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Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made
Written by: Jason Schreier
Narrated by: Ray Chase
Length: 7 hrs and 58 mins
5 out of 5 stars (147 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Developing video games - hero's journey or fool's errand? The creative and technical logistics that go into building today's hottest games can be more harrowing and complex than the games themselves, often seeming like an endless maze or a bottomless abyss. In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Jason Schreier takes listeners on a fascinating odyssey behind the scenes of video game development, where the creator may be a team of 600 overworked underdogs or a solitary geek genius. Exploring the artistic challenges, technical impossibilities, marketplace demands, and Donkey Kong-size monkey wrenches thrown into the works by corporate, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels reveals how bringing any game to completion is more than Sisyphean - it's nothing short of miraculous.

Taking some of the most popular, best-selling recent games, Schreier immerses listeners in the hellfire of the development process, whether it's RPG studio Bioware's challenge to beat an impossible schedule and overcome countless technical nightmares to build Dragon Age: Inquisition; indie developer Eric Barone's single-handed efforts to grow country-life RPG Stardew Valley from one man's vision into a multimillion-dollar franchise; or Bungie spinning out from their corporate overlords at Microsoft to create Destiny, a brand-new universe that they hoped would become as iconic as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings - even as it nearly ripped their studio apart.

Documenting the round-the-clock crunches, buggy-eyed burnout, and last-minute saves, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is a journey through development hell - and ultimately a tribute to the dedicated diehards and unsung heroes who scale mountains of obstacles in their quests to create the best games imaginable.

©2017 Jason Schreier (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

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Must Listen for any Gamer

Great narrator and the content is just wow...so much more respect for those who dedicate their lives to making the games we love

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Book changes your view on the video game industry

I really enjoyed this book. When the the last chapter played and the book was over I was sad. I enjoyed listening on my commute to work in software development stories about the video game development life and challenges. Very relatable. At first I put this book on play and fell asleep listening to it in bed. When I finally gave it a proper focused listen, it had me so interested. This book with voice acting could make for a awesome podcast every week with industry insight.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic

amazing all the way through. very thorough and picked a great list of games to cover.

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awesome for anyone that loves games

I love games and hearing about the stories of the developers really made me think about my own ideas and ambitions.

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Excellent book for any future game developers

Loved the Stardew Valley chapter! Would easily recommend it you're interested at all in games.

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Awesome

I enjoyed every second. This book hooks you with it's different stories of how games came to be made as well as the tumultuous development behind each one. Ray Chase is a perfect fit for the narrator and easily captures the feelings of different game developers struggling to reach the finish line of shippable game. Well worth the read for any gamer whose heard even a whisper of games like Star Wars 1313, Stardew Valley, and Diablo 3.

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Fascinating and informative

Have you ever played a computer game and wondered things like "why didn't they do that better?" "why didn't they fix that bug?" "how could they not spend the time to do this one obvious thing?" "why are those developers making such stupid decisions?" ...If so, then you should read this book. Not just because it will answer all those questions, but because it will give you a better picture of why you will almost certainly never find a bug or badly designed feature that the team isn't already painfully aware of but were completely unable to do anything about. Because if you're seeing it, it's because the team chose to not fix it and instead fixed the one, or ten, far WORSE horrible bugs or features that you never ended up seeing because to launch with them would have been far worse.

While this book could be an interesting read for anyone, from non-gamers to developers actually working in the industry, I think it's the fans of computer games who are puzzled at the apparent stupidity of game developers who will get the most enjoyment, and benefit, from this one. Schreier tackles one game per chapter, telling the behind-the-scenes story of what actually happened that resulted in the successes and failures that the players ultimately saw at launch. It's a fascinating view into how much goes wrong in the process of making games, and why it's never as simple as "why didn't the devs just..."

