BANG BANG
      1. 10.5.1. PLAY THE BEST SHOOTERS AND STUDY THEIR SOLUTIONS
    6. 10.6. THE BEST GUN FOR YOU
    7. 10.7. RUN AND GUN
    8. 10.8. NOT JUST SHOOTING
      1. 10.8.1. ALWAYS STRIVE TO ENABLE THE PLAYER, EVEN WHEN YOU'RE DISABLING THEM
    9. 10.9. DAMMIT JONES, WHERE DOESN'T IT HURT?
    10. 10.10. DEATH: WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
      1. 10.10.1. YOU WANT TO KEEP THEM PLAYING
    11. 10.11. Level 10's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  17. 11. THEY ALL WANT YOU DEAD
    1. 11.1. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION!
      1. 11.1.1. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
        1. 11.1.1.1. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
        2. 11.1.1.2. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION!
    2. 11.2. BRING ON THE BAD GUYS
      1. 11.2.1.
        1. 11.2.1.1. FIGHTING ENEMIES IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!
        2. 11.2.1.2. ENEMIES SHOULD BE FOUGHT, NOT AVOIDED
    3. 11.3. I LOVE DESIGNING ENEMIES
    4. 11.4. I HATE YOU TO PIECES
      1. 11.4.1.
        1. 11.4.1.1. MAKE THE PLAYER HATE THEIR ENEMY
    5. 11.5. NON-ENEMY ENEMIES
    6. 11.6. HOW TO CREATE THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOSS BATTLE
    7. 11.7. WHO'S THE BOSS?
    8. 11.8. SIZE MATTERS
      1. 11.8.1.
        1. 11.8.1.1. LET THE PLAYER ADMINISTER THE COUP DE GRACE
    9. 11.9. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
    10. 11.10. WHY NOT TO CREATE THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOSS BATTLE
      1. 11.10.1.
        1. 11.10.1.1. SPOILER ALERT!
    11. 11.11. Level 11's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  18. 12. THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF MECHANICS
    1. 12.1. HOLY DEATH TRAP!
      1. 12.1.1.
        1. 12.1.1.1. NO DROPPING ROCKS ON THE PLAYER'S HEAD
    2. 12.2. TIME TO DIE
    3. 12.3. THE MUSIC OF MECHANICS
    4. 12.4. A NICE LITTLE CALM SPOT
    5. 12.5. RIDDLE ME THIS
      1. 12.5.1.
        1. 12.5.1.1. SHOW 'EM THE DOOR AND THEN SEND 'EM AFTER THE KEY
        2. 12.5.1.2. NO CAT MUSTACHES
    6. 12.6. A SHORT WORD ON MINIGAMES AND MICROGAMES
    7. 12.7. Level 12's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  19. 13. NOW YOU'RE PLAYING WITH POWER
    1. 13.1. "LOVE THY PLAYER"
      1. 13.1.1.
        1. 13.1.1.1. IF IT FEELS TOO LONG, HARD, OR BORING, THEN IT PROBABLY IS
    2. 13.2. MORE WEALTH THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE!
      1. 13.2.1.
        1. 13.2.1.1. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE GREED OF THE PLAYER
        2. 13.2.1.2. THE BEST REWARDS ARE HARD WON
    3. 13.3. Level 13's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  20. 14. MULTIPLAYER—THE MORE THE MERRIER
    1. 14.1. HOW MANY IS THE RIGHT NUMBER?
    2. 14.2. MMORPGS, OR HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE
      1. 14.2.1.
        1. 14.2.1.1. PLAYERS WILL ALWAYS DO THE LAST THING YOU EXPECT... AND SOMETIMES YOU SHOULD LET THEM DO IT
    3. 14.3. Level 14's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  21. 15. SOME NOTES ON MUSIC1
    1. 15.1. ALWAYS MAKE THE MUSIC MORE EXCITING THAN THE ACTION ON SCREEN
      1. 15.1.1. ALWAYS MAKE THE MUSIC MORE EXCITING THAN THE ACTION ON SCREEN
        1. 15.1.1.1. ALWAYS MAKE THE MUSIC MORE EXCITING THAN THE ACTION ON SCREEN
    2. 15.2. SOUNDS LIKE A GAME TO ME
    3. 15.3. Level 15's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  22. 16. CUTSCENES, OR NO ONE'S GONNA WATCH 'EM ANYWAY
    1. 16.1. CAN IT BE DONE IN THE GAME?
      1. 16.1.1. CAN IT BE DONE IN THE GAME?
        1. 16.1.1.1. CAN IT BE DONE IN THE GAME?
    2. 16.2. HOW TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY IN EIGHT EASY STEPS
      1. 16.2.1.
        1. 16.2.1.1. IT'S ALWAYS BETTER TO HAVE THE PLAYER DO THAN WATCH
    3. 16.3. Level 16's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  23. 17. AND NOW THE HARD PART
    1. 17.1. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR STUPID LITTLE WORLD
      1. 17.1.1.
        1. 17.1.1.1. GAME DEMO > GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT > PRESENTATION > PITCH
    2. 17.2. VIDEO GAMES IS A HAAAARD BUSINESS
      1. 17.2.1.
        1. 17.2.1.1. VIDEO GAMES ARE MADE BY PEOPLE
    3. 17.3. WHAT TO DO FOR AN ENCORE?
    4. 17.4. Level 17's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  24. 1. THE ONE-SHEET SAMPLE
  25. 2. THE TEN-PAGE DESIGN DOCUMENT SAMPLE
    1. 2.1. Page 1: Title Page
    2. 2.2. Page 2: Story and Gameplay
    3. 2.3. Page 3: Game Flow
    4. 2.4. Page 4: Character(s) and Controls
    5. 2.5. Page 5: Main Gameplay Concepts and Platform Specific Features
    6. 2.6. Page 6: Game World
    7. 2.7. Page 7: Interface
    8. 2.8. Page 8: Mechanics and Power-ups
    9. 2.9. Page 9: Enemies and Bosses
    10. 2.10. Page 10: Cutscenes, Bonus Material, and Comps
  26. 3. GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT TEMPLATE
    1. 3.1. COVER
    2. 3.2. YOUR GAME'S TITLE
    3. 3.3. GDD Outline (for action, adventure, platform, RPG, or shooter-video game)
  27. 4. THE MEDIUM-SIZED LIST OF STORY THEMES
  28. 5. THE BIG LIST OF ENVIRONMENTS1
  29. 6. MECHANICS AND HAZARDS
  30. 7. ENEMY DESIGN TEMPLATE
  31. 8. BOSS DESIGN TEMPLATE
    1. 8.1. Boss Fight Arena
  32. 9. HIGH CONCEPT PITCH PRESENTATION
    1. 9.1. Slide 1: Cover Page
    2. 9.2. Slide 2: Company Profile
    3. 9.3. Slide 3: Target Specs
    4. 9.4. Slide 4: Game Story
    5. 9.5. Slide 5: Game Goals
    6. 9.6. Slide 6: Gameplay Summary
    7. 9.7. Slide 7: Gameplay details
    8. 9.8. Slide 8: Download strategy
    9. 9.9. Slide 9: Production Specs
  33. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: EXACTLY LIKE MAKING CHILI
  34. CONTINUE?
    1. TIME TO LEVEL UP!