Book Review: 3D Game Engine Programming

3D Game Engine Programming

3D Game Engine Programming

Stefan Zerbst


The following is a book review I wrote for a while back. I’ve left it intact so it differs from the formatting of the other reviews I’ve posted.

3D Game Engine Programming was the first game programming book I ever bought. I’ve often said that this is the book that started me off on the right foot; however, as an introductory text to the vast subject, it was both a poor and a great choice.

To be completely honest, I was not ready for this large of a programming project. At the time I was still very new to programming, and had very little C++ experience. This became an impasse later on, which forced me to seek out and purchase another excellent book: C++ for Game Programmers. However, at the same time, Zerbst inspired me to continue on and piece together the components needed for the engine. As a result, after completing my first read through the text and implementing my very first iteration of a game engine, I knew that I had learned and accomplished a lot and I would be utilizing 3DGEP as one of my primary sources for future endeavors.

Undoubtedly, 3DGEP is one of the most comprehensive sources I have found on the subject and very well organized. If you really want to understand what goes into writing a game engine, I recommend steering away from the “Game Programming All in One” books and investing in 3D Game Engine Programming. Even six years later, I still find myself snatching it off my bookshelf for help on assorted topics with my current projects.

Simply put, Zerbst’s 3D Game Engine Programming is one of my favorite resources on the subject of game engine development. I highly recommend it.

The Review

Stefan Zerbst’s 3D Game Engine Programming is a 850-paged guide to constructing a modular, functional video game engine. This reference was one of the biggest reasons I became confident that I could complete a project of my own and has helped me tremendously in the design and building of an engine based upon the fundamentals of the ZFX Engine.

Even though the book does not go into detail and provide the code to all the bells and whistles of a commercial engine, it certainly outlines the basics and even provides code for testing. (I personally liked not having everything provided so that I could add my own features with a more personalized touch). Have no fear: all the basics are there to build off of!

In particular, the text guides the reader through the concepts and code needed to construct an engine that has the ability to support both DirectX and OpenGL (though DirectX is the main focus in the text), Vertex and Pixel Shaders (which is a big plus in upcoming game graphics!), and networkable players. In addition, the book brought extra possibilities such as Non-Player Characters, AI, and other various effects to the table for the reader to take note of where they could be added on to the engine. More importantly, he did do an excellent job of keeping these options (and more!) open without forcing his more ambitious readers to reprogram half the engine.

A very important thing I felt was the key to why I liked it so much was the fact that I understood how the components of the engine worked individually and as a whole to construct a functional game when I had finished the book. So many times have I read a programming book cover to cover and then still be lost on how everything fits together outside of the demos provided in the text– but this book was NOT like that at all. The concepts were presented clearly as well as explicitly outlined within the code.

However, I will note: this book is not for the faint of heart or for the inexperienced programmer. (Hopefully the size scares the aforementioned away in a direction to seek some more practice before coming back to this fantastic reference.) There is a LOT of code and while the text does take care of the graphics, DLL loading, and algorithmic aspects to a FPS game, the book does treat the reader as a programmer and not a novice.

One last, important feature is the Level Editor that is developed along side the engine (that’s right! you build a level editor too!). This chapter (14) is certainly one of the most useful parts of the text and is where a lot of key concepts come together.

So, if you are looking for a book that hits the ground running, providing a complete archive of source code and demos in an effort to construct a comprehensive game engine: this book is for you!