Greeting gamers! As we all know, fan made projects can be amazing things. Just look at RetroAchievements itself, for example. Once the singular vision of a lone programmer named Scott, this site has evolved into a community driven project hosting over a quarter of a million users, and nearly 6000 games as of this writing. Having recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of this incredible accomplishment, I thought it’d be a great time to shine the spotlight on another fan made project that just might help you along your RA journey.
I’d like to introduce you to CheevoHunter.com! Some of you may be aware of this already, but CheevoHunter.com is a tool created by one of our very own RA veterans, for the purpose of tracking personal progression and game collections in a few ways that your current RA profile does not. The intuitive interface gives you an at-a-glance tally of how many games you’ve completed for each featured console, as well as pie-charts to illustrate your progress in each game as well. An “Awards” page proudly displays all of your badges, and the drop-down menus of games cleanly sort all of RA’s supported titles. Not a “hardcore mode” player? No problem! You can simply turn off the option to track “hardcore” achievements to cleanly display your “completed” percentage
Already featuring a few different themes, and various ways to tag your games, CheevoHunter.com is a great way to customize your gaming experience. A favorite feature of mine is the ability to create custom collections. In my case, I’ve made a collection of all the main series Pokemon games, so that I can better visualize my goal of mastering them all. With a single click I can view my list of all the Pokemon games on the site, with pie-charts and tags next to each one, illustrating my progress through the series. The “My Tracked Games” tab is another great feature, allowing users to keep a “to-do list” of games they’re interested in, or currently playing. And the best part of all of this is you don’t even have to sign up for another account! Just enter your RA username and copy your API key from your settings page and CheevoHunter.com will sync your info immediately, displaying your points, rank, and profile picture on the homepage.
So who is the madman behind all these cool features? That’s where Mr. hankchill comes in! Ever the gentleman, hankchill was more than enthusiastic when I reached out to him with questions about his amazing tool. Wanting a little more insight into this project and it’s inspiration, I asked hankchill a little about his history with gaming and programming and here’s what he had to say:
When did your love of gaming start?
“My love of gaming started when I was just a toddler. My first gaming console that I had was the Atari 2600, with the terrible Pac-Man port being my first game. Being 5 years old at the time, it didn’t matter how bad the games were, I still loved them. However, my love for gaming started to bloom when we got our first NES with Super Mario Bros & Duck Hunt years later, and then shortly after my very first Game Boy, with Super Mario Land and Kirby’s Dream Land. I ended up hanging out with some friends who were also Game Boy players, and we would regularly swap games for short periods of time. This allowed me to try out many different kinds of games in my young age (at a time before emulation even existed), and really pushed home that I had a love for the handheld.
To this day, my love for gaming handhelds has not wavered. Growing up, the only home entertainment consoles we had were the NES and Atari 2600, so I was never much of a TV gamer – however through the years I’ve always found myself gravitating towards handheld systems, specifically from Nintendo. Over time, I have owned all of the Nintendo handheld systems to date (that released in Canada), but when technology started shifting towards micro devices and handheld PCs, I started to dive into that technology as well. No matter how great the technology has gotten, I’ve always found that I return to retro gaming to play some of the old franchises I love, even if I’ve played the games hundreds of times. I’ve even gone as far as building my own handheld Raspberry Pi system, as well as a tiny Raspberry Pi arcade unit, which were all 3D modelled, printed, and wired by me – that’s only two of the countless personal projects I’ve done.”
How did you get started with coding/programming?
“Believe it or not, I started programming when I was only 5 years old. When I was just a toddler, my parents got the family our first Macintosh SE/30. I can still remember that computer extremely well, as I would spend as many waking hours I could on it (that my parents allowed anyways, with 4 kids I had to share the computer). Even at my young age, I found that I was very in tune with technology, and understood how it worked better than most adults did. Well, one day, I had told my dad that I wanted to be a programmer just like him. Next thing I know, he hands me a book on C++ for beginners, and before you know it, I’m installing the THINK Project Manager (hands up if you remember that one!) and making my very first application in C++. It was a program that drew random shapes on screen with different sizes, strokes, fills and colours – all on my SE/30 that was capable of displaying 16 shades of grey.
