CPSC 427 Video Game Programming
Winter Term 1 23/24

This course provides an introduction to video game programming.

The course material will cover game programming techniques and technologies, including rendering, data structures, memory management, real-time software development for games, start-to-finish simple video game design and implementation, project management, teamwork and team management.

Students will learn to plan, manage and implement from scratch a video game over the course term. They will learn to apply theoretical knowledge in a practical, real-life setting and acquire hands-on problem solving skills.

 You should be able to take the course if you satisfy the following pre-reqs: One of MATH 200, MATH 217, MATH 226, MATH 253 and one of MATH 152, MATH 221, MATH 223 and CPSC 221. Please see the official UBC course description for the prerequisite specifics.

Staff and Communication

Instructor:Helge Rhodin.

Instructor Office Hours: Tuesday 3-4 pm (or by appointment) in ICCS X653 or Zoom.

TAs: Suzuran and Floria
Please contact TAs via Piazza for technical questions (public post, unless code is contained).

TA Office Hours:
Floria: Wednesdays 1:30 - 2:30 pm in ICCS X337 or Zoom.
Suzuran: Thursdays 1:30 - 2:30 pm in ICCS X337 or Zoom.

Contact: We will use Piazza for all announcements and questions. Note: If students have privacy concerns about the use of Piazza, let me (instructor) know and we will consider an alternative. Piazza is hosted outside Canada, thus if you use the current setup we will proceed on the assumption that you do not object to Piazza potentially identifying you personally, and that you are consenting to the storage of personal information on Piazza servers outside Canada.

Course Work

This is a hands-on, project-based course. As such the course has no exams or finals and  most of the grade is based on student contribution to a team video game project.

Mark distribution: Team video game project (78%), individual assignments (20%), other (2%).  Note: The project grade is designed to reflect both the team effort and the individual contribution of each team member.

For more details see the course policies.

Course Syllabus/Overview

Why? Video games and game development represent a billion dollar industry, and there is a high demand for programmers at all levels of experience in this profession. Vancouver is a major game industry hub with both major studios (Electronic Arts, Activision, Microsoft Research) and smaller groups (Blackbird Interactive, Capcom Vancouver, East Side Games).

In addition to being a relatable and exciting software domain, game implementation can provide valuable portfolio pieces for new graduates seeking jobs. Game development combines programming problems from areas such as artificial intelligence and computer graphics with the opportunity for creative and imaginative endeavors.

Simply put, it's FUN!!

What? An opportunity for students to gain experience developing a video game from start to finish, and to acquire basic knowledge on core elements of video game development.

How? During the span of the course, students will work in teams of 6 to create a fully finished small to medium-sized 2D video game (prior experience with computer graphics is a plus but is not required). The games will be implemented from scratch: You will be provided with a minimal starting template and will be expected to write most, if not all the rest of the code yourself. Later in the course you will be able to add external libraries for "bells and whistles" as long as these do not replace coding of key milestones. We will not rely on high-level game engines in the development of the key features, to allow students to implement those themselves and better understand core game components. 

Students completing the course will learn about and implement basic methodologies across areas of computer science that are involved in the programming of a video game - computer graphics, artificial intelligence, path planning, user interaction, and software design. They will become familiar with software development elements such as entity component system data-structures, memory management, "bare metal" hardware programming, and real-time algorithm implementation.  In addition to integrating these elements into their teams video game, students will complete small individual assignments that require implementing some key game elements (rendering, AI, animation, and collision detection).

Students will also be familiarized with standard software engineering tools such as debuggers, profilers, and multi-user revision control. The final project for this course will be a completed video game that students can take home and exhibit to friends, family, and potential employers.

Objective/Learning Goals

- to expose students to the fundamental technologies, tools, methods and algorithms used in commercial video game development.
- to provide students with additional hands-on experience working on a complete software project, start to finish, from design to implementation.
- to immerse students in a typical team project environment, and demonstrate best communication and collaboration practices.
- to enable students to experience first-hand the pitfalls and challenges of working on a real-time software platform using C++ as a programming language.
- to provide students with a unique, creative portfolio piece that can be shown to potential employers.


Lectures are scheduled on
Mon 15:00-17:00 in CEME 1202 and
Wed 15:00-17:00 (incl. Tutorial) in DMP 110.
Students unable to attend for health reasons will be provided with a zoom link for remote participation.
Tutorials are scheduled on  Wednesday 16:00-17:00 in DMP 110 and 301 The milestone and assignment deadlines are marked in the schedule below.

