Computer Game Programming (Fall, 2021)

TR 10:10-11:30AM in Wean Hall 5415.

Taught by Jim McCann (Office Hours 14-15:30 on Thursdays in Wean 1334; or by appointment -- just e-mail!)

With TA help from Max Slater (Office Hours by appointment -- just e-mail!)

gp21 logo


In this class, we made a bunch of small games, as well as seven final games. Check out the trailer or download the final games below:

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 some game-design exercises (with an eye to thrifty code).

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), 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 (3.3+) API.

Previous years with similar content: Game Programming '20, Game Programming '19, Game Programming '18, Game Programming '17, Game Programming '09.


Students will be graded out of 20 + 3N + 6 points, divided as follows:

6Class Participation
3NSmall Games
20Final Game

You will be reading lesson materials asynchronously, then discussing the material in class; your class participation score will be based on your contributions to these discussions (as well as the written answers in the lesson materials). 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.

There are no late days; however, if your lowest small game score is less than 3, it will be replaced by a 3 when computing your grade.

Life Advice

Being sick isn't fun. University health services often has flu vaccine available starting in September (though this year things may work a little differently). Your standard anti-SARS-CoV-2 measures might also work well against influenza.

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 or data without giving credit is a form of plagiarism. Plagiarism is an 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 and data you use in you project. Something as simple as the comment "//based on" can save your academic career from ruin.

Additionally, most human-created works are covered by copyright and thus subject to some sort of license agreement. Make sure that code and data you use has a license agreement compatible with this course. For example, I am unwilling to pay for a license for a library so I can compile your code, or sign a non-disclosure agreement so I can read it.

Work Together

This is a course that involves writing a lot of code. Please, by all means, work together!


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:


This schedule is subject to change in cases where my estimation of the time required to cover a topic does not match the reality.

All assignments are due before class unless otherwise noted.

T 31 Aug
  • Course intro
  • Compile basecode, start game0
R 2 Sep
T 7 Sep
R 9 Sep
T 14 Sep
  • Before Class: finish Meshes
  • From Blender to your game.
  • Scene efficiency.
R 16 Sep
T 21 Sep
  • Before Class: finish Sound ("Sound" part)
  • Design a sound API
  • Make sound with code
R 23 Sep
  • Before Class: finish Sound ("Music" part)
  • Music Theory by and for beginners
  • Game2 Showcase
T 28 Sep
  • Before Class: finish Text + Fonts
  • Font and text layout pipelines
R 30 Sep
  • Game3 Showcase
  • Linear logic (notes)
  • Dialog and choice pipelines
  • Note: Participate in the Ludum Dare #49 game jam over the weekend and get +1pt extra credit
T 5 Oct
  • Before Class: finish Collision
  • Build fast collision checks
R 7 Oct
  • Before Class: finish WalkMesh
  • WalkMesh code share
  • Game4 Showcase
T 12 Oct
  • Theme cards and pictures
R 14 Oct
No Class: Mid-Semester Break
T 19 Oct
R 21 Oct
  • Networking code share
  • Lag simulation
  • HTTP
T 26 Oct
R 28 Oct
  • Prototype work time
  • Game6 Showcase
T 2 Nov
R 4 Nov
T 9 Nov
R 11 Nov
T 16 Nov
R 18 Nov
  • Presentation from Demiurge Studios (Asset Pipeline + a bit about Working in Games)
  • Advanced topics on-demand
  • Build out work time
T 23 Nov
  • Advanced topics on-demand
  • set up distribution (
  • Build out work time
R 25 Nov
No Class: Thanksgiving Holiday
T 30 Nov
R 2 Dec
  • Retrospective
  • Final game show and tell
F 3 Dec
Final Games Stream (or in-person launch party)
Aug 31
Game0: Not Pong due
Sep 7
Sep 7
Game1: Sprite-Based Game due
Sep 14
Sep 14
Game2: The Virtual World due
Sep 21
Sep 21
Game3: Require Sound due
Sep 28
Sep 28
Game4: Choice-Based Game due
Oct 5
Oct 5
Game5: Walking Simulator due
Oct 12
Oct 19
Game6: Multiplayer due
Oct 26
Oct 28
final A: Prototype due
Nov 4
Nov 4
final B: Vertical Slice due
Nov 16
Nov 16
final C: Build Out due
Nov 30
Nov 30
final D: Polishing & Presskit due
Dec 2