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Meet RetroAchievements And The Guy Behind It

Ever wished you could earn achievements in your favourite SEGA retro games? Now you can...

Back in early April, I found out about a nice little website called RetroAchievements. I loved the idea behind it.

Many of us have become achievement or trophy hunters (I meant to use another word, but I'll be nice) in the last few years. The advent of Achievements on the Xbox 360 and Trophies on PS3 had many of us spending countless hours getting those final G or that elusive platinum trophy! This was a nice way to add a bit of replay value to games, although that's quite the debatable subject.

Some of us even like to brag about our Gamerscores or PSN Levels. But what about all our past achievements? You know, getting that perfect speed run of Sonic the Hedgehog's Green Hill Zone, jumping from cloud to cloud in the sky level of World of Illusion… All of those countless hours of playing since you were a child that you hardly get bragging rights on today!

That's where RetroAchievements comes in. This nice little website I came about almost two months ago takes your favourite retro games and adds some neat achievements to them. How? Well, you simply download the RAGens emulator, load a ROM file (for games that you legally own, obviously) and the emulator downloads and embeds achievements in your game! Sounds easy enough, right? It is.

One other great thing about RetroAchievements is it started with SEGA Mega Drive games! Yes, the first time I checked out the site I saw a Mega Drive/Genesis-like logo and support for Mega Drive games. Less than two months went by and now you can also download a SNES and a Gameboy/GBA emulator! These guys are really working fast!

But the best thing about RetroAchievements is the guy behind it all. I reached out to Scott Davies when I first came across his website and, being the nice guy that he is, he agreed to grant us an interview and explain this project better. A SEGA fan, nonetheless! Here's my little chat with Scott. Consider this a bonus chapter in the SEGA Fans Chronicles, if you will.


