Game Programming – Stages, Languages and Tools
Programming is the quintessence of entertainment software development. Behind it are software engineers who know one or more of the specific languages for writing code and have a specialization in one or more areas, among which are simulation, computer graphics, artificial intelligence, physics, audio programming, etc. In short, without programmers, there would be no video games.
The development of a video game usually begins with the creation of a game design. Developers often prototype gameplay ideas and features. Prototypes are developed quickly and are intended to prove a concept or test ideas. Programmers work according to the brief of the game design document, which, in turn, can change according to constraints or new possibilities that arise.
Once the game testing begins, which for high-budget titles happens as early as the alpha version and for more casual games after its completion, the programmers’ job is to fix any errors, also known as bugs. When the game is released, the developers take care of its maintenance, which, depending on the type of title, can last from a month to several years. Support can consist of adding new content or creating so-called patches that fix bugs and problems in the game. A patch can take weeks or months to develop, and sometimes it includes additional features or content for the game.
Game development programs are generated based on specific code that is the basis for a given program (game) to “run” on a PC, console, mobile device, etc. The source code can be developed in almost any text editor, but many professional programmers use a specialized development environment. Deciding which environment to use depends on the target platform. Many studios create their own game development tools. Some of them serve to convert assets (for example, programs that convert images into the game’s special format).
Video game development companies often tend to spend serious sums to make sure their programmers are well-equipped with the best tools both software-wise (various development systems) and hardware-wise (two-three monitors at work). , powerful computers, etc.
The choice of programming language with which to develop a video game depends on several factors: target platforms, performance speed requirements, interface, libraries being used, etc.
Among the most widely used programming languages are:
- C – Widely known, widely portable, numerous APIs
- C++ Object-oriented, widely known, multiple APIs
- Java Object-oriented, garbage-collected, highly portable (via virtual machine)
- C#, Visual Basic.NET-Object-oriented, garbage-collected, works closely with Microsoft products.
Many other languages are not so widely used.
Many games are not written entirely in one language and may combine two or more. For example, Unity, a popular game engine, has various parts written in C, C++, and C#. Games written in Unreal 4 can use C++ or Epic Games’ visual scripting language.
For consoles, target platform support is usually the most important factor in choosing a programming language. In the past, video games for consoles were written almost entirely in assembly language (machine code) due to limited resources in terms of both storage and processing speed. However, as technology advances, so do the possibilities for console game development. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have different software development kits (SDKs) for their console platforms.
High-level scripting languages are increasingly used as embedded extensions to the base game, written in a compiled programming language for the convenience of both the original developer and anyone who would like to modify the game. Lua is a very popular choice because its application programming interface (API) is written in ANSI C, which is designed to be embedded in other applications. Many developers have created completely custom languages for their games, such as id Software’s QuakeC and Epic Games’ UnrealScript.
Programming, and video game programming, in particular, is a vast science that is unlikely to stop developing in the foreseeable future. The extremely large number of innovative visual and gameplay titles that solve different problems depending on the genre and their focus supports such a statement.