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Game Design: Secrets of the Sages Second Edition
by Marc Saltzman


Expanding from their strategy guide roots, BradyGames had a brilliant idea when they first published Game Design: Secrets of the Sages. While a bit of a romantic title, the first edition covered game design and the gaming industry in a way that was completely unprecedented. Focusing mainly on interviews, Saltzman queries the folks who are actually making games and conveys that information to the rest of us in a way that is quick, fun to read, and thoroughly informative. Needless to say, the book has become a bible for those interested in getting involved with the gaming industry, and a really great read for those who just play the games.

The Second Edition is a beefier version of its predecessor, and includes much more information about console gaming. Now packed with hundreds of interviews, Saltzman tackles more of the tough questions in gaming. For those who haven’t been paying attention, this book is a real wake-up call. Designers are striving to meet the full potential of interactive software. What does that mean? How do we make games more interactive? What is interactive, and what is just button-pushing? These are the kinds of tough questions Saltzman deals with, mostly through the words of designers who are struggling to answer them every day.

Still, questions like that, whose answers could fill up an entire book, are just the beginning. Saltzman leaves no part of the gaming industry untouched. He walks readers through 25 chapters that cover game genres, play perspectives, general design, characters, puzzle design, level design, mission design, programming, artificial intelligence, art, animation, user interface, sound, game testing, marketing and PR, gaming web site design, tech support, shareware, getting into the industry, game design schools, resources, and conventions. Phew! In each and every section, the bulk of the information is delivered directly from major players. Everybody from Will Wright, Warren Spector, Shigeru Miyamoto, Sid Meier, Bruce Shelley, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Bill Linn, John Romero, and a slew of others are included. If these names don’t ring bells, then you don’t know enough about gaming.

To illustrate the various points that are made are screenshots, photos, sketches, bits of code, and other tidbits that really illuminate the concepts these icons of the gaming industry talk about. Rather than totally shying away from the technical bits, Saltzman offers just enough to make you want to check out the game designer websites. Also, you get a good idea of just what these folks mean, exactly.

The book reads quickly and goes down smooth. While much of what is said has larger implications that just might keep you awake at night, the good organization, snappy writing, and conversational feel of the interviews makes it a pleasure to read. I cannot recommend picking up this one enough. Even casual gamers will better understand why games are the way they are by reading Game Design: Secrets of the Sages Second Edition. And if you’ve ever even toyed with the notion of being involved in the game industry, regardless of what kind of involvement, this book is required reading. Kudos to Saltzman and to BradyGames for putting out a title like this, and let’s hope we see more books that tackle the tougher questions about gaming.

 --Shawn Rider