If you are already a Java developer, or you’re a Minecraft fan who has played the Java edition for a thousand hours, and you’re hoping that Java is a good language for game development, I hate to break it to you but Java is generally not the best option when it comes to game development.
Java is a great general purpose language that has some excellent use cases in many tech fields, however, when it comes to game development, it is not the best out there.
If you absolutely want to use Java for game development though, you shouldn’t get discouraged since you can definitely make some decent games with Java.
Java can be considered a good language for some types of games and certain target platforms. However, languages like C/C++ and C# are much more popular options when it comes to game development, and are generally more suited for video games than Java is.
Why is java not a great language for game development?
You might hear a lot of developers say that Java is too slow to be good for game development. However, this is not actually the case at all.
Speed is not the main reason that makes java lack behind when it comes to game development these days.
Java was way slower than some other languages a long time ago, however as of today, Java is fast enough to meet most of the game development requirements.
Another reason that gets mentioned frequently is Java’s non-deterministic garbage collector, which is a somewhat more convincing reason, but is still not the main reason behind marking Java as a “not good enough” choice for game development.
If you don’t already know what garbage collection is, it is basically freeing up space in the memory by recycling the memory blocks that aren’t being used anymore by the game (or any other program).
Java does garbage collection automatically at non-deterministic times. The problem here is that the lack of control over when the garbage collector gets triggered can cause a lot of performance issues.
For example, if the garbage collector runs during a very intense boss battle where every CPU cycle is needed to maintain a good FPS, the extra work that needs to be done by the garbage collector can significantly drop the FPS which can ruin the experience of the players.
However, if the Java developers optimize their code to use as low memory as possible, then this problem can be avoided completely in most cases.
With that out of the way, the main reason why languages like C/C++ and C# are better for game development is the lack of game development tools specifically made for Java.
If you want to build a video game, it is probably a great idea to use the best set of tools that you can to get the job done. The better the tools, the more work you can output in a certain amount of time.
Using Game Engines for example can accelerate your game development speed by a significantly large factor.
The problem is, most of the top game engines do not support Java as their scripting language.
You can of course go build your own game engine using Java, but that will probably take you more time and effort than building the game itself using an already proven game engine like Unity, Unreal, and others.
This doesn’t mean that there are no tools at all that can help you make games with Java. For example, LibGDX is an excellent Java development framework that can help you make games with Java.
However, going for a Game Engine with some excellent UI can make your life much easier as a game developer.
Why don’t we have some world class game engines that support Java though? Well, there are attempts to build game engines that support Java. Though the large ones that have already dominated the market don’t support Java.
Another huge problem for Java is that the Java Virtual machine (JVM) is not on the major consoles used today. Running Java games on consoles like PlayStation or Xbox is extremely complicated.
With that said, one could assume that you can’t make Console games using Java (if we’re talking about the major Consoles brands in the market)
This is a huge disadvantage to Java in the game development world since console gaming has been a huge part of the gaming industry for a very long time, and it’s likely to stay this way for many more years to come.
What other language can you use for game development?
If you like Java a lot, then you’ll probably also like C#.
C# is extremely similar to Java. When I first got started with game development using C# , I didn’t even have to go learn the language since it was extremely similar to Java which is a language that I already knew how to use.
If you already know Java, then you probably already know enough C# to get you started as a game developer.
You’ll find yourself googling terms like “What’s the C# equivalent of x in Java”, and the first search result will usually be more than sufficient.
Why is C# a good option for you though? Because it is the scripting language that the Unity game engine supports. If you would like to learn more about what is the best language for game development, you can check out this article.
You can also read this article that lists some of the top game engines for solo developers.
Will Java ever be a major player in the game development industry?
Java as a language is capable of becoming an excellent choice for game development. If the major console creators end up supporting the JVM one day, and if more tools are made available for Java game developers, then Java can definitely become a major player in the industry.
However, until then I suggest that you stick with the languages that are supported by the biggest game engines in the market (Unity, Unreal, and others).
If you are interested in reading more, you can check out these articles: