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Game Programming Fundamentals

If you are looking for an answer to the question of “How to Develop a Game” , you have come to the right place. First of all, we are not going to talk about the need to learn a programming language or game engines to program video games, because developing a game is about much more than just coding and game engines. In fact, the game industry is a field that includes many different industries, including mathematics, art, psychology, and even cinema. In other words, it is never enough to just master game engines and learn a programming language. So what, exactly. do we need to know?

This beginner’s guide to video game development will cover everything you need to know to get started creating your own gaming software and apps.

Video Game Mechanics Explained

One of the biggest reasons why games reach huge audiences today has to do with game mechanics. In order to better understand what game mechanics are, we have to think of a game system. Imagine there are various sub-parts that this system controls. To picture this better, you can examine the diagram below:

Overview of Game MEchanics

We will describe the various pieces that make up the game mechanics in the next few sections below.

Game System

As you can see in the diagram above, the game system takes on the following tasks:

  • Handles the loading and saving of files.
  • It then enables the intro animation to run using the audio and graphic elements.
  • While the game interface is being used, user input ensures that the graphics and sound parts work in harmony.
  • Finally, the game system ensures that the graphics, sound, user input, artificial intelligence and network parts work in harmony in the game.

Resources

The Resources describe the necessary files for the game located on the hard disk.

  • These resources contain configuration files that describe the default settings in which the game will run.
  • If available, it contains the video file for the intro that will be played when the game first starts.
  • Contains files where the user gets information about the game before the game begins.
  • It contains the graphics, music and chapter information in the game, alongside every other element the game will require to display audio and visual data to the player.

Game Model

  • The game model is the state of the game graphics, music and text files loaded into memory from the resource.
  • Image files are stored in memory or in the texture memory of the video card.
  • Section, score, etc. information is kept in variables and data structures within the game model.

Upload and Save

This is the part that takes the graphics, music and other information from the source and puts it into the memory (game model) and undertakes the process of saving it back to the source in case of changes in scores, when the game is saved – or the save state – or when the game is recorded.

  • Upload: Configuration files, chapter files, image files, music and sound files, 3D model files, video files, and help files.
  • Save: Score files and other documents to be saved during the game.

Graphics

This is the most important and hardest part of the game in my opinion. Because it is impossible to have a game without visuals (unless you are creating an old school text-based video game). This part is responsible for painting the screen and the following:

  • Playing any video,
  • Displaying the game interface.
  • Viewing and displaying scores, help and configuration information.
  • Displaying the game’s own graphics and visual elements.

User Input

A game without interaction would be like watching a movie. User Interaction is definitely one of the sine qua non of game mechanics that connects users to the game. The system is constantly interacting with the user. Keyboards, mice, cameras, and so forth are all capable of taking in user input. User input is the part of the game mechanic where we’re going to use the hardware and equipment that lets the user interact with the game. User input allows a player to:

  • Use the Game Interface.
  • Review Help Files.
  • Review Score Files.
  • Configure the system and game related features.
  • Control the user’s character in the game.

Sound and Music

If you truly want to understand the importance of sound and music in a video game, try turning off the sound while playing your favorite game. You will notice that the value of the game drops significantly when there is no sound. To me, the value of the sound is as valuable as the graphics of the game.

  • Music playing in the background
  • Sound effects for collisions and movements

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Let’s consider the intelligence level of the enemies in the game. The more humanoid they look and the more intelligent the behavior, the more fun the game will be. It doesn’t just have to be the enemy either. In an open world game, citizens passing by look at their wristwatches, wipe the sweat on their foreheads in sunny weather, give way to you, even argue with you, attack you when you treat animals badly, and so forth. All of these elements can fall into the category of artificial intelligence.

Network Listening and Sending

Network listening and sending is the part of the game mechanic that allows the game to be played by more than one person, also known as multiplayer or online play. In this part, the parties send information to the game server and the information received by listening to the server is updated in the game. Network listening and sending is responsible for:

  • Establishing the Session: The players who will participate in the game agree on which protocol and on which port they will communicate at first.
  • Packet Delivery: The moves made in the game are sent to the server in packets. Then the server distributes it to all parties after making the necessary change.
  • Package Pickup: Simultaneously, the parties are aware of the changes made by listening to the server and reflect this to the game.

