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Let's make a list of the best books that every game developer should read.

Each answer should have a single book (by title and optionally author), a link to buy the book, and a short synopsis of what the book is about.

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Fairly similar to gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/497/good-game-design-books –  Cyclops Jul 22 '10 at 20:31
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I disagree. Design and development are different topics, intertwined as they sometimes may be for indies. –  lti Jul 22 '10 at 20:44
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Either way, I'm less concerned since he changed it to a wiki. :) –  Cyclops Jul 22 '10 at 22:18
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Shouldn't we create a format for posting the books? One book with a linked title and a short description of why it's recommended and what it's about per answer? –  Zolomon Nov 6 '10 at 12:01
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I think the answers should be game development specific and not "generally accepted best practices for every coder" type books, such as Code Complete and Clean Code. Yes, those are good books, but this list should be specific. –  kirk.burleson Nov 6 '10 at 14:06

31 Answers 31

up vote 38 down vote accepted

Game Programming Gems, all of them.

Even just reading them will give you a lot of ideas and insights in different approaches that will spark your thought processes and will give you a nice interdisciplinary toolbag. Also, lots of references to other interesting works.

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I wish some of those were available online or a bit cheaper, because there's loads of them and they're about £30 each so buying them all would be really expensive! –  Iain Jul 22 '10 at 20:41
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I agree, but used through Amazon they're okay. Could also check eBay? I do truly value my copies. Also, volume 8 is available online at my.safaribooksonline.com –  Kaj Jul 22 '10 at 21:22
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I honestly love em all. The earlier ones are a bit more low-level, but I do believe low-level knowledge is a valuable basis. –  Kaj Jul 23 '10 at 18:41
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These book are excellent, talk about solving common problems in game design, however a disclaimer must be placed. These are NOT beginners books. Only when I nearly completed my BS in Computer Science did these book really shine for me. –  Bryan Harrington Nov 4 '10 at 17:09

Game Engine Architecture by Jason Gregory

Touches on most areas involved in game development. Because of the number of subjects covered the book doesn't go into depth in any specific area but gives a broader view. I recommend anyone interested in game development read this book.

Real-time Rendering

If your interests lie in 3D rendering; this is the reference book to own. The book is theoretical and requires the reader have strong math skills.

Also if you're developing shaders (then you probably already know this but) the ShaderX series are a great read, and the series will continue under the name GPU Pro. (I have not read this one yet though)

Real-Time Collision Detection by Christer Ericson

Collision detection has always been an integral part of game development, and this is a great book on the subject covering a huge area.

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Mathematics and Physics for Programmers

I see no one talked about this one, wich I think is a must-must for any game programmers. A lot of good stuff about mathematics used in video games like trigonometry, vectors, ballistic and collisions and some more complex motion laws. It's a must have in your bookshelf !


And I almost forget... "Clean Code" and "The Pragmatic Programmer" are really nice books to read and keep not too far when working in a developer team. Teach you about how to make good programs that will save time and money to your team.

Don't have the Rep to post more than one hyperlink sorry...

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+1 for The Pragmatic Programmer –  Jeff Jul 23 '10 at 14:38

Programming Game AI by Example, by Mat Buckland

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I like this book as well. It's a book that's pleasant to read but doesn't lack depth. Covers a lot of interesting topics. Most of it is also available on Google-Books: books.google.com/… –  bummzack Jul 22 '10 at 21:43
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This is a fantastic book... beware though, there's lots of 'behind the scenes' code that isn't mentioned, but required for all of the examples (and it becomes much more than a small task if you're porting to a different language). –  SnOrfus Jul 22 '10 at 22:44

For Programmers:

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Real Time Cameras

I really liked this one. Its contents are pretty standard in terms of engine/rendering structure, but it also considers game narrative through cameras.

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The Design of Everyday Things

Someone said it's a must read for all programmers and I completely agree with that.

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Game Coding Complete 3rd, Ed.

This one is great for programming best practices and tips from the trenches. Tons of game programming books have you go down the same path with whatever scripting language or engine they are pimping. This book goes into WHY you should do things for game development. For example, the networking section talks about why you should do things for games that normally would never be done for non-game applications. Those nuggets of information, backed up by experience, are priceless.

