Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

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Sean Barrett

Game developer (Looking Glass Studios), musician

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Sean Barrett. Professionally, I develop a software library for game developers. In my free time I'm an independent game developer and a musician. I'm best known for what I squeeze in after all that: programming open source libraries that help independent game developers and others get things done.

Many years ago, I was a professional game developer at the much-loved, long- lamented Looking Glass Studios.

What hardware do you use?

At work I use a desktop with a 10-core Xeon E5-2680 and two Dell 3007 WFP monitors. At home I use a single desktop for both programming and music, so it's optimized for low noise, with a decent 4-core Intel CPU.

As a musician, I used to rely on the Roland VG-99 for all my guitar sounds, and I'll probably go back to it for the convenience at some point. But for the last few years, I've been sticking to an all-analog guitar signal path. To approximate the same flexibility I had with the VG-99, I use a "true bypass" footswitcher to choose rapidly from half a dozen distortion pedals mounted on a Pedaltrain 3 pedalboard with a Voodoo Lab Mondo so they don't need batteries. I own an American Fender Stratocaster, but with the VG-99 I used an Ibanez Strat clone because it's lighter and feels more comfortable; now I use a Steinberger Spirit GT-Pro Deluxe because it's even lighter. For bass guitar I play a Fender Precision Bass Special.

I mix using a pair of Bose stereo speakers, Sennheiser HD-280 Pro headphones, and Sony MDR-7506 headphones.

I sometimes livestream programming. For that, I use a Logitech C310 webcam, a CowboyStudio lighting kit, and a RODE NT1-A microphone, repurposed from my musical equipment.

And what software?

I'm not a fan of learning new user interfaces for little to no gain, so I use a lot of older software. I use Windows 7 at both work and home, with Classic Shell to emulate some features that were removed in Vista. I use Eudora for email.

For programming, I spend most of my time in vintage Microsoft Visual C++ 6, released in 1998, because the workflow is superior to newer Visual Studios for me. At home I run Windows 7 32-bit to avoid some of the clunkiness that occurs with this program when run in 64-bit Windows. For editing text in Windows outside of VC6, I use Metapad; when I'm on a Mac or Linux, I use vim.

For version control, it varies. At work I use Perforce. My open source libraries use Git so I can use GitHub to manage other people's contributions. My own code, game projects, and my most recent music are maintained with CMirror, a custom tool with a streamlined single-user workflow that is basically glorified backups.

For music production, I tried Pro Tools LE, but it wasn't for me. I use REAPER, the only DAW software I've found which embraces the capabilities of digital, avoiding imitating analog production where it's unnecessary. My most common plug-ins are FreeAmp, Superior Drummer 2.0, and plug-ins from Kontakt Komplete. For composing ideas, I often draw MIDI in REAPER and play it back with the ForteDXi GM sample set. For the rare times I'm writing for orchestra, I use my own custom sequencing/playback software which uses samples from an old version of Vienna Symphonic Library back when you could get raw samples instead of only virtual instruments.

I livestream using OBS, capture game footage with Fraps, and edit video with Sony Vegas Pro (for which I have to boot to 64-bit Windows).

What would be your dream setup?

I'm actually pretty much there for most things; for example, at home I have only one 30" monitor, because the two I have at work is really more than I need; instead I just have a smaller second monitor turned sideways.

For music, it would be cool to have a larger space where I could leave out all my instruments in their own places and play them at any time of the day or night.

For programming, the dream setup would be to have a computer with software that worked well and wasn't flaky and didn't have license server issues or interoperation issues or plug-ins that crashed half the time. In other words, software that doesn't exist: purely theoretical software which is better than almost all the software you can actually buy or download. (Of everything I use, REAPER is the only thing that is close.)

As a game developer, it's also mostly about things that don't exist. I make the open source libraries I wish I had, so I'm doing pretty well there. But, for example, I wish I could buy or license instrument samples so I could construct dynamic music in-game, but nobody sells samples anymore, only virtual instruments, and the license on samples back when you could get them forbids that usage. (I'd love to fund someone to make orchestral samples and put them in the public domain.)