View Full Version : Swords & Circuitry: Learn About Game Design in LA!
June 20th, 2002, 04:36 PM
Neal & Jana Hallford will be signing copies of "Swords & Circuitry: A Designer's Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games" on Tuesday, July 27th at 7:00 pm at the Borders/Promenade bookstore in Santa Monica, CA. During the event, Neal & Jana will discuss the history of computer RPGs, talk about how computer games get made, and will take questions from the audience.
For more information contact:
Borders Books & Music - Santa Monica Promenade
1415 Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica , CA 90401
About the book:
"Swords & Circuitry" covers the arcane mysteries of player-oriented design, the history of the role-playing genre, the process of developing a game idea, the secrets of developing a role-playing system, the art of professional fantasy world building, the dos and don't of creating powerful user interfaces, and the craft of writing proposals, design documents and game scripts. It also features:
* a foreword by Sandy Petersen (co-creator of the pen and paper RPG Call of Cthulhu, and hit computer games like Age of Empires, Doom, and Quake
*Interviews with the designers of bestselling RPGs including Might & Magic, Ultima Online, Neverwinter Nights, and Pools of Radiance II: Ruins of Myth Drannor.
* Actual design examples drawn from hit games including Deus Ex, Fallout, Stonekeep, Nox, and Betrayal at Krondor.
About the authors:
Neal Halford has been a professional game designer for over 12 years and has led the creation of several best-selling computer role-playing titles including Betrayal at Krondor, Planet's Edge, Might & Magic III: Isles of Terra, and Dungeon Siege. He is currently the lead designer on a new real time strategy game under development at Rapid Eye Entertainment in San Diego, California. You can learn more about Neal from his website at http://Neal.Hallford.com
Jana Hallford started out as an art critic and then moved on to public relations and marketing. She has spent over five years promoting books and authors for an international publishing company. Jana has also supplied background material for two Sci-Fi Channel specials and has spoken at science fiction and fantasy conventions in the U.S.. and the U.K.
June 20th, 2002, 05:28 PM
Sounds like a boring read to me. If u want to make ur own rpg to play with ur mates, go make one up- u don't need to read thru a few hundred pages of drivel
And how computer games get made- there are very good websites for those who are interested. But apart from the computer specific stuff, a good DM/GM/referee who's done a small amount of research can make a good adventure/plot for a computer game.
June 20th, 2002, 05:35 PM
Didn't realise u wrote it- but I'm not giong to withdraw my comment now I've written it
June 20th, 2002, 07:42 PM
Everyone's entitled to their opinion, Fluffy. :) But the reason that Jana and I wrote the book was to help dispel outsider's misconceptions about the industry, including some of the ones you expoused in your post.
Until "Swords & Circuitry," most of the books available on the topic of "game design" spent hundreds of pages devoted to programming, which I can assure you has absolutely NOTHING to do with a game designer's job. What I do on a daily basis, and HAVE done for the past twelve years as the lead designer on several best-selling computer RPGs, is use skills which are much more similiar to those of a film director, screenplay writer, theme park designer, and cultural anthropologist all rolled into one job. While there are several places on the net that you can pick up assorted information about making games, very little gives you any solid information specific to the computer RPG market, and without question no one has ever put all of the technical and creative information you need to make it in this industry into one book before "Swords & Circuitry" came along. We are the first, and so far only, book specifically tailored to helping game designers prepare for a career as a computer RPG designer.
Understand that playing lots of pen and paper RPGs won't help you become a good computer game designer...I know, because that's something I had to learn myself. There's a very big gap between doing something for your buddies and creating a wholly self-contained world that will sell millions of copies in a dozen different languages. That's one of the reasons we wrote the book. Every year I get hundreds of applications from wanna-be game designers who have the same misconceptions, and it's painful when I have to turn these people down simply because they lack the basic knowledge they need to successfuly mesh their creativity with the demands of multi-billion dollar industry.
No one out there needs to buy "Swords & Circuitry" if they just want to goof around and create games as a hobby, but if they want to transition into a full-time career as a game designer who can make slick-looking, addictive games that millions of players buy and enjoy, then our book is the best place in the world to start learning.
