Interviews// Rare Senior Programmer, Nick Burton

Posted 22 Aug 2008 16:42 by
Nick Burton
Nick Burton
It's... rare that you get to sit down for an interview with Rare (I've done it, rare puns over), but that's what I did recently. Specifically, I spoke to Nick Burton, a Rare veteran of ten years - yes, he's been there since the the Nintendo days.

Over the course of the interview we covered the nuts and bolts of working at the studio (OK, Rare pun number two, sorry), the development challenges involved with new hardware, why he really doesn't want to talk about the game he's working on and how developers are apparently incapable of killing a 360.

SPOnG: Firstly, can you tell us exactly what you do at Rare?

Nick Burton: What do they say? 'Chief Pot Washer'...

'Senior software engineer' is my position. That is my day job, if you like. I'm also sometimes referred to as Rare's academic liaison manager and 'general video maker' and I get "Can you do this? Great!"

My main job's senior software engineer, I've been doing that for about 10 years. But, there's so many variations on what that really means.

SPOnG: So, what does a typical day involve? Is there a 'typical day'?

The studio
The studio
Nick Burton: Well, for me less than most. If you're talking about a development day (which I need to get more of, because I'm very busy and should be in the office now) it's the usual get into work, there's the obligatory coffee ? Starbucks of course, because it's Microsoft, Seattle ? to wake me up, because I have two children.

Then it varies a lot between projects, because if you look at where I am now, there's a lot of coding. It's not the massive coding you would have had of old, where you're churning out reams and reams of code, because we have a lot of technology already.

So, first thing would be the typical ? answer all my e-mails, which might be anything from recruitment stuff to looking at audio software which I'm doing at the moment with Audiokinetic. Then, because I'm doing some audio work I might go talk to some of our musicians, talk to them about the bones of the creativity side of it ? but I try not to take too long with that kind of thing because they can take hours.

Then I get down to it and start doing some production in software terms. So, a lot of the stuff I've been doing at the moment was plumbing in some third-party software. Then I might be talking to our shared technology group; that could be for any number of things.

I got loaned to a project the other week to do some particle systems because I'm good at that kind of thing. That was almost like, I came in on a Monday morning and someone said, "Can you do this for a week?" and I had to go talk to our PM (Project Manager) and say, "Look, they really need me to do this". So, it's a desk job, but there's also a lot of moving around.

I probably move around more than most of the software guys at Rare; not from team to team, I'm in with the core team, the core of Kameo, if you like, but there are so many other bits and pieces

Like, last week I found myself helping the audio guys out with their presentation for today and then I was also doing these particle systems, and then I was researching audio software as well and I'm also doing academic e-mails and it's like "Oh, God!" Our PM's saying, "You are going to do some work on our project, aren't you?" and I'm saying "Yes".
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