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The Other Half of System16 - May 14,1998 by JoseQ
A team would not be a team if it had only one person. Earlier this week, wepresented our very first InterView with Thierry Lescot, one of the wonderfulauthors of the System 16 emulator. Today, we give you the other half of the Team,Li Jih Hwa, also known as Nao.
The questions in this interview were sent to Thierry and Li Jih simultaneously,so obviously the questions are the same. The answers however, come from Nao'spoint of View.

1) Is it just the two of you? If yes, how did you find each other?And why / how did you decide the two of you would be enough? Are youlooking for qualified additions to the team?

It was May of 1997. I left Marine and got a lot of spare time, there Imet with Thierry's System16 emulator. It ran SHINOBI and Altered Beastand three other games with limited sounds then. I was amazed. Six yearsago I ever discussed with some friends about the possibility of running68000 CPU arcade games on Macintosh. But I had never dreamed of writingpure software codes to run real arcade games on a PC. There wereemulators for Pacman and other early 80's games then but it's only tillSystem16 emulator's appearence did I believe current PC had been fastenough to run late 80's arcade games without special hardware supports.Then I found out that I must help Thierry to polish his work as much asI can, there to attract more and more people to join this scene. Today,besides SEGA, there are pretty good emulators for Capcom and Data Eastand Irem, even Konami and Taito platforms. I am really happy to see this.I believe someday Namco System1/2 emulators will also come out from sometalented group.

2) Sega has always been huge in the arcades. Is this why you choseto emulate Sega games or did you have previous experience with similarHardware? Was it a challenge, or you just wanted to play Sega games?

I am a SEGA fan. To play Fantasy Zone and Golden Axe was one of themotives to join the System16 group. Though I still cannot play FantasyZone on my PC even after a whole year.

3) What in your personal opinion / experience are the best skills to haveto go into emulator authoring? (I bet patience is one of them)

Actually we built the arcade emulator by constructing the model on which thegame was supposed to run by examining assembly codes and hex dumpscarefully. To do this we need at least the target CPU debugger and astandalone disassembler. Sometimes we also need to write sample codes toprove theories. IMO, writing arcade emulator is conceptually nomore/less complex than other software projects, besides clear mind, befamiliar with software tools and the ability to construct new toolswould the most important keyes.

4) Which part of getting a certain game to work would you rate the hardest?Which one do you enjoy the most? How long is it usually the time betweendeciding on emulating a ROM and seeing the first sign of life?

I think the availablity of un-protected ROM dumps should be one point.We virtually cannot do anything at all with those encryted rom dumps. Itusually wouldn't take us over 1 day to make one game to displaysomething. But to make it perfect is another thing. Sometimes it tookone whole month to fix one bug: last year, when I worked on SuperHang-On, it didn't take more than 2 hours to make most of the graphicsdisplayed but it was exactly one month later had we finally fixed thebug that CPU1 often corrupted the stack of CPU2.

5) Which has been the hardest game to get working 100% and why? Which onehas been the easiest?

There were no easy ones. :) I worked very hard to make games running. Toname one, OUTRUN would be the most difficult game to emulate. It hastotally different sprites hardware from the other SEGA games and 2tightly-coupled 68000 programs. It took us weeks to seek for a goodmethod to syncronize the two 68000 CPU without losing a lot ofperformance. In last release version there was still a CPU sync bug atthe opening place: the horizon line would "jump" randomly for a whilewhen the game started. It was only till recently had we identified thisbug and succeeded in fixing it.

6) Do you guys like to re-use code available to emulate certain hardwareor do you always go from scratch?

I always tried to find existing codes first. We were so lucky to have abunch of good cpu emulators from public domain. Writing/debugging cpuemulators are difficult software projects. I once worked on a x86emulator before, it's part of a virus scanner, debugging with it wasreally time consuming.

7) Next version is coming around Mid May right? Can you list the bestfeatures of this new version here?

Yes, six to eight new games and sounds for OUTRUN and Space Harrier.

8) What is happening next? What are you shooting for?

Win32 port and more games.

There you have it folks, the View on System 16 from Nao's side. Do Ihear a new System 16 version coming? It sure sounds like it. Things areonce again getting exciting (like they ever stop doing so). OutRun withsound... What do you think about that? And an eigth gamem which nobodyknows about... Could it be the Mother Of All Sega Games??? We're justgoing to have to wait... See ya at the next InterView!

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