June 20th, 2002, 10:40 PM
Pardon my english during the next post
no one has ever put all of the technical and creative information you need to make it in this industry into one book before "Swords & Circuitry" came along
That's a bold statement- bet u've missed something ;)
'We are the first, and so far only, book specifically tailored to helping game designers prepare for a career as a computer RPG designer'.
That's a very specific niche ur aiming for there isn't it- i can't see many sales of this book, especially if ur aiming it at people going for computer RPGs and not game design in general.
'creating a wholly self-contained world'- isn't that what a lot of the fantasy and science fiction writers do who inhabit these boards.
slick-looking- (had to make this point) - too many of the rpgs released are syle over subsance. What I'm saying about the people who play rpgs with their mates is this- plz start with a decent plot, and don't try and sell it with reliance on the graphics and the technology alone (which is what a lot of the current 'professional game designers' seem to be doing- good pics on the back of the box/on screens in shops do sell better than crap pics, but once the thrill of the graphics wear off have a decent game underneath it plz). 'playing lots of pen and paper RPGs won't help you become a good computer game designer'- maybee, maybee not- however, games are meant to be fun underneath all that razmataz, and playing lots of pen and paper rpgs- well most experienced GMs can tell in advance what's fun and what's not. Fun will give u those rave reviews, helping to sell the game.
June 21st, 2002, 04:54 AM
Howdy again, Fluffy,
"That's a bold statement- bet u've missed something"
Not all that bold, actually. All that means is that no one has ever bothered to try to put all these resources in one place. I've had many of my competitors---i.e. the fellows who have written some of the other books on game design---write and tell me that they'd wished they had managed to get as much detail into their books as what we accomplished in "Swords & Circuitry." If you get someplace first, there's nothing wrong in acknowledging that. I'm not saying that no one else will ever do a more thorough or complete job, but there simply isn't any other book out there that covers all these topics between two covers. We saw a hole in the market, and we filled it. That's just what any competent book author does.
"That's a very specific niche ur aiming for there isn't it- i can't see many sales of this book, especially if ur aiming it at people going for computer RPGs and not game design in general. "
Yes, it is a genre book, but writing a genre specific title for computer games is no weirder than writing a book on how to write science fiction novels or how to write mystery novels. And yet, if you check out the Reference section at your local bookstore, there a dozens of titles out there that address those very specific topics. The reason there was a NEED for a book like S&C is that there were a few books that talked about creating game systems, but didn't talk about how to create convincing fantasy worlds. There were other handfuls that talked about how to write interactive screenplays, but didn't talk about how to balance gameplay. Role-playing games are hands- down the most complex type of experience to create for computers, and there needed to be a book that addressed how all this stuff needed to mesh together. No other book has ever done that.
And as for the sales of the book, we're one of the top selling books in one of the best-selling series on game development, so I can't say being a genre specific title has hurt us all that much. If anything, it saved us from being a book that's so generic it doesn't say anything useful.
"creating a wholly self-contained world'- isn't that what a lot of the fantasy and science fiction writers do who inhabit these boards."
First off, there are certainly several sf & fantasy authors who read these boards, but I'd venture to say that just as many people who visit here are readers as opposed to writers of science fiction and fantasy. Alot of people have an interest in worldbuilding whether it be for computer games or more traditional media, and it is for these people that Swords & Circuitry was written. It is a book for people who are just getting started as computer RPG designers, and who may or may not have a background in professional fantasy worldbuilding techniques. We fill in those blanks, plus provide insights in how those things change when you introduce them into an interactive format.
Secondly, just because some of the readers of this post may have had experience worldbuilding for novels or movies doesn't mean they're necessarily familiar with the techniques they need to create fully interactive, persistent universes. Raymond E. Feist is undoubtably one of the best fantasy writers around, but he left the job of making his story and universe interactive up to me and the rest of the team at Dynamix when we created the best-selling computer RPG, Betrayal at Krondor. It requires another step of complexity when you start having to treat stories as meshes of interactive rules. More authors than you know have taken a crack at game design and failed miserably when they began to realize that they couldn't just tie a rope around a player's neck and force them around. Screenwriters and book authors tend to be so tied to narrative visions that they fail to understand how to create worlds that really WORK when you start looking at it from more than one angle. That isn't to say that most authors couldn't do the job...many could...but it does require that they learn about the problem of worldbuilding from the standpoint of persistent functionality, not narrative determinism.
