Resurrected Entertainment

The Hydra Development Kit

July 5, 2007

I’m very excited. I just received the new game development kit from Nurve Networks which includes the Hydra game console, development book, RAM expansion module (extra), storage expansion module (extra), SX-Key programmer (extra), keyboard, mouse, experimenter board, and software. A friend of mine asked why I enjoyed using the kit despite the obvious limitations when compared to development kits and hardware available today. I rambled something out since I was on my way to a meeting, but after further consideration I find it a hard question to answer.

I’m a huge experimenter. I love the possibilities new hardware and software bring to the table. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to do something interesting or expose possibilities in order to capture my imagination. I’m not expecting to produce commercial quality games with the Hydra development kit, and despite what the documentation and marketing hype implies, it will not show an aspiring programmer how to produce games on today’s hardware consoles. The technology, development methodologies, and tools are so different, you could spend years writing software for the Hydra game console and be completely lost when asked to write software for an XBox 360.

So why does the kit exist at all? I don’t know what the sales numbers are for Nurve Networks, but if this kit existed when I was a teenager, I would have given or done anything to get my hands on it. That’s right, anything! I would have taken on an extra paper route to earn enough money to buy it. I would have done every house chore my parents could dream up, if only they would consider buying one for my birthday. Even today, I have a genuine technical interest in the device, and something at a more fundamental level which drives my desire to learn and create.

I’m a professional programmer by day. I can afford expensive and powerful development platforms, but I do not tend to use them in my spare time. The reason may be similar to why an artist chooses to use acrylic paints on a cloth canvas instead of water based paints on a paper canvas. It’s more than just a personal preference; it’s an attraction to the art itself. There is a certain intimacy with the hardware which is impossible to achieve using high-level production tools. Sure, the compiler may allow you to graft in a few lines of assembly code, but it’s not necessary most of time and can produce problems later, which is why most companies frown at the practice of introducing assembly code into software for no good reason.

The art of programming can be enjoyed by any skilled software developer using almost any tool or language. That in itself can provide great satisfaction to the designer if everything works out, but the synthesis of hardware and software can produce a masterpiece not often experienced by programmers today, and I suppose the elation which follows is what attracts me to development kits like the Hydra.

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