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Game architecture and design (new riders)

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Game Architecture and Design:
A New Edition
Contents at a Glance
I
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
II

9
10
11
12
13
14
15

Game Design
First Concept 3
Core Design 35
Gameplay 59
Detailed Design 87
Game Balance 105
Look and Feel 141
Wrapping Up 171
The Future of Game Design 197
Team Building and Management
Current Methods of Team Management 227
Roles and Divisions 245
The Software Factory 263
Milestones and Deadlines 293
Procedures and “Process” 327
Troubleshooting 367
The Future of the Industry 409

III
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24

Game Architecture
Current Development Methods 433
Initial Design 457


Use of Technology 511
Building Blocks 553
Initial Architecture Design 607
Development 637
The Run-Up to Release 687
Postmortem 719
The Future of Game Development 747

IV Appendixes
A Sample Game Design Documents 785
B Bibliography and References 887
Glossary 893
Index 897


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Game Architecture and Design:
A New Edition

Andrew Rollings
Dave Morris

800 East 96th Street, 3rd Floor, Indianapolis, Indiana 46240
An Imprint of Pearson Education
Boston • Indianapolis • London • Munich • New York • San Francisco


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Game Architecture and Design:
A New Edition
Copyright © 2004 by New Riders Publishing
All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means—
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—
without written permission from the publisher, except for the
inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
International Standard Book Number: 0-7357-1363-4
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2003111600
Printed in the United States of America
First printing: November, 2003
08 07 06 05 04

7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Interpretation of the printing code: The rightmost double-digit
number is the year of the book’s printing; the rightmost singledigit number is the number of the book’s printing. For example,
the printing code 04-1 shows that the first printing of the book
occurred in 2004.

Publisher
Stephanie Wall
Production Manager
Gina Kanouse
Senior Project Editor
Kristy Hart
Copy Editor
Chrissy Andry
Senior Indexer
Cheryl Lenser
Composition
Gloria Schurick
Manufacturing Coordinator
Dan Uhrig
Interior Designer
Kim Scott
Cover Designer
Aren Howell

Trademarks

Media Developer
Jay Payne

All terms mentioned in this book that are known to be trademarks
or service marks have been appropriately capitalized. New Riders
Publishing cannot attest to the accuracy of this information. Use of
a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity
of any trademark or service mark.

Marketing
Scott Cowlin
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Warning and Disclaimer

Publicity Manager
Susan Nixon

Every effort has been made to make this book as complete and as
accurate as possible, but no warranty of fitness is implied. The
information is provided on an as-is basis. The authors and New
Riders Publishing shall have neither liability nor responsibility to
any person or entity with respect to any loss or damages arising
from the information contained in this book.


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This book is dedicated to the memory of Ram De Silva,
respected colleague and beloved friend.

Andrew Rollings

In loving memory of my father, Victor Morris.

Dave Morris


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Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition

Table of Contents
Introduction

Part I

xxiii

Game Design
Chapter 1

First Concept

3

The Shock of the New

3

The Creative Road Map

4

Having the Idea
Inspiration
Synthesis
Resonance
Convergence

6
7
8
9
10

Shaping the Idea
Dramatic Effect

11
11

The Treatment

15

Taking Stock
Analysis
Evaluation
Justification
Case Study 1.1

16
16
17
17
18

The One-Page Pitch

Feasibility
Commercial
Technological
Developmental
Getting it Down
Case Study 1.2

Chapter 2

20
20
20
21
Initial Treatment for Conquerors

21
22

Core Design

35

What Is a Game?
Cool Features
Fancy Graphics
Puzzles
Setting and Story

35
36
36
37
37

Games Aren’t Everything
Case Study 2.1 Story Versus Gameplay

38
39


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Table of Contents

Chapter 3

Games Mean Gameplay
Case Study 2.2 A Missed Opportunity?

