How to Learn to Make Games: Languages, Engines, and Everything a Beginner Developer Needs
Developing games has become more accessible. Many engines, templates, libraries, and frameworks designed specifically for games have appeared. But at the same time, there are new difficulties - now you have to understand everything. Just take it and make it.
And no one canceled the need for programming. Without it, you don't understand how things work, can't explain them to others, and can't add something of your own to the game.
If you are a student, it's a perfect time to start learning how to create games. It will require a lot of time and effort. You might even need to hire a paper writer, so you don't waste your time writing essays but focus on making games. And it's more likely that if you take it that seriously, you will make decent money by graduation and won't have to worry about getting a job.
How do you learn to program games? This article tells you exactly what you'll need if you step on the thorny path of game development, what tools are available for this purpose, and when it's better to use them.
Ways to develop
There are three ways to create games:
- Write everything from scratch - a complicated way, but it's worth starting there to understand the languages.
- Use engines - special programs for creating games. An easier option. Even a beginner with manuals from the Internet can make their own game.
- Find blanks - ready-made templates where you just need to swap components to create a primitive game.
These ways can overlap. Let's say you created a character through an engine and programmed his movements. Or you found a ready-made template but applied textures already in the engine.
An engine is a software for game development.
Engines contain a variety of tools that greatly facilitate the task: templates for game logic and object behavior, tools for landscape and scenery design and work with graphics and object physics, visual scene editor, animation utility, etc.
The engines also support scripts and APIs. Scripts help to write commands that will be executed by the game all the time or after some actions of the player. The API helps simplify scripting.
Engines "bring the game to life." That is why games have not been created from scratch for a long time. Even the code does not always have to be written - everything is already there. But to make the process go faster, it is still important to carefully study one of the engines.
Here are the most popular ones.
According to the best writing services researchers, Unity is the most popular game engine. It is suitable for desktop, web, and mobile platforms. Most mobile and indie games are created on Unity.
It's free, but if you make more than $100,000 a year from your games, you'll have to share it with Unity developers.
If you go down to the code level, Unity supports the C# programming language, which is moderately challenging to learn. In addition, Unity has a huge friendly community, and you can find a lot of tutorials on YouTube.
Advantages. Convenient visual development environment, an extensive library of Assets and plugins, the ability to port games to different platforms, and the ability to integrate the game with many graphics or animation applications.
Unity is the best choice for beginners. You can use it to create something simple that you can do with minimal skills.
What games it's suitable for. 2D and 3D mobile games, single-player and networked desktop games, and VR games.
Unreal Engine is a popular game engine released by the famous studio Epic Games. It is designed for big games with powerful graphics.
This engine is suitable for rapid prototyping. It's open source, but you need to know C++. Another big plus is that it is possible to create a complete game with almost no code. Everything you need to do can be done right in the program: there are two effects and material editors and Blueprints - a tool that allows you to build the game's logic via block diagrams.
Advantages. Flexibility, multiplatform, excellent graphics capabilities, quality lighting, the ability to create games for VR, general friendliness to the developer, and many tools.
What games it's suitable for. AAA games with big budgets, shooters, action-adventure games, and VR games.
CryEngine is a powerful engine from the German company Crytek. It makes massive games for any platform - desktop, web, and mobile.
CryEngine will suit experienced teams that produce expensive and resource-intensive projects. But it is not easy to learn CryEngine, as it is the most complex engine to understand. However, you can always leave your college homework to the best essay writing service and dive deeply into learning the CryEngine.
Advantages. Graphics capabilities are much higher than Unity and Unreal Engine: art house lighting, realistic physics, a complex level system, and advanced animation are all things you can create with CryEngine.
What games it's suitable for. Large-scale resource-intensive games and fun for PC and consoles, including PS4 and Xbox One.
Programming languages allow you to set conditions and commands in the game: if A, do B, and if C, do D. The engines take a lot on themselves, but you still have to program a lot.
Moving through menus, a transition between locations, character control, camera movement, music change, dialogues, quest system - for all of this, you need to write code.
You can make games in any language. But it depends on the language, how much time it will take to develop the game, and for what platform the release will be. Also, language affects performance.
These are the languages in which games are made.
C++ is a cross-platform language that allows you to manage memory efficiently without loading it. No serious game product development can do without it. Cross-platform enables you to create games for different platforms: web, online or mobile.
