where to get started...

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#1 j0n1n  Icon User is offline

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where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 03:46 AM

Hello All,

I have played video games since i was 5 years old and love them...and did start programming in basic on my commodore 64 when i was 11 and accomplished a lot over a four year period.

i have recently been pulled into game design/programming etc and cant stop thinking about it. but i have so many questions.

i want to start developing games (as a hobby) 2D and 3D for PC and android. I do understand the time it takes and dont expect to get results for years to come. But i remember how i spent weekend after weekend glued to my portable tv, trying to get things working etc...great fun.

anyway...

What is the best path to take? there is so much out there...the main reason i want to start developing is to teach myself programming, or get into programming as a hobby that can maybe ten years from now, lead to some freelance work, or to develop my own software.

this is my first question...as a c++ / python / java game programmer. would this still allow you to work on corporate type software development. or are the techniques so different between game design and say writing a program that organises a stock room full of cargo for example. do you understand what i mean?

I have been reading that c++ is definitely the way to go for gaming. i know its a harder language to learn but gives you a lot of freedom, and is extremely fast.

anyway...this is what i want to teach myself over a few years...tell me what you think.

c++
photoshop for imaging
Blender for designing and rendering 3D models etc
and a particular engine...now i dont know which one to use...have been reading about
Unity etc...but wouldnt know which is the best to use. (im not interested in user friendliness, i dont care how hard it is, as long as it yields the best results)

now before you tell me the difference between Android and PC...i do realise that android apps/games use either Flash or java...but i did read that you can now port or use C++ for games on android...how well this works, i dont know. But i do want to learn to program on PC before android anyways.

my worry is going in a direction that becomes obsolete or is outclassed totally by another technology / product. I just dont want to spend years on something and realize i should have been using something else in the first place, hence this post.

and my last question is:

where does openGL / direct X come into game programming?...do you not need to know this if you use an engine?...or do you link the engine to your code using open GL etc.

where can you find info how it all strings together...i mean i can go google XNA and it tells me its microsoft game developing studio. is it any good? ho does it tie in with other techs etc.

in conclusion im looking for somebody (maybe working in the industry) who understands a good path to take regarding all of this. to help guide me in a direction that will be well worth it.

lastly thanks to everyone who read this, and i am desperate to get started ASAP

looking forward to your feedback
J0n1n

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#2 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 06:59 AM

http://www.dreaminco...826-qa-answers/



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#3 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 10:57 AM

From the "Best Programming Language?" thread, I posted:



Atli's right, and I haven't worked with every language out there. I also have pretty much zero interest in developing for any platform other than the PC (and maybe Android or iPhone somewhere in the far off future).

I also assume we are talking about video games here and not text based games.

I would say C#/XNA, hands down, no ifs-ands-ors-or buts about it. I've played with Java and Visual Basic. I've written Windows programs (simple ones) in Assembly/Machine Langugage. And I initially started trying to program games in C++ using DirectX. Having gone through the frustration of trying to learn video game programming, I make no hesitation in saying XNA is the choice language to learn game programming in.

C#.Net is a very solid programming language that's "relatively" easy to learn. If C# is too intimidating you can actually do XNA in Visual Basic.Net although I've never personally done it. But C# and VB are pretty much the same thing since 95% of it is calls to the .Net library. MOST of it is really about learning .Net and that's the same in VB or C#. I just recommend C# over VB because it's only slightly harder to learn and C# makes it a little harder to develop bad programming habits. Plus, almost all the tutorials and support for XNA will be in C# and not VB.

But that's one of the great things about C#: If C# is too intimidating, you can always go learn VB.Net. Because if you learn VB.Net you will learn the .Net library and basic programming concepts that will make learning C# easier later. So, I would try to jump straight into C# and then if you feel like you are drowning, go back and learn VB. Both, are free downloads from Microsoft for their "Express" editions. XNA is also a free download (Download Visual Studio 2010 C# Express and then XNA 4.0).

I've seen about one book that teaches XNA programming in Visual Basic. I've seen about 6 books teaching XNA 4.0 and even more than that teaching previous versions of XNA.

Anyway, once you get pretty solid in C# you can get into XNA and start learning to program 2D games with a lot of people out there to help you and a lot of good tutorials. As you're doing that, I would recommend getting a free game engine or two, like Unity for example, and some level editors. Getting some experience with game engines and level editors will help you understand how other people have created their games. Strictly speaking, that doesn't teach you game programming but it will teach you about how a lot of games are designed. I strongly recommend Neverwinter Nights level editor for their game although it's about 6 years old and I don't know if there is still any info out there about how to use it. There's a lot to be learned from playing around building new levels for existing games.