For game design, the best book, hands down, is The Art of Game Design (linked in other answers)

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I'm about half-way through Game Coding Complete, and there are some suggestions Mike makes that are... questionable, at best. It's not something I'd recommend, particularly for someone who hasn't worked on a large C++ project before. –  greyfade Jul 22 '10 at 23:08

Code Complete 2

Although it is a general programming book, you shouldn't miss it! It teaches you a lot of things every programmer should know.

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The Pragmatic Programmer : Journeyman to Master

If I'm putting together a project, it's the authors of this book that I want. . . . And failing that I'd settle for people who've read their book." -- Ward Cunningham

A book that present tips on various topics. The book doesn't need to be red from the beginning to the end, just read about the tips you want ! Here are the topics covered :

  • Fight software rot;
  • Avoid the trap of duplicating knowledge;
  • Write flexible, dynamic, and adaptable code;
  • Avoid programming by coincidence;
  • Bullet-proof your code with contracts, assertions, and exceptions;
  • Capture real requirements;
  • Test ruthlessly and effectively;
  • Delight your users;
  • Build teams of pragmatic programmers;
  • Make your developments more precise with automation.
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Design Patterns : Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software

A must have reference book written by the GOF who are highly know in the litterature of programming. Begins with a quik presentation of each patterns in the book and then explain them one by one with exemples, when to use, UML representation and more.

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Rules of Play

Personally, I'm a huge fan of this one for game designers. It offers a lot of examples and exercises for people looking into game design as a career.

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Introduction to 3D Game Programming with DirectX 9.0c: a Shader Approach

This was the best book I've ever found on teaching game/graphics development. It starts with an overview of the math involved and moves on to explaining DirectX. But the lessons can useful beyond DirectX: it explains, at a mathematical level, lighting and shadows and normals and many other things.

I recommend it for all the newbies like me

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3D Game Engine Design and 3D Game Engine Architecture

both by David Eberly, are quite good, if a bit heavy on the math.


Game Engine Gems

just came out, and I've been enjoying its content so far. It's been a lot more helpful in some areas than the Game Programming Gems series (of which I've read up to Vol. 5).

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Tricks of the 3D Game Programming Gurus

All Aspects of the 3D Pipeline and how to optimize and implement them in software most efficiently as possible. Has many techniques that transfer to hardware well too.

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OpenGL Red Book

This is a must have on your bookshelf as a developer.

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Refactoring : Improving the Design of Existing Code

I think this book is the logic one to read when you finish Clean Code (See other answer). It teach you how to deal with bad design of code and rework it into well-designed, robust code. The author present you how to deal with such code in a nice and easily-understandable way. A must have in your bookshelf !

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Programming A Multiplayer FPS in DirectX

Great book that covers making an FPS engine with DirectX with multiplayer and an engine that supports Octree and Occlusion Culling

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David Perry On Game Design: A Brainstorming Toolbox by David Perry, Rusel Demaria


It's the biggest book on game design ever written, at over 1,000 pages long. It's designed to help students & designers come up with innovative new ideas, and also to expand current ideas.

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Programming Role Playing Games With DirectX This is a great book that goes through everything about the basics of DirectX and Role playing games. It includes many examples that can be used for many different games. Some topics include:

  1. Particles
  2. Octree/Quadtree
  3. Netplay (Client/Server and P2P)
  4. Marketing your game
  5. 1st and 3rd Person Cameras
  6. FFVII Style Pre-rendered Background
  7. Parsing and Displaying .X Models
  8. Scripting
  9. And a lot more.
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The Mastering Unreal Technology books are really good for learning how a great engine works. Learning how a great engine works doesn't necessary teach the nuts and bolts of how to create an engine. But, it will teach you the features of a great engine and how those features should work.

There are two versions of the books. An older book and a new set of three (1, 2, 3)

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Rapid Development (Amazon.com)

Even though it's more about the development process than actual programming, I'd still recommend anyone involved in development to read Rapid Development (the "other" Steve McConnell book)

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"For The Win"

This is a novel book but seems like a perfect book for Gamedev according to me. Free download at http://craphound.com/ftw/download/ by the BoingBoing founder.

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Game Scripting Mastery

takes you up from the basics of scripting to assemblers, compilers and virtual machines. I love this book.

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Clean Code

A nice book that teach you how to write code that can be easily understood, a must-read that taught me much more than I though at first. Talks about meaningful names, comments, functions, formatting, objects and data structure and much more. I highly recommend !

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