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Baby steps: Where to begin?

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Hello everyone, My name is Chad, I'm new to the site, I'm 23, and have been wanting for a long time get into game development/modding, etc.. I'm completing a bachelors degree (then off to Doctorate!) in an unrelated field ATM (Audiology), but games and being creative is a passion of mine, for as long as I can remember. I would like to get started by learning the basics, building a strong foundation and moving on from there. I know it will take time, and a lot of learning. I'm interested in many areas of game development, including 3d modeling/animation & programming. Obviously I can't do everything at once, but I'd think the best place to start would be to get a good idea of programming, and how a game works, and then moving on from there. My end goal, (if learning ever actually ends, which I don't think it does), is to be able to create my own substantial modification for something like Source or Unreal Engine 3. Most likely when I'm at that point I'll need to get a team together, but that is my end goal. My question is, where to start. So I have some questions, for you knowledgeable many to possibly answer and give me some direction. 1) Should I directly pursue a specific game engine, such as Source or Unreal Engine 3? Source uses C++ I believe, and Unreal uses is a proprietary UnrealScript language, so I'm not sure which would be a better starting point. 2)I have very basic C++ knowledge, and by basic I mean I took a couple intro computer programming classes and managed to completely blow up my "Hello World!" program numerous times. Would I be best off getting deep into learning C++, and then applying that knowledge to working with Source or another C++ based gaming development kit? Or should I skip C++ and learn UnrealScript? 3)Other than learning a programming language, is there any other words of wisdom/advice for me? I know that was a bit long, and if you managed to read the entire thing,... you're awesome. I hope to be around these boards for a while, learning and showing you guys my stuff, and hopefully one day you'll be playing my games. But for now, what the heck is a function!? (I kid, I kid :D ). [Edited by - Audiodoc on December 7, 2008 8:53:31 PM]

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I just wanted to say that C++ is not *that* heard to learn : I started when I was 9 years old( 4 years ago).

While I am not very experienced in game programming, if you are starting out you should probably learn C++, become familiar with OpenGL or DirectX, then create Tetris or Pong or an easy game to get the basics.

Just a tip. =P

BTW, MSVC++ is not basic ;)

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Since you are presumably a hobbyist game-maker (which is admirable -- they seem to be a dying breed in this forum), there is really no "best way" to go about making games.

What you should be doing is what you enjoy doing the most. If you like designing games, try out RPG maker. If you like programming, then by all means learn C++.

If you want to make complete games, then you will have to learn a little of everything (unless you choose to join a team).

Ultimately, the best advice to give you will be determined by the kinds of games you want to make. It won't do you much good to study up on the source engine if you want to make a 2D platformer, and learning to use RPG maker won't help if you don't want to make a 2D rpg.

What I would recommend doing is making a simple mod for an existing game. Some games I have enjoyed making mods for are:

1.) Dawn of War
2.) Titan Quest
3.) Company of Heroes

Half Life 2 is popular for making single player FPS mods
Neverwinter Nights (1 and 2) both have excellent mod tools

PS I would stay away from the Unreal engine... Whenever I play Unreal engine games, they always seem to be very poorly optimized (but it could be just me).

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Well' I'm interested in creating cinematic 3d games (either 1st or 3rd person). And I'm interested in creating complete games, although I'm definitely wanting to start by creating modifications.

I'm just wondering if C++ is the way to go first, assuming that I'm going with Source or learning UnrealScript if I go with Unreal.

I'm a fairly experienced artist, so I'm wanting to learn to incorporate that into 3d animation/modeling later on.

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There are several routes you could take. You could work on your artistic skills and work on a few small projects and develop that talent or you could start working on your programming skills.

I would learn C++ and work at that until you know it forwards and backwards. Alternatively you could select a different language and learn it instead; however, if you plan on using the Source engine at some point then C++ would probably be the best way to go.

Once you learn enough C++ that you feel comfortable with the language start out small and make some smaller games before jumping into something like modding or some other complicated "game".

Most people start with Tetris; however, you could always go simpler with a text based game. If you'll check out the option "For Beginners" under the resources tab you should find a good outline for taking some baby steps.

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Hi Chad, welcome to GameDev.Net!

Based on your goals and what you've said, my personal recommendation for you would be to jump in to making some mods using UnrealScript, with the following reasoning:
  • Making modifications of an existing product such as Unreal allows you to get both faster and more impressive results than you would by going another route. This is good both for your motivation and because it will potentially give you something worth showing off if you get to the stage of wanting to join or recruit others at a later stage.

  • There are large communities dedicated to modding these games which will be able to provide you with additional help and support. If you so desire you can also gain some experience working in teams with these communities.