I do exclusively 3D programming, so I tend to recommend stuff that's 3D, but you should probably start with 2D and look at 2D game engines rather than 3D game engines, starting out anyway.

But as you get better with XNA programming 2D games, you can move on to 3D games in XNA. XNA is suprisinglly robust and powerful with 3D and it's probably the easiest way to learn 3D programming of anything I've seen. I abandoned C++ and DirectX because there's really no reason I've seen yet to not use C#/XNA and there's literally 100 times more information out there on how to make games with XNA than there is for DirectX or OpenGL that's written far closer to a beginner level.

One of the problems you'll find, if you start out from the beginning with C++ and DirectX or OpenGL is that they want to start out an absolute beginner by throwing them in the deep end of the pool and saying "Well, you'll either figure it out and become a 'real game programmer' or you'll die. See you if you make it!" I mean practically from the word go they are going to assume that you have at least Bachlor's degree with a minor in mathematics, that's just a given. And they'll spend months explaining to you how a back buffer works and the whole "Pipeline" and Rasterization process. You'll be like, "Dude! I just want to make a GAME! Can you at least show me how to make Tic-Tac-Toe?"

But the fact of the matter is you can learn 95% of what you know to make games professionally by mastering C#/XNA. I can't even begin to explain to you how far you can go with XNA and how much you can learn in an environment that tends to hold your hand and help you along. It's more like swimming lessons rather than just jumping off in the deep end. XNA will get you into the deep end if you go far enough with it, but by that time you will be so confident in your ability to swim that you'll be wanting to spend all your time in the deepend and may even, at that point, abandon XNA and get into DirectX or OpenGL.

Now, I'm assuming you want to do this because you enjoy doing it and not because you want a paycheck. Quite frankly, the journey (even in XNA) is going to be so long and difficult that you'll never make it half way down the road unless you love the journey. But if you're hoping to one day make video games for a living, you're almost certainly going to have to learn C++ and DirectX or OpenGL. That's the major leagues as compared to XNA's minor leagues. And quite frankly, if you intend to be a top level game programmer you need to learn Assembly/Machine Langugage; it will help you understand C++ better and allow you to write inline Assembly, Device Drivers, or other optimized code and, more than that, it will teach you how the CPU works and you'll never be a top level programmer without knowing that. But we're talking about being an NFL super star here when we should be talking about learning what a down is and how to pass the ball. I'm just saying that that's ultimately where you want to end up if you want to go pro. XNA is more like College leagues as opposed to the NFL.

Anyway, I strongly believe the way to start is to download C# 2010 Express edition for free from Microsoft. Buy a couple books on the matching version of C#. Read them cover to cover and build some example programs. Then go download XNA 4.0 for free. After that you can buy a couple of XNA books and read them and/or start working through Internet tutorials for XNA 2D games. That's the place to start. It's not the only way to get started programming games, but I strongly feel it's the best way to get started. Go ask around on the XNA forum and see if everyone there doesn't agree (albiet they may be a little biased, but its for good reason).
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#4 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 11:22 AM

View Postj0n1n, on 03 June 2012 - 03:46 AM, said:

Hello All,

i want to start developing games (as a hobby) 2D and 3D for PC and android. I do understand the time it takes and dont expect to get results for years to come. But i remember how i spent weekend after weekend glued to my portable tv, trying to get things working etc...great fun.

anyway...

What is the best path to take? there is so much out there...the main reason i want to start developing is to teach myself programming, or get into programming as a hobby that can maybe ten years from now, lead to some freelance work, or to develop my own software.

this is my first question...as a c++ / python / java game programmer. would this still allow you to work on corporate type software development. or are the techniques so different between game design and say writing a program that organises a stock room full of cargo for example. do you understand what i mean?


c++
photoshop for imaging
Blender for designing and rendering 3D models etc
and a particular engine...now i dont know which one to use...have been reading about
Unity etc...but wouldnt know which is the best to use. (im not interested in user friendliness, i dont care how hard it is, as long as it yields the best results)

my worry is going in a direction that becomes obsolete or is outclassed totally by another technology / product. I just dont want to spend years on something and realize i should have been using something else in the first place, hence this post.

and my last question is:

where does openGL / direct X come into game programming?...do you not need to know this if you use an engine?...or do you link the engine to your code using open GL etc.

where can you find info how it all strings together...i mean i can go google XNA and it tells me its microsoft game developing studio. is it any good? ho does it tie in with other techs etc.


See my previous post about what's the best path to take. I mean there are several paths you "could" take, but learning XNA programming in C# is the best way to get started, in my opinion. You can't use it to program for Android, but Microsoft pushes it pretty hard for Windows Phone and XBox development.

