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Chris Crawford on Game Design

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If you have read Chris Crawford''s new book on game design (not the free old one), did it spark your creativity? I know it sounds like a wierd question, but I''m not looking for a book that teaches me how to design a game. I''m looking for a book that I can pick up to help me get my creative juices flowing. From the little bit that Amazon Look-Inside let me read, it looked like it had promise, but I want opinions from people who have read it. So did you come away thinking about new games, game ideas, algorithms to try, or how to YOU would solve a problem he was stuck with, etc., or did you just come away thinking, "this is drivel?" After all, it doesn''t really even matter to me that he''s RIGHT, as long as he can spur me on to creativity in my work.

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Do you refer to other sources for creativity? Music, art, film, literature?

Getting your creative juices shouldn''t be the hard part (and shouldn''t be the reason to buy Crawford''s book; personally, I didn''t find enough in TA and that-other-game-he-made-for-Microsoft to warrant a place in the pantheon). Converting a creative notion into a viable, concrete design should.

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Chris Crawford did NOT design Total Annihilation and Dungeon Siege; he worked at Atari, and then as a freelance designer programmer. His releases include one of the first if not THE first hex-based TBS computer wargame (Tanktics); other Chris Crawford works include Eastern Front (1941) and his most famous work, Balance of Power. Chris Taylor was the lead designer of Total Annihilation and producer (?) on Dungeon Siege.

I happen to have bought Chris Crawford on Game Design (had a gift certificate to a crappy bookstore, was the only thing even remotely interesting there). Most people would dismiss it as the ravings of a washed-up 1980''s game personality. If you like to be intellectually challenged to carefully consider and the agree or disagree as you see fit, it is an excellent work. No matter how much you disagree with him on some points, most are at least well thought out. The only exception I can name is his opinion on GTA3, the wording of which indicates he is relying on media hyperbole and not experience with the actual artifact to form his opinion.

The book is divided into two halves; the first is essentially a thesis on his system of classifying games, and defining/discussing each aspect of it. The second half is more or less a series of post-mortems on all his various titles. The second half is quite enlightening, it is essentially an individual with 20+ years of involvement in the computer game industry (few can make this claim) doing a post-mortem on all of their titles. Many interesting and useful ideas and facts are scattered tthroughout; however, many diatribes of a very burnt-out frustrated intellectual are also sprinkled in (most are quaint, and mostly humorous).

Overall, I thought it was excellent. Read the above before you buy, its not for everyone.

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quote:
Original post by SteevR
Chris Crawford did NOT design Total Annihilation and Dungeon Siege; he worked at Atari, and then as a freelance designer programmer. His releases include one of the first if not THE first hex-based TBS computer wargame (Tanktics); other Chris Crawford works include Eastern Front (1941) and his most famous work, Balance of Power. Chris Taylor was the lead designer of Total Annihilation and producer (?) on Dungeon Siege.
Good call, and my error. Please disregard my earlier post.

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Oluseyi, disregarding MOST of your post, as requested. . Do want address one part though (not dealing with Chris Crawford):

quote:

Do you refer to other sources for creativity? Music, art, film, literature?



Honestly, not really. A lot of the time I just brainstorm on things that I think would be cool to play or see in a game. I like music, but I really see it as more (in most cases) of a support rather than a foundation of a game. Of course this doesn't HAVE to be the case; I've got a couple of ideas that center on music (one is basically like Simon). As for art, I don't really partake of art much. Although I love drawing and animation (very much learning both ) and again, I see them as part of the whole. Ditto with literature. To be honest I don't really read a lot or watch many movies, etc... I prefer to create. Sounds wierd, because I love to write music but I don't listen to music (I like it, I just don't make time for it usually); I love to write literature but I don't read it, etc. So to make a long story short, my creativity comes mostly from within--my interpretation of the collection of my life's experiences mixed with my imagination and rather unusual sense of humor. Not so much from these other things (although games do act as a stimulus because I immediately grab a game and start asking, okay what if we took this in THIS direction).


quote:

Getting your creative juices shouldn't be the hard part...converting a creative notion into a viable, concrete design should.




True. If it is the sticking point then game design probably isn't for you. On the other hand, it's cool and helpful to have your creativity stimulated, and I find that certain things do that better than others. For instance, the first (or second, I don't remember which one) edition of "Secrete of the Sages," while not a particularly helpful book from a purely practical standpoint, was and still is one of my favorites on game design because it got me thinking in a million different directions. It was fun! On the other hand, Anderson and Rawlings (or is it Rollings, or something altogether different?) was technically useful but doesn't provide nearly the same spark; my eyes kind of glass-over when I read it.

