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Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made
Narrated by: Ray Chase
Length: 7 hrs and 58 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Technology
4.8 out of 5 stars (113 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 listeners say about Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

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Entertaining and enjoyable but a bit shallow

I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook. The writer is always enjoyable and easy to follow. The book is split up into individual games. The only problem is I eventually found myself a bit bored by one story after another and would have liked more depth given to the issues raised, like publishers vs crowd funding, game financing, crunch, and what the career more broadly is like

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Very interesting collection of developer interviews

As a corporate software developer is was extremely interesting to hear the same issues scheduling, unclear management and shifting priorities extend to other like companies. Structuring each chapter as a separate game provided a natural break point.

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Essential reading for gamers

For anyone interested in video games, this is essential reading! Jason Schreier does a fantastic job collecting stories of how game devs actually make a game, and how lucky we are that this art form exists. Having each chapter focus on a single game makes the book easy to digest, and they way it is written is very easy to follow. I highly recommend this book. Please read it!!

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wish Jason read it himself.

Learning what it can take to make a game was fasinating, loved the amount of detail in the book can't wait for the second installment.

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Like video games? Then you'll love this, trust me.

Interesting chapters about different studios which are simplified down to bite-sized chunks that can be read at your leisure.. Highly binge-worthy.

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Lifting the curtain to see the humans behind the game

Loved gaining insight into the culture which births iconic video games. Fascinating to see the tenacity and human turmoil involved. The lucky strikes and tragic misfires. Highly recommend this for anyone wanting to geek out on a game dev industry behind-the-scenes.

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Surprisingly good

Great listen. Such an in-site into the world of gaming development. I've played most of the games talked about in this book and it was great to hear all the in depth trauma and elation that goes into making them.

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Amazing insight into the world of game dev

Started to choke up a little bit right near the end there. Heart touching and inspiring

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Fascinating Throughout

Was hoping there'd be more small scale stories but a worthwhile listen regardless. Narration was appropriate and competent.

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Insightful

An insightful, clear and well-paced book. It puts a human face on game development. Having enjoyed Schreier's work on Kotaku, I had a feeling it would be solid, but it was better than expected The attention to detail was particularly pleasing.

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Profile Image for SAMA
  • SAMA
  • 27-11-2017

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.

143 people found this helpful

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  • Celina L Dobson
  • 11-11-2017

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.

25 people found this helpful

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  • markofu
  • 12-12-2018

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Patrick McGill
  • 14-12-2018

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.

17 people found this helpful

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  • James Sadler
  • 23-09-2017

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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • R. MCRACKAN
  • 17-01-2019

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-09-2017

A must read, truly.

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

4 people found this helpful

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  • Robert R. Taylor
  • 26-10-2019

Not compelling or useful, unfortunately.

I'm a game developer and executive (and a gamer), so I was excited about this book, and had high hopes that it would be educational and/or anecdotally entertaining. Sadly, while it provided a little bit of insight into the game dev industry and a few development studios -assuming you know essentially nothing about that world- it lacks anything professionally useful or literarily compelling. While the reader does a great job, I honestly couldn't tell you why the author felt the need to write this. He doesn't say anything ridiculous or even -in my opinion- wrong, he's just reporting what happened in a pretty blend manner. HOWEVER, I'll stay this... If you know very little about the game development industry and are considering pursuing it as a career, it does provide a candid and generally accurate glimpse into the industry and what it's like to work at some of the studios making today's high-end game titles. That said, if this describes you... you'll probably find yourself a bit discouraged by this book - It doesn't paint a particularly alluring picture.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Moreno Antunes
  • 11-05-2018

