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[Interview] marshallh – N64 homebrew scene programmer

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    Start-Game recently interviewed marshallh, an active programmer from the N64 homebrew scene, here’s the interview:

    Hello marshallh, Tchoin from here, what’s up?

    Just drinking some coffee and putting off schoolwork due in a few hours… haha

    As I said, we’ll make this interview about your work as an N64 scene programmer, and your outstanding tech demo you released a couple of weeks ago.
    Ready to begin?

    Sure, go ahead

    So, tell us a bit about yourself, for how long have you been active in the N64 scene and what pushed you into it?

    It was in early 2006 that I started to get interested, I never had a N64 to myself when I was younger. I had been programming 3d stuff on my computer for a little while, and wanted to try something different. I grabbed a Doctor V64 from a Brit off ebay and started messing around with the various code samples I’d found on the internet.

    The N64 scene was absolutely dead at this time, and I had to figure out everything by myself. It was tough at first but scouring the net high and low enough, you will eventually get what you need.

    As some may know, programming for N64 is not an easy task, was it very hard to get the grips of it and start making some decent apps?

    I have around 20-30 failed projects on my old hard drive, most of them never saw the light of day. Some of those are in a youtube video I put up. It’s basically specialized embedded systems coding, you have a basic RTOS (real time operating system), and hardware that’s completely different from, say a PC. There are no «how-to» guides, debugging with my V64 was non-existent, my code either worked or it didn’t.

    For the ones that don’t have a clue about N64 homebrew scene, what programming language, software (IDEs and such), and SDK’s do you use?

    If there ever was a proper IDE, I never used it. I just open up some code in Notepad++. All the code besides some hardware initialization stuff is in C. The compiler was made by SN Systems back in the day, and it’s called by some batch files I wrote.

    The 3D meshes in the demo I released a bit ago were done in the freeware modeling package Anim8or, and converted with several custom tools I wrote. The thing about the N64 is due to its unique design you end up having to write specialized tools just to do anything. For example, I wrote a 3d mesh converter, texture format converter, sky sphere mesh generator, font/character set generator, sound format converter, etc.

    What would be your advice for those that would like to enter the N64 homebrew scene?

    My advice? You can’t expect to jump right in and be able to create games/demos/whatever right off the bat, hell it took me 5 years to build enough tools and knowledge to make the demo.

    I’ve helped quite a few people who were interested in getting started over the years, but they all gave up and moved on. You really have to have a serious drive and love for the system.

    But all the passion won’t help you if you can’t cut the mustard technically. I will say this: if you aren’t proficient with C and a 3d system like OpenGL or Direct3D you will crash and burn when you try N64. I’ve seen so many people who think they know C and «did some 3d stuff a while back» that turn out to hardly know what vertex transformation is. You simply have to grind, grind, and grind some more. There’s no easy way.

    Okay, now moving on to your N64 tech demo, tell us a bit about it.

    It was early March this year that I decided I would be taking some of my stuff to MGC (a classic gaming convention here in the US), but I needed something relatively complete to show. Not enough time to make a game, but enough time to put together a few random ideas I had.

    I put together the demo over the span of a few very long days. The last two days I did nothing except sync the visuals to the music (which was composed by a young producer in the US named Ian Slider). The exception is the terrain tech which I had done last year.

    Compared to some other demos for other platforms that touch upon deep themes like life, death, existentialism, and so on, this demo is entirely superficial. It’s just fun to look at, and it did well when I showed it to other people in person, it was more like a «hey, that’s pretty cool for N64» sort of thing.

    @Screenshots from the Tech Demo wrote:

    Not too long ago you were working on a terrain rendering engine, and we can see the results in the tech demo, is that project finished?

    Terrain is something that is more like background imagery, it’s not something that can stand by itself. It would look great in some sort of rally racing game, but it’ll have to wait for now. I just don’t have the time.

    @Screenshot from the terrain rendering engine wrote:

    And one last question for closing this interview, are you planning on making a full N64 game in the near future? Or are you on to other N64 related projects?

    I wouldn’t hold your breath on a game, but something I’ve wanted to do now is build a motion capture studio and use it to provide movement for a character system 🙂 When I do another N64 demo it will have a lot more depth to it.

    Thanks a lot for your time, and congratulations on your very impressive work!


    If you want to learn more about marshallh’s projects, be sure to check:

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