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Of Drives and Desires... - June 24,1998 by Big Val
Of Drives and Desires: What Motivates the Emulator Author
Written and compiled by: Big Val
The next time you use an emulator, take a moment and look carefully at what you see. With eyes locked onto a glowing screen andfingers resting gingerly on the keyboard, can you comprehend why such a program exists? As with all human inventions, this emulator existsbecause of a drive to create. All people possess a drive to create, but what fuels this drive is as varied as the plethora of stars thatglitter silently in a clear night sky. Everyone caters their creativity to that which motivates them best. A plow exists from a creativedrive motivated by hunger. A book exists from a creative drive motivated by the desire to preserve knowledge, or to convey an idea. One isultimately left to ponder what it is that motivates an emulator author to pour his or her soul into such a daunting, laborious project.
Of the hundreds of emulator authors, ten individuals have attempted to answer this question. Their thoughts and feelings have beencompiled in order to give the emulation community a better understanding of what fuels their creative fires. Nicola Salmoria of MAME fameexplains that that his creative fire is driven by, "The desire to collect information on the classics and to make them available toeveryone, so that they won't be lost." "As far as MAME is concerned, " Salmoria continues, "I like the idea of a powerful generalpurpose emulation environment which allows authors to work out the details of the machine they emulate without having to reinvent thewheel every time. That's why I'm concentrating most of my efforts nowadays on making the core functions better and easier to use."
Steve Snake had many reasons to develop his stellar KGen98 Sega Genesis emulator, but narrowed them down to three. Steve muses,"One, I was bored with the projects I was doing at work, and wanted to write something I could be proud of. Two, I wanted a decent Genesisemulator--to my knowledge one didn't exist at the time. And three, I wanted to see if I could do it!"
The concept of creating something that never truly existed before is shared by Virtual 2600 author Alex Hornby. "I did mine becausethere were no free 2600 emulators at the time and I needed an interesting project."
JROK of JAS-JROK's Arcade Simulator supports this argument stating, "As much as anything, I wanted to write an emulator that was asclose to perfect as possible, plus have all the features I wanted. In addition, I wanted to emulate some games that no one else had emulatedyet."
CAGE's Larry Bank added, "I wanted to play some of these games on my terms, which means running them in a window on NT. The otheremulators out there could not do this to my satisfaction. I do this often when I would like to run a certain program a certain way. If themeans do not exist, then I write it into existence." Hornby, Snake, JROK and Bank saw voids that needed to be filled, and as a result wrotetheir programs in an effort to plug the gaps.
Some authors found their motivation in a childhood love of computers. MESS's Juergen Buchmueller recalls, "I've been addicted tocomputers since the age of 15...I was always interested in how these machines worked and how to become invincible in certain games. That wasthe main reason for me to learn assembly language."
"I was a teenager during the arcade peak of the early 80's and got hooked on many of these games," Larry Bank reminisces.
Anders Nilsson, co-author of NeoRAGE, finds that the challenge of programming an accurate emulator is a temptation unto itself. "Ilove the fun in figuring out how the hardware works and [I love] to play these great games on a home computer. It is a real challenge forme, just like playing the 11th Hour or something like that."
Li Jih Hwa of System 16 states, "I like arcade games. To play Golden Axe, Fantasy Zone and other games on a PC was my old dream.There are conversions, but they are usually not as faithful as the original, and most of the time you wouldn't have conversions due tomarketing concerns." Furthermore he feels that, "Emulators contribute to the lasting life of classic games."
Some emulation authors are serious collectors, wise enough to see a day when their favorite console will no longer work. Dr. Jointwrote Hu6280 to emulate his PC Engine for just that purpose. "I've been a video game collector for 12 years," he exclaims. "The mainreason I'm emulating the PC-Engine is just in case my PC-Engine ever stops working. It would be a shame to loose such classic [PC-Engine]games as Chan & Chan, R-Type, Gradius, etc."
These emulator authors have various reasons for writing their programs and archiving a sense of yesterday's gaming experience forthe entire emulation community. Without their creative desires, without their motivations, the experience of playing classic games couldpossibly be lost forever. Although this has been but a small glimpse into their respective motivations, one fact is clear: They all seem tohave a love for emulation and the games they perpetuate. Still, there may be one other reason for creating an emulator that has not beenduly noted. Richard Bannister of the MESS project gave a simple yet brilliant reason for writing an emulator. When asked what drives himto write, he stated but one precious reason: "Fun."
Richard, perhaps you have just said it all. ; )

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