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Bearing in mind that some Java books (see the Laura Lemay book listed below in the Resources section) these days want to lead you up different paths altogether, you could do worse things than trust an ex-(commercial)games programmer to review the currently available Java game programming books.
Four titles landed on my doorstep for this review:
Before I review the books in detail, let's start with a table that gives you a bird's-eye view of their main characteristics:
Table 1: Java Game Programming Books Overview.
|Title (Publisher)||Price(US$)||Pages||Chapters (Appendices)||CD- ROM?||Authors||Object- Orientation||Networked Multi-User Focus||Game Framework Focus|
|Black Art of Java Game Programming (Waite)||49.99||933||20 (5)||Yes||3++||Very
|Cutting-Edge Java Game Programming (Coriolis)||39.99||523||21 (2)||Yes||3||Very
|Developing Java Entertainment Applets (Wiley)||29.95||392||10 (0)||No||1||Poor||Poor||Average|
|Teach Yourself Internet Game Programming with Java (Sams.net)||39.99||416||21 (3)||Yes||1||Average||Good||None|
To describe the table headings, the Object-Orientation column highlights to what extent the author(s) of the respective book used Java the way it is meant to be used: in an object-oriented way. Good Java books, whatever their focus, enforce good object-oriented practices. Inferior books use Java as if it was C or Pascal -- that is, in a procedural way. Games are very good candidate applications that benefit from being designed and implemented using object-orientation, so a good Java games book better be strong on OOA/OOD/OOP (OO Analysis, Design, Programming).
The Networked Multi-User Focus column highlights how much the book focuses on Java's strongest game programming potential: networked, multi-user games.
The Game Framework Focus column highlights to what extent the book relies on a game framework to explain and develop games programming. Game frameworks are state-of-the-art game APIs that eliminate many of the standard tasks that all games have to perform (sprite management, screen repainting, score keeping, and so on).
Now, a look at the books in detail.