Friday, December 01, 2006

So You Want To Be An Indie (Console) Developer?

I love Andre' LaMothe. How could you not? I remember how completely... dork-filled I felt when his copy Black Art of 3D Game Programming arrived at my office. Well, not really an office. At the time I was a consultant working for a local home builder, and they had shoved me into a 12x12 room with another consultant doing crapwork with MS Access. I was so incredibly psyched when the book came in, but received odd stares from my fellow outsourced monkey when he saw the uber-dorkcover that emblazoned the tome. It looked more like someone's AD&D ruleset guide than a programming book. I immediately put it back in the box and reserved it for reading in the bathroom and attics.

But since then Andre' has not only cleaned up his book covers but released some interesting products. Not software, as some would expect. No... Andre has gone decidedly hardware, by selling do-it-yourself consoles that hackers and hobbyists alike love dearly. He started with the XGameStation, a kit made for the hardware-centric folk who wanted to know how their console ticked. They could build, from the ground up, their very own console with whatever hardware they liked. His latest release, the Hydra Game Development Kit, is more about how you create software that stays as close to the hardware as humanly possible. The Hydra looks like a fantastic lil' learning tool - it keeps would-be programmers close to the metal.

In a world of fifth-generation languages and programming high-level meta-languages, having to be mindful of registers and opcodes is definitely needed. Java protects you from worrying about memory allocation, but you still need to remember memory allocation. But people forget. This is a nice return-to-your-roots tool that keeps your code-fu sharp. Gamasutra's Q&A with Andre' has a great quote:
You can’t imagine the amount of ownership and excitement someone gets from building a small computer and writing every single line of code that controls EVERYTHING on the system including the raster and TV signal. There is nothing like it.

True dat.

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