39
40

Creating the Game Spec
Case Study 2.3 Integrating Game Objectives
Features
Case Study 2.4 An Instance of Emergence
Gameplay
Interface
Case Study 2.5 An Elegant Interface
Rules
Case Study 2.6 The Rules Must Serve the Features
Level Design
Case Study 2.7 Interesting Level Design

42
43
43
45
45
47
48
48
49
50
51

Example Game Spec
Case Study 2.8 Game Spec
The Value of Prototypes…
…And the Necessity of Documents

53
53
57
58

Gameplay

59

What Is Gameplay?
Implementing Gameplay
The Dominant Strategy Problem
Near Dominance
Case Study 3.1 Environment Plus Rules Equals Gameplay
Supporting Investments
Versatility
Case Study 3.2 Unexpected Versatility
Compensating Factors
Case Study 3.3 Balancing Compensating Factors
Impermanence
Shadow Costs
Case Study 3.4 Shadow Costs in Age of Empires
Synergies
A Final Word About Gameplay

60
61
62
63
67
70
71
72
74
75
76
77
77
78
79

Interactivity
Kinds of Interactivity
Case Study 3.5 A Different Kind of Interactivity
“Why?” Versus “What?”

80
81
82
84

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Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Detailed Design

87

The Designer’s Role
Case Study 4.1 A Development Timeline

87
88

Design Documentation
The Gameplay Spec
The Designer’s Notes
Case Study 4.2 The Need for Documenting the Spec

92
92
93
94

Using The Design Documents

95

Fitting Design to Development
Tiers and Testbeds
Case Study 4.3 Planning the Mini-Specs to Fit
the Architecture

97
98
100

Why Use Documents at All?

102

Game Balance

105

Player/Player Balance
Symmetry

106
107

Player/Gameplay Balance
Case Study 5.1 Is This Supposed to Be Fun?
Reward the Player
Let the Machine do the Work
Make a Game You Play With, Not Against
Case Study 5.2 The Save Game Problem

111
111
113
113
114
114

Gameplay/Gameplay Balance
Component and Attribute Balance
Case Study 5.3 Component and Attribute Balance in
Dungeon Keeper
Intransitive Game Mechanics Guarantees Balance
Case Study 5.4 Attribute Balance Using SPS
Case Study 5.5 Using Game Theory Analysis to
Achieve Balance

116
117

132

A Game Balance Checklist

139

Look and Feel

141

Ambience
Sound
Case Study 6.1
Vision
Case Study 6.2

142
143
143
144
146

Sound Effects at Their Best
A Discordant Note

119
120
126


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Table of Contents

Touch
Interface
Case Study 6.3
Case Study 6.4

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

147
Meshing the Interface with Look and Feel
Sometimes Less Is Less

148
148
150

Storytelling
A Toolbox of Storytelling Techniques
Case Study 6.5 An Example of a Look-and-Feel Document
Case Study 6.6 An Unexpected Development
Case Study 6.7 An Unsatisfying Conclusion

152
153
157
162
167

The Sum of the Parts

169

Wrapping Up

171

The Professionals
The Game Concept
Planning for Change
The Technology
Development
The Team
Costs and Timelines
Gameplay
The Future

172
173
174
180
182
186
187
189
192

The Future of Game Design

197

The Necessity of Design
Don’t Be Afraid to Plan
Case Study 8.1 Design Saves Time
Why Design Is Fine
Case Study 8.2 Keep the Design up to Date

197
198
198
200
202

Essentials of Game Design
Is it Original?
Is it Coherent?
Is it Interactive?
Is it Interesting?
Is it Fun?

203
204
204
205
206
206

The Future of Design
Making Designs More Generic
Nonsymbolic Design
Case Study 8.3 Comparing Nonsymbolic and
Symbolic Design

207
208
209
211

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Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition

Part II

The Future of Games
The Next Decade
The Strengths of Software
The Crossroads of Creativity
Case Study 8.4 An Example of Mise En Scene

212
213
214
215
219

Games as Entertainment

222

The Way Forward

224

Team Building and Management
Chapter 9

Current Methods of Team Management

227

The Current Development Model
The Origins of the Industry
The Trouble with Game Developers
The Problem Developer
Excessive Long Hours Mean an Unsuccessful Project
Exceptions to the Rule
Case Study 9.1 Quake, StarCraft, and XCOM: Interceptor

228
228
231
234
241
242
243

Chapter 10 Roles and Divisions

245

Assigning Personnel
Management and Design Division
Programming Division
Art Division
Music and Miscellaneous Division
Support and Quality Assurance Division

245
247
249
250
251
253

Improving Morale and the Working Environment
Morale Boosters
Morale Booster Caveats and Warnings

255
255
261

Spreading the Risk

262

Chapter 11 The Software Factory

263

What Is a Software Factory?

