Direct3D Game Programming
Publisher: Premier Press
[Fatbrain.Com] - RRP US$59.99
Reviewed: 10th March 2002
the time of writing, I've only seen (And reviewed)
two books specifically about DirectX/Gaming and
Visual Basic - and if you've read the reviews
(here and here)
then you'll realise that whilst they aren't terrible
books, they weren't that amazing either. So at
first I didn't hold up much hope for this particular
book - why was it going to be any better than
it's part of the successful "Premier Press
Game Development Series", of which I've already
seen (and been impressed by) 3 books from this
series; so maybe there's hope for the VB game
development book that we've all been waiting for!
book is a rather heavy piece of work - weighing
in at 1100 pages (bigger than any of the other
3 books I've reviewed).
structure and formatting of the book follows a
similiar pattern to the other books in the series.
It's divided into 5 basic parts, and each of these
is subdivided into several chapters (22 in total).
The five parts look like this:
Introducing Visual Basic and DirectX
2. The Nuts and Bolts of Game Development
3. Advanced Game Programming
4. Complete Game Projects
structure works very well - the first part sets
the scene, gets the reader familiar with the playing
field and the intentions of the book, the second
works on using the Win32 API to put together some
more solid examples before getting into the DirectX
code. The 3rd part is where you "meet"
DirectX, thus its quite a large part of the book.
The 4th part is very good - packing 4 complete
(albeit simple) games to learn from, a real bonus
as far as this type of book is concerned.
is the all-important factor - content. As I've
already stated, this is a big book, and it DOES
make very good use of it as well. The book isn't
particularly deep when it comes down to individual
areas, instead it goes for a broad all-encompasing
approach. This book really does cover pretty much
all the bases as far as game development is concerned.
it covers all the areas of DirectX8, but surprisingly
it also covers some legacy DirectDraw material,
which could be of significant interest to some
people. It also has a good basic coverage of Artificial
Intelligence (Simulated Intelligence as the author
calls it), in particular some fuzzy logic and
genetic algorithms content. I think this is probably
the first time I've seen an application of genetic
algorithms in a pure VB context, even though it
is a very simple coverage, its interesting nonetheless.
The only weekness with regards to areas covered
in this book is physics; I'm not very hot on physics
myself, but I know how important physics is to
any moderate complexity game engine, so even a
basic coverage would be useful.
well as the game programming content there are
some other real gems in this book. The introduction
chapters really cover the ground well - discussing
compilers, version differences and plenty of background
history and theory - something I like alot. You
could quite probably (although not advisable)
pick up on the basics of this book with very little
experience with the VB language (2-3 months maybe).
book also has a chapter dedicated to code optimisation,
whilst this could warrant a much larger section
this goes over some really good material. Not
that its revolutionary to many experience programmers,
but it's perfect ammunition in the C++ vs VB wars
that have a tendency to errupt every now and then
(rather stupid in my opinion!); it makes a clear
point - well written code can work very fast,
and can make a good game. Using some basic tips
and ideas you can go a long way with the language.
are some missing bits however, in particular I
noticed a distinct lack of enumeration in many
parts of the DirectX code, and there is no specific
discussion of the topic (thus, a "newbie"
to the subject may not even be aware of its existance).
This in my opinion is a rather big failing - you
can get a long way without enumeration, but when
it comes to distributing a game/program it has
a nasty tendency to bite you (hard). Even a short
mention of its existance would have made me a
bit happier :)
other odd thing I noticed is the rendering techniques
used in the Direct3D code; whilst the method is
perfectly functional (as demonstrated by working
source code!), it is not a method I've ever seen
used before - and not one that many people would
usually use/teach. Basically, the author goes
about rendering each triangle in a model (a cube
for example) individually, and by wrapping pairs
of triangles in class objects (CRectangle = 2
triangles, the cube uses 6 "CRectangle"
classes). Whilst I didn't get time to test it
out, I'm guessing at a very noticable drop in
speed should you implement that type of scene
graph over a normal vertex buffer/array of ALL
similiar pieces of geometry. It may well prove
very confusing to a newbie to the world of DirectXGraphics
if he/she implemented a "normal" detail
game scene to find it running appallingly slow
in comparison to other similiar projects.
would probably be quite advisable to use the two
other books in the series dedicated to D3D/Special
effects in conjunction with this book - use this
book to get a basic grounding in how it works
in Visual Basic, then learn it properly from one
of the more advanced texts available. However,
do you really want to buy 3 books to learn this??
CD included with the book is of the same quality
as the other books in the series - which is considerably
better than many. There is a reasonable amount
of trial/free software included on the CD, including
the all-important DirectX8 SDK. The browser isn't
the best one as far as the CD goes, but it is
perfectly capable and looks pretty :)
basic software list for the CD is: Paintshop Pro
7 trial, Cool Edit 200 trial (audio program),
Mechwarrior 4 demo, Midtown Madness 2 demo, Motocross
Madness 2 demo and Crimson Skies demo. The 4 demo's
on the CD provide some entertainment value, but
short of being adverts for microsoft games (yep,
all by the same publisher) I dont see how they
really fit into the context of the book... but
well, if you're not interested in them they wont
harm you in any way...
I actually think that this book is the one the
community has been waiting for. Even though I
have found several flaws in it, they are far outweighed
by the generally excellent coverage and content
in the book. This book finally shows, in hard
copy, that the Visual Basic language can, and
should be taken seriously as a games/multimedia
platform, sure, it aint commercial grade, but
it is definitely time that it stopped being looked
down upon as it has for the last 10 years!
been active in the community for several years
now I believe that I have a good feel for how
the community works, and the opinions of the general
"population", and I think that this
book does represent our community in the right
way - and will hopefully bring new members into
quote taken from Andre LaMothe's introduction
(letter from the series editor): "I never
thought I would say this but the time has finally
come that Visual Basic is a valid language to
create high-speed 2D and 3D games", if he
can come to that conclusion I think there is hope
in this world for the community :)
only real issue is whether this book is advanced
enough for you - I found this book to be a useful
resource, with some good information in it, but
I've already learnt and used pretty much everything
discussed here. If you're fairly new to the scene
then give this a good look over, but if you're
looking for some specific coverage of key areas
(in depth) then this may not be what you're looking
and one final note before I finish this review...
the appendices include links/addresses for pretty
much every VB gaming site on the planet, which
is very useful indeed. BUT, why isn't my site
/ this site in the list, thats plain not fair
(given the size and visitor throughput I'm getting!).
This has happened in every single VB game programming
book I've reviewed so far! I'm going to sulk
Line: This book comes with my positive recommendation!
Well structured chapters and sections.
Maybe too broad for some people, and will
require additional resources/research to
go much further.
Very broad, covers pretty much all the bases
needed to get a foot-up into the community.
Skips enumeration for the majority of DirectX
components - a big oversight in my opinion.
Good formatting of key points, important
Some odd Direct3D rendering code used.
Big - lots of content to read through.
A pretty good CD with all the sample code.
Good Appendices (except for not having my
site in the web-links list!!)