To get right to the point: as of today, I have changed my name online from byuu to Near.
During my time online, I've gone by Nall, Shadow, and then byuu. I've specifically gone by byuu for the past 22 years now. That's a really long time. Everything I am known for online is under the name byuu. So why change it? There are many reasons, and they have long since outweighed the reasons to keep it.
I know this won't be an easy transition, and I don't mind if anyone wishes to continue calling me byuu anyway.
Originally, I chose this name because Shadow was also used by the founder of RPGe, another fan translation group of the era. And so in 1998 for my fan translation group, Starsoft, I renamed myself to the game's protagonist, Byuu.
The project fell apart due to inexperience. We were mere teenagers without the programming and translation expertise necessary for such a grandiose goal. Still, at that time, I made a promise to myself that I would finish this fan translation one day, no matter what.
This game was the reason I began teaching myself how to program and reverse engineer, and also why I started studying Japanese in earnest. I owe the entire trajectory of my life to that fateful project.
A second attempt in 2001 also failed, but this time not due to inexperience, but mistakes I made regarding the translation. It was around this time that I came across the somewhat archaic alternative meaning of "byuu", which is "to make a mistake."
Beyond the immediate biting irony, I can't really say for sure exactly why, but it resonated strongly with me. At this point, I was hurting: from my debut online in 1997 up until 2001, I had failed at everything I had attempted.
Instead of giving up, I decided to fight harder than ever. I was determined to prove myself, and with Bahamut Lagoon left behind for a second time, I set in on a fan translation of Dragon Quest 5, and this time after a grueling three months of working on this game from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep, and with the help of a very generous translator, I finally had it: my first completed project!
When most people hear the meaning of byuu ("mistake"), it seems negative. But to me, I read it differently, as "nobody is perfect." We learn from our mistakes. I would not have finished Dragon Quest 5 without the lessons learned from Bahamut Lagoon, or any of my other failed projects that predated it.
And so with that, I kept this name for the next 22 years. And I've gone on to do a lot since those early teenage years.
Most notably, people know me for my work in emulation. For the past fifteen years of my life, my foremost goal has been the preservation of our gaming heritage and history. I'm a game preservationist above all else, and at this point, I consider it my life's work.
My work here has led to my employment as a software developer for the past 13 years now, including my current engineering job in Tokyo, Japan.
The crux of the issue is that my work in emulation started out as a personal project. When I started on bsnes, I wasn't the lead developer: I was the only developer. I was bsnes.
However, I have a strong personality online. I've never been a person that was skilled at keeping my opinions to myself. Opinions that also change and shift as my life progresses, and I gain more experience, I might add.
Nonetheless, in recent years my opinions have increasingly been tied to my work in software preservation. It's somewhat unavoidable when the domain where you find bsnes and higan is byuu.org, isnt' it? It's right there in the URL, after all. It's on all the social media accounts I use to distribute software. It's ubiquitous.
I've further used byuu.org to host articles I've written on my perspectives on every controversial topic under the sun. Clearly this was a mistake of course, but I can't very well undo the past.
Perhaps most damaging of all, is that I choose to live authentically and honestly as myself. I don't hide the problems that plague me or my subcultural ties. I don't wear a mask online, and I want to form genuine connections with my friends. I don't want to keep secrets and live my life in fear, so I put all of my cards on the table.
Naturally, this is going to alienate some people. And that's okay. Not everyone is going to get along in life. People are free to say or think whatever they want about me.
However, game preservation transcends personalities and ideologies: this is work for all of us, this is our history.
This year, I've decided to finally go back to Bahamut Lagoon, and finish that final childhood dream to complete my fan translation of this game once and for all. I see this as a form of closure to a chapter in my life.
Put simply, it's time to move on. The name byuu has always served to remind me of my original mistake, and I don't feel that's good for my sense of self-worth.
About two years ago, I realized that my goal of absolute preservation of every quirk of the systems I emulate was leading toward a user interface that was just too difficult for actually having fun playing games, which was what all of this work was supposed to be about.
I revived the bsnes project to bring back an easy-to-use, feature-filled SNES emulator. And it was met with huge success! Far more than I had envisioned. Suddenly there was a huge influx of game testing that led to fixes that even helped improve my upstream higan SNES emulation, there were new contributions to add long-desired functionality such as dynamic rate control, and there were even amazing new features added by others like the recent HD mode 7 support.
Meanwhile, higan continues to grow more complex. While I did receive a lot of positive support for the recent v107, released after two full years of development, there's no denying that the user interface has become the tail that wags the dog. Supporting every possible corner case is the challenge of a lifetime, and I can't deny how simultaneously frustrating and rewarding that work is.
But higan has and always will be my own personal project. My own puzzle.
I am not above admitting that somewhere along the way with higan, I had lost sight of my goals. The pursuit of absolute perfection and completeness at any cost had driven away the very users and developers I need to help me to advance my emulation cores.
Put simply, games are about having fun. And if I want to extoll the values of emulation accuracy, then it's critical that I do so in a way that is enjoyable and user-friendly. Otherwise, I am only hurting the cause I aim to support.
bsnes has shown me this clearly. But alas it was only for one system, whereas higan emulates 25 different systems and counting. That work is just as important to me: I want to preserve all of these systems!
