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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2011
If you are serious about making fun and successful videogames you will buy, read, and learn from this book. Whether you're just starting out or a seasoned professional, putting the information from Level UP! into practice will make your games better.

How do I know? Not only have I read the book, I was also Scott's boss at THQ from 2009-2010 when I worked there as Director of Creative Management. I was PAID to write his job reviews then, now I'm offering this review to you gratis.


Scott was our department's heavy hitter when it came to nuts and bolts game design. He was a lifelong gamer (pen and paper as well as video game) who had been in the business from the early days. He'd seen and played it all, but more importantly he studied it. He had a detailed understanding of the underlying mechanics, psychology, and technical aspects of game design.(While I still haven't forgiven him for making Maximo (Capcom) too difficult early in his career) Scott was the go-to guy in the company for making good games better and "troubled" games shippable.

He also put together a little booklet on game design basics that got passed around the office and among some of the developers who we worked with. It was full of silly drawings and lots of great information - video game design 101 stuff that many people thought everyone in the business "should already know." It's been my experience that most people working professionally in business don't know, or simply ignore this stuff and this is why a large number of the commercially released games fall short of reaching their potential.

Level UP! was created when Scott finally decided to "put on his daddy pants" (his words, not mine) and turn his booklet into a full-fledged book for the masses. I'm glad he did.


The book opens with an overview of video game history and a general description of who does what on a development and publishing team. It's good for beginners; seasoned pros can skip to chapter two. Here, Scott discusses how to start with an idea and build it into a concept. Chapter three is about the story of the game, or what the game is about. Here Scott introduces his concept of "The Triangle of Weirdness." Ignore it at your own peril.
Chapter four is about writing the Game Design Document (a thankless task). It is full of helpful information including Scott's "Beat Chart" - a tool for developing and mapping the structure of your game.

By Chapter Five, Scott begins disclosing the things you only learn from years of experience in the business; things about Characters, Cameras and Controls. Next is walking, jumping, climbing and all other manners of character motion in games. One of my favorite Scott quotes that made it into the book is "Walking isn't Gameplay." It's right here on page 96.

The rest of the book delves ever deeper into all types of design and execution topics. It's peppered with Scott's illustrations which are included to clarify and entertain. You may, or may not, care for their style but you'll find them simply rendered and easy to understand.

The book is full of great information as well as being organized and laid out well, which makes it an ideal reference work for real-world game designers. Crucial information is clearly called out and easy to find. Each chapter ends with a synopsis of its "Universal Truths and Clever Ideas" and the table of contents and index were obviously created with care to make finding what you're looking for a breeze.

I was the first person to pre-order this book on Amazon. I bought it and paid full price rather than asking Scott to get me a complimentary copy because I believed the information in it would be valuable to me and my career. It has been.

If you're serious about a career in this business of video games you owe it to yourself to do as I've done. Buy Level UP!, read it cover to cover and go back to it often in your times of need - and believe me there will be many times of need if you work in this business.

Laddie Ervin
Scott's former boss
and video game industry professional
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2010
As an aspiring game designer, I've bought a whole lot of books about game design. Scott Rogers' book definitely stands out among the pack. Not only is this guy super knowledgable about game design, having been in the industry for many years, but he also makes the information he presents really fun and easy to understand. The key is the little drawings that adorn almost every page- they get the point across more easily than a block of text. The book is a wealth of information and tips for game designers, and what's more, it's actually something I would read for pleasure as well as for the nuggets of wisdom it contains. A definite must-buy!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2010
This book is accessible to all levels of people interested in video games. I loved all the artwork - the comic book style illustrations really make this fun to read! And all the humor hidden in footnotes - snicker!
This is an author obviously comfortable with his subject, and he is having a good time telling his audience about it. I would recommend this book for people in the industry as well as anyone who has ever played a video game and wondered how it was made.
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43 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2012
This book shows the miserable state of the AAA game industry, where all games are either shooting or platform games. This is no where near a "great guide" to game design as it focuses on two or three genres that the industry is flooded with currently, and doesn't even touch on the importance of concepts like iterative design. If you want a better game design book, buy The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell: The Art Game Design lenses
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2012
I purchased this based on the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, a prominent university publishing company. What I received was a book for high school teens with quite a bit of repetitiveness. Obviously, the writer loves his work and makes the subject matter "fun," but I am not sure a how to book is in his repetoire at this time. He discounts university titles for their "stuffiness" on the different aspects of game design, yet often fails to deliver any real level of substance himself. My issues with this book include, but are not limited to:

1. The writer assumes the reader has a working knowledge of older game titles, yet without that basic knowlegde, readers may feel left out of the instruction being offered.
2. Some of the advice is cryptic such as: remove all the un-fun parts of your game and what you have left is fun. However, as the writer so aptly points out that after the umpteenth time going through your designed game, "Who knows if it is fun!"
3. The writer makes assumptions that new game ideas are a dime a dozen and goes through the 'example' that children's stories are great for game ideas, then recants his one page suggestion of little red riding hood making that whole section irrelevant.