I happen to work in the computer game industry myself, and last year I happened to be talking to a financial planner about high tech investment funds such as biotech stocks and clean energy. Learning that I make computer games for a living, she asked if I was interested in funds that invest in computer games. "HECK NO," was my immediate reaction, without even thinking. Having worked in the industry for over a decade, I do love my job and the amazing games that the industry creates, but I can't think of many riskier things to invest in than computer games. My favourite quote from the book appears very early on, as Schreier talks to an exhausted game developer about the game he just launched. ‘“Sounds like a miracle that this game was even made,” I said. “Oh, Jason,” he said. “It’s a miracle that ANY game is made.”’

From the launch day disaster of Diablo 3 to the tools pains of Dragon Age Inquisition to the incredible solo journey of Stardew Valley to the disastrous last-hour rewrites that decimated Destiny's story to the Star Wars 1313 game that never was, each story is interesting and fascinating and demonstrates different behind the scenes challenges that every game can, and probably will, face in different ways. Interesting and readable, highly recommended. If you have even the slightest interest in computer games or what goes into making them, pick this up. #Audible1

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If you like games you'll enjoy this book!

Jason shares some very interesting stories that help the reader understand the difficulty of game development. He does this not because most people don't realize the expertise and the time required to create games, but to simply tell good stories. Listening to some of these stories it was surprising that some games ever made it to market. Also, just remember like anything else hard work and commitment will produce good things. #Audible1

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Great behind the scene of the video game industry

I had basic knowledge of how the video game industry works and after reading this book, I feel much more educated. Some development stories surrounding the games featured were amazing, some were sad, but all of them were immensely interesting. I actually bought the physical copy of this book as well as the audio one, and I don't regret it one bit. I was actually sad when it was over. I'd recommend it to anyone, either interested in developing a video game or not.

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A great look into the work behind video games

As someone who has always been interested in game development, and who aspired to one day be a game dev himself, I loved every moment of this audio book. Id love to listen to more audiobooks similar to this.

My only comment being that the Epilogue plays twice, once at the end of the second last chapter and again for the last chapter.

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  • SAMA
  • 2017-11-27

Behind the Scenes

The stories in this book are:

1. Pillars of Eternity: How crowdfunding changes the rules, and changes the priorities of the developer who promised backers certain gameplay features, against deadlines and a limited budget. This story provides a better understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of crowdfunding.
2. Uncharted 4: How too much success affects a studio, and how to successfully end a successful series. It is also the story of The Last of Us, which nobody expected to be successful early on. I enjoyed all the possibilities of how different this game could have been.
3. Stardew Valley: The great risks and heartwarming payoff of going solo. The ending made me want to play this game.
4. Diablo 3: The troubles of online-only games, and the angst and pressures of racing against time to meet player expectations. In the end, it is a success story that had a lot of challenges and frustrations along the way.
5. Halo Wars: How games are transformed in the middle of development, and the pressures of working against a deadline. The Age of Empires developers are behind Halo Wars. Who knew?
6. Dragon Age: Inquisition: How EA corporate politics and poor can slow down game development and creates a large degree of developer frustration. After reading this, I have a better understanding of why EA is a blight on video games.
7. Shovel Knight: The quest to create an iconic character inspired by classic NES games and characters. It provides an insider look into an indie game team and the challenges they face.
8. Destiny: The challenges of combining multiple genres and trying to create something that's never been done before, and how past successes tend to dictate what the next success would look like. It is also the story of how a developer matures.
9. The Witcher 3: The reason for the volume and quality of content is revealed, in one of the most fascinating and enjoyable chapters of this audiobook.
10. Star Wars 1313: How a game that can do no wrong ends up being buried due to corporate politics. Delayed because of Disney and canceled outright by EA, this is the game that makes you wonder, what if? Also, f*ck EA.

62 of 65 people found this review helpful

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  • Celina L Dobson
  • 2017-11-11

Ray Chase is great!

I'm glad I purchased the audio version of this book because listening to Ray Chase was a delight. Having a voice actor of video games narrate a book on video games was a solid choice.

Overall, the book was a nice slice of various company's descent into and occasionally ascent from the madness of producing video games. The anecdotes are both humbling and harrowing and are sure to make game fans think twice when they criticize a game. As noted, with all the moving parts and preferences, it's miracle any game gets made.

