Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Textbook Review: Basic Game Design and Creation for Fun and Learning

This is part of the series of book reviews.

"Basic Game Design and Creation for Fun and Learning" (Nanu and Naveena Swamy).

It is books like this that give the rest a bad name. For starters, in spite of the title, this book has absolutely nothing to do with game design. It should not be surprising that the authors have no published titles to their name and have apparently never worked in the game industry, which is a strong warning sign for any book.

In reality, this book covers the basics of implementation in Game Maker, a game authoring tool. Now, I'm a big fan of Game Maker itself. But the help files and example games included in the download and the forums on the website are far better at explaining how to use it, and go into greater depth than this book does. So, the book itself is entirely worthless; there is no need for it to exist in the first place.

To add insult to injury, the book attempts to explain some basic Object Oriented Programming methodology... and actually gets it wrong! If you're going to use the term "polymorphism" and apply it to Game Maker, be sure you know what it means first.

Students: Avoid this book. If you're interested in programming games but you're not comfortable with the more technical programming languages like C++ or Java, then you might consider starting out with something simple like Game Maker. But the documentation with GM is sufficient, and if you absolutely need a book to read there are better ones.

Instructors: If you're going to devote an entire class to teaching a single tool, you'd probably be better off teaching Flash than Game Maker; Flash is more versatile and powerful, and it's actually used in the industry from time to time. Even if you do want to teach Game Maker as part of a larger course, there is no need to use this book to do it.

Professionals: If you're a non-technical game designer who wants the ability to express your ideas in the form of a digital prototype, again, Flash is probably the best tool for the job if you have it available. Game Maker can be used to make certain kinds of prototypes really fast... but again, there's no need to use this book.

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