How to Learn Lua

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Lua is a powerful but sleek language primarily used in game applications and image processing. Compared to other programming languages, Lua is not too difficult to learn. Many students are able to start embedding it into their applications after only a small amount of instruction.

Because Lua is such a popular and relatively easy language, there are various ways for students to learn it. If you have a strong computer science background and are a vigorous self-learner, you might be able to understand everything you need by reading the Lua website or watching a few online videos.

If you would like a bit more instruction or guidance, there are also many online courses and coding bootcamps. Some coding bootcamps are free and can be completed in a few hours, while others last months and include instruction on many other skills you might need to become a game or software developer.

The Best Lua Online Courses

No matter if you are looking for a class that offers minimal or substantial amounts of instruction, there is something for everyone. Some of these courses are specifically designed to be intro courses for beginners. Others are more comprehensive and aim to prepare students for a new career. No matter your goals, you can find a class that fits your needs.

Lua Programming and Game Development with LÖVE by Udemy

This self-paced and beginner-friendly course works well for students who do not have any previous programming experience. The first section begins by teaching students some programming basics. Then in the second section, it moves specifically into teaching students how to use and program in Lua.

This is a project-based course where students learn by doing. There are three game development projects, each increasing in complexity. They include a shooting gallery game, a top-down shooter game, and a platformer game. Once purchased, students have lifetime access to the course, so they can always go back for a refresher.

Length: 8.5 hours
Cost: $49.99
Certificate: Yes


Beginner Roblox And Lua: Start Making Games with Roblox Studio by Skillshare

Another beginner-friendly class, this course focuses on Lua and Roblox Studio, which allows students to publish their games and share them with their friends. Lessons concentrate on programming basics such as operations, statements, and functions. Even students with no background knowledge can create their first game.

This course is short and to the point, with only one final project, which is creating an Obby. An Obby is short for an obstacle course. Students can follow the project exactly or experiment with their own creative elements to make their game more unique.

Length: 6 hours
Cost: It costs $32 a month for membership to Skillshare, which gives you access to all their classes. You can not pay for a single class on its own.
Certificate: No


Intro to Programming in Lua by Class Central

This short introductory class goes over some of Lua's programming basics. While the course says it is for beginners, the instructor starts off the course by saying there have been student complaints claiming he skips over essential elements. He attempts to fix this error, but this course is probably better for someone with some degree of programming knowledge.

The courses are available on YouTube, making them easy to access and return to. There are no additional materials, though, so students need to learn by following videos. This may not fit with everyone's learning style.

Length: 2-3 hours
Cost: Free
Certificate: No


Lua Scripting: Master Complete Lua Programming From Scratch by Udemy.

This course focuses not only on how to use Lua to create a game but also on game scripting and game development as a whole. The first section focuses solely on Lua and is simple and to the point. The second section focuses on integrating Lua with C and C++, and the third component provides an overview of using Lua with Roblox.

Students who are only interested in learning the basics of Lua can stop after the first part of the course. While it gets more complicated in the last two thirds, this comprehensive class teaches students what they need to know to use Lua in real-life situations.

Length: 14 hours
Cost: $99.99
Certificate: Yes


CS50's Intro to Game Development

The CS50 intro to game development is a university-style lecture that has been uploaded to YouTube. This is a higher-level course and assumes learners have background knowledge. As the course is only a video series, there is also no other learning material provided, so being able to keep up with the lecture is vital.

Since it is a higher-level course, it covers several different game development topics, including how to draw shapes, add text and sound effects, and complete basic object-oriented programming. It is not the most engaging or hands-on class, but it helps prepare students for every aspect of game development.

Length: 1 hour 37 min
Cost: Free
Certificate: No

Pros and Cons of Online Courses

Pros

  • Check
    Students can learn in their own time and at their own pace.
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    Many of these courses are either free or affordable.
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    There are many options, so students can find a course that fits their needs and interests.

Cons

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    Most online courses do not provide much support if students get stuck on a topic.
  • X
    Quick courses might give students a good introduction but not enough information to become proficient.
  • X
    Some courses are not updated and therefore might have information that is not up to date.

Lua Jobs

Lua Programmer

  • While Lua is a popular scripting language with many uses, most tasks are within the video game industry. Job responsibilities for Lua programmers may include networking programs like CISCO Systems and Nmap, or industrial programs like Adobe Lightroom and MySQL Workbench. Lua is never used on its own, so what a programmer can do with the language depends on their other skills.
  • Average Salary (August 2022): $110,480 a year, according to ZipRecruiter

Software Developer

  • Software developers develop, design, test, and create all the different software programs we use daily. There is a tremendous amount of diversity in this role since there are vastly different types of software and daily tasks within those positions.
  • Median Salary (May 2020): $110,140 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Game Developer

  • Game developers help take a game from a creative idea into something playable. Like other types of developers, game developers often have a variety of different skills. While game developers might work substantially with Lua, they may also need to learn C++, C#, JavaScript, or Python.
  • Average Salary (August 2022): $84,300 according to Payscale

Editor's note: Some of the salary numbers above may be based on relatively small samples, and potential salaries could vary widely depending on the employer.

What Are the Benefits of a Lua Certification?

If your goal is working in game development, learning Lua can be a simple way to enhance your career potential. In other careers, such as software development, you might not need Lua in your day-to-day life. But knowing additional languages and skills can impress employers.

When learning Lua, it is significantly more important to know the language well rather than having a certificate to prove it. As it is a relatively simple language, many people learn it on their own and never earn official certification.

Frequently Asked Questions About Learning Lua

Is Lua easy to learn?

While every language has its complexities, Lua is one of the easier-to-learn languages and is excellent for beginners interested in image processing or game development. Many of the courses listed above are designed for beginners and have students creating their first game in no time.

Lua, however, does not work independently — it needs to be embedded with other programming languages. This means that to extend Lua's usability, developers should also learn other primary programming languages like C#, C++, or Java.

Where can I learn Lua for free?

Because Lua is both fairly simple and open source, there are more ways to learn Lua for either free or relatively cheap compared to other languages. Many of the courses listed above are free. Lua also has its own website that offers free learning materials.

If, however, you are new to the industry and interested in starting a career in game development, you might consider the more expensive classes. Often, they teach students a more comprehensive set of required skills.

What is the best way to learn Lua?

There is no best way to learn Lua. The best way to learn depends on your needs and goals. If you are interested in exploring and learning a new skill just for fun, any of the first three courses above could be a good fit. Since many of them are free, you can also test out a few and see what teaching style you prefer. Ultimately, it is all about finding the course to get you where you want to go.


Feature Image: Maskot / DigitalVision / Getty Images