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Chris Crawford,
The Art of Interactive Design,
No Starch Press

Conceptually, this book makes a nice pairing with our other review this month about programming Linux games. After all, if you want a full overview, then UI design is just as important as code design and implimentation.

This is a completely different style of book though and requires a different sort of reading attitude to make it enjoyable. Whereas Programming Games with Linux proceeds through the various topics in a straightforward way, Chris Crawford weaves through the material with many asides and stories involving himself and his experiences. You will find this approach either a successful attempt at making the subject more interesting, or a little annoying.


There are lots of interesting points covered. Just thinking about what "interactive" means is a good start and we get some good examples from the marketing departments of clueless companies of things labelled interactive that aren't in the least (the interactive carpet was a good one).


He looks at GUI design and program design and reading through it most people will get some ideas as a result. I liked the section that looked at decision tree design. He's quite keen on the idea of a mesh rather than a tree and puts forward a good case for using it. The idea of indeterminate outcomes coupled with AI isn't touched upon but then, although the idea isn't entirely new the means of making it happen in a usable way are only just appearing now. Crawford does touch on the concept, in a way, when discussing a Grandpa telling a story to a little girl.


He also looks at the human types involved with the "art" part and the code part. His observations support the contention that they are two separate universes of thought and that they won't join up any time soon. This seems especially true when the examples of the art part are female and the code part are male. Hmmmm, well, I really don't know about that one. That panders to the art = female, linear thought = male, baloney. Anyway, whether you buy that or not and whether it is true in your community or not, the idea does have implications for the production and the use of your software.


This is a good book for leisured perusal rather than diving in for instant knowledge. It could be quite useful for team brainstorming too.

<jlittler at mstation.org>

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