It helps create the game's mechanics - the player's interaction with the world and the world with the player. It is used to write optimized, large-scale AAA games. C++ is also used in mobile games, where it's necessary to handle the device's memory with care and maintain a high game performance.
This language is considered one of the most difficult to learn. Take up C++, not knowing other languages, and not having at least a little experience in programming - it's like starting to learn mathematics with linear equations.
But if you master C++, the doors of many game studios will open for you. After all, when they talk about professional game programmers, they usually mean C++ programmers.
What games it's suitable for. Resource-intensive desktop games, Unreal Engine games, and mobile games.
Fortnite, the mega-popular online survival action game where more than 350 million people have registered, is made on the Unreal Engine, the code for which is written in C++.
C# (C Sharp) is not as productive as C++ and, therefore, unsuitable for large, demanding projects. But C# is cross-platform and universal, so it can be used to create 2D and 3D games for Android and iOS.
Plus, even in comparison with C++, C# is relatively easy to learn and will be the best option for beginners who have just started on their way to game mode.
If you are just starting in gamdev and are choosing a language - start with C#.
What games it's suitable for. Games for different platforms, Unity games, mobile games.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm, the critically acclaimed interactive movie game is written on the Unity engine, which supports C#.
Java is a robust cross-platform language that is designed to create mobile games for Android. That's because this operating system itself is partly written in Java. And the IDE Android Studio is a popular program for developing mobile software for Android, which "understands" this language by default.
What games it's suitable for. Mobile games for Android.
Two-dimensional arcade game Gish - one of the best Java games.
If you're more of an Apple fan, feel free to choose Swift and/or Objective-C. These two languages were explicitly created for Apple platforms. They're hardly used anywhere else.
What games it's suitable for. Games for iOS and macOS.
What games it's suitable for. Browser games, mobile games.
Python is not used to write full-fledged games, but only scripts for them - character interactions, scene launches, event handling, and more. However, it has been involved in many hit games.
What games it's suitable for. Mobile and browser games.
The most famous life simulator Sims 4, which enjoys enormous popularity, is partly written in Python - you can change the parameters of the characters and houses in the game because of it.
Python was used extensively in creating the famous shooter Battlefield - from the server controls to the internal game logic.
These languages are primarily used in game development. But you may need other languages, too, depending on your project.
If you've already chosen a particular engine, you'll also need the correct language - each engine has its own language. In the case of Unity, it is C#, and Unreal Engine 4 supports C++.
But most likely, there will be more than one language. In game development, learning multiple languages at once is not a whim but a vital necessity. Experienced programmers working in large studios sometimes write simultaneously in seven or eight languages.
So if you decide to tie your fate to the production of significant games, be prepared to become a "polyglot." The more languages you master, the more exciting and varied tasks you can get, and the chances of getting a dream job will increase.
You can use frameworks if you are writing a game in any of the above languages. Almost every language has its own framework.
A framework is a skeleton, almost a complete game. You need to add additional functions to this framework to fit your project.
Frameworks give you the maximum freedom. But you can not use the graphical interface, and all the settings and parameters must be written manually.
Here are the frameworks used in game development:
- XNA and MonoGame for C#
- PyGame for Python
Libraries A library is a set of ready-made functions, classes, and objects to solve specific problems.
Libraries, unlike frameworks, don't give almost a ready-made game but provide specific tools. The most famous libraries in game-making are graphics and physics libraries.
Graphics libraries let you rasterize game objects and calculate how images or 3D models should look on the monitor. These are OpenGL, WebGL, and DirectX.
Physics libraries - help with physics: free-fall acceleration, momentum, or vectors. These are Havok and PhysX.
Similar libraries are available to work with sound and game development aspects.
If you are making a game with the engine, you don't need any frameworks or libraries in most cases.
First project - where to start
Do not immediately start with global projects; try to create your own multiplayer online role-playing game or a long platformer 16-bit era.
Let them be primitive and even unfinished, but you won't be distracted by more complicated details like animation. You can always refine them in the future.
As the first "training" projects take something simple. You can make your own version of a well-known toy - snake, sapper, or tic-tac-toe.
To do this, you can use pieces of code, templates, and mods that are on the Internet in large quantities. So you'll understand the logic and structure of game applications, get plenty of practice and get your hands dirty.
Also, add to your portfolio. Even a small project like this will show that you are not only familiar with game production in theory. Ideally, it will help you get an internship or a job as a junior employee in a game studio.