Hardware

Gamers love the various elements of a game and are always looking for better graphics, music, physics and artificial intelligence. For all of this to happen (and for games to get more complex over time), one of two conditions must be met:

Software optimization should be practiced and new algorithms should be developed.
Appropriate equipment and hardware should be used, including increasing processing speed and memory.

Today, new algorithms and code optimization discoveries progress much slower than the speed at which new hardware develops. To combat this, instead of new algorithms, the developer should focus on issues such as reusability, code openness, and code security (encapsulation). To facilitate this, the hardware tries to increase the processor speed and memory capacity as much as possible for these new requests.

Many different categories of hardware can fall into this section, including the following:

  • Graphics cards
  • Processors
  • Motherboards
  • Sound cards
  • Monitors, speakers and other input devices

Read: Unity Game Programming: Normalizing Game Speed Across Devices.

Best Programming Languages for Game Development

Programming languages are a computer language that lets programmers develop commands and software in a certain standard form. Thanks to programming languages, it is possible to control what kind of output a computer can give in different situations. In short, computers and humans can communicate efficiently thanks to programming languages.

Since our topic is video game development, it is only natural that we spend a little time focusing on programming languages, which we ultimately use to create video games.

Depending on what you want to create, you can develop games with pretty much all programming languages, albeit to different degrees. There will be those who insist you learn C++, especially if you want to code games for consoles like the PlayStation 5 or Xbox. This, however, is absolutely not true. You can make great games with JavaScript, C#, Python (thanks to modules like PyGame) or even C. A choice-based adventure game that only works on the console screen can be great fun. However, if you want to program games beyond that and that are capable of being more professional and reaching a larger audience, continue reading.

C++

Since C++ is a high-level language that will teach you the basics of object-oriented programming (OOP), it’s a good idea to learn it. It is also the language used to create console and Windows games. Also, it uses OpenGL or a similar framework (We cover OpenGL in greater detail later in this guide).

C++ is a fast compiling programming language. You also get a lot of say in memory management. It has extensive libraries useful for designing and powering complex graphics. There’s a lot of literature for you to study and learn from, because it’s been the video game programmer’s language of choice for decades, and you’ll find online communities ready and willing to answer your questions.

It would be a lie if we said that C++ is easy to learn. It is difficult to learn compared to other programming languages. However, it can be useful not only because C++ games are easy to distribute on various platforms, but also because if you know C++ you can quickly learn C# and other object-oriented languages, including C and Java (even though Java is not technically an OOP language). C++, C, Java, and C# are some of the most actively used programming languages today.

To summarize, learning C++ is a good choice if you want to create video games from scratch for multiple platforms.

Read our C++ programming tutorials.

C#

The benefit of C# for video game development lies in the XNA framework. This is a set of tools and workspaces by Microsoft that are particularly suitable for developing games on Xbox or Windows platforms.

If you compare C++ and C#, you might consider this example: C++ is like a manual transmission car; C#, on the other hand, is like an automatic transmission car. Let’s consider the Unity game engine. If you use the Unity game engine, you have to code your game scripts in C#. However, the core of this game engine was developed using C++ code.

The platform you target, the game you want to make, the game engine you will use, etc. will affect the language you choose. No matter, however, learning C# for game development would be a great idea.

Read our C# programming tutorials.

Java

Game programmers often use Java because Java supports multithreading and sockets. Multithreading uses less memory and makes the most of available CPU resources without blocking the user while intensive processes are running in the background. Sockets help in the creation of multiplayer games. Also, Java runs in a virtual machine (the JVM) so the game is easier to deploy to different platforms.

Additionally, if you want to develop applications and games for Android platforms, Java would be a great option.

Read our Java programming tutorials.

JavaScript

Making games for browsers is very different than making games for consoles. If you want to use 3D graphics or complex graphics and a content management system, you will also need SVG or WebGL.

Flash animation using the programming language ActionScript was common for browser games in the past, but Flash is no longer supported.