There is some worry that Microsoft will stop supporting XNA in a few years. I'm hoping it's just rumor. But it doesn't matter if you get started now. The reason I say that is because if you do XNA seriously between now and then you'll probably be ready to move on to C++ and DirectX or OpenGL by then.

The programming skills that you gain from game programming are "mostly" transferable to the business world. C# programmers get hired by major companies every day. I think I've seen more C# jobs out there than C++. Java, of course, always looks good on a resume. Really game programming is far more difficult than most business programming. Of course, businesses will hardly ever use XNA, DirectX, or OpenGL unless you go to work for some company like Autodesk. And of course, most of the art skills you learn in game programming will rarely be used in the business world. Still, game programming is probably the best way to get practice writing code for a job outside of work.

I've played around with DirectX and I've also played around with Torque's 3D engine. C++ and DirectX (or OpenGL) go together like C# and XNA go together. (Under the hood C# is kind of a high level C++ and XNA calls DirectX to do it's job). C++ is the language that the code is written in. DirectX is an API(Application Programming Interface) that allows C++ (or any language that call DirectX such as Machine Language) to directly access the graphics hardware. So, businesses would use C++ to write programs even if they don't use DirectX because they have no need to write software that directly accesses the graphics hardware.

A game engine like Torque is written in C++. You can do a WHOLE lot with just the tools that come with it without writing a single line of code. But to really make it into a game, you have to go in and customize Torque's C++ code. That means you are probably going to have to be capable enough to have written Torque yourself, but just didn't want to spend half your life writing it by yourself. That's why I say it's best to learn with XNA, because I don't think you're going to get very far with most engines until you learn to write your own and XNA gives you a path to learn that stuff.

If the engine uses C++ it's probably going to use DirectX or OpenGL, and you would probably need to know those in order to modify the engine. DirectX and OpenGl are probably going to mostly be in the program/engine's initialization and drawing sections. I mean, I don't think you're going to see any DirectX in the game logic. So, you might get away with not knowing DirectX/OpenGl if you stay away from the sections of the engine that use DirectX/OpenGl.

I haven't played with Unity but it looks interesting.

Photoshop is always a good piece of software to know. 3D Studio Max and Maya are industry standards. I've also used Poser for annimation and ZBrush is real popular for detailed modeling.

But those software packages are all very expensive. In a professional studio you would probably use those. But in a professional studio you would probably be a programmer or an artist and not both. Therefore, you might never actually use those in a professional studio if you're not an artist.

There are free programs you can use instead that mostly do the same thing. Paint.Net, Blender, Google Sketchup(very easy to use but much more limited than Blender), and others.

Hope that helps.
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#5 anonymous26  Icon User is offline

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 12:11 PM

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 03 June 2012 - 02:59 PM, said:


This is the best answer.

Also have a read of my blog entry in my sig.

This post has been edited by ButchDean: 03 June 2012 - 12:13 PM

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#6 j0n1n  Icon User is offline

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 02:32 PM

From the heart...i really cant thank you enough for your input!!! really appreciate it!!!

i have read and understand what you say...

im just concerned about learning XNA as where else could i apply these skills to maybe make a bit of money down the line...

i know i said that i wanted to just write games as a hobby...but the true intention was to learn to write code (i mean what would be more fun than designing video games?) and use video games as an application of this...but hopefully walk away in a couple of years with some useful knowledge and experience that i can apply in the real world.

would it be easy to transfer from c# to c++ down the line...is nothing a waste learning?
what you think....thanks again for your help

J0n1n
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#7 sparkart  Icon User is offline

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 02:47 PM

This the most important question you should ask yourself before you get started.

Do I want to make video games or do I want to learn how to become a programmer so that I can get a job as a programmer for the video game industry?

If you just want to make video games.... start off with 2D games. Check stuff out like http://yoyogames.com or http://www.stencyl.com

Learn how to use either of them and start making games for popular mobile platforms and the computer.

Eventually, you'll wish to create 3D games. In my opinion, Unity3D is really great. It gives you lots of features for $0.00.


If you wish to get a job as a programmer, that is a completely different story. Ask yourself another question. What exactly do you wish to do as a programmer?

Your question about OpenGL and DirectX relates to whether you wish to do graphics related stuff as a programmer. There are lots of things to do and sure you can learn everything but it takes time and people usually prefer someone with the most experience with a particular task. Ideally, you should learn as much as you can to be competitive, but really prioritize what you learn.

Another thing... before investing your time learning you should checkout the job market like what companies are looking for especially locally, if you do not wish to move too far for a job.


