Blood, Sweat, and Pixels
Developing video games—hero's journey or fool's errand? The creative and technical logistics that go into building today's hottest games can be more harrowing and complex than the games themselves, often seeming like an endless maze or a bottomless abyss. In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Jason Schreier takes readers on a fascinating odyssey behind the scenes of video game development, where the creator may be a team of 600 overworked underdogs or a solitary geek genius. Exploring the artistic challenges, technical impossibilities, marketplace demands, and Donkey Kong-sized monkey wrenches thrown into the works by corporate, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels reveals how bringing any game to completion is more than Sisyphean—it's nothing short of miraculous.Taking some of the most popular, bestselling recent games, Schreier immerses readers in the hellfire of the development process, whether it's RPG studio Bioware's challenge to beat an impossible schedule and overcome countless technical nightmares to build Dragon Age: Inquisition; indie developer Eric Barone's single-handed efforts to grow country-life RPG Stardew Valley from one man's vision into a multi-million-dollar franchise; or Bungie spinning out from their corporate overlords at Microsoft to create Destiny, a brand new universe that they hoped would become as iconic as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings—even as it nearly ripped their studio apart. Documenting the round-the-clock crunches, buggy-eyed burnout, and last-minute saves, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is a journey through development hell—and ultimately a tribute to the dedicated diehards and unsung heroes who scale mountains of obstacles in their quests to create the best games imaginable.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels Details

TitleBlood, Sweat, and Pixels
Author
ReleaseSep 5th, 2017
PublisherHarper Paperbacks
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Games, Video Games, Gaming, Sports and Games, Business, Science, Technology

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels Review

  • Tim O'Hearn
    January 1, 1970
    I picked this book up for one reason: to learn why Diablo 3 was such a let down. I vaguely remembered a well-known developer posting "F*** that loser" on Facebook in reference to a past contributor criticizing the new game and that being a big deal. I really hoped to get the full story behind what went on there. Speculation on Blizzard's next Diablo venture would have been cool, too. Really, I would have read a book entirely about the Diablo franchise.By the time I got to the Diablo 3 section, I I picked this book up for one reason: to learn why Diablo 3 was such a let down. I vaguely remembered a well-known developer posting "F*** that loser" on Facebook in reference to a past contributor criticizing the new game and that being a big deal. I really hoped to get the full story behind what went on there. Speculation on Blizzard's next Diablo venture would have been cool, too. Really, I would have read a book entirely about the Diablo franchise.By the time I got to the Diablo 3 section, I was enamored by Jason Schreier's writing. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I knew little about any of the games developed aside from their names. That is, aside from recollection of my reaction to the Halo Wars announcement: "Something fishy is going on here." I'm so far behind the times that when Schreier kindly mentioned that Diablo 2's mechanics had been antiquated by more modern games, I honestly had no idea what games he was referring to. I need to get out more. This is a saying which, when extended to the realm of gaming, means the exact opposite.I ended each chapter totally stoked for each game (and will probably buy Stardew Valley this weekend). What makes Jason such an effective writer for this subject matter is that he doesn't come off as a geek. I don't know how else to say it. He can communicate the joy of gaming to people that haven't experienced it- ever. In my case, he brought back memories that were long forgotten.As an aspiring project manager and journeyman engineer, I found each tale of taking product to market fascinating. It's a few steps away from a business case study. Does the prevalence of "crunch time" become excessive? Yes, but it sounds like a lot of fun to me. The way that the teams are formed and how they deal with requirements passed down from the top of the organization could have been explained in greater detail, in fact. Great video games are culturally significant treasures, much like artwork or a fine wine. Just kidding about the wine. Capturing what has gone into some of the masterpieces of our time that transcends the underlying subject is important and exciting. I really enjoyed the book.
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  • Erik
    January 1, 1970
    Dear Goodreads Father, forgive me, for I have sinned: I love video games as much as I love books. It's true, I put them on an equal level. I know it is blasphemy, but I cannot help this corruption of my heart. Truth is, I love anything with a story, no matter the medium. Film, TV, books, video games, the secret hearts of strangers... But, yes, video games, the newest and most immature of these media and therefore the one with the most room for growth. I have been there from nearly the beginning Dear Goodreads Father, forgive me, for I have sinned: I love video games as much as I love books. It's true, I put them on an equal level. I know it is blasphemy, but I cannot help this corruption of my heart. Truth is, I love anything with a story, no matter the medium. Film, TV, books, video games, the secret hearts of strangers... But, yes, video games, the newest and most immature of these media and therefore the one with the most room for growth. I have been there from nearly the beginning and have watched it bloom from pixellated graphics, childish themes, and simplistic mechanics to what we have today, a rich diverse field of wondrous flowers, some merely a joy for the senses to behold but others exploring the stories of humanity in a new, more active way.I've watched the culture OF gaming grow too. I remember the days when being a gamer made you a GEEK, a NERD. TV & film invariably depicted gamers as ultra-nerds and outcasts (think Stranger Things’ depiction of the kids). They weren’t wrong, exactly, but still, what made this hobby of mine inferior to the hobby of people gathering around a TV to watch grown men toss around a ball?I didn't know and, for me, gaming felt a secret shame, some hints of which I feel to this day.I remember, too, the first time I played an online game, in the late 90s. My uncle showed me a WW2 airplane dog-fighting game, and it blew my mind! People from all over the world connected to play with each other in real time, to engage together anonymously in this secret hobby of ours. In that moment, in my mind, the world was made irrevocably smaller. Ever after, I found the idea of borders and countries rather quaint. I could have no hate, no out-group bias, toward those of other countries, for such distance was but a light-speed hop and skip through the fields of the Internet.Point is, I’m a huge fan of video games, so I thoroughly enjoyed Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, which gives a concise but intimate peek into the development - and most particularly, the developers - of some of the most popular games of the past decade. It’s all too easy to forget that behind these fantastical, otherworldly creations are artists who have sacrificed heavily to turn their vision into reality. That’s probably why my favorite chapters were about the indie teams or studios, like those behind Shovel Knight, Stardew Valley, and Pillars of Eternity. Their stories are all inspiring triumphant under-dog stories.This is especially gratifying to me because I backed (on Kickstarter) the original Double Fine Adventure, despite absolutely hating adventure games, *solely* to demonstrate the viability of developer studios making games independently, without a publisher. The democratization of game development, if you will. So it was highly pleasing to me to read how Obsidian was inspired by the success of DFA to make their own Kickstarter for the isometric cRPG, Pillars of Eternity. Kinda feels like I helped make that possible, y’know?With that said, I don't think any particular knowledge or engagement of video games is necessary to understand this book, as it’s written quite simply and many video game terms and systems are explained for those who may not know them. At the same time, there's no denying that a familiarity with video games does help one appreciate this book.For example, one of the chapters is on Diablo III, and this chapter focuses heavily on the RMAH (Real Money Auction House). Before release, myself & others lobbied Blizzard to remove this system from their game because it would create a conflict-of-interest: the designers would need to make loot sparse and unsatisfying, in order to funnel players towards the RMAH. You never want that - adding tedium and inconvenience, just so people will pay to avoid it. That's bad design. Maybe even unethical, in its exploitation of people's addictive tendencies. Of course, Blizzard ignored us. And surprise, surprise! we turned out to be correct, and the RMAH was eventually removed, a process that is touched upon in this book. So I have a lot of history that made reading this book a bit like seeing Wizard of Oz behind his curtain.In summary, it’s easy to recommend this book to anyone who is a gamer, whether they’re specifically familiar with the games or not (There’s ten chapters/games: Diablo 3; Destiny; Witcher 3; Halo Wars; Uncharted 4; Shovel Knight; Star Wars 1313; Pillars of Eternity; Dragon Age: Inquisition; & Stardew Valley). For those who aren’t gamers, it’s still a light, humanizing read about an industry that is swiftly becoming a juggernaut and may even one day become the King of Story.
