Video Game Programming:The Introductory How To guide

You can program a working video game all by yourself. It takes a lot of work and it takes a certain amount of proficiency with either a programming language or a game development platform. But this article doesn't focus on this. This article focuses on what it takes to become a programmer with a game design company. I give you a basic idea of what programming for a game is, what kinds of jobs there are,what you can do to see if you like it and what you can do to prepare yourself.

What Exactly is Game Programming? This is a bit of a vague question because in the past it meant everything. A programmer cranked out a complete game from start to finish. But the game industry is now mature and it takes a whole team of people with a variety of skills to make a completed game. And this division of labor is roughly broken down into two distinct disciplines: The Artists and the Programmers.

The Artists handle all the artistic aspects of the game from graphics to textures, backgrounds, models, characters and animations. If you want a more in-depth explanation of the art side of game programming check out my other article Working in the Video game Industry

This might be something that a game artist would work on:

The Programmers handle the code of the game. This could vary from writing the actual engine that the game runs on, writing and maintaining the database or even designing the behaviours of artificial intelligence in the game. Here is something that a game programmer might be working on:

If this type of programming is not what you are looking for then you might want to consider being some type of a game artist. Check out the tutorial on Video games to learn more about game artists


The Basic Skills for Game Programmers

Programming is a very math oriented discipline and it usually requires at least a bachelors degree if you want to break into the industry. So you should focus on a degree in programming and be heavily loaded in the math and the science courses. Programming requires concentration and an extraordinary attention to detail. Imagine writing a novel and having one letter wrong and because of this nobody can read the novel. This can happen in programming. You can write a program that is tens of thousands of characters and if 1 letter is wrong the program won't work. Now don't let that scare you. Programmers have been dealing with this forever and there are ways to watch for this, avoid it and correct it. It's a normal part of the process of programming.


How to get started now - What you need to learn

There are a lot of different paths that a game programmer can take and there are a lot of different opinions about what you should learn and why. Different games are programmed with different applications which also ads to the confusion but here is a solid recommended path that will take you to your goal of being a professional game programmer. This path assumes you are starting from not knowing any programming at all.

  1. Learn the basic concepts of programming with a language that is relatively easy to learn. The fundamental concepts of software design are universal and once you understand these rules you will be able to adapt and learn other types of languages. One of the variations of a language called BASIC is perfect for this first foray into programming. I suggest you start with a program called DarkBASIC it is a good tool custom made to teach you programming and the fundamentals of game design at the same time. Another program that is just as good for starting out is the suite of Blitz Tools.
  • Advance your Skills into a professional level visual programming language You should move on to an industry standard programming language like Microsoft Visual Basic. This also gives you an introduction into skills like programming specifically for the Windows operating system. Note that the book shown here is just a book it is not the Visual Basic program that you would need to purchase in order to do programming. That is here: Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 Learning Edition


  • Complete your path to becoming a programmer by learning C++. This is the defacto programming language for serious programmers. Gaining competency in this language takes time but it is professional level and if you can harness the power of this language you have a very marketable skill in the programming world. The book shown here is a good introduction. You will also need to purchase the software.


Start Building a video game today - for free

I have a tutorial right here on this website that gives you all the software you need and shows you step-by-step what to do right up to making a small two room video game that actually works. It doesn't take any programming skills at all to do but it does give you a nice fundamental understanding about what goes into the making of a video game. Make your own Video Game for free tutorial


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