Recently I was sent a review copy of SFML Game Development by Packt Publishing. SFML stands for the “Simple and Fast Multimedia Library”, and is one of two major libraries used in 3D OpenGL graphics programming. The competitor to SFML is SDL, which is a C library. Comparatively, SFML is written in C++. I’ll cover an overview of the book’s contents and a quick review.

The SFML Book Cover
The SFML Book Cover

SFML is quite complex, and so is C++. This book assumes a fairly competent programmer who is already familiar with most of the language constructs of C++. It’s recommended the reader understand variables, data types, functions, classes, polymorphism, pointers and templates. If you don’t, I wouldn’t recommend trying to learn C++ in parallel with SFML. It would be quite a challenge. If you don’t know C++ very well, I’d recommend Absolute C++. On to the book!

SFML Game Development starts off with a strong first chapter, covering a basic graphical “Hello world”. It covers user input using the more modern events API, as opposed to the old polling API. It also covers in depth frame independent movement and fixed time steps.

After explaining some of the basics of getting an SFML project up and running, it jumps right into building a modern clone of 1942. It covers building an asset pipeline, rendering scenes, getting player input, playing music, multiplayer code, gameplay logic, and transitioning between states such as the main menu, gameplay, and boss screens. It even finds some time to cover a basic bloom shader in GLSL.

At 280 pages long, this book is short but sweet. It walks you through a complete project from start to finish, and gets you up and running with SFML. You’ll be writing your own real time graphics in no time. When I was learning SFML 1.5, there weren’t resources like this available. It was a much slower, more painful process than it is now. If you’re interested in high performance real time graphics programming, this would be a great book to start out with. Once you’ve finished this book, you’ll have a good foundation for learning OpenGL itself if you’re so inclined.

For an easier start, I created a Github project with an empty SFML project already set up. It’s called sfml-template, and it uses CMake for its build system. It isn’t currently set up to build on Windows, but it will build on either Linux or Mac OS X. The linking of OpenGL on these two platforms is quite different, which is why CMake is required for handling building on either.

Alright, that’s it. Go build something awesome!