Computer Game Programming (Fall, 2018)

Tuesdays and Thursdays 13:30-14:50 in NSH 3002

Taught by Jim McCann (Office Hours in EDSH229, after class on Thursday and by appointment) with TA help from Steven Osman (Office Hours in EDSH228, by appointment).

We use Piazza for discussion and e-mail for announcements.


In this class, we make games. Here they are:

Course Goals

Computer Game Programming will help you build the programming skills needed to turn ideas into games. This means we'll be covering both runtime systems and the asset pipelines to fuel them, along with -- optionally -- some game-design exercises.

The philosophy of this course is to learn by building games, from (nearly) the ground up -- this means lots of C++ and OpenGL hacking, a smattering of scripting (shell, python, javascript, lua), and a lot of documentation-reading. You do not need to be an expert in any of these things, but it would help if you are familiar with C++ and the modern OpenGL (3.2+) API.

Previous years with similar content: Game Programming '17. Game Programming '09.


Students will be graded out of 17 + 3N points, divided as follows:

3NSmall Games
20Final Game

There are no late days; however, there is enough slack in the grading to support completely missing one assignment.

Small games will be assigned roughly weekly to highlight basic game-related functions. The Final Game will be larger undertaking by groups of 3-4.

Life Advice

Being sick isn't fun. University health services is conveniently located and has flu vaccine available starting in September.

Mental health is an important aspect of physical health. CMU's CaPS services exist to help you manage your mental state.

If you have a disability and are registered with the Office of Disability Resources, I encourage you to use their online system to notify me of your accommodations and discuss your needs with me as early in the semester as possible. I will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, I encourage you to contact them at

Don't Steal

Using other people's code without giving credit is a form of plagiarism. Plagiarism is a highly immoral activity that I take very seriously. If you plagiarize, you will fail the class, and I will do my best to make sure you are removed from CMU entirely.

All you need to do to avoid plagiarism is to make sure to give credit for the code you use in you project. Something as simple as the comment "//based on" can save your academic career from ruin.

Additionally, most source code is covered by some sort of license agreement. Make sure that code you use has a license agreement compatible with this course. For example, I am unwilling to pay for a license for a library just so I can compile your code, or sign a non-disclosure agreement just so I can read it.


The course does not have a textbook. However, there are several documents available on the internet that you may find useful:

There are also some great, cross-platform content-creation tools that we will use in our asset pipelines:

And some places to get free game assets:


(NOTE: schedule very much not final.)

8/28 (T)Course intro; Mental Model; Timing; Design DocsGame0: "Object Show" [Design Due 8/30, Noon]
8/30 (R)Designs; Base0 Code; Transforms (mat4 toy; also: 15462, lecture 5-7); Stupid Code. Game0: "Object Show" [Implementation Due 9/4, Noon]
9/4 (T) Scene Graphs; Walk/Nav Meshes. Game1: "Walking Simulator" [Design Due 9/6, Noon]
9/6 (R) Design1 Review. Game1: "Walking Simulator" [Implementation Due 9/11, 10pm 9/15, Midnight]
9/11 (T) Collision. 2D Physics.
9/13 (R) Networking. Game2: "Sports" [Design Due 9/18, Noon]
9/18 (T) Materials (BRDF toy). Post-processing effects. Game2: "Sports" [Implementation Due 9/25, Noon]
9/20 (R) Shadows (pt1) (NVIDIA's soft shadows sample, stencil shadow toy)
9/25 (T) Intelligence & Planning (interactive A* intro) Game3: "Shady Business" [Design Due 9/27, Noon] Final Game: Three Ideas With Pictures [Due 9/27, in class]
9/27 (R) Game3: "Shady Business" [Implementation Due 10/2] Final Game: Three More Ideas With Pictures [Due 10/2, in class]
10/2 (T) Game theory (notes) Final Game: Pitch Slide (1024x768, .png or .jpg) [Due 10/4, noon]
10/4 (R) Initial Pitches Final Game: Refined Pitches (groups of two, 5min) [Due 10/9, in class]
10/9 (T) Refined Pitches Retrospective. Final Game: Design Document [Due 10/11, Noon]
10/11 (R) Final Game Meetings Final Game: Prototype Due [10/18, Noon]
10/16 (T) Authored Animation (pt1). (notes)
10/18 (R) Authored Animation (pt2). (notes) Final Game: Demo Due [11/1 in class]
10/23 (T) Sound and Music (Ableton's "Learning Music")
10/25 (R) Particle-based Physics
10/30 (T) Fonts (freetype, signed distance field magnification)
11/1 (R) Playtesting Final Game Midpoint Demo Final Game: Final Due [12/4, Noon]
11/6 (T) Non-Photorealistic Rendering
11/8 (R) Image-Based Lighting (detailed notes, siggraph paper, example code)
11/13 (T) Group Work Time
11/15 (R) Transparency (compositing digital images, sort fragments, modify blending, build depth layers)
11/20 (T) Group Work Time + Donuts
11/22 (R) No class - Thanksgiving
11/27 (T) Apple Guest Lecture: "Metal Tile Shading for Games"
11/29 (R) Work Day + Donuts
12/4 (T) Final Game Start polishing for Final Expo [4pm, 12/7] Final Game Demonstrations + Donuts
12/6 (R) Special Topics (the real world)
12/7 (F) Final Game Expo! (setup: 4pm, Expo: 4:30-7pm)

Design Doughnuts

Doughnut Counter

In order to encourage submission of optional design documents, I will add one to the design doughnut counter for every person who completes a design document. Any morning when the doughnut counter is at least 10, I will bring donuts for the class, and subtract 10 from the counter value.