Game Development Textbooks and Resources
There is no required text for this class.
This text is readable and has a lot of good information on game design. It is also accessible to both programmers and designers; it emphasizes the design process over the technical challenges. In our experience, most of the programming aspects of game development are covered much better online than in a text. Design principles are the reverse; reading a text is better than the most of the material online.
This is the academic text on game design, and is a must read for anyone who wants to work in games. Some people criticize it for an overly formal approach to the field, but this just means that its strengths are in rules and mechanics rather than more artistic aspects of game design. It has the added bonus that it is available as an e-book through the Cornell library (must be accessed from a Cornell IP address).
This is a companion text to Rules of Play, consisting of individual articles written by people on various topics in game design. While it is not available as an e-book, there is a copy in Uris Library.
This book is a reaction against the heavy formalism present in Rules of Play. It approaches game design more from a HCI (human computer interaction) perspective. As with Rules of Play, it is available as an e-book through the Cornell library (must be accessed from a Cornell IP address).
In the past we used Ernest Adam's textbook for this course, but we replaced it with the Fullerton, which is much better. Ironically, Ernest has some of the most in-depth understanding of game mechanics of anyone; he just never put any of it in his book. This brand new book remedies that. It has much of the material that he presented in his GDC tutorials, and which should have been in the first book.
This book is also notable in that it is one of the first texts to present a formal definition of a game grammar.
This book is less of a how-to and more of a collection of exercises to give you practice with game design. It was written as a part of the game design curriculum at the Savanah College of Art and Design (SCAD). We used the text in this course one year, but it is more appropriate as an extra resource than a primary text. It is available as an e-book through the Cornell library (must be accessed from a Cornell IP address).
Raph Koster's text on the nature of fun is still a bit controversial, but he understands the social game phenomenom better than just about anyone (and he gives some of the best GDC talks). This book is available through interlibrary loan from our library.
As an antidote to all of the design texts, this is a text that focuses heavily on the software aspects of game development. It is by Steve Rabin, one of the founders of the AI Wisdom series. It is not a bad book, and is a decent resource. Its presentation of software engineering and architecture, however, are a bit lacking. It is available as an e-book through the Cornell library (must be accessed from a Cornell IP address).
In addition to the above texts, there are several online resources that you may find valuable. We have separated these by area of interest.
There are many, many game-related software development resources online. Game programmers have a long history of sharing information with one another as they tackle hard problems. Indeed, sometimes you can learn a lot about the industry from just reading a developer's blog. With that said, there are certain sites that are very well known "one stop" resources for game developers. Here are just a few that we know.
This site is the Redit of Game Development. Its forums are comprehensive, and it is always the first place you should look when trying to understand how to do something in game development.
This site is a competitor to Game Dev Net, and is another excellent resource for tutorials.
This site used to be the go-to site for AI development. It is a much weaker site now that most of the material is stored behind a pay-wall. However, you can still find a few nuggets of wisdom in the free section.
This site is really just a table of contents for the various books in the Charles River Media collection. However, these books are major venue for game developers to share their wisdom, and it is worth owning some of these books.
Most of the best game design resources are textbooks. With that said, there are some a few value online resources for you to look at.
This site is a major source for game designers and developers, as it contains summaries of GDC presentations written for a more general audience. It is also a common venue for industry postmortems.
This is Chris Crawford's famous essay on the topic, written in the 1990s. With that said, his approach is very, very different than the one we use in this course.
In addition to general game design, there are some online resources that focus specifically on the user-interface aspects of game development. Here are two of note.
This is a collection of resources used by ITT Tech for its course on Game Interface Design. You may find them useful.
This is a lecture given at the University of Michigan by David Kieras. It is really an adaptation of general HCI principles to games, and the fit is not always perfect. There is a bit too much focus on input speed and productivity, and not on experience. However, but there is some interesting information to be found in this lecture.
Audio and Game Music
This course no longer has a track in music or game audio. We generally only recruited two or three musicians a year, and most of the teams ended up using music from Newgrounds (see below). Furthermore, we could no longer support them in the course reorganization. With that said, we still provide several of the resources here.
If you do not have a talented musician on your team, that is okay. The Newgrounds Audio Library has a vast library of material that you can use in your game without violating copyright. Please respect the licensing requirements for any material you use. They often require credit, which means credit in both the game itself and in the game manual.
This site started out as a developer blog for audio in computer games. It has now morphed into a collection of resources and tutorials. It has the advantage that it is very game focused, as opposed to the other sites which include general audio production.
This site is good one for building up your fundamentals in audio design. It is primarily a collection of tutorials in audio engineering and sound design. With that said, they are not specifically targeted at games.
This website is a huge collection of tutorials on general audio engineering and sound design.