A compilation of modern "gossip" gaming "journalis

The book starts really, really good. But then you start noticing it tends to a side that breaks the quality of the content. It always focuses on the "evil" corporations, while never saying not a single word against Sony or even Activision but punching EA and MS as if these were the only greedy ones. When it talks about Destiny, it chooses to forget to report very consumer unfriendly like PlayStation exclusive content cut from Xbox and pc versions. The book misses the opportunity to show the other side, the games that would never exist without a big publisher behind like Sunset Overdrive, Titanfall, Horizon and even Ico. Overall I feel the book is very biased and extends to much into small chit chat talk that does not bring much of the real deal of game development, a few chapters are really good, like Shovel Knight, Uncharted and Witcher, but overall the book has not enough content and is unfairly biased.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Oliver Fernandez Avellaneda
  • 03-05-2019

A collection of random stories

This book is a collection of random stories that happen to share in common the fact that they are stories about famous games. Other than that I don’t see any other common thread that structures the book. While I liked to learn a bit more about those stories, I didn’t like the fact that the stories like more like a succession of events, lacking a bit of story telling to make each story more fluid. I would recommend this book to big fans of any of the games whose story appears here, but other than that I don’t see much interest.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Gravious
  • 13-01-2020

Interesting, Informative and Well Written

Jason Schreier is well known for his terrific games journalism, a veritable professional with an eye for detail and a nose for dirt. This book provides a somewhat sugary overview of the development of a number of well known and interesting projects, but does a great job of entertaining and informing you of the twists and turns of development. Well narrated by Ray Chase, this is an easy listen and worthy of attention.

1 person found this helpful

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  • N A
  • 16-11-2018

modern game development

a big focus on role-playing games, showing how games can end up in development hell. mainly outside forces which influence games such as the lucas arts example. first choice Lucas messing with the plot and character and then Lucas art being bought by Disney. but usually it is just a lack of actual focus on what the game will be. it seems like developers say ok let's make a game like unity but in the Star wars world. there isn't a clear idea of how the game will end up so when they realise they need to make changes a lot of the previous work gets thrown out. also having the right tools to develop their games seems very important such as the example of bungie. maybe would have like to see a little bit more of the personalities show through of the people developing the games. the most gripping examples were those with specific people who were described like the guy who did Star dew valley. that was the most gripping story of all.

1 person found this helpful

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  • XopsX
  • 01-08-2018

an accurate picture of how games are made

No game is simple to make. these 10 stories showcase some of the ups and downs of videogame development and how familiar they all start to sound. I have a feeling this book will mostly appeal to game developers like myself who have a ton of similar experiences to reference. For anyone outside the industry it may be harder to get into or comprehend why we do it. I think this book does an accurate job at capturing that.

1 person found this helpful

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  • O Clegg
  • 26-07-2018

Great insight into the behind the scenes of gaming

Loved it! As a gamer you never really understand the politics and drama going on in the background within a gaming studio. Good listen would definitely recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Trevor P. Johnson
  • 22-09-2020

Could do with technical detail

I thought it might reveal a little about how video games are actually made, ie the vast technical feat of making a game like Red Dead, but it only touches on these in generalisms. Mainly it's about corporate politics, which become repetitive after the first few case studies. I did finish it, however.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 18-09-2020

Secret Gem!

I wasnt expecting anything going into this book, I just herd somewere through the grapevine I should listen to it. and I did and now I know why and you should too!

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  • Mr N Metcalfe
  • 08-08-2020

Well worth a listen

This is an excellent book which I really enjoyed. For anybody interested in the world of gaming this book is great.

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  • Methcathinone
  • 06-07-2020

wow

Best nonfiction for anyone who loves games. Video game isn't art, and will never be, it's just bound by so many things at once - whimsical patreon, team management and capability, leadership, unsatisfied appetite of cash. An artist would have been suffocated. To convince or circumvent all these, and to tread one's wiggly way to hopes and dreams, what our beloved media should strive to be, it's a canticle of all achievements humanly.

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  • Dan Garnham
  • 28-05-2020

loved every second

loved hearing about the ups and downs of game development I hope Jason Schreier is planning to write more books.

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  • cykelvester
  • 20-05-2020

absolutely great.

I'm a game dev myself and I found this book incredibly accurate and a great read. if you are dreaming of a career in games, then you should read this book first.