My apologies for being lazy this week and getting this out late. His story is more compelling than the standard fare, but that is still no excuse.
This week we welcome Sean McManus (@musicandwords) as our PyDev of the Week! Sean is the author of several books, including Mission Python: Code a Space Adventure Game!, which was reviewed on this site in March. There are free chapters from his book available here. You can learn more about Sean on his website. Let’s take some time to get to know him better!
Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):
I’m a writer specialising in technology. In recent years I’ve written several books to get children and young adults into coding. The launch of the Raspberry Pi and initiatives such as Code Club have helped to make coding much more accessible to young people than it was for many years.
As a kid, I loved programming my Amstrad CPC computer and in many ways it started me on my career path. I had listings and articles published in the leading magazines of the day, and my first book was about Amstrad programming. Today, I can still remember how much I loved programming as a kid, and I hope that my books bring some of that excitement to today’s budding coders…
How did you end up writing a book about games programming in Python?
It seems like there are lots of Python books that include small examples to show you how a particular feature works. That’s great, because it’s much easier to learn when the code is pared down to the essentials. However, that does leave many readers wondering what to do next, and how you bridge the gap between short programs of a couple of pages and more substantial projects. It’s one thing to know how a list works, for example, but how do you use that to create a map for a 3D game? How do you build on the basics to create something that does more than just demonstrate the language?
With Mission Python, the idea was to show a worked example of a game that goes beyond the basics. It’s a graphical adventure game, so there are lots of opportunities to learn about data structures (rooms, objects, interactions) and lots of customisation opportunities that you wouldn’t get with a simple arcade game. The game is set on a Martian space station where the air is leaking and you have to get to safety. It involves finding objects and solving puzzles, and uses a forced perspective like some of the early Zelda games. I was particularly pleased with a comment from one reviewer saying that it felt like the game came before the book, rather than the other way around as is often the case with educational books: I was keen for the game to be as “real” as possible, within the constraints of the slightly retro game format and what can be reasonably documented within the scope of a book..
Thanks for doing the interview, Sean!