Careers: Interviews
Pat McGee, Top Development Authority, Author, and Microsoft Most Valuable Professional

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, DF/NPA, CNP, FCIPS, I.S.P., MVP has an exclusive interview with Pat McGee.

Pat McGeePat is a Microsoft XNA / DirectX MVP and has co-authored the Microsoft XNA Game Studio Creator's Guide. Pat McGee is an Instructor and curriculum developer for both CST part-time studies and for BCIT's High Tech Professional Programs. In his career he has been a Games Programmer and a Technical Engineer at Business Objects where he worked with business intelligence technologies. Pat began his teaching career by leading several video games courses for teens in summer sessions. Since then Pat has gone on to develop several courses for BCIT and for Part-Time studies in addition to writing two books on games programming.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:38: What triggered your initial interest in computing?
"....Being able to combine an interest in technology with any industry or sector, and being able to create something from nothing using software was a real selling point for me...."

:01:15: Pat profiles how he got to his present position in his career.

:03:23: Pat describes his upcoming work at BCIT.
"....A web programming option, very Microsoft based...."

:04:18: Please define XNA: what it is, who uses it, where and how do you get it?
"....It is a C# based platform from Microsoft that enables development for the Xbox 360 and PC....As far as 3D games are concerned, it's really the number one freeware library out there for hobbyists, programmers and independents. It's really changed the gaming programming world...."

:06:38: Based on your experience if someone had some background in computing but wanted to get into the gaming area, how long do you think it would take them to go from scratch to having some proficiency?
"....Not long at all....The XNA creative site has tons of examples.....These libraries have been built by thousands of people over millions of hours so they've really streamlined it and made the 3D graphics development very simple...."

:07:38:  Profile key lessons from the XNA Game Studio Creator's Guide which you co-authored.
"....It's really a complete solution showing how to build the entire game. That's the approach that I use in the classroom too....How to build a complete project and also to encourage the readers or students to take it further and customize it and make it their own...."

:09:26: What best practices can you share from other books you have written?
"....We had Nick Gravelyn help with the tech review of our latest book. He's a Microsoft MVP for XNA and really knows his stuff and is a really big community champion as well....We've really benefited from having that expertise in the technical review and that's really going to take the 2nd edition to another level...."

:10:43: What gaming best practices can you share from the courses you are teaching?
"....The ones who do really well are the ones that experiment, who look things up on their own. They'll take the framework that I provide them but they will go and try things on their own...."

:11:31: Can you talk about the suitability of XNA for schools and for encouraging students to learn programming?
"....I think it's a great technology for schools. At BCIT we run kids camps almost every summer and the game programming courses are extremely popular....It's exciting for children, they can learn about programming and even if they don't become game programmers, the skills they learn, applying the logic, they can apply in other industries. It really is a great, healthy learning tool for young learners...."

:14:28: Can you explore further key new and recent features surrounding: Developers selling their games on Xbox Live, Networking, and Zune deployment (Microsoft's mobile mp3 player)?
"....This is going to drive game innovation. We are going to see a lot of small game developers and independents driving innovation. I think it's going to change the way games are made and I think big companies are going to be paying attention to what the smaller developers are doing with XMA...."

:18:25: What are some little known but essential tips in XNA?
"....In general 3D graphics are easy to program. The main area of math that you can benefit from knowing is linear algebra which is mostly addition, multiplication and volume....All 3D worlds, everything from plants to people, are just a collection of triangles...."

:20:59: Where is gaming heading in 3, 5, and then 10 years?
"....More advertising in games....Athletics integrated into the games....Resort companies hiring companies to build 3D models of their resorts so they can be toured virtually....A convergence of animation and 3D programming...."

:24:12: The industry is changing. What advice would you give to IT professionals to stay on top of what is happening in the industry in order to position them (from a career standpoint) and their organization to benefit from these trends?
"....Anybody interested in this industry really needs to find what interests them the most and to focus on it. Over time, as they gain experience they will find a way to take a lead and find a niche...."

:25:48: In your current role, what are the biggest challenges, and their solutions? How does this relate to business?
"....For me it's trying to create complete solutions that are good foundations for anyone to start with; to challenge people to customize by adding to it and to develop it into a framework and make it their own....Find what's important to you and pursue it. That's how I've approached it for myself...."

:26:48: Pat shares some stories (something surprising, unexpected, amazing, or humorous) from his work.

:30:42: Provide your predictions of future IT/Business trends and their implications/opportunities?
"....Independent developers are going to see their ideas come to light and we'll see a lot of good small games come out of this. There's always going to be room for the big companies too. I think they will definitely co-exist. But we will benefit more from having platforms like XNA...."

:31:36: Which are your top recommended resources and why?
"....XMA Creater's club....Shawn Hargreaves blog....Michael from Ziggyware....Andy Dunn from ZBuffer....George Clingerman....Nick Gravelyn...."

:34:04: Provide commentary on any topics of your choosing.
"....XNA is a great platform for schools. If I were to choose a games platform for a school/college/university, I would choose XNA. It's free, it has incredible support from Microsoft....You've got a great suite of products that you can use to develop the games....More and more applications are going to use advanced graphics and elements of XMA graphics libraries are finding their way into other applications...."


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