Treehouse: Game Development

Games challenge us, delight us, entrance us, and sometimes even frustrate and infuriate us (looking right at you, Angry Birds!). Programming video games is one of the most unique sides of software development. It is a niche of its very own, and it is unlike any other kind of programming in existence. Yes, some of the languages may be the same, but I feel that the engines, techniques, and creative energy used in the process of game development are somewhat different than your average application.

Game development is an art. It really is.

The Treehouse online platform offers a game development category containing three courses and a single workshop. These courses are: Unity Basics, How to Make a Video Game, and 3D Art with Maya LT. Let’s go a little bit more in depth with each one.

Course Review: Unity Basics

This course is instructed by Nick Pettit. It is meant for beginners, and it explores the basic functions of the Unity game engine. Unity is special, since it allows for cross-platform game development, through its detailed and intuitive user interface. It is a wonderful tool, but for inexperienced users it may seem like too much is going on there.

Unity Basics provides students with an overview of the Unity editor interface, and teaches how to use the engine’s Console, which can also act as a debugger. Upon completion of the course, users will have gained an understanding of the foundations of Unity, its core concepts, and its key components.

Instructor Nick Pettit

Instructor Nick Pettit

The topics covered in this course are:

  • 3D views
  • Assets and game objects
  • Lights
  • Audio
  • Animation
  • Debugging games
  • Prefabs
  • Architecture
  • Use of Unity’s documentation

This course is a beginner course, but there is a prerequisite. Treehouse recommends first completing the How to Make a Video Game course, before delving into Unity Basics.

Unity Basics runs approximately two and a half hours. It has five modules, and they include lectures, assessment quizzes, and extra credit work.

Course Review: How to Make a Video Game

This is another beginner course, instructed by none other than Nick Pettit. The purpose of this particular course is very straightforward: it teaches how to build a working video game.

It is a place to start, for any and all students have not a shred of knowledge in programming. Students create a video game for Windows and Mac OS X, where the player must hop a frog character around a swamp to collect flies, while a predatory bird chases the player around.

In the process of creating this game, students learn about the Unity game engine, as well as the ever-popular C# programming language. C# is what will allow students to write the code which makes the game run.

This course is very much project-based, and Pettit explains each line of code, step-by-step. This is why this course is perfect for those with no prior experience. By the end of this course, students will have a fun video game of their own creation that they may then share with friends, family, and others.

The world of game development awaits

The world of game development awaits

The topics covered in this course are:

  • Introduction to Video Games
  • Beginner game programming
  • Game design fundamentals: input, cameras, pickups, score, enemies, game state, and audio
  • C# syntax
  • The Unity interface

This course runs over six hours long, and it includes seven modules. These contains lectures, extra credit work, and a short assessment quizzes.

About the Instructor: Nick Pettit

Pettit is a teacher at Treehouse, and an independent game developer.

Course Review: 3D Art with Maya LT

This course is instructed by Jason Baskin. It is meant for anyone who is interested in creating 3D assets for games. This is a beginner course, and it is geared towards those who have never used 3D creation software before. It is a starting point.

Baskin’s 3D Art with Maya LT explores the production of 3D art. Students model, texture, and export a game model into the Unity game engine. The tool used in this process is Maya, a premiere 3D software package from Autodesk. The idea behind Maya is developing a 3D game model, using 2D images.
This course explores useful modeling tools. It teaches students to apply color and use texture maps, and to create different materials and surface properties.

Students will also learn to organize the Maya scene file, and then to export the final prop into Unity, for immediate game integration. Students who complete this course will have an array of modeling tools at their disposal, which they can then use to create game objects based on their own designs.

Instructor Jason Baskin

Instructor Jason Baskin

The topics covered in this course are:

  • Getting started with Maya
  • Working with Primitives
  • Box Modeling Techniques
  • Working with Colors and Textures
  • Surface Detail
  • Scene Organization
  • Exporting Models to Unity

This course runs approximately three hours long, and it is has seven modules. Each of these modules includes lectures and assessment quizzes.

About the Instructor: Jason Baskin

Baskin is a computer graphics artist and educator. He has been creating artwork and animation for print, broadcast, and game projects since 1991. His clients have included LAIKA, SEGA, Disney Interactive, Intel, and Nike.

For the past nine years, Jason has served as a full-time Instructor at the Art Institute of Portland, teaching 3D Animation, Character Setup, Modeling, and Scripting courses.

Games are in a league of their own. They are a special part of the digital world, and have been this way ever since the first games were introduced to the world. Although things didn’t seriously take off until the 1970’s (or so), no one can deny that games are a part of our everyday life.

Learning how to program and design games is a very creative, colorful, and innovative process. For those who are interested in going behind the scenes of today’s most popular games – whether it is for mobile or game console – Treehouse’s game development section is a great place to start.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

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