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Matt Conte InterViewed - June 05,1998 by Eazy Cheeze
Eazy Cheeze has provided EmuViews with yet anotherexciting InterView after a short hiatus. The InterViewee is Matt Conte, creatorof Nofrendo. Nofrendo is a NintendoEntertainment System (NES) emulator that has been around for a while now. It is now beenrewritten, 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 alwayshad this deep, dark urge to write my own. Unfortunately, my programmingskills are nothing to write home about, so I just played it safe for a whileand pumped out a few lame NES utilities (NEStoFAM, cajoNES, etc.) instead.I was also involved in some other emulation projects (XGS, PCAE), but Iwanted 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 realNES, but there are some that I don't have on cart.
  • Ice Hockey - Wow. Skinny guy, average guy, fat guy, an audience ofclones, and triple Zamboni action. The game couldn't be more simple; itweighs in at only 32kB of program code, but you simply can't beat the twoplayer action here.Can't tell you how many best-of-seven drunken Ice Hockey tournaments Iplayed this year at school... =)
  • Castlevania - Badass. One of the first games that really blew me away onthe NES, with its great graphics and sound, characteristic of almost allKonami productions. Frankenstein is still way too hard, though.
  • Mike "Van Gogh" Tyson's Punch-Out! - Hadn't played the game in years, andstill remembered 007-373-5963 as soon as I switched it on. One of my alltime favorites.
  • Super Mario Brothers - My friend Kris was the first person I knew to getthe NES, back when it came with that moronic publicity stunt R.O.B. Thiswas before I had ever heard of Nintendo, but I had played SMB in the arcadebefore. Coming off of Colecovision, which up until then had been my closesthome experience to the arcade, I was completely wasted by the fact that theNES home version was identical to the arcade (well, besides some minorcharacter 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 schooland played it for at least a couple hours. Stuff like "Burn the second treenear the lake," "push the corner statue," and "bomb the wall around themiddle of the screen" was heard every morning, and parents and teachers hadto become handy with words like "triforce," "Link" and "Gannon."

3. What game for the NES would you like to see run on your emulator thatdoesn't?

I have most of my favorites running, but (as I've stated before) I'd doanything to get Super Mario Brothers 3 to work. This game came out wayafter my peak NES-playing period, but I really liked it a lot, and I want toget it working properly. I'd also like to get the RARE games (Wizards andWarriors, R.C. Pro-Am 2, Battletoads) working flawlessly as well, but thoseguys, much like the Codemasters, really pushed the limits of the NEShardware, 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 fromworking on Nofrendo. Mainly, my favorites are PCAE (Atari 2600), Atari800(Atari computer series), ADAMEm (Colecovision/ADAM), MAME (you know whatthis is, world), NESticle (NES), and XGS (Apple IIgs). Others float on andoff my hard drive, but those are the permanent residents. I usually justbang out a quick game or two when I have a couple minutes to spare, butthose breaks have become less frequent, however.
My favorite games on the 2600 are Pitfall ][ and Demon Attack. The Atari800XL, my favorite computer of all time, had some great ones like Gooniesand Agent USA. Colecovision games like Smurf, Zaxxon, and Mouse Trap arestill fun as hell. MAME is only there for when I want an authentic Dig Dugor Pac-Man experience. The Apple IIgs didn't have a huge amount of gamesfor 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'sdream, considering it had a 16-bit processor (65c816, same as the SNES) andran at only 2.8 MHz!!

5. What are your current projects?

Well, as you probably know, I've been rewriting Nofrendo, which althoughI've made some great improvements, has been going slower than expected dueto my full-time job. I'm also involved in the Atari800 and XGS-DOSprojects, but I haven't made any significant contributions to the latter,and none besides suggestions to the former. Hopefully that will changesoon, as I'd really like to branch out a bit on the programming side ofthings, and get more experience. Staying with the same console for a longtime tends to get stale.

6. With all the other NES emulators out there, and the complexity of thememory 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 DOSplatform. I wanted to see if I could come close, as a sort of personalchallenge. I knew I didn't have much of a programming background, so Iwanted to do something to push me to the limit, and have fun at the sametime.
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 painfullysimple (it can do one thing), but most mapper 7 games aren't emulatedperfectly, not because of the mapper, but because of the way that theprogram 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 isjust randomly assigning mapper numbers to individual games when many of themcould be grouped under one mapper type. I don't approve of the way he'sassigning them without going through Marat Fayzullin, either. The Vertigoaffiliation appalls me as well. Emulation is *not* warez, kids.

8. One of my past interviewees and friends, Jeremy Chadwick, who youobviously know as creator of the NES Tech Document, said this aboutNofrendo: It is "'behind the times,' but not for long." Could you elaborateon this?

Nofrendo 0.58 (the last released version) is behind the times- lack of DPCMsupport, 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 loststeam as my personal life began to recede into the sphere of myapartment, and I began to get caught up in programming and losing touch withthe important things in my life. That's why I fell off the face of theearth a few months ago.
Then I downloaded Peter Hirschberg's Vector Dream, and got inspired torecreate the emulator, using the same "immersion" principle that Hirschbergshowed me with Vector Dream. Then I became fascinated with John Saeger'sz26; the "small and fast" approach appealed to the hacker side of me. Ibegan 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 emulatorup 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 startedto become insurmountable as I tried to increase compatibility.

9. You have mentioned that you wish to create a completely authenticapproach to using this emulator. How would you re-create the "Nintendoexperience" 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, butI'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 toshare with us?

Luckily, I've received hardly any lamer e-mail. I get the occasional "Ican't get your program to work, tell me how" or the "all I get is a blackscreen", but those are easily dealt with. Most people (not so many anymorenow that there are so many more emulators to choose from) are supportive andfriendly, a much larger percentage than I had thought there would be... Itry to keep Joe Emulator Guy happy too, tossing around a little humor in thedocs and on the webpage.

11. What do you think lies ahead for emulation in 1998 (Not just NES; allaspects, Arcade, SNES, etc.)

I'm really surprised that we're seeing N64 emulation coming already. Notthat I care that much =), but it's technically impressive. Unlike mostpeople who want old consoles and computer systems to be emulated really welland that's it, I'd rather see new emulators come out that push thetechnology and creativity to the max. It's more than just a command-linething now, there's so much you can do with an emulator; the immersionexperience, improving the graphics (EAGLE, etc.), and all kinds of otherthings. 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 youcan contact Eazy Cheeze orMatt Conte. Keep visiting EmuViews for moreInterViews all the time.

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

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