To understand my measuring stick, titles like Dave Perry on Game design or Swords and Circuitry by Neal and Jana Hallford are high on my list. I felt these titles had more direct and helpful tips for budding new game designers. Swords & Circuitry is a "fun" book written by a "guy in the bus," yet is able to give some very savvy advice. The Perry book is simply hefty with hands on suggestions for the various aspects of game design.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2011
First off, I really enjoyed "Level Up!" I went into this book not knowing anything about video games, except that I like to play them. The first thing I noticed was that the author makes a real effort to break down everything to make it accessible for everyone. The illustrations, charts, and "VERY IMPORTANT THINGS" did a lot to make complex ideas (like intuitive controller mapping) easy to digest. The book encourages people to be creative as they read and make their own game, which gives the writing a cohesive flow and gave me a sense of how all the pieces fit together in a game. Not to mention that it is a really fun exercise that kept me flipping to the next page.

The one criticism I have is that "Level Up!" touches on virtually every subject that goes into making games, which is a lot to cover and unfortunately lead to some generalizations. For example, some of the "VERY IMPORTANT THINGS" are based solely on his experiences, which is fine cause people write about what they know, but I found some that I didn't agree with. And that would be OK, except that they are passed off of rules instead of guidelines. However, that just kind of goes with the territory of writing on such a large subject.

In the end the humor, knowledge, and technical aspects discussed merged together to create a wonderful book that sheds a lot of light on the industry. So if you are interested in working in the industry or are just curious about how your favorite game was made (cause chances are he referenced it in there somewhere) then you NEED to pick up this book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2011
If you're like me, you're somewhere between hobbyist and professional in the video game industry. You're someone who has a lot of ideas, is trying to build them out, and you may not be entirely sure what direction to start in. Well, this book is where you get started.

As someone who's taught more than my share of technical classes, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to teach a complete grounding of the fundamentals that a student is going to need, to build a successful skill set and/or career on. Scott Rogers has managed to capture and convey in this book the strong foundation that one needs to be a solid designer. This isn't a book on facial animation or physics engines (though they do come up). This is a book on real design concerns (and their associated follies), important adages to keep in mind, and general organization. This is the book that will help you keep what's important at the forefront during every stage of your creation, and also help you to lay out what order those building stages should come in. Thanks to this book, I feel like I have a real process and a plan of attack for taking larger game concepts and seeing them through to fruition.

Just as a suggestion: If you're like me, you're also going to take the design document outlines he gives in the book, and you're going to make them into template documents on your computer, so you can reference and write against them at any time. Heck, print out a few blank templates, and keep them in your back pocket for when inspiration strikes!

Thanks, Scott!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2011
Admit it! If you are in or want to be in the video game industry it's because you want to design games. Maybe you can write code, create art, write scripts, or do QA, but you inevitably have this idea for a really cool game. But, is that game fun? Do you know how to pitch it to your boss, colleague, publisher, best friend, or pet cat? Do you know how to write a Game Design Document? How about a one-sheet? What does a "Producer" do anyway?
Answers to these questions are what is so great about Level Up! It's not just about designing games; it's about the entire game industry and production process.

This book is an easy read that is both informative and entertaining. You will learn more about the anatomy of a great videogame than from any other single book I can think of.
But it also covers how to present your great ideas to other people in a way this is clear, concise, and exciting.
In addition, this book has loads of information about how the videogame industry actually works. In fact, I have made it required reading for my interns.

If you have any interest in making your own videogames or working for a company that makes videogames, do yourself a huge favor and go buy this book now!
You can thank me later.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2011
I am not an experienced designer at all. I want to design my first game, and decided to buy this book and "The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses".

This book is very good. It has great pieces of advice, and guides you when choosing important details about your game, such as your characters, camera, atmosphere, enemies, etc.

What this book lacks, however, is a broader view on video games. It is an excellent choice if you are designing a FPS, TPS, RPG, Action-Adventure, Platform, or any other type of combat-based or side-scrolling games. On the other hand, when you need aid on designing any type of casual, puzzle, simulator, sport, driving, or other less common game genre, this book lacks the exponentially broader approach that "The Art of Game Design" takes for granted.

That said, this still is an incredible book, and if you expect to design a combat-based game of any kind, this book will teach you a great deal of what you need to know. It includes character, enemy, level, HUD and combat design, and also cinematography, writing of a game design document, how to deal with controls and mechanics, and much more.

If you need a reference for designing a modern, combat-ridden, 3D o platform game, this is a great choice. However, if you need advice on a more deep level, insight on the base of what makes any game fun, and how to apply that into a game in any genre, "The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses" is what you are looking for.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2011
As a starting software developer and a budding game programmer Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design is a great ressource for all sorts of hidden knowledge. The book has great artwork with stunning images on every single page, cool drawings, with great humor added.

The first read through gave a lot of good insight into the mind of gamers, and a lot of "aha" moments, where a thing was pointed out that I sort of knew but didn't knew I knew. It was a fun reading, taught me much.

Not only is the book good the first time, but it is awesome for looking up subjects now that I am trying to make some ACTUAL games. I cant wait to try the theory in practice.

I would definitely recommend this book to all fellow game developers!
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