Andy Firth is an Engineer Architect @ Bungie in Seattle. He's been working in games for 13 years mostly in low level Engine / Rendering related roles. Most recently he's been concentrating on infrastructure and workflow related problems especially where concurrency and multi-platform comes into play.
Posts by Andy Firth
  1. Code Build Optimisation Part 4a - fatal error LNK1170 ( Counting comments... )
  2. Code Build Optimisation Part 4 - Incremental Linking and the Search for the Holy Grail. ( Counting comments... )
  3. Code Build Optimisation Part 3 ( Counting comments... )
  4. Code Build Optimization Part 2 ( Counting comments... )
  5. Code Build Optimisation Part 1 ( Counting comments... )
  6. Practical Floating Point ( Counting comments... )
  7. The demise of the low level Programmer. ( Counting comments... )
  8. What is an "Engineer Architect" ( Counting comments... )
  9. Writing a "Pre-Main" function - Forcing Global Initialization order within VC++ ( Counting comments... )
  10. Extending the Watching Window in Visual Studio via a Debugger Addin ( Counting comments... )
  11. Extending the Watch Window in Visual Studio via EEAddin ( Counting comments... )
  12. Extending the Watch Window in Visual Studio via autoexp.dat ( Counting comments... )
Technology/ Code /

A question that i get asked rather a lot is "What is an Engineer Architect"

en·gi·neer
noun /ˌenjəˈni(ə)r/ 
A person who designs, builds, or maintains engines, machines, or public works

ar·chi·tect

noun /ˈärkiˌtekt/ 
((computer science) the structure and organization of a computer's hardware or system software) "the architecture of a computer's system software"

This basically translates to the same thing all engineers do:

  • Analyze the problem
  • Formulate a possible set of solutions
  • Analyze the solutions
  • Decide what to implement
  • Implement
  • Test/bug fix
  • Profile/sanitize
  • Repeat until satisfied

however with one important difference. My role involves the entire program, how its parts interact and how they are designed, what their dependencies are and how they affect the final output and the performance of that output. Combine this with data parallel infrastructure, task parallel objects, multiple platforms, myriad hardware limitations and a large programming team ... under many circumstances one might imagine something akin to

and you often wouldn't be too far from the truth on a daily basis. Long term however we (the team) have a plan and a set of goals. Over time we re-assess based on those we hit and those we don't, new requirements and ultimately how the game is progressing and where it needs to go. The role I play in this is simply to ensure that under the stress and strain of day to day development, we're still aiming in the right direction as a whole. That decisions take into account as much of the big picture as possible and weigh that against the immediate requirements of the current goal. There are several people in similar roles at Bungie and our interactions provide a simple but effective method of applying "Checks & Balances" to the progress we make; we each bring our own flavor to the table.

Day to day this involves tasks such as

  • Advising/Teaching on how to handle concurrency
  • Long term interface design
  • Short term prototyping/bug fix hacks
  • Discussing/Advising on future platforms
  • Optimizing programmer iteration, debugging & general workflow
  • Managing external teams
  • Auditioning Middleware
  • designing/writing/debugging infrastructure systems

Technically i'm a member of Bungies "Infrastructure" team. This means that if its something "unexciting", "behind the scenes" or seemingly doesn't affect the final game at all... we handle it. This involves systems like

  • Memory Allocation
  • File System
  • Network Transport
  • Crash Handling, Minidumps
  • Debugger Plugins
  • Multi-threading Infrastructure & Architecture
  • Asset import/baking
  • Math Library
  • Schematization/Reflection
  • Audio Engine
  • Container Classes
  • Profiler Infrastructure
  • Compiler Configuration
  • Low & High level Optimization
  • Build systems
  • Flux Capacitor Maintenance
  • - you still reading?

as i said... the stuff most most programmers find tiresome and boring. Our team love this stuff and we're good at it.

So there you have it, a much better idea of what i do @ Bungie and hopefully a guide to those in school who might want to progress towards a similar role (or avoid it).