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Samuel Blanchard Windows Phone emulator developer
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Meet the developer behind several popular gaming emulators for Windows Phone

With the scarcity of certain types of games on Windows Phone, many players turn to emulators to get their fix. Emulators allow us to play titles designed for older videogame consoles on our phones. Download an emulator and you’ll have access to hundreds of classic games, assuming you can find the ROMs (software images) for those games. Some people consider playing old games via emulation to be software piracy, while everybody else marvels at just how cool it is to play those old games on the go.

The gaming emulators on Windows Phone come from two key developers, M.k and Samuel Blanchard. Today we bring you an in-depth interview with Samuel, the French developer who created Purple Cherry (a GameBoy Color emulator) and Blue Tomato (a Sega Master System emulator). Read on to learn about the challenges of porting emulators to Windows Phone and what Samuel’s next projects will be!

Please tell us a little about yourself outside of the world of development and gaming.

It’s difficult for me to talk about myself outside development because it’s my main passion but I also like movies and comics. I’m a young father of an energetic baby, so my interests and passions are currently going through a lot of changes.

How long have you been a programmer?

I’ve started to learn on computer book when I have 14, but I bought my first computer when I was 15. It was a beautiful EXL100 from Exelvision - a strange French computer. I started programming with BASIC. Later on, with an Atari 520ST, I continued to use Assembler and C to make demos and games. Now I’m 40 years old and I still have a lot to learn.

Is software development your profession or just a hobby?

Blue Tomato for Windows Phone Double Dragon

It’s my profession and a hobby.

I’m responsible for development and innovation at Naviso, a company that designs, develops and deploys computer management solutions.

There I create web portals, tools and services for business use, plus applications for mobile devices - all with Microsoft technologies. Naviso is a winner of the AppCampus accelerator (http://www.appcampus.fi) and we are currently working on a big, fun application for Windows Phone.

As hobby, I love to develop apps for Windows Phone. Some require a lot of work to create, like Purple Cherry or Let’s Walk. Others are just for fun or developed for contests.

I’m also a Windows Phone MVP and Nokia Developer Champion.

What got you interested in emulation?

Fantasy Zone and Crazy Zone
Left: Fantasy Zone (arcade). Right: Crazy Zone (GBC)

In 1999, I developed my own GameBoy Color game. It was a remake of SEGA’s classic shoot-em-up Fantasy Zone called Crazy Zone. I entered it in a contest and won the first place. Crazy Zone later became the default game in Purple Cherry for Windows Phone.

A few years later I had some time to spare, so I decided to create my own GameBoy emulator written in C# that could run Crazy Zone. It took so much hard work, but when I saw Zelda running in my emulator on PC for the first time, it was really exciting!

Later I needed a cool platform to port my emulator onto, and I chose Windows Phone. Wario’s Jewels (the ancestor of Purple Cherry) was born.

What made you choose Windows Phone as a development platform?

Windows Phone is a natural place for a C# developer to work. I’m a huge fan of XAML. Thanks to tools like Visual Studio, Windows Phone is a very competitive platform for app and game development.

In that case, what do you have in store for Windows Phone?

GBA emulator Super Mario Kart for Windows Phone

In fact I have three projects lined up:

  • The first is to port a GameBoy Advance emulator (written in C# by Garbo) into Purple Cherry.
  • The second is a port of Visual Boy Advance (similar to M.k’s VBA8) but with the interface of Purple Cherry/Blue Tomato. See photo above.
  • Finally, I’m working on my AppCampus app (funded by Nokia and Microsoft). It’s a fun and completely new kind of app.

Will the emulation projects use Windows Phone 8?

No for the Purple Cherry GBA emulator but the engine is slow and the compatibility is not really good. Yes for the port of Visual Boy Advance because VBA is written in C++.

How close is the WP8 GBA emulator to completion?

As you know, my family has three members now and the baby take a lot of my time (but it’s cool). As a hobby, I can only work on the GBA during my holidays so it’s impossible for me to propose an ETA at this point.

How much will it cost?

