I don’t often do a book review, but when I do… No seriously, I don’t, especially for technology books. In some cases they are out of date before the milk in my fridge has made a spirited effort to turn into cheese. But some, and I admit not many, are not only great books but also weather quite well. This is just such a book. Although focused on Android games, it is actually a solid grounding in games development in general. They will teach you things that you miss out on if you use a games development engine like Unity. It also employs great object orientated design practices. Even if you have no intention of developing a game from scratch you should still read this book.
Beginning Android Games is not a beginners book
The title is a bit of a misnomer. This is not a beginners book, although, with some online assistance a beginner could use it very effectively. It is a very detailed guide through the games development process. It is also not superficial. This book contains a lot of detail about games development in general but also Android development.
In this day and age games development is a lot more accessible than ever before. With tools like Unity (especially if you also use the excellent Corgi Engine – 2D + 2.5D Platformer engine) it is easy to get a game developed very quickly without knowing a lot of the technical details behind the game development process – and that really is a good thing. But for me, growing up in the time of 8-bit games development, this book is a reminder of how satisfying it is to create a game completely from scratch, or, at the very least, to understand how to create a game from scratch. To be free from the constraints and whims of 3rd party game engines and have true control over you game (to be fair, I don’t think Unity constrains you in any way).
What does it cover?
You can get a full chapter run-down from Amazon but the book starts by taking you through the process of how you might design an android game, using paper and rough drawings which will eventually be used to create game art (great for the non-artist as it encourages you not to worry about the graphics), followed by some of the technical aspects of game design as it relates to programming. It then takes you through some basics of screen and input handling on an Android device. Once these topics are dealt with you will develop a number of games of differing genres. All throughout the book you will be developing and extending a game OOP game framework that you will learn to reuse for different types of game. You will even extend this framework to use OpenGL ES.
I personally liked the section of dealing with basic Android development. It seemed to explain, and explain well, some basic concepts such as, manifests, touch, activities, and IO in a few pages, whilst some other books would ramble on for ages – probably whilst suffering many anecdotes about the authors dog, or some such nonsense. Overall, I found that they were able to explain everything very well and clearly and you come away with the feeling that it’s really quite easy to stuff that you might have considered very complex. I have used the techniques in the book to develop 3 Android games.
Beginning Android Games on a Kindle?
I wouldn’t. But when I got the first edition of this book I did, and regretted it. It’s not a problem with the book itself, it’s a problem with any coding-style books on a Kindle device. The best way to enjoy this book is by getting the physical book – I know that makes it more expensive but you won’t regret it.
How long will this book stay current?
I would say quite a while, and I mean 5 plus years. The reason being is that the authors do not rely on any particular UI element or device hardware. In fact the older edition of this book is still almost as current (published in 2011, I think) but I am extremely thankful that they have updated it. What you will learn from this book is reasonably timeless (well, maybe…). I remember going over some of these topics back in the 80’s when I was trying to develop games on my Amstrad. But in technology somethings move on fast, some don’t – networking (TCP/IP) stayed largely unchanged for years.
Please note that if you make a purchase through any of the links I have provided I will most like get a small commission – it’s just a way to support me and does not affect the price to you. Also please note that I have actually purchased and read this book – I wouldn’t review it if I hadn’t. I have also developed and a game based on it’s teaching, and I also plan to do more.