I have to be honest: My C and C++ skills are bad! Besides some personal tries in my “early years” and lessons at the University I never had a good connection to the world of C. Nevertheless, I got my degree, became a developer, working for nearly a decade now in my young life and I call myself a successful Software Engineer, even developing games… but in Java, JavaScript and C#. So, my dreams of getting into what I love most (Gaming) became real, doing what I like all day!
But still I feel inferior to the “real” developers because of my bad C expertise and especially my personal ignorance to really focus on it.

All my history…

I got in touch with computers and gaming early in my life through my brother. I started with a C16, C64 and Amiga 500 besides my GameBoy until I got my first (nowadays) classic PC. I was always intrigued by what was possible, the magic, playing Pong, Maniac Mansion, Zork and watching Scene Demos and Cracktros from legends such as The Black Lotus or the Animators. I wanted to do the same stuff, I wanted to (text-)wander through my own forests, wanted to have colorful spinning balls on the screen… so I began learning how to do so.
I started off on the Amiga with Assembler, got into QBasic later, Pascal, Delphi (loved its structure), Visual Basic (quick results) and very early PHP (the Internet) through early Web-Development tests and HTML/CSS. About ten years ago I got into Java at version 1.1 and am still on it. At every Job I had before and during my studies I was able/forced to use Java and it kept that way until today. Besides Java I had a look at and use Python, Scala (what I like about Java+functional programming), Actionscript, … and even Perl (just in one project) out of personal interest or for personal stuff.
Just from my history my expertise developed early around object-oriented programming which appealed to me the most, so I stayed. Therefore, very early in my “personal development” my development expertise was already conquered by Delphi and Java that formed my view on OOP and general Application Development besides their originators being influenced by C++ (good or bad). But there were still the games I liked the most. So, I had to learn C and C++. Teach myself the language of my favourite entertainment.

Try, Fail, Ignore

I bought books about C, about C++, about Game Development, about DirectX, about OpenGL, got into boards, searched the net for every tutorial I could find, tried everything and even got some minor things to work so that something moved on my screen… and it was programmed in C++. But something clicked in my head, spreading bad thoughts such as:

  • This could be easier!
  • Linkage and IDE is clumsy, Eclipse is way superior!
  • These design patterns are native in Java!

I read more and more, tried more and more and unfortunately failed more often. The initial fun and ambition faded away with every single compilation that turned out to not work as expected, crashed or ended up in memory leaks.
Even with every interest and devotion I had to learn, to me it was “just” another syntax complicating things. Pretty much everything I learned and did I was able to reproduce in Java in less time and with more comfort and less errors. I got lazy!

Coding Personality

So, even if I tried to seriously learn and get into C and C++ it just did not reach me, did not touch me. From my history and my experience with other languages, IDEs and projects I knew that there were different ways to achieve nearly the same things. And it was not only my laziness from very elegant development environments or library usage, also the code itself appeared to be cryptic to my eyes.
No matter if I read Java, Python or PHP code nowadays: Besides the fact that every code can be beautiful and ugly I understand Java code instantly; I recognize the Python functionality; I get what the PHP developer meant to do! Even in the last years as I was checking examples and help sites for iOS and Android NDK coding out of interest I could not get rid of the thought: I can achieve the same thing with the Android SDK! (PS: Objective-C is pretty ugly ^^)
And it is not that I do not like any other languages any more: I was “forced” to use Haskell and dismissed it; tried Scala and loved it! Fooled around with Ruby and had fun; Prolog and Lisp… na; Eiffel and C#, olé!
Especially C# instantly appealed to me: The syntax, the structures, the functionality and the ideas filled the holes that Java left over the years. It may be a coincidence that Anders Hejlsberg, a main man behind “my” Delphi is the lead designer of C# but maybe we think alike. And with the advent of XNA I even had a connection to game development again… and it started with a C! The commonality of course was a similar syntax, similar principles and the idea of a Virtual Machine executing and “managing” my code. No changes for specific operating systems (at least in the perfect sales world ^^), just develop and it would work… now with easy native Windows “ways”!
But the thing that always struck me again were games. Even XNA seemed “unreal” for real game developments.

Games are developed in C

If I would have gotten one cent for every time I read this exact line on a board, tutorial or e-mail… you know what I would be then as you probably think the same right now. And I believed it! It was like this; It stays like this!
But over time I got more experienced in developing and engineering applications and solutions and I realized that in most cases the programming language is just the tool to fulfil the requirements: And my requirement was still to make the things I have in my head!
I started to look around and found games such as Spiral Knights, Puzzle Pirates, Jake2 (a Quake2 Java port), Chrome using Java for scripting and even EVE Online from CCP. A Server and Client nearly 100% developed in Stackless Python; a dynamic programming language in a multi-micro-threaded environment. Easy to read and learn, hard to master.
But probably the biggest counterexample today would be Minecraft. The biggest Indie sensation last year is developed in Java and even if I never really got into the game, I admire Notch for what he did and achieved… and everything in Java. And Minecraft was not the first but Wurm Online already showed where Notch could go… in Java.

[youtube width="640" height="390"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_yqOoUMHPg[/youtube]

With these great examples of Games not developed in C/C++ I felt more confident in following my own way that I have successfully gone for years now.

To be or TioBe

I do not intend to defy C or C++ but if I am not required to use C for the games I want to create and other segments and industries can be conquered by languages such as Java, too (as shown in the Tiobe Index), why should I?
Especially in enterprise environments Java is a strong candidate for projects: From a Manager perspective the Java salesman argues with operating system independence, easy extended library architecture, basic native Database framework and UI support… sold! Enterprise Java is still a keyword for international research projects today. And with JME and Android even the mobile sector is invaded by Java for years now.
And with Android supporting Java as well as Microsoft supporting C# I can be everywhere: On PCs, on Consoles, on Mobile Phones and on Browsers. With languages I know, am experienced with and that appeal to me.
So, do I still have to put all my power in re-learning what I already know in other languages? Where I have intensive practical knowledge? Where I can craft my dreams?

Tiobe Index

Ignorance is bliss

Even with my underwhelming C skills I get along very well. Tiobe proves me right and until now I always solved the problems given to me or achieved and created what I wanted. I am working in the games industry, worked on large and international projects for big companies, wrote some publications and most results were accepted just fine. I even remember some projects and programs created by me that I am still proud of and this does not happen very often as every developer I know normally wants to change the code he wrote the second he/she finished the last line ^^.
I am aware that for the last performance tweak, for the most awesome graphics engine I would have to use C (or Assembler) and I am aware that the foundation for all that I use such as the Java or the .net VM an explicit knowledge is required. Nevertheless, I do not state that nobody should use C or C++. It is just that I want to raise awareness for people that complain about people not knowing C, labelling these as non-programmers. These guys are able, too. And if they want to Write Games, not Engines they might even be better for game logic and not “just” tools. These guys are also able to know what really happens underneath as that is a mandatory pre-requisite and not the knowledge of a syntax.
Therefore, besides all my years trying to get into “the game” of learning C and C++ I turned out pretty well, with experience in large projects, systems and now games. I call myself a game developer. And if many decline my languages I decide for myself that (C+)Ignorance Is Bliss…

Part of the Challenge: Show your ignorance! Also published on INsanityDesign.com.