Book Review: ActionScript 3.0 Game Programming University
I must confess a bias towards ActionScript 3.0 Game Programming University’s 2nd edition, because I learned to program ActionScript (the language behind Flash) from the first edition a couple of years ago. Though he didn’t know me, author Gary Rosenzweig replied to a couple of programming queries which marks him out as a good guy. Apart from one issue (see my conclusion below), this is a great book.
In a nutshell, if you know some programming and are familiar with the concept of variables, loops, etc., and want to learn how to program Flash games, this is probably the only book you’ll ever need. It’s just over 540 pages of solid gold information, tutorials, examples and tips on programming. But more importantly, it contains masses of detail on creating Flash games (25 in total) with plenty of examples.
What It Covers
The book’s 15 chapters include one on iOS Game development, but that’s left to the end. It starts with an introduction to Flash and ActionScript in Chapter One, then introduces game elements such as Movie Clips, timers, moving sprites and playing sounds in Chapter Two. By Chapter Three you can start developing the first game, a matching game that gets enhanced in Chapter Four. Time based animation is brought in with a simple air raid game in Chapter Five and collision detection sliding and jigsaw puzzles in Chapter Six.
The next three chapters add to the earlier games illustrating more advanced techniques such as trigonometry, point bursts, recursion and handling text and string fields. Don’t worry, this is not heavy stuff and it is well explained. Chapters eleven and twelve cover platform games and top down driving/racing games.
The last three chapters are new to the second edition. They cover three card games, three 3D games (a target practice, a 3D racing game and a 3D dungeon adventure) and, in Chapter 15, building games for the iPhone using Flash CS5’s publishing mode. This chapter isn’t very long, but its 30 pages cover most of what you need.
Other useful knowledge includes tips on debugging, good programming practices and game designs and structuring. There are helpful notes scattered all the way through, as well as plenty of code examples.
There’s only one thing that isn’t great: You need to have Flash CS5 to get the best out of this book. You don’t need it for writing ActionScript 3.0 (Flex, Flash Builder and Flash Develop are OK), but i’s required for creating Movie Clips and using text fields. If you’re not bothered about iOS development with Flash then Flash CS3/Flash CS4 can be used, but you’ll need to download the book’s first edition’s files from the FlashGameU site.
Though HTML5 is starting to make inroads into Flash development, it’s not going away that fast. There will still be a need for ActionScript game developers. This book provides one way to get into the field.