01 - Intro and Logistics[PDF]
02 - Entity Component System [PDF]
03 - Game Programming Basics [PDF]
04 - Human-Computer Interaction [PDF]
05 - Rendering Basics [PDF]
06 - Transformations [PDF]
07 - OpenGL [PDF]
08 - Advanced OpenGL [PDF]
09 - Collision [PDF]
10 - Simulation [PDF]
11 - AI with states [PDF]
12 - IO and Observer [PDF]
13 - Debugging [PDF]
14 - Curves and Animation [PDF]
15 - AI and Strategy [PDF]
16 - Curves and Animation [PDF]
17 - Game balancing [PDF]
18 - History [PDF]

Check the lecture schedule for planned activities and due dates.

All lectures and activities are listed in this google calendar, embedded below:

Lecture time will include regular lectures,  industry expert lectures, cross-play sessions, and team status update presentations.  Tutorials will be largely dedicated to team meetings with the instructor or TAs, as well as face to face marking sessions for team milestones. You have to make sure that your entire team fo 6 can come to the same tutorial slot for grading.

Lecture materials will appear here as we proceed with no guarantee we'll post everything, so do come to the lectures!  

After each milestone deadline we will hold progress-update presentations (normally on Wednesday) and cross-play sessions (normally on Monday).

Teams can meet with the TAs for help during tutorials and office hours.

Milestone/Assignment Descriptions and Deadlines

Documents for individual assignments:

Use MTA2 to submit your assignments: https://mta.students.cs.ubc.ca/.

Links to milestone descriptions are below. We suggest that you look at the descriptions of later milestones to plan ahead. But be aware that the description of each milestone may marginally change up till the due date of the preceeding milestone.

Use the included MilestoneSubmissionForm.pdf to plan ahead and determine which features you intend to implement for each mileston going forward and to describe the work your team performed in each milesotone.

Assignments and milestones are due 23:59 pm on the day specified on the schedule page.

Grace days: Each team may use up to 3 grace days per term for the group game milestones. Use these as you wish to help manage your time, but use them wisely. You can use all three on one milestone, or one day for each of three milestones.

We will keep track of your grace days, but do check with us to make sure our grace day count matches yours. Grace days are counted as integers, i.e. if you are one hour late, that counts as one grace day. Weekends (Sat/Sun) and the term break do not count (so submitting a milestone, or assignment on Monday instead of Friday counts as one day). Once your grace days are all used, late submissions will receive a grade of zero.

For individual assignments there are no grace days, the score will be reduced by 30% for each late day.

[NEW in 2023] Grading: We will use TA assisted peer grading for assignments and "face-to-face" grading with a TA for milestones. To pass the course one needs to receive a passing grade on the team project and average over individual assignments. A description of the process and expected prep is detailed here. ALL team members are expected to attend each milestone grading sessions and should be able to pinpoint their contributions for each individual marked milestone. You will be required to demonstrate that you understand why your program works. You must be able to explain every single line you wrote!

More details on grading are provided here

Resources and Prior Offerings

Course pages of previous offerings: here.

Examples of games written by previous students can be found here.

Links to other useful webpages will be added here as the course progresses:

Note, the course has no textbook.


Please read the detailed grading policy, peer review policy, and missed work policy. A summary is given below.

[NEW in 2023] Waitlist: We will overbook the course at the beginning of the term considering the drop rate from previous terms. The course registration will be frozen on the day of the first lecture and it is unlikely to be admitted from the waitlist afterwards. This model reduces fluctuation and helps finalizing project teams early.

Teams: The team project of the course is essential, you can only complete the course if part of a team of 6. Reach out early to find partners. Students without a team at the end of the first week may be assigned randomly and teams with 5 or less members be filled up. Be kind - if you intend to drop the course, do it early to not affect your team.

Plagiarism: Shortly, don't cheat. What's considered cheating in CPSC 427, here. What the department does with cheaters, here.

Dropping: Because of the high demand for this course, the drop deadlines will be strictly enforced. No drop forms will be signed by the instructor after the first drop deadline. After that date, you will not be given permission to drop, and you will either have to complete the course or receive an "F" for the course at the end of the term. This policy has been adopted to encourage students to make a serious commitment to the course or to drop it early so that other students waiting to get into the course can register for it.

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