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Matt Conte InterViewed - June 5, '98 by Eazy Cheeze
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.

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 '97.

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 time favorites.
  • 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 doesn't?

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 time.
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?

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 on this?

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. =)

Later,
Matt.

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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Name: kervin Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2003 - (13:09)
Subject: games
From: 168.221.143.68
i like playing mario games

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