Steve Snake interview

Steve Snake is the creator of Kgen, ine of the best Megadrive/Genesis emus made. He has also done a lot of other cool things..............
Unfortunately, Steve dissapeared from the internet before the interview was finished, so this isn't a complete inteview. Still, we can enjoy what is here........

Please tell us a little about yourself. Like, why do you don't have a nick?
Steve Snake: Umm... well, a lot of Emulator Authors don't use a "nick", do they ? I don't know what else to say.........

How did you get into the 'emulation scene'?
Steve Snake: Well, I've been interrested in Emulators for as long as I can remember, and I always wanted to write one myself. I started writing a Spectrum Emulator on the Amiga back in 1987, and then a Master System/Game Gear emulator on the PC in 1993, which quickly turned into a MegaDrive/Genesis emulator. But I never really got very far - not because I couldn't, but because I lost interrest for one reason or another. More often that not, I was just too busy with my full time job as a Games Programmer.

Then, one day in 1997, I got myself a decent (at the time - a P200MMX) PC. I provided Gary Henderson (Snes9x) with some code to handle the SNES sound format, enabling him (and later others) to add sound to their SNES emulators. Now I had "the bug" all over again, and decided to start from scratch, on the first ever serious PC program I had ever written. KGen was born.

My motivation for writing KGen ? Well, first of all, my favourite machines of all time, the Spectrum, the Commodore 64, and the PC Engine had all been emulated pretty much perfectly (and I had already bought registered copies of Z80, C64S, and Magic Engine) - leaving only one machine - the Genesis. At the time there was only one I was aware of - Genem. And even on my brand new fast PC it didn't run anywhere near fast enough to be useable, and the sound was pathetic.

I knew I could get a Genesis Emulator running at full speed on my new PC. And I was pretty sure I could do the sound properly. Up until this point, nobody had ever written a realtime FM synthesizer on the PC, let alone put it in an Emulator. The author of Genem said it wasn't possible. So I set out to prove to the world that it was. Once I had my Z80 emulator working, I began with the Sound stuff. And once I had the music from Ghouls'N'Ghosts playing almost perfectly, I became more and more motivated to get this thing into a working Genesis emulator. Less than a year later, many other Emulators appeared featuring proper FM emulation. It's good to know that I motivated other people to have a go ;)

And that lead to Kgen, by many regarded as the best best Megadrive/Genesis emulator. Even Sega used it to do a compilation of old games on the PC. How did that deal happen?
Steve Snake: I'd just done a major rewrite of KGen (which later became KGen98) when I got an Email from somebody at Sega of America. It was very vague just saying that they needed to talk to me. I immediately halted all production because I assumed they were not happy about my emulator. However, after months and months of hearing nothing, I went ahead and released KGen98.

Shortly afterwards they contacted me again, and it transpired that they wanted to release some Genesis games with a Windows / DirectX version of KGen. I was very relieved, and very happy to help ;)

Do you have any plans for Kgen? Like maybe release the source-code?
Steve Snake: No. KGen is no more, for many reasons. I cannot release source code because of the deal with Sega. Not that I would really want to anyway, since it wouldn't benefit anybody except someone who wanted to rip it off and release it as their own. Everything in there is extremely closely tied together - I cannot even extract, say, the Z80 emulator from it because it's heavily tied to other stuff.

KGen has gone as far as it can go without a 100% rewrite. And a 100% rewrite would produce an entirely different emulator...........

Do you belive in 'open-source' or 'free' software?
Steve Snake: Well, obviously I believe in free software - hence KGen ;) You know, if I'd have charged just $1 per download I'd be a rich man by now. But there you go....

Open-Source is good for things like Linux, and utilities like Compression etc.

How much cooperation is there between emulation developers? Do you help eachother out a lot, like you did with the Snes9x team?
Steve Snake: Well, I can't say that anyone really helped me with KGen, but that's OK because I knew what I was doing. But I've been known to help anyone who can be bothered to ask me a question. There is some of my Code and other wisdom in DGen, and I'm sure several emulators are using my SideWinder drivers without even realising it, (e.g. ZSNES) because *somebody* asked me for the code, only to spread it to other authors without giving me credit.

I'm usually quite happy to offer code, information, or suggestions on various stuff. Can't speak for other emulator authors though ;)

Interview by Tunek
Date: 14/01 2000

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