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Mirko talks MAME - September 26, '98 by JoseQ
Since when most of us started playing with MAME, Mirko Buffoni has been half of the administrative staff behind MAME. He has devoted a lot of time and effort making sure MAME stayed on track to be the great emulator that it is. Unfortunately, that has changed. In this InterView, Mirko talks about his retirement from MAME development among other topics regarding MAME. A comeback is not out of the question, but read along as EV InterViews Mirko.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and when you first saw anything related to emulation?

I'm an italian guy with several passions: computers, music, girls (;), anime & comics, astronomy, and arcade games! My last love (emulation world) was born 2 years ago, when I first saw Sparcade by Mr.Spicer. I couldn't believe to see, after so many years, a so faithful reproduction of Amidar, and I wondered why no one had thought about arcade emulation before. Slowly some singles emulators came to life, and I got terribly excited when I saw Mr Do and Lady Bug emulators done by Nicola Salmoria.

2. When did you join the MAME project, and how did that happen?

It happened by chance. I submitted some drivers to Nicola, and he had the problem that he had leave for military duty. So he asked me to maintain the project. It was the most exciting experience of my life, and I could never thank Nicola enough.

3. Can you count the numerous drivers submitted by yourself? Which were the most difficult or challenging?

The most difficult were the games I loved more in my youth: City Connection and Gyruss for example. Nicola helped me a lot with those drivers, and I can't wait to see the last processor emulated in Gyruss (the 6809 that controls the stars. Because we are currently simulating its behaviour, not emulating it).

4. Other than the recent battle with the Slapstic, were there any other major stonewalls in the road for MAME?

Games which requires a perfect sinchronization, like Tempest, or Mr Do castle. I remember days of discussion on the mailing list about this.

5. This issue has been in the dark recently, but it is always in the minds of many people. Is the speed of MAME inversely proportional to its size? Why, in your opinion, is MAME slower than the other (not so big) emulators?

First of all, are other "not so big" emulators giving you the same options that MAME gives? And are they really emulating the hardware or just giving a near reproduction of hardware behaviour? Are them fully portable and have free available source code?
Retrocade is an excellent product, Gyruss is really fast on it, but it uses samples for percussion, while MAME emulates DAC and 8039. Again, some emulators for Intel architecture only, don't have the restrictions that MAME instead has, to be fully portable. This of course introduces limitations.
And finally, no, code size does not influence its speed. Actually in last generation computers there is a little thing called "cache" that was introduced just to avoid that problem. MAME is a big code repository, and you're using a little part while you play a game. This architecture introduces also some little advantages: for example, many functions can be shared between drivers, and code size doesn't grow linearly by adding more games, despite what people think. Sparcade switched to this architecture too, with the latest versions.

6. Would you rather have MAME split in some way? Is it even possible?

I'd live it as is. At very least, I would love to extract static data like memory maps, DSW and so on, and collect them in external proprietary libraries. This would reduce the code size a little, but would mantain the concept intact.

7. How about the issue with the betas? Why were they switched from private to public releases? Do you feel it is better the way it is now?

Because we couldn't work in peace anymore. It's very depressive when you work hard for 2/3 months, and then you get back only complains or insults, just because some game is still incomplete "even after 3 months of work". Furthermore, MAME is an open project, and having source freezed to outsiders (of MAME team) would have kept talented guys away from an important project. I personally think this killed a little of that excitement that people had before a release, but all in all, a good bunch of people lost excitement in emulation since long now. We love MAME, and this was the best solution for it.

8. It has been rumored in the MAMEDEV world that you're retiring from MAME? Is that possible? What made you take that decision?

Yes. Ohh, a series of causes-effects. But I'd say that "time" is the keyword for all of them:
  • My daily job is taking most of my time now. I love it and I enjoy it, so this is a good point :)
  • My health condition got worse lately, and actually I can't afford 20 hours of work per day anymore. But I'm thankful to all friends that surrounded me even in bad days :)
  • Most if not all of the games I loved, are now emulated. I have also completed a private project with the best results :) (Hi BW!)
  • I restarted one of my previous hobbies: digital sound restoring. Of course this is another activity that requires time!
  • More and more projects... too much for a single life!

    10. Any chance of you returning?

    Why not. Let's hope someone in Mame Team will leave some drivers to develop for me in the future ;)

    11. Would you say that the Emulation Scene in general has lost some of its excitement in the last couple of months?

    Yes, as I said before.

    12. Where do you see the Scene moving to in the close future? How about the not so close future? Do you think thats good or bad?

    In a pessimistic way to think, I see emulation scene like the cycle of life of a Star, that grows, grows, turns into a Supernova, explodes and collapse into a Black Hole (did I say I love astronomy?). This is due to what people demand, what emulator authors can offer, and to some "external events" that inevitabily get attracted by the previous two forces. Of course, I strongly hope I'm just having visions.

    13. Where do you see MAME in the future?

    I want to see it to emulate and document ALL arcade games. Or at least, this is what I'd hope it gets to.

    There you have it folks. Mirko decides to leave MAME, although not necessarily for good. We all hope the best for Mirko in his new enterprises, as we know he will excel there as well. With the huge MAME Team, there is no doubt that MAME will continue in its course, but we will miss him anyways.

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