Unity 3D Engine accepts Javascript. A WebGL-enabled Java engine such as PlayCanvas, developed at MIT, allows users to simultaneously work in the game with an online browser and publish to multiple platforms.

Moreover, there are great game engines that you can use JavaScript to develop games with. One example of this is PhaserJS.

Read our JavaScript programming tutorials.

APIs for Game Development

What is an API? It stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs are libraries that help us perform specific tasks with a number of functions and methods.

The APIs we will use in our games will be libraries that allow us to take advantage of them by providing an interface to the graphics and sound hardware. For example OpenGL, GLUT, GLU DirectX (Direct3D, DirectDraw, DirectShow, DirectInput, DirectPlayer, DirectSound, DirectMusic), Java2D, Java3D, JavaMusic, JavaNET, JavaMedia, and FMOD are all examples of game development APIs.

In particular, it is very useful for game developers to learn the OpenGL library. With that in mind, let’s talk a little bit more about OpenGL.

OpenGL for Game Development

OpenGL resides within graphics hardware and provides an interface to that hardware. This interface contains 250 different instruction sets. 200 of them are in the OpenGL core and the other 50 are in the OpenGL Utility Library. You can develop 3D interactive applications thanks to the OpenGL graphics API.

OpenGL is a platform independent API. It has been designed as an interface that performs a command flow that is run consecutively. In order to ensure this quality, it does not include commands such as windowing tasks and obtaining user input, but instead benefits from the windowing and input services provided by the platform it uses to OpenGL. Likewise, it does not contain commands for creating high-level 3D objects. But with the commands it provides, it can create an automobile, plane, or molecule surface. To create the desired models of this type with OpenGL, we make use of the points, lines, and polygons in the small toolkit we call the geometric primitive.

Of course, the creation of a better graphics system can be built on top of OpenGL’s core structures. OpenGL Utility Library (GLU) has many high-level modeling features, Quadratic surfaces, NURBS curve, and surface rendering.

What are the Operations Performed During Rendering?

In the following 4 stages, you can briefly see what processes are happening during the rendering process:

  • Creating shapes and geometric objects with mathematical expressions (OpenGL has tools to create primitive objects such as point, line, polygon, image, and bitmap).
  • Arrangement of objects in a three-dimensional plane and adjustment of perspective.
  • Calculating the color values of the objects and applying them to the screen by taking into account the light and texture values.
  • The conversion of the definitions and color values of all object values to pixel values and the realization of the rasterization event.

A Simple OpenGL Code Example

Choosing so many options and performing complex operations with the OpenGL graphics system can make OpenGL seem complex. But basically, the structure of a program made with OpenGL is very simple. What you’re doing is actually defining certain states and putting a control mechanism on which objects OpenGL should render and how it should render them.

You can actually think of OpenGL as a real-time rendering software. Here is a sample showing how OpenGL looks in code:

main(){
       initializeAwindowPlease( );
             glClearColor(0.0, 0.0, 0.0, 0.0);
             glClear(GL_COLOR_BUFFER_BIT)
             glColor3f(1.0, 1.0, 1.0);
             glOrtho(0.0, 1.0, 0.0, 1.0, -1.0, 1.0)
             glBegin(GL_POLYGON)
                    glVertex3f(0.25, 0.25, 0.0)
                    glVertex3f(0.75, 0.25, 0.0)
                    glVertex3f(0.75, 0.75, 0.0)
                    glVertex3f(0.25, 0.75, 0.0)
             glEnd( );
             glFlush( )
             UpdateTheWindowAndCheckForEvents( );

Game Development Tutorials

First of all, thank you very much to those who have come this far. To summarize what we have learned from our game programming tutorial so far:

  • Game development is not just about learning programming languages and game engines.
  • You have to master a lot of technology. Among the technologies we did not mention are programs such as Adobe Premier, Adobe After Effects, 3D Studio Max, Lightwave, Maya and Poser. Learning and mastering each of these is only possible with experience.
  • That’s why we talked about hardware and OpenGL. Love your computer and keyboard rather than focusing on one thing. The best and only rule of thumb to master game development is this:Be curious, read a lot and code without fear!

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