Kinox TyRaNiD interview

This interview was taken from top emu site Kinox. They have not given TITAN permission to use this interview, but who cares?


I. About the Interview
MGandhi has interviewed TyRaNiD, author of Lucifer and Sat'On'Em, both Saturn emulators. During this interview, he talks about SEGA stuff, Saturn failures, programming tips and some exclusive news! I loved this interview because I was searching some informations about Saturn emulators, when I have stumbled into Lucifer website. Some minutes ago, TyRaNiD has joined #rareroms channel, so I have decided to interview him :)
II. Thanks
I want to thanks TyRaNiD, because he answered 34 questions quickly and online (through IRC). He's a very good guy, and cares our coverage!


1. Introduce yourself :)
Hmm, well nicks TyRaNiD. 21 years old, student and a big saturn fan :)

2. When was your first contact with emulators?
When I was about 16/17 [years old], a friend gave me a Sinclair Spectrum emulator with loads of roms. I loved the fact... I could play Manic Miner and all my favourite games from the past on my PC. So I've been into emus ever since.

3. Do you remember the name of the emulator?
I can't remember [the name] now. It's was a far time ago, I dumped it as soon as I got a preliminary snes emu which was much better.

4. Were there tons of emulation sites as we can see now when you started?
At the time [when it has happened], I wasn't on the net so I don't really know. The few bbs systems I visited had a fair collection of Specturm cassette dumps tho. Nothing on the scale of today however.

5. And what are your favorite consoles?
In no particular order: SNES/SFC, Saturn and Mega Drive [Genesis]. I would probably still say the SNES is my all time favourite console.

6. Besides Lucifer, you tried to develop another emulator?
I did do some work on a [SEGA]32x emulator with a few friends but that ended up falling through I did get some grafix display running. But my lack of Mega Drive emulation caused a major problem. The only other emulator was Sat'On'Em which was my DOS based Saturn emu but that progress onto Lucifer in the end.

7. Do you started Lucifer because Saturn is one of your favorite consoles?
To be honest I had only owned a Saturn for about 2 weeks at the time I started originally on Sat'On'Em. (about 2 years ago I think) so not really. I started it because I felt it should have been a console which had been emulated already and decided to have do it myself.

8. What happened with your Saturn?
I knew people with Saturns but I had never bought one myself, always just had a [Sony] Playstation. But when X-Men vs Street Fighter came out [for Saturn], I just had to get it and 2nd hand Saturns were very cheap, so my brother and I have bought one and had many happy dayz beating each other up :)

9. Always when we talk about Saturn, somebody says: Saturn was a catastrophe, Playstation is much better. What do you think about it?
The Saturn had many problems: Poor marketing, difficulty of programming it effectively and poor 3d support (which most ppl saw as a disadvantage). All in all it killed Saturn in many western gamers (lamers ? ) eyes. I don't think it was a failure as the Saturn has so many great gamez never released on any other system. It's just Sony had the hardware, the money and the marketing strategy to kill Saturn.

10. I dont know if you heard something about it, but SEGA has announced a Saturn emulator for DC. It's a good idea?
Yes, I think it's a good idea, specially after Sony problems to get PSX games running in the new Playstation 2 :) Backwards support in consoles is always a good thing. Oh, of course there is the rumour that the Saturn will get some sort of re-release which might negate the need for an emu, at least in Sega economic terms.

11. DC uses WinCE, the difficulty to develope a software for it is the same as to develope for Windows?
At the end of the day it is a different system and the DirectX components have been modified accordingly. I think the claim that you could port a Windows game in a week is true but it would be slow as hell. Basically I think most coders are writting closer to the hardware than DirectX allows so it would be harder to develop a good Dreamcast game as opposed to a Windows game.

12. What's the current Lucifer status?
Discontinued. It got pretty far but I had to cancel the project. Mainly due to pharoah [, another Lucifer coder] dissappearance without any trace. I haven't heard from him in about 6 months or so and I dont have the time to continue it on my own.

13. Azuco is developing A-Saturn, a very promising Saturn emulator, are you helping him with A-Saturn?
I keep in contact with Azuco fairly regularly and he gives me the latest A-Saturn source code... I look over the code and check if I can help him. He is attepting [at this moment] to port Lucifer's CD system code to A-Saturn which needs a large amount of work doing. I'm not "helping" officialy, A-Saturn code is 99% his own code.

14. What is the emulator which is nearest Saturn emulation? A-Saturn or Lucifer?
For a short period of time, Lucifer was leading but in the end of my emu [Lucifer, which hasn't coded for 6 months], Azuco (A-Saturn) has far surpassed where I got to. However I did have almost working CD code which A-Saturn still lacks.

15. Where did you find difficulty in code your emulator?
My main problem in the Saturn emulator was my attempt to synchronize many different processors at once and making it fast. However possibly the worst feature of the Saturn [to emulate] is the background gfx processor. People dont like to code the Saturn with that thing in it.

16. I dont know if you know something about SEGA CD or SEGA 32x, but what's most complicated to develope an emulator? 32x, SEGA CD or Saturn?
I would say Saturn. The 32x is a pretty simple piece of kit if you have a pre-existing Mega Drive emulator. I have looked into the SEGA CD and you have problems in synchronizing the two 68k processors but nothing as bad as the 8 or so chips in the Saturn.

