Building Game Engines

"Pragmatic and technical game development" -- Your Instructor

Course Information

  • Course Number: Building Game Engines
  • Semester: Spring 21
  • Piazza: Forum Board
      Use piazza instead of e-mail for all course related matters
    • This way all course staff can answer questions
    • Class as a whole can participate and learn in discussions
    • Code also formats better nicely pasted in
    • (Linking your github is also easy for private posts)
  • Section 1: CS 4850/5850
    • Location: Online
    • Schedule: Module and lab released Sunday by midnight, Monday 6-9pm EST live session on teams (review lecture, lab, and group discussion)
    • Teams Link for Live Classes: Microsoft Teams Link


  • Instructor: Mike Shah
  • E-mail: mikeshah( a t )Northeastern{dot}edu
    • Use e-mail primarily for personal matters
    • e.g. I have a co-op interview and need to reschedule XYZ
    • e.g. I am away for a conference on date X to date Y
    • e.g. I am away for a doctors visit.
    • (Read How to send an e-mail)
  • Office: Nightingale 132A
  • Student Hours: In Location Online
    • Review course material with me and ask questions
    • Date/Time: By appointment
    • Sign up for a 15-30 minute appointments arranged by e-mail on Google Meet here
Teaching Assistant(s)
Amit Mulay
  • Hours/Location listed on piazza under Resources/Staff
Nate Haddad
  • Hours/Location listed on piazza under Resources/Staff

Schedule/Road Map

The following is our tentative syllabus for the course, some changes should be expected throughout the semester. I will announce in class lecture, piazza, or through e-mail any major changes.

  • To get all of the assignments/activities for the course, you must first click the following link: Course Monorepo Do not do a 'git pull' until class starts (Occasionally I make changes/spelling corrections)
Lecture and Readings Assignments Note(s)
1 Monday - January 25, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • Course Syllabus
    • Course Logistics
    • What is a Game Engine?
    • Why Build a Game Engine?
    • Game Loop
    • Begin Module!
Lab 1 out (Due Feb. 1 before class) First week of classes, welcome back!
2 Monday - February 01, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • Modern C++ Introduction
    • Compile-time vs Run-time
    • Memory Management
    • Compilers
    • Source Control
    • Singleton Design Pattern
    • Lab - Resource Manager
    • Begin Module!
Lab 2 out (Due Feb. 8 before class)
-- --
3 Monday - February 08, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • Initialization and Shutdown
    • Memory management and allocators
    • Caches
    • STL
    • Asset Pipeline
    • Asynchronous I/O
    • Resource Managers
    • File Compression
    • Begin Module!
A1 Out due Feb. 22 anywhere on Earth

Lab 3 out(Due Feb. 15 before class)
-- --
4 Monday - February 15, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • C++ Project Structure Review
    • Math Library
    • Math Review
    • AVX Instructions
    • Begin Module!
Lab 4 out(Due Feb. 22 before class) No 'Live Session' today--but there is a precorded lecture and lab to complete. Enjoy the long weekend!
5 Monday - February 22, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • Basic Terminology of 2D Rendering
    • Basics of 2D Rendering in SDL2
    • An Abstraction for creating a 2D Renderer - Factory Pattern
    • Common 2D Graphics Techniques - Tile Maps
    • Common 2D Graphics Techniques - Sprite Batching
    • Begin Module!
Lab 5 out(Due Mar. 1 before class) Please fill out this survey to help me assign you to teams for Assignment 2
6 Monday - March 01, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • The Game Objects
    • Data-Oriented Design
    • Component Systems
    • Begin Module!
A2 Released (Due March 15 anywhere on Earth)

Lab 6 out(Due Mar. 8 before class)
-- --
7 Monday - March 08, 2021
No lab, but there is an in-class activity No pre-recorded video today
8 Monday - March 15, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • Static and Dynamic Game Worlds
    • World Chunks
    • Introduction to Game Objects
    • Type Object Pattern
    • Lua
    • Pybind
    • Begin Module!
Final Project Team sheet out shortly!

