24 December 2023

"Godot 4 Game Development Cookbook" by Jeff Johnson

This book was part of the latest bundle from Humble Bundle, which included books for developing games with Unity and Godot.

The book offers a series of tutorials on specific use cases of Godot. It is fair to say that the index is suggestive and covers intermediate-level topics, ideal if you already have some experience with other engines and have just finished the initial Godot tutorials.

There is an introduction to the advanced features recently introduced in GDScript 2.0. It explains how to introduce volumetric fog in scenes, decal particle systems, pathfinding, deformable models, tiles, sound emitters, and offers an initial approach to Godot's multiplayer features.

It also offers recipes on shaders, but they are so superficial and the topic is so extensive that I found those recipes to be practically useless.

The different recipes follow a common structure. First, a very brief description of what is to be achieved with the recipe is offered. Then there is a "How to do it" section where the steps to be taken through the Godot editor are listed. Finally, there is a "How it works..." section that is supposed to explain in depth the steps that have been taken in the previous section.

I think the selection of topics for the recipes is very appropriate and suggestive. The description of the tasks to be performed is clear and I have had no problems following them. Although in some cases, I had to add some things for it to work and I had to complete it on my own. In general, I have enjoyed the following practices because they have allowed me to discover how far Godot can go.

However, where the book falls short is in the "How it works..." sections. It's okay if the "How to do it" section is limited to listing steps, but the "How it works" section is supposed to be where it should explain in detail why the previous steps have been taken and thus delve into the engine's features. Instead, what the author does is simply recount the tasks performed, but in a literary way instead of a numbered list. In other words, the "How it works" section does not add anything to the "How to do it" section. If you have more or less understood the steps in the "How to do it" section, you can skip the "How it works" section because it will not add anything to you. This greatly limits the value of the book. My advice, if you read this book, is to consult the Godot documentation for the different components as you progress through the steps of the different tutorials. This way, you can partially make up for the lack of explanations from the author.

In my opinion, this is a new example of Packt's poor editorial work. I think the problem with the book is not that the author is unfamiliar with the subject, but that the editorial did not review the book and did not alert him that he was focusing the "How it works" sections incorrectly. Packt is still a machine for churning out books where quantity is valued above quality.

I do not regret having read this book. It has really allowed me to tinker with Godot and convince myself that it is a viable engine for making games of all kinds. It is not that there are many books about Godot 4 on the market. In fact, most of them are from Packt, so there is little alternative. The thing is, I don't think the book is worth its full price. It may be worth it if it is discounted or included in a bundle like Humble Bundle, but I don't think it is worth the usual price. Before that, there are multiple tutorials on YouTube that are much better and more affordable.