It’s been ten years, almost to the day, that I attended my first programming lecture and learned how to code. I was really lucky to be able to spend years of my life learning how to do that and not worry about much else. Most people don’t get that opportunity, and that can make it hard to think about how software gets made, or what programming even is. Lately I’ve seen a few cases where people have made guesses at how hard it is to make games, and while it’s easy to laugh at these claims, it makes a lot of sense to me that people think multiplayer could be added to No Man’s Sky in a week. After all, the main way a lot of people experience games development right now is Early Access, where features are rapidly prototyped and added into games, often at high-speed.
This way of adding features to a game is one particular approach to making games, and it has an impact on your game in a way that’s hard to see if you’re just reading patch notes or occasional developer tweets. So I thought it might be interesting to talk briefly about what it means to write a single line of code, and how Hello Games probably could write multiplayer code in a week, but you might not want them to. If you’re a programmer yourself, this post might not have much to interest you, but if you’ve never seen the insides of a program, it might offer a quick thing to think about.