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Gollum InterViewed! - January 14, '99 by JoseQ
Gollum has made a couple of emulators including the popular Boycott, which emulates the Nintendo Gameboy. Among his other projects are NEScott, Mascott and PCott which targets to emulate a PC. We decided to ask him a few questions in the old EV tradition and here are the answers as provided by Frelat Julien, better known as Gollum; enjoy:

1. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself and how you found emulation?

Hi everybody. Sorry for my poor english, I am a frenchy, but cool guy. I am julien Frelat, aka Gollum. I am too much of a coding and web addict. By the way, I am 22 years (too) old. I study in Evry, near Paris, at IIE, a leading engineering school in France. It's my third and last studying year before getting into the working world as a computer-science engineer. What a pity! :(
I am currently working for an internship or training period at school for six months. So I still can continue to work on emus, update my web site and the like... I like playing videogames and as I live with other students in the same house, we can play Starcraft-Broodwar or other network games. I also have a permanent and free access to the Net but for only six months. Curiously, there are not so many emulation addicts in my school. I am certainly the most involved with it. I have got some friends who only give Neogeo or Snes emulators a try or two and that's all.
Two years ago, a friend of mine told me about console emulators. I already knew about CPC emus and even UAE Amiga one but as far as I was concerned, an emu was only a crappy program without GUI, sound and the likes. When I started to try some emulators, the only problem was finding the roms, my point of view changed instantly. My computer was a 486 Dx2 66 and I was able to play Master System or Gameboy games using only a few frameskips. It was a revelation for me!

2. When and why did you decide to start coding emulators yourself?

Actually, two friends of mine told me that they wanted to make an emulator for Linux with me, as I was an emulation addict. That was December '97. I already thought about making an emulator but maybe it was a too difficult project, the future proved not. We decided to start with a Gameboy emu as it seemed simple (8 bits CPU, little roms, no colors...). The goal was to have a little Gameboy emu working on Linux systems. Moreover, I must admit that the emuscene attracts me more than the demoscene I think the old good one will soon disappear as we all got 3D cards... Boycott (we were looking for a funny name) was born.

3. What were your first projects, and what did you find the most difficult parts?

My first projects ?
  • Already in 95 : UFE my universal frontend (but still not for emulators)
  • July 97 : started a general emulation site called Emu5ever (odd name but as there was already a Emu4ever web site, I decided to increase the number. What is more, you can say EmuF(ive)ever or EmuFever which sounds better :)
  • December 97 : started working on Boycott emu with two friends then as I progress alone amazingly, they *leave* the project.
  • January 98 : started working on Nescott (NES emulator)
  • June 98 : started working on Mascott (Master System/GameGear emulator)
  • September 98 : started working on Hpcott (one of the guy for Boycott project told me about his project to make an Hp48 emu)
  • November 98 : started working on Pcott (PC emulator !!!) Actually, the most difficult is to have time to work on these projects in order to make progress. Also, it is sometimes hard to find docs about the device or console you want to emulate. I just received CGB docs a week ago ! What is more, when you try other emus which are better than yours and which advance constantly, it is intricate not to be discouraged.

    4. Can you tell us about the projects you have worked on and the one you currently devote the most time to?

    I still work on my emulation site (it lacks some updates and fixes) but I can't manage to find people in my school to help me. A greater general emulation site like Emucamp will certainly host some of my files as my web pages are highly slow. I work mainly on Boycott and Pcott. I devote the most time to Boycott DOS port as I can advance my GUI (all my other projects could use it...) and I still need to add things. BTW, it is also my most advanced project but it lacks sound, CGB, SGB support. I have got some problems with Pcott as the compilation time is about 30 minutes!!!! I must recode most of the emulation core. I work sometimes on Mascott in which I must finish Z80 core and UFE where I must add file management on Watcom.

    5. Where in comparison with the other Gameboy emulators, do you think Boycott stands?

    Er... That is a pretty difficult question. My emulator is an attempt to make a portable and reliable Gameboy emulator. It lacks,at the present time, CGB or SGB support unlike all recent emulators (DBOY, SMYGB, NO$GMB and even VGB). It lacks sound support, even in DOS port, and it is probably the only Gameboy emulator to lack sound! It is portable because it is written in PURE C (C++ for incoming GUI). There is no assembly, even in the emulation core. I am sure VGB use assembly tricks for some platforms (DOS, Linux, etc...). But despite all these things, Boycott is a cool emu with lots of options alhough NO$GMB or VGB have plenty of options, DOS/LINUX/UNIX and maybe soon SUNOS ports, a good compatibility rate (85% I think), quite fast for good computers like Pentium. Not the crappiest but maybe the slowest... :( But I will work hard to improve it... :)

    6. Out of your Emulation projects, which one would you consider the most complex of them?
    Easy question.

    The most complex project is Pcott as it is an attempt to have a working and portable PC emulator for any system. My goal is to have some old games and demos working on every ports. A PC is quite more intricate than a little gameboy... When I started this emu, everybody said I was crazy. But I have got a working demo (plasma) after coding a weekend ! Now, with some compilation problems, I cannot advance this progress to the same rate...

