Designing Games – A Guide to Engineering Experiences by Tynan Sylvester


Summary: broadly covering the topic, however, sometimes too shallow

This book is not about how to implement the game, or how to make graphics, or which software to use. This book covers topics that have to be addressed prior to any development starts at all. Designing Games is devoted to the topic of game mechanics development. It discusses ideas that are behind the scene but at the same time make the play worth spending the time on it.

Whenever you play the game you can tell whether it is a good game, that keeps you coming back to play again and again or is it the kind of game that makes you bored after few minutes spent playing it.

Sylvester goes through various ingredients that make up the game. He discusses the mechanics idea, the way games influence our emotions, how can we try to stimulate the emotions, how the game flow make players playing the game, what are the forces behind decisions and how to stimulate player’s action. At the end you get lots of different ideas and topics covered here that are important during game development process. He also tells how important it is to be aware of what players may do with the game mechanics if you have developed it for ideal players. I particularly enjoyed the quote – “a multiplayer design needs to be robust enough to handle the constant low-grade chaos caused by players dropping out, griefing, missing key skills, or deciding to play wrong”.

Even though the topic is really interesting there are few flaws in the book. First of all, I couldn’t get into the flow while reading it. I don’t know why. I simply couldn’t. But his statement is purely subjective. On the other hand, there are few issues that made me fell uncomfortable while I was trying to fully get into the topics. First of all, I felt that book covers everything too shallow. I would rather read more critical analysis of the topic, than the praise of good game design. Another issue is terminology. There are lots of terms used throughout the book but for me it is not clear whether these terms are the jargon of the industry or whether they are simply some definitions and terms created by the author. The last thing that was putting me of while reading were references. You get the list of recommended books at the end which contains brief summary of what you can find inside each book, however, throughout the text you have no references at all. This lefts you with no way of quick finding the source of particular information or idea.

Product page:

O’Reilly (print): Designing Games
O’Reilly (e-book): Designing Games
Amazon (print): Designing games
Amazon (e-book): Designing games
Safari Books Online: Designing games