Program Arcade GamesWith Python And Pygame
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If you already know why you want to learn to program games and just want to learn how to get started, then you can skip over this section down to the next section on how to install the software you need.
Are you here because you want to create your own games? Excellent! Here are some videos of games students have created by the end of this course:
As you start to learn to program, you might soon find that it looks like work. We all know we'd rather skip work and go farming for gold in World of Warcraft or Eve Online or some other game, right? So why learn to program? What does a person get out of it?
Learn how to make games and get paid? Ok, I won't pay you, but if you learn to program, there are plenty of people that will pay you. Here's how to profit:
- Learn to program games.
- Have fun making your own games.
- Select favorite job offer.
Look, no ??? in this plan!
Think about it. You can play games, but anyone can do that. Being great at a video game really isn't much of an accomplishment in life if you think about it. Or you can learn to create games. People care about that.
While you may be studing how to program games, tell your parents and co-workers you are studying computer science. It sounds better.
Back to money. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), Computer Engineering is the second best-paid degree, Computer Science is fourth best paying degree, and Information Science is the 8th. Most of the other degrees are also in technology-related and involve software:
|Top-Paid Bachelor's Degrees|
|Major||Average Salary Offer|
|Management Informational Systems||$63,100|
(Data is from the NACE April 2013 Salary Survey.)
Computer engineers work at integrating computer programs with hardware. In today's engineering market, most of those engineering jobs will need to know some computer programming.
What is Information Science? This is a degree for people who like computers and technology but never really liked programming. This book aims to make sure that isn't you. Programming is fun, and who wants to settle for only 10th in the list of best-paying degrees?
While learning to program games, you can be studying towards one of the best paying four-year degrees you can get. And let's be honest, those engineering degrees usually take five years. Computer science is a great bet for a career.
Not only are computer science graduates getting high-paying offers, they are the most likely to get an offer when applying. According to NACE more than 56 percent of majors get an offer when applying. This is because there are few students going into a field that is in high-demand. To get an idea how Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs compare to the students, see Figure 0.2 and Figure 0.3.
What about a two-year school to learn programming? After all, two year schools offer a cheaper alternative to four year colleges. Way cheaper. But I'll offer the following data as a caution about choosing a two year school:
|Average salary by education level|
|College Graduate (4-Year)||$85,815|
According to Dice.com's survey data,
people in a technology career who graduate from a two-year school averaged $20,000 less
than people who went to a four-year school. In fact, they did worse than dropouts from
four-year colleges, and people who only went to high school!
So go to a four-year school and skip the two-year school entirely.
(Data is according to the 2013-2012 Dice Technical Salary Survey. Note that the salary listed
is not the average starting salary. The numbers represent the average salary of all workers, no
matter how experienced.) Of course, I think Simpson College has the best Computer Science department
in the midwest:
Looking to make your time here worthwhile? Answer the chapter questions! Don't skip them. They are necessary to understand the material.
Do the labs! This is even more important. Learning by only reading the material is about as useful as trying to become an expert basketball player only by reading a book.
Practice! You might see other people that don't have to practice. It isn't fair. Or, you might be smarter than other people, and they start doing better than you because they work at it and you don't. That's not fair either. That's life. Get used to it. Practice.
Are you taking this as a class? Great! Did you know you can save time and copy the answers and labs from the Internet? You can also buy yourself a gym membership and send someone else to work out for you. It makes about as much sense.
Seriously, what on earth are you thinking copying from someone else? If you aren't going to do the work drop out now and start filling out McDonald's applications.
If reading isn't your learning style, most of the information is available
through videos. You can skip the text entirely and just watch the videos by
checking out the YouTube playlist:
You can't learn without doing the work though. Do the reading. Ask questions. Do the labs. Ask questions. Do the worksheets. Ask questions. Listen to the videos. And ask your teacher questions.
This is the text I use with the Simpson College class:
Computer Science 150 Fundamentals of Computing I
There is a print version and an on-line version. The on-line version is at:
The goal of the text, website, worksheets, labs, and videos is to teach basic computer science concepts and get students programming their own games as soon as possible.
Drop me a note!
If you are using it for self-study or for another class, please drop me a note. The more people that use this resource, the more effort I'll put into improving it.