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  • Rob
    January 1, 1970
    Executive Summary: I think this book can appeal to both software developers and fans of video games alike, but it's definitely targeted more at the latter than the former. Full Review This book was previewed with an excerpt from the chapter on Diablo 3 (which incidentally is the ONLY game in this book that I've actually played/plan to play). When I was younger I wanted to make video games. Somewhere along the way however I felt like I'd rather spend my time PLAYING games instead of making them. Executive Summary: I think this book can appeal to both software developers and fans of video games alike, but it's definitely targeted more at the latter than the former. Full Review This book was previewed with an excerpt from the chapter on Diablo 3 (which incidentally is the ONLY game in this book that I've actually played/plan to play). When I was younger I wanted to make video games. Somewhere along the way however I felt like I'd rather spend my time PLAYING games instead of making them. This book helps to illustrate why. I work 40 hours/week as a software developer. There have been days or weeks where I had to stay late, or when things went sideways and I was fighting a fire. But nothing like the "crunch" described in every single story in this book.It's a wonder games get made at all. These people must really love making games. Personally, I'll stick to writing business apps for my day jobs and keeping video games something I consume.I've read some better/more in-depth books about video games, but this made for a decent sampler with a variety of stories. It was a quick read, with each game getting a single chapter of about 20-30 pages each.Each story in here is unique enough to be interesting, but they do all share a theme of things running over budget, behind schedule and requiring insane hours/overtime to finish at all. You get some stories of indie games, and huge big budget games and a few in between.The tone is definitely more for fans of games, and not (potential) developers. Anything even slightly technical seems to be explained in a footnote that I often skipped, but I imagine will be useful to most readers. I didn't find that to be the detriment of the book however, as despite also being a software developer, I'm a fan of video games.Of all of these stories, the Stardew Valley one was probably the most interesting. I had mostly picked this up to read the rest of the Diablo 3 story (so good job on that marketing Kotaku!), but I liked reading about all of these games.I think if you're a fan of any of these games, or just a big fan of videogames in general, this is a pretty good read.
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  • Fiona
    January 1, 1970
    I can't say it really taught me a whole lot about game development, apart from I wouldn't want to do it due to all that "crunch" time. Basically, people come up with an idea, there is a few problems along the way which are mostly all the same kinda thing - technical issues, often publishers wanting to hurry a game out (Dragon Age 2) and then horrendous crunch time. Perhaps it would have been more interesting if he'd looked at game development as a whole, rather than breaking it down into chapter I can't say it really taught me a whole lot about game development, apart from I wouldn't want to do it due to all that "crunch" time. Basically, people come up with an idea, there is a few problems along the way which are mostly all the same kinda thing - technical issues, often publishers wanting to hurry a game out (Dragon Age 2) and then horrendous crunch time. Perhaps it would have been more interesting if he'd looked at game development as a whole, rather than breaking it down into chapters about individual games, because each chapter was rather repetitive and really only interesting if I'd played the game, or at least had interest. I skipped a couple of chapters - Shovel Night and Destiny, two games I have zero interest in playing.I bought this book mainly because it featured a chapter on Dragon Age Inquistion. Dragon Age to me is like... the Harry Potter of the game world. I love it, I still live it quite intensely in my imagination. After the failure that was Mass Effect Andromeda I wanted to understand really how things worked behind the scenes and what could cause such a highly respected game series to come out with such a massive flop. It did answer a few of those questions as did Schreier's article on Andromeda. However it wasn't really what I was expecting. A lot of this kind of information could have been gleamed from the Internet quite easily.Maybe I was expecting too much - he could hardly go into any technical issues with any detail without alienating readers who (like myself) don't understand programming or all that technical stuff. Overall, interesting but not really worth spending the money on.
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  • fonz
    January 1, 1970
    Cuando uno entra al típico foro de videojuegos no es raro llevarse la impresión de que la masa consumidora de ocio electrónico está compuesta de críos malcriados que, desde el desconocimiento de conceptos básicos del mundo laboral, la economía e incluso la vida real, despotrican con vehemencia de las desarrolladoras del objeto de sus desvelos. Es como si fueran niños pequeños jugando a castillos en la arena, quejándose del clima y las mareas de un inmenso océano cuyos entresijos desconocen. Pues Cuando uno entra al típico foro de videojuegos no es raro llevarse la impresión de que la masa consumidora de ocio electrónico está compuesta de críos malcriados que, desde el desconocimiento de conceptos básicos del mundo laboral, la economía e incluso la vida real, despotrican con vehemencia de las desarrolladoras del objeto de sus desvelos. Es como si fueran niños pequeños jugando a castillos en la arena, quejándose del clima y las mareas de un inmenso océano cuyos entresijos desconocen. Pues bien, este libro debería ser lectura obligada para todos ellos, es ameno, es informativo y te explica perfectamente las enormes vicisitudes que conlleva sacar adelante un proyecto complejísimo como es un videojuego, quizá el producto cultural cuya elaboración mejor representa los entresijos de nuestra sociedad post-industrial. Un proceso en el que intervienen cientos de personas a lo largo de varios años, absolutamente imprevisible, un deslizarse a toda velocidad sobre el filo de una navaja sometida a multitud de fuerzas tecnológicas, económicas, comerciales, laborales y personales, un caos de partes móviles interconectadas entre sí y que, a menudo, se elabora prácticamente a ciegas y sobre la marcha.En el debe, pues quizá para el ya iniciado resulte algo superficial, dada la naturaleza de una obra concebida como la recopilación de varios artículos de divulgación periodística sobre el desarrollo de diferentes videojuegos. Por poner un ejemplo, muchas veces se nos dice que una mecánica o un diseño de niveles "no funcionan" o resultan aburridos, pero nunca se nos explica el por qué, quizá no había espacio para estas cuestiones más técnicas. Por otro lado la selección de títulos no es especialmente variada, de diez desarrollos, tres tratan acerca de juegos de acción/aventuras tipo Uncharted y otros tres sobre RPGs, dos de ellos action-RPG en tercera persona (el género favorito del autor según confiesa en una nota al pie). No hay ningún juego deportivo, ni de carreras, ni "casual", ni de móviles, ni de lucha... Las historias también parecen escogidas según similares desarrollos narrativos un tanto melodramáticos, la historia de éxito y superación de enormes adversidades es la tónica general, salvo en el caso del desarrollo en solitario de Stardew Valley, la obsesión de un tipo que llega a absorber su vida (es muy interesante este capítulo que subraya lo ineficiente que resulta desarrollar un videojuego en solitario, aunque en este caso resultara un éxito) y la emotiva historia del fracasado Star Wars 1313, a los que quizá podríamos añadir el agridulce final de Destiny. En todo caso, y a pesar de las pegas, una lectura entretenida, informativa y recomendable.
