Book review round-up: Game Development and Design

19 December 2012, by

I read a few books on game development for a hobby project. Here are some brief reviews.

A Theory of Fun for Game Design (Raph Koster)

This was quite a short book with some interesting ideas. It generally talked about the importance of games as an educational and social tool. It made some arguments about how games are really quite fundamental to human behaviour and a bit of an undiscovered country in terms of our understanding of them. It was a good read, but I’m not sure how useful it was for the exercise of actually designing a game.

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses (Jesse Schell)

This is a very well written book with loads of great ideas, many of them applicable outside the context of game design. I’m generally of the opinion that it’s good to read books that are only tangentially related to your main field, since good ideas can come from cross-pollination. This book subscribed to the same theory and covered a huge array of subjects, while always managing to stay on track with a very well thought-through narrative building up a thorough and rounded explanation of the game design process.

While much of this book struck a chord with me, I occasionally found it a bit too philosophical, or slightly obvious/patronising. In general though it was pretty thought-provoking and definitely a useful source of inspiration. I highly recommend it if you’re even slightly interested in game development, as I think everyone could take away something from this book. I can’t recommend a specific chapter though, because I think the most valuable part of this book would be different for every reader.

Beginning Android 4 Games Development (Mario Zechner)

This is the most practical of the game development books that I read, and I was very impressed with this overall. I found the text seems to be pitched at just the right level and explain everything very well. The example code is equally clear and illustrative.

It talks through everything from platform compatibility and fundamentals of how Android works (although only the bits that relate to game development) through to building simple 2D and 3D games.

Some points in the code initially offended my sense of neatness (particularly regarding DRY and OO design), but almost all of these are explicitly justified by the authors (e.g. due to genuine, well-explained, performance considerations).

This book has got some pretty bad reviews on Amazon, mainly complaining that it’s a cursory update of a book written for Android 3. However, the original book is extremely highly reviewed, and since I hadn’t read it I found this one very useful (I can imagine you’d be frustrated if you’d paid for both editions though).

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