July 26, 2008


Filed under: Games Development,Personal,XNA — bittermanandy @ 5:54 pm

Welcome to my games development blog!

As is this the first entry, I felt it would be appropriate to give some kind of overview of who I am, why you should care, and what I intend this blog to achieve. This way hopefully in later entries I will be able to simply say “go check out the first post, it will explain everything”.

So – who am I? Well, my name is Andy Patrick, and I’m a software engineer with many years experience, in my late twenties. I generally go by the moniker “Bitterman” on web fora, and I’m active on a number of such, the most relevant of which for the purposes of this discussion are the XNA Community Forums and The Chaos Engine. My Xbox Live Gamertag is also Bitterman. I’ve got a Masters degree in Computer Science from Loughborough University, and after I graduated I joined Rare, a games studio owned by Microsoft, where I remained for five years, releasing two games in that time and working on core technology used in a number of others. Eventually I realised the time had come to move on from Rare and left the games industry shortly after.

What does this mean to you? Well, directly, not a lot. However, while I’m no longer in games, I do enjoy making them in my spare time, and I’d like to talk a little bit on this blog about exactly what is involved with that. While the great majority of my time in the industry was spent at Rare, I’ve done an awful lot of (informal) research into how other companies and individuals go about it, and added to that I have a number of ideas of my own. I’d like to use this blog as an opportunity to share those ideas in the spirity of friendly co-operation; as well as discussing the concepts and theory behind it, I will be developing my own code, in my own time, along those good-practice principles, and I aim to make some of it freely available for your pleasure and gratification. Essentially, if making games – as a hobby or a career – is something you’re interested in, I hope you will find something of benefit to you here.

The coding I do in my spare time is written in C# using the XNA game framework as a basis. In case you didn’t know already, you should understand right from the start that this is not how most professional games companies currently operate. C++ has always been, and remains, the language of choice for the overwhelming majority of games studios – if you are considering a career in games programming , you will almost certainly need to know C++. However. This is something that I believe will change – not quickly; there are still very good business reasons to use C++, not the least of which is that existing staff already know it, and there are no C# compilers for Wii or PS3 – and, more to the point, writing games in C++ in your spare time is a royal pain. With over a decade of C++ experience and having delved into the language deeper than most, I consider myself highly competent in writing correct, efficient C++ code. Yet, having been using C# for not much more than six months, I find that I am able to get as much done in an evening’s C#/XNA coding as a week of writing C++. Given that this is my hobby, getting stuff done quickly is vital. I will likely be expanding on the C++ vs. C# vs. etc. question in a later entry.

You’ll noticed I mentioned XNA above. The XNA Game Framework is a freely available Microsoft-provided technology, built on C# and the .NET Framework, that allows developers (including hobbyists) to make games for Windows and Xbox 360. The core of XNA is a set of code libraries that provide a great deal of the functionality found in every game engine in the world – vector manipulation, maths functions, rendering code and shaders, and much more besides. Still, it’s important to understand that XNA is not a game engine; neither is it Games Development for Dummies nor, despite what Microsoft would have you believe, the YouTube of games development. What XNA is, is an amazing set of free tools that let you get on with the fun stuff, instead of reinventing the wheel. I will definitely be discussing XNA at length in later posts, along with language- and platform-agnostic recommendations on how to get the most value out of your game development.

(Incidentally: officially XNA isn’t an acronym, or, XNA’s Not Acronymed. Far be it from me to argue with the XNA team themselves, but when I first heard of it I was told it stood for cross-platform Next-generation Architecture, which to me seems as good a description as any).

And what, you may be wondering, will I actually be making? Well, having had a while now to get to grips with XNA and the possibilities it presents – and after a none-too-brief but inevitably doomed attempt at beginning a project which, I now realise, would have been far too epic in scope for me to ever actually stand a chance of finishing it without hiring a twenty-person dev team – I have begun work on Pandemonium (working title, and hence the title of this blog), a traditional third-person platformer which I intend to release on Windows and Xbox 360. I have tentatively pencilled in late 2008 or early 2009 for the release date, but I will not be drawn into making any promises on that front. You may rest assured that I will be discussing Pandemonium at great length in future posts.

Finally, a quick tip: check out the resources and blogs linked in the right column of this page. I don’t believe in linking for linking’s sake, so each site listed has something valuable to offer. If games development is your thing – and I hope it is, or you won’t get much out of this blog – you really ought to check all those other places out too.

“Any fool can use a computer. Many do.” – Ted Nelson



  1. I’d just like to say (having come from TCE) that I loved Viva Pinata with a passion. I got my 1000 gamer points from it, and it was the only game I ever did so with. I recently returned to it again to start a brand new garden/game without the safety of a savegame with masses of cash, and I’m struck again by how nicely it leads you into the game.
    I’ve no idea what part you played in making it, but I wanted to thank you for it anyway. Good luck with the rest of the blog – I’m actually very interested in learning C# and XNA so I look forward to reading your future posts.

    Comment by Tinkergirl — July 28, 2008 @ 5:26 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for the kind words, most people I know who played Pinata liked it, shame it disappeared behind the behemoth that was Gears of War.

    I can’t take much credit for how fun it is though, as most of what I did on it was engine work behind the scenes – the audio code, the runtime asset database and file management, parts of the build process… mostly the stuff that isn’t glamorous but the game couldn’t work without it!

    Part of the reason I’m enjoying playing around with XNA so much is that having done most of the non-glamorous stuff before I can churn through it very quickly, then take my time over the more exciting stuff without being under any pressure. It’s really fun.

    Comment by bittermanandy — July 28, 2008 @ 9:53 pm | Reply

  3. I’d like to echo Tinkergirl’s sentiments regarding Viva Pinata – you helped create an enchantingly crafted game that has provided my two daughters with many hours of enjoyment and a reason to play on the 360. Which, considering the 360s current games catalogue, is something of a rare (pun intended) occurrence – I can only hope its modest sales haven’t put paid to similar games in the future.

    Also, out of interest, have you moved from games development to making a living from coding more traditional business application?

    The reason I ask is that I’m in the latter camp, and I wondered what motivated you to switch (if indeed you have).

    Comment by lloigor — August 16, 2008 @ 12:02 am | Reply

  4. Yes, I’m now making a living in non-games coding. There were a number of reasons for leaving games, and they were mostly pretty familiar – more money, less overtime, more opportunities, just something different. I’d always wanted to work in the games industry, all my life, but, well… I’ve done it now. Time for something else.

    Comment by bittermanandy — August 16, 2008 @ 12:34 am | Reply

  5. dude i loved it i would love to help u if u need it i do 3d work with animation if u want to see any of my work before anything just send me a hit on my email

    Comment by Romero — September 12, 2008 @ 7:38 am | Reply

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