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Interview with Zeograd - author of HuGo! conducted by Opi via email in may 2000 !

Please introduce yourself and your personal preferences 
Zeograd - I'm a 20 year old french student. I love computers in general, especially all kind of creation, comprising coding :) In real life as well as in the internet life, I trust in some values : I think that knowledge is very important, that's why I like learning and teaching a lot. I trust also in deserving. Nothing makes me more angry than software whose price or fame doesn't match with what it deserves. I mainly think of a widely spread User Interface made by the more bloated computer compagny existing :) Which made me fond of open source and free software in general. Anyway, all of this certainly don't interest anyone, let's go to serious questions ^_^ 
Why did you choose the engine for your emulation efforts 
Zeograd - I owned a PC Engine in the early '90 and I found it great especially at this time. I thought I would think the same for every recent console I was going to see, but in fact, I had never feel the same. It may be because of passion we could find in the games. I mean that IMHO the pc engine era wasn't ruled by money yet (well, games were made for money but ALSO for fun, unlike modern systems) I should also mention that the technical characteristics were well used. Games were not relying only on the machine power but instead were using all the ingenuousity of coders. I've rarely seen such interesting games even if, technicaly speaking, 32 or 64 bits console can render much prettier games. 
Why is the France such a paradise for Engine emulator programmers - you and the Magic Engine team represent 66% of the serious developer ?
Zeograd - I'd like to say two things about that. First, in France, we've beneficiated of an almost official support of Pc engine. We had a company called Sodipeng (for 'Société Officielle de DIstribution de Pc ENGine', which is roughly 'PC Engine distribution official company') which help a lot introducing PC engine hardware and games. It may come from this official support, i.e. french enjoyed Pc Engine a lot and then have been more likely to code for it. On another hand, emu coding is only a small part of the developement scene around it. It's only the achievement of an 'underground' work made since the very beginning of the console. I mainly think of the turbo hack list (to which belong Nyef, David Michel, David shadoff, and lots of I don't cite but still thanks). Bt garner is keeping the pc engine alive with this (and others) mailing list e.g. And you'll quickly see that there are very few frenchies in it. That's why I think it's mainly a coincidence to see 2 emu >from France :) 
Do you see a chance to rip the music score of the ROM images ? Like they did it with NSF for NES or a similar thing as they made for the SNES (SPC) ?
Zeograd - In fact, it had already been done by Jamsponge (part of the hu6280 team), well more or less because it was still a rom, but I bet the harder had been done in this case. Currently, I'm working on the music studies in the cd system card. Since we are making a PC Engine C compiler at utopia, we need all kinds of libraries. We have already some tiles and sprites ones but the music part hadn't been tackled yet. In the cd system card, it appears that a kind of 'module' player is built in. It would use MML music language which appears to be not pc engine specific and thus maybe we can grab some player for it. The harder would be then to extract the data from the cd. BUT, nothing tell us that hucards use a similar way of doing (they can add their own way of playing music), and even if they do, we must find out where it is in the rom to extract it and then we have to write a player (if not already existing) for it.
(If yes) - Are you planning to write a music player or a Winamp plugin for it ? 
Zeograd - Personaly, no. I'd like to be able to use the one which is built in the cd system but I don't have time nor interest in doing this. However if someone want to make one, I'd be glad to give him a hand. 
(if no) - Do you exchange information with other Engine emu developer ?
Zeograd - Since the Pc Engine scene is no more involved in heavily money business, PC engine emulator developer don't have good reasons to keep information for themselves. Even David Michel (whose emulator is shareware) helps A LOT the pc engine scene, even if he's the only one to have reasons to hide his knowledge. Personally, I work a lot with Nyef (author of DarcNes)because he's both friendly and a very clever Pc Engine hacker (and the only one that can stand me, lol). And with the IDE for the C compiler, we'll try to put the most comprehensible Pc Engine hardware related informations (a task already tackled by J. restemeyer) gathering all the relevant info that can be found on the web and adding each our little touch :) 
Are there any plans to include Super GrafX emulation ?
Zeograd - Well, to be honest, I've not planned anything at all in this. Super GraphX case is quite special. It had a great potential but was very bad used and most important, was never really supported by marketing. Thus there are only half a dozen games for it. I had never fell the need to add support to it, mainly because I didn't own a SuperGraphX nor had seen any SuperGraphX game running in truth. I don't mean I won't add it but I don't currently plan to make any special studies to support it, but it anyone publicly bring information, I'll try to implement them.
Are you going to develop CD emulation under Win9X ?

