Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My review of "Learning C++ by Creating Games with UE4"

    “Learning C++ by Creating Games with UE4” is one of the few books available for the Unreal 4 (UE4) gaming engine.  It was written by William Sherif and published by Packt Publishing.  Files that contain the code and assets for this book are available on Packt’s website as well as a PDF that contains the colored images from the book. 
    I have always wanted to learn C++ because it has been the computer language used by most professional game programmers.  With all the casual and mobile games now available I don’t know if this statement is true anymore but nonetheless C++ is still a great language to learn. 
    The book starts out gently guiding you through the basics of C++.  By chapter 3 you begin working with Unreal which is great since that is presumably why you bought this particular book.  This chapter’s project involves changing the colors in the puzzle game that comes with the Unreal engine.  I have to admit that I was quite thrilled with having this work when I hit the play button in the engine.
    The middle chapters build on what you have learned previously.  I have tried to teach myself C++ in the past and I usually end up stopping when I get to pointers.  This book helped me understand what pointers are and how to use them. It accomplishes this using the Unreal engine.  In addition, I enjoyed learning about classes and object-oriented programming.
    Starting with chapter 8 you get to create a scene and build an example game that includes NPCs that will talk to your player character.  You also learn how to cast spells, give the character an inventory and fight enemies. It is wonderful to see how all of this is done.
    I really enjoyed this book but I also found it very frustrating.  The code that is provided doesn’t always work and it is difficult to know where to exactly put each additional portion of code as it is introduced.  This is not the author’s fault.  The Unreal engine updates quite frequently and I discovered some issues with trying to use the code in the current version of Unreal.  I think that any book written on Unreal 4 would almost have to be a living document that updates as the game engine does.
    In summary I recommend the book’s first seven chapters as a fun way to learn C++.  After that, you can use the book to learn C++ and UE4; but be prepared to use the Unreal engine’s own website to help you understand how to update the code so that your game works correctly.

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