- News for May 14, '98 -





The Other Half of System16 - May 14, '98 by JoseQ
A team would not be a team if it had only one person. Earlier this week, we presented our very first InterView with Thierry Lescot, one of the wonderful authors of the System 16 emulator. Today, we give you the other half of the Team, Li Jih Hwa, also known as Nao.
The questions in this interview were sent to Thierry and Li Jih simultaneously, so obviously the questions are the same. The answers however, come from Nao's point of View.

1) Is it just the two of you? If yes, how did you find each other? And why / how did you decide the two of you would be enough? Are you looking for qualified additions to the team?

It was May of 1997. I left Marine and got a lot of spare time, there I met with Thierry's System16 emulator. It ran SHINOBI and Altered Beast and three other games with limited sounds then. I was amazed. Six years ago I ever discussed with some friends about the possibility of running 68000 CPU arcade games on Macintosh. But I had never dreamed of writing pure software codes to run real arcade games on a PC. There were emulators for Pacman and other early 80's games then but it's only till System16 emulator's appearence did I believe current PC had been fast enough to run late 80's arcade games without special hardware supports. Then I found out that I must help Thierry to polish his work as much as I can, there to attract more and more people to join this scene. Today, besides SEGA, there are pretty good emulators for Capcom and Data East and Irem, even Konami and Taito platforms. I am really happy to see this. I believe someday Namco System1/2 emulators will also come out from some talented group.

2) Sega has always been huge in the arcades. Is this why you chose to emulate Sega games or did you have previous experience with similar Hardware? Was it a challenge, or you just wanted to play Sega games?

I am a SEGA fan. To play Fantasy Zone and Golden Axe was one of the motives to join the System16 group. Though I still cannot play Fantasy Zone on my PC even after a whole year.

3) What in your personal opinion / experience are the best skills to have to go into emulator authoring? (I bet patience is one of them)

Actually we built the arcade emulator by constructing the model on which the game was supposed to run by examining assembly codes and hex dumps carefully. To do this we need at least the target CPU debugger and a standalone disassembler. Sometimes we also need to write sample codes to prove theories. IMO, writing arcade emulator is conceptually no more/less complex than other software projects, besides clear mind, be familiar with software tools and the ability to construct new tools would the most important keyes.

4) Which part of getting a certain game to work would you rate the hardest? Which one do you enjoy the most? How long is it usually the time between deciding on emulating a ROM and seeing the first sign of life?

I think the availablity of un-protected ROM dumps should be one point. We virtually cannot do anything at all with those encryted rom dumps. It usually wouldn't take us over 1 day to make one game to display something. But to make it perfect is another thing. Sometimes it took one whole month to fix one bug: last year, when I worked on Super Hang-On, it didn't take more than 2 hours to make most of the graphics displayed but it was exactly one month later had we finally fixed the bug that CPU1 often corrupted the stack of CPU2.

5) Which has been the hardest game to get working 100% and why? Which one has been the easiest?

There were no easy ones. :) I worked very hard to make games running. To name one, OUTRUN would be the most difficult game to emulate. It has totally different sprites hardware from the other SEGA games and 2 tightly-coupled 68000 programs. It took us weeks to seek for a good method to syncronize the two 68000 CPU without losing a lot of performance. In last release version there was still a CPU sync bug at the opening place: the horizon line would "jump" randomly for a while when the game started. It was only till recently had we identified this bug and succeeded in fixing it.

6) Do you guys like to re-use code available to emulate certain hardware or do you always go from scratch?

I always tried to find existing codes first. We were so lucky to have a bunch of good cpu emulators from public domain. Writing/debugging cpu emulators are difficult software projects. I once worked on a x86 emulator before, it's part of a virus scanner, debugging with it was really time consuming.

7) Next version is coming around Mid May right? Can you list the best features of this new version here?

Yes, six to eight new games and sounds for OUTRUN and Space Harrier.

8) What is happening next? What are you shooting for?

Win32 port and more games.

There you have it folks, the View on System 16 from Nao's side. Do I hear a new System 16 version coming? It sure sounds like it. Things are once again getting exciting (like they ever stop doing so). OutRun with sound... What do you think about that? And an eigth gamem which nobody knows about... Could it be the Mother Of All Sega Games??? We're just going to have to wait... See ya at the next InterView!

Related Links
System16 Page

One Article Up: Project Unreality Update: Real Graphics
One Article Down: The MAME Top Ten Games - Take II

Post Some NEW Comments on this topic...

2001 EmuViews