Eazy Cheeze has provided EmuViews with yet another
exciting InterView after a short hiatus. The InterViewee is Matt Conte, creator
of Nofrendo. Nofrendo is a Nintendo
Entertainment System (NES) emulator that has been around for a while now. It is now been
rewritten, and you lucky readers get a chance to take a peek at the brains behind it,
thanks to Eazy Cheeze and EmuViews.
|Matt Conte InterViewed - June 5, '98 by Eazy Cheeze
1. How did you get into emulating the NES?
Well, I have been interested in emulation for a few years, and I always
had this deep, dark urge to write my own. Unfortunately, my programming
skills are nothing to write home about, so I just played it safe for a while
and pumped out a few lame NES utilities (NEStoFAM, cajoNES, etc.) instead.
I was also involved in some other emulation projects (XGS, PCAE), but I
wanted something I could call my own, and I finally got ambitious in late
2. What are your favorite NES games, and why? Describe them.
I really only have a few that I play extensively. Most I play on my real
NES, but there are some that I don't have on cart.
- Ice Hockey - Wow. Skinny guy, average guy, fat guy, an audience of
clones, and triple Zamboni action. The game couldn't be more simple; it
weighs in at only 32kB of program code, but you simply can't beat the two
player action here.
Can't tell you how many best-of-seven drunken Ice Hockey tournaments I
played this year at school... =)
- Castlevania - Badass. One of the first games that really blew me away on
the NES, with its great graphics and sound, characteristic of almost all
Konami productions. Frankenstein is still way too hard, though.
- Mike "Van Gogh" Tyson's Punch-Out! - Hadn't played the game in years, and
still remembered 007-373-5963 as soon as I switched it on. One of my all
- Super Mario Brothers - My friend Kris was the first person I knew to get
the NES, back when it came with that moronic publicity stunt R.O.B. This
was before I had ever heard of Nintendo, but I had played SMB in the arcade
before. Coming off of Colecovision, which up until then had been my closest
home experience to the arcade, I was completely wasted by the fact that the
NES home version was identical to the arcade (well, besides some minor
character anomalies). SMB sold the NES to me.
- Wizards and Warriors - it may be a bitch and a half to emulate properly,
but this game kicked my ass a thousand times over. Still a ball to play.
- The Legend of Zelda - When this came out, everyone went home after school
and played it for at least a couple hours. Stuff like "Burn the second tree
near the lake," "push the corner statue," and "bomb the wall around the
middle of the screen" was heard every morning, and parents and teachers had
to become handy with words like "triforce," "Link" and "Gannon."
3. What game for the NES would you like to see run on your emulator that
I have most of my favorites running, but (as I've stated before) I'd do
anything to get Super Mario Brothers 3 to work. This game came out way
after my peak NES-playing period, but I really liked it a lot, and I want to
get it working properly. I'd also like to get the RARE games (Wizards and
Warriors, R.C. Pro-Am 2, Battletoads) working flawlessly as well, but those
guys, much like the Codemasters, really pushed the limits of the NES
hardware, oftentimes exploiting practices they really shouldn't have.
4. Which emulators do you use, and what games do you play on them?
I use a whole bunch; I love emulation. So much that I get distracted from
working on Nofrendo. Mainly, my favorites are PCAE (Atari 2600), Atari800
(Atari computer series), ADAMEm (Colecovision/ADAM), MAME (you know what
this is, world), NESticle (NES), and XGS (Apple IIgs). Others float on and
off my hard drive, but those are the permanent residents. I usually just
bang out a quick game or two when I have a couple minutes to spare, but
those breaks have become less frequent, however.
My favorite games on the 2600 are Pitfall ][ and Demon Attack. The Atari
800XL, my favorite computer of all time, had some great ones like Goonies
and Agent USA. Colecovision games like Smurf, Zaxxon, and Mouse Trap are
still fun as hell. MAME is only there for when I want an authentic Dig Dug
or Pac-Man experience. The Apple IIgs didn't have a huge amount of games
for it, like the Amiga 500 did, but some games like Gnarly Golf, Task Force,
and Captain Blood are still great to play; that machine was a hacker's
dream, considering it had a 16-bit processor (65c816, same as the SNES) and
ran at only 2.8 MHz!!
