Boss Fight Book’s Baldur’s Gate II, is an analysis of the classic RPG game by writer Matt Bell. It is part of a series of non-fiction books dedicated to the analysis of video games artifacts by creators, developers writers and players.
The series is kind of a mixed bag.
The concept is great, a series of book which try to analyze video games and the creation of games from different point of view, and it just tickles my game developer/academic sensibility.
unfortunately it always feels not as good as it could have been.
The first Boss Fight book I read was Spelunky by Derek Yu, and it was one of the best books about video games I have read (really, if you are interested in the creation of video games read it). The second one I read, World of Warcraft (by Daniel Lisi), while not strictly bad, was a disappointing read. This book fits somewhere in the middle, it is not as good as Spelunky but not disappointing like the World of Warcraft book.
Part of my feeling on each book, boils down to the people who wrote the book and the point of view they represent. Spelunky was written by the game developer/designer and chronicled the creation of the game (with some personal anecdote from Derek life while developing it). The World of Warcraft book was written by a professional player (who turned developer) and was very obviously was written from the point of view of a fan and a player. So, while there was some talk about the design of the game, it usually relates to the more negative aspects of it- designing for addiction, which is an interesting subject but should not be the only focus when talking about a game as complex as WoW.
In Baldur’s Gate II, the point of view of the books is from a writer, and in so it focuses a lot more on the narrative and narrative design of game (and less on the specific game rules which made the series different then current crop of RPG games). Like all the book, the analysis is also centered around the writer relationship with the game, in Matt Bell case it is his childhood playing Role Playing Games with his brother and eventually his reaction to Baldur Gate II when he was younger. It is not a bad read, it was very engaging and there are some really good observation about how those games told the story, and how the narrative was designed, it just didn’t grab me as much as Spelunky did.
Ultimately, my issues with the book, is less about the book itself but more about what interests me. I liked the Spelunky book because it dealt with system design and game mechanics (which is my focus as a designer), I didn’t like this book as much because I don’t care as much about narrative. A recent conversation with a narrative designer friend, about the book, confirmed that suspicion-she liked it a lot more then I did because of the conversation around the design of the narrative.
Should you read the book?
yes, if you like the game and want some sort of glimpse into the design of it.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes, I just wish it would have dug deeper into the creation of the game and less about the writer personal story