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6 pillars of game development: a beginner's guide

The game development field offers seemingly endless possibilities and opportunities to build immersive, interactive experiences that captivate players worldwide. From indie game developers working on passion projects in their basements to large-scale studios producing blockbuster titles worth billions of dollars, game production has become a rapidly booming industry that continues to push the frontiers of technology and storytelling.

The gaming industry is experiencing an explosive growth trajectory, with expected revenue of US $365.60 billion in 2023 and a projected value of US $482.30 billion by 2027[1]. This expansion highlights the gaming world's vast potential and possibilities.

At its core, video game development is all about designing engaging experiences that transport players to new virtual worlds and allow them to explore, learn, and connect with others in previously unthinkable ways.

If you are a new programmer and would like to dip your toes into game development, this blog offers a beginner's guide on how to set yourself up for success in the field. You'll learn the game development process, essential concepts to master, and how to position yourself for a bright future in game development. We'll briefly walk you through the major stages and factors involved in game development, outlining the general roadmap for creating a successful game.

Let's get started!

We'll cover:

  • 1. Tools and languages
  • 2. Game design and development process
  • 3. Game mechanics
  • 4. Graphics and audio
  • 5. Testing and debugging
  • 6. Publishing and distribution

1. Tools and languages

When it comes to game programming and development, it's important to familiarize yourself with the tools of the trade. There are a variety of popular tools and languages within the industry. Unity and Unreal Engine are two of the most popular game engines, both of which are capable of producing high-quality games with stunning graphics and engaging gameplay. Unity supports a variety of programming languages, including Microsoft's C#, C++, and JavaScript, whereas Unreal Engine is predominantly written in C++. GameMaker, Amazon Lumberyard, and CryEngine are other popular game engines to consider.

In addition to game engines, programming languages play a crucial role in game development. C++, in particular, is a widely used language in game development due to its performance and flexibility. C# is equally popular among game developers using Unity since it provides a more streamlined coding experience and is easier to learn compared to C++. Other languages like Java and Python are also used in game development, although they are less commonly used in creating high-end games. Once you have chosen a game tool and language, you can move on to the game development phase.

Game Development

2. Game design and development process

Game development can be a complex process that involves several stages. Therefore, it's essential to create a game design document (GDD) before starting the actual development process. A GDD describes the game's concept, mechanics, story, characters, and other details. It acts as a roadmap for the game production team, ensuring everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals.

With a GDD in place, you can devise a concept for your game, which includes deciding on the game's genre, storyline, and characters. Once you have established the concept, the next step is to design the game. This involves creating the game's graphics, music, and sound effects, as well as defining the rules and mechanics of the game, all of which we'll address in more detail below. After completing the design, you can start implementing it by writing code in your preferred language, creating assets, and building levels.

3. Game mechanics

As a game developer, you must have a good understanding of game mechanics since they are the foundation of any game. Game mechanics are the rules that dictate a game's operation. They allow you to create engaging gameplay experiences for your players. Examples of game mechanics include movement, collision detection, scoring, health and damage, physics, and more.
Once you have a solid understanding of game mechanics, you can implement them using code.

As mentioned earlier, various programming languages and game engines can help you with this stage. Solid implementation will help you create a cohesive, interactive game that engages players and provides a unique gaming experience. Therefore, having a deep understanding of game mechanics should not be underestimated.

4. Graphics and audio

Graphics and audio play a significant role in game development as they enhance the player's experience and immersion. When it comes to incorporating graphics and audio into a game, developers can use pre-existing materials or create their own. Using pre-existing assets can save time and money, but it may result in a less unique and personalized game.

On the other hand, creating your own visuals and sounds can offer your game a distinct appearance and feel, but it also involves more effort and skill. Fortunately, game developers can produce their own visuals and audio using a variety of tools and software, ranging from free and open-source software like GIMP and Audacity to more advanced applications like Adobe Photoshop and Ableton Live.

5. Testing and debugging

Testing and debugging are critical phases of game development, as with any area of software development. Without adequate testing and debugging, your game may be prone to errors, crashes, or other issues that negatively affect the player's experience.

Game developers use several debugging techniques and tools common to software development to identify and fix problems. A few techniques are:

  • Debugging tools: Common debugging tools for identifying issues in games include code profilers, memory analyzers, and performance monitors. These tools help developers determine where the game is lagging or crashing, which can then be handled by fixing the offending code.

  • Logs: Game developers frequently use log files to track bugs and exceptions. They can add logging statements to their code to print information about what's going on in the game at any given time. This data can then be utilized to identify and resolve problems.

  • Reproducing bugs: Bug reproduction is an important technique for game debugging. To understand the fundamental cause of the problem, developers attempt to duplicate the issue in a controlled setting. They may need to generate a certain series of activities or situations to duplicate the bug, but once they have done so, they can begin debugging it.

  • Breakpoints: Breakpoints enable developers to pause the game at a certain point in time to inspect the game's state. They help developers step through the code and discover where the problem occurs.

  • Code reviews: Code reviews are an effective way for developers to catch errors before they become problems. Developers can evaluate one another's code to detect errors and suggest improvements. This can aid in detecting mistakes early in the development process, saving time and resources later on.

In addition to these techniques, many debugging tools are available to game developers within integrated development environments (IDEs). For example, Unity's debugger, Visual Studio's debugger, and various profiling tools can help identify performance issues as they are happening in real time.

Game development

6. Publishing and distribution

Publishing and distributing a game after developing it is crucial to making it available to gamers. To begin, determine the target platforms for your game, such as PCs, consoles, or mobile devices running iOS or Android. Once you've decided on the platforms, and set your pricing, you can contact digital distribution sites such as Steam, the Apple App Store, or the Google Play Store, depending on where you want to release your game. You must register on the platform and submit your game for review, and if your game satisfies the platform's requirements and quality standards, it will be published on their store and made available to millions of gamers.

You may also want to devise a solid marketing strategy and promote your game on social media, forums, and gaming events to attract more players.

In addition to digital distribution platforms, you can also consider producing physical copies of your game. You can approach game publishers, distributors, or stores to get your game published as a boxed copy. However, this alternative can be costly and may necessitate a higher budget.

Simply put, publishing and distributing your game can be difficult, but it is necessary to get your game into the hands of gamers worldwide. However, with appropriate planning and execution, you can successfully launch your game and reach your target audience.

Why you should learn C++ for game development, and how to get started

Game development is a popular software engineering field that relies heavily on software programs to create engaging products. Anyone who’s serious about working in the game industry should learn C++. This general-purpose object-oriented programming language allows you to communicate directly with hardware and optimize your applications in ways that aren’t possible when using higher-level languages.

A great place to start is Learn to Code: C++ for Absolute Beginners, a course specially designed to teach beginners how to program from scratch. This course is tailored for learners with no prior experience in computer science or programming and covers the following:

  • A progression from simple algorithms and problem-solving techniques, to decision-based solutions, to programming in C++.

  • Fundamental topics such as variables, loops, strings, arrays, and library functions, as well as creating custom functions in C++.

  • Many practical exercises that can be edited and run directly within the browser, boosting your confidence in your newly acquired skills.

After completing the course, you'll be well-positioned to begin your journey as a C++ developer. You will be equipped with ample skills to tackle more advanced topics that can help you in developing browsers, operating systems, embedded systems, network applications – and, of course, games, down the road.

Learning C++ will also help you in other careers within software development, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. It can prepare you to pick up other programming languages more quickly, opening doors to additional fields, like web development.

So are you ready to take the first step to become a game programmer? With high demand and plenty of opportunities in this field, why wait? Start your journey now!

As always, happy learning!

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