Classic Game Design, 2nd Ed

Author: Franz Lanzinger
Publisher: Mercury
Pages: 293
ISBN: 978-1683923855
Print: 1683923855
Kindle:  B07S3ZW1Z8
Audience: Beginners to creating desktop games
Rating: 3
Reviewer: David Conrad
Subtitled, From Pong to Pac-Man with Unity, this is a very odd book. Don't let that put you off because some readers are going to like it a lot.

The basic idea for this book is good. Take four open source and free to download game construction tools - Unity, Blender, Gimp and Audacity  - and use them to teach game programming. The idea may be good but the realization will put many readers off. The big problem is that this is a step-by-step book which basically "programs" the reader to create games. There is very little explanation of what the big principles are and certainly very little that is deep. The major change in this second edition is the use of C# rather than JavaScript, which was used in the first edition. This change is very reasonable as Unity has dropped support for JavaScript and anyway C# is a better language to use.

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The book opens with a very general look at games and what constutes a "classic" game. Chapter 2 takes the reader though the task of installing and creating a simple "Hello World" in Unity. This really is a very detailed "click this", "check that" sort of step-by-step. There are screen dumps along the way so that you can check that you are making progress. There isn't much "bigger picture" explained and the problem with this is that if it goes wrong you don't have much hope of getting it to work. But having said this, it is important to emphasize that this is really, really simple. If it does all go wrong then you could use the DVD included with the book to install the working code. 

There is no reall attempt to teach you C# and this might be a problem for some. It's almost saying "go on, you can do it; you don't need to learn to program - it's easy..."  This is only a viewpoint you can hold if you already know how to program and have jumped over the barrier. Complete beginners do have difficulty learning to program and they generally need help and more help than this book offers, even if it does have a  token, and inadequate, appendix on how to do it.

 

So if you don't program this book isn't going to teach you how to. What it might do, however, is give you a view of what lies beyond and so motivate you to get out there and learn to program. If you follow the instructions accurately, and are lucky enough for things to work, you will end up writing working games. By the end of Chapter 2 you have used Gimp to create a texture, Blender to export a 3D object, Audacity to create a sound, and put the lot together in Unity to make a simple program. 

Chapter 3 is a look at the history of Pong including some very strange explanations of ping-pong - the type with the real ball and the real bats. Anyway this is a fun interlude and you can always skip it if it isn't of interest. The next chapter gets started on implementing a paddle game. Again its very step-by-step even if the steps are getting a little less detailed. 

Next up is Breakout - first a history and then a step-by-step implementation of the game.  Then Space Invaders, history and an implementation, Scramble - a scrolling shooter, and finally Pac Man.

Another little problem of the way things are presented is that, despite the very simple step-by-step approach, occasionally some sophisticated idea is thrown in. At other times the text spends time explaining terms like "horrible hack" which should make sense even if you have never heard the two words used together before. 

What is good about the book is that if you are prepared to follow its instructions then you will create the games listed and you will understand some of what is going on. It is a bit like being taught to fly in a dual control plane - you get the idea that pulling back on the stick makes you go up, but not why or how and there are no answers to "what are all these other controls?"

This is a book that a small select group of readers is going to find life changing. If it manages to provide a peek at what can be done, and even the smallest clue as to how it is done, then it's a worthwhile book. However, some readers are going to find the approach tedious. Only buy it if you are ready to follow the instructions to the letter - i.e. behave like a computer - or if you just want to dip in and see how things work.

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The Python 3 Standard Library by Example 2nd Ed

Author: Doug Hellmann
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Date: June 2017
Pages: 1456
ISBN: 978-0134291055
Print: 0134291050
Kindle: B072QZZDV7
Audience: Python developers
Rating: 5
Reviewer: Alex Armstrong

An up-to-date, Python 3, reference work on the standard library - essential for some.



Refactoring JavaScript

Author: Evan Burchard
Publisher: O'Reilly
Date: March 2017
Pages: 422
ISBN: 978-1491964927
Print: 1491964928
Kindle: B06XK1V629
Audience: JavaScript programmers
Rating: 3
Reviewer: Ian Elliot

There is a lot of JavaScript out there that needs refactoring - can this book help?


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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 26 November 2019 )