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Alex Pasadyn & TMS34010 - September 12, '98 by JoseQ
Just before EmuViews went down for the last time, we showed you some pics of the TMS34010 games (Smash TV, Narc, etc). These awesome games have come a long way to be emulated thanks to the heavenly talents of Mr. Alex Pasadyn, MAME developer extraordinaire. Devoted to make these games work, Alex has worked very hard and spent a lot of time into these games. However he found some time to talk to EmuViews about his experiences as an Emulator Author and what to expect from MAME and these games, and some extras!

1. Can you introduce yourself and tell us how you got into programming emulators? Where and when did you start?

Well, I'm a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. I've been interested in emulation for quite a while. I grew up playing the now classic arcade games of the early 80's. I was always annoyed at the way the home versions were always missing levels or had other problems like that. I was probably one of the first people to buy that Williams Arcade Classics when it came out. In the early days of arcade emulation, I was really interested in Dave Spicer's arcade emulator (Sparcade). I started playing around with the MAME source when I found it, and realized that this was something I could do. I didn't release anything until about half a year ago, when I had a couple pretty solid MAME drivers that I really thought people would enjoy. Since then, I've done some more with adding games, and recently, I've gotten into programming CPU cores.

2. Will you tell us what different programming skills you had developed prior to programming emulation? Was it easy when you started?

Well, I program all the time for school and work. I am a graduate student in chemical engineering, studying modeling and control systems. So, I pretty much do all my work at the computer, and it involves programming a lot of simulations and calculations. Most of that is written in C or in specialized modeling languages. I've also known x86 assembly language for years. As far as getting into emulation, it's not that hard to do if you put in the time. If you have good documentation on the hardware you're trying to simulate, then it's just a matter of setting it up.

3. What projects are you involved in right now?

Right now, my main emulation project is getting the Williams games running on the TMS34010 chip to run. This has been pretty tricky, but also really fun. Narc is actually running pretty well, and SmashTV is close, but still has some problems. I've also been spending some time on Sega Turbo (1981). This is one of those older games that is just really complex. I also recently joined the Retrocade team. I'm working with Neil Bradley on some assembly stuff that should turn out to be really cool.

4. TMS34010 is the main chip that controls Smash TV, MK and the other very wanted games. How is the development coming along? I understand Zsolt Vasvari is also involved helping?

Yes, I really owe a lot of credit for this to Zsolt. He's helped a lot on the implementation of the TMS34010 CPU core. Basically, a few weeks ago, I had looked up a lot of information on these games and the CPU they use. I sent a message to the MAME mailing list to see if anyone was interested in working on it with me, and it turns out that he had already written a dis-assembler for it, but had not tried to actually write a simulator for the processor. So, we basically divided up the work, and now it runs pretty well! The actual implementation is fairly complete now, but there are still a few lingering bugs which cause problems for the games.

5. Why do you think has it been this long for those games to become emulated?

Well, they are pretty complex. It takes a pretty big time investment to sit down and simulate a system like this, especially when you have to write the CPU simulator first! I mean, even at this point, when the games act up, it's hard to tell if it's a bug in the CPU emulation or in, say, the video hardware emulation.

6. You also mentioned the sound hardware on those systems is based on chips already emulated. How soon do you think the sound will come into play after the games are fully playable?

Honestly, I could put in preliminary sound support now. The problem is the speed. My thinking is still "Make it work right. Then make it work fast." In it's current state, the emulation of these games is still really slow, even on a pretty fast computer. Sound would be difficult to test because when the game runs too slow, the sounds get really distorted, and you can't tell if you have bugs or if it's just running too slow to work right. So, this will probably be one of the last things that gets added.

7. How playable are those games anyway? What speeds can be expected to be achieved on Mortal Kombat for instance, once it is added into MAME? How optimized will it be?

It's hard to say right now, because there is still a lot of diagnostic code in there, and I'm still trying to get it to run correctly. However, I can say that you will need a pretty fast computer. Just for reference, I run a PII/266, and I still don't get full speed. However, I've got some interesting trade-offs to try. For example, if you were willing to play in greyscale mode, I could skip about half of the graphics calculations, and get a pretty big jump in speed. (The main bottleneck right now is a graphics chip on the CPU board which, in the real machine, does an amazing job of moving lots of data around really fast.)

8. Can you mention all the games that will come out of this chips development once it gets done?

Sure. Basically, we should have Narc and Smash TV really soon. Other games on similar hardware include Mortal Kombat, Hi-Impact Football, and Trog. Mortal Kombat 2, NBA Jam, and Terminator 2 are similar, but on a newer version of the hardware. At this point, though, none of these last three make it past the attract mode.

9. What version of MAME should we expect to be NBA Jamming or playing preliminary versions of those games? (How big are they BTW?)

They are pretty big, like a few megs apiece. As far as a release date, all I can say is "when it's done!" I am also considering the possibility of doing a stand-alone emulator that runs only these games.

One Article Up: TMS34010 is Looking Good!
One Article Down: The Dead of Slapstic

Add Your Comments

Name: Tiffanie Crocker Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2004 - (13:57)
Subject: TMS34010FNL-50
From: 12.45.231.237
I have in stock 7500 pieces of TMS34010FNL-50, and I am trying to find people/companies who might have an interest in these. Can anyone help?

Thanks,

Tiffanie Crocker/Select Technology
Phone: 978-777-8672
email: tiffanie@select-technology.net

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