5. Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design
The computer lab was packed. There was a guy with long hair and tattoos, a woman wearing short shorts and a Che Guevara hoodie, and a bald Latino guy claiming he was the second coming of Cliff Bleszinski. We were all eager, young students ready to learn the art of game design.
The instructor walked in timidly an introduced himself. He was four years older than me, and he just got turned down for an art position at Midway. He showed us some of his work. It was quite good. Then he told us to head down the hall to the bookstore and pick up Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design.
One year later, after learning the school wasn't properly accredited, I dropped out to study journalism.
Though dated, this book contains a remarkably thorough collection of design tips for all genres. Interested in making a huge, complex RPG? Check out the section about building and maintaining in-game economies... or the section about balancing skills... or the section about quest lines.
This book won't teach you how to program or how to model, but it will get you thinking about how your game will play, feel, and operate, which is typically the most important part to get right.