Worth the read, or preferably, the listen, if you are a fan of or just curious about video games and their production.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • James Sadler
  • 2017-09-23

Great inside look into the gaming industry

What did you love best about Blood, Sweat, and Pixels?

As someone who has played video games since their childhood, and flirted with the prospect of maybe one day making video games, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is a fantastic look inside a variety of studios as they worked through development of their titles. I loved that the author interviewed developers from different grades of studios; from the one-man indie developer all the way to AAA game studios. It offers a great answer to why video games cost so much money, and why they take so long to make. I would offer this up to anyone that wants to get into the industry, on any level.

What did you like best about this story?

My favorite segment/chapter was probably the one on Star Wars 1313 as it told the story of how that game came to be, and why it disappeared. It was heart wrenching, but also somewhat inevitable with how Lucas Arts was run once upon a time.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I listened to this book while doing my weekly running, and always found myself wanting to continue listening, which pushed me to run just a little bit more.

Any additional comments?

My only negative, and it is a good negative to have I guess, is that I wish there were more chapters. It was amazing to hear how the different studios approached their problems, and how some of them made the same mistakes as others did (i.e. Destiny and Diablo 3). I just wanted more in the end.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Patrick McGill
  • 2018-12-14

great look at an industry stuck in a cycle

overall the book is a great look at the making of some great video games, as well as some great failures.

I couldn't help but notice, however, that even as the author spoke about the unhealthy practices of video game labor management it was almost romanticized to a degree, like video game developers needed to be these pioneer souls that are willing to sacrifice their health and even family to make a game-- rather than what is true, which is that it's an industry rife with labor exploitation.

I'm less speaking on the indie devs who chose to use their time for their passions and more the multiple triple a studios that rely on insane expectations as a matter of course. The scientific literature isn't sparse on the subject of labor, rest, efficiency, and productivity and those mentioned in the book that couldn't see how a game gets done without months of crunch are simply stuck in a cultural spiral. Ignoring rote science in favor of anecdotal "experience" is sadly the norm in a lot of big industries, and those with the checkbook are happy to support this culture of exploitation.

Regardless, it is a very good book with inspiring stories describing passionate people. I just hope industry insiders who read it begin to realize that major changes need to happen within the industry to stop incredibly unhealthy practices and incredibly damaging exploitation.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • R. MCRACKAN
  • 2019-01-17

Excellent look at the industry behind the fun

As great as Masters of Doom is, and it really is great, it doesn't capture the real life experience of the video game industry as a whole. Blood Sweat and Pixels does exactly this with 10 examples of well known games and their grueling paths through development hell. I recommend this book to anyone interested in how the digital sausage is made. And I think it should be mandatory reading for anyone considering going into this industry.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • markofu
  • 2018-12-12

You want to work in gaming :)

Thoroughly enjoyable and page-turning read that paints an honest and at times horrifying picture of the world of video game development.

The author details real-life stories and experiences from multiple games and various game studios, with the same names occasionally popping up in multiple stories. The attributable quotes and stories definitely add substantial authenticity to the book.

The book not only highlights the passion and love that many in gaming have, but for me, the true highlight is the amazing dedication that those workers have - it’s both inspirational and crazy, on occasions to their own detriment.

I’d consider this a must-read for anyone working in the video games industry or anyone who considers them a gamer.

I finished this book with a plethora of games I now want to play, several of them new to me.

ggwp to the author, great writing and superb book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-09-07

A must read, truly.

If you love video games, this should be the first book you read about them.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • AC
  • 2019-03-14

.

A bit repetitive, but interesting enough for game fans. And here are six more words.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Reuben M.
  • 2017-10-31

I enjoyed this book.

It's required that I use at least fifteen words to say I liked this book.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Nikki
  • 2019-07-29

Great book. Really enjoyed listening to it

Hands down one of the best books I've ever listened to. I'm not into games, but it was entertaining to hear the passion and struggle of game creators.