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Game Development Resources

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Terry Greer

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Game Development

 

I've started teaching part time as a HPL (Hourly paid lecturer) at Worcester University lecturing in Game Design. This is the first year I've put together more than one or two lectures, so as I'm creating them and digging out resources/links I thought I may as well stick the best of them up here as well.

 

I'm not going to stick every reference I'll use up here as I'm not planning on this getting particularly large. Instead the plan is to keep it to the major influences that I've encountered, exceptionally good reads and really useful sites that I go back to again and again.

 

If anyone thinks I've missed something off that REALLY should be on there let me know - but I want to keep this select and useful as a set of start points rather than just a massive list of links and publications.

 

In addition, no matter what your level of skill or experience in game development, I can heartily recommend my friend Kaye Elling's  '100 things every game student should know' for lots of distilled wisdom in one blisteringly funny pdf.

 

Note the following is work in progress - and is still being expanded.

 

BooksGame DesignThese are books that I've found particularly useful over the years - or which I've recommended to others. I've put a short note against each and a link to Amazon in case anyone is interested.They are not in any particular order.A Theory of FunDespite it's jokey presentation, or perhaps even because of it, it's really quite a good introduction to most aspects of game design. While I personally have a lot of issues with the idea of 'fun' being core to all games, putting that aside makes this a quick, fun and interesting addition to the way game designers need to think.Koster, R., 2013. A theory of fun for game design 2nd ed., O’Reilly Media.Rules of PlayMore scholarly than Schell's book, Rules of play is a comprehensive introduction to game design theory and is highly recommended reading.Tekinbaş, K.S. & Zimmerman, E., 2003. Rules of play : game design fundamentals, MIT Press. The Art of Game Design: A Book of LensesI wasn't too keen on this when I first started reading it, I initially found the concept of 'lenses' twee and thought it was full of the bleeding obvious. But I was wrong. I've warmed to it considerably over time. I now think it's probably one of the best introductions to game design and game development process there is - and I'm not sure why I didn't like it from the start.It's an easy book to read, but you'll probably find it more useful to dip into frequently rather than absorb at one sitting. It's full of case studies and thoughts, and why it may not deeply affect how you think about games (unless you're a beginner or student) it's sure to provide lots of little insightful (and useful) ideas, and it's a good way of broadening how you think about game design.(I've even warmed to the lenses concept) Schell, J., 2014. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses 2nd ed., A K Peters/CRC Press. Level Design Book 2 Book 2 Game Art, UI and interfaceThe Skillful HuntsmanThis is an awesome piece of work that every Game and Concept artist should see.It is effectively a documentation of the creative thought process in designing for entertainment through the work of three talented student artists. Guided by their instructor, they created original design solutions for the environment, characters, props and much more all based around interpretations of a Brother's Grim story.Unlike most 'art of ' books this really nails the complete creative process from beginning to end and is a must read.Kang, L., Yamada, M. & Yoon, F., 2005. The Skillful Huntsman: Visual Development of a Grimm Tale at Art Center College of Design 3rd ed., Design Studio PressThese three books by Edward Tufte provide a series of well described examples in how to show information of all types on the printed page or a TV screen, and how not to do it. I've found them invaluable for helping define the important elements of game UI design. The Visual Display of Quantative informationFocuses on numerical and quantative data (such as charts and graphs). In particular it introduces the concepts of 'chartjunk' and Data-ink ratio which he uses to show how information can be more clearly conveyed.Tufte, E.R., 1997. Visual explanations : images and quantities, evidence and narrative 1st ed., Graphics Press Envisioning InformationConcentrates on how to show richer information visually (such as maps, diagrams and scientific results).Tufte, E.R., 1990. Envisioning information 1st ed., Graphics Press USA. Visual ExplanationExtends this into more complex information and even time/narrative and scientific representation.His work preceded the recent increase in the use of infographics, and I consider his approach and ideas about how information should be displayed still superior to most current infographic designs.Tufte, E.R., 2001. The visual display of quantitative information 2nd ed., Graphics Press. While They all cover fairly similar ground in many ways, the focus of each (and the examples) are sufficiently different that each builds upon the others and it's highly recommended you check out all three.Writing

 

 

Links (Web Pages and other useful sources)