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  • DaViD´82
    January 1, 1970
    Its a miracle that any game is made. Pokud jste seznámeni s konceptem herních post mortemů, takové „jak jsme (ne)udělali hru psané (s) vývojáři“, či dokonce některé z především gameinformer.com tu a tam i čtete, tak přesně víte do čeho jdete. Jde totiž o post mortemy (pravda s přidanou hodnotou, ale o tom později) hned několika profláknutých her. Což je jedna z hlavních výtek; autor knihy si totiž vybral dost podobné vzorky. Samozřejmě jedno je nezávislé studio financující svůj projekt skrze Kic It´s a miracle that any game is made. Pokud jste seznámeni s konceptem herních post mortemů, takové „jak jsme (ne)udělali hru psané (s) vývojáři“, či dokonce některé z především gameinformer.com tu a tam i čtete, tak přesně víte do čeho jdete. Jde totiž o post mortemy (pravda s přidanou hodnotou, ale o tom později) hned několika profláknutých her. Což je jedna z hlavních výtek; autor knihy si totiž vybral dost podobné vzorky. Samozřejmě jedno je nezávislé studio financující svůj projekt skrze Kickstarter, druhé Sony vlastněné monstr studio, třetí jednočlenný indie „tým“ apod. Ovšem vše to jsou západní typy her určené ne zcela svátečním hráčům na PC/Xbox/PS. A především jsou to vše mediálně profláknuté projekty, které navíc (s jednou specifickou výjimkou) uspěli kriticky i komerčně. Vyloženě chybí zmrvený projekt, komerční propadák, zapadlý klenot, když už tedy zaměření na ty projekty z nejsledovanějších, tak i Nintendo apod. Již zmíněný přesah tkví v tom, že autor obstojně balancuje nezaujatou investigativu, procedurální popis vývoje a osobní sympatie, je mistrem čtivé zkratky (resp. je to psané tak, že se v tom zorientuje i někdo, kdo by o hrách nevěděl ale lautr nic) a především má u všech stejný postup, ať již jde o hru po nocích bastlenou jedním týpkem či mnohaset členné studio. Díky tomu vyplují na povrch společné jmenovatele i úskalí vývoje bez ohledu na velikost či finanční zázemí. A jednoho až zarazí, jak týmy postavené z léty ostřílených veteránů stále dělají stejnou botu za botou (půlroční i delší uzávěrky "odnevidimdonevidim" v Naughty Dogs jsou naprosté selhání managementu; to už není o vášni). Ovšem ať se to autor snaží jakkoli zaonačit, tak je z toho patrné, kdo si ho pustil více k tělu a kdo ne. Což má dopad na některé kapitoly. Ve výsledku je to sice pouze takové „making of poplácávání se po zádech zbavené“, kterých je na internetech pěkných pár tuctů, ale nepopiratelně dobře napsané, přístupné spíše hráčům a široké veřejnosti než vývojářům, navíc zastřešené společným konceptem. A jakkoli jsem výběr her kritizoval, tak pravda je, že díky tomu, pokud aspoň někdy něco hrajete, si tu najde každý tu svou hru, kterou zná a které by se rád podíval pod pokličku vývoje.
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  • Caitlin
    January 1, 1970
    "One surefire way to annoy a game developer is to ask, in response to discovering his or her chosen career path, what it’s like to spend all day playing video games.”In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Jason Schreier gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at some major videogames (successes, failures and everything in between) to show what it’s like working in the video game industry. Among the games that Schreier looks at are Destiny, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, Dragon Age Inquisition and the fable "One surefire way to annoy a game developer is to ask, in response to discovering his or her chosen career path, what it’s like to spend all day playing video games.”In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Jason Schreier gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at some major videogames (successes, failures and everything in between) to show what it’s like working in the video game industry. Among the games that Schreier looks at are Destiny, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, Dragon Age Inquisition and the fabled Star Wars 1313 that never came to be. Each chapter is devoted to one of the games, often with a particular theme or lesson that came of the development of that game. As someone who has devoted a lot of hours in my life to video games, it was fascinating to get a closer look at video game development. While I knew enough to know that developers don’t just sit around playing games all day, there was a lot of the process that I wasn’t aware of. More than anything else, this book is a reality check about how many different aspects go into video game development and just how difficult that process can be. There are plenty of rewarding moments as well but Schreier doesn’t shy away from the less fun parts of the job. I have a fair number of friends who aren’t fans of Kotaku (on which Schreier is a writer) because of the clickbait aspect and some of the reporting but I’d have to say that overall, Schreier’s writing is informative and interesting, without getting too bogged down in details or opinions. I say mostly because there is a single glaring exception: Dragon Age Inquisition. I’m not sure what the point is of poking the bear that is the rage against EA but it was more than a little annoying to have Schreier spend the first few pages of the chapter talking about how ridiculous it was that gamers voted EA the worst company in the world and that people should really be nicer about how terrible Dragon Age 2 was only to then admit that the things that made gamers frustrated with it was in fact due to the timetable that EA required of Bioware. So….perhaps not so ridiculous then? It was the same kind of unnecessary pot stirring that myself and others have previously complained about with Kotaku. It was the only chapter in which I found myself irritated rather than interested. Overall, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is a great look behind the scenes of some of the biggest videogames in the last couple decades and about how video games are made in general. It presents both the triumphs and the failures of various different companies and the aims for the games that they tried to create. It’s not perfect but if you enjoy video games, it’s well worth picking up.
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  • Daniel Bastian
    January 1, 1970
    "Oh, Jason," he said. "It's a miracle that any game is made."Finally, a book that captures the complexity of game development that anyone can pick up and enjoy. Jason Schreier of Kotaku spent two years traveling around the world to score in depth interviews with the industry's most renowned gaming studios. Drawing from sources speaking both on and off the record, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels provides a rare glimpse into the pain and passion that go into bringing a modern video game to market. In ten "Oh, Jason," he said. "It's a miracle that any game is made."Finally, a book that captures the complexity of game development that anyone can pick up and enjoy. Jason Schreier of Kotaku spent two years traveling around the world to score in depth interviews with the industry's most renowned gaming studios. Drawing from sources speaking both on and off the record, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels provides a rare glimpse into the pain and passion that go into bringing a modern video game to market. In ten absorbing chapters Schreier covers the downright grueling development process behind such hits as Blizzard's Diablo III, Naughty Dog's Uncharted 4, CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3 and, of course, Bungie's Destiny.Speaking of Destiny, it was Schreier's crucial 2015 exposé that laid the groundwork for this wonderful little book. (Portions of his chapter on Destiny are taken directly from that article.) As fans of the blockbuster series will remember, that Kotaku piece brought Destiny's murky origin story to light. Importantly, it provided the necessary background for understanding how the company that gave us Halo could have produced — at least at launch — such a lackluster title. Subpar development tools, a strained relationship with publisher Activision, and the complete reboot of the story (following the departure of lead writer Joe Staten) just one year from release had a lot to do with it. As a source tells Schreier, “A lot of the problems that came up in Destiny 1...are results of having an unwavering schedule and unwieldy tools."What we learned then from Scheier's keen reporting, and what comes across as clear as day in his first book, is that making games is incredibly hard and almost impossibly demanding. Harder, perhaps, than any other creative medium. Thanks to their interactive nature and sheer potentiality, games are capable of delivering the boundless, memorable experiences we've come to love. But it's those same elements that make them such a chore to create, even for seasoned veterans. One of the designers at Obsidian (of Fallout: New Vegas fame) he interviews puts it this way: "making games is sort of like shooting movies, if you had to build an entirely new camera every time you started." Indeed, the tools and technologies used to develop the latest games are constantly in flux, as is the creative vision of the producers and directors at the top. A change in either area can prove hugely disruptive to the overall process — a process that hinges on pushing a marketable product out the door by an agreed upon deadline. It's that constant give and take between concept and technology, between developer and publisher, that defines the medium. Internal conflicts can also run a project off course. Artists and programmers might spend months, years even, sketching and coding characters, environments, quests, set pieces and combat mechanics, only to see it all thrown out as a result of higher-ups taking the game in an entirely different direction. When Naughty Dog replaced Uncharted 4's creative director Amy Hennig in 2014 — roughly two years into the game's development — the story was more or less scrapped. That meant that cut scenes, animation, and thousands of lines of recorded voicework on which the studio had already spent millions of dollars got the axe, too. For an artist emotionally invested in their work, this can be heartbreaking and demotivating.In other cases, such as the abortive Star Wars 1313, a decision by the publisher can bring it all crashing down. As Scheier recounts in the closing chapter, LucasArts, formerly a subsidiary of Lucasfilm, began work on a new action-adventure Star Wars game in 2010. The game debuted at E3 in 2012 to wide critical acclaim. Shortly afterward, the company was acquired by Disney. By 2013, Disney had shuttered the studio, and canceled every one of its projects. For all the work the dedicated crew at LucasArts poured into their pet project, Star Wars 1313 was never meant to be.Given the many technical hitches, logistical nightmares, corporate pressures, and unforeseen obstacles that threaten success, it's no small wonder that any games are shipped at all. As Schreier points out, there's hardly a game on the market today that doesn't run up against insane crunch periods and dramatic setbacks over the course of its development. Whether it's a small team working on a 2D side-scroller à la Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight or a massive effort spread across hundreds of staff in the case of BioWare's Dragon Age, producing a quality game in today's highly competitive environment is by any measure a herculean effort. Virtually every insider consulted for the book talks about how taxing the job can be on one's physical health and personal relationships. Burnout is common. And even with working around the clock for months on end — often sans overtime pay, as it's not required in the US — games rarely come out on time. Delays and cancellations are a feature, not a bug. To be sure, any successful career in game development is built on passion and an enthusiasm for creating unique playable spaces, but it's one that comes with significant costs that only the truly dedicated may be equipped to endure.Closing ThoughtsLeave it to Jason Schreier to shatter any utopic notions about game development. Behind the glossy visuals and destructible environments we take for granted on screen lies a hellish landscape of Sisyphean creative challenges and brutal working hours. As the title suggests, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels constantly reminds us that game production is as much about self-sacrifice as it is about crafting quality interactive experiences. And if these breezy oral histories are any indication, it's a principle that holds true whether you're a bootstrapped indie developer beholden to Kickstarter donors or a lowly cog in the big-budget corporate machine.Schreier is a most welcome guide, bringing more casual readers up to speed on esoteric conversations ranging from rendering paths and game engines to bug testing and content iteration times. It's a testament to his talents that the book never seems to flag, even when exploring games I didn't particularly care about. While I wish Schreier had ventured more deeply into the ethics of crunch culture, his penchant for meticulous, well researched investigative journalism is on full display here.If you have even a passing interest in gaming be sure to pick this one up. I came away with a better understanding of the personal sacrifices and creative compromises that appear to go hand in hand with making video games, and a newfound perspective on increasingly commonplace monetization strategies like paid downloadable content (PDLC) and microtransaction (MTX) systems. Above all, it left me with a more profound appreciation for my most cherished hobby.Note: This review is republished from my official website.
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  • Maurício Linhares
    January 1, 1970
    So you think your job as a software engineer sucks? Think again, you could be working on games!Nightmarish environments with total and complete lack of management, direction, tooling or even a common dictionary, a bootload of manual testing and very little feedback until you finally deliver the final game to customers. Now add a sprinkle of 100 hour weeks (yes, you will work on weekends), no overtime pay and very little financial incentive and you end up completely burned out, broke and most lik So you think your job as a software engineer sucks? Think again, you could be working on games!Nightmarish environments with total and complete lack of management, direction, tooling or even a common dictionary, a bootload of manual testing and very little feedback until you finally deliver the final game to customers. Now add a sprinkle of 100 hour weeks (yes, you will work on weekends), no overtime pay and very little financial incentive and you end up completely burned out, broke and most likely needing to visit a doctor at the end.It is indeed surprising that we do get to play games with the incredible amount of madness that is involved in making them. It's even more surprising that people continue in the industry after going through these maddening and soul sucking crunch periods and delivering sub par games that don't live up to the expectations.Including both indie and AAA games, "Blood, sweat and pixels" is a cautionary tale about the industry of games, while the heroism sagas to deliver that amazing game sound cool, they were most likely not cool for the people involved and the burnout they must have felt after it. The gaming industry definitely feels like an amateur cult, where even the most basic pieces of software engineering are thrown out for the sake of "art", whatever that is supposed to mean.Studios lack clear leadership or management. Ensemble's "Halo Wars" chapter, with 3 different teams working on 3 different games when the only thing they should be working on is "Halo Wars" borders insanity, with people employed in the company just refusing to do what they were supposed to do like spoiled teenagers, eventually leading to the end of the studio, is just one of the examples.Then you get to "Dragon Age: Inquisition", where the team decided to use the Frostbite engine but had no idea it was completely bereft of the features they would need to build an RPG (I mean, it was an FPS engine, maybe prototype and spike before you decide on it?). The team worked for more than a year "building" a game in feels only since they just could not play or do anything for real, luckily for them it worked out, but we all know the long list of games that just didn't make it.Bungie's "Destiny" and it's fraught relationship with Activision that wasn't even an issue with Activision itself, as many would like to blame. Oh, it's the big corp owning the scrappy game developer. Nope. The wounds are almost all self inflicted, lack of communication between the people doing the story and building the game, lack of an holistic view of what the game should be and the usual over-promising. As much as it's cool to blame the huge corp, as a Bungie employee said, "we had to hold ourselves accountable now that we were free of microsoft" but they just weren't doing it. They went on to fight publicly with Activision on twitter but had to redo the game completely with less than a year for the final release that and we got the story we had on Destiny 1. Given how Destiny 2 came to be, the whole drama has most likely repeated itself.Seeing the backstory of how these games are made makes me value them a bit more but also makes me sad at how the people building them are doing it mostly for passion and are getting the short end of the stick almost all the time. Amazing book!
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  • Michel Avenali
    January 1, 1970
    A revealing insightful look at the trials and tribulations that go into making some of the biggest games of today. As a gamer it was a revelation of what goes on behind the scenes of game development and how incredibly hard it is for these teams of passionate developers to create these experiences. Highly recommended if you are interested in game design and development , are a gamer yourself or wish to learn more about the industry.
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  • Juan-Pablo Scaletti
    January 1, 1970
    Depressing. Almost all stories are about teams of 50+ devs in continuous crunch mode.