263

Why Use a Software Factory?
Solving Game Development Issues
Case Study 11.1 The Effects of Losing Key Personnel
Case Study 11.2 Code Reuse

265
266
268
269


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Table of Contents

Organizing a Software Factory
A Structural Overview
Group Responsibilities and Interactions
Case Study 11.3 Ineffective Problem Handling in Action
Case Study 11.4 Effective Problem Handling in Action
Case Study 11.5 The Benefits Of Tool Reuse

271
271
273
274
276
281

Applying the Software Factory Structure and Methodology
Getting off the Ground
Knowing When to Use Each Team—a Parallel Development
Timeline
Rotating and Reassigning Team Members
Case Study 11.6 The Indispensables

285
286

The Suitability of a Software Factory

290

Smaller Teams

290

The Final Word

291

Chapter 12 Milestones and Deadlines

287
289
289

293

How Milestones Currently Work
Case Study 12.1 What Fuzzy Milestones Can Do to
a Project

294

Fuzzy Milestones

299

Milestones and Mini-Milestones

299

When to Use Milestones

301

Making Your Milestones Accurate
Case Study 12.2 The Costs of Canceling Projects
Checkpoint 1.0 General Requirements Gathering
Checkpoint 1.1 Technological Requirements Gathering
Checkpoint 1.2 Resource Requirements Gathering
Checkpoint 2.0 General Feasibility Study
Checkpoint 2.1 Technological Feasibility Study
Checkpoint 2.2 Resource Availability Study
Checkpoint 3.0 Draft Architecture Specification
Checkpoint 3.1 Project Initialization
The Next Steps

301
304
305
307
308
309
311
312
312
313
314

Defining Milestones
Bad Milestones
Good Milestones
Case Study 12.3 A Real-Life Milestone
Research Versus Deadlines
Evaluation of Milestones

314
316
321
322
323
324

297

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Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition

Chapter 13 Procedures and “Process”
Procedures
Reviews
Testing in General
“Process”
Case Study 13.1

327
328
329
333

Process Gone Mad

341
345

Procedures: Where to Use Them?
The Design Phase
The Development Phase
The Testing Phase

348
349
352
354

Source Control and Code Reviews: A Synergy
Case Study 13.2 Source Control? We Don’t Need
No Steenkin’ Source Control!
What Should Source Control Be Used For?

355

The Importance of Information Transmission
Proactive and Reactive Information Transmission

358
362

Chapter 14 Troubleshooting
Risks
Design and Architecture Problems
Case Study 14.1 The Case of the Deaf Manager
Schedule Threats
Case Study 14.2 Applied Schedule Readjustment
Organizational Problems
Contractor Problems
Personnel Problems
Development Problems
Process Problems

355
358

367
372
376
379
388
394
396
398
399
401
406

Chapter 15 The Future of the Industry

409

The State of the Industry
The First Era
The Second Era
The Third Era
Violence in Games

409
410
411
411
415

The New Model Developers
Case Study 15.1 It’s Hard for Developers

421
423

The Online Revolution
Delivering Games Online
Playing Games Online

427
427
428


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Table of Contents

Part III

Game Architecture
Chapter 16 Current Development Methods

433

The History of Development Techniques
The Rise and Fall of the Original Game Idea?
The Development Environment

436
437
441

The Present Day
Reusability

452
453

Chapter 17 Initial Design
The Beginning
Case Study 17.1

457
Abstraction in Quake II

459
461

Hardware Abstraction
Graphics Hardware Abstraction
Sound Hardware Abstraction
Other Hardware Considerations
“Not Built Here” Can Be Better
The Twilight Zone

462
463
468
470
476
478

The Problem Domain
What Is a Game? (Revisited)

