Top 6 Visual Studio Extensions for Game Developers
Game development is a long and painstaking process, often requiring several years to produce a single AAA-quality game. So game developers need tools to help speed up this process and make it as easy as possible.
Visual Studio is one of the most popular IDEs among game programmers, and it has some excellent extensions to assist game developers.
What Is a Visual Studio Extension?
A Visual Studio extension is an add-on or plugin designed to enhance your experience while using the IDE. It can either add new tools or improve and integrate existing ones. You can find most extensions on the Visual Studio Marketplace. You can also create your own extensions using the Visual Studio Software Development Kit (SDK).
Why Should Game Developers Use Visual Studio Extensions?
Game engines are complex pieces of software, consisting of thousands of files and several million lines of code. Even the best IDEs can struggle to handle these code bases, flagging false errors and suffering from performance issues.
If you’ve worked with Unreal Engine, you’ll know it’s difficult to use it with a lightweight IDE like Visual Studio Code. Using Visual Studio without extensions is not a very pleasant experience for Unreal Engine developers.
Game development can be a laborious task. Much publicity surrounds the crunch time that games like Cyberpunk 2022 impose on developers. So it’s important to save every second you can during game development, by working more efficiently.
Visual Studio extensions help in no small measure to ease the game development process. They boost productivity, enforce code correctness, and save time. Without Visual Studio extensions, we wouldn’t enjoy as many AAA-quality games that release every year.
Resharper is a .NET extension from JetBrains for editing, refactoring, analyzing, and testing C# code. As with other JetBrains products, Resharper is of high quality and aims to make programming a more enjoyable task.
Resharper provides direct support for the Unity game engine. It can automatically generate overloads and implementations for your C# scripts. It highlights coding patterns that affect performance and suggests quick fixes to avoid code smells.
Resharper knows all scenes, prefabs, and assets in your Unity project. It also supports Unity’s ShaderLab and Assembly Definition Files. It can display the Unity console in Visual Studio and highlight use of event functions and serializable fields within C# scripts.
Another version of this add-on, Resharper C++, caters for Unreal Engine and C++. It provides smart coding help backed by a deep understanding of Unreal Engine’s reflection system. Resharper C++ analyzes your code while you edit, suggesting improvements and generating code.
Indeed, Resharper is an all-in-one extension for whichever game engine you use to develop your game. It’s a cost-effective option, with support for several programming languages in the same package. It’s also used by some of the biggest names in gaming, including Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard.
Download: Resharper (Subscription required at $129/year; 30-day free trial available)
2. Visual Assist
Visual Assist (VAX) is a plugin from Whole Tomato Software that improves Visual Studio’s IntelliSense and syntax highlighting. Along with Resharper, Visual Assist is one of Unreal Engine developers’ two most popular extensions.
Visual Assist primarily supports the C++ programming language, with code inspection, refactoring, code correction, and code assistance. Using this extension, you can easily search for files, functions, and symbols in large, monolithic code libraries.
If you’re programming with a particular style guide, Visual Assist can help enforce that convention. It flags style violations and other errors using a powerful static analyzer. In addition, Visual Assist unobtrusively corrects typos and symbol case mistakes as you make them.
Visual Assist features tailored support for Unreal Engine 4 and 5. It can read a game engine’s code, eliminate false errors, and provide syntax highlighting for macros and specifiers. This add-on also enforces Unreal Engine’s naming convention for classes and structs.
Visual Assist uses a context-aware search engine to understand Unreal Engine’s extended code language. It can show comments, documentation, and dialogs from base classes whenever the classes are used.
Download: Visual Assist (Subscription required at $119/year; 30-day free trial available)
CodeMaid is a Visual Studio extension for C++, C#, TypeScript, and many other programming languages. It is free, open-source, and available on all versions of Visual Studio, including VS 2022. CodeMaid’s primary function is code cleanup, which it performs automatically or on demand.
CodeMaid can use and extend Visual Studio’s code formatting features to remove unused whitespace in code. In addition, this plugin can format an individual file or the entire Visual Studio project.
CodeMaid provides a tree view hierarchy of C# and C++ code, allowing programmers to drop in and reorganize the code to their tastes quickly. It provides various sorting functions for a better view and can refactor code to match Microsoft’s StyleCop style guide.
This extension is popular with game developers because it lets you focus on the logic and functionality of your code instead of style conventions. If you’re not the most organized programmer, CodeMaid can help.
Download: CodeMaid (Free)
4. Unreal VS
This extension gives easy access to common Unreal Engine operations in Visual Studio. Unreal Engine includes this plugin. You can install it by navigating to the game engine’s installation folder and running the UnrealEngine.vsix file.
This extension adds a custom toolbar to the Visual Studio interface. The toolbar allows you to select the startup project, input command-line arguments, and refresh project files. Unreal VS allows you to bind commands to hotkeys for even faster development.
Unreal VS’s build tools are more sophisticated than what vanilla Visual Studio offers. The batch builder can compile several projects at once while keeping their build configurations separate. The build tools let you compile for various platforms like macOS and Linux without changing the main build configuration.
Unreal VS is open source and extensible with the right Visual Studio SDK. Of course, you need a licensed Unreal Engine installation, which you can get for free. If you want to start making games, you can check out how to get started with Unreal Engine.
Download: Unreal Engine (Free)
This software is not so much an extension as it is a base component of Visual Studio. It is a collection of tools designed to speed up the game development process on the Unity game engine. Visual Studio tools for Unity is an optional component that you can add after installing Visual Studio.
This extension features powerful auto-completion for Unity events and functions. Powered by IntelliSense, it accurately adds lines of code to C# scripts and fixes any parameter mistakes in functions. Furthermore, it provides syntax highlighting and auto-completion for the Unity shader language.
Visual Studio tools for Unity has a powerful debugger to inspect complex expressions and data structures. The debugger allows you to set normal, data, and conditional breakpoints. It also helps you watch and modify variables’ values at runtime.
This add-on offers refactoring suggestions and quick fixes that correct your code to match Unity’s coding style. Additionally, it provides a reference viewer that tracks where your functions are called. The reference viewer displays Unity project files and can refresh Unity assets.
Download: Visual Studio Tools for Unity (Free)
6. Android Game Development Extension
This extension adds the Android operating system as a target platform on Visual Studio for compiling C++ game projects. Using this extension, you can develop cross-platform games using C or C++ and deploy them to Android.
The Android Game Development Extension provides high-performance debugging. In addition, it offers easy access to performance and memory profiling.
This extension supports several game engines, including Unreal Engine, Unity, Godot, and Defold. You can also use it with your custom C++ game engine or extend an existing engine.
Download: Android Game Development Extension for Visual Studio (Free)
The Future of Game Development
Game development used to be a mysterious and relatively obscure aspect of software development. Game creation software was uncommon and quite difficult for the average programmer to use.
But with the advent of game engines like Unity and Godot, and platforms like Roblox and Core, game development has become more accessible. You can get started with little to no programming knowledge and create visually stunning games with little effort.
These game frameworks are responsible for the thousands of indie games you can find on Steam and itch.io. They have also contributed in no small measure to the rise of video games as a dominant source of digital entertainment.
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