  • Jesse Billet
    January 1, 1970
    This is a very well written book that I think Jason spent a lot of time on. Time that leaves me a quite a bit confused. However, I want to address some very strange misconceptions that people seem to be having having about this book. This is not some guide to game development and this book is not going to help you make your Indie game. If you're buying this book for that reason then you're going to be left disappointed. Now this is a really solid book and it's very well written but with the exce This is a very well written book that I think Jason spent a lot of time on. Time that leaves me a quite a bit confused. However, I want to address some very strange misconceptions that people seem to be having having about this book. This is not some guide to game development and this book is not going to help you make your Indie game. If you're buying this book for that reason then you're going to be left disappointed. Now this is a really solid book and it's very well written but with the exception of Star Wars 1313 and Star Dew Valley most sections of the book are complete rehashes of things any dedicated fan knows that's got it's own video or article series. Obsidian for example has always been very open and talked to anyone who would ask at length about their history as a studio and everything that led up to the release of Pillar's of Eternity (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA8Ff...) this coupled with a ton of different interviews with the likes of Eurogamer, Kotaku, PC Gamer, etc makes that whole section kind of useless in my book. Because I feel that if you care about Obsidian and Classic CRPG stuff you're already deeply aware of everything that happened with Classic Fallout to the ridiculous things that happened with New Vegas and beyond. You see it doesn't stop there though, this is one of my big issues with this book. The very next section is once again a well documented and full featured video from the very developers themselves. The Naughty Dog section focuses on the troubled development and stages that the studio went through during the production of The Last of US and well as the Last Uncharted game. Which like I said is well documented (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH5Mg...) with a ton of resources covering it because of the huge controversy that occurred at the time. Which brought up the point in my mind once again if you care about this studio or the making of said game enough to buy this book in the very first place then you as the reader are probably very aware of all this and have probably seen the video covering all the points made in the book. This is a continuing theme in the book that just makes very little practical sense to me. Bungie another storied and immensely famous studio in the video game world has covered the history of their own studio in video form several times over the years. Which can be seen [here] (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vTDw...) [here](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q69M...) which begs the question if you care enough about Bungie's story to buy this book then you've probably seen all that before or watched the DVD that came in your copy of Halo 3 or the Master Chief collection. It keeps going though because Destiny https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vTDw...Diablo 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVE7V...Witcher 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNZkT...Dragon Age https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIwU_...To a lesser extent Shovel Knight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqBMD...Every one of them has some form of the written history of the development process and/or video documentary detailing it. Making a very large portion of this book useless. Because to me if you care enough to buy this book then you care about the studios and everything that has happened to them. But if all the information that you would gleam from this book has already been made available to you (in many cases for years) then why is it in the book? The only sections of this book that don't have some detailed history of the making of process and everything that happened during development are Stardew Valley and Star Wars 1313. Now I will grant that these sections are full of wonderful insight and information that the development of these games went through. But they're really the only parts of the book that provide this that weren't already available elsewhere. To a lesser extent you could say that the Shovel Knight section is worth having since there's not a whole lot of information on what the development of that was like but it's just not really that different from anything else that you couldn't already get from watching say Indie Game The Movie and seeing what it was like during the creation of Super Meat Boy. This takes me to the crux of my problem with the book. While it is very well written and I'm sure Jason worked very hard on it there's just so much "filler" in the book. I just feel like spending time with a studio like Klei Entertainment and going over the development of Don't Starve could have been a lot more insightful instead of the Obsidian section. For a major studio wouldn't it have been better to talk to Epic about Gears of War or Turn 10 about Forza or Sony Online Entertainment about anything or Ubisoft about Assassin's Creed or Fry Cry or Rock Star about Red Dead. Particularly Rock Star because understanding the hurdles the studio went through during the very troubled development of the "barely working engine" for Red Dead would have been way better than rehashing everything we already know about Naughty Dog. I could literally list hundreds of studios that we don't know the story of how a game was made but have heard stories about how difficult it was that would have been much better choices to include in this book. Having said all this I will say that this is a solid book and if you some how have not seen the videos of everything Jason already talked about in the book or just want more info all the links are there now for you to watch. This is still a well written book and is worth your time and money I feel because even if you're like me and you already know 80% of this books content just the fact that it's out there and that more authors could bring us more books like it makes it worth your time and investment.
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  • Miguel Sanz
    January 1, 1970
    Aparte de estar muy bien escrito y narrado, este libro me ha cambiado la forma de ver los juegos y, sobre todo, su industria. Es inspirador conocer las historias de personas que aman lo mismo que tú y han conseguido sacar adelante proyectos inverosímiles de forma brillante (o fracasado estrepitosamente y, aún así, siguen al pie del cañón). Desde que empecé a leer este libro, cada vez que sale un juego me pregunto qué historia habrá detrás. Ya estoy deseando leer el siguiente de Schreier.
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  • Aali Hashim
    January 1, 1970
    I normally don't read nonfiction because it bores me, but I wanted to know more about how video games were made, and most importantly why the fuck Bungie thought their version of Destiny was worth 60 dollars plus over a 100 more in worthless DLC. So when I started reading this book, I did not expect to fall in love with Schreier's writing style. He writes each chapter (and game) as a story - from the birth of the concept to the actual execution and everything that happens in between. My first in I normally don't read nonfiction because it bores me, but I wanted to know more about how video games were made, and most importantly why the fuck Bungie thought their version of Destiny was worth 60 dollars plus over a 100 more in worthless DLC. So when I started reading this book, I did not expect to fall in love with Schreier's writing style. He writes each chapter (and game) as a story - from the birth of the concept to the actual execution and everything that happens in between. My first instinct was to read the chapters of the games I knew about and then move on to the others, but after reading the first chapter (Pillars of Eternity) I was hooked and I read the book chronologically. I loved the variety of different games he covered. There were triple A games, indie games, RPGs, FPSs, huge developers with teams of more than 100 people, small developers with no clout at all, games funded through large publishers and others funded by people through Kickstarter. Reading this book made me much more appreciative of what (most) developers do to actually make a game, and made me surprised that half the games even make it on the shelf. It seems to be a constant struggle in terms of approval for money and the time that is needed to make everything come to life. I feel like anyone who plays video games and complains about games either being delayed, or not specifying release dates needs to read this book and look at the shit that actually goes down. I started reading this as all the EA/Battlefront drama happened and when I was reading the chapter on Dragon Age, I got even more mad 😂And finally, I never knew why crunch was so controversial until I read this book, because it turns out that the employees don't get paid overtime for it in America. WTF! Pay your employees! There is no excuse for this bullshit
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  • Bon Tom
    January 1, 1970
    I'm sure it's not intentional, just unavoidable because of the topic, but this book is for gamers. It's that one book the gamers will enjoy for sure, if they don't read anything else ever. This book is incredible fun, just like the best games are. And the amount of info on what's happening behind the scenes... priceless. Also, just like it's the case with all arts, I strongly believe that increased understanding of laws that govern the production and performance also increases the amount of enjo I'm sure it's not intentional, just unavoidable because of the topic, but this book is for gamers. It's that one book the gamers will enjoy for sure, if they don't read anything else ever. This book is incredible fun, just like the best games are. And the amount of info on what's happening behind the scenes... priceless. Also, just like it's the case with all arts, I strongly believe that increased understanding of laws that govern the production and performance also increases the amount of enjoyment one can derive from consuming the said arts, or performing them. After reading this, one can never only see the pixels without indulging in mental arithmetic of raw materials of blood and sweat spilled to make them happen.That said, this book is simply a must read for anyone with even remote interest in videogames. This is one of the best books on the topic ever.
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  • Thom
    January 1, 1970
    Ten separate articles about the making of 10 particular video games, with no connecting materials or conclusions drawn. May be of interest to players of those games, but fails to live up to the cover blurbs, e.g. "A fascinating and remarkably complete pantheon."The ten games, in order, are Pillars of Eternity, Uncharted 4, Stardew Valley, Diablo III, Halo Wars, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Shovel Knight, Destiny, The Witcher 3, and Star Wars 1313. Only the last was never released. There was only a v Ten separate articles about the making of 10 particular video games, with no connecting materials or conclusions drawn. May be of interest to players of those games, but fails to live up to the cover blurbs, e.g. "A fascinating and remarkably complete pantheon."The ten games, in order, are Pillars of Eternity, Uncharted 4, Stardew Valley, Diablo III, Halo Wars, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Shovel Knight, Destiny, The Witcher 3, and Star Wars 1313. Only the last was never released. There was only a very scant conclusion with no "lessons learned", so here's what I gleaned from the stories.Making video games is harder than you think. New consoles and platforms are challenging (though no mention was made of cross platform libraries that make it a little easier). Having a big company running things makes it easier (more money) and harder (less flexible deadlines). Games ship late because of bugs. Almost all games suffer from "crunch time" (serious developer overtime to finish the game), nobody wants to do that, and it usually results from bugs.Now that I've lent Jason Schreier a concluding paragraph that at least sums up what this book is about, the worst thing I saw were the bugs. This isn't life and death quality software, but surely the libraries also come with test suites? If a particular scene is vulnerable to shots going out of bounds, surely there are "shoot every direction" bots that would test for that? Based on the stories in this book, I am appalled at the level of testing directed at video games, and the amount of developer hours it costs teams at the end of their projects.If you have played one or more of the titles listed and really want to know some of what went behind making those games, this book might be of interest to you. Since the 10 articles are not connected in any way, it could also be read like a short encyclopedia. I didn't get much out of it, and wouldn't recommend it - it really didn't live up to the hype. 1½ stars.Further cover quotes:"Gripping, intelligent." - no."Opens a crucial door into an abnormally secretive industry." - maybe, is any other software more open?"Brutal, honest, yet ultimately uplifting." - I do trust that the stories told here are honest, but don't see them as either brutal or uplifting, much less both. This last quote is from Adam Conover (Adam Ruins Everything) who goes further to say "I was surprised by every page." Adam has clearly never worked in software, and besides many of these stories are quite similar to each other.
