Considering Epic Games’ licensing changes to their Unreal game development engine, Packt’s new Learning C++ by Creating Games with UE4 by William Sherif has some instant appeal. Until March 2014, Epic’s Unreal Engine cost a couple hundred thousand dollars per seat to license, making the tool inaccessible for most indie developers. With more affordable middleware options available, the industry-standard Unreal was at a crossroads and Epic decided to do something drastic. Their cutting-edge Unreal Engine 4 is now available for free with a promise of paying a five percent gross profit royalty to the developer.
While Learning C++ by Creating Games with UE4 can get beginners started with Unreal Engine 4, it is important to pay attention to the book’s title. Make no mistake, this book is about coding, and not about learning the ins and outs of the UE4 editor. If you plan on using this book as an introduction to UE4, you’re likely to run into a few issues and will need to spend some time getting set up. As expected, you will need to download and install the Unreal Engine. You will also need to register for and install Microsoft’s Visual Studio. Newcomers will need to allocate some significant time for downloading and installing the programs.
The first four chapters of the book cover setting up Visual Studio and game logic basics like variables, switches, and looping. The third chapter will actually walk you through building and modifying a simple program in UE4. Throughout these early chapters, it is possible to get mixed up between the tasks and the related code that the author offers. If you’re just trying to follow along with practical exercises, it’s not always clear what you’re supposed to be doing. This is a common theme all of the way through chapters five, six and seven too, where programming concepts like objects, classes, and arrays are covered.
Chapter eight of Learning C++ by Creating Games with UE4 returns users to the Unreal Editor for the home stretch. Starting with some level construction, the last five chapters are all about creating a simple 3D action game. Readers will learn how to create a character and write a character controller script. Once that’s done, non-player characters, inventories, and attack spells are all shown. While you couldn’t consider the final result a real game, the author does offer some insight as to what should come next. The hope is that the concepts covered in the book’s 315 pages have given the reader the toolset to move on.
As I stated before, the focus of Learning C++ by Creating Games with UE4 is primarily on the C++ coding and not on Unreal Engine 4. The book often relies on UE4 screengrabs rather than thoroughly explaining operations in the editor, and newcomers to the Unreal Engine may have some issues. If you’re just getting started, the book is still useful, but shouldn’t be your primary reference manual. Now, if you’re a game designer with previous UE experience, this book is great for providing useful bits of code, and explaining how to expand on them.
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