What Programming Knowledge is Needed To Become a Video Game Designer?

Video Game DesignerOne of the most popular areas of software development is game design, and if you fit in this category, you probably want to know about the programming knowledge needed to become a video game designer. Computer science can be divided into two broad categories, theory and software engineering, and game developers need a strong set of both types of skills.

The Skills Needed in Game Development

In terms of software engineering, game design is about as difficult as other types of application programming, and you need at least a four-year computer science degree to know enough to be an effective game developer. With a master’s degree, you can do advanced work, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and advanced graphics programming. The most important skills you need as any type of developer are data structures and algorithm design skills because, as a professional developer, you simply cannot build software using the wrong data structures and algorithms.

For example, a game world may contain a number of characters or enemies, and these game objects need to be stored in memory. Depending on how the player interacts with these objects, they may need to be stored in an array, binary tree, linked list, priority queue or other data structure to optimize performance. The game locations are usually stored in a graph structure so that the game can use a shortest-path algorithm to find routes for artificially intelligent characters to travel. Most of these programming problems have been solved already, and all a developer needs to do is reach into the big bag of software development patterns to pull out the right one for the situation.

Programming for Modern 3-D Gaming

Once you understand how to work within a framework, you need to become intimately familiar with 3-D programming libraries, such as OpenGL and DirectX. Depending on the kind of games you’ll be developing, you may be writing source code or building games in a graphical programming environment, such as Unity3D. In either case, your job is to understand how the 3-D library transforms the game world into a 2-D image on the screen and how it renders the diffuse, specular, transmission, emission, refraction and other shaders that color the image.

Another important programming skill for game designers is physics simulation, and during the main game loop of your program, all the characters and moving objects will invoke physics functions to figure out where they’re supposed to be on the current frame. The results of the functions are passed to the renderer so that it knows where the objects’ vertices need to be shaded.

Getting Started in Game Design

To become the best game developer you can be, enroll in a four-year computer science program and pay special attention during your discrete math, linear algebra, physics and data structures and algorithms courses. You also have the option of getting a game design degree from an online college, but your employment options will be a lot more limited with this degree.

Related Resource: Mobile Applications Jobs

The game design industry is growing rapidly as more companies make games for mobile devices, so learning frameworks for mobile game design is a good strategy. With a strong understanding of graph algorithms, data structure time and space complexities, linear algebra, discrete math, physics and graphics programming, you will have most of the programming knowledge needed to become a video game designer.