The creation of video games started as early as 1952 when Alexander S. Douglas created OXO (noughts and crosses) as part of his PhD thesis. OXO became the first graphical/digital game and many such games were created since then. However, the video game industry truly blossomed in 1972 when Atari Inc. created Pong—a simple two-dimensional game that looked like a ping pong table. Since Pong, many companies have developed similar, as well as, increasingly complex video games. Game development in the 21st century took creativity and design up a notch with game consoles like Xbox and Playstation.
Games are developed through a code written in various programming languages. Programmers write code that tells the computer the math and logic behind a game. Programmers are usually part of a creative team that includes game designers and artists. The artists design core game features, oversee game testing and conduct design reviews. Game programming involves artificial intelligence, computer graphics, simulation, and sound programming. It also involves technical skills about gaming system design, level design, scripting, and coding.
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Most computer and video games are written in C++ or C. Since every language has its pros and cons and every game involves customized design, operating system interface, speed, etc, there is no language ‘set in stone’ as the best language to learn for programming video games.
However, the language that is the most popular among game programmers is C++. In this guide at Career Karma, we will explain why we think C++ is the best language you can learn and use if you are looking into game development. But first, let’s dig briefly into the history of C++.
C++ was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup in 1979. Stroustrup, at that time, was working with Simula—language for simulations. However, he found Simula to be too slow for practical usage. Soon he started working on “C with classes” which was a superset of the C language. His language consisted of all the features of the C language in addition to other features like classes, default function arguments, and type checking.
In 1983, the language came to be known as C++ with the addition of new features like virtual functions, single-line comments, and function overloading. In 1985, C++ was officially labelled a commercial product. Since then, the language has gone through many developments and revisions.
Why C++ for Game Programming?
Today, most high-end games played on gaming consoles like Xbox and PlayStation utilize C++. C++ is also the language used for Unreal Engine and CryEngine—the two most advanced game engines available. Here are some of the reasons C++ language is best suited for game programming.
C++ uses object-oriented programming (OOP). OOP expresses programs in terms of “objects” which means when dealing with games, it breaks parts of a game into logical pieces. Each piece of code is an object of the object-oriented programming. Such programming makes it easy to understand code as well as allows it to be reused. OOP aims to bind the data and the functions together in a way so only the function can access the data.
The reason OOP is preferred for gaming is because it is faster and easier to work with. It also keeps C++ code DRY “Don’t Repeat Yourself”—which means when a modification is made to a single element in the system, there is no need to change any other logically unrelated elements in the system. This makes it easier to maintain, modify, and debug code in C++. In addition, this type of programming helps create reusable applications that require less code and shorter development time.
Games require resource intensive and performance critical software. C++ offers the benefits of being close to the hardware without the difficulty of writing code in old-fashioned C language. C++ is flexible, it requires low resource usage and good optimization in databases and system programming. C++ was invented to manage complexity that C couldn’t and complexity is a big factor in game performance. C++ supports reference variables which help increase performance.
C++ allows users to have greater control over memory management and graphics, which are two important factors in the development and creation of games.
C++ has extensive libraries which can help you find great resources for designing and powering complex graphics in games. You can find a huge amount of literature on the internet to learn about C++. For example, on SourceForge—a popular project-management website—if you search for “library” you will find 1000s of results for C++ libraries.
C++ can be a great language to learn if you are looking into game development as a career choice or hobby. C++ is fast, efficient, and easy to learn. For more information and resources on C++, visit Boost Library. The site provides peer-reviewed portable C++ libraries and plenty of useful information on the language.
Learn more about other programming languages like Java, C, or C# at Career Karma.