This textbook was authored for the CIS 580 - Fundamentals of Game Programming course at Kansas State University. This front matter is specific to that course. If you are not enrolled in the course, please disregard this section.
CIS 580 - Fundamentals of Game Programming
Instructor Contact Information
- Instructor: Nathan Bean (nhbean AT ksu DOT edu)
- Office: DUE 2216
- Phone: (785)483-9264 (Call/Text)
- Website: https://nathanhbean.com
- Office Hours: MW 2:00-3:30 or by appointment
Preferred Methods of Communication:
- Chat: Quick questions via Ed Discussions are the preferred means of communication. Questions whose answers may benefit the class I would encourage you to post publicly. More personal questions should be direct messaged to
- Email: For questions outside of this course, email to firstname.lastname@example.org is preferred.
- Phone/Text: 785-483-9264 Emergencies only! I will do my best to respond as quickly as I can.
- CIS 501
- MATH 221
- A physics course
Students may enroll in CIS courses only if they have earned a grade of C or better for each prerequisite to these courses.
Fundamental principles of programming games. Foundational game algorithms and data structures. Two-dimensional graphics and game world simulation. Development for multiple platforms. Utilization of game programming libraries. Design of multiple games incorporating topics covered.
This course is intended to introduce the fundamentals of creating computer game systems. Computer games are uniquely challenging in the field of software development, as they are considerably complex systems composed of many interconnected subsystems that draw upon the breadth of the field - and must operate within real-time constraints. For this semester, my goals for you as a student are:
- To develop a broad understanding of the algorithms and data structures often utilized within games.
- To recognize that there are many valid software designs, and to learn to evaluate them in terms of their appropriateness and trade-offs.
- To expand your games portfolio with fun, engaging, and technically sophisticated games of your own devising.
- To practice the software development and communication skills needed to participate meaningfully within our industry. All of our activities this semester will be informed by these goals.
Major Course Topics
- Game Loops
- Sprite Rendering and Animation
- Collision Detection and Restitution
- Physics Simulation
- Parallax Scrolling
- Tile Engines
- Game State Management
- Content Management
- 3D Rendering Fundamentals
- Rendering and Animating Models
A common axiom in learner-centered teaching is “(s)he who does the work does the learning.” What this really means is that students primarily learn through grappling with the concepts and skills of a course while attempting to apply them. Simply seeing a demonstration or hearing a lecture by itself doesn’t do much in terms of learning. This is not to say that they don’t serve an important role - as they set the stage for the learning to come, helping you to recognize the core ideas to focus on as you work. The work itself consists of applying ideas, practicing skills, and putting the concepts into your own words.
This course is built around learner-centered teaching and its recognition of the role and importance of these different aspects of learning. Most modules will consist of readings interspersed with a variety of hands-on activities built around the concepts and skills we are seeking to master. In addition, we will be applying these ideas in iteratively building a series of original video games over the semester. Part of our class time will be reserved for working on and discussing these games, giving you the chance to ask questions and receive feedback from your instructors, UTAs, and classmates.
There is no shortcut to becoming a great game programmer. Only by doing the work will you develop the skills and knowledge to make your a successful game developer. This course is built around that principle, and gives you ample opportunity to do the work, with as much support as we can offer.
Each module will include assigned readings focusing on both game programming theory and concrete approaches using MonoGame. You will need to read these to establish the theoretical and practical foundations for tackling the tutorials and original game projects.
Each module will include tutorial assignments that will take you step-by-step through using a particular concept or technique. The point is not simply to complete the tutorial, but to practice the technique and coding involved. You will be expected to implement these techniques on your own in your game projects - so this practice helps prepare you for those assignments.
Original Game Programming Assignments
Throughout the semester you will be building original games incorporating the techniques you have been learning; every two weeks a new game build will be due. These games can be completely new games, or build on games you turned in as a prior project, incorporating the new assigned techniques.
These original game projects are graded using criterion grading, and approach that only assigns points for completing the full requirements. However, the requirements will be brief and straightforward, i.e.:
Create a game that detects collisions between sprites and responds by altering the simulation in a significant way (i.e. changing sprite direction, removing sprites from the game, increasing or decreasing health, etc).
Games that meet the assigned criteria will be awarded 70 points.
In addition, games that fulfill aesthetic goals of being engaging and/or eliciting emotions from the player (other than frustration) will be awarded an additional 30 points. This is largely focused on what separates a game from a technical demo. Your game doesn’t have to be world-shattering to earn these points, just playable and somewhat fun.
You have the option of collaborating with other students in the class to create larger, group games for any original game project after the first four. As part of participating in a group development effort, you must complete a peer review for each of your teammates, due along with the game. The results of the peer review will be shared with your teammates to help develop teamwork skills. Additionally, your individual grade for the game assignment may be modified based on the peer review feedback.
Over the course of the semester, you will have the opportunity to have your games be workshopped by your peers. This is a valuable opportunity to gain critical feedback on your work, and you can earn up to 100 extra credit points (the equivalent of one game assignment) for each game you workshop.
Each week you should download and play the games that will be workshopped that week and be ready to discuss the game in class.
There will be no exams given in this course.