    7. What has been the biggest obstacle you've found while working on these emulators?

    The biggest obstacle was time and finding docs about the devices or the consoles I wanted to emulate.

    8. What do you have planned for your projects in the next few months?

    BOYCOTT

  • Advance my GUI for Boycott and for all emus
  • Start adding MBC3/MBC5 support - in order to get color gameboy roms working but without colors.
  • Add joystick support - I have got one...
  • As GUI progresses, add new options - I have got some funny ideas.
  • A Windows port - not me.
  • A SunOS port - not me.
  • Adding sound support - I hope...
  • Adding full CGB/SGB support - I hope?
  • Improve speed - I already speed up Linux/Unix releases :).

    PCOTT

  • Reduce Pcott compilation time to less than 2 mn - 30 mn is a nightmare as for now...
  • Start adding 386 support.
  • Improve compatibility rate...
  • Improve speed - it is about 50 times slower than a real PC :(.

    UFE

  • Finish file management
  • Finish Pascal->C++ port
  • Improve emulator management

    NESCOTT/HPCOTT

  • Discontinued ?

    MASCOTT

  • Finish Z80 core.
  • Add Boycott GUI.
  • Try to get one game working !!!

    EMU5EVER

  • Add mirrors,
  • More automatic updates.

    OTHERS

  • N64COTT? - Maybe...if no N64 emu reaches Bleem level.
  • NEOCOTT? - I don't think so.
  • LYNXCOTT? - Maybe...there is only Handy...
  • GENESCOTT? - I don't think so.
  • SNESCOTT? - Never...
  • 3DOCOTT? - Never...
  • JAGCOTT? - You dream...
  • MACCOTT? - Never...
  • TICOTT? - Maybe...but there are plenty of working TI calculators emus!
  • HUCOTT? - Maybe...but we are waiting for Magic Engine new release.
  • ???COTT? - Yes, give me some ideas.

    9. What would you tell to someone thinking about starting to work on an emulator? What tips would you give him/her? What skill sets are a must-have?

    First of all, I would tell him/her that it is a cool idea. I would suggest that the person finds a maximum of docs about the device he/she wants to emulate.

    Some tips:

  • Beta testers are always easy to find, do not waste time to find them.
  • Try to get one game working. Do not try to implement all things firstly; then you advance faster and faster
  • Make use of libraries available for sound, vesa, etc... (like SEAL, ALLEGRO)
  • Feedback is very interesting - do not hesitate to reply to each mail note.

    Skills needed:

  • Beginners allowed as they can use existing libs or emu cores.
  • C/C++ if you want to make a portable and clean emulator.
  • ASM if you want to make a fast emulator.
  • Ggood at reading technical docs.
  • Time to waste.
  • Internet access to offer community your releases.
  • Own the device or game you want to emulate.
  • Like old classic games.

    10. Do you think the IDSA may have an impact on people who want to get into emulation coding and scare them away?
    No.

    I never heard about the IDSA before december 1998. I think it might threaten more ROMs web sites than emulator authors. Actually, only amazing emulators (like Bleem or Snes9x at this time) receive emails from videogame companies. Sony and Nintendo take some measures about it but not Sega for example. What is more, emulation seems to interest also commercial companies (Microsoft Revenge of Arcade, Connectix VGS). And if newbies are scared to write an emulator then they can try to emulate old consoles (Atari 2600 and the like) where roms are not copyrighted. I have only one word to say : PLEASE WRITE MORE AND MORE COOL EMUS !

    11. Where do you see console emulation going in the next few months/years?

    I think emulation scene will continue to grow. The more powerful the computers we will have, the more cool emus we will have for recent computers or consoles. Last year, nobody even think about a Neogeo or PSX emu ! And now, we have very impressive emus. I think we will have certainly new surprises in the next years (unemulated systems like Saturn, N64, ...). We will count also on commercial companies like Connectix to make great emus. As we can emulate everything, why not a preliminary Dreamcast emu ? I still have only one word to say : PLEASE WRITE MORE AND MORE COOL EMUS ! Ok, I am tired now...

    We thank Gollum for all his valued time in answering the questions provided. You may want to visit Emu5ever where you can find information about Gollum and his latest doings. Stay tuned to EmuViews as I already have more InterViews on the way just for you.

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    Name: ken Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2004 - (19:29)
    Subject: gameboyemu
    From: 24.80.172.212
    sad

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