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Interview with ATI's Richard Huddy and Kevin Strange

June 30, 2004 / by nggalai / Page 1 of 3

Many readers are somewhat in the dark about both tasks and scope of 'developer relations', particularly from an IHV point of view. Hence we organised this short interview with two of ATI's most outspoken developer relations people. Enjoy!

Introductions and What Is It All About, Really?

3DCenter: Hi guys, welcome to 3DCenter.org. Thanks for your time. Could you please introduce yourself to those few readers who've never heard of you before?

Richard Huddy: Hi, I'm Richard Huddy and I work in the European developer relations team for ATI. ATI is the prime supplier of 3D graphics hardware for PCs and consoles. We also supply graphics hardware for Digital TVs, PDAs, Mobile Phones, and other related technologies. I work in the PC area (though I'm excited to be involved with some of the other work we're doing too) and it's my primary responsibility to help games developers to understand how to turn ATI's technology into a better gaming experience. My short bio for people outside the industry is that 'I teach games programmers how to write games', but if you take it too seriously then that's pretty insulting to the games developers. All I really teach them about is graphics - just how to make their games look good.

I also get to do a little work with journalists (like this interview) and I talk at lots of technical conferences around the world.

And I'm really pleased to be able to say, 'I love my job'. Because I do!

Kevin Strange: And I'm Kevin. I work alongside Richard here in Europe to make sure that games developers get the best possible support from ATI.

I help ensure that European developers are developing and testing on ATI hardware, that they're getting the education they need about current & future technology. As well as that we encourage the adoption of the latest techniques most relevant to enhancing games - and we try to do all that without compromising release schedules. I heavily influence where we spend ATI's developer relations resources based on my knowledge of release schedules, publisher business and marketing plans. And I help ensure that we spend our resources where it will have the most impact for gamers who own ATI hardware.

Here in Europe I get to work with some of the best games developers in the world - and I'll list a few of them to make the point:

Crytek (Far Cry), DICE (Battlefield 1942), Croteam (Serious Sam) and Lionhead (Black and White), Bohemia Interactive (Operation Flashpoint), Codemasters (TOCA, Colin McRae Rally), Criterion Software (Renderware), IO Interactive (Hitman), Electronic Arts Europe (Harry potter, F1), Pivotal (Conflict Desert Storm), Illusion Softworks (Mafia, Hidden and Dangerous), Climax (MotoGP, Hot Wheels, Warhammer online, Gumball Rally), GSC (STALKER), Ubisoft (XIII, Ghost Recon, Rayman, Raven Shield), Creative Assembly (Rome Total War), Reflections (Driv3r), 1C (Perimeter, War Time Command), Pyro Studios (Project CSF, Project Iwars), Visual Sciences (F1, Harry Potter Quidich), Funcom (Anarchy Online, Alien Invasion), Warthog (Richard Burns Rally), Mithis (Midway), Remedy (Max Payne) are just some of the companies I get to work with.

All of us here at ATI share these guys' passion for games and it's my responsibility to make sure that we help predict as well as solve developers' problems. Although ATI pay us, we work for the developers almost as much as we do for ATI, always focusing on creating win-win situations.

3DCenter: How did you got working for ATI?

Richard: We met when we both worked for a little English company called 3Dlabs about 7 years ago, after that we spent a few years at NVIDIA and for the last two years we've been setting up and running ATI's developer relations group out here in Europe.

We both left 3Dlabs because it wasn't sufficiently competitive and was losing the race to produce great gaming chips. When we left NVIDIA two years ago the primary reason was that we didn't agree with some of the decisions which it took (about three years) ago when it turned away from technology and towards pure marketing. We also felt that we were working too much for NVIDIA's interests and not enough for the developers which didn't match our own win-win philosophy.

ATI was the obvious choice. They have the best gaming hardware money can buy, they're eager to lead the market both in terms of great value and fantastic technology, they have integrity and are here for the long haul. And when we spoke with ATI it was very clear they wanted to solve developers' problems with world-class support for industry standards like DirectX (HLSL) and OpenGL (GLSL) which really helps create win-win situations. All in all it's a great place to be.

3DCenter: What does your job incorporate?

Richard: We work with games developers all round Europe to make sure that their games look as good as possible, and play as flawlessly as possible on ATI hardware. That means that the majority of our work is done through email coordinating and executing marketing plans, addressing technical issues, reporting bugs, arranging QA time in our labs, and occasionally speaking at conferences.

The variety of the work means it stays interesting, and the fact that we're working with great people (inside ATI and elsewhere) means that we know that we have a great chance to make a difference that will be felt by gamers all over the world.

3DCenter: How large is your department, and how would you rate its importance in the grand ATI scheme?

Richard: The Developer Relations group is small in global terms, but influential beyond what you might expect. Of around 2500 employees only about 45 are exclusively dedicated to the role of making game developers more productive. But there are at least another 250 people who work in close contact with developers in some way or another.

Kevin: And, of course, we all like to think that we're important. But luckily for us it happens to be true. ;-) Gaming is the number one use for high performance 3D graphics - and obviously without games developers there would be no games. So, everyone inside ATI recognizes the importance of working proactively and constructively with the games developers.

We make frequent onsite game developer visits and give numerous presentations at key games events such as Games Developers Conference, Games Developers Conference Europe as well as the ATI technology road shows. Last year we teamed up with Microsoft, Intel and Discreet to run developer events in the UK, Germany, France and Sweden.

If you look at that alongside our commitment to educating future game developers by running technology days with organizations like the Games Academy in Germany it's fair to say that ATI is very focused on games.

3DCenter: What departments at ATI do you guys work with, closely?

Richard: There aren't really any groups in ATI that don't bump into us from time to time. The architecture team who are defining new chips talk to us about what game developers want and need. The marketing group needs to know what games are coming and which will be really cool and why. The sales group need to know when new products will arrive that show off their wares to the best effect. The driver team needs to know which games have issues with existing drivers and which games are so important that they need careful performance analysis. The chip manufacturing and roll-out group needs to know when games will be ready that will be best suited to showcase the hardware. And the IT folks who run the networks and servers need to know when I have a problem so they can solve it fast.

As you can see, although we're a chip company a huge amount of our work is really all about games.

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