  • Knowledge you gain from a simplified language such as UnrealScript will transfer over to C++ or other 'proper' languages you may wish to later make use of, easing the learning curve.


This is all based on my personal opinion - as long as you work at it and put in the effort there's no reason you can't achieve your goals via different means such as those recommended by the other posters.

Hope that helps. [smile]

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In the end, there is no right path, as long as you keep going at it you'll make progress.

Modding is certainly interesting, I'd like to add a word of caution about it though. While it's true you can achieve some impressive results quicker by modding an existing game it's not necessarily that much easier to start with modding as a beginner.

The reason is that you're going to interact with a really complex existing code base without first learning the all the necessary concepts. If you learn to create simple games by yourself first, you'll get a better foundation that you can then apply to modding if you want to. At least if the code is the part that interests you most. If you get into modding by first creating graphical content and only slowly adding little bits of scripts it's not too hard.

It's also a question of personality, if you like starting from zero and doing everything yourself, that's obviously not the best choice ;)

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Thanks for all the replies so far guys. An above poster mentioned going with Unreal Engine 3, to begin with.

Now it just so happens, that for the types of games I want to make, this engine would provide a higher graphical fidelity, so that's great. However, is a C++ background required/preferred before learning UnrealScript?

Also, I know Source SDK (which I have downloaded), comes with a variety of tools, Hammer, Cinemtography (for cutscenes, facial animation) and integrates with XSI etc... Does Unreal Engine 3 have the same capability?

I want to be able to, in the end, create rich, cinematic games. Obviously this is a huge end goal, I'm just trying to start off right, with the right engine and background.

Would it beneficial to learn c++, create a mod for source, and then transfer at a later time over the unreal engine? Can those skills learned in Source be applied to Unreal?

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Hi, and welcome to this community.

Quote:
Original post by Audiodoc
Now it just so happens, that for the types of games I want to make, this engine would provide a higher graphical fidelity, so that's great. However, is a C++ background required/preferred before learning UnrealScript?

Also, I know Source SDK (which I have downloaded), comes with a variety of tools, Hammer, Cinemtography (for cutscenes, facial animation) and integrates with XSI etc... Does Unreal Engine 3 have the same capability?

I want to be able to, in the end, create rich, cinematic games. Obviously this is a huge end goal, I'm just trying to start off right, with the right engine and background.

Would it beneficial to learn c++, create a mod for source, and then transfer at a later time over the unreal engine? Can those skills learned in Source be applied to Unreal?


a) The UnrealScript syntax is derived from Java and javascript, so while having a C++ background certainly doesn't hurt, you don't really need it to get to grips with US. The basics are quite intuitive, but US is an extensive language. It doesn't hurt that it's specifically tailored towards game development either. Have a look at the Unreal Developer Network (UDN), a fantastic resource for all things related to Unreal modding, including scripting.

b) The Unreal Engine has a feature-complete SDK, just as Source does. Whereas Source's SDK is comprised of separate tools, UE combines them into one IDE, unsurprisingly called the Unreal Editor. It has built-in support for level & storyboard design, facial expressions, material and texture design and even a US editor.

c) Everything you learn from one game can roughly be applied to most other games, provided you learned it right (as in 'correct') from the get go. Most developers/publishers don't stick with one genre anyway (don't put all your eggs in one basket I guess can apply here as well :)). If anything, trying and trying some more has never hurt anyone, and as you put it yourself, learning is an ever ongoing process. Having said that, good luck!

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Hi Chad and welcome to the forums.

Would like to say real quick that you are of the few new people that actually make a very good and detailed first post, theres still hope in this world! =P.

And for my 2 cents, I agree with the rest saying that you should go forward with the UE 3 modding. Seems the right way to go for you.

Good luck on your journey!

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Just thought I'd give up an update for anyone curious.

I've fully decided to begin working with Unreal Engine 3 technology.

I'm almost overwhelmed out the sheer amount of helpful free resources for the engine available online. I've already gone through and learned the basics of OOP and even the basics of how UnrealScript is derived, and I'm already in love with how much more sensible the syntax is compared to C++.

I've got my hands on UT3 and am in the process of installing all the updates as well as watching the UE3 development Tutorials that come with the UT3 collectors edition.

Besides that, 3dbuzz and moddb as well as the Unreal Dev network have a ton of helpful resources especially for a newbie such as myself.

So at this point I'm doing the unfun stuff, learning the basics, the workflow, and building on examples.

My first short term goal within a month or so is to make some kind of mutator, then most likely I'll work on some kind of character/weapon replacement to integrate 3D models, and finally I'm going to tackle devling into the Level editor portion.

You guys have been great with all your advice, and I'm glad the net has such a great resource available. Thanks again, I'll be keeping everyone updated (and I'm sure asking questions) so look out for me on gamedev.net!

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