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Isometric Game Programming With DirectX 7.0
Author: Ernest Pazera
Publisher: Premier Press
ISBN: 0-7615-3089-4
Purchasing: [Amazon.Com
] [Fatbrain.Com] - RRP US$59.99
Reviewed: 30th December 2001

Front Cover Shot:

Overview

Isometric games almost seem to be a dying breed of game these days - whilst things are starting to level out, 3D graphics still seems to be the band-wagon that people want to be on. This is a huge shame, as some of the most classic games for the PC have used an isometric engine, at least for me anyway (the XCOM series in particular).

However, with the release of this book I hope to see a slight revival in the Isometric world ;) well, maybe I'm just dreaming, but I can hope. For those of you not in tune with what isometric games are, this following screen shot is a good example - taken from one of the sample programs on the CD:

They are traditionally made up of diamond-like tiles, as is fairly evident in the screenshot. Whilst they are graphically quite primitive in comparison to the latest 3D graphics engines, there is a certain charm to them, and they are in many cases the best choice to displaying what is necessary for the game.

The Structure

The structure of the book is, as you would expect, very similiar to the other books in the series (Premier Press Game Development Series). The book is divided into 5 parts - the first 3 follow on from one another, and the last 2 operate as seperate entities (although only really accesable once you've read the rest of the book).

Part 1 is an introduction to the basics, which increases quite rapidly - going from basic Windows/Win32 programming in C/C++ through to DirectDraw/DirectX programming in 200 pages. This may not be the best book to start learning DirectDraw/DirectX from, consider this introduction for anyone who's either used an earlier version of DirectX or for a programmer experienced in other graphics API's. Unfortunately, being based on DirectDraw there aren't any new books on the subjects - you can find many hundreds of tutorials on the web though if you really need them.

Part 2 is about isometric fundamentals, this is the first real taster of isometric game programming in this book. It covers the various different ways of rendering tiles, and variations on isometric engines.

Part 3 extends upon part 2 by introducing some more advanced features and techniques for isometric games; whilst they are fairly advanced they are almost always required for isometric games (object placement, movement and selecting for example).

Part 4 is another advanced reading chapter, but not quite so required as Part 3. It covers some very basic artificial intelligence, and then gives an introduction to Direct3D7 rendering - which is going to be required reading if you intend to convert any of these samples/engines into Direct3D8.

Part 5 is a collection of appendices, which are quite simple, and dont really cover any new ground...

Content

The content of the book is excellent, Ernest definitely loves his isometric gaming! You can tell that he's been doing this for quite a long time now (too long maybe?!) and that some of this stuff is as simple to him as 1+1 to most of us. This comes over in the text in a very positive way, whereas some authors leave fairly vague descriptions of some things due to a lack of understanding, that is very rarely the case in this book.

The content works up in a well structured and linear order - which is good, whilst it takes a reasonable programmer to be able to learn most of this stuff straight away it is all presented in a logical manner; "this is what we were just discussing, here it is in code". There are alot of box-outs containing hints, explanations, tips and warnings throughout this book - which is common in all the other books in this series, which is no bad thing at all.

The CD As A Resource

The CD for this book is well done, but not quite as well as in the special effects book, which is a shame, but not really a bad thing. Whilst the book is based on the DirectX7 API, we are actually given the DirectX8 SDK on the CD, which may well confuse a few people... but you can still use DX7 from this SDK, just that there aren't any of the help files/examples for the old DirectX7 interfaces. We also get a couple of art programs (PSP7 and Truespace 5) to play with, which is good. And of course, we get the complete source code for all the examples in the book... which is an essential feature as far as I see it.

In Conclusion

This is definitely the best book around on isometric gaming - which isn't surprising as it's obviously a favourite of the author, and not being a particularly widely used medium any more there aren't many books published on the subject. However, if you have any interest in isometric gaming, then this is most definitely the book for you...

Good Things Bad Things
• nicely divided into parts, with a nice learning curve throughout • Entirely in C/C++, which may be a drawback for VB developers.
• Covers the use of new technology for a relatively old method. • Could have done with some colour diagrams/colour plates
• Probably the best, if not only, book dedicated to the subject.  
• The author appears to enjoy this subject, and his enthusiam shows...
• CD resource is done well, and includes all the essentials.  

 

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