Lab 7 out(Due Mar. 25 anywhere on Earth)
-- --
9 Monday - March 22, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • Physics Engines
    • Job of a Physics Engine
    • Broad Phasing
    • Spatial Partitioning
    • Unity3D Physics
    • Begin Module!
-- --
-- --
10 Monday - March 29, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • Concurrency vs Parallelism
    • C++ Thread Examples
    • Game Engine Case Studies
    • Begin Module!
Lab 8 out(Due April 5 anywhere on Earth)
-- --
11 Monday - April 05, 2021
Schedule your check-in with a TA this week. No recording, no lab--but there is an in-class activity!
12 Monday - April 12, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • How Sound Works
    • Audio API Example
    • Event Queue
    • Service Locator
    • Begin Module!
Care Day--no class or recording. Go enjoy yourself and recharge your energy!
-- --
13 Monday - April 19, 2021
Optional Online Exam out (here is the study guide, click me to understand how the exam works). Exam will be due by the 26th of April
-- --
14 Monday - April 26, 2021
  • Lecture outline
    • Trace
    • Show Projects
    • Course Post-mortem
    • (Virtual) Class Picture
    • Begin Module!
Final Project due April 26 Anywhere on Earth. Optional Exam due April 27 at 11:59 pm EST Last day of class :(

Course Description

This course teachings the fundamentals of building a game engine. We will be using C++, softare engineering techniques, and several libraries to build a game engine. This course will include some refreshers of using Object-Oriented methods to build software. There will also be some case studies of game engines and programming throughout this course.

Registrar Description: Discusses the components of game engines and strategies for their software implementation. Includes graphics management algorithms (animation, scene graph, level of detail); basic artificial intelligence algorithms (search, decision making, sensing); and related algorithmic issues (networking, threading, input processing). Explores the use of data-driven software design. Offers students an opportunity to use a rendering engine and to build and integrate several software components to create a complete game engine. Requires students to work on individual assignments and then develop a project in a team, which requires a report. Offers students an opportunity to learn team/project management; work division; team communication; and the software development cycle of implementation, testing, critique, and further iteration.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Build games to understand the components of a game engine!
  • Have an understanding of how to build tools to support game Development.
  • Work as a team to build a final game project using a custom engine.


There will be no required textbook for this course. However, these resources are recommended.


  • Undergraduate level CS 3520 Minimum Grade of D- or Undergraduate level CS 3540 Minimum Grade of D-
  • Undergraduate level CS 5010 Minimum Grade of D or Graduate level CS 5004 Minimum Grade of C
  • or Graduate level CS 5010 Minimum Grade of C
  • (Unofficially-Mike says) You need to be willing to learn to program in C++ and understand things like how to link code, and understand memory allocation

Academic Integrity and Non-Discrimination

Students and instructors are to follow the Northeastern policies on these important issues.

  • Northeastern Non-Discrimination Policy - This classroom is a safe space for the instructor and students to talk about ideas, share viewpoints, and learn.
  • Northeastern Academic Integrity Policy - You only cheat yourself if you are not honest. Most often cheating occurs when an individual falls behind or perhaps has other circumstances occurring in their life. Please consult the instructor before ever considering cheating.
    • If you are caught cheating I have to report the violation. My official policy is you receive a 0 in the course. Always remember, if you use any external sources, you must cite them.
  • Student Code of Conduct: Students and instructors will follow the following guide for how we conduct ourselves. This is to create a respectful environment where everyone can learn.

Make-Up Policy

  • Students participating in varsity athletics(this does not include club sports or intramurals) or other University sanctioned events may have the need for a make-up. Please contact me in advance of such events, so that appropriate accommodations can be made.
  • Occasionally, other life events and circumstances occur that were not planned. If this is the case, please e-mail me privately.
  • E-mailing me asking for extensions just because is unfortunately not fair to your classmates. The 10% penalty for each day late has to be enforced so I do not get taken advantage of.


Part of what makes Northeastern University unique, is our diverse cohort of students, faculty, and staff. In order to support this, Northeastern is committed to providing equal access and support to all qualified students through the provision of reasonable accommodations so that each student may fully participate in the University experience.

