Book Review: Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design, 2nd Edition

If you ever wanted to make a video game, it is pretty easy nowadays having game engines and game development environments such as Unity 3D and Unreal Engine being free. There are also a lot of tutorials and documentation on how to use them.

When it comes to game design, there aren’t as many resources. In my opinion, one of the best book to learn about game design is “Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design, 2nd Edition” by Scott Rogers.

The chapters in the book are called levels and as you progress through the book you level up, just like in a game. There are 18 levels and some bonus material. The bonus material contains, among others, a game design template, a list of mechanics and hazards, a list of game genres, a list of possible game environments.

You will learn why story is important for the gameplay, and how too much will ruin it. The game design document is an important part of the game design process and should be the first thing you do. You will learn about the three Cs: Character, Camera, Controls and how to best use each one of them to make a great game experience. For example, the way your hero looks, and everything he does is shaped by his personality. If your hero is funny, then his looks should reflect that. A very important advice in the book being, “Form follows function”.

Designing a game level is easy once you know how to create enemies, where to place them and how to guide the player. Power-ups will spice your gameplay, but you should use them wisely, they are more of a balancing act.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in creating video games or anyone who is curious about what goes into making a game. It is not a technical book, there are no code samples. The books isn’t meant for a specific game genre, it has a general approach and you’ll have to customize the solutions to your specific needs.