- News for February 1, '99 -





Carl-Henrik Skårstedt InterViewed! - February 1, '99 by JoseQ
Together with the previously InterViewed Magnus Danielson, Carl-Henrik Skårstedt has been working in various emulation projects such as Shark and MAME. He's worked hard getting some of the sound chips emulated that had brought you some of the best music in MAME, as well as the recently released Shark which emulates a slew of Shoot'Em ups in Windows. I asked him to answer a few questions about this emulator and the Dead Serious Clan and sure enough, he agreed. So here's a couple of questions and answers with a third of the Dead Serious Clan, Carl-Henrik Skårstedt.

1. Care to introduce yourself and tell us some bits about how you got into emulation programming? How long have you been doing it?

Sure, I'm Carl-Henrik Skårstedt, and I've made the Shark emulator together with Magnus Danielsson. Our emulation programming came out of total boredom, we had left one job for another and the time inbetween of these jobs made us so bored we started to code things.
Magnus started emulating Flying Shark and I came by to visit him for a weekend. I had been trying to stay away from emulation, Drac had been trying to pull me into the swamp of emulation for some time. Seeing the result Magnus got in just a couple of weeks made me interested and I was sucked in. (Drac is Johan "Crazy Legs" Köhler, by the way)
I'm still struggling to get out of it. At least I don't have to convert games anymore!!

2. Where did the Dead Serious Clan name come from?

Ahead of our time, back when we were about to release the first version of Shark and we couldn't figure out whether arcade emulators were legal or not we started thinking of a name that would look funny in a legal document.

"Noone could possibly sue the Dead Serious, right?"

Besides, we are dead serious. About everything.

3. How many people are part of the Dead Serious Clan? How did you guys meet and decide to form this group?

We used to meet in a house on Saturdays programming Amiga demos and tools, eating pizza and things around the late 1980's. We've been working on things together or at the same companies since that. We are just three persons: me, Magnus and Drac (who made the Nemesis, the Salamander and the Gekko (the first Neo Geo) emulators).

4. What were your initial motives when you first released shark into the public? What were your goals then?

We wanted to see how many web page hits we could get on the Shark web page. Counting the hits from Taito and people that checked the page every day for a couple of months we came quite high! In the end we had to remove our original counter since it took too much server time. When one replacement counter crashed we got sort of bored with the whole web page thing.

5. Why the long delay between the last release of Shark and this new version?

Well, this is the long-delayed explanation.. We got two games running nicely around late may 1998 and we thought they were about as great as Flying Shark, or at least like Twin Cobra. When we were real close to releasing them we played through the games to see if they would be the next great thing.....
But no - Zero Wing and Hell Fire just didn't cut it. Some people had just made requests to see these games emulated, and we thought they must be great. Damn requesting people!
So we said, what the heck, can't release Shark like this, let's add a great game, so we started with Tiger Heli. Only thing was that we got quite a few versions with bad roms until Gareth Hall sent me one set that worked fine. The game wasn't as good as we'd thought so back to another game. New Zealand Story? Naah, Truxton? Bad roms... I bought Fire Shark, but no sound rom on that one so not good enough. The search went on and on and we sort of just accumulated games. Jim Hernandez came to help some time ago and he helped find a lot more games. I found out that a Japanese guy called FreeWing had some roms I was looking for and he got Truxton so now we're done.
I'd say Out Zone is the real winner of the new games! I'd hoped for Fix Eight as well, but I haven't found a Fix Eight machine..
The reason we release Shark now is more because we want to get on with real things and not spend a lot of effort emulating things.
And for the guy that promised to send us his girlfriend as soon as we emulated Truxton in Shark - We still have not recieved the photo to see if it would be worth the effort!!! As far as the real reason goes, it is top secret.

