Just to give you some background info, I'm studying a programming major at a tertiary level and am in my third year, so I'm not a newbie off the street. However, I am still quite new to game programming as a subset of programming. One of my personal projects for next semester is to design and create a 2D platformer game with emphasis on procedural generation and "neato" effects (think metroidvania). I've written up a list of some techniques to help me improve my personal skills (using XNA for the time being). The list is as follows:
QuadTrees: Build a basic program in XNA that moves basic 2D sprites (circles and squares) around a set path and speed and changes their colour when they collide. Add functionality to add and delete objects of different sizes (select a direction and speed when adding and just drag and drop them in).
Particles: Build a basic program in XNA in which you can select different colours and create particle effects of those colours on screen by clicking and dragging the mouse around (simple particles emerging from where the mouse is clicked). Add functionality where you can change the amount of particles to be drawn and the speed at which they travel and when they expire. Possibly implement gravity and wind after part 3 is complete.
Physics: Build a basic program in XNA where you have a ball in a set 2D environment, a wind slider, and a gravity slider (can go to negative for reverse gravity). You can click to drag the ball around and release to throw it and, depending on what you do, the ball interacts with the environment. Implement other shapes afterwards.
Random 2D terrain generation: Build a basic program in XNA that randomly generates terrain (including hills, caves, etc) created from 2D tiles. Add functionality that draws the tiles from a tileset and places different tiles depending on where they lie on the y-axis (dirt on top, then rock, then lava, etc).
Randomised objects: Build a basic program in XNA that, when a button is clicked, displays a randomised item sprite based on parameters (type, colour, etc) with the images pulled from tilesets. Add the ability to save the item as an object, which stores it in a side-pane where it can be selected for viewing.
Movement: Build a basic program in XNA where you can move an object around in an environment (tile-based) with a camera that pans with it. No gravity. Implement gravity and wind, allow the character to jump and fall with some basic platforms.
So my question is this: Are there any other commonly used techniques that I should research, and can I get some suggestions as to the effectiveness of the techniques I've chosen to work on (e.g., don't do QuadTree stuff because [insert reason here], or, do [insert technique here] before you start working on particles because [insert reason here])?
I hope this is clear enough and please let me know if I can further clarify anything!