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Swords and Circuitry: A Designer's Guide to Computer Role-playing Games (Game Development) [Paperback]

Jana Hallford
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 July 2001 0761532994 978-0761532996
Computer role-playing games allow players to assume the role of a hero out to conquer an epic challenge. Over the course of the game, the player s character learns new spells and skills which, in turn, allow him or her to explore even more of the game world and to solve the quest presented by the game designers. Never in the history of gaming have role-playing titles been more popular. Swords & Circuitry: A Designer s Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games will allow you to decipher the arcane mysteries behind game development tools like plot trees, world bibles, design documents, and game scripts. It contains exciting and topical illustrations by game industry artists like Kenneth Mayfield, Jeff Perryman, Jim Wible, Trammell Issac, April Lee, and others! Learn from the designer behind role-playing best-sellers like Betrayal at Krondor, Planet s Edge, and Might & Magic III: Isles of Terra, and discover the ten things that every role-playing title must have to succeed!

Product details

  • Paperback: 514 pages
  • Publisher: Premier Press (7 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761532994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761532996
  • Product Dimensions: 3.5 x 18.5 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,120,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Neal Hallford has been a professional game designer for more than ten years and has led several best-selling computer role-playing titles. He co-authored the story Krondor: the Betrayal which became a New York Times best-selling novel and has created stories and designs for hit computer role-playing games (RPGs) such as Planet's Edge, Betryal at Kondor, and Might & Magic III:Isles of Terra.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good grounder for any DM (mouse or paper) 26 Sep 2001
By A Customer
This book is divided into three sections.
In the first, the author gives a history of his gaming experiences and insights into what makes a good game. Each chapter stands alone covering an aspect of design using past and present games as example of what (and what not) to do. (Check Prima's online chapter list for content.) This section is an easy end-to-end read.
In the second part, there are interviews with several current games designers. This gives an interesting insight but little else (if you read gamer magazines, you'll likely gleen little from this section).
In the third part, there are reprints of (extractions from) the original design notes of several games. It's interesting to see how much depth of thought needs to go into these documents. If you are writing (or trying to submit) a game idea, this section is a useful reference.
There's also a curious center 'art' section consisting of monochrome images from well known game-house artists. As this is on expensive glossy paper (rather than the usual pulp), it's a shame that they could not have been colour.
The layout is in Prima's usual (for this GD series) futuristic style. However, in this case, it does not detract from the content. The author has not overused the highlight boxes, and there are genuine insights in the text body for both software games designers. DMs trying to put together a weekend's session will also find the reasoning behind good and bad scenarios (from the players viewpoint) useful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book is awesome for begginers, it is a bit too basic for any one who knows about designing but knocks the socks of most design books.
The book covers the design ground of R.P.G.'s in general but goes into depth with design docs. etc.
I recomend this book to anyone who wants to start out in the game design buisness
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most detailed game design book I've ever read 23 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on
This book is focused on designing role playing games, but covers so much information about the game industry that it is applicable for any type of game. Whether you are interested in the subject peripherally, are in the industry, are a gamer, or a programmer, you will find this book to be an enjoyable read. It is not a technical book, but rather a marketing book, filled with humorous anecdotes from an insider's view of the game industry. The artwork was very professionally done, as were the figures. This book is just an enjoyable read overall. It includes a complete game design proposal (by one of the author's games) for an actual game that was accepted by a game publisher. The author designed games like Betrayal at Krondor, and many more, so he knows what he is talking about! Reading about what took place to bring many popular games to market was very interesting. Towards the end, there are several interviews with actual game designers (such as the designer of Ultima Online and others). This section was fascinating. The book does get into the details too, talking about assembling a development team, project life cycle, testing, and so on. Jam packed with tons of cool facts and information.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended 4 Oct 2003
By Dave Astle - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has been out for a few years, and unfortunately, it has never really received the attention it so richly deserves. From the title, you might infer that it teaches how to design role-playing games, which it does, but what might not be immediately obvious is that the information contained in it can be applied to games from any genre.
This book discusses everything from product life cycles, to plot design, to team roles, to world building, to gameplay issues, and much more. Each topic is covered in detail, with advice and examples. The book includes in-depth interviews with people behind some of the top role-playing games (e.g. Dungeon Siege and Neverwinter Nights), as well as copies of real design documents from leading games (e.g. the world layout from Fallout and the design document from Nox).
The Halfords' writing style is colorful without being condescending. Neal's experience shows through as he is able to back up all of his advice with real-world experience on major titles.
This is quite simply one of the best game design books on the market, and an entertaining read to boot. I give it my highest recommendation.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read For All Game Designers 11 Sep 2002
By Wynne E. Mclaughlin - Published on
Neal's (& Jana's) book is not only comprehensive and up-to-date (which no small task in the game industry!) but it's also enjoyable as hell. His well documented history of the gaming industry alone is worth the price of the book, but Swords & Circuitry is also full of incredibly valuable information presented in an well thought-out manner, and with a sense of humor.