17. Zoop, the author of Meka, is working in a Genesis emulator with 32x support since a long time, but according some guys, he uses C. Do you think it will be fast? ASM isnt a better choice?
ASM [Assembly] is only useful in time critical situations. There isn't point writting an entire emulator in ASM when you can do 95% of the code in 10% of the time it would take to write in asm. It will still be fast as long as all critical areas are written in optimised ASM. I'm sure Zoop knows what he is doing on that front.

18. In your opinion, what will be emulated first? SEGA CD, SEGA 32x, or SEGA Saturn?
I feel although there is a SEGA CD emu has already been written but never relased. I think the first one to go public would be 32x, the SEGA CD and in last last place the Saturn (unless somebody knows something about a working Saturn emu which no one else does.).

19. Why are you feeling it? It's because the recently start of SEGA CD Power? [a ROM dump group headed by SAV2880]
Not really, I'm just fairly confident someone has alreadly written a SEGA CD emu. I'm sure there are many emulators which have been written and never released which ppl never knew about. There does seem to be a resurrection of the SEGA CD format recently but that seems to be a running thing. As ppl have got faster internet access and also the cheap price of CD-Rs, downloading whole CDs [ISOs] have become a viable proposition.

20. It will be released soon or wont be released to the public?
No I heard about it about 7 or 8 months ago. However the author canned it after getting hate mail. Although I'm sure there are others waiting in the wings or currently being developed.

21. Did you receive something from SEGA asking for you to stop your emulator?
Nope, I've never had contact with SEGA over my emulator. I feel SEGA have more relaxed attitude to emulation than Nintendo or Sony. As far as I know they have never really bothered anyone who has emulated a SEGA machine ever. Of course, if someone starts a DC emulator right now, that would change...

22. You said me some questions ago about the difficulty to sync the 68k processors. System18 uses 2 68k processors, there is any chance to use the System16 source to help the development?
In the SEGA CD? It's possible but I would assume that the System18 arcade uses two processors at the same clock frequency, SEGA CD doesnt. It's quite easy to run two processors at the same speed in an emulator. Emulating the [Hitachi] sh2 system in the Saturn is not very hard as the master and slave both run concurrently. However you should take into account bus mastering for true sync.

23. I dont know all about Saturn, what is the Saturn's heart?
The heart of the Saturn is 2 Hitachi Super H 2 RISC processors. They run the programs. Then you have two video processors: one for backgrounds and one for sprites, a 68k for sound, a general sound processor with dsp, a slave dsp for fast math calculation, a peripheral controller for pads and such, and finally a super H 1 for the CD system (which doesn't have to directly emulated by the way). Very complex and very powerful if programmed correctly.

24. What would be the minimum cfg to get a Saturn emulator running?
Something pretty fast... A good Pentium 3 maybe or AMD Athlon, and about 32 MB of RAM. The trouble is the 3D acceleration of the grafix... wont be easy or impossible as it is not a real 3D machine, so no speed benefits could be gained by using it.

25. What's the Bleem's secret to be reasonable fast, if it emulates a similar system?
3D acceleration, high level emulation where possible and a blatant disregard of proper windows coding practices (such as hooking routines into the kernel level or sommit like that). And of course randy [Bleem CEO] is a good programmer.

26. What do you think about paid emulators?
I do agree with them somewhat in principle although I wouldn't pay for one myself. However the product has to work on almost anything the user could throw at it as if it was the original machine. Which bleem blatantly doesnt.

27. There is enough information about Saturn to develop the emulator, or something is still missing?
I think there is enough infomation on the web if you can find it or get someone to send it to you. There are very little documentations on the web for ppl wanting to start a Saturn emu unfortunately. When I started it was very easy to find but there is no major docs which are unavailable...

28. Do you use only information already available, or you request from Hitachi or another manufacturer tech docs?
The docs on the [Hitachi] sh2 processor can be got straight from Hitachi website [www.hitachi.co.jp]. As for the actual special Saturn hardware, you have to get hold of the confidential SEGA documents on it which has questionable legality. The only free document available on the SEGA Saturn (isnt a sh2 doc) is the CD hardware manual which I wrote through many hours of debugging code. SEGA never produced an actual hardware document on the CD system, all the hardware except the sh2's, the 68k and the DSP, are SEGA's own design, so you need their docs for it.

29. Are they (docs) easy to get?
Not really. I got most of mine from the SEMU [one of the first Saturn emulators] author. I think he still sells a cd with all the docs. There are a few scattered about on a few web sites but they aren't easy to find. The best way to get them is to know someone who has them already. However I prefer not to distribute them to ppl, so if somebody email me unless he has a very good explanation why they want them.

30. What is the Saturn CD drive speed?
2x

31. If my CD drive is 8x (ie), the emulator will be able to run it more than 2x?
It depends but as the Saturn reads data in the background then just increasing reading speed shouldnt be too great a problem as my CD code never got a complete real life test then I couldnt say for sure.

32. When we can expect a working Saturn emulator?
Maybe next year if we are lucky. SSF seems to be doing pretty well progress apparently (I've not got it to work at all yet) and A-Saturn might do it soon. The grafix are at least improving dramatically.

33. So SSF is the current most accurate Saturn "emulator"?
Really A-Saturn is the most accurate but from what Azuco has been saying, it might seriously rival for A-Saturn for the first saturn emu. As I've never had it working, (DOS4GW crashes the program at start) I have no way of determining it.

34. Thanks for the interview, do you have any new or on-going project related to the emu scene?
I am currently developing a Sega saturn debugger via the use of a par and PC Commlink which while not directly related to Saturn emulation could help ppl work out how the Saturn operates by allowing them to debug code on a real saturn. Its my current project.

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