Zeograd - I've recently added ASPI drivers to Hu-Go! and thus, it supports "perfectly" PC Engine CDs under Win95 and 98.

What are your favourite PC Engine games ?
Zeograd - That's a pretty easy question, because I love Neutopia II and Super Star Soldier. Although I discovered lots of pretty "new" games with emulation. DraculaX for example is the living proof that the PC Engine can do better than the most recent machines. Personally, I'm fond of RPG and shoot'em up but as for RPG it's rather difficult on Pc Engine with the minority of non japanese RPG on it. As for shoot'em up, well... it's the paradise. Plenty of them, most of them very coloured, very fast, with an incredible gameplay. Unforgetable. The hardware of the Pc Engine is sprite based and thus very likely to display huge monsters at light speed. Even if speed helps a lot, I must also stress that most games uses manga like design and that's very cute (or in the contrary, very sci-fi). This was giving them a special touch that nobody can deny, and which made them so addictive.
What are your favourite overall games ?

Zeograd - I also like Super Nintendo a lot and also N64. As for Super nintendo, I'd quote Starwing (starfox) because it was the first game for 16 bits that was really in 3d. I mean with liberty of movement, not just with some pseudo 3d (even if Axelay was very good in it). As for RPG, I'd say that Final Fantasy 4,5 and 6 were incredible. I really regret the way Square choose to continue with the 7th and 8th.

On another style, I played Zelda a lot on Super Nintendo and even the one for N64. I like them really (I spent an incredible amount of time on Zelda 1). Finally, I'd say that I've spent lots of night playing Street Fighter 2 and Killer Instinct when they appeared, with my best friend we could spend a whole day fighting one against the other (when I was beating him in fact, lol) trying to eat when the intro screen was showing to avoid losing gaming time :)

Do you use other emulators in your spare time ?
Zeograd - Since I also like SNES, I use ZSnes and Snes9X. And more generally, a bit of everything such as NeoRageX, Mame, Callus, no$gb. Not really PSX nor N64 emu because I don't have a 3d card and thus see everything in replay motion ^^ (apart psemu pro a bit)
What do you think about the current emulation scene, the flame wars between the major (US) emulation sites, the crap some people wrote (EmuChrist and others) and the commercial thinking behind emulation (Bleem, VGS, Magic Engine ...) ?

Zeograd -  Well, to be honest, I hadn't noticed that major emulation sites were having a 'flame' war nor I know about EmuChist wrote but ... (research mode on) aha! (research mode off). Ok, in fact, I didn't know this aspect of the scene, I was betting it existed but I had never found it (I wasn't looking for it). I think that emulation is made for fun, it mustn't be a pretext for some site ops to sell ads on their site if they don't trust in emulation. I mean I perfectly understand that emu sites sells ads and thus make money if they don't keep saying that emu user are mostly lamers and such (first, I bet, they don't really know what a lamer is, what's the true meaning). Anyway, emulation was created by fans whose only goal was fun, entertainment and such, not creation of war between sites or such.