I've heard from a few high schools that use this material. If you are a student at one of these high schools, and liked this material, consider checking out Simpson College. We'd love the chance to be able to work with you. Contact myself or admissions for more information.
If you notice any errors or omissions in the book, please send
me an e-mail. I'd like this to be the best resource possible.
Dr. Paul Vincent Craven
Department Head, Computer Science Department
Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa, USA
To get started, two programs need to be installed, Python and Pygame. Python is the computer language we will program in, and Pygame is a library of commands that will help make writing games easier.
If you are working with a computer that already has Python and Pygame set up on it, you can skip this step. But if you want to set up Python and Pygame on your own Windows computer, don't worry. It is very easy.
- Run the Python installer downloaded from:
- Run the Pygame installer downloaded from:
Once everything has been installed, start Python up by selecting the Integrated Development Environment (IDLE) as shown in Figure 0.4
Note: There are many versions of Python and Pygame. It can be complicated to get the correct versions and get them to work together. I recommend using the links here rather than download from the Python and Pygame websites. Pygame is the most frustrating because the official Pygame website has not always updated to host a version of Pygame that works with the current version of Python. As of this writing, the best place to download Pygame has been from the bitbucket.org website that hosts the source code for Pygame. The pygame.org website has not been a great place to find the most up-to-date version of Pygame.
Python and Pygame run on the Mac. I've never created a tutorial on it. Given the headaches that former students have gone through to get Pygame to work on the Mac, I recommend running Python/Pygame under Windows emulation instead.
Unix and Unix-like distributions may come with a Pygame package, or the ability to easily get one. If you want to compile from source, this is what I've used on Linux Mint:
# Load required packages sudo apt-get install mercurial libsdl1.2-dev libsmpeg-dev sudo apt-get install libasound2-doc libglib2.0-doc python-dev sudo apt-get install libsdl-ttf2.0-dev libsdl-image1.2-dev sudo apt-get install libsdl-mixer1.2-dev libportmidi-dev sudo apt-get install libavformat-dev libswscale-dev # Use mercurial to clone current code hg clone https://bitbucket.org/pygame/pygame # Build and install cd pygame sudo python setup.py
The biggest risk on UNIX platforms is that your default Python version might be in the 2.x series, and that code won't work with the code examples here in the book. Make sure you have and are using Python 3.3.x.
Python comes with an editor and an environment to develop code it. Unfortunately it isn't very good. My students usually run into the following two issues when using Python's default editor:
Issue 1, when working with multiple files it is difficult to keep track of the all the open files. It is easy to forget to save a file before running the program. When this happens the program runs with the old code that was saved rather than the new code. This is very confusing.
Issue 2, if there is an error in a program that does graphics the Python program will crash and “hang.” Once the program has crashed it is difficult to shut down. The error message that describes why it crashed is often buried and difficult to find.
The Wing editor solves issue 1 by using an editor with a tab for each file. It will also prompt to save all files before running a program. A program run under the Wing debugger does not hang as described in Issue 2, instead the editor will immediately take the user to the line of code that caused the error.
Therefore, even while it is yet a third thing to install, I recommend using the Wing
editor. There is a free version called
“Wing IDE 101” at:
While there is no need for all the bells-and-whistles the commercial version comes with, they are nice. The program will often help you by auto-filling in variable names as you start to type them. If you've got extra money and want to save time you might like to pick up the commercial version.
In the videos on the website I use either the default Python editor or the Wing editor. There are many other editors that can be used as well:
Amongst some developers, discussing “which is the best editor” is similar to getting a group of people together and discussing “which is the best religion.” It is best to pick your own favorite and then avoid this topic with other people.
It is a great idea to change your windows configuration to show file extensions. A file usually has the a name like Book report.docx where the .docx tells the computer it is a Microsoft Word compatible document. By default Windows hides the .docx extension if there is a program installed to handle it. If you are programming, this hiding part of the file name can be annoying.
For Windows 7, to show file extensions, open up your computer's control panel. Find the selection for “Folder Options.” Click the “View” tab, and then unselect the option for “Hide extensions for known file types.”
For Windows 8, bring up a file explorer by hitting the Windows-E key. Then click the “view” tab and make sure “File name extensions” has been checked.
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