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Essential tools and programming languages for game developers

Written by James Adams

Unity software developer

With the UK game development industry being reported as in a state of flux, analysts predict an undercurrent of an indie market booming. Is it time for aspiring developers to learn the tools and programming languages to join the 60,000-strong workforce?

Whilst there are many concerns for the UK gaming sector, studies suggest it is poised for expansion in 2024. Projections from The Data City suggest that employment within the UK gaming sector could surge to 60,000 by 2025, with its value possibly reaching approximately £29.5 billion by 2027.

Whilst companies restructure, the growth projections and re-emergence of indie-based gaming startups presents a significant opportunity for aspiring game developers. With the burgeoning demand for gaming content, there is an increased need for innovative and skilled individuals to contribute to the industry.

Learn the tools: Game engines

Before jumping into the opportunity for a career in game development, aspiring developers must learn about the right tools and technologies essential for this job.

The most important tool is a game engine, a specialised software framework tailored for video game development. It streamlines tasks like rendering, physics, scripting, and sound management. It offers a range of functionalities, from the basic functions that save time to comprehensive tools that expedite the development process, helping developers create and manage various aspects of games efficiently.

One of the most popular game engines is Unity, known for its versatility and user-friendliness, catering to novice and seasoned developers alike. With its wide range of tools, this engine allows for 2D and 3D game creation across various platforms, including consoles, mobile devices, and PCs. Small-scale developers can even use Unity for free.

It also facilitates quicker development, smoother transitions between platforms, and rich documentation, making it an ideal choice for multi-platform projects. This is why Unity has a thriving community of game developers.

According to Ixie Gaming, Unity is used by about 70 percent of game developers globally. Games developed using Unity include notable titles such as Monument Valley, Hollow Knight, Paper Trail and Firewatch.

Suitable coding languages with Unity

Once a game developer has determined an engine to work with, it is time to find a suitable programming language for game development. A programming language comprises instructions written by programmers to direct computers in performing specific tasks, often presented as structured code following a defined syntax. Unity supports several programming languages optimised for its environment.

The first language is C#, which the engine supports natively. It is the most popular choice for developing games in Unity. Developed by Microsoft, C# is a modern, object-oriented programming language known for its versatility. For game development, Unity uses Mono, a cross-platform implementation of the .NET framework, which is based on C#. Consequently, all Unity libraries are written in C#.

C++ is another major programming language compatible with Unity game development and is known for its high-performance capabilities. It can also be used with other powerful game engines like Unreal Engine, Godot, and CryEngine.

Developers often use this language to create plugins within Unity to enhance game speed and access codebases from different languages. These plugins help extend Unity's capabilities without needing extensive code rewriting, potentially improving performance.

Rust is another top coding language for Unity. Its memory safety features ensure performance without compromising safety, making it ideal for performance-sensitive tasks, such as game mechanics. While developers can't directly code in Rust within Unity, they can access Rust-written methods and functions from their Unity codebase.

While game developers typically deem Python unsuitable for game development, it's still possible to use it with Unity through IronPhython, which blends .NET and Python, allowing developers to write game logic scripts. However, accessing IronPython libraries requires developers to download them from GitHub and reference them in C#.

The last language on the list is Lua, an easy-to-learn scripting language with a straightforward syntax. It is used in Unity game development for writing game logic and AI. As a lightweight language, Lua aids developers in creating high-performance games. It is freely available on Unity’s Asset Store, assisting developers to directly import it into any game development project.

Learning game development

Learning to code with Unity could seem to be difficult. However, this couldn't be further from the truth, especially since Tech Educators have specifically designed the Unity Coding Bootcamp to help streamline your game development journey. This programme offers a 14-week course focused on equipping participants with the essential skills for developing games using Unity.

We have structured our entire syllabus into easily manageable, bite-sized elements, tailored to meet the expectations of employers seeking junior Unity programmers. Aspiring game developers will benefit from the close collaboration with programmers, founders, and teams from leading game studios in the UK.

The course begins with setting up Unity and establishing a strong foundation for the rest of the bootcamp. Over the following weeks, aspiring game developers delve into fundamental concepts like player control, basic gameplay mechanics, and advanced programming topics.

As the course progresses, participants can focus on refining their skills, including in animations, physics, multiplayer games, and cross-platform functionality.

The culmination of the bootcamp is the Capstone Project, where aspiring developers apply their newfound knowledge to build a substantial project. This project serves as a centrepiece for graduation and becomes a focal point for future interviews and career advancement opportunities.

Right before entering the job market, participants can learn directly from industry professionals who can guide them to find the right game-developing career.

About the Author

James has 8 years with Fortune 200 US firm ITW, experience of managing projects in China, USA, and throughout Europe. James has worked with companies such as Tesco, Vauxhall, ITW, Serco, McDonalds. James has experience in supporting start-up and scale up companies such as Readingmate, Gorilla Juice and Harvest London. James completed his MBA at the University of East Anglia in 2018.

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