Java Game Programming for Fun and Profit

javagameprogrammingJava has long been hailed as one of the best platforms for creating online games. Because Java is a cross-platform programming language, your games can be run on Windows, Linux, and Apple machines without compiling for each OS separately.

Obviously, to become a great Java game programmer, you will need to be very familiar with Java and its various APIs. A good place to start is Java Fundamentals I & II.

In addition to being a powerful gaming platform by itself, Java is also the basis for the very popular Android mobile platform. Once you have become fluent in Java syntax, modifying your game for Android is very simple and can result in a whole new customer base. Learn Android Programming in Java is a great way to transition into mobile gaming after learning Java.

Contrary to popular belief, Java programs and Applets can perform almost as well as other languages such as C and C++. The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) Just In Time compiler (JIT) is very fast and maximizes memory usage. The popular game Minecraft is a perfect example of how powerful Java games can be.  Java Multithreading makes your game even more powerful.

Finally, Java is an excellent gaming platform because there are a huge number of available libraries that automatically incorporate most features. When writing a game in C, for instance, you may have to write specific code for basic game functions such as sound and graphics. Java’s open-source API library provides classes for these activities as well as thousands of others.

What Do You Need to Get Started?

Whether you are creating a Java game for the Web or a standalone Java application, the first step is to configure your computer for Java development. Fortunately, all of the basic tools you will need are open source and available for free.

For starters, you will need to download the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and the Java Developers Kit (JDK). Both of these programs are free and can be downloaded and configured in just a few minutes.  Java Programming for Beginners walks you through the steps required to properly set up these environments on your machine.

Now you need to decide if you will be writing all of your Java code manually in a text editor or if you will be relying on an Interactive Development Environment (IDE). A text editor is perfectly capable of creating even complex Java games; however, it can often take longer for inexperienced programmers to master compared to the alternative method.

As far as IDEs are concerned, there are quite a few choices. The most popular is Eclipse and it is freely available as open source software. The IDE allows you to create graphical interfaces using “drag and drop” technology.

This means that instead of manually coding each line required to open a blank Java window (can be as much as 1,000 lines of code), all you need to do is click a couple of buttons in the IDE. Using an IDE like Eclipse allows you to spend more time creating cool features and graphics for your new game and less time coding tedious, but necessary, overhead code.

If you’re just starting out, you should definitely consider using an IDE. As you become more experienced, you may decide to switch between the IDE and a text editor to maximize the efficiency of your new game.

The GUI Framework

Once your computer is setup, you need to decide what GUI framework your game will be based on. It’s important to decide what kind of game you are designing before choosing a GUI framework. Each framework offer specific advantages and disadvantages that can severely impact your game. A few of the most common GUI framework options include:

·         jMonkeyEngine – This is a fully functional 3-D engine. If you want to design a 3-D game (such as an RPG), jMonkeyEngine is the way to go. Many of the 3-D features your game needs such as terrain generation are automatically built into this framework.

·         LWJGL – Although not as complex as jMonkeyEngine, LWJGL offers direct access to the OpenGL libraries. The benefit to using this framework is better performance. The drawback is more manual coding to build the game engine from scratch.

·         Swing – Already included in the JRE, Swing is used in games and standalone applications. You should only use Swing for games that are not very graphic intensive. Examples might include a card game or a strategy game. Anything more complex than this is outside the scope of the Swing framework. You can learn more about using Swing in your games here.

Remember, there are literally tons of different framework choices available. Research each framework and decide which one best meets your needs before beginning your game design. Advanced Java Programming goes into various GUI Frameworks in greater detail. This saves you time and frustration as you delve deeper into the development process.

Deploying Your Game

Another thing that’s great about Java games is that you have many choices when it comes to deployment. Unlike games written in C, a Java game can be downloaded and played locally on a user’s computer, played directly in a web browser (Applet), or a combination of the two which is known as a Java Web Start. A Web Start downloads most of the resources locally but is initiated from a browser window.

You could also decide to make your game completely Web based using HTML5. In this case, the entire game is run on the server side and can be useful for multiplayer web games.

No matter which deployment method (or combination) you choose, the key to developing an awesome Java game is allowing as many people as possible to play it.

You may be surprised at how many revenue opportunities become available after you have created a popular Java game. You might charge customers to download and play the game. Or, you could decide to follow the “Freemium” model. This works by allowing customers to download the game for free but prompt them to purchase add-ons while they play the game.

If you have done a good job designing your game, people will be more than happy to purchase items to make the game even more enjoyable and is a common technique used by large game developers today.

Java is a very popular platform and allows your game to reach as many potential customers as possible. In addition to being a fun and interesting learning experience, creating Java games can become a full-time occupation with a little bit of effort and some creativity.