Over the years, I have learned a variety of programming languages and have written a number of applications to fit a specific need, most of which I wrote mainly for myself. I won’t bore you with the long details regarding my history with software development, but I’m curious if some folks would remember me from the GameShark/CodeBreaker hacking scene, or from the Nintendo DS ROM Manager I wrote known as ‘Rominator’. To this day, I still have the same passion and love of software development, and am currently working as the lead web developer of a software development team.”
How did you hear about RA?
“When I first came across RetroAchievements, I thought it was a joke at first, and didn’t think it could have been something real that actually worked. I don’t remember exactly how I initially came across it, but I created an account anyways just to try it out. To my amazement, I earned my first achievement in a retro game. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of having achievements, as they gave me a goal of something to work towards, so using RA had once again reignited my love for retro games, as I got to play the games again that I knew and loved, but this time with modern-day achievements.”
What made you decide to create CheevoHunter.com?
“Initially, CheevoHunter was designed as a tool for only me to use. The initial iteration of the application, known as RATracker, was made for me to have an at-a-glance view of games that I am attempting to complete. I originally hosted it on my own private web server, but shortly after decided to open it up and publicly host the application for anyone to use. It wasn’t designed with the user experience in mind, so it was a bit rough around the edges. I decided that I really wanted to polish up the application to make it more usable for anyone who had any interest in using it. I ended up rebuilding RATracker from the ground up with others besides myself in mind, and CheevoHunter was born. Until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of fanfare regarding it, however there’s been a pretty sharp increase in interest as of late which is pretty awesome!”
What are your plans for the future of the site?
“There are a few features that I have had on the back burner for quite some time now. Due to personal reasons, I’ve since been unable to implement any of the features in, however as of late, circumstances are looking favorable for me to be able to work on passion projects such as this. One example of a feature that I am working on is a robust Dynamic List system, which will allow you to create game lists using any kind of criteria – so if I wanted a list of only Sonic the Hedgehog games that are Rom Hacks, for the Sega Genesis and Game Gear only, that would be something I could create. An improved facelift is also planned, as well as a possible rename of the application. I am also currently open to all feedback from the community, so if there are any features that you’d love to see, let me know!”
Are there any other projects you’ve done or plan to do?
“The list of projects I’ve done in the past is longer than a CVS receipt, haha! As mentioned above, I was a huge contributor to the Mega Man Battle Network hacking scene as well as developed the popular Rominator Nintendo DS manager, but to name a few other things I’ve been involved in:
- Developed an interactive online coloring book for a children’s park. It was so long ago I don’t even remember the name of it.
- Using Flash and ActionScript, I wrote the first online-usable GameShark/CodeBreaker code encrypter/decrypter. People told me it was not possible. I showed them!
- Assisted a Game Boy emulator developer in creating a cheat system in which cheats were applied directly to ROM addresses on the fly. This was during a time when Game Genie support never existed.
- Many years ago, my father wrote two books on Flash 8 Video – I wrote the web side that included all resources and what-not that was included with the book.
- And a lot more! Throughout my life, I’ve always had a love and passion for technology, especially when it came to programming. I was able to take something that I loved as my hobby, and turn it into my career, while still maintaining the same passion and desire to learn new things. I hope to share more of that passion with our community of retro gaming and achievement enthusiasts!”
After a little chat with hankchill, it became clear how much he cares for this community. The tech wizard has certainly left his mark on the gaming and hacking scene, and doesn’t seem to be done yet! This inspiring programmer and his story are exactly how things like RetroAchievements are born. While we’re celebrating a huge milestone this month, we should all take a moment to celebrate the individuals who make projects like this a reality. Without motivated creators like Scott and hankchill, none of this would be possible. Like Retroachievements, CheevoHunter.com is an excellent example of what we can accomplish when we come together as a community and follow our passions!
Want to help make a difference yourself? With CheevoHunter.com still in it’s early stages, hankchill is open to all feedback concerning the structure and aesthetics of his site. If you have any suggestions for changes or additional features, you can submit feedback directly through the CH site, or to Mr. hankchill himself right here on RA. We hope that you’ll find some fun uses for this tool, and perhaps get inspired to create something of your own! Happy hunting, gamers, and thanks for reading!
Feel free to drop a message in the Forum Topic regarding CheevoHunter.