InterView With Superfro
Superfro is the coder behind MameX, fancbox, logo-x, bios
hacks and tutorials for the Xbox Scene.
This interview conducted on the 7TH October 2002.
Xbox Evolution: 1) Can you tell us where were you born,
where you live,etc.?
Superfro: I'd prefer not to.
Xbox Evolution: 2) What qualifications do you have?
Superfro: Well, I have my diploma from high school, and 10
years of development experience. All self taught. I've written
software in pretty much every language, on many platforms.
Xbox Evolution: 3) What made you get into computers?
Superfro Back when I was about 13 I had a friend who I used
to hang around with alot. His father did something with computers,
and he was fortunate to have a Apple II that he neglected
to show interest in. And hanging around him, I used to play
with his computer and ... what can I say I was hooked! A year
or 2 later I had a class in school dealing with computers...
and it was on from there.
Xbox Evolution: 4) What projects/coding have you done previous
to your Xbox Scene work.?
Superfro I've done development on PS1 (nothing big), Linux,
and alot of PalmOS software.
Xbox Evolution: 5) You were the second coder to take on
the MameX project, what have you brought to it and how far
can it be took ?
Superfro After I found out that OpCode was leaving the project,
I felt that this was my calling. I wanted to get into the
XBOX scene, I had a XBOX, and the XBOX being so PC-Like, I
felt I was there. OpCode did an exellent job getting it put-together,
figuring out what _needs_ to be done, I started filling in
some gaps starting with beta-5. The basic elements where there,
but the gui needed a splash of color, error messages needed
to be mostly xbox related, not really MAME. Then a new MAME
core (.61) was released by mame.net. Sadly enough it wasn't
a easy upgrade, the .diff file was ~ 4.5 megs. They've been
doing alot of internal changes. So after a few failed attempts
to merge the .61 update, I started over. Using the foundation
that OpCode provided, I knew what problems I would have by
comparing what was changed in .60.
Starting the port over worked out much better than trying
to merge .61 changes to .60's core. That was beta 6 which
I also added a NeoGeo/CPS version that has all the drivers
stripped so more memory is available. Alot of larger games
can be run by using a this version, and switching between
the two is easy. There were bunch of features added, nvram
settings, 1st attempt at the highscore saving, alot of stability
Now I've been working on beta 7, with alot of debugging, trying
to figure out why the games that don't work, simply don't
work. Mostly it's memory related but i've been fixing a few
of the drivers, pal60 bugs, trimming code to save memory,
vector games like asteroids, and the most major thing has
been partitioning the drivers so that I can de-allocate the
unused drivers from memory when launching a game. So far this
part has been a bit slow.
So I've been working on my own Demand Paging system, allowing
the XBOX to utilize the harddrive to swap memory, since the
XBOX does not have this funcntionality.
Xbox Evolution 6) What limitations on there with regards
to ram on the Xbox and the size of some of the bigger Mame
Superfro Well the retail XBOX comes with 64 megs of shared
system-videocard memory. So thats problem #1. Second the XBOX
loads the entire executable into memory before executing it.
So MAME being as large as it is, you load a 12 Meg executable,
and between that and the system/videocard overhead, you're
only left with about 44 Megs in ram. Then the MAME code was
designed to load the entire rom into memory before executing
(just like the xbox). So considering you have a rom that is
< 44 megs, once it's loaded some games need to build tilemaps
and allocate RAM for their own code execution.
This is definately a challenge for post pacman era games.
But i'm loving it.
Xbox Evolution 7) What do you have planned for another of
your projects fanCbox ?
Superfro fanCbox, well pretty much at it's point now, it's
used to make designer-like-bioses. Changing colors and other
useful hacks. I have some more bios hacks lined up, all I
can say is keep watching the news boards for those features.
I have been trying to dedicate more time to getting MAME-X
beta 7 out, so thats why I havn't added these parts yet.
Xbox Evolution 8) What was the Breakthrough in getting emulators
or infact any software working on the Xbox?
Superfro Breakthrough? Well modification chips that allow
homebrew software to be ran are still fairly new. But I believe
MAME was the first thing that caught people's eyes and gave
hope to all the other emulators. I get email every day telling
me they bought the xbox just for MAME. There is however an
older port, say 8 months ago, a guy using a Development box
ported MAME but never gave anyone a way to access it. He has
screenshots, but nothing else.
So the big breakthrough applause goes to the original guys
who figured out how to modify the XBOX allowing homebrew code
to be ran. My hats off to them.
Xbox Evolution 9) How easy is it to port emulators from
Windows DirectX Versions to the Xbox?
Superfro It depends on the code. MAME code is somewhat cryptic,
Lots of defines of defines. The main problem with porting
code to XBOX is the GUI/Engine abstraction. Luckily for MAME,
it's a commandline version which pretty much leaves the whole
UI up to you, and just setting internal variables like commandline
switches. Other then that, It's easier to port windows code
to XBOX then it would be to say... Linux.
Xbox Evolution 10) When will we see a fully legal emulator/
application for the Xbox?
Superfro All eyes on the OpenXDK project. The goal is to
provide a SDK developers can use without using Microsoft's
code. I have faith in the OpenXDK project and have been trying
to help out, it's real tough at the moment because the beginning
steps are the toughest, and most people have work/school to
attend to first. OpenXDK needs a devoted project coordinator
with plenty of time on their hands. Time is very valuable,
So I understand what the problem is. Once a bare foundation
is released, OpenXDK will skyrocket, and that is when you
will see legal emulators.
Xbox Evolution: 11) However unlikely, will there be a way
of using Homebrew on the Xbox without a Modchip.?
Superfro Microsoft took alot of measures into their encryption
methods, mod chips will continue to get easier, but having
looked for loopholes in the boot process myself, I almost
doubt you will be able with no chip at all.
Xbox Evolution: 12) We have seen some great emulators and
software already come out on the Xbox, Whats your favourite
Superfro I'm trying not to be biased on this one but MAME
is my passion, I own lots of other consoles, and PC emulation
doesn't thrill me, I have a PC, I have windows, I have linux,
I have a dvd/vcd player. MAME is the one thing I do not have,
I don't own 3000 cabnets of games. I would even purchase the
roms lagally if I could without buying warehouses full of
old arcade machines.
Xbox Evolution: 13) What would you like to see ported to
the Box and what is realistically the limit to what can be
Superfro What would I like to see? Tough decision, currently
nothing comes to mind. I'd like to see more non-ported software,
original XBOX software designed to use the networking features
that older console's lacked. Network games, Network appliance
usage. But honestly I'm very contempt with the progress that
everyone who has contributed has accomplished. It can only
get better from here.
We at Xbox Evolution would like to thank Superfro for his
time in answering these questions and for his many efforts
in continuing the Xbox hobbyist development scene.
This document/interview is Copyright © 2002 by Wraggster
and may not be reproduced in whole or part without permission
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