"slick-looking- (had to make this point) - too many of the rpgs released are syle over subsance. What I'm saying about the people who play rpgs with their mates is this- plz start with a decent plot, and don't try and sell it with reliance on the graphics and the technology alone (which is what a lot of the current 'professional game designers' seem to be doing- good pics on the back of the box/on screens in shops do sell better than crap pics, but once the thrill of the graphics wear off have a decent game underneath it plz)."
Oh, I agree with you most whole-heartedly. And that's really a big point of the book. It's about teaching people about the mechanics of gameplay, and creating good stories, and building functional worlds. But at the same time, a game designer who has any hope of making a living in this business also has to be aware of certain realities of the biz. At the end of the day, you have to know how to make a game that's going to make money, or otherwise you've just thrown away a couple of million dollars of an investor's cash. Do that more than once and you don't work anymore. What you'll find in S&C is information on how you make that great game with terrific gameplay, good story, but also something that's going to have the commercial backbone that's going to allow it to do well in the marketplace.
'playing lots of pen and paper RPGs won't help you become a good computer game designer'- maybee, maybee not- however, games are meant to be fun underneath all that razmataz, and playing lots of pen and paper rpgs- well most experienced GMs can tell in advance what's fun and what's not. Fun will give u those rave reviews, helping to sell the game.
Well, let me tell ya something, I've played just as many boring scenarios with very experienced and talented pen and paper GMs as I have good ones. :D It's one thing to impress your five best friends for a few hours at a shot, but it's another matter altogether when your work has to withstand the critique of thousands or millions of players slamming through a hundred hours of material. Computer game designers have to compete with every other computer game designer on the market which means FUN is always the thing that's at the top of our lists. If your local GM flubs up a game, he'll get a bag of chips thrown at him. If we flub up a multi-million dollar game, we'll get thousands of angry letters, and there's even a good chance we'll have to go looking for a new job. There's nothing like missing a paycheck to motivate you to always think about how much fun the player is going to have. That's something that a pen and paper experience is not going to teach you about. You won't learn about how you need to schedule and motivate a team of twenty or more people. Pen and paper experience will not teach you how to create artificial intelligence algorithms for monsters. Those are things you'll only learn about while working on a computer RPG, and those are just some of the lessons that S&C teaches you.
In any case, we're getting far off the intended topic of this thread. In conclusion, let me be emphastically clear in saying that I do in fact love pen & paper RPGs. Call of Cthulhu, Dungeons & Dragons, and Traveller have all been ongoing inspirations for me. I am not saying here, nor do I say in the book, that computer games are in any way superior or inferior to pen & paper games, but only that these two game genres are cousins, not clones of one another. Having a great deal of experience in one will not instantly translate into valuable knowledge about the other. That's where Swords & Circuitry comes in. It's meant as a guide to help traditional GMs make the leap into computer driven experiences, and to help computer game players transition from hobbists to professionals.
If you really want to debate the merits of the book any further, I'd recommend that you actually read it. :D Wildly theorizing about how good or useful Swords & Circuitry is without ever cracking the covers is a little like judging pies without ever tasting them: it's a fruitless exercize. That isn't going to be helpful to any of the people for whom this thread was started, namely individuals who want to know more about the book itself or the signing. Thanks for all your thoughtful comments though!
June 21st, 2002, 09:22 AM
It must have taken u ages to write that :eek:
But if u don't mind- i won't pick up the book- i play the games, but am not interested in making them- and i think my money would be better spent on beer at this stage in my life .:cool:
June 24th, 2002, 02:32 PM
However... there may be some members of the forum whom may be intrested... if you are not Fluffy Bunny okay...
However Nealiios... we usually only allow self promotion for profit in the Announcements section... but I am reluctant to move this to that section because I realise you are aiming at a niche market...
But do keep up the good work!!! :D
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