Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 132 ratings
ISBN-13: 978-0470688670
ISBN-10: 9780470688670
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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, Maxim vs. army of Zin and SpongeBob Squarepants.  This book is full of Rogers' wit and imaginative 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.  From beginner level through to the more experienced game designer.

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
  • Use level design to tell game's story
  • 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.  The book also contains templates to create your own pitch and design documents.

Tips for Creating Virtual Easter Eggs
Amazon-exclsuive content from the author

Spring is here! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and the bunnies are doing what they do best… hiding Easter eggs. Video game designers hide Easter eggs too, but not the kind of Easter egg that you smell in September if you don’t find it in April. In fact, in video games, the term Easter egg has less to do with the egg itself, and more to do with it being surprises hidden within a video game for the player to find - like a virtual Easter egg hunt. The first Easter egg appeared in Adventure (Atari, 1979) when programmer Warren Robinett hid his in-game credit behind a secret wall. This kicked off a tradition of developers putting themselves (and loved ones) into their games. Can you find the developers in Doom II, Maximo: Ghost to Glory, Saints Row 2 and Drawn to Life? (I’ll wait.) Easter egg cameos aren’t limited to real people. Players can discover Yoshi in Mario 64 (Nintendo, 1996), battle Reptile in Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1992) or play as Cloud Strife in Final Fantasy Tactics. (Square, 1997)

Easter eggs come in all shapes and sizes - from hidden images, music tracks and secret encoded messages to full blown additional game experiences. Blizzard, for example, has a fine tradition of Easter eggs in their games. Diablo 2 features an entire level filled with killer cows while World of Warcraft treated their subscribers to a literal Easter egg hunt for eggs filled with virtual candy and costumes. The Metal Gear series is infamous for its Easter eggs including ones where you can shoot Nintendo’s mascot Mario, battle zombies and spy on scantily clad women.

Not all Easter eggs are filled with delicious candy; a few rotten eggs have spoiled the basket. The most infamous Easter egg is “hot coffee” a sex themed mini-game in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. (Rockstar, 2004) The mini-game was “remmed out” by the game’s developer before release but was accessible by hacking the game’s code. Despite the fact that the average consumer could not access the mini-game, its discovery caused the ESRB to change the game’s rating to an AO - the gaming industry’s equivalent to an X rating. Retailers refused to carry the game, all copies were pulled from store shelves and the entire stock of the game with the hot coffee code removed had to be reprinted. Here’s a few more tips what to do (and what not to do) when creating Easter Eggs for your game:

1) Use common sense
Don’t create your Easter egg from pornographic or copywritten material. A programmer was fired because of a mature themed Easter egg added in SimCopter (Maxis, 1996) and an entire print run of Tiger Wood 99 PGA Golf Tour (EA, 1999) was recalled because it housed an unauthorized episode of the cartoon South Park. Instead, think about what your audience would want to find. Will what they find be worthwhile to player? There’s nothing sadder than an Easter egg that isn’t filled with candy.

2) Foreshadow
Participants on a real Easter egg hunt know they are looking for eggs - your player should too. Drop clues throughout your game levels to let the player know there are things to find. Use hidden messages, character dialogue or world geometry to let the player know there is something to look for. The aforementioned cow combat level in Diablo 2 started as a series of running jokes in Diablo and Starcraft. Players were expecting a cow level even before it came out. Reverse psychology works well too - a sign in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas reads “There are no Easter Eggs here” even though there are several Easter eggs hidden throughout the game.

3) Hide in plain sight
Just like in Poe’s classic detective story “The Purloined Letter”, players never expect Easter eggs to be hidden in a “logical place”. They will search in the most unobvious places, using unusual methods of detection because they are looking for a “hidden object.” But while hiding objects can be a battle of wits between the designer and player, I prefer to err on the side of the player. Players love to experience that “ah-ha!” moment when they find your Easter eggs - after all, that’s why you created them!

When all is done, I’ve always found that watching players discover Easter eggs is just as much fun as hiding them. Just remember to be fair; make it fun for you as well as the player and give ‘em the “good candy” for their reward! (And not that ribbon candy your Grandma buys.)

From the Back Cover

Want to learn how to create cutting-edge video games? Need some advice to improve your current game? Then get ready to Level Up!

Scott Rogers, the video game designer behind hits such as Pac-Man World, God of WarTM, the Maximo Series, and SpongeBob SquarePants, shares his years of knowledge and experience with you on how to make video games great. Learn how to:

  • Create what gamers want
  • Bring compelling (and playable) characters to life
  • Build game levels that tell stories and challenge players
  • Design everything from controls to cutscenes to combat
  • Structure your game documents for success
  • Pitch your game like the professionals

Level Up! has been written with all levels of game designers in mind. Over 400 drawings illustrate design concepts and common pitfalls of game design, making Level Up! an indispensible guide for video game designers both 'in the field' and the classroom.

So what are you waiting for? Grab this book and prepare to Level Up!

Product details

  • ASIN : 047068867X
  • Publisher : Wiley; 1st edition (July 6, 2010)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 514 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 9780470688670
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0470688670
  • Item Weight : 1.89 pounds
  • Dimensions : 7.4 x 1.06 x 9.22 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 132 ratings

Fearless and inspiring
Discover Black voices on Audible. Learn more

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
132 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on October 5, 2011
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Reviewed in the United States on December 18, 2013
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Reviewed in the United States on October 18, 2010
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Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2011
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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, informative
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 8, 2012
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Kasper Adolph
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book for the aspiring game designer
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 17, 2013
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Concepts
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 2, 2013
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John Brinkley
5.0 out of 5 stars I've not even finished and it's awesome
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 25, 2013
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Mr. K. Vernon
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 15, 2018
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