What is the Reverse Design Series?
The Reverse Design series is a set of eBooks dedicated to reverse-engineering all of the game design decisions that went into classic videogames. The books tend to be between 40,000-60,000 words, and they comprehensively dissect every aspect of what makes each game fun. I started the series to help aspiring game designers (and maybe even established game designers) make better games by understanding the classics. But anyone who wants to know the inner workings of their favorite videogames can enjoy them, too. Over the past six years, I've written six books for the series. The best way to understand what Volume Two will be like is to go and read Volume One. There's no way I can summarize all of the topics discussed in Volume One here, but the books have answered questions like:
- How does the magic damage formula reinforce the player's ability to use any party composition in Final Fantasy 6?
- How do the jumps in Super Mario World evolve across the course of each level, and across the course of the game?
- How do enemy elemental resistances, spell powers and debuff usage create four distinct phases in Final Fantasy 7?
- How does the shooter cover in Half-Life evolve both tactically and geometrically across the course of the game?
- Is Chrono Trigger really two different games?
(Note, these books can be read in any order. They're all stand-alone works.)
So What is Volume Two About?
Volume 2 will contain four new books about four classics of videogame design. Only one of the books has been chosen, and that's Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. For the other four books, backers at tier three ($35) and above get to vote on the books that will be written. The selections are sorted by genre.
THE RPG GENRE
Two classic (but very different) RPGs from the 90s square off in the RPG slot. Backers can choose between The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy Tactics.
THE SHOOTER GENRE
These two shooters are about as different as they could be. Deus Ex is a stealthy tactical shooter full of hard moral choices, and Half-Life 2 is a faster-paced shooter chock full of delightful physics puzzles. Both are fascinating, and established classics of the genre.
THE WILDCARD SLOT
For the wildcard slot, backers get to decide between three games in three different genres. The classic action-espionage game Metal Gear Solid is the first option. One of unanimous classics of the Metroidvania genre, Symphony of the Night, is the second option. The final choice is the genre-codifying fighting game, Street Fighter 2.
Let's Talk about Rewards
The best part of getting in on this Kickstarter is the many backer-exclusive rewards it offers. Although much of the Reverse Design series is freely available online, backers can get quite a few eBooks that will never be for sale.
- If you're a backer at the $10 tier, you're going to get four books, one of which (the wildcard book) will be completely backer-exclusive.
- If you're a backer at the $20 tier, you're going to get a total of seven books, four of which are backer-exclusive. This includes all of Volume 2, plus backer-exclusive expanded editions of Reverse Design: Final Fantasy 6, Reverse Design: Super Mario World, and Reverse Design: Chrono Trigger. The eBooks of the expanded editions will never be available outside this Kickstarter.
- If you're a backer at the $35 tier, you'll get all of the books from the previous two tiers, plus voting rights to determine which games I'll write about. After the campaign is over, I'll send out a survey which will allow backers to vote for one game in each genre slot. Then I'll write the three most popular books. If you're worried that the book that you want might not win the vote--spread the word about this campaign! If we make it past the first funding goal, backers in the $35 tier will get all of the books in the first stretch goal, Reverse Design: Volume 3.
- If you're a backer at the $50 tier, you get all of the previous rewards, including the extra books and voting rights--but you also get two backer-exclusive bonus books.
WAIT, BONUS BOOKS?
Yes! There are two extra books that the top tier gets, as well. They're not a part of the Reverse Design series, but I think my audience will like them quite a bit. The first book is called The Broken Mirror, and it's about the Squaresoft Classic Xenogears.
The second book is called The Myth and Metaphor of Magic, and it looks at how magic in JRPGs of the 1990s went from being a simple combat tool, to being a way of conveying meaning in game systems and lore. In any case, you can find out more about these two bonus books by reading about them here.
Risks and challenges
After writing six of these books, I know what it will take to make four more. The biggest problem is that, because of length of the books and all the research that goes into them, each book takes 1000 hours or more. Accordingly, the most recent four books have each taken a year or more to produce. With more resources, I can concentrate that time and also offload many of the low-level tasks like data entry onto paid contractors. The overall goal is to get a book out every six months. (Or, at the very latest, every nine months.) But either way, we're going to get these books out much more quickly than before.
The other thing this campaign helps with is improving the quality of the books. This means employing game-specific editors (i.e., subject area experts) to check all the facts and math, and also artists to make real cover art. Not only do I want to get these books done in a shorter period, I also want them to be better than ever before. Every dollar given to this project is an investment in greater speed and quality.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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