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  • Xane
    January 1, 1970
    Video game development is a hard thing to write about. In most cases, it's such a large, expensive, and lengthy process that trying to describe it in a single chapter is essentially an impossible task. Blood, Sweat, and Pixels attempts to tell the stories of ten games in ten chapters. Largely, it succeeds. The book accurately captures the insane difficulty of creating a game (not to mention making a successful game) and presents it in an engaging, easily readable format. It also has some flaws. Video game development is a hard thing to write about. In most cases, it's such a large, expensive, and lengthy process that trying to describe it in a single chapter is essentially an impossible task. Blood, Sweat, and Pixels attempts to tell the stories of ten games in ten chapters. Largely, it succeeds. The book accurately captures the insane difficulty of creating a game (not to mention making a successful game) and presents it in an engaging, easily readable format. It also has some flaws. Don't get me wrong -reading about the big picture overview of how each of these games came together was thoroughly fascinating. I came away with a far better understanding of each games' difficulties and successes. It definitely earns its four stars. But the big picture overview it gave me was just that: the big picture. It felt like there was almost always more to the story, and that for most of the games, I was getting the cherry-picked highlights of the development cycle. Perhaps that why I enjoyed the stories about the smaller games the most -it seemed like I was reading about more than just an overview of the game's creation from the project producer.Here's an almost unfair comparison: go read "The Complete, Untold History of Halo" on Vice's Waypoint website (or don't). It's long. It really goes in-depth with numerous developers. You get to know them. You get a deep understanding of the rifts that formed, the compromises that were made, the victories that were achieved. By its very nature (telling the stories of ten different games in ten different chapters), this book isn't going to go as deep. What is there is excellent. In a way, I can totally admire the lean efficiency with which each game's story is presented. It tells me about the really important and interesting stuff and then moves on. I only wish there was more to each story so that the big picture became the full picture.
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  • Ioana
    January 1, 1970
    When a book makes you miss your station twice, you know it's a good one. I originally picked this up with the premise of 'I'm reading this for work', but I ended up really enjoying it and even played Stardew Valley and looked further into 'The Witcher 3'! I am not a massive gamer, but I do have my niche of games I get caught into ('The Sims', 'Need for Speed' to name a few) so I was at least hoping that if I read it for work I might find something that I would like to explore further and that wo When a book makes you miss your station twice, you know it's a good one. I originally picked this up with the premise of 'I'm reading this for work', but I ended up really enjoying it and even played Stardew Valley and looked further into 'The Witcher 3'! I am not a massive gamer, but I do have my niche of games I get caught into ('The Sims', 'Need for Speed' to name a few) so I was at least hoping that if I read it for work I might find something that I would like to explore further and that would give me that immersive feeling I had about playing games when I was a teenager.What I especially liked about this book was that they were not all success stories. One of the games wasn't even released, it was scrapped when it looked like it was heading in the right direction. Others were released with mediocre or even poor reviews, yet their teams committed to delivering improvements via patches until years after. It's honest, gripping and at times frustrating, but it sounds like that's the reality of the industry, and acknowledging and talking about failures are just as important as talking about success.Some stories I found particularly interesting were that of 'Stardew Valley' (created by a single person), 'The Witcher 3' (made by a Polish studio, very much the underdog in the business) and 'Dragon Age: Inquisition' (how can you match up with past AAA games you yourself have released). I would highly recommend this to anyone, whatever medium of story-telling you're into - if nothing else, you might have a game or two to check out at the end of it.
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  • Pavel Dobrovsky
    January 1, 1970
    Tahle kniha o zákulisí vývoje současných videoher má dva typy čtenářů: Buď patří k fanouškům jedné z her (Destiny, Zaklínač 3, konzolové Diablo 3 nebo Shovel Knight, Pillars of Eternity a spousta dalších) anebo jsou videoherní / popkulturní novináři, kteří chtějí zůstat v obraze. Pak možná ještě sadističtí voyeuři, kteří chtějí vědět, jak strašně lidi při vývoji trpí, jak se jim rozkládají životy, nemají peníze na kontě, dupou po nich vydavatelé, koroduje jim sebevědomí, zdraví a rodiny a v průb Tahle kniha o zákulisí vývoje současných videoher má dva typy čtenářů: Buď patří k fanouškům jedné z her (Destiny, Zaklínač 3, konzolové Diablo 3 nebo Shovel Knight, Pillars of Eternity a spousta dalších) anebo jsou videoherní / popkulturní novináři, kteří chtějí zůstat v obraze. Pak možná ještě sadističtí voyeuři, kteří chtějí vědět, jak strašně lidi při vývoji trpí, jak se jim rozkládají životy, nemají peníze na kontě, dupou po nich vydavatelé, koroduje jim sebevědomí, zdraví a rodiny a v průběhu vývoje se stávají troskami. Protože o tom je tahle kniha především. O hledání cesty, kompromisech a osobním obětováním. Jasně, hry jsou vyselektované s tím, že jejich vývoj nebyl nuda a na každou z nich připadne pár desítek bezproblémově vydaných kusů. Ale jsou to (až na Star Wars 1313) příběhy s happy endem, hra vyjde a tvůrci se dají do pucu. Jason Schreier je zkušený herní novinář z Kotaku, s autory her udržoval pár let kontakty a vybudoval si u nich důvěru, takže mu mnohé (občas pod slibem anonymity) vykvákali. A to z několika kapitol dělá skvosty (Pillars of Eternity, Destiny a obecně nezávislé tituly, u kterých je autorská sebetrýzeň snad nutností), jiné jsou ale slabší a spíš připomínají obratně zkompilované rozhovory z časopisů a postmortemy z Gamasutry (Zaklínač 3). Každopádně, kvalitní přírůstek k ostatním titulům s podobným obsahem.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    Having spent several years in a software development house, this provided me with plenty of flashbacks. Admittedly my years in the barrel were not at a game development studio, but I could appreciate the craziness that the game devs go through to get a game out the door. The stories behind the games were fascinating, and if there's one common theme running through each story it's the soul crushing doubt that dev teams go through when working on games. I see this in other creative types I know, a Having spent several years in a software development house, this provided me with plenty of flashbacks. Admittedly my years in the barrel were not at a game development studio, but I could appreciate the craziness that the game devs go through to get a game out the door. The stories behind the games were fascinating, and if there's one common theme running through each story it's the soul crushing doubt that dev teams go through when working on games. I see this in other creative types I know, and in a way it's also comforting to realize that game devs go through the same thing.The book is fascinating, and doesn't require a job in software development (or even be a gamer) to understand. If nothing else, it gives a face to the teams behind some well known video games and their struggles to create something they could be proud of.