479
480

Thinking in Tokens
Tokenization of Pong
Tokenization of Pac-Man
State Transitions and Properties
Case Study 17.2 The Inflexibility Trap

482
483
493
500
502

Chapter 18 Use of Technology

511

The State of the Art
The Rise and Fall of the 3D Engine
The Perception of Technology
Case Study 18.1 A First Impression

515
516
522
523

Blue-Sky Research
Research Types
Case Study 18.2 Losing Sight of the Ball
Case Study 18.3 Tetris: A Caveat
Case Study 18.4 Outcast: Good Use of Technology
Keeping a Journal

528
531
533
538
539
541

Reinventing the Wheel

542

Use of Object Technology
The Pros and Cons of Abstraction

543
549

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Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition

Chapter 19 Building Blocks
Reusability in Software
Code Reuse
Case Study 19.1 Reuse of Engines
Design Reuse: Patterns
Game-Specific Patterns

Chapter 20 Initial Architecture Design

553
555
555
556
558
606

607

The Birth of an Architecture
Architectural Concepts

608
610

The Tier System
Tier Zero: The Prototype
Case Study 20.1 A Database-Driven Approach
Tier One and Beyond

617
617
623
623

Architecture Design
Applying the Tier-Based Approach to Architecture Design
Case Study 20.2 Discussing the Architecture of Warbots
Architecture Orthogonality

628
631
633
635

Chapter 21 Development

637

The Development Process

638

Code Quality
Coding Standards

641
642

Coding Priorities
Speed
Size
Flexibility
Portability
Maintainability

668
669
670
671
671
671

Debugging and Module Completion
Types of Bugs
Case Study 21.1 Class A Bugs or Not?

672
674
675

The Seven Golden Gambits
Reuse
Case Study 21.2 Reusable Architecture
Documentation
Design First
Schedule
Catch Mistakes as You Go Along

681
681
682
682
683
684
684


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Table of Contents

Limit R&D
Know When to Draw the Line
The Three Lead Balloons
Bad Management
Feature Creep
Coder Insularity

Chapter 22 The Run-Up to Release

684
685
685
685
686
686

687

Late Evaluation
Final Analysis
Is the Game Pp to Scratch?
Case Study 22.1 A Self-Inflicted Disaster
Case Study 22.2 A Recovery Plan
Case Study 22.3 Licensing Hell
Case Study 22.4 Last-Minute Madness

688
689
691
692
694
700
701

Late Localization
Licenses
Languages
Demos
Case Study 22.5
Case Study 22.6

Giving the Game Away
Keep Something Back

703
703
704
706
707
708

Playtesting
Case Study 22.7

How Did They Miss These!?

708
710

Focus Groups

712

The Web Site

713

Getting Ready for the Gold Master

714

Patches

715

Chapter 23 Postmortem
Case Study 23.1
Team Dynamics
Case Study 23.2
Concept
Climate
Case Study 23.3
Accessibility

719
A Tale of Two Projects

722

It’s All Gone Horribly Wrong!

725
726

Misjudging the Climate

Development
Software Planning
Case Study 23.4 Oubliette

730
730
731
734
737
738
739

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Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition

Coding
Testing
Business Aspects
Case Study 23.5

741
742
Secure Your Revenue Stream

The Postmortem Postmortem

Chapter 24 The Future of Game Development

Part IV

742
743
745

747

Development in Context

748

Future Development
Marketing
Case Study 24.1 Marketing Means Targeting
Content
Case Study 24.2 Development Without Strategy
Planning
Developers

752
752
754
756
757
760
762

Small Is Beautiful Too

763

Building the Team of the Future
Character
Motivation
Morale

764
764
767
769

New Directions in Development
The Holistic Approach
“Jurassic Park” Software
Immanent and Transcendent Worlds

771
771
773
775

The Shape of Things to Come?

