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Game Programming for Teens, 3rd Edition (Computer Game and Simulation Programming) ***--

Game Programming for Teens, 3rd Edition (Computer Game and Simulation Programming) By Maneesh Sethi
Published August 2008
List Price: $29.99, Your Amazon.com Price: $20.47

Amazon.com Sales Rank: 79,966
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Do you enjoy playing video games and want to learn how to create your own? Game Programming for Teens, Third Edition shows you how to design and develop a complete video game from start to finish, no prior programming knowledge required. You'''ll begin by learning the basics of BlitzMax, a simple cross-platform game programming language that can be used on Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems. Once you understand how to write the programming code, you'''ll begin to incorporate all the graphical elements of games including varying colors, loading and displaying images, and creating scrolling backgrounds. Finally, you'''ll learn how to add sound and music, use keyboard input codes, and even integrate artificial intelligence. New skills are taught step-by-step, and each chapter builds upon the techniques you learned in the previous, so by the end of the book you'''ll have built your very own fully functioning video game. And the CD-ROM contains all the source code, art and sound files, and demo versions of BlitzMax and the other programs used in the book. So don'''t just play video games, build your own, with Game Programming for Teens, Third Edition!

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Feb 06 2009 11:16 AM
Way back in the personal computer Paleolithic of 1983, I had an old TRS-80 with 4K of memory and running at a blistering 0.8 Mhz. It really wasn't capable of doing much other than playing cartridge-based games and teaching you programming in BASIC. Just about every computer you bought back then came with a BASIC interpreter built into the ROM, and along with your "how to hook your computer to the back of your teevee" manual, you had a thicker volume of how to write your very own programs in BASIC.

Most people ignored that manual. The ones who didn't were gently ushered through the wonders of your computer's BASIC interpreter, from the PRINT statement to fancy advanced stuff like GOSUB. Using this manual with your computer at your side, you could give yourself a reasonable education in basic (and BASIC) programming.

The Game Programming For Teens series, now in its third edition, can be considered the decades-long descendent of these "in the box" BASIC tutorials. It's a very gentle introduction to BASIC programming intended for people who don't know an if-statement from a hole in the ground and who would like to get off the ground quickly with some simple games.

Since putting a BASIC interpreter in a ROM has been out of fashion for twenty years, and even QBASIC hasn't been seen for years, there's been a bit of a void of really easy programming tutorials out there. And that's this book's niche.

Mind you, the BASIC that's taught nowadays is a far cry from the BASIC that was shoehorned into computer ROM's in the 1980's. Much like the ever-popular Visual Basic, the language really more resembles Pascal with BASIC-ese keywords than the old line-numbered spaghetti-code-encouraging BASIC of my youth. Game Programming For Teens: Third Edition is designed around BlitzMax. BlitzMax is a pretty capable BASIC interpreter with plenty of extensions as well as a compiler, IDE, and OpenGL support, so you will be able to "grow" along with the system to a good extent. I must note, though, that the BlitzMax that's included with the book is just a 30-day version, and once that expires, you'll need to shell out $80 (at the time of this writing) for the full version.

Also note that BlitzMax as well as Game Programming For Teens: Third Edition is cross-platform and runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. The book doesn't have any real platform-specific material in it, so it should work just fine with all versions of the product.

Back to the book, this IS a book for the faint of heart. If you know a for-loop from an if-statement and you can define what an abstract data structure is, then you've probably already graduated beyond the scope of this book. Also the title is a bit of a misnomer. I'd probably recommend this book even if you're not quite a teen. If you're between 10 and 15 (of you know someone who is), then you'll probably do well with this.

The first 120-odd pages of the book cover the most basic of BASIC. If-statements. For-loops. Variables. Arrays. Comments. That kind of thing. It's all done in the context of a very simple pong clone, so the content isn't all that dry. Most of the early examples are done using BlitzMax's text mode, so the graphics are minimal until chapter 5 which covers bitmap graphics.

Once you get beyond the most fundamental material of the opening chapters, the book becomes more focused on game programming, and the topics covered all lean towards the final "take home" project of the book, a space-shooter called "Invaderz". In the chapters leading up to the game, you'll learn about collision detection (bounding rectangle, bounding circle, and pixel-based), keyboard and mouse input, sound, and simple evasion AI. As I said, it's what you need to make the Invaderz game. The book itself clocks in at about 325 pages, so there's not a lot of extraneous material. If you want to cover OpenGL or networking or communication with game controllers, you'll need to look elsewhere. This does give you enough of the basics that you'll at least be able to make more educated choices about your next step.

Again, this is the most gentle of gentle introductions to programming. This is intended to get a young programmer-to-be up to speed with a minimum of frustration. The content is very basic (literally and figuratively) and is designed to be, as that Jedi guy said "your first step into a larger world".

If you're interested in writing games but you've never even touched a compiler, and you're at a complete loss as to where to start, this might be a good place. It's not C++ or DirectX or any of a dozen other technologies that platform-snobs insist is the proper place to start, but it's a good first step on your way.