RASpotlight - MrGauss
In the beginning of the last month I was on a vacation trip with my family, visting the beautiful city of Recife in the Northeast of Brazil. Turns out that Recife is also the home of a very kind person I met here in the RetroAchievements scene and who I was fortunate enough to meet in person:
I was eager to know from him about all the cool places to visit in the city, where to eat typical food, and also the rich history of the city (I didn’t know that in the past it was ruled by Dutch people and they brought a lot of improvements to the city). So we chatted about several things. And, of course, about RetroAchievements.
During our conversation I couldn’t help but notice how the feeling of belonging to a community of people who share the same passion, has a positive impact on a person’s life. Then I became interested in putting MrGauss in the RASpotlight and here we are.
I hope you enjoy the reading!
Let’s start with your background as a (retro)gamer. How when did you start your gamer life? Which console and what were your first favorite games?
Oh, that’s a good one! Haha.
When I was a kid, my father had an Atari 2600 and he let me play it on the weekends. Later, I went to visit my aunt and my cousin was playing a Mega Drive (that’s the Genesis) in his room, it was running Sonic 2. I fell in love with it and couldn’t remove it from my toughts.
My family gave me one as a present on the next Christmas and that was my very first console. Sonic 2 and Earthworm Jim were my first favorite games on that console.
As someone who also started the gamer life with an Atari 2600, I can imagine the shock of seeing the Mega Drive graphics while being used to the Atari. LOL.
What other consoles you had after the Mega Drive?
I’ve always been a console gamer. On the retro side of things, I’ve got the SNES some years after the Genesis, then came the Nintendo 64, Playstation, Game Boy Advance, Gamecube and Playstation 2.
I never did get a Dreamcast, haha. It was very expensive here in Brazil and it was practicaly impossible for a teenager to get one. The DC was a console I really wanted to have back then but couldn’t.
How did you know about the RetroAchievements website?
What was your first impressions?
I don’t remember where I first read about RA. I think it was in a brazilian forum about videogames called Outerspace, but I’m not sure. When I first got my Raspberry Pi, I studied every menu looking for possible improvements and I saw an option to auto login on Retroachievments.
Some time later, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc, it was a very difficult time and I had to lay flat for nearly 2 months. With not much to do, I decided to give RA a go. So I made my profile on the site and bang… there I was. RA helped me a lot at the time and I’ll always be grateful for it. It made that difficult time a lot easier.
I was simply amazed about everything. I mean… it’s really amazing when you think about it. At the time, I had absolutely no idea about how it worked, who were the devs behind everything and all the fuss happening on the background, in the Discord server.
What a coincidence. I also came to the RetroAchievements from the RetroPie scene.
Although I knew the website from a friend, I wasn’t that interested because at that time (2016) it was limited to Windows emulators only. As a Linux nerd it didn’t sparked my interest. Thanks to the the amazing job of leiradel on the RetroArch front, we started to have achievements on so many non-Windows devices.
At that time I was really active on the RetroPie scene, and as “The Cheevos Guy” there, I was keeping their cheevos-related documentation uptodate. So, if you managed to have achievements on your RetroPie, I guess I can consider I did a good job. 😇
I’m also glad to know that you recovered from your health issues and that RetroAchievements could ease such difficult period of time.
Now, talk a little about your first experiences interacting with the community. How did you realized that it’s not a static project, but a living community?
That was after I developed my first set.
I had no idea what “Discord” was about and I read on the site you had to submit your work there to see it aproved. It was very interesting seeing how lively the community was behind the curtains of the site. There I gained the Jr Dev status and had my work reviewed by Keltron3030. There, I started interacting with the other people, discovered a whole brazilian community and so on.
By the way, what made you become interested in creating achievements?
There was a game there I played back when I was a kid. A Genesis game named Chiki Chiki Boys by Capcom. It’s basically a Wonder Boy with an arcade structure.
I had been wanting to play it with cheevos since I first came to the site but its game page was always empty and there was a point that I checked it every week. That was the moment I convinced myself that, if I wanted to play it with cheevos, I would have to make them myself or keep waiting.
Funny thing is that there was already a single comment on the RAM made by Alena. At the time I had no idea who she was, haha.
So, I read the documentation, made tests on memory finding with Sonic the Hedgehog and started the project. Man… it was an amazing experience.
Yeah, I saw a lot of other guys around here who started creating achievements like “What?! This hiden gem don’t have cheevos yet?! I’m gonna do it myself!”.
That’s one of the things that amuses me on this project. People can praise the games they have a strong connection with. Games that were somehow important for them in the past and bring high doses of nostalgy.
Back to your experience as an achievement creator, did you know these computer’s topics before being interested in achievement creation? Were you familiar with concepts like bit, byte, hexadecimal, little endian, etc.?
If not, tell us about your experience filling these gaps.
