Game Design: Reading List

I like to read a lot. Here’s my whole reading list, and a few brief descriptions to accompany each one. These are sorted by topics so similar articles are grouped together. But some of them are written with a very specific game in mind, so I put them in their own section.

 

Composite design

An overview of what composite design is and how we can build levels out of one core scenario

http://thegamedesignforum.com/features/GDH_1.html

 

World’s Hardest Platformer 2

Balancing difficulty and novelty

http://www.kendevblog.com/level-design-in-worlds-hardest-platformer-2/

 

League of Legends

More depth for less complexity through level design

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUWx0I5i2Jw

 

Super Mario Bros

Teaching players through carefully crafted levels

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZH2wGpEZVgE

 

Naturalism in level design

Make levels feel like real, liveable environments rather than just gamey obstacles

http://renegadesector.com/2014/05/level-design-primer-part-15-naturalism/

 

Game feel

Using screenshake and other small details to make a game feel satisfying

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/207954/Vlambeer_cofounder_shares_advice_on_building_better_action_games.php

https://www.dropbox.com/s/c0i6jidrvk6r2io/controlconf.rar (Dropbox link to download, it’s an interactive presentation)

http://aztez.com/blog/2014/01/06/anatomy-of-a-successful-attack/

http://www.toastierepublic.com/2014/07/toastie-tips-on-juicing-responsibly.html

 

Complexity versus depth

Too much complexity means a high barrier of entry, complexity is not equivalent to depth

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_xG1Yg_QoM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVL4st0blGU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWFzFsHc75U

http://keithburgun.net/minimalism-vs-elegance/

 

Counterplay

Give players opportunities to do things in response to what other players do

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRBcjsOt0_g

http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wiki/User_blog:JAlbor/GDC_2013:_Teamplay_and_Counterplay_in_League_of_Legends

 

Anti-design patterns

Things that don’t make games fun, and we should avoid them

http://forums.na.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?t=293417

 

No random elements

Randomness is bad for game design

http://keithburgun.net/14-points-on-randomness/

http://keithburgun.net/mastery-vs-hoping/

 

Asymmetry in game design

Asymmetry should not always be a default standard

http://keithburgun.net/debunking_asymmetry/

 

Competitive games

Trying to make a game competitive makes it better

http://keithburgun.net/the-greater-value-of-competitive-games/

 

Consistent theming in game design

Make sure that all elements of a game deliver on a core theme, even through gameplay

https://omegathorion.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/game-design-what-is-game-design/

http://keithburgun.net/the-importance-of-theme/

http://keithburgun.net/smash-bros-decapitated/

http://keithburgun.net/instant-ambiguity-sauces/

 

Rethinking fighting games

Fighting games always adhere to a certain formula but there’s a lot of potential if we switch it up

http://keithburgun.net/fighting-games/

 

Balancing multiplayer games

Four-part series by David Sirlin on balancing multiplayer games

http://www.sirlin.net/articles/balancing-multiplayer-games-part-1-definitions.html

http://www.sirlin.net/articles/balancing-multiplayer-games-part-2-viable-options.html

http://www.sirlin.net/articles/balancing-multiplayer-games-part-3-fairness.html

http://www.sirlin.net/articles/balancing-multiplayer-games-part-4-intuition.html

 

Clarity

LoL is driven by a clarity-focused philosophy: players should fight their opponents, not the game

http://na.leagueoflegends.com/en/news/game-updates/features/lol-design-values-depth-clarity

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiSNHAJHu-c

 

Why layers

Keep asking “why” and keep giving answers, and you get better narrative

https://omegathorion.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/narrative-design-why-layers/

 

Designing game narrative

Hitbox Team (makers of Dustforce) on using game design to deliver narrative

http://hitboxteam.com/designing-game-narrative

 

Character development

Characters drive the story, not the other way around

http://badassdigest.com/2013/07/03/film-crit-hulk-man-of-steel/

http://badassdigest.com/2014/03/06/hulk-presents-character-trees/

 

GDC Vault game narrative reviews

Essays about examples of narrative in games (mine is the Binding of Isaac essay in 2013)

http://gdcvault.com/gamenarrativereview

 

The underlying issue with narratology/ludology

Why games shouldn’t separate gameplay from story

https://omegathorion.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/art-theory-the-underlying-issue-with-narratologyludology/

http://gamasutra.com/blogs/JohnWarner/20140617/219266/An_experiment_in_narrative_design__how_we_created_The_Fall.php

 

Fuck videogames

A controversial talk about how games should not be a default medium for storytelling

http://tinysubversions.com/fuckvideogames/#slide1

http://ellaguro.blogspot.com/2013/05/an-in-depth-response-to-darius-kazemis.html

 

Death to the three-act structure

Traditional storytelling for movies and books isn’t great when used in games, focus on characters instead

http://gdcvault.com/play/1020535/Death-to-the-Three-Act (needs GDC Vault access)

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/213337/Plot_is_overrated_Game_narrative_is_all_about_your_characters.php

http://badassdigest.com/2013/12/11/hulks-screenwriting-101-excerpt-the-myth-of-3-act-structure/

 

“Therefore/but”

Beats of a story should be connected with either “therefore” or “but,” not “and then”

http://www.aerogrammestudio.com/2014/03/06/writing-advice-from-south-parks-trey-parker-and-matt-stone/ (the video is about 2 minutes long)

 

Consistent theming in narrative

Making sure that a story (and conversely, the whole game) delivers on a consistent theme

http://kasavin.blogspot.com/2011/12/developing-themes-in-games.html

 

Don’t start with story

Stories are linear, games should not start with a story, start with an idea instead

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22HoViH4vOU

 

Stories versus games

Stories and games are different mediums and merging them can harm both of their goals

http://keithburgun.net/are-games-a-storytelling-medium-guest-article-by-fabian-fischer/

http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/firstperson/storyish

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGTV8qLbBWE

http://www.dinofarmgames.com/games-hurt-stories-stories-hurt-games/

 

Narrative design in games

Developer from Frictional Games (makers of Amnesia) on how to make narrative interactive

http://frictionalgames.blogspot.se/2014/04/4-layers-narrative-design-approach.html

http://frictionalgames.blogspot.se/2013/08/5-core-elements-of-interactive.html

http://unbirthgame.com/TheSelfPresenceStorytelling.pdf

 

Max Payne 3

An article about the design philosophy behind Max Payne 3’s multiplayer

http://whatculture.com/gaming/max-payne-3-aims-to-weave-narrative-with-action-in-multiplayer.php

 

Titanfall

An article about how the multiplayer campaign in Titanfall works

http://www.gameinformer.com/games/titanfall/b/xboxone/archive/2013/08/21/titanfalls-narrative-multiplayer-matters.aspx

 

Brink

“The End of A Genre As We Know It,” merging single player and multiplayer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM4jFD-0v7c

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/134724/a_missive_from_the_end_of_genre_.php?print=1

 

League of Legends

Riot Games (makers of League of Legends) about how they do narrative

http://gdcvault.com/play/1020449/Storytelling-in-Multiplayer-Competitive (needs GDC Vault access)

http://www.christinanorman.com/2014/03/my-gdc-2014-talk-competitive.html

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