P.S.
Regarding what language to start with, there are lots of opinions and no right answer, but this is my opinion based off experience. You should start off with C++. I learned languages afterward extremely easy: Java, C#, PHP, Javascript, SQL, Lua, Python, etc.. I'll admit I don't consider myself an expert at all of these languages. Different languages also have their bit of quirks and you should be able to figure them out.

That's just my opinion, but if you want more bang for your buck definitely C++, C#, or Javascript. C# gives you stuff like Playstation Suite, XNA, and Unity. Javascript because http://cocos2d-x.org is coming out with Javascript bindings very soon and you can create metro apps and even do some website stuff.

Really doesn't matter what you learn because when you come to a roadblock, you have to get around that roadblock by whatever possible means (if you need to learn a new language or API, so be it).

P.P.S.
Lemme just give you abit of info on how easy it is once you get the hang of stuff... Just recently I decided to contribute to an open-source project called "Tiled" which is a map editor. I had no prior Qt experience and no prior knowledge of Tiled source code. I checked out the source code, messed around, looked at the source and what not... and within a day I committed a patch for a requested "background color" feature. Of course, there were a few things I had to fix up to get accepted from the code review, but it didn't take much time to work with unknown territory. My point is never try to favor complacency.
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#8 j0n1n  Icon User is offline

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 04:57 PM

thanks for that again...

last question...

how many hours a week do you feel i will take to become useful?

im currently studying server certs and other work related certs

i think i could give about 2 hours a day...maybe another 2 to 3 on sat sun...

will i learn...or do you think im wasting my time?

thanks again
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#9 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 05:21 PM

View Postj0n1n, on 03 June 2012 - 02:32 PM, said:

From the heart...i really cant thank you enough for your input!!! really appreciate it!!!

i have read and understand what you say...

im just concerned about learning XNA as where else could i apply these skills to maybe make a bit of money down the line...

i know i said that i wanted to just write games as a hobby...but the true intention was to learn to write code (i mean what would be more fun than designing video games?) and use video games as an application of this...but hopefully walk away in a couple of years with some useful knowledge and experience that i can apply in the real world.

would it be easy to transfer from c# to c++ down the line...is nothing a waste learning?
what you think....thanks again for your help

J0n1n


C# and C++ are so similar that I never actually learned C#. I had done some Visual Basic.Net and gotten a little exposure to .Net but I was a litle intimidated by C#, because I figured I would have to learn a whole new language from scratch (mind you I've done VB, C++, Assembler, FoxPro, T-SQL, Pascal, ASP.Net, HTML, and probably several others I can't think of at the moment but I wasn't in the mood to start over). Then I actually looked at C# code for the first time and realized "Hey! I already know this language!" Between my familiarity with .NET from VB and knowing C++, it turned out I could read and write C# code pretty much without ever having learned it. It's that close to C++. C++ is a bit more difficult because it's unmanaged code and you don't have the wonderful .Net Common Language Runtime library. Plus, if you really get deep into C++ you have to get into Windows itself and a lot of really low level stuff like the Registry and whatnot.

Anyway, if you learn C# well, it should make going over to C++ a whole lot easier. Don't get me wrong, C++ is tougher, especially if you do it well. I mean really, when you learn C++ you don't start by learning C++; you start by learning C and once you have mastered C then you can learn C++. C++ is just C with objects. The difference is C++ is learning Object Oriented Programming and C# gives you a nice introduction to OOP.

It was good advice to find out what sort of jobs are available out there. I tend to see ASP.Net, PHP, Java, VB.Net, and C#.Net jobs out there and nothing else, but I'm just talking about the people I work with and not all companies in the area. You'd have to look around in your own area to see who's hiring for what. It's just that I've never seen a business that has any use for a C++ programmer. I'm sure they're out there. It's just that in the business world they don't have much patience, and if someone can write the program in a week in C# when it takes a C++ programmer a month, they don't even look twice at the C++ programmer. They'll generally try to write their own "program" in Excel until they absolutely have to hire a programmer. Of course we're talking the business world and not game studios. It's kind of reversed in the game world. If you're a C++ programmer you're probably going to either be writing some sort of engineering type software, game software, or software to sell to the public like Microsoft Word for example. And that's pretty specialized work. 99% of the businesses out there have no need for those types of programs from what I've seen.

XNA is not really a job skill. I mean I think you can sell your games for XBox on their Live network. And you could maybe sell the games for Windows Phone and maybe even for PC somehow. But, I don't think it's gonna help your resume any. However - that being said, XNA is C#. I mean 90% of XNA, at least, is just writing C# code and that is a marketable skill that you can put on a resume. I've never gone looking for a C# job or a C++ job (although I did get hired at one job to rewrite a bunch of FoxPro programs in C once), but I think you'll find there are at least 20 C# jobs out there for every C++ job. Again, I'm talking about the business world and not the game industry.

Whether you choose to learn C# or C++ first, or even Java, you will find that a lot of it is "transferable" knowledge. All three of those languages are very similar to one another.

This post has been edited by BBeck: 03 June 2012 - 05:23 PM

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#10 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 05:38 PM

View Postj0n1n, on 03 June 2012 - 04:57 PM, said:

thanks for that again...

last question...

how many hours a week do you feel i will take to become useful?

im currently studying server certs and other work related certs

i think i could give about 2 hours a day...maybe another 2 to 3 on sat sun...

will i learn...or do you think im wasting my time?

thanks again


It's going to take some time. 2 hours a day will add up pretty fast.

I think most people go take a class somewhere. After a year of taking Pascal, my professor told me to go look for a job. He was right. The one class got me hired. But that was back when the economy was good and I started off making pretty much nothing at my first job.

If you work at it consistantly and long enough, you will learn.

I mean you would be a useful C# programmer if you went through a class, or if you read a couple books on the subject and understood how to do the things in those books. Java is probably pretty similar in terms of what it takes to be useful although I think Java is generally tied closer to web apps than C# is.

Being a useful C++ programmer is a lot more complicated, depending on the job. A windows C++ programmer also needs to know WIN32, possibly MFC, probably ATL and/or STL, Windows (and I don't mean how to use Windows, I mean how Windows functions under the hood, things like manipulating the registry, large block memory management, tracing memory leaks, and marshalling multi-threaded applications). C# programmers pretty much never get into any of that stuff.
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Re: where to get started...

Posted 03 June 2012 - 07:40 PM

View Postj0n1n, on 04 June 2012 - 12:57 AM, said:

thanks for that again...

last question...

how many hours a week do you feel i will take to become useful?

Don't think along the lines of hours spent, besides hours doing what to become 'useful'? I did a huge amount of reading AND coding to become good at game development - in fact it is a continuing habit of mine. Don't fall into the trap of believing you are doing enough hours because it's simply an invalid metric. Secondly, I'm also a computer science grad from a good university which helps a great deal.

View Postj0n1n, on 04 June 2012 - 12:57 AM, said:

im currently studying server certs and other work related certs

i think i could give about 2 hours a day...maybe another 2 to 3 on sat sun...

If you're happy with being the IT guy in a studio not playing any part in actual game development then this is the right path. Your name might still appear in the credits under 'IT support'.

View Postj0n1n, on 04 June 2012 - 12:57 AM, said:

will i learn...or do you think im wasting my time?

It will depend on your ability to learn. Game developers are normally quick learners and elegant problem solvers, nail those qualities and you're in.
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#12 j0n1n  Icon User is offline

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 04 June 2012 - 03:47 AM

thanks for your time...any books you can recommend on c# XNA? or am i better off just looking at MS material for XNA?

thanks again for the help...
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Re: where to get started...

Posted 04 June 2012 - 06:01 AM

I suggest you hold off on learning XNA until you have a firm grasp of the C#, or VB.NET, fundamentals. When you have learned enough about C#, or VB.NET, Object-Oriented Programming, the .NET Framework, and working with Visual Studio, you'll have a much easier time with programming games using XNA. You'll also be able to more quickly learn advanced concepts in XNA and learn the trickier parts of the XNA Framework quicker because you won't have to worry about learning a lot of basic principles behind C#, VB.NET or OOP before you can make sense of why and how something works in the XNA Framework.

This post has been edited by Kilorn: 04 June 2012 - 06:01 AM

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Re: where to get started...

Posted 04 June 2012 - 06:44 AM

Excellent i will do that...just having a look for a few c# books...
there are many, but from what people are saying...a good place to start is a book
like Sams teach yourself c# in 21 days...

also will i just download

Visual C# 2010 Express

to use as a compiler?
is there a difference between c# and visual c#?
or does ms just call it visual c#?

your info is invaluable!!!
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Re: where to get started...

Posted 04 June 2012 - 06:48 AM

Visual C# 2010 Express is the perfect place to start. Visual C# is just Microsoft's implementation of the C# language and specification into a nice IDE for you to use to make development easier. C# is the language, Visual C# is the IDE that you will use.

Just as Visual Basic is an interpretation of the old BASIC language, Visual C# is just an interpretation of the C# langauge which was created by Microsoft and has become the most common specification for using the C# language.

Linky goodness

This post has been edited by Kilorn: 04 June 2012 - 06:50 AM

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