Why coding’s an essential element of game development

Why coding’s an essential element of game development

by Sophie

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There’s no question about it. Video games have advanced in huge leaps and bounds since the first mainstream titles started appearing just a few decades ago. What is even more remarkable is the popularity of video games and the incredible stats that they continue to generate.

Ask the average gamer what the most important element of a game for them is and you are likely to get a variety of answers. Some will say the visuals, others will tell you it’s the plot. Some might even say that it’s the soundtrack.

But we would wager that few, if any, would praise what is arguably the most important aspect of any game – the coding.

It’s not surprising. To use a movie analogy, the coders are the behind-the-scenes people, as well as the unsung heroes, on a film production:  the lighting people, the camera operators and even the drivers who get the cast and director to and from set each day.

Now you could look at this analogy and say that it’s the actual movie, or game, that is the impressive outcome and that’s thanks to the writer, director and actors. But without all of those backroom people, there simply would be no finished product to enjoy.

Without coding there is nothing

That’s because however lofty the ambitions of the game, however impressive the design and visual treatment and however imposing the soundtrack, they all need a coder to turn them from imagination into reality.

In a big games studio like Rockstar or EA Sports there will be a whole team of coders each with their own responsibilities and specialisms. In smaller studios just a few coders will probably need to be more flexible in their roles. But wherever they work it’s the coders who are going to be building the engines that all games need to power them.

It’s also a fact that the better and more elegant the coding solutions that these people can devise, the smoother the ultimate gaming experience is going to be for the players.

This can range from accurately translating the game creator’s vision accurately to the screen or making sure that the player triggers certain bonuses and other in-game features when a certain sequence is followed or achieved.

Incidentally, this is also something that coders need to achieve in many other fields of programming, for example when creating websites and microsites for other gaming platforms such as online casinos.

For example, the programming of online casino sites offering bonuses is something that will need to be considered, as only certain players such as new players will be able to qualify for the new bonuses. Typically, the website will be programmed for a player to input a promotional code to redeem their bonus.

The languages coders use

It’s no big surprise that many of the coding languages to create games are the same ones that are behind the vast majority of software today. Typically, these include:

  • C++, which is especially useful for grater memory management, absolutely vital in the world of today’s super-sophisticated and HD games. Because it also works with most game engines it is perhaps the leading language.
  • Java, which was inspired by C++, is also popular as it is almost universally compatible as well as being easy to update. Its “offspring”, JavaScript, is also the most widely used language in web-based and browser gaming.
  • Python is similar to both of the above in some respects while also being simpler to use. The fact that it can be used to build prototype games more quickly can be a real aid in the long and drawn-out process of game development.
  • C# was first released by Microsoft over twenty years ago but remains popular today. It’s a relatively quick and easy language to learn and is often used by smaller game studios.
  • Lua is another more basic language with good compatibility with other more complex ones making it another very popular choice.

Collaboration is key

Just as no man is an island, the same can be said of coders, whatever their gender. That’s because they have to work closely with the whole game production team

So, they take the “creative” brief from the developers and designers and it’s their job to make sure that the vision can become reality, or as much as the vision that it’s possible to create given the technological limitations.

Recently there has been quite a debate about whether actually playing games can help coders to do their jobs even better. It’s certainly true that it helps to develop a good appreciation of what makes for a good game.

Both disciplines also rely on having a nimble enough brain to develop genuine solution-based skills as well as developing different ways of approaching a problem.

In addition, research has suggested that gaming can increase focus and concentration, two other essential facets of the accomplished coder.

So, it could well be that the games that they help to create can also contribute to making them even better coders – and it’s hard to think of a more virtuous circle than that.

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