In the last issue we started talking about the RetroAchievements ecosystem and how the energy enters and flows through the system. In this article we’re going to the same “ecologic vibe” and talk about the biodiversity, the groups of people that are part of this ecosystem and make it thrive.
Just like in nature, “biodiversity” also plays an important role in the RetroAchievements ecosystem.
There are many kinds of people helping this project to move forward and progress. This wasn’t always this way, but as the project evolves, there’s an increase in biodiversity. And this brings many benefits, mainly because it allows people to contribute with the project with whatever skills they have.
Let’s take a look at the most known groups.
Achievement creation is the main activity of the RetroAchievements project. That’s how the energy enters the system.
Originally they were named as Developers, and on the site they’re still named as such. But to avoid confusion with Programmers we started to use the term “achievement creators” (and curiously most of the creators are not programmers).
These guys are the most valuable ones in this community. Achievement creation is a very time consuming activity and they are the ones spending their free time on it for the benefit of the whole community. That’s why we also say they are the backbone of this community.
Inside this category, there are also the jr-devs and the Code Reviewers.
These are the ones training and practicing to become Achievement Creators.
The first steps to start creating achievements is choosing a game you really love, checking the How to Become an Achievement Developer doc and then asking for the jr-devs role in our discord server.
The channel used for jr-devs on our discord is known to be very welcoming and helpful.
Experienced achievement creators who are also volunteers to help jr-devs on their learning process.
The people who consume what we produce. Mostly everyone falls into this category, after all everyone in this community likes to play retrogames with achievements.
There are players that also help to bring awareness for the “external world” about the RetroAchievements project (for example streaming/recording their gaming sessions). And sometimes it brings more retrofans to contribute with the project (which is awesome).
Although we are a zero-profit project, we need some way to pay for our servers and provide all the fun for this community. Thanks to all the patrons, contributing with money, we can provide it without relying on those annoying adverts infecting our website.
If you’re intersted on this, check here how to become a Patron
In the old days of RetroAchievements, when Sir Scott Davies created it, there were only players and achievement creators (and Scott). Mostly anyone with the slightest interest in creating achievements could reach Scott and ask for the role.
People could have the role without the minimum needed knowledge to create a decent achievement set. But it’s not their fault! At that time we had no documentation. People were learning through random forum posts and/or direct messages.
As you can imagine, the amount of low quality achievement sets exploded. Also, achievement creators were messing with each other’s work (accidentally and intentionaly) and fighting each other. Those were the “anarchic” days…
An administrative presence were needed in order to prevent this project to collapse under its own weight.
Currently the administrator role mix a wide range of “duties”, like:
- Working like the “Quality Assurance” of the sets (with the support of the Code Reviewers)
- Maintaining the games Data Base
- Keep track of which creator is workin on which game
- Manual unlocks
- Cheating investigation
- Webserver maintenance
- Documentation maintenance
- Solving other issues they face…
Not all administrators work on all of those fronts, each one contributes according to their skills and available freetime. But one thing is certain: without them this project would be a chaos and would hardly survive.
These are the ones responsible to keep the peace on this community. They’re most active in the discord server but also contribute on the website.
This is a category that has recently emerged after a suggestion comming from a community member (KingS1zzle), and is visibly improving the imagery quality of the project. You can see it examples in the Art Updates articles in every RANews issue.
They are achievement creators veterans, event hosts, podcasters, artists, programmers, etc.
This is a broad category, composed of several people who help the project in many different ways.
They are people who are active in the community for quite some time and want the best for the project. All of them have this fundamental characteristic: talk civilly. They are able to talk (and sometimes disagree) without causing a lot of drama and/or disrespectful remarks.
They are all able to provide valuable input when we’re discussing where this project is going.
Alright, how could all this project be a thing without the programmers? They are the nerds creating the tools we need to create and play with achievements. In this category I’d like to tell a short story…
When this project started, Scott started hacking a Sega Genesis open-source emulator and added the achievements feature to it. It was a Windows-only emulator.
Later, more emulators were added, one by one. But they were all still Windows-only and each one of them requiring maintenance.
The fact they were all Windows-only was a very limiting thing, specially because emulators were available not only for other platforms like Linux and Mac, but also started to became common for other devices like smartphones (Android and iOS), Raspberry Pi and things like that…
Fortunately a living legend came to this project: leiradel. This guy is the one who started adding support for the RetroAchievements feature on RetroArch (and, as you may know, RetroArch is a multi-emulator that runs a wide range of platforms). This was a turning point in the history of this project, as we could offer the feature for non-Windows users and people could earn achievements “on the fly” playing on their smartphones.
That same guy also created the RALibretro “multi-emulator”, making it easier to add support for new consoles. And later created a software library called rcheevos, responsible to process the achivements logic in all emulators. This library helped a lot to decrease the workload needed to keep the standalone emulators and RetroArch in sync (all using the same features).
By the way, recently another emulation project started making use of the rcheevos library in order to support achievements: DuckStation (a PlayStation 1 emulator).
Note: currently the RALibretro and rcheevos library is maintained by another living legend, Jamiras.
There are other programmers to whom we owe enourmous gratitude: our brothers from the libretro project. Currently they are the ones doing the hardwork on the emulation side of things, (thanks to the leiradel’s creations mentioned above) and we can focus only on the achievements feature.
(if you’re curious about this nerdy history of the RetroAchievements check this RAPodcast episode, where I talk more about it).
Besides the ones mentioned above, there are also programmers helping with the website, creating trackers for twitch users, android apps, and other cool little things you can find around the web.
As we saw, biodiversity in our ecosystem is extremely important to make it thrive.
If you couldn’t fit into any of the categories listed above, don’t worry. We have a dedicated page with suggestions about how to contribute in many different ways.