Author: Wendy Despain, Sande Chen, Richard E. Dansky, and Steve Danuser
Publisher: A K Peters, 2009
Aimed at: Writers
Pros: Impressive list of contributors
Cons: Not a mention of code
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
If you equate writing games with writing code you'll be disappointed with this book which is about writing scripts and dialog for games.
From its subtitle "From FPS to RPG" and the fact that the contributions come from members of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Game Writing Special Interest Group, I assumed this would be relevant to most games developers but this is not game "writing" as I first thought.
After a quick glance through its contents I thought I had made a mistake in that is doesn't cover programming topics. But on reflection it might have some information of value to anyone who is trying to design games.
The nineteen chapters of the book each covers a different type of game and is contributed by an expert in the genre concerned. As an outsider to the world of scripting games in this sense I needed to turn to the Author Bios section at the end. There I quickly discovered that the contributors to the book have made impressive contributions in their specialist areas. It is also the third book in a sort of trilogy - Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing and Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames.
Although there isn't a set format for the chapters there is a discernible pattern. Having introduced or defined the genre concerned the chapter authors look at the specific challenges, limitations or technical difficulties associated with them. They provide advice, motivation and even examples to help others. As explained in the preface, they share their methods so that "everyone doesn't have to reinvent the wheel every time they sit down to a new project." This is certainly a sentiment that most programmers would agree with.
The chapters cover writing games in these genres:
- Massively Multiplay Online (MMOGs)
- Role Playing (RPGs)
- Action Adventure
- First-Person Shooters (FPS)
- Real-Time Strategy (RTS)
- Simulator (Planes, trains, automobiles)
- Science Fiction and Fantasy
- Alternate Reality
- Mobile Phone
- Interactive Fiction (IF)
So if you have a project that concerns any of these and want help with characters, dialog, continuity or any of the other factors that needs scripting then this book could help. Each of the chapters is written by a different author and hence they tend to vary greatly in style.
In the main this book is aimed at people working in the games industry tasked with the problem of inventing stories and motivation for us programmers to implement, so it's not particularly general reading. It could also be used as part of an academic course on the topic of game creativity.