KC: Hi there, Scott! Thanks for taking the time for this long overdue interview!
Scott Davies: Glad to be chatting to you guys! Thanks for this opportunity and may I say I love the work you're doing with RadioSEGA!
KC: Do you want to start by telling us a bit about yourself and your past works?
SD: OK, my name's Scott and I'm a games programmer in the UK, I've worked for Monumental Games and Eurocom on various Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3 titles including Goldeneye 007 Reloaded and MotoGP 09/10. Recently Eurocom has become defunct, unfortunately putting me out of a job, however it has given me the opportunity to invest a lot more time into RetroAchievements.org.
KC: The past rivalry between SEGA and Nintendo is being talked about once again, due to a partnership between the two companies. Were you a huge SEGA fan back in the day or more of a Nintendo fanboy?
SD: The first console I fell in love with was the Mega Drive - I still remember playing through Sonic 2 for the first time, realising that Tails was following and copying me - that blew my 8-year-old mind!! I also had an original Gameboy that I spent hours and hours on, so I guess I balanced the two back in the day. A few of my friends had NES and SNES systems, Super Mario, Mario Kart and Killer Instinct were fun... but I always knew my time was better spent on Shining Force 2, Sonic 3 (& Knuckles), NHLPA Hockey '93, World of Illusion, Gunstar Heroes... so many classics!
KC: What lead you to develop the RetroAchievements project?
SD: It was around the time I discovered another website called TrueAchievements.com early March last year: a website devoted to statistics and solutions to all achievements in the entire Xbox 360 back-catalog. I was in awe of it and spent hours playing and researching the best, fastest ways to get achievements. Originally I hated the idea of achievements, they just seemed like a pointless way to waste time, which basically boil down to just changing a value in a database somewhere. But I got hooked. The more I played the more achievements I could get! During this time, I was working on implementing the Xbox 360/PS3 achievements/trophies for Goldeneye 007 Reloaded, and it hit me - all we are doing is watching for certain values to pop into memory at a certain time, why couldn't we retro-fit this into an emulator? I set about hacking away at the source code for Gens and within a few hours I had an achievement in Sonic 1 for collecting 20 rings! The rest is history :)
KC: Please tell us what we can expect from RA.org.
SD: So far we have expanded from just having a Mega Drive emulator to SNES, Gameboy and Gameboy Advance. A skilled team of around 10 or so (out of our user-base of hundreds) at the moment are contributing the majority of the achievements, which includes one contributor who has spent dozens of hours or more playing, earning and testing all these achievements who goes by the name HenrySwanson. In the future we expect to expand more on the quality of the achievements, encouraging our players to explore and enjoy their classic games in ways they previously haven't done - ever completed Emerald Hill Zone on Sonic 2 without pressing 'Left'? Ever defeated 200 enemies in Streets of Rage 2 without dying? Anything you might compete with your friends over a wager, we can implement and reward you for. It's as simple as downloading the emulator, finding yourself some legally-sourced ROMs, and logging in. From that point as soon as you load your ROM, the emulator will try and download some achievements for you and embed them in your game!
KC: RetroAchievements is really a community-focused effort, right? Users can contribute and suggest achievements for their favourite retro games. Of all the suggestions you got so far, is there any one that stands out due to its awesomeness? What about the worse idea so far?
SD: RetroAchievements is nothing without the community and so far we've had some fantastic contributions from users all around the globe - we've had some fantastic ideas for achievements, including some for knocking Natasha off her bike in Road Rash (love it), getting the 'Bad Ending' in Streets of Rage 1, and one for completing the first Zone of Sonic 1 without collecting any points (a lot harder than it sounds). We've not had any bad ideas so far; we're doing our best to ensure that all achievements are tested and are at least 'interesting' - we've had some 'press start' achievement contributions that have been moderated by the community, and in all cases have been removed (to my knowledge!). We don't yet have a set of guidelines for achievement creation as we are still just starting out, but I can safely say that anything of this sort will be fully community-led and moderated.
KC: Since we're talking retro games here, what's your all-time Top 3 favourite games of past generations?
SD: I sunk hundreds of hours into Shining Force 2, that would probably be my all-time favourite game. Nothing really compares to the map theme, an amazing track :D I think another would be Metal Gear Solid, my biggest gaming achievement was to complete it in under 3 hours without rations or saves: it came to 2 hours, 59 minutes and 40 seconds - but I got my codename: Big Boss on the ending screen! My proudest gaming achievement by far :) Finally I'll pick Streets of Rage 2. I could play that game for hours and hours and never get bored - each character (except Blaze) had such strength and weaknesses, my friends and I could never complete the whole thing on Mania, but that was our ultimate goal! The soundtrack was ideal, I loved that upbeat Stage 1 track, gets you really into the spirit of the game.
KC: For us, music is a big part of our video gaming experience - we're a games radio after all! Is there any particular soundtrack to a game, retro or not, that stands out to you as the best of all time?
SD: I'm a huge fan of the Final Fantasy 7 soundtrack (I'll bet everyone says that), there's something about the way the music lulls you in, something about the environment and the setting that really pulls you into the story. Love Aeris' theme (another over-played, but still beautiful track). All the tracks from FF7 are classics, the Sector 5 Slums track, the Golden Saucer theme, the overworld theme, all the tracks across the whole game fit the mood perfectly.
KC: You've been in the industry for a while now. If, in the future, you had the chance to work in a particular game IP what would that be and why?
SD: If I could pick any IP, I'd love to work on the next Deus Ex. The moodiness, the concept, the gadgets, the gameplay! The design of Human Revolution (and the original) is fantastic, you can play the game any way you like. You can kill anyone, or no-one, or help people, or just ignore them. I've got high hopes for a sequel that I'm sure is in the making, somewhere :P
KC: Finally, what improvements can we expect to RetroAchievements in the coming months?
SD: The next few months will bring lots of exciting changes to RetroAchievements, including net-play (earning achievements with other users in co-op), better quality and variety of achievements, more platforms and more integration (imagine earning Retro Achievements on your iPhone/Android while you wait for the bus... :) ), cross-platform emulators (MacOS etc), who knows :) I think we'll build on the idea, refine it and see where the community takes us.
KC: Thanks for your time, Scott! We at RadioSEGA wish you the best for your upcoming projects and especially for RetroAchievements. Be sure to keep in touch and tell us whatever happens in the future!
SD: Hopefully see you on the forums... or on top of the leaderboard! :) Thanks! :)



So, what's left? If you're curious about RetroAchievements or would like to jump into the action right away, just go to RetroAchievements.org, create an account and download your chosen emulator (pro tip: go with the Mega Drive one). Next, choose one of the supported games and try it out. If you'd like to see achievements for a game that isn't on the list yet, use the forums and make suggestions.

As you earn achievements, be sure to check out your place on the leaderboards as well. Can you beat your friends? Don't forget to share your achievements (pun intended) with us!

24th May, 2013 - 01:59 GMT KC Article viewed 2908 times 0 Comments


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