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Beginning OpenGL Game Programming, Second Edition ****-

Beginning OpenGL Game Programming, Second Edition By Luke Benstead
Published March 2009
List Price: $34.99, Your Amazon.com Price: $21.16

Amazon.com Sales Rank: 1,107,065
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Are you a beginning programmer just getting started in 3D graphics programming? If you're comfortable programming in C++ and have a basic understanding of 3D math concepts, Beginning OpenGL Game Programming, Second Edition will get you started programming 3D graphics for games using the OpenGL API. Revised to work with the latest version of OpenGL, OpenGL 3.0, this book is perfect for programmers who are new to game development or new to OpenGL. New skills and concepts are taught using step-by-step instructions, with end-of-chapter exercises for testing and reinforcement. From creating a simple OpenGL application, to applying texture mapping, and even displaying 2D fonts, you'll find complete yet concise coverage of all the newest features of OpenGL as they apply to 3D graphics for game development. And by the end of the book, you'll be able to apply your newfound knowledge of OpenGL to create your very own games.

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Aug 30 2009 08:24 AM

Beginning OpenGL Game Programming is the second pass at a "reduced size" version of the OpenGL game programming tomes that Astle and Hawkins have put out in years past. The "Beginning" series reflects that fact that it's not a complete end-to-end book on how to make a complete game. It's a book that's just intended to get your feet wet with OpenGL and hopefully help you step up to larger things.

This isn't a book for rank amateurs. The entirety of the book (apart from a little about GLUT, SDL, WGL, and a couple of closing chapters on drawing fonts and loading MD2 files) is devoted to OpenGL. This book is not prefaced with a 150-page tutorial on the requisite mathematics and C++ necessary to get moving. If you've never written a line of C++ in your life, Beginning OpenGL Game Programming isn't quite enough "Beginning" for you. Thankfully, your local bookstore and/or library is probably replete with programming tutorials that'll get you to the point where this book will be of use.

I will repeat what I said above, because it's important. Virtually all of this book is devoted to OpenGL. One topic that always seems to be neglected when dredging up the old "DirectX vs OpenGL" debate is that OpenGL is NOT an end-to-end game development technology. OpenGL is designed to slap graphics up on the screen, and that's it. If you want to play sounds or talk to a joystick or communicate with a server-based database, it's not in Beginning OpenGL Game Programming. This is not a book that's intended to get you from "rank amateur" to "Quake 4 clone" in a thousand pages. This is a book intended to show you how to slap up textured 3D polygons in 250 pages.

Now then, on to the technology. At first I was a bit worried to see "second edition" on the cover. First because I've reviewed some fairly inferior second and third-edition whatevers lately. Next is because OpenGL itself works on a pretty glacial update style, and OpenGL books can find themselves still relevant years after DirectX has redesigned itself into something entirely "other". This book is designed from the ground-up around OpenGL 3.0, but with a couple of concessions. First off, each programming example on the CD includes both OpenGL 3.0 and 2.1 versions, so if you really want to see what's changed, between the versions, you can compare. Also, the book is pretty good on documenting the old deprecated way of doing things as well as what's the shiny new 3.0 way to do things.

And that's important. With OpenGL 3.0 and GLSL, they deprecated some pretty fundamental stuff. And if you've looked over older OpenGL tutorial books, you'll likely be shocked that some of the most fundamental and straightforward functions and techniques are now done differently.

The book's fairly platform-agnostic, despite the fact that it states right off that the text examples are designed for Windows. Since the book is all about putting graphics on the screen, the only part that's really married to a particular OS is the stuff that's ALWAYS been married to a particular OpenGL-enabled platform -- getting the Window on the screen, going full-screen, and responding to events from the OS. Since the book doesn't deal with sound and joystick-input and other things that can be hairy when moving from platform to platform, there aren't many platform headaches. The book discusses GLUT and SDL (both of which are cross-platform) and the CD examples are also build-able for Linux.

But there aren't examples for Mac, and why I can't honestly say. That's not to say that the book will be useless if you have a Mac. You'll just have to do a little extra work for the first couple of chapters.

There's not much of a take-home project with the book, and I'm fine with that. Little annoys me more than a book that gets so bogged down teaching you how to write a space-invaders game (and requisite game engine) that it forgets what it's all about. There is an "ogre shooter" game in the last chapter that's built largely out of stuff discussed throughout the book. It's not a complete game because, as I've pointed out a couple of times, OpenGL is not a complete game development API. It's just a last-chapter "wrap up" of the book's techniques, so if you want to just ignore it, you won't feel like the book's talking to the wrong audience.

So if you're the type of person who skips to the last chapter of a review, here it is. Beginning OpenGL Game Programming is a book about OpenGL and OpenGL only. It's not a programming tutorial, so if your C++ is wobbly you'll have to get up to speed elsewhere. You will get some points and lines and polygons and (eventually) textured polygons up on the screen in fairly short order and in a way that you can understand. This won't get you from rank amateur to Quake-cloner in one book, but no book can. Any book that says it can is lying.