How to Program Games


"How to Program Games" is a set of tutorials which I am writing. They will guide you through the development of various games, showing how new features are added at each stage, and hopefully demonstrating good design technique.

Target audience

The tutorials are aimed at both complete newcomers to game programming and people who have written a few games but would be interested in seeing my methods anyway. Veterans may also find something of interest -- I find that examining other people's techniques is often worthwhile.

Structure of tutorials

Each tutorial is arranged as a set of chapters, each having its own directory which contains the source for the game at that stage and a file called `tutorial.txt', which points out things in the source that have changed since the previous chapter. The emphasis is really on the source itself, which is well commented; the text files serve mainly to point you to the interesting parts of the source code at the moment.

Development environments

The tutorials are written primarily for people using Allegro, and ought to work on any platform it supports. I started writing them using djgpp, but now I'm using Linux; they should definitely work on both of these platforms. I am including djgpp and Linux makefiles. These should convert easily I expect they also work with Windows gcc ports, as far as these are supported by Allegro. I I have not included makefiles or native build djgpp (v2.01) and Allegro (v3.0). With the advent of WinAlleg they might be easily portable to Windows -- I've heard good rumours about WinAlleg (though I'm not in a position to use it myself).

Of course, the concepts should themselves port easily to other sane compilers. The code written is not likely to be djgpp-specific.


In the list below, each tutorial has two links -- one to a ZIP file containing the whole tutorial and one to the readme.txt file for that tutorial, in case you want more information before downloading it. The numbers in brackets are the sizes of the downloads.

"How to Program Pong" (100k) htppong.txt (4k)
This shows how to develop Pong, demonstrating the basic principles of game programming, such as the main game loop, input, processing, and output. It contains seven chapters, but is not yet finished. It is written in a very modular manner, as are all of these tutorials. Don't skip this one just because Pong is a simple game; the techniques it introduces are fundamental to game programming and the other tutorials will use them without explaining them in this level of detail.
Sorry, only one so far!

Plans for future tutorials

This list is by no means final; it could easily change. There are a large number of concepts that need covering in this series, and I of course want to cover those concepts in as few games as possible ;). I won't list all the concepts, since there are so many of them; instead I'll list some possible games, and the major concepts they would cover. Overlap is unavoidable, of course; the tutorials will be ordered to some extent and overlapping topics will be covered in most depth in the first tutorial that covers them.
So far this covers the basic game structure, modularity, simple display techniques, abstract input and modular processing of game objects. It will/may eventually also cover (at a basic level) sprites, sounds, music, computer-controlled characters with very basic AI, use of timers to regulate the game speed, and simple front ends. The more complicated topics will of course be explained clearly and in detail, and they'll come up again in later tutorials for more development.
This would be a fairly simple action game. The core would be much the same as Pong's core. It would introduce polar coordinates, tracking objects in game units rather than pixels, acceleration, double buffering and possibly dirty rectangles or page flipping. It might also introduce gravity, as an added twist. Asteroids with gravity would be interesting...
A strategy game
This would introduce tile maps, point-and-click mouse control, simple AI for moving player-controlled units (e.g. basic pathfinding).
A platform game
This would also use tile maps, with a more versatile display engine to make them scroll smoothly. There'd be gravity, of course.

Contact information