Week 6 Book and documentary reviews

Book’s that have inspired and informed my imagination, creativity and creation in Development practice. This is not a complete list of my reading material during Development Practice.

The Freelancer Bible (2012) – Essential reading for anyone looking to begin offering their knowledge, skills and experience as a freelancer. Horowitz, S. and Toni Sciarra Poynter (2012) don’t ask you to take up hard-sell tactics and become something you’re not – anyone can be a freelancer in their own style. As someone who has been offering freelance services in writing, photography and recently WordPress portfolio design – the words are invaluable.

Fig 1. Ori and the Blind Forest. 2017. No title [screenshot]

How Games Move us (2016) How Games Move us analyses a series of examples of how games connect emotionally with the player. “This is a renaissance moment for video games — in the variety of genres they represent, and the range of emotional territory they cover” (Campbell 2016). The emotional connection between player and games developer is a key element to successful game design.

“Katherine Isbister has long been one of the most important scholars of games—and certainly the most empathic” (Campbell 2016).

In Chapter 4, Isbister discusses “Bridging Distance to create Intimacy and Connection” (Isbister 2017: 130). She explains “if we all decide what we want games to do for our children and our society, the game designers hold unique tools for helping create subtle forms of connection and support” (Isbister 2017: 130). Katherine Isbister makes a point about the importance of games that discuss emotional intelligence, experiences and How Games Move us.

Understanding Comics (2017) A comic book about understanding comic books. I am a comic book dabbler, not a hardcore fan but learning McCloud’s definition of a comic book and how we see comics brightens up my day.

Blood Sweat and Pixels (2017) One of my favourite chapters in Blood Sweat and Pixels is ‘Stardew Valley‘. Barone explains that after years of working on Stardew Valley:

“I thought at some point that I was almost done with this game, ” Barone said, “but then my mind changed and I thought, “Ok, this isn’t ready” (Schreier 2017: 71).

I care deeply about what I put out into the world and I admire Barone’s commitment to his creative vision, not wanting to release his project in any state he isn’t happy with.

Fig 2. Stardew Valley. 2020. No title [screenshot]

“Barone remade all the sprites. He redrew the characters’ portraits. He scrapped core features, like the procedurally generated section of the game’s underground mine, and he rewrote large pieces of code to make Stardew Valley run more smoothly” (Schreier 2017: 71).

Stardew Valley is an in-depth game, where you rebuild a farm and cultivate relationships. Barone saw huge success, that he struggled to come to terms with “I’m just a guy that got lucky” (Schreier 2017: 83).

Another passage I enjoyed comes from the Shovel Knight creators. “Shovel Knight would be their Mario, but that wasn’t enough. Velasco wanted them to make another franchise that was as iconic as The Legend of Zelda” an amazing franchise, “this might have sounded delusional” but Schreier walked past the “ornate statue depicting a horned blue knight with a shovel in one hand,” and “it somehow didn’t seem that absurd” (Schreier 2017: 192).

To create a game, you have to have an absurd idea, a self-belief, to do something mad like start a games studio, pour your Blood Sweat and Pixels into it and hope for the best.

Being Agile in Business (2015) Belinda Waldock’s Being Agile in Business was essential reading through Development Practice. Waldock makes Agile methodologies accessible.

The Art of Point and Click (2020) “Adventure gaming, fallow for so many of the post-millennial years, is not only back but arguably more vibrant than ever before” (Gary Whitta 2020). Point and Click is having a comeback! The Art of Point and Click is a nostalgic trip through the history of Point and Click games which has kept me focused on what I started all this for, I want to create.

What If? (1993) During Week 2 and 3, we covered techniques and processes in creativity and prototyping. What If, is my favourite go-to for inspirational ideas – while it is aimed at creative writers, the exercises and tips can apply to many situations, including games design.

Fig 3. Richard Williams. 2020. No title [animation]

The Animator’s Survival Kit (2009) So far, I have used The Animator’s Survival Kit as a reference to “do my own expression” (Williams 2009: 9). The book was recommended by a friend who studied a BA in Animation, who described it as an essential guide. My friend was right.

