Top critical review
Limited usefulness, but still good
on February 6, 2002
When I discovered that a book on Java 2 game programming was going to be published, I pre-ordered immediately despite having extremely little information from [Amazon.com] or the publisher on what was really in it. No fault of [Amazon.com], I went through two publish date changes while waiting for this, and once it shipped it was lost by UPS in the Xmas rush. [Amazon.com] got me a new copy fairly quickly since they had limited supplies. Anyway, for all the trouble I went through, this book just wasn't quite worth it, and I doubt I'll pre-order any other books again.
The book's content is fairly good, but does fall down a few times. As with other reviewers on this one, I felt the 'Intro to Java' took up too much of the book. Anyone interested in game programming probably will get themselves good language reference books anyway. The intro section could have been compressed into a 20-30 page refresher at most. Or it could have been made into a separate book altogether. But in my opinion all that space is just 'filler' to up the page count and therefore the price. But the intro is pretty solid and well-written, so I can give a little credit for that.
That brings me to another point that other reviewers have mentioned - the page design is overdone and distracting, and takes too much space. The fonts are rather large, too, which would be useful if I had poor vision, but then I probably wouldn't be playing or programming video games in that case. Just by changing the page design and font choices, we could have saved about 75-100 pages worth of some poor tree. I'll blame the publisher for that.
The editing of the book was rather poor (if it happened at all), as a number of errors were evident just from flipping through it, not to mention the printed code errors others have mentioned. One that stuck out was the use of the term 'depreciated' several times when what should have been used was 'deprecated'. But the concepts all seemed to be reasonable and correct, so no faults there.
My final comment is regarding the example program. It wasn't very interesting. I was expecting (before I got the book) maybe a 2D platform game, simple top-down RPG, or possibly advanced clones of the standard Atari classics - at least something I could identify with. The example game appears to be original, but as an example, it doesn't seem to fit the bill. I guess I was hoping for more discussion of AI, graphics/animation, and tools.
'Game Progamming Gems' seems to have more useful content per pound/dollar for the Java game programmer, and there's no Java in it! I suspect in the end that I will learn some things from this book as I continue through it, but it was not the comprehensive and useful tome I hoped it would be. This appears to be a trend with any book associated with Andre LeMothe (spelling?).
Additional Notes, 4/9/2002 - still working my way through it. As mentioned before, the overall content is good but just not very polished, and doesn't quite cover implementing in Java some key items of interest to game programmers. I understand the example program a little better, but I'm still peeved that it's not something a little more mainstream that an aspiring programmer would recognize and learn concepts and implementation from. I raised my rating from 2 to 3 stars, but it won't ever get any higher than that. Maybe if they rework the book into a second edition it could get 4 or 4 1/2 stars.
New Note 11/27/2002 - Java 1.4 Game Programming (ISBN 1556229631) by Andrew Mulholland and Glenn Murphy (two more unknowns AFAIK) is due out in December (after a delay, of course). My recommendation is to wait until that book is published before deciding which book you need, or both. I'm placing my bets on the new one as it likely discusses important technical items and performance issues in JDK 1.4 such as volatile images, nio, and full-screen mode. These items will be more relevant to someobody who isn't interested in just applets and more in action-oriented content.