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Mike Green InterViewed! - November 11, '99 by JoseQ
Although we've all read about RetroFX, Mike Green was the first author to ever release an emulator that would play 're-touched' versions of the game, while still having an emulation core taking care of the gameplay. Thus, a new type of emulator was born, named PacManDX. While we have just learned that the project will be put on public hold for a few months, it is with great pleasure that I present you an InterView he had a chance to complete before saying 'see you later' to the scene. I enjoyed it inmensely, and hope you do too. Here it is:

1. Can you introduce yourself and tell us how you came to know emulation?

Hi I'm Mike Green. You may remember me from such downloads as "Speak&Spell Simulator" and the recent "PacDX" :-) I'm 24, currently residing in the UK. I've been writing software for various computers since we had our first Commodore Plus/4 back in the early 80's, where after I had finished typing every example from the manual, came up with the ingenious idea that I could change these programs and make them do what I wanted.
My first experience of emulation was quite a few years back when I began writing what started as an Interpreter on My AMIGA1200 for "Mode7" Graphics on the BBC Micro (known as "Teletext Mode" here in the UK). At that time, I knew nothing of CPU emulators, or even dreamt that it was possible. After a few months and a bit of research, I came across a disk on the public domain entitled "Every Emulator" Consisting at the time of a Spectrum emulator that ran WAY too slowly, a BBC Micro Emulator that didn't work. A Gameboy emulator that didn't work properly, and an Atari ST "Emulator" that didn't do anything apart from crashing my machine. A few months and a bit of searching on the Internet (by now mid 1996, maybe later) I came across a few shareware emulators for the Sega Master System, Gameboy and the NES. After that, I didn't really pay much attention to the growing "emulation scene" until I had my own PC, which came about because I still wanted to run my Amiga, Spectrum, C64, BBC Micro and other software. I knew that this could be possible, so now and again I would look and see if anything new was released, and it sort of went from there.

2. When did you start working on your own emulators?

I tried a few times over the past year to write an emulator. Each time trying to emulate "Space Invaders", and each time with no success. Then came the Speak&Spell Simulator, which although not an emulator, was my first real experience of sharing with the classic gaming public. I knew deep down that I could write the elusive invaders emulator, I just didn't know how. So, I got hold of the AEHOWTO document, and read it. Then I read it again, and again.
I knew I had the right tools, the Z80 emulator from Marat Fayzullin, the arcade emulation how to document, the roms, a compiler, allegro, so I was all set to create a masterpiece!
My first attempt failed miserably, the z80 kept crashing, I found out I was actually loading the roms in the WRONG order! (DOH) The second attempt failed, like most of my attempts at programming (apart from SASS), and didn't even get as far as attempt 1, so it was back to the drawing board again. On the third attempt, I decided that I was going to do it right, and this time I hit the jackpot. I read the document written by Neil Bradley, explaining how he first wrote his space invaders emulator, and things started falling into place. I got hold of the source code to Michael Adcocks Space Invaders emulator and tried to see where I went wrong, and it seemed I was quite close to winning on the 2 previous occasions. Much stress later and an 8 hour sleep, it ran! The screen appeared, the title, everything except the invaders, so I decided to cheat and see what the DOIN function had to do, copied it over and voila! space invaders running at the wrong speed :-)
To cut a long story short, I spent literally hours filling in the gaps, and going through what others had written, trying not to steal or copy their source along the way, desperately trying to get space invaders to run. One day, it just happened, it WORKED! My first space invaders emulator ran 100% at 1:20 am, 15th September 1999!
I FINALLY did it! not without help from a few text files, but its 99% my own work.

3. What inspired you to create the first 'Deluxe' emulator with upgraded graphics?

I'm not quite sure how that came about. I think it first started when I loaded up the graphics images from Pacman into a paint package, and started to draw on them. After a while, I thought "Hmm, those look nice, I wonder what they would look like actually in the game?", so I put together a really nasty graphics routine, and replaced the ghosts with a red lit ghost sprite, and Pacman with a rather badly lit circle :-) Incidentally, if it wasn't for a certain female (who shall remain nameless) persuading me to let a few of her friends on IRC look at it, it would probably have been deleted from my hard drive by now, as I would have lost interest.

4. Were you able to do everything that you planned with Pac-Man or did you have more ideas that couldn't be implemented?

I had achieved almost everything that I wanted to for the first release, but I still have more planned for it. The good thing about this project is the fact that I can continue to add or replace until I feel that I have done enough. I wanted some good joystick support, and lots of sounds for the first public release, but it just wasn't possible at the time. Hopefully by the next release, we'll hear quite a bit of sound, be able to use our joysticks and set some more screen resolutions!

5. Did you expect to be where you are today? (Doing the same process for more games)

Absolutely not! Actually, after the 2nd or 3rd Private beta of PacDX, I was actually at the stage where I had created a webpage ready to upload to the website saying "Project cancelled". If it wasn't for a LOT of positive encouragement in such a short space of time, PacDX would be long gone.
Initially, the only reason that MsPacman was implemented is because I wanted to see what my rather butchered graphics looked like on the MsPacman program. I already knew it would run, as it had done so when all of the graphics were rather fuzzy ASCII characters that ran around the screen in a rather unplayable Picasso type of fashion!

6. Aside Ms. Pac-Man and Galaxian, what other games would you give the treatment, and what would be special changes you'd like to add? (Can we think about Galaga yet?)