  • If you have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact the Student Accessibility Services office at or (617) 373-2675 to make an appointment with the Disability Resource Center representatives in 20 Dodge Hall to determine appropriate accommodations.
  • We Care is another university resource for helping tackle challenges you may be facing. Asking for help is okay!

Lateness and Attendance Policy

Students who do well in this course tend to show up to the course consistently, participate, and engage with their peers. Come to class, come on time, and build good habits! In-Class activities that are not attended are a zero.


Northeastern Univerity provides resources for student healthcare and general wellness. Please visit Northeastern Health and Counseling Services for your needs. While university can be difficult at times, please do take care of yourself. It is okay to seek help and take a break. Please communicate with your instructor, advisor, and officials at the university if you just need a mental break.

I personally remember how difficult university can be juggling myself multiple jobs, multiple clubs, and trying to learn. Do take your wellness seriously!

Assessment/Course Polices

Please find below the grading distribution that will be used for this course. You will find the grade you earn in this course on Canvas.

  • In-Class Activity: (5%)
  • In-Class Labs:     (20%)(Each equally weighted)
    • Labs are due before class of the following week.
  • Exam(s):           (15%)
  • Assignments:       (20%)(Each equally weighted)
  • Final Project:     (40%)

  • The grade system follows the University Grading System.
    • A  = 95 – 100
    • A- = 90 – 94.99
    • B+ = 87 – 89.99
    • B  = 83 – 86.99
    • B- = 80 – 82.99
    • C+ = 77 – 79.99
    • C  = 73 – 76.99
    • C- = 70 – 72.99
    • D+ = 67 – 69.99
    • D  = 63 – 66.99
    • D- = 60 – 62.99
    • F  =  0 – 59.99
  • In the event of a sick/snow day (i.e. we miss a lab or in-class activity) the weight of each assignment increases (There may also be shuffling of course material if we are interrupted).
  • The expectation is that the assignments are fair but difficult, so you should start early!
  • Late Submissions of Assignments receive 10% off per day submitted late (up to 3 days max, then 0% received)
    • Unfortunately, with large classes I cannot make individual exceptions (i.e. "special deals") fairly to your classmates who are likely making other personal sacrifices to complete work on time.
    • Come speak to me about your wellness if something is otherwise impeding your progress so we can provide you available resources to succeed.
  • Assignments that do not compile/open receive no credit Simply put, programs that do not compile do not do anything.
  • There are no "re-grades" or points awarded one week after your grade is posted. "re-grades" may result in a higher, equal, or lower score.
    • There are no "re-grades" after the semester is over.
    • Do not ask multiple members of the course staff for "re-grades"
  • If you are currently waitlisted, you must submit your homework on time. That is the gamble! If you do not have blackboard access, you will submit by e-mail or other course mechanism (e.g. github).
  • There are no extra credit assignments just for you. I reserve the right to add points to assignments that do go above and beyond however. I reserve the right to give an extra credit assignment to the entire class, though this is highly unlikely.
  • I reserve the right to modify the grading scale in your favor if you show exemplary proficiency in any of the catagories. I will never modify the scale to lower a students grade.
  • In class work cannot be made up at a later date unless otherwise arranged with the instructor well in advance.
    • Course work completed after the date cannot be graded, as solutions will have been discussed (this includes if taking this course for an Incomplete).
    • Once again, "in-class" work must be completed in-class unless there is a documented emergency or you have prearranged with the instructor a make-up well in advance.
  • Lab time is meant for helping students with the lab, not completing homework. I have to prioritize lab first, then can answer homework questions.
  • No Facebook, no cell phones. Not only does it distract you, it distracts others!
  • Everyone needs to come see me in office hours (or by appointment) at least one time during the semester to introduce yourself. The purpose is so that you:
    • Know where my office is.
    • Get used to coming to office hours.
    • Let me know how I can help you achieve your goals.

Please do not redistribute or host any materials without e-mailing me first. I generally am happy to share the latest .pdf or slide presentation with those who ask. Thank you for your time!