As for the commercial emulator, I said previously that I trusted a lot in deserving. So a commercial emulator should be of a superior quality. I mainly know Magic Engine, and there's such a difference between it and others emus that its price is justified. As for VGS, I've never saw it so I can't say and Bleem performance are pretty near of those of free emus such as psemu pro. So, either psemu pro should be commercial, bleem becomes free or bleem performance improve to create a real gap between itself and free emus. As for the Bleem for dreamcast (I'm sick hearing this name again and again but it's interesting), it's different since there's no other PSX emu for DC (well, not yet :), so I consider that it's normal to make it commercial, I could also understand that they put it free but commercial is also normal. Whatever the emulated system, each thing must be at the price it deserves to. I'm as angry when I see poor commercial emu than perfect free emu which would deserve being commercials (even if price can be ridiculous...).

What's your opinion about emulation of systems which are still sold ?

Zeograd - Since emulation is for fun only, I think it could be normal to see emulators for system still sold. But then we run into a problem of legality with the current system holder. They're trying to stop emulation of their system because they're saying it prevent true systems to be sold. It's more or less true. It's not because someone will download a rom to play on a emulator that he would have bought the real cartridge if the emu hadn't existed. I think that a more judicious situation would rather be a kind of mutual agreement. For example, new system with CD, such as the psx, need the real CD to play (or the copy but that's another problem since you can play copies on most consoles) so if you want to play a game, you must buy the CD having not to buy the real system because you have an emulator. If someone doesn't have enough money to buy a system, he will never buy any games for it (apart if it's a special case of masochism). If this case, the compagny sells games they would have never sold with emulators.

Now, another point is the rom downloading on the internet. I'd like to show similarities with MP3 files. Big compagnies are annoyed to see files whose content is their property spread on the internet. And they're now trying to add system to their files to protect them against piracy being thus able to sell them just as every single musical CD in real life, production cost in less. I was wondering whether it wasn't possible for roms. Just imagine going to an official site, paying for example $25 for a brand new game, certified to work in certain emu and having the same game as the one you could buy for $50 in real life... Compagnies are still earning some money, they know that most people prefer a real system than a PC, playing on keyboard on a 15" monitor, and yet if the computer is powerful enough. This would be a kind of symbiosys between the underground scene and the official compagnies that would be perfect IMHO. Anyway, I know this is utopia :)

Take a look into the future, which major changes could we expect. Will you start a Win9X port for example ? 

Zeograd - A win9X port have been tackled and was running on some machine, to be precise, on ONE machine. Due to win9X port of allegro, it's not very stable yet and is crashing on beginning. But since it runs on one machine, I know it can be done quite easily, let's wait and see, it now relies on allegro advances I think. Else, I'd like to boost it a lot chaning the kernel for the 6280 cpu and tracking down some bugs in sound. then I'll tackle the Gui to make it usable really. I'd also like to be able to detach it from Allegro and easing ports (BeOs, Amiga, Win9X, Unix, X window, and such...).

Once all of this done, I'm sure I'll find something else to do with Hu-Go!, it's a never ending project :)

Off topic - As a member of the younger generation - what are your thoughts about the Euro, the EU and the NATO ? Difficult i know :)

Zeograd - About the NATO, I don't think they act very often. When they have to act, they generaly convert themselves so long that the conflict is finished when they choose to involve themselves in it. As for the EU, I think it will make Europe looks more and more like the United states. It has good and bad sides. I think it will be hard to maintain a cohesion between people with such various cultures. Trying to institute the same laws for everyone will always lead to unhappy people is some countries.

EU should try to let enough freedom to local institution to allow a kind of cultural adaptation of global rules. Similary to what happens in the United states with local laws in each states (which is quite stupid IMHO but it happens). The main advantages will be economical, it's sure than the Euro currency will help stabilizing prices (well, I can be wrong, I'm far from being a specialist :) and will be a currency made to compete with the US dollar.
But what is the most interesting IMHO is the ease it will bring for buying trough Europe, especially on the Internet, it will help buying items in Spain, Italy or Germany while staying in one's own country. Seeing that, I also hope that other Online shop will be supporting the Euro and make it easy for us, Europeans, to buy through the whole world without need to convert money and such.


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Interview with Zeograd, conducted by Opi during may 2000 - (c) Opi 2000 :)

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