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Book book book bookety book!

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Actual paper copy of the book. Ooooh, amazing. Scientific. And yes, slightly bent courtesy of our good pals in the brown truck.

Okay, I've been meaning to document the process for quite some time. This is how the gamedev series came to be.

According to my email archive, it first landed in my and Drew's collective laps around September of 2007. The idea got pitched to Dave and Kevin a while earlier, but it turned out that they had real jobs or somesuch other lame excuse, so they decided to hand over the project to a couple of the other shaved apes on the staff of gamedev who didn't have to deal with such frivolities as jobs. Namely Drew and myself.

I think it was I who came out with the absurdly simple original plan for making the books. We have Superpig use his astounding SQL abilities to dump the entire archive of gamedev article-links into a spreadsheet, we read all those articles, judge 'em for suitability (for a beginner-book and and an advanced-book, rated on a scale from 1 to 5), figure out how they'd need to be edited to fit changing technologies, contact the authors, get edits, cut 'n paste the whole mess into a Word document, press "print", and then spend the rest of the time sipping mint juleps while checks roll in.

And, of course, it worked exactly like that. With only a couple of minor changes. First off, Drew's herb garden didn't pan out because mint doesn't grow well under the frozen ice of New York or New Jersey or whatever part of the Great White North is his habitat. Next, even though we originally agreed to split up the article-reading and grading task 50/50 (still a pretty big task as our article archive numbered some 1500 articles), it ended up actually being closer to 100/0 with my ownself doing the lion's share of the reading and grading.

The reading and grading did get done. And Drew, now wracked with guilt after dropping the ball in the article-grading department, stepped up to the plate and took over. He took my original list, double-checked it, came up with some more authors who could put together some original articles for us, and made proposals and sample tables of contents for what became five books, two big programming books and three smaller design books. He also came up with a method for figuring out page-count that came within 0.00001% of reality, plus or minus 50%.

Then we had to contact authors, which was easily the least fun part of the process. Several of the articles I liked were rather old but I felt were "timeless" in their wisdom and deserved immortality in print, provided they could be updated to match the technology. And it was certainly a good assumption that the 8 year-old hotmail address associated with the article and/or gamedev.net account was still actively checked.

And about a third of 'em were. About a third of the remaining authors were easy to find with a little googling and facebook-ing. And a few more I found via friends of friends. And about a half-dozen I just never was able to find.

And then it turned out that five books was both a bit too ambitious page-wise as well as not as organized as it should've been. So Drew re-shuffled his three books into two and the wobbly quintet became a stronger quartet.

As I found authors, I sent proposals to 'em. Thankfully about 95% of the authors were very amenable to the idea. In fact, most offered to update their articles even when I didn't think they needed much done. Most of our original-content authors were also happy to oblige, although I did have to lean on a few of 'em to get me their updates. A couple of authors did completely flake out on me and bailed from the book entirely, but thankfully it was just a couple. I recall one author who finally declared that I was an unreasonable bully because I only gave him five months to update his (four page) article and demanded to be released from such a responsibility (which I gleefully did). The rest of the article updates trickled in at a rate that gave me time to sanity-check and submit 'em to the publisher. I did end up following the 90/10 rule with the final 10% of the articles taking up 90% of the time, but the downtime waiting for articles gave me time to do some housekeeping. . .and by that I mean pictures.

Pictures were a problem. Turns out that if you ask an author if he still has the original JPG images for an article he wrote five years ago so you can try to make 'em something that'll look good in print, the answer's usually "oh hellno". A couple of authors were gracious enough to recapture their images or screenshots in higher resolutions, (and if any of you ever catch me at a convention, flag me down and I'll buy you a beer). The rest either had to be redrawn or just resized as-is.

I also had to change text to make up for the fact that the book was gonna be in black-n-white. I think I was able to catch and rewrite/redraw all the parts that read like "that faint blue line in the middle of the picture is the most important part, and I'm gonna talk about it for six paragraphs, all the while referring to it as a faint blue line". The upshot is that if you're profoundly color-blind, there are gonna be some articles that make sense more than they used to because I changed it to a thick black line :)

The editors at Cengage were great. For much of the book, the process involved Drew and I saying "umm, I don't know, so let's do it this way" regarding how we were submitting content to them, and they worked with us. Mind you, we were also pretty flexible. I recall talking to a zealot programmer/author once who ended up firing his publisher because book submissions should be done in open-source workers-of-the-world-unite XML rather than evil proprietary fascist MS Word format. We all had an understanding that the goal was to get a book on the shelves, and if it worked towards that end, all was well.

And it looks like it's there. One book is out on paper. I just got cover-art for the next book to be released (Beginning Programming), and it looks great. I hope you enjoy the series and I appreciate any constructive feedback.

The only gray area I'm aware of is the companion website. The books don't have a companion CD-ROM (which doesn't bother me in the slightest, as you probably already have more 30-day trial copies of Paint Shop Pro than you need), so they'll have a companion site. Many of the articles have downloadable source code associated with 'em. I've been keeping all the downloadable code organized, so I don't think it will be an issue.

And so, to answer the most pressing question in my mind about the books, I present The Gamedev.net Collection Mini FAQ.

Q: So, why on Earth would I wanna buy these books when I can just read the same danged articles on the website for free?

A: Because they're not the same articles, smartarse. Many of the articles are 102% original and written by industry professionals and are being presented in book form for the first-time ever and won't be available anywhere else. Most of the remaining articles have been updated to match technology. Some were changed a little, but some were completely rewritten from the ground-up. You like that article about Texture Splorging In Direct3D 7? Well, now it's an article about Texture Splorging With Programmable Shaders and other stuff that was just a gleam in nVidia's eye at the time of the article's original run.

So feel free to keep reading my "What Language Do I Use?" article from 1999 for free, especially the comparison between IconAuthor and Hypercard (neither of which are available anymore). And just wonder to yourself how much more useful that article would've been if it had a discussion about things like Flash or .NET or Python or the plethora of server-side languages that were in their infancy in 1999.
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I just ordered my copy at Amazon France where it is "available soon". I'm eager to see and hold it in my hands.

Is there any schedule for the other books? (Have I missed one?!?)

Have fun,

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Drew posted the schedule to his blog. They'll be coming pretty quick. All books are scheduled to be finished by mid-February.

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