Fashionpedia: The Visual Dictionary of Fashion Design (2017) A reference for designing costumes and clothes for characters. Shayleen Hulbert recommended the book at Develop: Brighton 2020, where she emphasised the importance of knowing your fashion history before designing or modelling a character in an uncomfortable clash of cultures, time periods and by-gone trends.

Hades: Developing Hell (2018) Noclip follow Supergiant Games through the early access development of their now huge hit game Hades, and we get an inside look into how they incorporate feedback, make decisions and build the rouge-like dungeon crawler.

“We’re embedding with Supergiant Games for the duration of Hades’ early access development” (Noclip Media 2018).

Fig 4. Supergiant games. 2020. Hades Launch [screenshot]
Fig 5. Noclip. 2018. No title [photograph by noclip]

You see bugs, feedback from the team for the team, and fine-tuning gameplay. Some of my favourite parts of the documentary are where you can see the ‘live’ decisions and ideas to change elements of the game, like Hade’s death scene with the ‘blood effect’.

My favourite quote from Hades: Developing Hell (2018) comes from Greg Kasavin (Writing & Design):

“We’ve always wanted to help show how games are created to help introduce folks to the idea that game development, while fraught with challenges, is not magic…

We hope, in developing in the public eye… it helps some folks out there on their own journeys to discovering where they stand with respect to wanting to be game makers, I on a personal level hope that happens… since thats how I got into it myself” (Noclip Media 2018).

At one stage game development looked a lot like magic to me. Without games studios and creators like Supergiant Games sharing their work, I might never have found the confidence to try. So thank you, Greg Kasavin and everyone who is sharing how they make magic.

List of figures

Figure 1. Ori and the Blind Forest. 2017. No titile [screenshot] Ori and the Blind Forest [online]. Available at: https://www.orithegame.com/blind-forest/ [accessed 1 December 2020].

Figure 2. Stardew Valley. 2020. No title [screenshot] Stardew Valley [online]. Available at: https://www.stardewvalley.net/ [accessed 1 December 2020].

Figure 3. Richard Williams. 2020. No title [animation] The animator’s survival kit [online]. Available at: http://www.theanimatorssurvivalkit.com/ [accessed 1 December 2020].

Figure 4. Supergiant Games. 2020. Hades Launch [screenshot] Supergiant Games [online]. Available at: https://www.supergiantgames.com/games/hades/ [accessed 1 December 2020].

Figure 5. Noclip. 2018. No title [photograph by Noclip] Noclip [online]. Available at: https://www.noclip.video/hades [accessed 1 December 2020].


BERNAYS, Anne and Pamela PAINTER. 1993. What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. 1. ed., [7. repr.]. New York, NY: HarperPerennial.

CAMPBELL, Colin. 2016. ‘Emotion, manipulation and the future of game design’. Polygon 30 March [online]. Available at: https://www.polygon.com/2016/3/30/11319406/emotions-video-games [accessed 6 December 2020].

Fashionpedia: The Visual Dictionary of Fashion Design. 2017. Hong Kong: Fashionary.

Hades. 2020. Supergiant Games.

HOROWITZ, Sara and Toni Sciarra POYNTER. 2012. The Freelancer’s Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams on Your Terms. New York: Workman Publishing Co.

ISBISTER, Katherine. 2017. How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design. First MIT Press paperback edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England: The MIT Press.

MCCLOUD, Scott. 2017. Understanding Comics. Reprint. New York: William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.

Noclip. 2018. Hades: Developing Hell. [documentary]. Available at: https://www.noclip.video/hades [accessed 22 Dec 2020].

SCHREIER, Jason. 2017. Blood, sweat, and pixels : the triumphant, turbulent stories behind how video games are made. New York: Harper.

Stardew Valley. 2016. Concerned Ape.

WALDOCK, Belinda. 2015. Being Agile in Business: Discover Faster, Smarter, Leaner Ways to Succeed at Work. Harlow, United Kingdom: Pearson.

WILLIAMS, Richard. 2009. The Animator’s Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators. 1. American expanded paperback ed. New York, NY: Faber and Faber.