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About the Book
Fundamentals of Game Design, Second Edition is an
introductory textbook aimed at undergraduates and junior professionals -- although even seasoned pros may learn a few things. My goal is to teach practical design for commercial video games, using an approach called player-centric game design. I have tried to write in a way that is precise yet pragmatic and above all, readable. This is not a dry academic tome (though I do include references), nor is it a how-to book for mod-builders. It's about game design
from concept formation to final tuning, for people who are serious about their profession.
The first edition of Fundamentals has been adopted at:
- Georgia Tech
- Cornell University
- University of Illinois at
- Michigan State University
- University of Uppsala, Sweden
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- University of New Mexico,
- Northwestern University
[recommended, not required]
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute
- George Brown College, Toronto
- University of Ulster Magee,
- University of New South Wales, Australia
- Monash University, Australia
- DeVry University
- Rose-Hulman Institute of
- College of DuPage
- Lawrence Technological University
- Santa Monica College
- Central Piedmont Community College
- Wake Technical Community College
... and probably more that I don't know about!
Testimonials about the new edition:
"Yesterday I got a chance to read the first 5-6 chapters. I loved it! Great job! I will definitely use it in my class next year.
Congratulations on creating a readable and insightful book on game design."
— John Laird
Professor, Michigan State University
"In Fundamentals of Game Design, Second Edition, Adams provides encyclopedic coverage of process and design issues for every aspect of game design, expressed as practical lessons that can be immediately applied to a design-in-progress. He offers the best framework I've seen for thinking about the relationships between core mechanics, gameplay, and player, a framework I've found useful for both teaching and research."
— Michael Mateas
Professor, University of California at Santa Cruz
"Ernest writes in a way that is very down-to-earth and approachable to students. It is obvious that he has 'been there and done that' and his real-world, unpretentious
approach to the material is what makes this text so accessible."
— Andrew Phelps
Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
"In this updated edition of Fundamentals of Game Design, Adams adds much to what was already a thorough
look at game design in all its varieties. The result is a veritable feast of design lessons sure not only to satisfy the budding designer's appetite, but also to refine her palate."
— Ian Bogost
Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
The book is divided into two parts. Part One discusses all the major aspects of game design such as challenges, actions, mechanics, worlds, characters, user interfaces, and so on. Part Two addresses the different commercial game genres. Each chapter teaches how to apply the principles from the first part to creating a game in a specific genre. The book ends with a chapter on the special
challenges of online games and an appendix on designing to appeal to particular groups such as female or handicapped players. You can read the first-level table of contents here.
Changes From the Previous Edition
The first edition of Fundamentals of Game Design was published in 2006, and did very well. But since then a lot has happened in the game industry -- especially the colossal impact of the Nintendo Wii. Apple raised the bar
for mobile gaming with the iPhone, and the casual market is bigger than ever. I wrote Fundamentals of Game Design, Second Edition to take these changes into account. The writing is tighter, and I removed outdated material to make room for a lot of new content.
Andrew Rollings is no longer involved, but I was very fortunate to have the assistance of Chris Weaver as my technical editor. Chris is the founder of Bethesda Softworks
as well as being a professor at MIT, so he understands both commercial game development and game design education perfectly. Chris made many helpful suggestions about the new edition.
The New Material
I revised all the chapters, but also wrote big chunks of new material for many of them. These are the major additions:
Design Components and Processes. The Scrum agile management process has become very popular
in the industry, so I wrote an introduction to it, with pointers to further reading.
Character Design. I've added a discussion of musical themes as part of character design, which was missing before.
Storytelling and Narrative. Scripted conversations and dialog trees were not well covered before, so I expanded that section substantially. I also added a big new sidebar about character-agnostic plotting and the possibilities offered by leadership simulators such as King of Dragon Pass.
User Interfaces. This chapter got big changes to deal with 3D input devices such as the accelerometers in the Wii Controller. I've replaced the term perspective with camera model throughout the book to reflect today's intelligent virtual cameras. I also added a section on vibration (rumble) which was missing before.
