Book Review – Jump Start CoffeeScript

by trdunsworth

I recently read Jump Start CoffeeScript by Earle Castledine from SitePoint books.  As usual, the disclaimer is that I received a copy of the book for free in return for the review. The “Jump Start” format seems to hold great promise. Take a scenario and affix the paradigm to it to gain a basic foundation with the highlighted technology. The flow of the book felt episodic in the delivery. In this season, if you will, we tackle CoffeeScript. CoffeeScript is one of a growing number of languages, like Google’s Dart or Microsoft’s TypeScript which try to give a developer a better Javascript when writing the code before it is compiled into Javascript in the delivery to the viewer.

Leaving aside the relative merits of this approach to coding. The book is a quick and comical read by an author who really knows the ins and outs of Javascript and CoffeeScript. In this “season”, the developer (Mr. Castledine and by extension you) has been roped into a seven day “Build-A-Game” competition and partnered with a team of less than diligent designers, artists, etc. So in the end, you’re on your own to build a web based game in 7 days. To make it either more entertaining, or more insane, you decide to code this in a language you’ve never used before. Again, I will leave the relative sanity of such a decision for another day and just follow the book.

Chapter 1 sets you in motion, describing what CoffeeScript is and getting you familiar with the fact that it is much more terse than Javascript and that it will compile, when finished, into Javascript. You are pointed to a few resources to ensure your .coffee files are able to be compiled into .js files and basic syntax structures. The next 5 chapters are 5 days worth of game development. Really, I think the book does a better job of teaching you the whats and hows of creating a browser based game than the CoffeeScript itself. You are exposed to a lot of code snippets and the author explains his thinking, but if you read the code from the book’s site, you see that you’re not getting all of the code to build the game in the book. You cover important pieces, but it’s assumed that you will compile the code and run it. Or at least that’s what it felt like to me. The final chapter is more a pat on the back for finishing the game and the book.his in a language you’ve never worked with before. Again, I will leave the issue of the wisdom of your choice aside and go with the book’s scenario.

I would recommend this book for someone who wants to build browser based games. This book taught me a lot about that. It gave me a few ideas for what and how to make some killer games. However, I will look for more sources on CoffeeScript, especially if they can explain why I want to do this in the first place.