6. What were the most difficult parts faced during the development cycle of Shark?

No part of it was especially difficult. The emulation of the sound chip used in most games (ym3812 or OPL2) was probably the part that took most time. This was mainly due to my (previous) lack of knowledge how FM sound works.
One thing that was hard was finding the damn games, some of these games are just totally overpriced or near extinct!
Oh, and did I mention the graphics hardware of the new Toaplan games? Heck, they could nearly have done 3d games (layering) with their 4 layers with tiles in 15 layers and hundreds of sprites, in sizes from 8x8 to 128x128!!! And 1 Mb of 4-bit tiles are enough for everyone! Including value added tax!
Anyway, Magnus probably did the toughest thing when he emulated the DSP chip (TI32010) in Flying Shark - noone has yet been able to dump the real rom so he had to put all his hacker talent into guessing all the functionality of this chip.
We don't use schematics for figuring out things, we study the code of the arcade games and try to read what is happening. In order to get Twin Cobra running we made a TI32010 disassembler and found out what it was doing so that game was a bit simpler than Flying Shark.

7. How come all this time it has been kept mostly secret from the public? Will the following releases continue to be that way?

Some people have really pissy attitudes about certain things and they write stuff on Dave's boards. I'd say they have had an overdose of X-Files and are currently living in a Enemy of the State world. And we don't want to be pushed to release games that are almost working. I'd bet you know how pissed off you get when the game crashes right before the final boss!! We currently have 6 games emulated that don't work good enough to be part of the release. Kiki Kaikai (Pocky & Rocky) looks great, but lacking the MCU emulation it simply isn't good enough. I expect this game to work in Mame quite soon though.
Any possible future release of Shark will come as a surprise, especially to us. Speaking of surprises, I can promise you a few of them coming up in the near future!

8. What do you see in the near future for Shark? What are your next goals to be tackled?

I see no future for Shark. It is a hell of a piece of cod but sooner or later you must go on and do something cooler. That is what Magnus and I are doing now. People are staring at all this old stuff and thinking it rocks, but as the professionals that we are we must be ahead of our time.
One of the coming things is to share the information we have gathered about these games with other emulators. I got Truxton 2 running but I didn't have time to finish it so I sent the little I had done for that game to Richard Bush to help him implement Snow Bros 2 (which runs on the same hardware) in Raine. Hopefully Richard will get a few more games running on that hardware as well. I am currently in MAMEDEV so I will probably help out getting the games running in mame as well some day.

9. What kind of criteria do you follow when you think about adding stuff to Shark?

That it is not emulated in another emulator. That it is fun to play (that requires that we can find the game somewhere and play it, which isn't always the case). And of course that we have time to actually add it and spend some time getting the game to work perfect. The fact that we took so long to finish Shark caused the first criteria to fall apart on a couple of games, but that's acceptable, sharks eat anything that comes in their way anyway.

10. What do you think of the recent shake-up of the emulation world with Sony suing Connectix, and the latest UltraHLE release and consequent pull?

Sony is doing what Sony should be doing. Connectix asked for it and they really have the odds of winning this against Sony, but it will be interesting to see what money can buy in todays society! I think this case will become the first legal milestone in emulation and many people might leave the scene but it will ultimately just give the whole business a lot more PR!
As far as UltraHLE goes, it is mightily impressive! While admitting that I have used this emulator, I also wish to state that I have the games. It was probably the only sensible thing to do pulling back the emulator. Not that it will change much as I understand that there are other N64 emulators coming along.
I'm hoping that some day arcade companies are going to offer romsets or licenses to romsets to the public to legalise the entertainment for thousands of people. This is not going to happen with console games in the foreseeable future, but it might just happen with arcade games!!
Anyway, one of the greatest things with emulators is that it takes away the urge for game companies to make crappy stone age arcade conversions on new platforms. And for the people that still want those - how hard would it be to compile Mame on Dreamcast?
So at last you get to enjoy the full rich taste of Shark! Try it before it gets extinct, there is still some shark left to fry! Today's specials are: Flying Shark, Sky Shark, Fire Shark, Hishou Zame and Same! Same! Same!.
And finally, thanks to FreeWing for sorting out the spelling and pronounciation of Japanese sharks!

We appreciate the time taken by Carl-Henrik in answering this questions while having a succesful Shark release at the same time. I hope you (the reader) has enjoyed this InterView as much as I did, and go get that Shark and start playing. Thanks for reading!

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