08 November 2012

Victor Kuller Bacone - Blender Game Engine - Ebook review

Books covering Blender's Game Engine are sadly not published as frequently as they should be.  So whenever a book on Blender Game Engine gets put out I am instantly interested.

For those that don't know Blender's Game Engine is Blender's system for making games using all of Blender's available tools.  It's very simple to use yet allows you to make very intricate games, using combinations of node systems and Python scripting (Python Scripting is not covered in this book).

Personally I think Blender's Game Engine is somewhat under appreciated in terms of it's power and ease of use.  People tend to look at Unity 3D gaming system and go for that, even though it's not open source and is functionality limited if you don't buy the non-free version, which is overpriced.  On top of that Unity 3D is much harder to get started with as it doesn't have the super easy node system of the Blender Game Engine.

So when Packt released a new Blender Game Engine book for the beginner, off I went to download it.  At the time I downloaded it Packt was having a get one of their books free event, which must have been very popular as their site was almost unusable for several days.  I eventually managed to access the site and get the Blender Game Engine book for free.  That event has now ended though so this book is no longer free.

Product Specifications:
  • Name : Blender Game Engine
  • Author : Victor Kuller Bacone
  • Price : £12.74 (on 8th Nov 2012)
  • Pages : 206
  • Format : EBook
Blender Game Engine Cover

Given that this is one of Packt's Beginner's Guide series of books, it probably won't come as a surprise to learn that this book is aimed at the Blender Game Engine user beginner.  If you have never used the game engine before this book is specifically aimed at you.  Bear in mind though that this book is not for the complete Blender beginner.  You will be expected to know your way around Blender's interface and know already how to interact with the basics of Blender.  If you are expecting to be taught things like modeling and texturing this is not the book for you.

On starting to read this book the first thing I noticed was that the grammar was atrocious.  Whoever proof read/edited this book should be ashamed.  I am assuming that Victor Kuller Bacone is not a native English speaker, which is fine, I can't speak any other language apart English myself, so I am impressed by people who take the effort to learn a second language.  However the book editors/reviewers should have notice the bad grammar and fixed it for Victor.  Now normally some bad grammar will look unprofessional but doesn't really effect the content of the book.  In this case however it's so bad that it actually makes understanding what tasks and steps need to be done very difficult at times.  Thankfully there are many pictures in the EBook version of this book which made following the instructions in the EBook much easier.  Without the clear pictures I would have given up on the book completely.

The approach the book takes to teaching the use of Blender Game Engine is to construct a single simple level of a game using some of the tools that Blender Game Engine has to offer.

The book starts by giving a basic overview of the features and tools available in the Blender Game Engine.  Specifically the basic ways that the Logic Editor Nodes work and how to interact with them through drag and drop methods.

After the basics of the Blender Game Engine interface are described the book moves on to describing how to plan and develop a very simple game.

It does this by explaining how to aquire and prepare resources (models and textures) for this simple game.  Another annoyance pops up at this point because the book makes you install Sketch Up to export models from it rather than using properly exported models in a more useful open format such as Open Collada.  And since I reviewed this book on a Linux machine installing Sketch Up was not an option.  If you are on Linux you will have to find your own models.  This is not a major issue as it not hard to substitute your own models, but for a beginner who is already having to deal with all the new things in BGE, it's something you really should not have to deal with.  There also does not appear to be any provided blend files provided on the Packt website though this could change.

Once all the resources for your game are acquired the book describes how to append and prepare these resources for use in Blender's Game Engine.  These resources are used throughout the rest of the book to demonstrate the various features of the game engine.

The various major Logic Editor Node types are described, but not in a lot of detail.  So if you aren't clear on how a particular feature works once described you will be left to find out on your own.  This happens often throughout the book.  If you are paying attention and looking at the pictures you may have no problems grasping things.  But given that this is a beginners book you would expect more detail on the way specific features of the Blender Game Engine works.  One section of the book that did stand out was the coverage of Navigation Meshes.  I haven't seen these described in any other Blender  books.

How to do simple rigging of models and use the Action Editor to animate models in the Blender Game Engine is covered.  And again is not really covered in enough detail but you may be able to figure it out.  Also covered are topics such as reacting to events such as collision, keyboard input and the like.  As are topics such as making score counters and life bars.

After the major topics are covered the book moves on to polishing your game, covering topics such as splash screens, menu and adding sounds, changing scenes, making maps ect.

Given that people who want to make their own games generally are reasonably flexible when it comes to getting around unclear topics.  You may be able to overlook the sparse explanations in this book and get around the very bad grammar and get some useful information out of it.  Though as a beginners book I just don't think the level of quality and detail is good enough.

I personally would not recommend this book if you had to pay for it, but I can see that to some people it would be a useful book.  Although I think you would get more information, more clearly presented just by doing a quick google search for Blender Game Engine videos.

It's a shame because there is a definite lack of Blender Game Engine books and this one could have been much better was it not for the bad grammar, sparse descriptions, and lack of good resources.

Review Score 50%