|Open Source Game Development: Qt Games for KDE, PDAs and Windows|
|author||Martin Heni, Andreas Beckermann|
|publisher||Charles River Media|
|summary||Complete guide on writing small to medium games for Linux, Windows and PDA's using Qt.|
As maintainer of Krita, the KOffice paint application, I need to know about graphics. Unfortunately, the four months of retraining from sinologist to Oracle Forms developer that launched me into a life of coding didn't include anything on graphics, and certainly not on OpenGL. Which is very much where Krita 2.0 is going.
So... I was looking for an easy introduction to OpenGL to kind of ease my way into the Red and Orange books. And Amazon's weird recommendations system recommended Open Source Game Development: Qt Games for KDE, PDAs, and Windows by Martin Heni and Andreas Beckermann to me. Intrigued, I ordered the volume forthwith. Turns out that that was a good move: this is an excellent book.
In the first place, the text is very clear and concise, but never dry. Forget about the ho-ho-I'm-funny chatty style that's prevalent in many technical books. This book comes to the point immediately. Then, the information is carefully ordered and the presentation very neat and clear. Those would be good points for any book.
But what makes Open Source Game Development: Qt Games for KDE, PDAs, and Windows even more interesting is that it's much more than its title indicates. It is squarely intended at the hobby coder who wants to work on what the book calls "desktop games" -- not the multi-million dollar multimedia productions that demand a new graphics card every half year, but the games that you play while thinking out a knotty problem or that have some educational value for your kids. The kind of project a single coder, or a small team can complete and maintain while still staying sane. And, of course, that kind of game, defender or zaxxon-type games, maze games or tetris-style games work are perfectly suited for pda's and mobile phones, too,
Actually, this book is the perfect introduction to joining a big Open Source project I've seen. Of course, the focus is on Qt and KDE, which means that if you always had this itch to join KDE development but didn't have the necessary skills, this book will help you get there in a very pleasant way.
One way this is done, is by always first giving a general introduction to a topic, and then more detailed discussion in the next chapter. So, first we've got a very good "Qt Primer", and three chapters "KDE Game Development", "Qt Game Development Using Microsoft Windows" and "Game Development and PDA's". And there's a chapter on "OpenGL" in general, and then a chapter on "OpenGL with Qt".
The first part of the book deals with this type of introductory material. The second part discusses "Artificial Intelligence", "Pathfinding" (this chapter was a revelation to me -- I never understood how that worked. If only I had this information while trying to write games for my ZX Spectrum!), "Particle Effects" and "Math and Physics in Desktop Games". The material in these chapters is foreshadowed by the very first chapter "Introduction to Desktop Gaming", which deals with game balancing, architecture and the ins and outs of developing free software. Armed with these chapters, you can add enough game play to your games to make them satisfying to play.
The next three chapters discussion the Qt network classes and how to use them in your games, the KGame library (free software, of course), that contains a lot of boring groundwork that's the same for most games -- players, input devices, network stuff. For me personally, the "XML" chapter wasn't that useful, but then, I'm a corporate cubby-hole programmer by day, and XML is my bread and butter. It's amazing how many billable hours XML can add to a business application project.
A very important chapter, "Open Source and Intellectual Property Rights" makes it very clear what's allowed and what not. The summary chapter, "A Practical Summary" is a novel idea -- at least, I hadn't come across something like this before -- and it works quite well, tying all strands together. There are plenty of references to earlier chapters, so if works like a kind of hands-on index. Not that the actual index isn't top-notch, too.
I should make clear that this book is not just about coding for KDE. That's what most interesting to me, but if you want to code a game for Windows, for a Qtopia or Qt/Embedded environment, then this is the right book. After all, with the release of Qt4 under GPL for Windows (Qt was already released under GPL for X11 and OS X, as was Qtopia), Qt is a good choice for Windows hobby programmers. You get a high quality toolkit that really helps with the boring ground work, and excellent documentation. Coupled with the clear text in this book, there's nothing to hold you back.
Andreas Beckermann is the author of Boson, an OpenGL real-time strategy game based on Qt and KDE. His experience in working on Boson really is apparent in this book. Martin Heni has written a couple of games that that are in KDE's games pack, and has won a prize for his QTopia game Zauralign.
Oh, and the chapters on OpenGL and OpenGL with Qt were enough to make me understand the OpenGL Krita already has and did prepare me quite adequately for the big Red and Orange books. And I've got the itch to write a little game now..."
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