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An Interview With smf


Welcome to another interview here on Retroblast. This time we go 20 questions with developer "smf," one of the MAMEdevs.

1. Can you tell us a little about your self?

smf: Phill, 34, England.

2. Where do you work and what do you do?

smf: I work in a small software house writing software for handheld computers. It's mainly been Windows CE for the last few years, but we still have customers with MSDOS & CPM based handhelds.

3. Where does the name smf come from?

smf: smf comes from my original irc /nick. Back in the 90's on MTV Europe was a program called Most Wanted ( They had a feature called "Internet Ray Chat" & because net sex was a hot topic in the news it was basically supposed to show what a hot bed of depravity the Internet was. I managed to blag my way into the invite only channel #mostwanted on undernet with the /nick SexyMF ( the clean name for an old price song ). I only got Internet access at home because of this & borrowed a 2400 baud modem from work. I used Pipex & would either phone the London or Cambridge number, both were long distance but calling London was cheaper. The /nick was pretty lame, but I was lazy so just chopped some letters out so it didn't sound quite so silly. All of the single letters were already taken, or I'd have used one of those.

4. Can you tell us some of your early Arcade/Gaming Memories?

smf: I used to go to swimming classes on a Friday evening when I was at school. At the pool was a space invaders and space panic machines. I mainly watched other people playing, the vending machine with monster munch crisps won my money.

5. Top 3 favorite video games of all time?

smf: 1) Any DDR/Dancing Stage games. If I don't lump these all together then
they would take up all positions.
2) Daytona
3) Outrun

6. Do you own any consoles or Arcade Cabinets?

Phillips G7000smf: In the early 80's I had a Philips G7000, which unfortunately died shortly after. It was replaced with a c64 and then several Amigas before I got a PlayStation.

Originally it was only to have a play around with coding, but hooking it up to an Amiga looked to be a pain I bought a laptop. In the end I mainly played Dancing Stage on the PSX. I got a Gamecube to play Rougue Squadron & Super Monkey Ball, then another laptop and then a Dreamcast last year.

7. & 8. What emulation projects have you been involved in and what are your current active projects? Can you tell us when and how you got involved in them?

smf: To start with I worked on lots of projects that never got off the ground, but I learnt quite a bit from that.

Then I did a bit of work on SIDPlay, because I had a c64 while growing up.

redump was the first thing of my own that I released that was emulation related. It was
mainly to reduce the bandwidth of sites that were offering ROMs at the time but also to
raise awareness that someone was asking for donations for the same game in a different format. Some of their dumps were a bit suspect to say the least.

From that I kinda got involved in setting cps2shock up. I hardly did anything apart from going to the pub and looking at cps2 boards though. The same pub also hosted a couple of emulation meets ups where I believe we dumped one of the hunchback games. We invented two forms of entertainment, finding components that fell off the boards on the beer soaked floor and fending off the landlord who wondered why we had laptops and EPROM burners plugged into the mains.

From CPS2 I fell into ZN1 games because at the time someone had attempted to hook up the Street Fighter EX Qsound ROMS into the cps2.c driver. That was a struggle because I was using Windows NT 4 at work & MAME32 and wasn't always rock solid or kept in line with the latest core code. Also there was no 32bit cpu support at the time, I had to come up with a hack that split the two reads/writes at the cpu level but join them back at the driver level. It got my foot in the door, even if though none of the games actually worked.

FirefoxThat lay dormant for a while and then someone asked me about writing a Firefox emulator. Most of it was quite easy, but I got stuck with the sprites so Chris Hardy helped out with that. I never got a decent copy of the laser disc, but someone else got it running a while back. Hopefully MAME will support laser disc games at some point.

I inherited dosmame & did quite a bit of work knocking that into shape, I find being able to run any game in an eight bit tweaked vga mode pretty cool.

I didn't do much for a while until Ryan Holtz got me working on PSX games again. A couple of months later and we had Star Sweep running. Quite a few games later and I ended up helping out with ZiNc.

9. What was your first major MAME submission?

smf: The "red square" zn.c driver, that also allowed you to play music from the ZN1/ZN2 games & later the Taito FX1 games. It was several years later before the Namco System 11 games would lead the way to playable PSX based games in MAME.

10. How many hours a week do you spend working on MAME or other projects?

smf: It varies from week to week. From 0 to 20 at a guess.

11. Do you speak/meet with other MAMEdevs?

smf: I've met Toby Broyad, Chris Hardy, Mike Coates & Bryan McPhail. At least three of them will probably remember me, but one of them will think I'm MikeDX. Back in the day we used to have Raine vs MAME vs EmuDX emulation meet ups. Normally spread across several arcades and drinking establishments. Off the top of my head Mike Green, Logiqx, Richard Mitton, Richard Bush & Fiath (who went onto CAPS fame & I embarrassingly don't actually remember meeting, but he remembers me) were involved.

12. What piece of MAME code are you most proud of? And what does it do?

smf: In terms of code in MAME at the moment it would have to be the early PSX GPU texture descrambling & packet format. It allowed Tekken 1 & 2 to run in MAME and ZiNc without major graphics glitches. I'm proud of alot of the code though, most of the PSX emulators out there are only worried about playable games. My hope is that eventually MAME will contain the worlds first 100% accurate PSX emulator ( coming 2048 ;-) ).

13. What does your significant other think of MAME and other projects?

smf: She hasn't played games on any of the emulators I've worked on yet, although I was very popular when I tracked down her favourite Amstrad CPC games. Computers/consoles/games do not really play any part in our relationship, which makes a refreshing change.

14. What do you use for test equipment and what's your dev environment like?

smf: I have an old Microvitec CUB monitor, a control panel ripped out of a flood damaged
cab & an old PC power supply for running the odd board. I carry my development laptop
everywhere that I might get a bit of time to poke around with something or the other.

15. When testing MAME do you use a keyboard and mouse or do you use Arcade controls?

smf: My laptop keyboard & touch pad. A mate of mine has a cabinet, which I normally have a few goes on when I'm round his.

16. Do you use a front end, if so what is currently your front end of choice?

smf: Never, I used to use MAME32 and that had its own front end. Now I just use the command line. If I were to use a front end then it would probably be my mate's personal one ( or he'd never forgive me ).

17. How does MAME compare currently compare to what you thought MAME would be when you first started?

smf: MAME has pretty much stayed the same, although increasingly people have less time for it & there are always less and less games that you'd love to see. There is still the odd surprise, I was ill at home when Haze couldn't get Horizon working properly. I'd never played it before, but getting it working was lots of fun.

18. Do you feel like your work is appreciated?

smf: I don't particularly worry about other people. I know that some people do and some people don't.

19. What would you suggest for some young developers, who are interested in emulation, as a starting point?

smf: You have to work your nuts off to get something worth doing, if you don't want to
do that then don't start. Find something you want to emulate and don't worry if
someone else has already done it before, come up with something new to add to the
mix can be fun. Stop when you don't find it fun any more. It goes without saying
that understanding assembler and how hardware works at a reasonable level is a must.
There is alot of information out there, if you're capable of grasping the concepts.

20. Dumbest question you ever actually answered? (This one doesn't count)

smf: The dumbest comes up quite alot and involves why we don't put the ZiNc source into MAME. There are a few reasons as to why we can't, but I've never thought of a single reason why we should.


That wraps up 20 questions with developer smf. I’d like to thank smf for spending time with me for this interview. I’d also like to thank the members at BYOAC who helped come up with some of the questions.

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