In theory, each student begins the course with an A. As you submit work, you can either maintain your A (for good work) or chip away at it (for less adequate or incomplete work). In practice, each student starts with 0 points in the gradebook and works upward toward a final point total out of the possible number of points. In this course, it is perfectly possible to get an A simply by completing all the software milestones in a satisfactory manner and attending and participating in class each day. In such a case, the examinations will simply reflect the learning you’ve been doing through that work. Each work category constitutes a portion of the final grade, as detailed below:
38% - Activities (The lowest score is dropped)
42% - Original Game Projects (7% each, 7 games total)
20% - Final Game
14% - Workshops (7% each, 2 workshops total)
Letter grades will be assigned following the standard scale: 90% - 100% - A; 80% - 89.99% - B; 70% - 79.99% - C; 60% - 69.99% - D; 00% - 59.99% - F
Collaboration is an important practice for both learning and software development. As such, you are encouraged to work with peers and seek out help from your instructors and UTAs. However, it is also critical to remember that (s)he who does the work, does the learning. Relying too much on your peers will deny you the opportunity to learn yourself.
Game development is almost always a team activity, so you may choose to tackle the later game projects in a team. Obviously, a high degree of collaboration is expected here. Be aware that this does not mean you have the opportunity to let your team do all the work. Students who have not contributed (based on their peer reviews) will receive a 0 on team game projects.
Read the late work policy very carefully! If you are unsure how to interpret it, please contact the instructor via email. Not understanding the policy does not mean that it won’t apply to you!
Every student should strive to turn in work on time. Late work will receive a penalty of 10% of the possible points for each day it is late. If you are getting behind in the class, you are encouraged to speak to the instructor for options to make up missed work.
We will be using Visual Studio 2019 as our development environment. You can download a free copy of Visual Studio Community for your own machine at https://visualstudio.microsoft.com/downloads/ . You should also be able to get a professional development license through your Azure Student Portal. See the CS support documentation for details: https://support.cs.ksu.edu/CISDocs/wiki/FAQ#MSDNAA
MonoGame is available through the Nuget package manager built into Visual Studio. You can install MonoGame project templates by following the directions here: https://docs.monogame.net/articles/getting_started/1_setting_up_your_development_environment_windows.html .
Discord also offers some free desktop and mobile clients that you may prefer over the web client. You may download them from: https://discord.com/download .
Recommended Texts & Supplies
To participate in this course, students must have access to a modern web browser, broadband internet connection, and webcam and microphone. All course materials will be provided via Canvas. Modules may also contain links to external resources for additional information, such as programming language documentation.
This course offers an instructor-written textbook, which is broken up into a specific reading order and interleaved with activities and quizzes in the modules. It can also be directly accessed at https://textbooks.cs.ksu.edu/cis580/ .
Additionally, we will be using Robert Nystrom’s Game Programming Patterns, an exploration of common design patterns used in video games. It can be bought in print, but he also has a free web version at https://gameprogrammingpatterns.com/contents.html
Students who would like additional textbooks should refer to resources available on the O’Riley For Higher Education digital library offered by the Kansas State University Library. These include electronic editions of popular textbooks as well as videos and tutorials.
Subject to Change
The details in this syllabus are not set in stone. Due to the flexible nature of this class, adjustments may need to be made as the semester progresses, though they will be kept to a minimum. If any changes occur, the changes will be posted on the Canvas page for this course and emailed to all students.
CIS 580 helps satisfy the Aesthetic Interpretation tag in the K-State 8 General Education program. As part of this course, you will both develop and critique computer games, which constitute a form of aesthetic expression that is both similar and dissimilar from literature and film.
Kansas State University has an Honor and Integrity System based on personal integrity, which is presumed to be sufficient assurance that, in academic matters, one’s work is performed honestly and without unauthorized assistance. Undergraduate and graduate students, by registration, acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Honor and Integrity System. The policies and procedures of the Honor and Integrity System apply to all full and part-time students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate courses on-campus, off-campus, and via distance learning. A component vital to the Honor and Integrity System is the inclusion of the Honor Pledge which applies to all assignments, examinations, or other course work undertaken by students. The Honor Pledge is implied, whether or not it is stated: “On my honor, as a student, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this academic work.” A grade of XF can result from a breach of academic honesty. The F indicates failure in the course; the X indicates the reason is an Honor Pledge violation.
For this course, a violation of the Honor Pledge will result in an automatic 0 for the assignment and the violation will be reported to the Honor System. A second violation will result in an XF in the course.
In this course, unauthorized aid broadly consists of giving or receiving code to complete assignments. This could be code you share with a classmate, code you have asked a third party to write for you, or code you have found online or elsewhere.
Authorized aid - which is not a violation of the honor policy - includes using the code snippets provided in the course materials, discussing strategies and techniques with classmates, instructors, TAs, and mentors. Additionally, you may use code snippets and algorithms found in textbooks and web sources if you clearly label them with comments indicating where the code came from and how it is being used in your project.
Be aware that using assets (images, sounds, etc.) that you do not have permission to use constitutes both unauthorized aid and copyright infringement.
©2021 The materials in this online course fall under the protection of all intellectual property, copyright and trademark laws of the U.S. The digital materials included here come with the legal permissions and releases of the copyright holders. These course materials should be used for educational purposes only; the contents should not be distributed electronically or otherwise beyond the confines of this online course. The URLs listed here do not suggest endorsement of either the site owners or the contents found at the sites. Likewise, mentioned brands (products and services) do not suggest endorsement. Students own copyright to what they create.
Original content in the course textbook at https://textbooks.cs.ksu.edu/cis580/ is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-SA license by Nathan Bean unless otherwise stated.