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Interview with: Heliophobe:
Wraggster:: Can you tell us where were you born, where you live, your family
Heliophobe:: I was born in Southern California and we moved to the Central
Coast of California a few years later, where I've been for the last twenty
Family Details? Um, single but involved. Sorry ladies.
Wraggster:: What qualifications do you have?
Heliophobe: Formally, none. All my computer and programming skills are self-taught.
Wraggster:: What made you get into computers?
Heliophobe: About as long as I've been aware of what computers are, I've
wanted to be involved with them.
The first time I ever saw my sister playing a Ms. Pacman machine when I
was four or five, I knew that there had to be people who made video games,
and I wanted to be one of those people. I'm not there yet but I'm making
Wraggster:: What projects/coding have you done previous to any Dreamcast
Heliophobe: Previous to working on Smeg I had done some developing for the
Sega Master System, which included a couple tech demos, a Tetris clone (Tetracycline),
and an unfinished shoot-em-up called Damiana, which I entered in the Y2Kode
competition. I got third place in my category, which netted me an assortment
of small prizes from Lik Sang.
Before that, it's been mostly small unreleased projects and one-off utilities
for a variety of platforms, mostly little alphas of games and utilities
that I never finished, dating back to my Basic and Assembly language days
on the Atari 800, later a playable but primative Street Fighter 2 clone
for the Amiga, and more recently some misc. utilities in Windows.
Wraggster:: What made you choose to do an emulator for the Sega Master System
Heliophobe: After having done some development work on the Sega Master System,
writing an emulator seemed like a logical next step, as I had already familiarized
myself with the hardware. I was originally going to write a Windows based
SMS emulator with better debugging features, to assist me with future SMS
development projects. Then, in its very early stages, I thought I might
try bringing it over to the Dreamcast, as there weren't any SMS emulators
out at the time (I had started work on it shortly before DreamSMS was released),
and I wanted an excuse to test out my coder's cable. That took off like
a rocket, and I have since abandoned the PC version and the debugging facilities.
That, and of course, the SMS was my favorite 8-bit console, and I have
almost an unhealthy obsession with it. I spend more time on SMSPower than
any other site.
Wraggster:: How did you start and what programs did you use to start coding
Heliophobe: We can all thank a particular friend of mine, Grey: Digital Target,
who set me up with a coder's cable, serial slave disc (before I even had
a CD burner), and a disc with gcc and development tools. I very well might
never have gotten around to it if he hadn't been encouraging me to give
it a try.
Also, thanks go out to my girlfriend for letting me hog 'our' Dreamcast.
She has her own now, all is well.
I use GCC as my C compiler, under cygwin in windows 98, which has been
mostly functional, although it was difficult to set up. When I got started
libdream was still the best way to develop for the Dreamcast. Documentation
was sparse, so I learned a lot from reading the libdream source code, and
have modified it to include some features I needed, like screen repositioning
and supporting multiple controllers.
I might switch over to KOS someday, now that it's moved away from being
an operating system and has gone back towards being a development library,
although I appreciate the minimalism and customizability of libdream.
Wraggster:: Can you give us a status update on all of your emulators?
Heliophobe: I hadn't worked on it one bit for the past three weeks, up until
this weekend. Between a flu, working too much, and miscellaneous other distractions
I'd lost my momentum.
This weekend has been productive, however. I'll post the usual updates
on the page, but I finally fixed the screen repositioning on televisions.
For real this time.
The VCS emulator part mysteriously stopped working. It wasn't working well
to begin with, so I might leave it out of the next public release, since
Gonzo's does the job just fine.
Wraggster:: Can you tell us how complex programming into your emulator support
for Game Gear and also Atari 2600 was?
Heliophobe: After I had the SMS working, supporting the Game Gear was a snap.