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  • Sebastian
    January 1, 1970
    I have been an avid video gamer in the 1990s and 2000s and pretty much stopped playing video games about a decade ago. Also, I have to mention that I haven't played any of the games covered in this book but was somewhat familiar with them through various media. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this book since it was a really diverse selection of developer stories: People who developed their first video game, developer companies who became independent and/or switched to crowd-sourcing, developers wh I have been an avid video gamer in the 1990s and 2000s and pretty much stopped playing video games about a decade ago. Also, I have to mention that I haven't played any of the games covered in this book but was somewhat familiar with them through various media. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this book since it was a really diverse selection of developer stories: People who developed their first video game, developer companies who became independent and/or switched to crowd-sourcing, developers who were once successful but had to re-invent themselves to stay relevant, etc. Lots of interesting stories and really interesting perspectives here that is not only for people who are or were into video games.
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  • Mike Arvela
    January 1, 1970
    Enjoyable, if a bit shallow read into what kind of struggles there have been in getting some major games done. Learning about all the hardships made me appreciate them so much more.
  • Levent Pekcan
    January 1, 1970
    Yine gereksiz şekilde abartılan bir kitap. Araştırmasının iyi yapılmış olduğunu kabul ediyorum ancak anlatılan öyküler ne yeterince ilginç, ne de öğretici. Keza, tüm kitap boyunca tek bir fotoğraf, tek bir ekran görüntüsü kullanılmaması da belgesel nitelikli bir kitap için iyi olmamış. Sonuçta okuduğunuz için pişman olmayacağınız bir kitap, ancak beklentileri düşük tutun.
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  • MR M TOPPING
    January 1, 1970
    Incredibly detailed and both very informative and interesting An incredibly in depth and interesting look into the development process of some of the most popular video games out there, which didn't fail to keep me hooked to each page, I highly recommend Blood Sweat and Pixels.With each chapter focusing on the story of a particular game, the book is perfect reading I'm bite size chunks, ie whilst commuting, or in one sitting. The stories behind the games are entertaining, enlightening and surpri Incredibly detailed and both very informative and interesting An incredibly in depth and interesting look into the development process of some of the most popular video games out there, which didn't fail to keep me hooked to each page, I highly recommend Blood Sweat and Pixels.With each chapter focusing on the story of a particular game, the book is perfect reading I'm bite size chunks, ie whilst commuting, or in one sitting. The stories behind the games are entertaining, enlightening and surprisingly emotional, and while a cynical mind may say they could have been an article on a video games website, the long form format offers the author a chance to go deeper into each development story, and it's an opportunity which has clearly payed off, interviews and painstaking research intricately woven together to forming a compelling narrative. I couldn't put this book down, and am already planning on gifting it to friends and family so they can experience it for themselves.I look forward with great interest as to what is next for Schreier, with stories like that behind the troubled development and release of Mass Effect Andromeda the perfect fodder for a sequel.Tl;Dr - if you like games, read this book. If you don't play or like games but know someone who does, buy it for them, and read it before giving it to them. You won't regret it.
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  • Mike Horowitz
    January 1, 1970
    As much as it hopes to show the "realities" of game development, Jason Schreier's book only succeeds at casually shrugging off crunch, "death marches" and glaringly evident worker exploitation. The stories sell, but his writing is grossly irresponsible. This quote by Glen Weldon on NPR sums up my thoughts:"There's another book lurking beneath the surface of the one Schreier's written, which ditches such blandishments and tackles the culture of gaming — and gaming development — with a saltiness t As much as it hopes to show the "realities" of game development, Jason Schreier's book only succeeds at casually shrugging off crunch, "death marches" and glaringly evident worker exploitation. The stories sell, but his writing is grossly irresponsible. This quote by Glen Weldon on NPR sums up my thoughts:"There's another book lurking beneath the surface of the one Schreier's written, which ditches such blandishments and tackles the culture of gaming — and gaming development — with a saltiness that would provide real insights into its easily wounded, boys-only (or at least, boys-largely) ethos. To be fair, that's not the one Schreier set out to write. What he's produced instead offers a useful survey of the landscape of game production at this cultural moment, if you're willing to accept its argument that the industry's every bug is, in fact, a feature."
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    The theme is who diffrenet people make video games
  • Sau Fei
    January 1, 1970
    Video game has always have a special place in my heart. Looking at my childhood with a rose-tinted glasses, I vividly remember pouring ungodly amount of hours battling dungeons and dragons, saving countless princess and eventually the world. Strolling around leisurely in Pallet Town, talking to numerous NPCs to learn about the lore of the world and their background story, with the most relaxing background music playing all the while, I could have sworn that at times, the game world feels more re Video game has always have a special place in my heart. Looking at my childhood with a rose-tinted glasses, I vividly remember pouring ungodly amount of hours battling dungeons and dragons, saving countless princess and eventually the world. Strolling around leisurely in Pallet Town, talking to numerous NPCs to learn about the lore of the world and their background story, with the most relaxing background music playing all the while, I could have sworn that at times, the game world feels more real than reality. From the quintessential hits like Pokemon to the lesser known JRPGs like Legend of Legaia and Thousand Arms, eventually graduating to MMORPG like Maple Story, those beautifully crafted world remains one of my most accessible happy place that I think of every time things get tough.Playing those kind of games require a lot of time investment. One needs to spend at least 30 hours to get acquainted with the characters, getting to know the game mechanics, lore of the world and eventually finishing the main story. Story that thousands of dedicated, passionate people come up with. However, if you did all of that grinding, monster hunting, lore collecting and eventually completing the game on your own terms, the gratification can be extremely rewarding.Sadly, as reality caught up, works and real world commitment started piling up. Days became shorter and the time spent playing a game became even harder to find. Still, amidst the hectic schedule and monotonous routine, one can always spare a few minutes reading up on the latest development and review about the game world. Kotaku is one of the website that I frequent for my weekly dose of game news. Among their writers, Jason Schreier stood out with his witty game reviews and passionate opinions. This is the first book from him that chronicles the ups and downs of video game development, with his unique insider views and vivid retelling of behind the scenes.The book is divided in chapters that each focuses on a specific game studio/game. Each chapter is easily digestible and can be read on their own, featuring indie games like Stardew Valley (my favorite chapter) to publisher-backed games like Uncharted, Witcher 3 and Diablo 3.I enjoyed this book immensely. As a software developer myself, I know how tough programming an app can be. When you take that further to programming a game environment where everything is dynamic and has to happen in real time, I can only marvel at the herculean effort that the game developers put in. Indeed, as one of the quotes in the book aptly says “It’s a miracle any game is made at all”. As a gamer, I am intrigued to know about behind the scenes stories regarding how games are made, what struggles and set backs they face and all the juicy bits and trivia. This book satisfies that curiosity. While this book does not go deep into the technical aspects of the game development, it does properly encapsulates the dramatic, impossible stories behind some of our favorite games.While plowing through the book, I can’t help but admire their passion. Those who work in creative industries are known to be underpaid and overworked. In video game industry, they take it to the next level. In most game studios, game devs are expected to work long hours, upwards of 100 hours or more a week, often for MONTHS especially when a deadline is approaching, a culture known as “crunching”. These facts are evidently true as we see it happening in almost all the games studios discussed in the book. Jason did a great job in fleshing out the details of the excruciating crunches."Some of them slept in the office so they wouldn’t have to waste time commuting, because every hour spent in the car was an hour not spent fixing bug." Among all the chapters, I enjoyed the chapter about Stardew Valley the most as it’s a very inspirational one. Eric Barone, a fresh graduate with a degree in computer science was struggling to find job. So, he made a game with the intention to improve his programming skills. His pet project turned into a massive 5 years long crunches, supported by his loving girlfriend. When it was released, within half a year, Eric Barone has 21 million in his bank account.“I don’t really need luxuries. I know that doesn’t make you happy”.Almost all the chapters follows similar plot:1. The game studio promises a deadline to the publisher or users.2. Game studio struggles against the deadline due ever expanding scope.3. Start crunching.4. Half way through the development, something disastrous happens that prompts them to start from scratch again.5. Continue crunching. Game gets delayed.6. Game turns out to be huge success. After reading through 200+ pages and 9 chapters following almost the same formula, you are almost certainly sure that the last chapter will more or less sticks to the same plot, difficult struggles at first and then prevailing at the end.But, no. The world is not a fairy tale. Sometimes, you can try your hardest, squeeze every last drop of your blood, sweat and tears, yet, miracle may not happen. This is the message brought forth by the last story.The last chapter is a heart wrenching story about how a talented bunch of developers, working with one of the most prestigious brand name of all time, Star Wars fails to even get a chance to prove themselves.Jason’s depiction of the characters and interview snippets left me on the edge of my seats, furiously turning pages to find out what is the fate of the game. Unable to bear the suspense, I end up finishing the chapter at one go. I breathed a sigh of relief at the end, tinged with a hint of melancholy. This is the genius of the book. After riding the feel good train for so long, you face a sudden sharp turn that upends your expectation completely.Though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was the perfect way to end the book. A message that the world ain’t no sunshine and rainbows. Life goes on.****I am thankful for the book. I went into it with the intention to know more about how game industry works. I came out learning that and having much more appreciation and admiration towards game developer now. While reading the details of the crunches, I can’t help questioning why are they doing this to themselves?I think I understand a bit more after finishing the book. The journey itself is the reward. For many of game developers, this is the only thing they would ever want to do. Take this away and they would lose something irreplaceable. This is their joy and pride, their oxygen in life.The crunches might be tough, hours long. But the joy and excitement you get when you craft a world on your own. The pure adrenaline rush seeing your creations come to life. The satisfactions when you see people, real people that played your game experience emotions they never knew they had, all from the games you make! I can’t pretend I understand all that, but I suspect these are the whys. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.