I already have texts that provide useful information; now I'd like something I can pick up when I'm bored and excite my game design enthusiasm. So I do want to buy the book if it stirs up my creativity, even if that's the ONLY thing it's good for.

Although I must say getting a window into 20 years of game development experience sounds quite fascinating; plus I have very little knowledge about the early days and they are an interesting topic (and I feel nostolgic about the days of yore when it wasn't out of the ordinary for a man to make a game by himself.).

So...more opinions anyone?

[edited by - bob_the_third on February 6, 2004 12:13:04 PM]

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i brought his book "art of interactive design" although it has alot of good ideas; i stopped reading it, it sucks how his ego is all over the book, and he has a bad sense of humour. also it''s almost insulting how he uses exaggerated examples to explain the simplist ideas...

i brought this book because i liked what i read in his ''82 book (the free one available at his website) and i don''t deny it''s worth, but his writing style sucks!

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The Chris Crawford book I read, and I have no idea if it was the newest one, was so heavily focused on war games (which have been done to death in my opinion) and political games (Zzzz) that it did little for me. Just not my interest. If you are interested in strategic war games it may give you some things to think about. Otherwise, pass.

I did however enjoy it for it''s look into video game history. There are some interesting stories.

Marcus

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I just finished the book and I think it''s excellent. It goes places where other game design books don''t even know about.

There''s plenty to disagree with as SteevR says but there''s lots that will make you think.

The most interesting thing is that here is a guy who has had very original ideas for Games and has gone ahead and made them. He''s not interested in recreating some old design. He challenges you to create something totally new and different from the standard.

There''s no saying if you''ll like it or not - it''s a very personal thing. I found it quite inspirational.



-game design monkey-

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It''s been a while since I''ve read a game book, so I went out and bought this book. Partially because of the comments about the "old fogey" sections. There''s something to be said for being an old fogey at a mere 2^5 years, while still being young enough to enjoy it! ;-)

Overall, I agree with most of the (somewhat) negative comments here. I was glad to have read it, but wish I had just borrowed the book, as it''s not going to have any reread value.

SteevR: "Most people would dismiss it as the ravings of a washed-up 1980''s game personality." It did have some of that flavor. Some of his comments also make it obvious what platforms he coded for. He mentions in 1990 having to code for both color and B/W systems, but if you were on the IBM side, color had been assumed long before that (and indeed, the screenshots are Mac ones).

His ego does poke through very strongly. He lists seventeen games as milestones because of innovative design, or because they began a new genre. Three of the games are his, and many don''t quite fit his criteria: "Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe" made this list as "best of the genre", a blatant contradiction. There''s some mild concession to RPGs in the early days, but nothing after 1983. Heavy focus on strategy games.

The section where he describes his games is... well, bits and pieces are fun to read, but it''s neither particularly enlightening nor a creative boost. Most of them boil down to: here are three really cool innovations I added, and, oops, here''s the reason it failed, because I forgot about (unrelated item). One consists of a 20+ page dialog between dieties.

Another area of contention I have is a multi-page rant against crackers, in which he says "At this point I take advantage of another bit of cracker psychology. Crackers are not well-rounded people.". Bucko, you lost a lot of points with that statement. Name-calling is the last refuge of those who don''t really know how to argue.

Now, the pros of the book:

The bibiliography is amazing; I think I found six books I want to look into. Although it ''s multidisciplinary, it does tend to focus on ancient history and military history, but it''s still a refreshing change from the usual "be sure and read the OpenGL specs cover to cover".

Some of his points are good ones, such as "read outside your discipline", and "don''t force solutions, wait for a brainstorm". They aren''t at all deep thoughts, but they''re good points.

The old fogey tales are fun (if you are one), and sometimes enlightening: I had not known why the old Atari games were always one-on-one with one bullet apiece (it was the hardware).

And, of course, it shows a (slight) evolution in the thought processes of one person.


OP: would I recommend this book as something to kickstart your creativity? Not at all. About as creative as it gets is the one chapter where he lists "games I would love to see developed". (one wonders why he spent so much time on wargames if he wanted those games instead..).

But if you can borrow this book? It''s a fun one-day read.

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