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Mirko talks MAME - September 26,1998 by JoseQ
Since when most of us started playing with MAME, MirkoBuffoni has been half of the administrative staff behindMAME. He has devoted a lot of time and effort makingsure MAME stayed on track to be the great emulator that itis. Unfortunately, that has changed. In this InterView, Mirko talks about his retirement from MAME development amongother topics regarding MAME. A comeback is not out of thequestion, but read along as EV InterViews Mirko.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and when you first sawanything related to emulation?

I'm an italian guy with several passions: computers,music, girls (;), anime & comics, astronomy, and arcade games!My last love (emulation world) was born 2 years ago, when I first sawSparcade by Mr.Spicer. I couldn't believe to see, after so manyyears, a so faithful reproduction of Amidar, and I wondered why noone had thought about arcade emulation before. Slowly some singlesemulators came to life, and I got terribly excited when I sawMr Do and Lady Bug emulators done by Nicola Salmoria.

2. When did you join the MAME project, and how did that happen?

It happened by chance. I submitted some drivers to Nicola, andhe had the problem that he had leave for military duty. So he asked meto maintain the project. It was the most exciting experience ofmy life, and I could never thank Nicola enough.

3. Can you count the numerous drivers submitted by yourself? Which werethe most difficult or challenging?

The most difficult were the games I loved more in my youth: CityConnection and Gyruss for example. Nicola helped me a lot with thosedrivers, and I can't wait to see the last processor emulated in Gyruss(the 6809 that controls the stars. Because we are currently simulatingits behaviour, not emulating it).

4. Other than the recent battle with the Slapstic, were there any othermajor stonewalls in the road for MAME?

Games which requires a perfect sinchronization, like Tempest, orMr Do castle. I remember days of discussion on the mailing listabout this.

5. This issue has been in the dark recently, but it is always in theminds of many people. Is the speed of MAME inversely proportional to itssize? Why, in your opinion, is MAME slower than the other (not so big)emulators?

First of all, are other "not so big" emulators giving you the sameoptions that MAME gives? And are they really emulating the hardwareor just giving a near reproduction of hardware behaviour? Are themfully portable and have free available source code?
Retrocade is an excellent product, Gyruss is really fast on it, butit uses samples for percussion, while MAME emulates DAC and 8039.Again, some emulators for Intel architecture only, don't have therestrictions that MAME instead has, to be fully portable. Thisof course introduces limitations.
And finally, no, code size does not influence its speed. Actuallyin last generation computers there is a little thing called "cache"that was introduced just to avoid that problem. MAME is a bigcode repository, and you're using a little part while you playa game. This architecture introduces also some little advantages:for example, many functions can be shared between drivers, andcode size doesn't grow linearly by adding more games, despite whatpeople think. Sparcade switched to this architecture too, withthe latest versions.

6. Would you rather have MAME split in some way? Is it even possible?

I'd live it as is. At very least, I would love to extract staticdata like memory maps, DSW and so on, and collect them in externalproprietary libraries. This would reduce the code size a little,but would mantain the concept intact.

7. How about the issue with the betas? Why were they switched from privateto public releases? Do you feel it is better the way it is now?

Because we couldn't work in peace anymore. It's very depressivewhen you work hard for 2/3 months, and then you get back only complainsor insults, just because some game is still incomplete "even after3 months of work". Furthermore, MAME is an open project, andhaving source freezed to outsiders (of MAME team) would havekept talented guys away from an important project. I personallythink this killed a little of that excitement that people had beforea release, but all in all, a good bunch of people lost excitement inemulation since long now. We love MAME, and this was the bestsolution for it.

8. It has been rumored in the MAMEDEV world that you're retiring fromMAME? Is that possible? What made you take that decision?

Yes. Ohh, a series of causes-effects. But I'd say that "time" is thekeyword for all of them:
  • My daily job is taking most of my time now. I love it and I enjoyit, so this is a good point :)
  • My health condition got worse lately, and actually I can't afford20 hours of work per day anymore. But I'm thankful to all friendsthat surrounded me even in bad days :)
  • Most if not all of the games I loved, are now emulated. I havealso completed a private project with the best results :) (Hi BW!)
  • I restarted one of my previous hobbies: digital sound restoring.Of course this is another activity that requires time!
  • More and more projects... too much for a single life!

    10. Any chance of you returning?

    Why not. Let's hope someone in Mame Team will leave some driversto develop for me in the future ;)

    11. Would you say that the Emulation Scene in general has lost some of itsexcitement in the last couple of months?

    Yes, as I said before.

    12. Where do you see the Scene moving to in the close future? How about thenot so close future? Do you think thats good or bad?

    In a pessimistic way to think, I see emulation scene like the cycleof life of a Star, that grows, grows, turns into a Supernova, explodesand collapse into a Black Hole (did I say I love astronomy?). Thisis due to what people demand, what emulator authors can offer,and to some "external events" that inevitabily get attracted by theprevious two forces. Of course, I strongly hope I'm just havingvisions.

    13. Where do you see MAME in the future?

    I want to see it to emulate and document ALL arcade games. Or atleast, this is what I'd hope it gets to.

    There you have it folks. Mirkodecides to leave MAME, although not necessarily for good.We all hope the best for Mirko in his new enterprises, aswe know he will excel there as well. With the huge MAME Team,there is no doubt that MAME will continue in its course,but we will miss him anyways.

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