The book covers world building, game balance, effective team building, resource management, game proposals, design documents, user interfaces, game writing and much, much more. And, as a bonus, the second half of the book contains recent interviews with some of the hottest developers in the industry.

If you're a designer, or a would-be designer, do yourself a favor and pick it up. I can't recommend it highly enough!

Wynne McLaughlin
Game Designer - NCsoft
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Organized, detailed, and Enlightening 10 Dec 2003
By A Customer - Published on
I really don't know where to begin in thoroughly recommending this book. If you have any interest in designing RPG games (or any game at all, for that matter) this is the best book for your bank. Neal Hallford lays it all right out in front. From story design to gameplay mechanics to writing your pitch documents, this book will show you the most important stages of game development. More importantly, this book is down to earth and easily digestible. The chapters and subsections were written in a very clear and concise manner. I've seen other game design books that failed to educate or even entertain.
Neal Hallford writes this book not only from the point of view of a veteran game designer (Betrayal at Krondor, Dungeon Siege, and others), but also from the point of view of a GAMER. It is from that point of view that really makes this title stand out. You can tell how much he enjoys his work, and his excitement for the focus medium (RPGs) is infectious as you read. He really helps you to craft a world in your own mind (and helps you think `outside of the box' as you design). Each chapter is complete with a handful of exercises to help the budding game designer expand the way in which they think about games
This title is also rife with interesting tidbits and trivia about past games and game development. Neal Hallford never forgets that, even though this is a billion-dollars-a-year industry, we make GAMES. Even though the process should be taken seriously, you should work very hard at both doing it well, and having fun while you do it. The process itself is, in fact, one of the strongest aspects of this title. Neal takes you through every step of the process including writing your design document (the game designer's bible, as it were). He points out critical features, and common oversights. Again, he does all of this in a way that is very easy to understand.
Finally, the appendix to this title is a treasure trove itself. Included in the back of the book are interviews with some of the top game developers in the business. And while many other books have included `fluff' interviews with game designers, this book actually focuses on the critical topic: game design. You learn about how different game designers work, how they approach certain problems, and where they get their inspiration. In addition to these interviews, you can also find sample design documents, descriptions of levels, and charts for gameplay mechanics.
I don't recommend this book. I demand that you buy it. If you have even a passing interest in game design, this book was written for you. Professionals should own it. This is even a great resource for mod authors who are looking for help in creating their own worlds within other game titles. You won't be sorry.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good intro to game design. 15 Feb 2005
By Robert Beveridge - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Neal and Jana Hallford, Swords and Circuitry (Prima, 2001)

A word to prospective buyers: Swords and Circuitry is not a book about coding games. If that's what you're looking for, Prima has a number of other titles you can go to. This one's about designing games, and there's nary a line of code to be found.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, this book does have a lot to offer both for those who plan to specialize in game design and those who are running (or trying to run) one-man shops. The Hallfords offer a good deal of advice regarding the whole process of game design, from defining what it is (and having others interviewed by Neal Hallford do so as well) to details of design documents, proposals, etc. The benefits for the aspiring game designer are obvious; to the one-man shop, reading this may help clarify some things that will help when programming time comes, or shed a different light on things that may not have been thought of in quite that way. Definitely worth checking out, but know what you're getting. ***
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