Purple Cherry for Windows Phone Zelda

The Purple Cherry GBA functionality will be free, because it is just a bonus feature. The VBA port should cost $1.29 or so, just like the others apps in the Fruit emulators family.

Will your VBA port play GameBoy or GameBoy Color games?

It’s too early to tell right now.

How does your GBA emulator compare to VBA8?

GBA emulator Zelda for Windows Phone

VBA8 is a really good port of VBA but the UI is very simple and I don’t like the controls very much. Damien Bigot, the graphic designer of my previous emulators’ controls, is working on new graphics for my GBA emulator’s controls.

Does the GBA present any challenges to emulation compared to the previous systems you’ve worked with, GameBoy Color and Sega Master System/Game Gear?

Like many emulators on mobile devices, my GBA emulator and M.k’s are ports of existent open source emulators. It’s not difficult to port them compared to creating one from scratch (as I did with Purple Cherry), but it is a bit boring.

Speaking of which, do you have any plans to release WP8 versions of Blue Tomato and Purple Tomato?

Purple Cherry for Windows Phone Pokemon

Yes I plan to make WP8 versions because Purple Cherry and Blue Tomato are hybrids apps (containing Silverlight and XNA) and Windows Phone 8 has some problems with tombstoning hybrid apps. Tombstoning is when you freeze data in order to quit and return to it later, such as with Fast App Switching.

How do you like developing for Windows Phone 8 so far, and what new opportunities does it present for hardware emulation?

Dual core processors and C++/DirectX provide fantastic opportunities for emulation because they give direct access to the CPU. More power means we can emulate stronger hardware. It’s really cool how much we can accomplish with emulation on WP8, and all without jailbreaking anyone's devices!

Another one of WP8's advantages is better accessory support. Do you plan to support the recently released MOGA Pro Controller in your emulators?

I haven’t looked at the MOGA Pro SDK at this point. Is controller support important to your readers?

Finally, are there any changes Microsoft could make to WP8 that would make it friendlier to developers like you?

The technical offer of Microsoft is great but moving from XNA to DirectX is not simple. Maybe they could add some XAML control oriented pixel (to hide the complexity of Direct X) in order to help beginners.

Links

Blue Tomato for Windows Phone Shinobi

You can follow Samuel on Twitter @samoteph and his blog : http://blog.naviso.fr

  • Purple Cherry – Windows Phone 7 or 8 – 1 MB – $1.29 –  Store Link
  • Blue Tomato – Windows Phone 7 or 8 – 1 MB – $1.29 –  Store Link

QR: Purple Cherry          QR: Blue Tomato

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Comments

There are 61 comments. Sign in to comment

rodneyej says:

Awwwwee that's sweet ♥♥♥♥❕❕

Micah Dawson says:

I love these emulators. But I want a Ps emulator now haha

MDak280 says:

You should have asked of he had plans to develop a DS emulator!

clmbngbkng says:

Phones currently do not have enough power to emulate the DS.

phipaz says:

That's wierd since the PSP emulator (PPSSPP) is working great on som smartphones.

EDIT: Im wrong, it Works less than OK for the Most games,

pepsijosh says:

You're wrong; Android & iOS have DS emulators already, admittedly they aren't perfect...the frame rate isn't that great but at least it's a start & better than nothing.

clmbngbkng says:

Yes, they do have emulators but they are painfully slow because they don't have enough power to mimic the system properly. I would not call a 2-4fps emulator, read underpowered, a viable option.

tgr42 says:

Actually there is a good performing DS emulator on Android.  I can play Phoenix Wright on the Nexus 7 with only minor slowdowns in some spots.  Most of the time it's almost full speed, including sound/music.  And people are always bashing the Nexus 7 / Tegra 3 as being underpowered obsolete hardware...

clmbngbkng says:

Sweet, what's the name?

tgr42 says:

nds4droid.  It's free too.

clmbngbkng says:

What about his lack of contact on their Facebook page over the last 6 months? People want to be kept in the loop or they will think the project were abandoned.

Facebook isn't everything. I think you'll be okay if he doesn't feel like going on facebook all the time.

clmbngbkng says:

It isn't everything, but when a developer establishes one mode of communication as the main source of info, it gives the feeling of the project being called off if it is no longer used. Going from 10 posts each month for a number of months to none over 6 months is concerning.
And on top of that, I think you would have been ok not responding to my first comment.

Great! I will support his work:)

He deserves a trophy.

TechnoTim says:

Thanks for developing on the windows platform.

StaticPlaya says:

We need a megadrive emulator.

DreadVenom says:

+16bit
Please some1 make this. Need my SOR fix :).

Shantek says:

Controller support would be cool

AriesDog says:

I don't see how this is any different than piracy that WPCentral has railed against before. Without the consent of the original developer it's shady.

clmbngbkng says:

Abandonedware is fun, isn't it?

Micah Dawson says:

Lol just like the Nokia thing they were promoting the other week.

Paul Acevedo says:

Acknowledged the two perspectives in the intro. Let that be the end of the debate.

Dazzi says:

Eh? It looks like their "debate" was over a hour before your comment -- that's too funny :wink:

Paul Acevedo says:

Point is I don't want it brought up in these comments. Thank you.

Zeroplanetz says:

Yes! Bring on controller support!

ho0lee0h says:

Yessss the readers want MOGA controller support!!

I'm surprise we don't have more people requesting MOGA support. Whe I first heard of the MOGA Pro controller, the first think I thought of was emulator support. +1 for MOGA support.

raccoon210 says:

This is by far my favorite app on my phone! Gotta love the classic Pokemon:)

Ty1361 says:

Where can I get that "I heart windows phone" sticker?

rodneyej says:

I have some that I got directly from MS.. I just asked Michael Stroh from the WP Blog and he game me two t-shirts, and a lot of other goodies.. I'll see if I can find a picture.

Ty1361 says:

Do you have extras and can I have one lol? Jk, but seriously?

rodneyej says:

Yes, I think I do. They sent me the Blue and white ones in a few different sizes.. Let me check my stock, and if I have extra I'll mail you some. You'll have to go to my profile, and private message me so I can get your address.. Maybe I can mail them tomorrow.

rodneyej says:

I got your address,, thanks❕.. I'll do what I can to help out anyone who wants to promote WP.. I have so much WP collectibles its a shame.. Here's some of them.. http://flic.kr/s/aHsjyVqb5X

Ty1361 says:

I am pretty jealous, i want it all. ;-) thanks again!

ZuNuKoo says:

I really like those WP pens. Wonder where I can get some. Maybe mailing the company and asking might be worth a shot.

Morq says:

Moga moga!

schlubadub says:

I'd love to see emulators for C64 and Amiga... The two greatest gaming machines of the 80's and 90's :) There's already a C64 one but it's fairly limited. The Amiga is probably difficult but has been done on IOS and android...

ZuNuKoo says:

No turbo grafix 16? Intellivision? Itellivision 2? Atari 2600?

schlubadub says:

I'm talking about the best gaming platforms of the 80's and 90's. In the 80's C64 > ZX Spectrum > Atari 2600 > everything else. Seriously, there was no competition to the C64, as much as they tried, until it was superceded by the Amiga (also by Commodore). Up until around 1995 the Amiga reigned supreme... Amiga > Atari ST > Anything by Nintendo or Sega > everything else. It wasn't until the PS1 and N64 that consoles even began to compete... Sadly Amiga went belly up, many blame the rampant piracy at the time, and that was the end of them.
I'm guessing that you're in the US as I had to Google the first three... I don't think they made much of a dent elsewhere! The best of them seems to be the TG-16, but with a list of only 94 games listed on wikipedia it can't have been that popular, as there are several thousand for the Amiga! Amiga's weren't just gaming machines either, they were proper computers!

Paul Acevedo says:

There are hundreds of Japanese Turbografx games too. The Turbo Duo contained a Turbografx-16 and its CD-ROM add-on built in. It was the first console with a built-in CD-ROM. Lots of special and obscure games there.