5. What are your current projects?
Well, as you probably know, I've been rewriting Nofrendo, which although
I've made some great improvements, has been going slower than expected due
to my full-time job. I'm also involved in the Atari800 and XGS-DOS
projects, but I haven't made any significant contributions to the latter,
and none besides suggestions to the former. Hopefully that will change
soon, as I'd really like to branch out a bit on the programming side of
things, and get more experience. Staying with the same console for a long
time tends to get stale.
6. With all the other NES emulators out there, and the complexity of the
memory mappers, what is your motivation for working on your emulator?
Well, forgive my arrogance, but when Nofrendo was released in February (?)
there really weren't any really good alternatives to NESticle for the DOS
platform. I wanted to see if I could come close, as a sort of personal
challenge. I knew I didn't have much of a programming background, so I
wanted to do something to push me to the limit, and have fun at the same
For the record, the memory mappers aren't really all that complex.
Undocumented, for the most part yes, but not really all that complicated.
For instance, mapper 7 (Wizards and Warriors, Marble Madness), is painfully
simple (it can do one thing), but most mapper 7 games aren't emulated
perfectly, not because of the mapper, but because of the way that the
program code was written.
7. What is your opinion on the custom-made mappers in FanWen's emulator,
FWNES runs a lot of games, but I don't approve of the way that FanWen is
just randomly assigning mapper numbers to individual games when many of them
could be grouped under one mapper type. I don't approve of the way he's
assigning them without going through Marat Fayzullin, either. The Vertigo
affiliation appalls me as well. Emulation is *not* warez, kids.
8. One of my past interviewees and friends, Jeremy Chadwick, who you
obviously know as creator of the NES Tech Document, said this about
Nofrendo: It is "'behind the times,' but not for long." Could you elaborate
Nofrendo 0.58 (the last released version) is behind the times- lack of DPCM
support, no GUI, partial mapper support, no frigging Super Mario Brothers 3,
etc. I had a burst of inspiration at the beginning of the year, then lost
steam as my personal life began to recede into the sphere of my
apartment, and I began to get caught up in programming and losing touch with
the important things in my life. That's why I fell off the face of the
earth a few months ago.
Then I downloaded Peter Hirschberg's Vector Dream, and got inspired to
recreate the emulator, using the same "immersion" principle that Hirschberg
showed me with Vector Dream. Then I became fascinated with John Saeger's
z26; the "small and fast" approach appealed to the hacker side of me. I
began recoding Nofrendo and knocked hundreds of kilobytes of code out of it,
removed custom libraries which had made it easier for me to get the emulator
up and running initially, and made it lightyears faster and more efficient.
My current development version has almost every feature that was in 0.58,
and it runs faster. I had a version running faster than any other emulator,
but had to trash it because the concessions I was making for speed started
to become insurmountable as I tried to increase compatibility.
9. You have mentioned that you wish to create a completely authentic
approach to using this emulator. How would you re-create the "Nintendo
experience" for computer users?
It'll mostly be tied in with the GUI- sort of a visual flashback motif...
Also I plan to get some sort of ambient background loop up in the thing, but
I'm not quite sure what I'm going to narrow the sounds down to...
10. Any humorous anecdotes or e-mail from lamers, etc. that you wish to
share with us?
Luckily, I've received hardly any lamer e-mail. I get the occasional "I
can't get your program to work, tell me how" or the "all I get is a black
screen", but those are easily dealt with. Most people (not so many anymore
now that there are so many more emulators to choose from) are supportive and
friendly, a much larger percentage than I had thought there would be... I
try to keep Joe Emulator Guy happy too, tossing around a little humor in the
docs and on the webpage.
11. What do you think lies ahead for emulation in 1998 (Not just NES; all
aspects, Arcade, SNES, etc.)
I'm really surprised that we're seeing N64 emulation coming already. Not
that I care that much =), but it's technically impressive. Unlike most
people who want old consoles and computer systems to be emulated really well
and that's it, I'd rather see new emulators come out that push the
technology and creativity to the max. It's more than just a command-line
thing now, there's so much you can do with an emulator; the immersion
experience, improving the graphics (EAGLE, etc.), and all kinds of other
things. Hopefully this will continue to grow in '98.
Thanks for your time!
Thanks for waiting a thousand. =)
Hope you liked this InterView dudes. If you have questions or comments you
can contact Eazy Cheeze or
Matt Conte. Keep visiting EmuViews for more
InterViews all the time.
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||Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2003 - (13:09)
i like playing mario games
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