And so with the lessons and knowledge learned from bsnes, I've started on a new emulator which aims to bring the accuracy of higan with the features and ease-of-use of bsnes together.
This is what I want to be remembered by.
More than anything, I must acknowledge that I am getting old. There is no reality where I am going to be able to perfect 24+ other emulators to the same level of accuracy as my SNES core all alone. No one could do that much work.
If my new emulator is to have a future, it needs to become a community project. It needs more developers. We're not going to get there when these emulators are so strongly tied directly to me as byuu.
I can do this by refocusing byuu.org and github.com/byuu as a group, or organization, for the development of this new emulator.
One lesson I learned with the launch of higan was just how difficult it is to establish notability with a new name. It took several years before people even knew what higan was. Everyone knew of bsnes from my 2011 Ars Technica article, but no one had heard of this new emulator.
Presently, there are only three names that tie back to my emulators: bsnes, higan, and more than any other ... byuu. It's the only new name I could choose that would immediately convey exactly what my new emulator was about and where it was from.
And conveniently, I already have the perfect domain name registered for it, a perfect logo to go along with it already commissioned, and even a business registration of the same name.
Trying to keep the name byuu for myself would mean trying to undo 15+ years of history spanning over 230,000 backlinks to this domain. It's an impossible task. I would never be able to fully run byuu.org as a personal website, with my emulators hosted somewhere else. I spent the last year trying to do that here, and it hasn't really worked.
As such, for all the reasons stated above and more, the most prudent path forward I can think of is to call my new emulator byuu, and to go by a new name for myself. And the sooner I start on this move, the better. So I'm starting on it right now.
I can easily spin up my own personal website, and my friends can easily find me there if they want to hear my opinions. From this point forward, I want to keep them separate.
I know that bad faith actors will still attempt to tie the art to the artist. Nothing I do can ever change that. So be it. I can only control my own actions on this, and if others choose to seek me out elsewhere, then it's on them. I'm not willing to give up on living authentically, and supporting my friends at every opportunity.
I have of course also aged substantially since the brash opinions I held in my teenage years, and I do intend to carry forward that maturity into my own personal space, obviously. But I will always have room to grow and become more compassionate toward others. No one is ever truly perfect, after all.
This is the best compromise I can possibly hope to make.
That said, I cannot instantly change 22 years of history. It is going to take a long time to move all of my personal content from byuu.org to my new personal website. It will take time to come up with the best use for my various social media accounts.
But going forward, as of today, I am stepping away from using accounts tied to byuu for my personal opinions and beliefs. I will be using my social media accounts only for development-related purposes.
I'll link to my personal website once it's live.
This time around, there is no significant meaning behind the new name of Near. I made a list of interesting-sounding four-letter names (which to the best of my knowledge were not used by any other emulator developers or game preservationists), ran them by friends, and this was what was decided on to move forward with.
I like how it sounds, and it's nice and short. That's about it. And if you try to attach any other meaning to it, I might just have to write your name down in my little black notebook ~
Permalink • 12 Comments
Oliver2020-02-02 17:35:20Put me down in your little black notebook as saying that Near is what you've spent your life doing for video game preservation. The impossible, endless task, brought just that tiniest bit closer each and every day.
Lilithe2020-02-02 19:05:45Hi Near, I'm Lilithe! My name is changing too, but for different reasons.
I hope you continue to have fun preserving game history or whatever else tickles your fancy!
Girouette2020-02-03 04:20:29I was hoping to see if you'd reference "that" the second I saw your name change, and the last sentence didn't disappoint!
capcj2020-02-03 10:05:55Good luck, Near, and thank you for all wonderful work
Ryuzaki2020-02-05 16:30:07Good luck Near!
MenaceInc2020-02-08 20:37:24I think I first remember hearing about you in an interview in Edge magazine. I've been feeling an itch for a new online alias as well lately but thankfully, I don't have anywhere near the same amount of "brand awareness". I love the name Near, it's a damn good choice.
Fuzzy2020-02-09 20:30:57I've read your posts and followed the emulation project since high school, and I can definitely understand the desire for a new alias after even that length of time. Congratulations, and best of luck to you moving forward!
jrronimo2020-02-10 15:45:51Good luck Near! This sounds like a fantastic approach to move forward; it's well thought out. I look forward to start playing games through byuu!
Deadtrickz2020-02-11 03:36:35Thank you for everything you do and continue to do for emulation! I wish you only the best moving forward.
Hellmo_Luciferrari2020-02-11 03:50:19Thank you for all of your hard work. You are the reason my eyes were opened up to accurate emulation of my favorite system of all time, obviously the SNES. (And later other consoles.) You lead me down a rabbit hole, and I applaud you.
Thank you Near.
sunrise redeemer2020-02-11 20:03:29Thank you for all your continued hard work and effort! It's much appreciated.
V2020-02-13 05:32:10I can't help but think of the Death Note character: https://myanimelist.net/character/464/Nate_River
Good luck in your future endeavors dude. I hope this new emulation project can feed back and forth with libretro/MAME efforts and not just become yet-another multi-emu frontend competing for supremacy.
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