I don't think the Commodore 64 and Amiga blew away the NES and SNES, but if you prefer computer style games, I can see how you'd feel that way.

venom5150 says:

Hey Paul, I agree. I have about 200 Turbo Grafx 16/ PC Engine games. Unfortunately most of the special games were on PC Engine including Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire built for the Arcade Card, Castlevania X, Ys Collection, Galaga 90, Bonks, Gates/Lords of Thunder, the list goes on and on. I had all three consoles in the 16bit era (Tg16 was actually 8 with 16bit graphics) and everytime some of my friends game over to play the SNK Arcade cards games, Street Fighter 2 or the prior games, I mentioned they were always blown away how amazing those games sounded with anime cutscenes that just were not available on anything else at the time. Classic example was when I would show my Castlevania X comparison between the SNES and TG16 versions. Anyhow, those times have really reminded me of my Windows Phone predicament. Back in the day, everyone loved TG16 when I showed them and I knew the games were amazing but limited games (apps if you will) would never convince them to actually buy it. No EA games was like no Instageam for WP. Fortunately WP8 will definitely change my 90's lack of games (I could only dream of Nba live on Tg16, a real EA sport game published by them). You won't find a bigger TG16 fan anywhere! :)

Paul Acevedo says:

Always nice to meet another Turbo fan! You must check out these articles I did on PC Engine games:

If I may be pedantic for a moment, I'm sure it's force of habit, but the Castlevania game you're referring to is almost always called Dracula X. Even the awesome PSP version that came to America was called Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles. Man did I love that game (but not the weird SNES version).

It feels good supporting an underdog system (as we do with Windows Phone), but it's a shame when the system dies off. Windows Phone does surely have a brighter future, at least.

jlynnm350z says:

Well hello my name is bob

JenkTJ27 says:

Any mame emulators? I have a ton of roms and love to play Donkey Kong on my WP8!

darkdyviniti says:

Hmmm.. Now this article got me thinking about how it could be possible to run emulators on Xbox One.

Benjisbrk says:

Even on Xbox 360... But just like the 360, you'll never see emulators published

venom5150 says:

I know I am in the minority but a a huge Turbo Grafx-16 / PC Engine fan, I would like an emulator for my 16 bit console of choice like Magic Engine.

ZuNuKoo says:

I agree with the turbo grafix 16.

AndyBalboa says:

I didn't get this part.
 

Will the emulation projects use Windows Phone 8?
No for the Purple Cherry GBA emulator but the engine is slow and the compatibility is not really good. Yes for the port of Visual Boy Advance because VBA is written in C++.
 
so uh, is the GBA upgrade on Purple Cherry coming on WP 7.x?

AngryNil says:

Yep, but he said there are issues on WP7.

AngryNil says:

Man, so great to hear this news. Kudos to M.k for getting emulators out quick, but I really do find them too plain.

ZuNuKoo says:

Yes, please support the MOGA controller for all the apps that you release for wp8 (That actually need it).

Benjisbrk says:

Yes, MOGA support is important and probably would take a few hours (if not minutes) to implement.

EdSherriff says:

Regarding emulators for Megadrive and PS1. Andre Botelho has announced he is porting his Symbian Megadrive emulator EmiGens to WP8.
He is also looking at porting his Symbian PS1 emulator EmiPSX to WP8.
Interesting no mention was made in this article of the extra challenges emulator developers face with WP8 compared to Android platforms. I've made some illustrative comments on this before.

JimiDiGriz says:

I do like Purple Cherry but I have to say, I'd prefer it to have a dynamic stick option a la Snesx/VGBC. Purchased the full version on my old L800 but had to trim it from my L820 due to 'other' storage issues. Tried  VGBC as a demo recently and really preferred the dynamic stick. That said I do like the graphical representation and overall presentation of the GameBoy on Purple Cherry.

clmbngbkng says:

The dynamic stick is hard to beat.

Ettiennevl says:

Just tried to buy it and I was informed that it is not available in my region...FFS!!!!