Core Mechanics. At Chris Weaver's suggestion, I added a whole section on Monte Carlo simulation as
a means of tuning the mechanics. It's especially helpful for testing complex algorithms such as those that automatically simulate matches in sports games.
Game Balancing. I updated the section on dynamic difficulty adjustment to reflect recent practice.
General Principles of Level Design. Thanks to game designer Mike Lopez' Gamasutra articles, I added a whole new section on designing the level progression -- with all due credit, of course.
Most of the genre chapters in Part Two only got small updates to reflect recent trends and the introduction of the Wii controller. These are some of the larger changes:
Action Games. Again thanks to Mike Lopez, a big new section on planning action game pacing. I also added a new section on the various shooter subgenres, and removed some outdated content.
Artificial Life and Puzzle Games. I introduced Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and included some
suggestions about computing affinity between characters in The Sims-like games. I also put in a sidebar about Spore.
Online Games. This chapter didn't make it into the previous print edition and was only available online, but I managed to fit it in this time. As online gaming is a technology rather than a genre, it concentrates mostly on the technical and social ramifications of multiplayer networked play. I also added a sidebar about Second Life, since it's well-known but not a normal game.
Appendix: Designing to Appeal to Particular Groups. This special section on under-served markets (young children, girls, women, and players with disabilities) didn't make it into the printed book last time, but it's now in with added material on games for girls thanks to Kaye Elling, former Creative Manager on the Bratz series at Blitz Games.
First-Level Table of Contents
This table of contents shows the chapter titles and level 1 headings. Most sections have several subheadings as well.
Part One: The Elements of Game Design
1 Games and Video Games
2 Design Components and Processes
An Approach to the Task
The Key Components of Video Games
The Structure of a Video Game
The Stages of the Design Process
The Game Design Team Roles
The Game Design Documents
The Anatomy of a Game Designer
3 Game Concepts
Getting an Idea
From Idea to Game Concept
The Player's Role
Choosing a Genre
Defining Your Target Audience
Types of Game Machines
4 Game Worlds
5 Creative and Expressive Play
6 Character Development
The Goals of Character Design
The Relationship Between Player and Avatar
7 Storytelling and Narrative
Why Put Stories in Games?
The Storytelling Engine
Mechanisms for Advancing the Plot
Emotional Limits of Interactive Stories
Scripted Conversations and Dialog Trees
When to Write the Story
8 User Interfaces
What Is the User Interface?
Player-Centric Interface Design
The Design Process
Allowing for Customization
Making Games Fun
The Hierarchy of Challenges
Skill, Stress, and Absolute Difficulty.
Commonly Used Challenges
Saving the Game
10 Core Mechanics
What Are the Core Mechanics?
The Internal Economy
Core Mechanics and Gameplay
Core Mechanics Design
Random Numbers and the Gaussian Curve
11 Game Balancing
What Is a Balanced Game?
Avoiding Dominant Strategies
Incorporating the Element of Chance
Making PvP Games Fair
Making PvE Games Fair
Understanding Positive Feedback
Other Balance Considerations
Design to Make Tuning Easy
12 General Principles of Level Design
What Is Level Design?
Key Design Principles
Progression and Pacing
The Level Design Process
Pitfalls of Level Design
Part Two: The Genres of Games
13 Action Games
14 Strategy Games
What Are Strategy Games?
The Game World
The Presentation Layer
15 Role-Playing Games
What Are Role-Playing Games?
The Game World and Story
The Presentation Layer
16 Sports Games
17 Vehicle Simulations
What Are Vehicle Simulations?
Intellectual Property Rights
The Presentation Layer
18 Construction and Management Simulations
What Are Construction and Management Simulations?
The Game World
The Presentation Layer
19 Adventure Games
20 Artificial Life and Puzzle Games
21 Online Gaming
What Are Online Games?
Advantages of Online Games
Disadvantages of Online Games
Design Issues for Online Gaming
Appendix: Designing to Appeal to Particular Groups