Three Must-Haves for Learning to Code Online

December 21, 2017 — by Industry Contributions


By Jonathan Weinberger of Udemy

The growing gaming industry offers a multitude of opportunities for developers. Grossing $100 billion in revenue worldwide today, by 2020 that figure is expected to reach $120 billion and with emerging technologies like virtual reality, the gaming industry is hotter than ever, and in need of more developers. The first steps for those looking to dive into this exploding field can be daunting. With learning to code online, several different programming languages, new terminology, mathematics, and software to learn, how do you know where to begin and which learning platform to use?

Online tutorials like those on YouTube are valuable resources, but they will only take a new developer so far. I picked up some good tips on YouTube but still struggled to grasp essential concepts. I wanted to internalize what I learned along the way and figure things out for myself, not just be spoon-fed the answers. So, I started making my own videos that include interactive challenges that helps others learn to think like a game developer.

Eight years and a few thousand views later, I’ve taught thousands of students the basics of game development. As an instructor on Udemy, I’ve come to realize that everyone learns in their own way, but if you’re looking to learn to code efficiently and successfully, you should look for a program that offers the following three things:

1. Interactive Exercises

All seasoned coders know that the best way to be a great coder is by doing—the more you practice, the better you become. So when video tutorials offer lessons with spoon-fed answers, it doesn’t actually help you learn the skills necessary to work independently.

Instead, aspiring coders should look for lessons that let them practice their skills along the way, with feedback after they complete a challenge. This grants students the ability to address issues they will face once they’re on their own, while allowing them to problem solve the solution with access to expert support, if needed. This helps coders understand the logic and concepts behind these solutions, as well as the “why” behind their code. When a student understands why they’re writing code, they’ll be able to apply what they’ve learned to future scenarios.

2. Supportive Community

There are countless benefits to working in a group, but one of the biggest for developers is the ability to collaborate and learn from peers. Working with developers who are going through the same learning process allows you to ask more questions and share tips and tricks, which ultimately makes the whole experience easier (and more fun) for everyone involved.

Sharing the learning experience also opens the door to making new connections and meeting people with similar interests. You could meet a mentor, future colleague, or business partner—the opportunities are endless.

3. A Real Game as the End Game

As I mentioned earlier, coders learn by doing. As an aspiring developer, it can be difficult to demonstrate your skills to a prospective employer before you have work to showcase your knowledge. That’s why I recommend novice developers look for courses that culminate in a tangible piece of work that demonstrates your understanding of the entire game development process.

If you plan to invest in learning, especially learning to code, take the time to make a list of non-negotiables you hope to get from your coursework. This will help you determine what type of course is the best for your learning style and ensure you’re getting the most out of your experience.

Jonathan Weinberger is a self-taught software engineer with more than eight years of experience and the author of Learn Unity Programming with C#. He has developed several Unity games for the likes of Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, as well as enterprise AR applications for companies like GE, Coca-Cola, and ThyssenKrupp. Find him on Twitter: @GameDevJon.

DevelopmentExclusive Interviews

Elonka Dunin on Online Games, Keeping Up as an Online Gaming Pioneer, and Fantasy University

February 1, 2011 — by Gamesauce Staff


Elonka Dunin
Elonka Dunin is a game developer who has twenty years of experience in the industry with her. She advocates for the online game genre and co-founded the International Game Developers Association’s Online Games Group. She shares her start in the game industry, reflections on a constantly changing industry, and her current work on Fantasy University for Facebook and other web portals such as Kongregate.

From Gamer to Developer

Dunin studied Astronomy at UCLA and then joined the US Air Force. There she worked on different tankers and spy planes.

Elonka Dunin has been playing games since a time before PCs. Dunin’s father was involved with IBM computers in the 1960s and programmed mainframes to play games with her. As computers started moving into people’s households, Dunin was one of the early explorers of online fantasy worlds. She played every MUD she could get her hands on. When the game industry moved in the direction of Bulletin Board Systems, she played those too, until the industry and her along with it transitioned to online services such as GEnie and CompuServe in the 1980s.

In the 1990’s, Dunin went to GemCon in St. Louis, Missouri, where she got to meet some of the people involved in writing one of the games she played—GemStone ][ on GEnie. They hit it off, and a few months later she quit her non-game job in Los Angeles, California to make the leap to Simutronics in St. Louis. She has been there ever since.

“I have a special fondness for each game in their own way.”

Since taking a position at Simutronics, Dunin has been in the game industry for twenty years. Some of her most-loved games she worked on include popular MUDs such as one of the longest-running online games GemStone, Orb Wars, DragonRealms, and Modus Operandi. In 1993, CyberStrike won the first award for “Online Game of the Year.” It’s hard for Dunin to pick a favorite: “I have a special fondness for each game in their own way.”

Social Games Development

Fantasy University intends to combine snarky humor, endless pop culture references, and the FUBAR (the game’s form of virtual currency) with solid RPG gameplay Simutronics has been known for.
Fantasy University intends to combine snarky humor, endless pop culture references, and the Fubar (the game’s form of virtual currency) with solid RPG gameplay Simutronics has been known for.

Dunin is currently most excited about Fantasy University for Facebook, which is Simutronics’ first game for the social networking market. The Open Beta launched in mid-October 2010. So far, thousands of players have poured in from all over the world. “It’s got such a great energy about it, with wonderful humor and writing, and I am very proud to be part of a team that is bringing such a high-quality game to the space,” says Dunin.

For Simutronics, the biggest challenge has been the way the industry keeps changing so rapidly. However, Dunin is equipped to tackle the shifts, because of her love for and growth alongside the game industry since its beginnings.

We couldn’t look to how other companies were doing things, because we were often the first!

Dunin elaborates: “We couldn’t look to how other companies were doing things, because we were often the first! And the business model kept changing out from under us, so we had to be nimble. When we started, games were provided on major online services that charged an hourly rate, of which we got a percentage. Then the online services started changing their business models to go flatrate, so suddenly our number of users skyrocketed, but we could no longer rely on hourly fees. Then we moved our business to the web and had to come up with an entire billing system from scratch, as we re-worked everything to go with monthly subscriptions.” Now, the industry is changing again, so Fantasy University employs a microtransaction business model.

“It’s like we have to re-invent ourselves over and over again, which is fun at times, but definitely challenging!” exclaims Dunin.

Elonka Dunin also happens to be an internationally recognized expert on the ciphers of the CIA’s Kryptos sculpture and authored The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms. Dan Brown named a character after her in his latest book, ‘The Lost Symbol’ called  ‘Nola Kaye’, an anagrammed form of ‘Elonka’.