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  • Seng Wee Wong
    January 1, 1970
    This book was written from a third person's view, where the author interviews various key appointment holders of the companies to find out more about the game development process. For those of you who are interested in game development, this book can be quite demoralising. Almost all the case studies mentioned in the book eventually made it big but still all of them went through an incredibly tiring and insane phase to keep the game running.For some reason, I felt educated on business management This book was written from a third person's view, where the author interviews various key appointment holders of the companies to find out more about the game development process. For those of you who are interested in game development, this book can be quite demoralising. Almost all the case studies mentioned in the book eventually made it big but still all of them went through an incredibly tiring and insane phase to keep the game running.For some reason, I felt educated on business management from this book. At different point in time, each of the stakeholder had to make tough choices to keep the company afloat and almost all of them chose to sacrifice either their own time or money to keep the passion burning. I am quite sure it wouldn't be a logically correct way to manage a business product but the key management chose the game over their life/money. And they were brave decisions. Sometimes the parent company e.g Microsoft may intervene in the decision making process and force a business decision down the throat of the game studio and the managers at the game studio would have to compromise between their stakeholders and their own team of developers. Definitely not an easy task. Nonetheless, all these stories felt genuine and I can feel the blood, sweat and tears flowing down the developers during the crunch. For an aspiring game developer like me, I am glad that I read this early so that I am fully aware of what I am getting into if I were to be serious in this game industry. No quality work comes by easily and these game studios indeed displayed tremendous grit to successfully develop these games. Generally a good read for people interested in making games.
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  • Erin Satie
    January 1, 1970
    I picked this up as a light, fun amuse bouche between other weightier nonfiction reads. I was familiar with at least a few of the games (I've played & enjoyed Stardew Valley, Inquisition, and the Witcher III) and I'm just generally interested in video games because it's an industry where art and commerce are always either dancing or dueling. For a genre writer, there's some useful distance and a lot to learn.Anyhow, it was a light, fun amuse bouche of a book. But it was a little lighter, a l I picked this up as a light, fun amuse bouche between other weightier nonfiction reads. I was familiar with at least a few of the games (I've played & enjoyed Stardew Valley, Inquisition, and the Witcher III) and I'm just generally interested in video games because it's an industry where art and commerce are always either dancing or dueling. For a genre writer, there's some useful distance and a lot to learn.Anyhow, it was a light, fun amuse bouche of a book. But it was a little lighter, a little less substantial, than I'd hoped it would be. For one thing, this is a book about letting the game makers tell their story. Which is fine, in theory, except that (as Schreier points out a number of times) most of the people he interviews are bound by all kinds of non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements. Most of them are still working in the industry which means that even if their hands weren't tied legally, they've all got a strong incentive to be circumspect. So if you're reading for behind the scenes glimpses of how games are made, it's a little disappointing. Schreier isn't playing gumshoe here; he's not trying to dig up the secrets the devs won't share. And he doesn't let his own point of view interfere; there's no sharp authorial eye to dissect the cleaned-up accounts, no critical insight digging deeper than the developers want to go. Each chapter focuses on a different game. That's great because he covers companies of different sizes, facing different kinds of challenges. You read about an interesting cross-section of the industry; AAA and indie, RPGs and shooters, geeks and bros. On a big picture level, it's a fun book to read and a good overview.But the downside of this structure is that every chapter is pretty shallow. There are, as I said, three games in the book that I was pretty familiar with. For two of them, Stardew Valley and The Witcher III, I didn't learn anything from the book that I didn't already know. Everything Schreier had to tell me I'd already read in interviews or articles. The third, Dragon Age: Inquisition, focused on the problems that the Bioware dev team had adopting the Frostbite engine. That was new to me, and really interesting. Still, one out of three is not a great ratio. So, yeah. It's fun enough. I listened to the audiobook and I really disliked the narrator; he read the whole book like an infomercial, very chirpy and upbeat, even when he was reading lines like, "crunch turned me into a miserable wreck of a human being."
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  • Paul Kautz
    January 1, 1970
    It is a very nice read, a collection of great insight and interesting characters, and very well written. The problem is: You read pretty much the same story nine times in a row, just with different names. It‘s always the same plot of enthusiastic game developers sacrificing everything for that one game, and, against all odds, coming out a winner in the end. And while this is certainly praiseworthy it also makes for a palpable lack of literary diversity, especially when being read in just a few s It is a very nice read, a collection of great insight and interesting characters, and very well written. The problem is: You read pretty much the same story nine times in a row, just with different names. It‘s always the same plot of enthusiastic game developers sacrificing everything for that one game, and, against all odds, coming out a winner in the end. And while this is certainly praiseworthy it also makes for a palpable lack of literary diversity, especially when being read in just a few sittings. The only notable exception there is the very last story - the only one without a happy ending, the one covering the failure of „Star Wars 1313“. Less stories would actually have been more here. Also I cannot in good conscience condone all the praise that the inhumane practice of „crunch“ receives here. It‘s depicted as a necessary means of accomplishing your goals, regardless of the consequences. Yes, the people in the book keep telling that crunch is bad - still, nobody seems to be able or even willing to avoid it. Quite the opposite actually, it‘s embraced time and again. And that is quite a bitter lesson to be learnt here: It doesn‘t matter if you have friends or a family, it‘s not just okay but absolutely necessary to sacrifice all of it for the greater good. Because in the end, when you‘re completely burnt out, lost years of your life in just a few months and hurt not only yourself but the ones you love along the way, it will have been totally worth it, because you‘ve finished your game in time so the shareholders can pop the champagne!This paints a picture of the gaming industry that really nobody should be proud of.
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