780

Appendixes
A

Sample Game Design Documents

785

Detailed Design Discussions
1. Balls! Introduction
2. Overview of Gameplay
3. Platforms
4. Time Scales
5. Why Puzzle Games Aren’t as Good as They Used to Be
6. Puzzle Game Appeal
7. Why Balls! Would Be Good
8. Game Design: User Interface Elements

785
785
786
787
788
789
790
791
794


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Table of Contents

9. Physics of Balls!
10. Blocks
11. Special Case Block-Block Collisions
12. Playing the Game
13. Further Embellishments

B

799
805
808
810
813

Initial Treatments and Sample Designs

817

Racketeers: Gang Warfare in the Roaring Twenties
1. Overview
2. Game Objectives
3. Graphics
4. Playing a Game
5. Character Types
Gangsters
Non-Gang Members
6. Personality
7. Orders
8. Combat
9. The Game World
10. Joints
11. Messages
12. Tutorial Campaign
13. Target Platform
Postscript
Liberator
1. Introduction
2. Game Elements
3. How Does it Play?

817
818
819
821
824
825
826
829
831
833
834
835
839
843
844
846
846
847
847
849
854

Technical Specifications
Technical Specification: Fully 3D Plug-In Graphics Module
for Balls!

856

Code Review Form

885

Test Scripts

886

Bibliography and References

887

Glossary

893

Index

897

857

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xviii Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition

About the Authors
Andrew Rollings has a B.S. in Physics from Imperial College,
London, and Bristol University. He has worked since 1995 as a
technical and design consultant spanning many industries.
Andrew lives in Auburn, Alabama, and can be contacted at
a.rollings@hiive.com.
Dave Morris has worked as a designer and creative consultant on PC
and console games for several major publishers, most notably Eidos.
His strategy game Warrior Kings reached number six in the United
Kingdom PC charts. He has done creative development and scriptwriting on television shows for Endemol, Pearson, TV2 Norway, and the
BBC. He has also written more than a dozen novels, gamebooks, and
movie novelizations, and in 1991 he was the UK’s top-selling author. He is currently
writing the screenplay for the film version of the classic adventure game The Seventh
Guest. Dave lives in London, England, and can be contacted at
david.j.morris@dial.pipex.com.


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Acknowledgments

Acknowledgments
A work of this kind, drawing on our combined experiences over many years in the
games industry, owes a debt of gratitude to all the people we have worked with. The
impossibility of acknowledging everyone in person does not mean that we fail to value
every contribution, suggestion, or conversation that has helped us to refine these ideas.
So, let us start by thanking all who have been our colleagues on any development
project, great or small.
It is possible to single out a few individuals among the many. Roz Morris, though no
gamer, proofread the manuscript and made many valuable suggestions to improve its
clarity based on her professional expertise as a journalist and writer. As she is married
to one of the authors, it goes without saying that she also contributed a very great deal
of moral support.
Sam Kerbeck, that rare combination of gentleman and genius, gave us the benefit of
his technical advice, and we are indebted to him for ably clarifying many of the more
abstruse issues of architecture and coding. As Co-Founder and CEO of Turn3D, he has
provided us with state-of-the-art realtime graphics, and as a colleague of long standing,
he has also given his valued friendship over many years.
Ian Turnbull, former Development Director at Eidos Interactive, now Commercial
Director of Black Cactus Games, contributed enormously with his wise counsel regarding the economic realities of the industry. Without his guidance, this book would be
merely a theoretical work. It is Ian’s down-to-earth clear-headedness that reminded us
to make it more than that: a practical handbook for developers.
We would also like to thank Steve Foster, who has been extraordinarily patient over
the course of many speculative discussions, often stretching long into the night, concerning the future directions and methodology of game development. His contribution
has been much more than merely academic, however. When problem projects have
weighed us down, it has been Steve’s cheerful encouragement that has given us the
resolve to keep going.
Special thanks are due also to Leo Hartas, Tim Harford, Matt Kelland, Dave Lloyd, Tim
Gummer, Jamie Thomson, and David Bailey.

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Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition

The fact that you are holding this book at all is due to the sterling efforts of the folks at
New Riders—in particular Stephanie Wall, who was also head honcho on the original
edition from Coriolis Press. Despite having had to chivvy us along once before, she
was willing to put herself through it all over again. We would like to thank Kristy Hart,
our editor, who is nothing short of a saint for her patience in tolerating broken promises and overlooked deadlines. And thanks also to our agent Jawahara Saidullah of
Waterside Productions, for making the whole thing happen in the first place.
Andrew would also like to thank his wife, Stephanie Park, for her continued encouragement and tolerance for his budding writing career.


