Game Feel by Steve Swink Review

 

As I’ve spent most of this week just reading the book Game Feel: A Game Designer’s guide to Virtual Sensation by Steve Swink (2008) (The other was poking Johan to write articles and animate) to understand what the current game dev knowledge is there about Game Feel. As I’m now am pretty much done reading the book I think it’s only fair that I talk about what I think about it.

Game Feel

The first chapter starts explaining the Three building blocks of Game Feel. I found this very interesting and is probably the concept explained in the book I will use the most in the future. If you want to read more about that I wrote a post about it earlier. After that it tries to explain how it works on a more psychological level and then creates a model around it.

After around 100 pages the book splits up the building blocks in smaller metrics with chapters around topics like “Input”, “Context” and “Metaphor”. It’s also gives examples how you could measure/figure out when something works or not works.  I found this quite helpful especially as it breaks down the concepts if you just want to check about the metric you currently working on.

After that he examines different games that he feel has good game feel. Most of these are older time tested games with good game feel like Asteroids and Super Mario Bros and he explains quite well why they feel good. One of the games that stood out however among the examples is a free game he developed called Velociraptor Safari. As he was a dev in that project there makes it so that he can give out more accurate insights into the game feel creation process. That being said i couldn’t test it due to the current Unity Web Player not supporting 2.x games so I couldn’t test it and thus the chapter felt incomplete.

The book is written and quite easy to follow. Swink gives a lot of examples and metaphors on what he means which makes it easier to understand the feeling he currently talking about. However I can imagine that the different kind of “gamey” terms might overwhelm a person if they aren’t all that into the vocabulary in games.

He also encourages experimentation and he is well aware about that the world is situated. One thing might work for one game but just plain ripping it might not work if you don’t think why that would work and the book is well aware of that fact.  The book is less written as a cooking book and more of an stepping stone to then follow your own path with.

 

Swink uses images quite often, from abstract curves from to examples of gameplay to explain the concepts talked about in the game. These help quite a bit and gives a clearer idea what he is talking about. Many of the games that explain games are hand-drawn and clear so when screenshots pop it it feels kinda weird as they are tiny and hard to see what’s going on.

The book has also a website linked to the book with some playable examples that you can download from the site. The idea is great as sometimes it can be hard to understand how something feels by just words but it could been executed better. Half of the examples refereed in the book isn’t up on the site and the ones that are could have been more fleshed out.

Another problem with the book is that it’s kinda aged as it was published 2009. That might not sound like much but in the video game industry that is an entire console cycle so ideas and methods can change a lot. It tries to be not be too constricted by writing about the current but it appears every now and then. The last example for an example is all about the “future” of game feel but most of those ideas still kinda stand today. That is at least not as bad as another game dev book i read that said that making a game based on what the developer themselves wants would not be profitable and mobile games is a niche market with very low fidelity graphics….. yeahh…

Do i recommend it? Yes, yes I do! Game Feel is something not talked about all that much in the game considering how much impact it does to the experience. While it is written from a game designers perspective it talk about insights that can help both artists and programmers, heck if you are an enthusiast/reviewer of games it could help you explain what does/doesn’t work with different controllers better than “This game has bad controls”. That being said it would be good if the book got a new edition in the future to fix so all the examples worked. The text however stands relevant still today so I still feel that it worth having a look.

/ Fredrik

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Game Feel by Steve Swink Review

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