I was an undergraduate in physics when I first learned how to program using a language, C. So yes, at the time I already knew many of those concepts but, even so, investigating the game RAM in the Memory Inspector was like entering the Matrix, haha.
Putting aside these nerdy things, let’s talk a bit about humans.
While I was an active admin of this project I often saw people saying nice things about you. What specially caught my attention were what people said about how thoughtful you were when doing a code review for Jr. Developers.
Please tell us about your motivations. What makes you spend your time helping others to create achievements while you could be, for example, playing retrogames?
Haha, now you’re making me very emotional. I’m very happy to know people said those things about me.
You see, I’m a teacher. I’ve been lecturing Physics and Math since I was 20 (currently I’m 33) and I saw in Code Review an oportunity to help the community even more with an skill that I had.
The sense of belonging is very strong in RA for many people and it was a very strong for me too. Once you start realizing it, once you see all the dedication the people put on the project, you start to want to give it your very best. It’s really magical and somewhat difficult to explain.
Funny enough, at that point, I was more interested in deving cheevos and helping people through it than playing the games, haha.
Analizing the RAM, seeing how it behaves, trying to understand what the original devs wanted to do… it’s beautiful and I can’t think of another way to really get so intimate with a game.
You know… Now you’ve made me remember a funny thing.
The part that I enjoyed the most when I was a Code Reviewer was the graduation of a Jr. Dev. When I was promoted to a full Developer, Keltron3030 made a really beautiful introduction to me when I gained acces to the Dev channel on discord. So I made shure to do it for every dev I had helped. Always put a music for them there, like the ending theme of A Link To The Past. It still bring tears to my eyes when I remember it, haha.
Hehe, that’s cool. Talking about when you were promoted…
Tell us about your experiences interacting with the other achievement creators.
Being at the Dev channel, I interacted with other Devs regularly, but none of those interactions were so substancial as the first time when I had to develop a set in a group.
It was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. When the PlayStation was open for development, everyone wanted to participate, so the leadership decided to encourage group work so everyone could be present on the first wave of releases.
I was a bit scared at first because I had no idea what a “group development” would result in. At the time, I though that an “achievement set” was like a personal project, carrying the dev’s signature and that wouldn’t be true in a group work scenario. Another thing was that, in my personal life, I hadn’t been a group work guy.
I learned a lot on that project. Everyone was just as passionate as me, and that really changes everything because everyone are always giving their very best. You start to see that other people will do the work just as good as you would do it and that is very reassuring. Then, you see the child taking form and the fantastic thing is that it doesn’t look like any of their parents: it’s a really beautiful mixture of concepts, opinions, diversions, debates and thoughts. I can say for sure that the set for SotN wouldn’t look as beautiful or complete if I had done it alone.
The project really changed many of my personal views. Group work is really important and can result in fantastic results if done right, if everyone is passionate about it. True beauty can only come from chaos, haha.
That also changed my vision about revisions, that is an asynchronous way of group development and made me understand the RA project even more.
Oh, that makes remember our very first interaction on the site!
I was working on a revision for Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (Mega Drive) and you popped in the game’s page comments. At first I thought you would be complaining about the revision, as it’s a common reaction we see quite frequently. I was relieved to know that you actually liked the revision. 🙂
I remember like it was yesterday. I was playing Shonobi 3 on MD and was very close to mastering it. I was very happy because the progression was going very smoothly and that would have been 400 points in 2 days… very nice.
Next day I turn on my rasp… WTF? 40 new cheevos? Meleu did a revision! Who is this guy, anyway?
I went to see the list of cheevos and man… that made me get frustrated. At first it were all progression and now it was no damages, secrets for each level and such.
I didn’t like it. But I went on…
There were some bosses I had to dedicate more than one entire session to beat it damageless. I discovered that there was a defend command and how to use it effectively.
The set showed me a bitter truth: despite that being one of my all time favorites, there were many places I could yet improve and man… never imagined you could use a kanai to defend against a flying warship laser cannon.
I learned much about RA on the day I mastered Shinobi 3. When I play it today I feel a warm touch in my gamer heart… it’s so beautiful… it’s looks like a dance… and it’s not some random YouTuber doing a nice playthrough: it’s me.
If it wasn’t for RA, I would probably be playing Shinobi 3 the same way I ever played it. Your set made me love Shinobi 3 even more.
Thank you, Meleu.
Haha! Oh dude… I’m glad to hear that! 🥰
Now, before finishing, I’d like to know from you if you have some words for the people who are inclined to start developing achievements.
What do you recommend for them to start?
Deving can be somewhat difficult at times. It will greatly help you if you’re working on something you like and care, a game you’re passionate about. It gets easier to overcome those dificulties this way.
Be patient, start small and do not get shy about asking for help in the Discord, there are a lot of great people equaly passionate about helping others there.
And never forget that RA isn’t static, it’s constantly evolving because of people who want to participate just like you. :D