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Book Review – Beginning Android Games

Beginning Android Games is a new book by Mario Zechner and published by Apress. Mario is the very clever chap behind the libGDX library I’ve mentioned here a few times in the past, so he knows what he’s doing.

But this book isn’t about libGDX, instead I remember reading Mario saying somewhere that the aim of the book was to enable you to build your own libGDX-like library by the end of it, and that’s pretty much what it does.

Cutting to the chase, I’ve only had the book for a day or two and I’ve only had a chance to really skim it so far, but from what I can see this appears to be the best book available for anyone wanting to get into game development for Android devices.

A quick overview of the content…

  • Chapter 1 starts with a thorough introduction to Android, its history, architecture, community and devices, and even discusses contentious issues such as fragmentation and why mobile gaming is different.
  • Chapter 2 moves on to setting up the SDK and getting your first ‘hello world’ on screen, along with how to debug using LogCat & DDMS.
  • Chapter 3 discusses various game genres and how to go about getting your game ideas down on paper first. It also sketches out the tasks that will need to be handled by our game API later (input, audio, rendering etc), and gives some really solid background information on each (various colour models, physics of sound etc)
  • Chapter 4 delves deeper into the Android manifest, API and discusses general best practices.
  • Chapter 5 is where it starts getting interesting as it starts fleshing out the API with real code, again giving numerous examples and explanations of each of the topics as they are covered. By the end of this chapter we’re ready to make a game.
  • Chapter 6 takes you step by step through creating a complete 2d snake type game (Mr Nom, you can even find it on the market)
  • Chapter 7 is titled ‘OpenGL ES: A Gentle Introduction’ and gives you just that… this chapter could almost be a book on its own!
  • Chapter 8, ’2d game programming tricks’ is another chapter that packs in so much so well it could almost be a stand alone book, covering everything from basic vectors and trig though to texture regions and sprite batching.
  • Chapter 9 has us building another complete 2d game, this time a platform jumping type game called ‘Super Jumper’ using OpenGL ES.
  • Chapter 10 introduces the 3d aspects of OpenGL ES, again giving a thorough introduction to concepts such as vertices in 3d, perspective projection and z-buffering.
  • Chapter 11 dives deeper into 3d, covering lighting, cameras, physics and collision detection among others.
  • Chapter 12 walks through creating our 3rd and final complete game, this time a 3d version of space invaders.
  • Chapter 13 covers the ins and outs of publishing your game to the market and using the developer console to monitor any errors that may occur on peoples devices.
  • Finally Chapter 14 wraps everything up and suggests some other things to explore such as social connectivity, multiplayer functionality and various game engines.

Phew… that’s a lot of content (650+ pages), and it’s all covered very thoroughly. If you want to get into making games for Android using Java this is the place to start!

I guess the only down sides I can see are that this is, as the title suggest, a book that takes you right through from the basics and assumes you are fairly new to all this. If you already know most of the stuff in the chapters above you’re still bound to find a few nuggets of new or useful information but you may also do a lot of skipping.

It’s also worth noting that it only covers OpenGL ES v1, but for a beginner this is more than enough to be getting started with.

So all in all great book, go buy it!

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5 Comments

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  1. Cool, thanks for making the review (saw your review from authors site comments).

    Sounds like it will be very useful, and the extra pages hopefully just from giving lots of quality content!

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