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. Game developers therefore need tools to 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 great extensions to help game developers.
What is a Visual Studio extension?
A Visual Studio extension is an add-on or plug-in 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 Visual Studio Marketplace. You can also create your own extensions using the Visual Studio SDK.
Why should game developers use Visual Studio extensions?
Game engines are complex software, made up of thousands of files and several million lines of code. Even the best IDEs can struggle to handle these codebases, reporting false errors and suffering performance issues.
If you’ve worked with Unreal Engine, you’ll know it’s difficult to use 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 critical moment that games like Cyberpunk 2022 impose on developers. So it is important to save every second during game development, working more efficiently.
Visual Studio extensions help to a great extent in facilitating the process of game development. They increase productivity, enhance code accuracy, and save time. Without Visual Studio Extensions, we wouldn’t enjoy so many AAA-quality games that come out every year.
Resharper is a .NET extension from JetBrains for editing, refactoring, analyzing, and testing C# code. As with other JetBrains products, Resharper is high quality and aims to make programming more enjoyable.
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 the scenes, prefabs, and resources in your Unity project. It also supports ShaderLab and assembly definition files from Unity. He can show the Unity console in Visual Studio and highlight the use of event functions and serializable fields in C# scripts.
Another version of this add-on, Resharper C++, supports Unreal Engine and C++. It provides smart coding assistance backed by a deep understanding of Unreal Engine’s reflection system. Resharper C++ analyzes your code as you edit it, suggesting improvements and generating code.
Indeed, Resharper is an all-in-one extension for the game engine you use to develop your game. It’s a cost-effective option, with support for multiple programming languages in the same package. It’s also used by some of the biggest names in gaming, including Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard.
To download: Resharper (subscription required at $129/year; 30-day free trial available)
2. Visual assistance
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 the two most popular extensions from Unreal Engine developers.
Visual Assist primarily supports the C++ programming language, with code inspection, refactoring, code fixing, and code assistance. Using this extension, you can easily search for files, functions and symbols in large monolithic code libraries.
If you program with a particular style guide, Visual Assist can help you enforce that convention. It flags style violations and other errors using a powerful static analyzer. Plus, Visual Assist discreetly corrects typos and symbol casing errors as you make them.
Visual Assist offers custom support for Unreal Engine 4 and 5. It can read game engine code, eliminate false errors, and provide syntax highlighting for macros and specifiers. This add-on also follows the Unreal Engine naming convention for classes and structures.
Visual Assist uses a context-aware search engine to understand Unreal Engine’s extensive code language. It can display base class comments, documentation, and dialogs whenever the classes are used.
To 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’s 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 capabilities to remove unused white space in code. Additionally, this plugin can format an individual file or the entire Visual Studio project.
CodeMaid provides a tree-like hierarchy of C# and C++ code, allowing programmers to quickly step in and rearrange code to suit their tastes. It provides various sort functions for better view and can refactor the code to match Microsoft’s StyleCop style guide.
This extension is popular with game developers because it allows you to focus on the logic and functionality of your code rather than style conventions. If you’re not the most organized programmer, CodeMaid can help.
To download: CodeMaid (Free)
4. Unreal VS
This extension provides 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 installation folder and running the UnrealEngine.vsix case.
This extension adds a custom toolbar to the Visual Studio interface. The toolbar allows you to select the startup project, enter command line arguments, and refresh project files. Unreal VS lets you bind commands to hotkeys for even faster development.
Unreal VS’ build tools are more sophisticated than those offered by vanilla Visual Studio. The batch generator can compile multiple projects at once while keeping their build configurations separate. The build tools allow you to compile for various platforms such as macOS and Linux without modifying the main build configuration.
Unreal VS is open source and extensible with the right Visual Studio SDK. Of course, you need a licensed installation of Unreal Engine, which you can get for free. If you want to start making games, you can find out how to get started with Unreal Engine.
To download: Unreal Engine (Free)
This software is not so much an extension as a basic component of Visual Studio. It is a collection of tools designed to speed up the process of developing games on the Unity game engine. Visual Studio Tools for Unity is an optional component that you can add after installing Visual Studio.
This extension offers powerful autocompletion for Unity events and functions. Powered by IntelliSense, it accurately adds lines of code to C# scripts and fixes parameter errors in functions. Additionally, it provides syntax highlighting and auto-completion for the Unity shader language.
Visual Studio Tools for Unity has a powerful debugger for inspecting complex expressions and data structures. The debugger lets you set normal, data, and conditional breakpoints. It also helps you monitor and change variable values at runtime.
This add-on offers refactoring suggestions and quick fixes that fix 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.
To 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. With this extension, you can develop cross-platform games in C or C++ and deploy them on Android.
Android game development extension provides high performance debugging. Plus, it provides easy access to performance and memory profiling.
This extension supports multiple 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.
To 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 rare 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 start with little or 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 large measure to the rise of video games as a dominant source of digital entertainment.