Game development requires as much imagination and creativity as storytelling. You get to piece together a game’s narrative, think of ways to move it forward, and even have a well-defined image of your world and your characters.
But then there are parts of game development that might not be as fun. And a majority of companies engaged in video game production will tell you this not-so-fun part is called game programming.
Of course, to some gaming companies, writing code and tinkering with game development languages can be an exciting activity. A few people find joy in logic-heavy work, after all. But often the same people will tell you it is tedious, even those who offer game development outsourcing solutions. And if your game company specializes in work that doesn’t involve programming, then read on to find out the best and most in-demand game development programming languages in the market.
Programming Languages for Game Development Your Team Needs to Know Right Now
There are game programming languages that have stood the test of time, while others are new and rapidly growing. It’s always wise to consider first the types of games you want to build and the game engines you want to work with before diving into a language.
All of the programming languages used in game development have their own set of strengths and shortcomings, but the following will give you an idea of where to start.
C# for Game Development
What Is C#?
A hybrid of C and C++, C# development takes after the first two in terms of purpose and syntax. C# is also a general-purpose, compiled language. And just like C++, it was built as an extension of C.
While it does share a lot of attributes with the earlier game development languages, C# varies in many aspects. For instance, it’s much easier to read, write, and understand than C and C++, both of which are closer to machine code. Machine code is a set of instructions computers can understand — and it’s often in pure binary form. Think of long lines of 0s and 1s. It’s humanly impossible to read.
Consequently, many developers regard C# as slower than C and C++. This is because computers can’t immediately interpret C#, a language that is — again — closer to what people understand. The good news is this relative slowness is negligible on most platforms. Speed, therefore, is not a significant issue with C#.
This fact also shows in the sheer number and quality of game engines that love having C# as one of their primary programming languages. So if your team is on the lookout for game developers, be sure to start with C#.
Why Choose C# for Game Development?
Aside from being a popular language among software developers, C# is also a very popular language among game engines. Even Unity game development uses C# as a main programming language! Many have attributed this inclination to code games in C# to the language’s accessibility.
Aside from accessibility, C# also provides developers with a rich supply of resources, documentation, and libraries. These learning tools allow for faster game development, making it the best game development programming language for beginners.
Not only will your game developers have access to complex programming solutions, but they can also use code other developers have written for their projects and shared with the community.
C++ for Game Development
What Is C++?
C++ is the first extension of C, a programming language that computers can read almost as quickly as an assembly language — except C++ is easier to write and understand from the developer’s perspective.
When Bjarne Stroustrup developed C++, he had a particular goal in mind, and that was to create a more understandable, developer-friendly, and object-oriented version of the original C.
Some of the new changes he added to the language include the ability to bundle data and functions into a single unit and write new code using a base code, which helps reduce development time.
Because C++ is much closer to C than C# is, and C is much closer to machine language than its extensions, we can see how C++ allows applications to run faster compared to other programming languages for game development.
This ties in nicely with another great feature of C++ — portability. Since its compiler translates it directly to machine language, C++ can be ported to any platform the developer wants.
Why Choose C++ for Game Development?
Everyone prefers fast-running games. A large part of a game’s appeal hinges on the user’s experience, and an element that significantly improves this is speed. As we discussed earlier, C++ passes the speed test with flying colors.
Moreover, any machine can read C++. One of its main features is portability, meaning the C++ developer you outsource or train in-house can transfer any C++-based software or games to different platforms and gaming consoles. It’s no wonder big-name game engines and AAA games dub C++ as the best language for game development.
Some of the best game engines that use C++ include Unreal, Panda3D, Urho3D, CryEngine, and Spring Engine.
Lua for Game Development
What Is Lua?
Created in 1993 in Brazil, Lua is an embeddable programming language capable of running on multiple systems and virtually any type of device. It was initially made for a Brazilian oil company called Petrobras, whose goal then was to build a data-entry application with a user-friendly interface.
Because of this particular goal, Petrobras enlisted the help of PUC-Rio’s Tecgraf Institute for Scientific and Technical Software Development, giving rise to the popular game scripting language Lua.
One of Lua’s main tenets as a programming language is portability, which resulted from Petrobras having a lot of computer devices. This prompted the team at TecGraf to ensure the language can adapt to any system.
Today, Lua is available for public use, and its simplicity, portability, and versatility make it one of the best languages for video game development.
Why Choose Lua for Game Development?
Lua is a high-level programming language that’s embeddable. It puts a premium on short, understandable code, which is a huge draw for many gaming companies.
Lua’s memory footprint is also small, making it a fast interpreted language. So how do all these features relate to game development?
While C++ and C# are responsible for controlling gameplay, which is invisible or intangible in the game’s world, a programming language like Lua is responsible for manipulating the game elements players can actually see.
One of the main reasons why Lua stands out among other game development languages is that plenty of amazing game engines support this embeddable language.
Game engines such as CryEngine, Urho3D, and Cafu use Lua, and with the right plugins and libraries, you can use it in Unity as well. Some of its notable games include Angry Birds, SimCity 4, Monopoly Tycoon, and World of Warcraft.
Python for Game Development
What Is Python?
Python is a general-purpose programming language made for easier and cleaner software development. This also means it’s a high-level language, so developers understand its code effortlessly as it is similar to English.
For example, it can adapt to new technologies because of its portability, and it has an efficient system for maximizing your software’s memory by removing data that’s no longer needed.
All of this contributes to the speed at which developers can build with this language, which leads us to an important benefit of using Python for mobile app development and game development. And that is rapid prototyping.
Why Choose Python for Game Development?
Rapid prototyping is vital in game development. Once your team starts building your game, they test and learn how feasible a game is through trial and error. If they’re able to test a game’s limitations and possibilities through prototyping, the better the development process will be.
Python allows game programmers to conduct rapid prototyping simply because it’s a clean, flexible, and readable language.
Developers don’t have to write long lines of code to execute a game or any type of program with Python, making the code much easier to revise and improve upon if the need arises. Good game engines also like to use Python as a scripting language, including Panda3D, Cocos, Kivy, and Pygame.
The top five game development languages you must learn right now are:
But before you invest your time and resources in any of these programming languages for game development, you must determine first what type of game you want to create and what game engine you want to use. That way, you’ll have a clear vision and direction toward your game development goals.
FUN FACT: Did you know NarraSoft’s game developers can write code using all of the languages mentioned in this article?
If you want us to build your game with C#, C++, Unity, and more, reach out to us through our email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can message our chat box or fill out the form on this page.
Note: This article, originally published in 2020, has been updated in December 2021.