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Tell Us What You Think

Tell Us What You Think
As the reader of this book, you are the most important critic and commentator. We
value your opinion and want to know what we’re doing right, what we could do better,
what areas you’d like to see us publish in, and any other words of wisdom you’re willing to pass our way.
As the Publisher for New Riders Publishing, I welcome your comments. You can fax,
email, or write me directly to let me know what you did or didn’t like about this
book—as well as what we can do to make our books stronger. When you write, please
be sure to include this book’s title, ISBN, and author, as well as your name and phone
or fax number. I will carefully review your comments and share them with the author
and editors who worked on the book.
Please note that I cannot help you with technical problems related to the topic of this book,
and that due to the high volume of email I receive, I might not be able to reply to every
message.
Fax:

317-428-3382

Email:

stephanie.wall@newriders.com

Mail:

Stephanie Wall
Publisher
New Riders Publishing
800 East 96th Street, 3rd Floor
Indianapolis, IN 46240 USA

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Introduction

Andrew Rollings’s Introduction to this New Edition
I must confess to being more than a little surprised at the success of Game Architecture
and Design. When we originally pitched the idea, back in 1999, we sent off proposals to
about ten different publishers. Only Coriolis, and more specifically, Stephanie Wall at
New Riders Publishing, got back to us. I bet those others are kicking themselves now.
I am especially pleased that, despite the implosion of Coriolis and the subsequent legal
adventures involved in ensuring the rights of this book reverting to us, Stephanie Wall
is still handling the book, but this time at New Riders. I’m very sure that after five
years of having to deal with me as a reluctant author, she’s more than fed up with me
by now.
So here we are with the second edition of Game Architecture & Design. Things have
changed in the four intervening years, though not as much as we’d like. We’ve come a
long way since 1999, but there’s still a long way to go. I’m sure we’ll get there…eventually.
I hope that this new edition of the book continues to serve as a useful reference for the
aspiring and professional game developer in the same way as the first.
Enjoy.
—Andrew Rollings
Auburn, Alabama, July 2003


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xxiv Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition

Dave Morris’s Introduction to this New Edition
The temptation when revising one’s work of several years past is often to rewrite
history a little. There are always those embarrassing predictions that come back to
haunt you. And yet with a few keystrokes, it’s possible to seem to a new generation of
readers as if we were always infallible. What an enticing position to be in.
In fact we have left most of our forecasts from the twentieth century intact. That’s
because in many cases—for example, the rise of middleware—we turned out to be correct. Frankly, like everyone else we enjoy being able to say, “We told you so!”
In cases where we were wrong, we move on and try to learn from the mistakes. In a
way, that’s at the heart of our design philosophy. Having a methodology can’t always
prevent you making a mistake, but it makes darned sure you don’t make the same
mistake twice.
The case studies are culled from our mutual experiences and those of colleagues.
People ask if these case studies could really be true. No, in fact not. The real truth in
almost every case was much worse!
But the encouraging thing is that the games industry is changing. Four years ago, our
rallying cry for a formal development methodology rang like a lone voice in the wilderness. Nowadays games development is becoming a much more structured process. And
publishers have a better understanding of what the process entails. In another four
years, a developer coming across the first edition of Game Architecture & Design will be
astounded that development could ever have been so ramshackle. We are happy to
think that, in however small a part, we helped contribute to this evolution of the
industry.
Even better, as the production process becomes better understood and more streamlined, it consumes less of the developers’ time. The extra creative energy this frees up
can now be devoted to the game content itself. We are starting to see the first signs
that games really are moving from being the equivalent of silent movie one-reelers.
They are acquiring depth, beauty, and emotion.


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Introduction

Tolstoy wrote, “Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has
experienced.” Great art doesn’t simply entertain you—it does that, granted, but it does
more. Art changes your life. In the next decade, we will see videogaming’s Birth of a
Nation and the Citizen Kane of the console generation.
Bliss it is in this dawn to be alive!
—Dave Morris
London, England, July 2003

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