If I had the resources to do it, I'd love to get 1942 Dx'd, using high quality images of real W.W.II planes, Animated backgrounds, live footage from a real ocean, with some awesome sampled sounds from real gunfire, explosions, and some REALLY good music to top it all off (I can dream).
Everybody loves Galaga! I'm not going to get anybody's hopes up, but that is definitely one game I would definitely like to add 16million colours to. I've actually received some GalagaDX graphics from somebody requesting the same, but at the moment, it's not the most practical of games to add.
Other games I'm looking forward to having a go at are Pengo, DigDug, Bubble Bobble, Mr Do, Bomb Jack, Flicky, Commando and Wonderboy. I'm not sure what will happen yet, but I hope people will like it.

7. Would you consider the DX treatment to be just as hard, easier or more complicated than getting the emulation going?

That's hard to answer. Fortunately, I've joined the league of emulator authors at such a time where I didn't have to write an actual Z80 emulator, because that was done for me. Working with the Pacman roms with no knowledge at all about emulation apart from a few memory addresses, a space invaders emulator that ran on luck, and a few ideas in the right direction was difficult for me, because I had never experienced it before. Getting the graphics, sounds and music to work in the right place at the right time, working in tandem with the graphics roms and the emulated program itself is quite challenging, which is easily as difficult, maybe even more so than writing the emulation engine because of the extra work involved.

8. How has support been for your emulators? Have you had people offer to help? Would you like to have people helping? If yes, how can they?

Support comes in many different forms. From the people who e-mail me to say how much they liked my emulator, to people willing to give up their free time to compose music, design graphics and even help with coding.
Lots of people recently wrote to me with suggestions for music and sound effects for MsPacDX and PacDX. In particular, BulletProof sounds contacted me to offer help with the music. You may of heard of from their "Bubble Bobble Remix" released a while back.
I've been really lucky in that people who know what they are doing have approached and helped me along since the first PacDX release. Neil Bradley in particular has been quite an invaluable source of information, help and guidance through the previous weeks, and it is thanks to him that we may see PacDX running faster on slower machines in higher resolutions sometime in the not too distant future!
If there are people out there who want to help me, they can do so by e-mailing me with the URL (NOT E-mail attachments please) of somewhere where I can find an example of their work, whether it be music or graphics. If they want to, they can express a preference of a game they would like to be involved in, preferably from the list of games on the EmuDX page. After this, I can get back to them and suggest a starting point that will not clash with anybody else's work in progress. Unfortunately, this has happened already through lack of communication, so I want to try and prevent more than 2 people working on any game's graphics or music at any one time.

9. Where do you see emulation going one year from now?

That's quite difficult for me to answer, as all of the games that I ever wanted to see emulated have been fulfilled within the past year. This time next year however, I think that there will be a few more systems emulated, such as System32 & 3DO. I can also easily see full supported N64 emulators. CPS2 emulation possibly?
I hope by this time next year that EmuDX will support quite a few more games. One thing that disgusts me is the amount of people making money out of emulators, that they didn't even write themselves, selling them on with the roms as a way of playing games for free, rather than re-living old games that we would not see anymore if it wasn't for a lot of work by lots of people. Bleem being the exception, I wish the Bleem team the best of luck in the next year, along with the Retro-FX project.

10. Any words for the readers to close the InterView?

The moral of my story is, if I can do it, ANYBODY can! It doesn't take much brain (honest), and if you take the time to look, the chances are the clues are all out there for you to find. Just keep trying and eventually you'll get there, and when you do, you'll probably find something you never knew existed! Sometimes you cant see the wood for the trees, but hey! that's part of the fun :-).

Many thanks go to Mike Green for taking the time to answer the questions in such a friendly manner, and being so elaborate with his answers. His work on the DX emulators is greatly appreciated and I for one, can't wait for him to get back on-line to give excitement to the scene with his new work.

One Article Up: From A to Z, EmuViews does C64!
One Article Down: Some sad news from the DX guy...

Add Your Comments

Name: pbs Posted: Thursday, January 6, 2000 - (19:43)
Subject: i

[Post a reply]

Name: modemcsa Posted: Monday, July 7, 2003 - (14:13)
Subject: netbcm4p
From: 210.117.67.27

[Post a reply]

Name: phil Posted: Friday, November 12, 1999 - (11:06)
Subject: Pac X
Mike Balfor released a beta PacMan emulator that ran using real PacMan ROMs but with redone graphics over 6 months ago. It was called "PacX" and he planned a future version that would give the player a first person perspective view, but due to time constraints and a new job never got around to this.

[Post a reply]

Name: Limbs a Flyin' Posted: Friday, November 12, 1999 - (22:20)
Subject: oh yeah, i forgot about that. nt
>

[Post a reply]

Name: Interceptor Posted: Friday, November 12, 1999 - (5:11)
Subject:

[Post a reply]

Name: Interceptor Posted: Friday, November 12, 1999 - (5:12)
Subject: "Nameless" my arse...
nameless indeed, we all know who she is :P

[Post a reply]

Name: SOUND53 Posted: Monday, July 7, 2003 - (14:13)
Subject: mstscax
From: 210.117.67.27

[Post a reply]

Name: Limbs a Flyin' Posted: Thursday, November 11, 1999 - (21:23)
Subject: not the first released!
that 256 colour spectrum emulator came out quite a while before PacDX

[Post a reply]

Name: init Posted: Thursday, November 11, 1999 - (23:36)
Subject: yeah we all knew that. nt.

>

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