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Game Programming All In One
Bruno Miguel Teixeira de Sousa
Publisher: Premier Press
ISBN: 1-931841-23-3
Purchasing: [Amazon.Com] - RRP US$49.99
Reviewed: 26th May 2002

Front Cover Shot:

Risky Title

The title of this book is quite adventurous in that it seems to imply that it will cover ALL of game programming. As we all know, game programming and all it's connected areas is an absolutely huge subject. There are lots of books available that spend 1000+ pages discussing only one area of this industry, with this book weighing in at just over 900 pages makes it sound like an impossible feat.

Doing the Impossible

However, reading through the table of contents it is quite clear that this book isn't going to cover everything down to the finer details, rather, it is going to give you a crash course in all the AREAS that you will need to be familiar with. In this sense, it sets out to do a realistic job and you are paying for the following areas:

C++ Programming
Windows Programming
Game Design
Algorithms and Data Structures
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
Physics Modeling
Publishing A Game

At a fairly general level the above list covers pretty much every base and hits all the main targets for game programming. That is, if you're happy writing games for Windows with DirectX. Which hasn't bothered me at all in the last 5 years, but those of you looking for any OpenGL or cross-platform/OS-Independence will be disappointed.

As Deep as it is Wide?

I've already established the fact that this book covers quite a wide range of topics, but for 900 pages can it also deliver in depth?

Surprisingly it does deliver more than you might give it credit for - but don't expect a lot of background theory or explanation. Several chapters in this book are fairly blunt in their nature, but get the job done and explain the important aspects. 

The Physics Modeling is a good example of this. This chapter is the first real mention of physics in the whole book, and starts with only two pages of introduction and then it launches straight into a code listing of "mrEntity" - the general class interface for a physics object. I don't have a good background in physics, so each time I review/read a book covering the area I'm often learning things for the first time, and launching in this way into a listing of terms and names that I simply don't understand ("Coefficient of Restitution"? what!) is a bit of a shock. However, it does work well this way - as I am now interested to find out what it all does. The rest of the chapter slowly works through all the major areas - basic physics principles explained, and then some more detailed sections on friction and particle systems. 

In several chapters, equations are presented straight up with a short explanation of how to use them - which is fine for applied purposes, but for theoretical/learning it's not so useful. Other books that cover only one area in 1000+ pages would often dedicate a couple of pages to the proof/derivation/roots of such an equation/formula. It is this excess background "fluff" that this book looses, in favor of covering the wider range of topics.

Keeping Up With the Pace

This book has quite a fast pace, as just mentioned, the book drops a lot of unnecessary background theory. Other books that don't drop this material often give the feeling of having large "gaps" between the applied programming/development sections; in the long run it may be better, but for this book it means that you are constantly moving onto new things and hence, picking up a considerable pace.

It is worth baring in mind that if you want to know more about a particular subject in detail then you'll need to take a trip to the library, or make good use of Google. Some people I know aren't satisfied with just learning the practical/applied areas of a subject, and HAVE to understand the background to theories and ideas - if you are one of these people, you'll probably spend as much time looking online for further reading as you will reading the book.

Who's this book for?

This book probably won't suit someone with a lot of game-developing experience as they'll either have other dedicated books, already have the experience or will know the right places to look on the internet. Rather I see this book as being for intermediate programmers - those that know what they want to do, but aren't entirely sure which direction they should be going in. If you are one of these people, you can read this book and get a good overview of all the areas you need to be familiar with, and probably get quite far applying it to real-world situations; but you'll also know which areas you need to do more reading/research into.

In Conclusion

In some respects, this book could be seen as a more modern and up-to-date version of Andre LaMothe's "Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Guru's" (reviewed here) which tried, in a similiar style, to cover as many key-areas as possible.

You will have to decide if you are a person who wants a crash course in everything, or would rather select a few books dedicated to specific areas only (and in more detail). As far as crash courses go, this is very comprehensive and will certainly send you in the correct direction(s).

Good Things Bad Things
• Well structured chapters and sections. • Could have done with some more references for further reading sources (books, websites etc...)
• Covers almost everything you could need • Entirely in C/C++, which may be a drawback for VB developers.
• Up-to-date, discussing several of the newer areas in game development. No consideration of cross-platform/OS independence game development.
• Gives a C/C++ primer/introduction for those not familiar. Will probably require additional research and background reading
• Author knows what he is  talking about, and it shows!
• Excellent CD, with a good choice of software/files  
Good support exercises and answers for most chapters.  


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