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Advanced Game Design

Advanced Game Design

A Systems Approach

Michael Sellers

Dec 2017, Paperback, 464 pages
ISBN13: 9780134667607
ISBN10: 0134667603
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In Advanced Game Design, pioneering game designer and instructor Michael Sellers situates game design practices in a strong theoretical framework of systems thinking, enabling designers to think more deeply and clearly about their work, so they can produce better, more engaging games for any device or platform. Sellers offers a deep unifying framework in which practical game design best practices and proven systems thinking theory reinforce each other, helping game designers understand what they are trying to accomplish and the best ways to achieve it. Drawing on 20+ years of experience designing games, launching game studios, and teaching game design, Sellers explains:

  • What games are, and how systems thinking can help you think about them more clearly
  • How to systematically promote engagement, interactivity, and fun
  • What you can learn from MDA and other game design frameworks
  • How to create gameplay and core loops
  • How to design the entire player experience, and how to build game mechanics that work together to create that experience
  • How to capture your game’s “big idea” and Unique Selling Proposition
  • How to establish high-level and background design and translate it into detailed design
  • How to build, playtest, and iterate early prototypes
  • How to build your game design career in a field that keeps changing at breakneck speed

Section I. Introduction and Foundations
1. About This Book
2. Foundations of Systems
3. Foundations of Games
4. Foundations of Game Design: Apprenticeship to Theory
5. Engagement, Interactivity, and Fun

Section II. Systemic Game Design: Parts, Loops, and Wholes
6. Overview of Existing and New Frameworks
7. Parts: Nouns and Verbs
8. Loops Creating the Gameplay and Core Loops
9. Wholes Designing the Entire Experience
10. Applying the Plw Framework

Section III. Designing and Developing a Game
11. The Game Concept
12. High-Level and Background Design
13. The Heart of the Matter
14. Detailed Design
15. Early Prototypes, Playtesting, and Iteration
16. The Game Design Document Content and Organization
17. Making Your Game Real

Section IV. Your Future and the Future of Games
18. Building Your Career as a Game Designer
19. The Future of Games

Section V. Suggested Reading and References

  • Combines hard-won practical game design knowledge and systems thinking theory into one coherent game design framework
  • Leverages Michael Sellers’ pioneering experience as a game designer, game entrepreneur, and game design educator
  • Draws on diverse areas including complexity theory, psychology, physics, chemistry, economics, and neuroscience
  • Supercharges readers’ depth and breadth of knowledge about game design principles AND the concrete realities of industrial game design
  • Supported by extensive ancillary materials for game design faculty

Michael Sellers is Director of the Game Design program and a Professor of Practice at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

Sellers has worked as a professional game designer since 1994, with a focus on designing social, mobile, and massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). He has started and run three successful game studios and has also worked for notable game developers such as 3DO, Electronic Arts, Kabam, and Rumble Entertainment as a lead designer, executive producer, general manager, and creative director.


His first commercial game was the award-winning Meridian 59, the first 3D MMO, released in 1996. He was also the lead designer on The Sims 2, Ultima Online, Holiday Village, Blastron, and Realm of the Mad God, among other games.


In addition to his work in games, Sellers has conducted and published original research in artificial intelligence. His AI research, partly funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), focuses on “social artificial intelligence”–creating agents that behave plausibly in social situations. As part of this effort, Sellers has published groundbreaking work on enabling artificially intelligent agents to learn, form social relationships, and have and express emotions based on a unifying psychological architecture.


Sellers has a BS in cognitive science. In addition to working on games and AI, he has worked as a software engineer, user interface designer, RPG miniatures sculptor, and briefly as a circus roustabout and movie extra.

He has a Bacon number of 2 and hopes someday to have an Erdos number.