Recommended reading

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Books and articles that might be of use for designing and developing roguelikes.



Books for programming games.


William Brown, Raphael Malveau, Hays McCormick and Thomas Mowbray (ISBN 0471197130)

Lists various recognizable ways in which initial poor judgment makes program architecture go wrong in a way that will cause problems later on. This is endemic with game programming, that both deals with very complex domains and often approaches them with relatively little up-front program design. rsaarelm

The Architecture of Open Source Applications

Amy Brown and Greg Wilson (eds.) (ISBN 1257638017) [online]

Case studies on structuring large, real-world applications. Unfortunately no NetHack, but there is a chapter on Battle for Wesnoth that should be of interest. rsaarelm

Artificial Intelligence for Games

Ian Millington (ISBN 0124977820)

Very comprehensive look on various AI techniques for games, such as pathfinding, tactical decision making and agent communication. Also discussing support architecture for game AI and relating the AI to wider game design concerns. rsaarelm

The C Programming Language

Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie (ISBN 0131103628)

The definitive book on C programming. Read this if you want to program entire games or component code called from a higher level language in C. rsaarelm

The C++ Programming Language

Bjarne Stroustrup (ISBN 0201327554)

The book on C++ from the creator of the language. Explains the basic language, the Standard Template Library and some best practices. If you want to use C++, you won't figure out this stuff without a book. rsaarelm

Code Complete

Steve McConnell (ISBN 0735619670)

Classic compendium of practical programming advice. rsaarelm

Design Patterns

Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson and John Vlissides (ISBN 0201633612)

Introduces patterns, standard solutions to recurring problems that are nevertheless too high-level to be embedded out of sight into libraries. The book is mostly just a catalog of common patterns, and the descriptions for most of them can be found on the web nowadays. It's still good to be aware of this, game programming has its own set of recurring patterns. rsaarelm

Effective C++

Scott Meyers (ISBN 0321334876)

Best practices for C++. Given the amount of nasty gothcas in the language, you probably want to read this as well as a basic book. rsaarelm

Game Coding Complete, 3rd edition

Mike McShaffry (ISBN 1584506806)

A very comprehensive work on how to program AAA games, from an author who worked on Origin's Ultima games and on Thief: Deadly Shadows. Assumes a working knowledge of C++ and dives straight into how you set up the actual game program on Windows, with lots of tricks of the trade from real projects. The explanation on how to set up the game engine using process, actor and event classes and how to program input devices and user interfaces are very useful for roguelike development. Chapters about managing caches for massive asset libraries and working with complex 3D graphics less so. rsaarelm

Game Engine Architecture

Jason Gregory (ISBN 1568814135)

Covers much the same ground as Game Coding Complete. Describes the basics of a professional C++ game project, tools for debugging and error handling, and setting up the overall program architecture. Some chapters on 3D rendering and real-time physics are less relevant to roguelikes. The part on implementing complex game logic is maybe a bit less in-depth than the one in Game Coding Complete, while the 3D and physics aspects are handled in great detail. rsaarelm

Modern C++ Design

Andrei Alexandrescu (ISBN 0201704315)

Advanced C++ tricks using template metaprogramming and similar forbidden techniques. rsaarelm

The Pragmatic Programmer

Andrew Hunt and Dave Thomas (ISBN 020161622X)

A collection of advice for programming and various related activities, such as documenting, collecting requirements, debugging and figuring out just how to go from a real-world idea into a realizable program. rsaarelm


Martin Fowler (ISBN 0201485672)

Techniques to improve the program structure of a project without ending up breaking or having to rewrite everything. rsaarelm


Books for designing game contents and interfaces.

The Art of Computer Game Design

Chris Crawford (ISBN 0881341177)

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

Jesse Schell (ISBN 0123694965)

Envisioning Information

Edward Tufte (ISBN 0961392118)

Sequel to The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, more tricks for visualizing lots of information with graphics. rsaarelm

Game Architecture and Design

Andrew Rollings and David Morris (ISBN 0735713634)

Has sections on game design, project management and programming, but mostly worth it for the design part. This was one of the first good game development books back around 2000, but nowadays a book dedicated just to game design might be better. rsaarelm

Game Design: Theory and Practice

Richard Rouse (ISBN 1556227353)

Game Feel

Steve Swink (ISBN 0123743281)

Goes into detail on how the interactive feedback loops between the player and the game rules work. A lot of it is about real-time games, but concerns about space, input and response matter for turn-based roguelikes as well. rsaarelm

The Non-Designer's Design Book

Robin Williams (ISBN 0321534042)

Principles of visual and typographic design. Worth a look, even a text-based display can benefit from a nice visual layout. rsaarelm

Rules of Play

Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (ISBN 0123743281)

Theoretical book on the design, playing and culture of games. Very nice for getting a wider perspective on game design. rsaarelm

Tabletop: Analog Game Design

Drew Davidson, Greg Costikyan, et al (ISBN 1257870602) [online]

User Interface Design for Programmers

Joel Spolsky (ISBN 1893115941)

Lists all those user interface design snags programmers have trouble thinking about. rsaarelm

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Edward Tufte (ISBN 0961392142)

A classic on visualizing information. Constantly drives home how it's important to think what you're doing with visual representations and what pitfalls there might be. Should go well with the minimalist aesthetic and the idea of maximizing useful on-screen information in roguelikes. rsaarelm


Miscellaneous useful books.

Producing Open Source Software

Karl Fogel (ISBN 0596007590) [online]

Project management for open source development. Some larger roguelikes are developed as open source efforts. This book goes into the management practices involved, such as running open version control, managing mailing lists and handling bug reports and contributions. rsaarelm

The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games

Michael Tresca (ISBN 078645895X)

Dungeons and Desktops: The History of Computer Role-Playing Games

Matt Barton (ISBN 1568814119)

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