Game EnginesA small select list of the engines I've used and can recommend for personal use or education.This list is neither exhaustive or intended to imply superiority over other engines that I may not have tried. Unity (Mac and PC)https://unity3d.com/Unity is probably the perfect all round game development platform for teaching both 2D and 3D game development. It uses C# or the java-like unity script for programming and is very approachable. It's also feature-rich, has a massive user base and is easy to extend.The main downside is that while the personal edition is free it unfortunately costs around £100 per educational copy. Not only that but these copies are tied to specific machines, which makes it very expensive unless you build the entire course around Unity, and always use the same Lab.This really annoys me as I'd love to use it, but the logistics (especially for occasional use in a class environment) just aren't there.However, for anyone wanting to start programming and game development on their own it's highly recommended.Unreal4 (Mac and PC)https://www.unrealengine.com/blog/welcome-to-unreal-engine-4The 'Gorilla' in the room is Unreal. For 3D worlds and excellent physical-based rendering capabilities it's pretty hard to beat. C++ for coding and Blueprint visual scripting mean you can do anything you want 3D wise relatively easily and (just as with unity) the pipeline for getting assets in is easy.I've used Unreal since before the first Unreal title came out, and it's changed hugely over the years. UE4 is a full rewrite.Recently they've added paper 2D which, again as with Unity, fakes 2D within a 3D environment.UE4 is totally free to download and use - it's more suited to 3D than 2D (Paper 2D is still in development) but overall it's a perfect art-centric way of learning an engine (it's also heavily used across the AAA industry, so any skills picked up are useful in the hunt for a job.Godot (Mac and PC)https://godotengine.org/A fairly new kid on the block, and open source, Godot has a Python-like scripting language.A big advantage of Godot is that it's free and seems relatively straightforward, though it's scene based approach is a little idiosyncratic, and more resembles a prefab like system, though it's powerful and promising.Probably more ideal as a 2D and animation engine than 3D - and it's nowhere near as comprehensive as Unity. It can handle true pixel-perfect 2D as well - which is nice.The big disadvantage is that the engine is still young and the user base is still relatively small, but it is growing fast and there are lots of very good tutorials.For simple projects, and to give students a grounding in basic game development it could be an excellent choice.Cryengine (Mac and PC)https://www.cryengine.com/One of the best looking environmental game/world editors is now free.I've used it a little in the past and loved the world editor - but I've had no end of login problems and not been able to actually get this to run yet - though it does look interesting from a 3D world perspective, has good asset pipelines and now use C# as a scripting language (along with a visual flow graph programming system).There is also a rewritten and altered version in an early state called Lumberyard (which I also couldn't get to work) now available from Google which may be worth a look as well (also free). It seems to lack some of the standard Cryengine features - but has others to compensate. I suspect it will improve rapidly.Potentially this could be really good as a teaching tool especially for an art-centric course, but the bugs and support need to be ironed out first. I need to revisit this at some point.Ren'Py (PC and Mac)https://www.renpy.org/A really excellent little Visual novel/adventure engine.Easy to use but powerful enough to do something really good on a short timeframe.Uses a Java-like scripting language. This could be a really good engine to use for a course on narrative writing and storytelling.OthersWhile the above are the main ones I've tried - there are a few others that  are also worth a look - even if they are a bit more specialised and restricted. Gamemaker (PC and Mac)http://www.yoyogames.com/gamemakerAn excellent drag and drop game maker - ideal for teaching basic logic and simple game design.It's more aimed pretty squarely at 2D games, and has its own scripting language (GML - based on C), and is capable of far more than is usually assumed. It can even build mobile apps for iOS and Android along with consoles, windows and HTML5.Twine (PC and Mac)https://twinery.org/A  simple easily learned ( a few hours) interactive fiction engine that's a perfect way of introducing students to basic logic and interactive fiction. Twine is freeHero Engine (PC only)http://www.heroengine.com/It's been a while since I looked at this. It's a cloud-based SDK for creating MMOs (well any type of game really - you could create an FPS with it for example - but it is more geared toward large open worlds). I enjoyed the time I spent playing with it.While not as technically brilliant rendering and feature rich as Unreal or as versatile as Unity it has a lot going for it and a fair bit of built in technology including SpeedTree, Facegen, Umbra (occlusion culling) and Awesomium (HTML UI engine).It's also ideal for collaborative projects - with every user capable of sharing and working in the same world - no matter how remote. This alone makes it unique.One downside however is that it doesn't support FBX (yet) but you can import Max and Maya Models.Another potential downside is that it uses its own scripting language HeroScript (HSL). This has advantages in that it's been designed to be game-friendly, but it means that there's no direct carry-over to other languages (apart from the fact that it teaches logic, functions, classes etc - which is still useful). Compared to other engines there's less users and therefore less online help.They do charge for it, but their pricing model is reasonably fair when scaled up to class/team sizes, and it offers a lot.Well worth a look. I'd really like to give it a go one day as a teaching resource for a team/class-based project. Having all the heavy lifting for the MMO/server/backup/collaboration dealt with, and a lots of basic systems in place, it would in theory allow a team to hit the ground running and create something very playable quite quickly.  Especially if the project was mainly art-based and concerned with modifying and reskinning interfaces/assets rather than building them from scratch.Papers, articles and online texts (work in progress)FTL - GDC Postmortem 2013 - an excellent account of how the game was created, and in particular the developers (Subset Games) used iteration to refine the game from it's initial concept, through to it's kickstarter and release stages.Diabalo - GDC Postmortem 2016 - Postmortem of the classic Diabalo from its earliest concept.Useful websites (TBD)Adobe CC Crib and shortcut sheets (PDFs) https://forums.adobe.com/thread/1960448?sdid=Y2KRH14SAssets - free and paid (TBD)TBD

 

 

Tutorials

Oh - and I've got to learn After Effects over the next year - so I plan to create a few tutorials using it as well. I hate most video tutorials as they're hard to follow and take far too long to tell you the little bit that you want to know - it'll be interesting to see if I can do any better or make an equal hash of it.