Other than adding an alternate palette handler, I didn't even have to modify
the graphics engine - I just clip out the middle 160x144 pixels of the 256x192
pixel SMS display in Game Gear mode. Cheesy, but it works. And I think that's
how a real Game Gear works anyway. Then, just remapping the start button
and faking the serial link has gotten most games playable.
The 2600 has just about -nothing- in common with the SMS, and is an extremely
odd console to begin with. When I started writing it I hadn't accounted
for the fact that just about all games require mid-raster precision to function
properly, so I wrote a line renderer that doesn't support it at all, and
very few games run without major glitches because of it. I'd have to rewrite
a lot of it from scratch for it to run correctly. But, the sound is good.
Even the speech in 'Open Sesame' works, last I checked even Stella doesn't
do speech playback.
Wraggster:: Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?
Heliophobe: Nothing really. I'll probably try to do another SMS entry for
the next Y2Kode (Y2K1ode?).. can't let those NESsers beat us again.
Another emulator project I'm considering, but I doubt I'd have the time
to work on it, so I won't announce anything. And I'd like to work on an
original game someday.
Wraggster:: Whats your opinion of the new super consoles like X-box, Gamecube,
Game Boy Advance, and the Playststion 2?
Heliophobe: My favorite of the new batch is the Gameboy Advance. Greatest
portable ever, and probably the last console to specialize in 2D.
For the home consoles I'm rooting for the Gamecube, but I have a sinking
feeling it's not going to make it. I guess with Sega out of the game I support
the remaining company that's been in the home console business since the
I damn near bought a Playstation 2 several times this year, but every time
I look at the lineup I realize there's maybe three or four games I really
want, and they're still $45 everywhere I look. Not that the lineup sucks,
necessarily, but it's dominated by sports and racing games, and I'm not
a fan of either genre. Of the remaining games I am interested in, many are
slightly improved versions of games I already have (DOA2: Hardcare, Crazy
Taxi, Tekken 3, etc.). So I probably won't bother until the XBox and Gamecube
force the price of the PS2 down a bit and there are more games that interest
me. In the meantime, there's still dozens of excellent Dreamcast titles
that I haven't bought yet, and I need to snatch those up while I can.
The XBox... I have a prejudice against the X-Box that I'll have to overcome
someday, since it looks like Sega's going to be bringing several titles
to XBox exclusively.
Wraggster:: Which console looks the best for dev'ing on?
Heliophobe: Speaking of homebrew software;
Right now, Dreamcast is still the best. It's a powerful console with lots
of potential, the homebrew dev tools are getting better all the time, and
the key is, of course, that anyone can play homebrew software on their Dreamcast
Second to that, the Gameboy Advance. Of course, you can only play homebrew
GBA stuff on a real GBA if you have an expensive flash rom system, but it's
great to have an active 2d system to code for.
Wraggster:: What are your favourite games for every system you have owned?
Heliophobe: I'm probably going to slap the old forehead when I read this
list later, but these are the ones I can think of right now;
Atari 7800 (first console): Asteroids, Galaga (why I got the console to
Atari 2600: Crystal Castles, Midnight Magic (pinball), Basic Programming,
a zillion others I can't remember right now.
SMS: Kenseiden (surprise!), Phantasy Star, Quartet, Power Strike, Aztec
Adventure, Golvelius, Space Harrier
Game Gear: Puyo Puyo 2 (don't actually own it), Shinobi.
Genesis: Strider, Target Earth, Revenge of Shinobi, Streets of Rage 2 (possibly
more for the music than the game itself), Sonic 1 (not so crazy about the
rest of the series), Truxton.
Playstation: Castlevania: SOTN, Tekken 3, Jumping Flash 2, Silent Hill
Dreamcast: Shenmue, Jet Set Radio, Soul Calibur, DOA2, Crazy Taxi, House
of the Dead, Street Fighter III. Among others. Many others.
Gameboy Advance: Castlevania: COTM, F-Zero, Namco Museum, Mario Advance.