OK - So, What Do I Need?
You need to download and install four packages to play AntMe! No worries, they're all free and you'll find links to them below. (Please note, AntMe! is currently only available for Windows.)
Maybe you're wondering why you need to install four different things? Well, AntMe! is a game for (and about) learning how to program. We wanted to make the lessons you'll learn as relevant and as applicable as possible when it comes to writing real, working programs at work, or for school, or just for fun. That's why the game uses a set of programs (think of 'em as tools) that are also used by real programmers in the industry. It makes the installation process just a little bit more involved than other games, but it's nothing a hacker in training like yourself can't handle ;).
You need to download and install the following four packages (like we said, don't worry, they're all free):
- AntMe! You can't play the game without the game itself, after all! (download)
- A development environment (also known as an IDE). A development environment is a bundle of programs that programmers use to develop software. All the programs in the bundle are configured to work together and support each other. We'll say a bit more about this later and suggest a development environment that we think is a good choice for beginners.
Oh, and before we continue - AntMe! is a game for everyone, but it's especially aimed at players who don't have any experience programming yet. That's why we're explaining all the steps in detail here. We want to make sure that less experienced players can understand and follow the instructions. If you already know your way around the command line, so to speak, you can just skip to the next tutorial after you've downloaded the four packages listed above.
You might be asking yourself what we need all the extra stuff for. Let's take a closer look at what it all does.
1. Programming Language
You need to choose a programming language before you get to work. You won't need to download it separately, but your choice will determine what IDE you'll want to use.
A programming language is a language that describes the steps that a computer should execute with the help of a program. Basically, the programming language is the way you tell the computer what to do. In AntMe!, you use the programming language to control the ants. There are two programming languages that you can use and learn in AntMe!: C# and VB.NET (also known as Visual Basic .NET).
You're free to choose which one you want to use. If you've never programmed before or you learned how to use a bit of Pascal in school, then Visual Basic (VB) will probably be easier for you to get started with. If you already know a bit of Java or C++, then it makes more sense to choose C#. (That's not "C hashtag" like a tweet, it’s "c sharp" like a musical note.)
2. Development Environment (IDE)
The next thing you need is a development environment (or IDE for short). The IDE you choose will depend on which programming language you chose. A development environment is a bundle of programs that programmers use to develop software. All the programs in the bundle are configured to work together and support each other. There are different bundles for different languages. The development environment that you’ll use to program your ants in AntMe! is the same kind that many programmers use to write programs used every day in the IT industry. We recommend Visual Studio, which is an IDE created by Microsoft, for getting started with AntMe! You can download the Community Edition of Visual Studio for free and use it as long as you want. There's also another IDE that you can use if you're going to develop with C#. It’s called Sharp Develop (logically enough) and it's also free.
So far you’ve downloaded the game, which is like the blueprints, and the development environment, which is like your toolbox, but to put everything together and make it stick, you also need to download two frameworks. Frameworks are common in programming and you can probably guess at their purpose just based on the normal everyday meaning of the word. A framework is not a complete, finished program or app in itself. It just provides the foundation and the building blocks with which your program will be developed.
AntMe! needs two different frameworks. The first is .NET Framework 4.0. It’s the core library for writing and running programs developed in VB.NET or C#.
When a programmer talks about a library, they mean a collection of processes, commands, pieces of programs or even whole programs. These frequently used components are often combined together in a library file.
The game's 3D view uses the XNA framework. This framework is the basis for many games you may have played and makes it easy to use graphics acceleration, game controllers and soundcards.