All good things ...
I've been in the retro gaming community as a developer and reverse engineer for the past 22 years, and an active emulator developer for the past 15 years. I have learned so much, grown immeasurably, made countless amazing friends, and had more incredible life experiences than I can count. And most importantly, I had so much support along the way from everyone. It's been an absolute honor, truly!
I'm really proud of the work I've been able to do: from my involvement in the English fan translations of Dragon Quest V, Der Langrisser, and Mother 3; to helping preserve and verify over 1,200 games; to my emulators, bsnes and higan. And if you'll allow me this one indulgence, I'd like to think that I helped shift the narrative of emulation from a method of playing games, to a method of preserving history, by focusing on accuracy and completeness foremost.
But unfortunately, I'm getting older, and many factors have begun to weigh me down.
Why I'm stepping away from emulator development
I've started developing RSI symptoms in my hands that makes typing painful, and better ergonomics and breaks only get you so far once it's begun. I've also not been as adept at working a full-time job while also being able to work on my side projects. In my youth, I could easily work an eight-hour shift, come home, and code for another 4-8 hours. But these days, I can usually only manage an additional 2-3 hours. Experience allows me to work smarter than I used to, but again, that only gets you so far.
I've also, quite simply, taken on far too many emulation cores. What can I say, the thrill of emulating a new system is infinitely more exhilarating than spending twice as long to fix a small glitch in an obscure shovelware title ^-^; But, there's just no way I am going to be able to dedicate 10+ years per emulation core in higan alone, to bring them all up to the quality level of bsnes. Still, I like to think I've done a reasonably good job, all things considered. At this point, higan is very much a solid emulator for every system it supports.
My new job here in Japan is several times more demanding than my previous role back in the US, and I feel that I will be able to do a better job by scaling back on my personal projects. Not to mention, this is the opportunity of a lifetime to get to live in Tokyo, and here I've spent far too much time inside my apartment.
I seem to hit bursts of depression pretty reliably every five years. In 2010, when the pressure from bsnes v073 to be everything to everyone simultaneously got to be too much for me. In 2015, when the user interface library redesign for higan v094 became too overwhelming. And now once again in 2020, where it feels worse than ever.
Why I'm taking a leave from social media
The drama in the scene has also weighed heavily on me. And I fully accept my own responsibility for my past actions here. The truth is, the same passion that fueled me to spend thousands upon thousands of hours reverse engineering these games and game systems also resulted in me having passionate opinions on all manner of subjects. The two are extremely difficult to separate; it's just who I am. For most of my years online, I've felt like the underdog, and I've certainly been too overly defensive of my positions on things.
In isolation, it was hard for me to see the extent of this. But this was all really brought to the forefront for me in 2018, when pretty much every mistake I've ever made in life was chronicled and presented in the worst possible light against me. I don't harbor any ill will about it: I brought it on myself. Rather, it was a real wake-up call that I needed to change. And so rather than argue back and defend myself as I would have in the past, I set about improving myself instead.
This is what brought about the desire to revive the bsnes project. It's also what led me to take down my older opinion-piece articles, clean up my social media usage, make amends with many of my past most ardent detractors, and focus more on listening to the needs of others. I do sincerely hope folks have noticed the change these past two years: I'm not who I used to be anymore.
But there has been this lingering guilt that I haven't been able to shake these past two years: my emulators are not mine, they are the work of dozens of volunteers, developers, bug-testers, and more. The original bsnes project, and the later higan project, would never have amounted to much in isolation with just me working on them alone.
And yet, I put these emulators on my website, under my name, and then proceeded to post my own opinion piece articles, and engage poorly online under the very same moniker. In other words, my actions reflected upon everyone who contributed to these emulation projects. I spoke for them. I sincerely regret this and it's caused me a fair amount of anxiety, but there wasn't much I could do beyond bettering myself and promoting the work of others who helped out, and I did my best in this regard.
My friends have also been caught in the cross-fire of all of this, and it has caused some of them distress. I can handle criticism that stays focused on me, but not when it begins to affect the people I care about.
Unfortunately, I finally came to the realization this year that no amount of contrition and atonement was ever going to make up for the past, and that I needed to separate myself from these emulators. I went over so many scenarios, but it always came back to the problem of everything being hosted on the byuu.org domain: 15 years of history and hundreds of thousands of backlinks means this domain will have to stay up pretty much indefinitely. 301 redirects would not be able to solve this.
The only possible solution I could come up with was changing my name, and then repurposing byuu by capitalizing on the good will earned through bsnes, and creating an easy-to-use alternative for all of my emulation cores, not just the SNES core. A crude strategy, for sure, but my only card left to play. I was transparent about this from the start.
And so I've poured every ounce of free time these past two months into working toward this goal. But regrettably, it just hasn't worked. The name change to Near did not work at all, and was tied back to my emulation work within an hour, thus defeating the entire point of it.
The problem is that the internet is not like any other time in human history: everything we ever say and do gets recorded and indexed, all readily available to anyone curious, for all of time. This is new, and it's something that society has not really adapted to yet. I think we will reach that point in a generation or two. But right now, it seems impossible to be forgiven for our past mistakes. They all add up and weigh us down like an albatross around our necks. Stay around on the internet long enough, and it will eventually crush even the best of us.
I could go back and read the things written about me from 2015 by people I've since made peace with and anger myself again. But that's not who they are today: that's who they were.
People change. I'm embarrassed myself seeing how I've acted in the past. I don't stand behind much of my old writing, some of it literally decades old now. I've been online since I was a teenager; obviously not everything has aged well. You don't have to forget the past, but you have to be willing to give people second chances in life.
These emulation projects are more important than myself, and so I've made the difficult decision to let them go: as of today, I have transferred ownership to a new community development project, led by MerryMage, Screwtape, qwertymodo, and more. Anyone who is passionate and wants to work on the codebase may inquire about joining the effort.
Perhaps in a few months with my disengagement with emulator development, I'll be able to participate online again as byuu. And if things really improve for the better, maybe I can even contribute upstream to the new group projects. Maybe consider this more of a hiatus than a retirement. You never know. It certainly wouldn't be the first time I've thrown in the towel, only to return again later.
But for now, I trust the people who have taken over bsnes and higan, and I hope to see the emulators continue to grow and flourish in the future.
Finally, once again I'll offer my apology to those I've wronged over the years with my opinions. I've learned a lot and grown significantly as a person in recent years, so I hope that we can all finally move on now. But at this point, there's literally nothing more I can do from my side.
The truth is, the overwhelming majority of you have been wonderfully supportive and tolerant of me throughout all of these years. And your support is absolutely what has kept me going all this time. I can't thank you all enough for that. I wish you all the very best in the future!