Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Review: Casual Game Design, by Gregory Trefry

"Casual Game Design" reads a bit like a textbook or perhaps a degree thesis. The vocabulary isn't difficult, and from time to time there is a bit of humor, but the content in a bit dry, analytical and repetitive. The designer of casual games can probably still learn from this book because it formalizes how to think about the various game mechanics that are successful in casual games.

Chapter 1 defines the core difference between casual games and hardcore games. It analyzes Windows Solitaire and Bedazzled.

Chapter 2 gives a detailed look at the roles of video game designers and board game designers. There is a focus on thinking carefully about the rules that form the foundation of the game, and how to turn those rules into software specifications. The author also talks about how to design the game levels. Chapter 2 and 3 are probably the most interesting parts of the book, as they spell out some foundational theories of how to make games enjoyable.

Chapter 3 discusses simplicity, complexity, the types of "play" that are encoded in games, and how to delineate the intrinsic qualties of a game versus the extrinsic qualities.

The rest of the chapters focus on one type of game mechanic, and analyze various exemplar games for each mechanic. This is where the book gets most analytical and repetitive.

Chapter 4 examines the mechanic of matching, and analyzes the games Bejeweled, LEGO Fever, Luxor, and Snood.
Chapter 5 examines the mechanic of sorting, and analyzes the games Klondike Solitaire, Spider Solitaire, Drop 7, Wurdle, Bookworm, and Jojo's Fashion Show.
Chapter 6 focuses on seeking, by analyzing Mystery Case Files: Huntsville, and Azada.
Chapter 7's theme is Managing, and analyzes Diner Dash, Cake Mania, Insaniquarium, and Flight Control.
Chapter 8 examines hitting, by analyzing Whac-a-mole and Wii Tennis.
Chapter 9 discusses chaining, and focuses on Diner Dash (again).
Chapter 10 is about the mechanic of constructing, and looks at Tetris, Crayon Physics, Line Rider, and Top Chef.
Chapter 11 examines bouncing, tossing, rolling and stacking, by looking at Bow Man 2, Paper Toss, Jenga, World of Goo, and Peggle.
Chapter 12 is about the mechanic of socializing, and analyzes Apples to Apples, Rock Band, and What to Wear.

This book isn't really for the casual designer of casual games (those who just slap something together), but more for those who want to take a thoughtful and disciplined approach to applying the theory of fun. There is good theory information in here, borne out by case studies of actual games; I took away a star because the writing gets repetitive and boring at times.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love readding, and thanks for your artical. ........................................