The Ultimate Guide To Video Writing And Design — which I will take the liberty of shortening to ‘the book’ for the remainder of this review — is intended for any newcomer to the arguably difficult and daunting field of game design and writing. My favorite aspect of this book, which is noticeable from the start and throughout, would have to be the writers’ tone and way of putting the realties of the business. While I’m not an expert in these fields, it’s obvious that a game designer/writer has a very demanding and competitive job, and the authors make it clear on several occasions that it’s not an easy career. What I ultimately liked least about this book was the focus on what I thought, as a long time gamer, were just very generic and almost obvious ideas about game design elements for roughly the first half of the text. But, before digging into the pros and cons much further, let me provide you with a chapter, or ‘level’ as it’s put in the book, breakdown.
Level 0 – Introduction – The authors put forth their eleven commandments of video game survival and talk about various other basic ideas like who should read the book and what they intend to cover.
Level 1 – This chapter is entitled “The Influence of Storytelling In A Digital Universe” and discusses a brief history of storytelling and how video games have become a new way of telling stories.
Level 2 – Read about various types of branching in stories, types of conflict, and the importance of keeping cutscenes and dialogue concise so that there is as much play time as possible.
Level 3 – This chapter continues to explore the importance of keeping the story on track and focused on the present, not the past, and making powerful, interesting dialogue.
Level 4 – Chapter four begins to describe how you might go about building the world your game takes place in.
Level 5 – Character development and types, including relationships amongst characters.
Level 6 – Talks about creating ‘the hook’ that makes your game attractive to publishers and gamers alike.
Level 7 – High-Level Design Documents are discussed, from what they are to how they’re written.
Level 8 – Game Properties As Franchises talks about keeping your unique idea open to being a franchise
Level 9 – Is helpful for generating ideas about a story for your game.
Level 10 – Chapter 10 focuses on the flow of game design, and the many perils and struggles you are likely to encounter.
Level 11 – Focuses on changes and criticism, and how to keep focused and not lose site of your ideas.
Level 12 – Getting Down To Business is about the legal and financial side of the field.
Level 13 – This important chapter is about getting in the field, and not expecting too much to start with.
Level 14 – A brief, encouraging final chapter.
The chapters are nicely written and an easy read, it’s something you could comfortably read in about three or four days if you don’t do the Action Items spread throughout each chapter that prompt you to create a Character Template or to tell someone a story, etc. If you take each Action Item seriously, you’re likely to discover quite a bit about how well you are cut out for this type of work as many of the Action Items get fairly detailed and force you to answer quite a few questions.