I remember first falling in love with computers back in 1983 while programming Logo on an Apple IIe (thanks, Woz!). The sense of power I got from that experience was very addicting and mind-shaping. The computer would do whatever I told it. It didn't get tired after countless repetitions or question my reasoning behind having it perform any particular task. The machine just did it. I owe much of my career to that experience, the movie War Games, and an author by the name of Andrè LaMothe.
I bought my first book by Andrè LaMothe, Sams Teach Yourself Game Programming in 21 Days, back in 1994. It had never occurred to me that people could make a career out of programming video games. It was then that I saw the connection between my love for programming and my addiction to video games. Who would have ever thought that all those hours of playing Galaga could now be considered research? Andrè's writing and teaching style inspired me and gave me the confidence to believe that I could program video games. I remember calling him up on the phone (I still can't believe he actually talks to people and gives out his phone number) and asking for his help with a simple program I was making for my physics class based on his gas model demo. I couldn't get the program to work. Well, he instantly reviewed my program and in seconds said something like, Rich, you're killing me, you need to put a semicolon at the end of each line! Well, that was it, and my first game program was up and running.
A few years later, I had the pleasure of working with Andrè on a video game called Rex Blade as the tools programmer and a level designer. It was a tremendous learning experience for me. We worked amazingly hard (Andrè is a slave driver), had a lot of fun (going to movies, gun shooting, skiing, and a lot more can anyone say, Desert Eagle 51 caliber? <GRIN>), and ended up with a 3D interactive video game trilogy. We took Rex Blade from the concept to the shelves in an unbelievable six months (Rex would make an interesting postmortem to be sure). Working on Rex taught me what really went into making a real video game, and working with Andrè showed me what it really meant to work around the clock—and I do mean around the clock. I thought he was kidding when he said he worked 100+ hours a week!
There are few areas of software engineering that push the limits of the hardware, the software, and the programmer himself as much as game programming does. There are so many intricate pieces that have to work together perfectly: math, physics, AI, graphics, sound, music, GUI, data structures, and so forth. This is where Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Gurus proves itself to be an essential tool in the art of programming the video games of today and tomorrow.
This book takes you to the next level in game programming technology. The artificial intelligence coverage alone is enough to make your mouth water—the demos are killer. Where else can you get detailed coverage of fuzzy logic, neural nets, and genetic algorithms and how to apply them to video games? The book also takes you through all the major components of DirectX, including DirectDraw, DirectInput (with force feedback coverage—Yes!), DirectSound, and the latest and greatest technology of DirectMusic.
Then there's the physics modeling coverage. Finally, someone who knows what he's talking about has taken the time to delve into full collision response, momentum transfer, and forward kinematics, and how to simulate them in real-time. Imagine creatures that learn, objects that collide like in the real world, and enemies who remember how you defeated them in your last encounter. These are the basics that will make the great games of tomorrow.
I really have to hand it to Andrè for writing this book. He always says that if he didn't, who would? It's true: For someone to give away 20+ years of hard work, secrets, and tricks to help others is really cool.
With technology advancing by leaps and bounds, I think it's a great time to be alive, especially if you're a game programmer. It seems like every few months there's a new CPU, video card, or other piece of hardware that pushes the boundaries of what we believe to be technologically possible. (I mean, it's crazy to think that Voodoo III does 70 billion operations a second.) This great gift of technology comes with a price, though. With it comes the expectation that the games we create will use this technology, which raises the bar on what's expected of tomorrow's video games. It seems as though in the very near future, the only limiting factors will be our knowledge and our imagination.
It excites me to know that the next generation of game programmers will have this book to inspire and educate them. And I think Andrè hopes that somewhere, someone will take his place in the 21st century and continue this work of disseminating the black magic, because he needs a vacation!