Hello everyone! Here’s yet another interesting interview today: I was able to contact Jens Duttke, the developer of the CyberPad input plugin (as well as some other things like psx emulation cheater and Blini!), an plugin that has been mainly known for allowing ePSXe to be played online: This input plugin was compatible with some versions of it (though also was intended to work with other emulators back then), and worked through Kaillera (either connecting to servers or playing through peer-to-peer connection), and had been used around many players around the world to play their favorite PSX games online, like Tekken 3 (which even had an fansite where people gathered to play online, Honmaru; there’s an interview upcoming with the owner of that site too).
Despite the last version (1.4) being released all the way in 2003, it would still stand quite well for the usage it was given for many others, and can be seen as a testament of how both Kaillera and most of the emu developers were ahead of its time in those years.
This interview was made on April 18, 2020.
Hello there! I’m ACStriker, and I would like to interview you about CyberPad plugin, which you had developed for usage with Kaillera. I’m currently working on an article for my blog about “The History of Netplay in Emulation”, which includes Kaillera.
Hello! Thanks for reaching out to me.
Even if I was active in the PSX emulation scene, I’m not an expert anymore. That was before almost 20 years (more than the half of my live).
Beside that, I was only interested in PSX emulation. I know that there are still communities around Kaillera, but for me it was only a tool. I was never involved in any of these communities.
Can you describe with your words what is the CyberPad PSX plugin?
In the first days CyberPad enabled you to play multi-player PlayStation (One) games with your friends, all around the world, online.
Later, with the Kaillera support, you were even able to play even with strangers.
What was your intention or reason behind creating the CyberPad plugin? / What was your favorite game to play online?
The short answer: Playing Tekken 3 online.
The long answer:
I’ve started this project about 20 years ago. At that time I was involved in the PSX emulation scene very deeply. There were IRC channels with guys from PSEmu, Beem!, ePSXe, PCSX etc. – I was beta tester of ePSXe, even got a job offer from the Bleem! team.
I was involved into the PSX emulation news page psxemu.com (later ngemu.com) and was co-founder of a German emulation related news page.
I’m coding since I was 12 years old, at that time I was about 18 and I had fun with exploring new stuff.
To tell you the truth, I liked Tekken 3 very much, that was the only game I’ve really “played” online. I assume that without Tekken 3, my interest in PSX emulation wouldn’t be that large, and neither CyberPad nor all my other PSX emulation related projects would exist.
What can you say about the community and popularity of Kaillera during those first years?
For me, Kaillera was just a tool. I don’t even remember what was first, Kaillera or CyberPad.
The first version of CyberPad did all this network stuff by it’s own. It’s focus was to play with friends, because you had to exchange IP addresses. So there was a need to communicate on another ways (like IRC, ICQ, by phone or whatever).
Kaillera enabled the users to find new playfellows. I think that’s the reason why Kaillera was so popular – it was easy to build communities around games.
Beside that, it was easy to implement in emulators.
I think it’s amazing to see, that there are still people using Kaillera, because it’s so easy to find like-minded people.
What can you say about the internet communities back then?
There was a large community around PlayStation emulation, especially in IRC channels. They were located all around the world, and they were like a family, even if I’ve never seen one of the other guys in person.
Can you talk or explain about how CyberPad worked? (if it is possible)
PSEmu (the first PSX emulator which played commercial games) introduced a great IO plugin system (for graphic, sound, CDROM, gamepad), which were when adopted by other free PSX emulators.
At the beginning, CyberPad was like a wrapper for a gamepad plugin. All input was recorded and sent over the network to another CyberPad plugin, which then acted like the opponent’s gamepad.
So in general, it works by sending key strokes. Important to note is, that the key strokes are handled by both game instances at the same frame.
toqer explained that very well in your interview with him.
Unfortunately, that’s the theory. Especially for PSX emulation (I can’t talk about other emulators), there was the problem that the execution of the game is affected by different factors.
You need to make sure that both players are using the exact same game version. Since there were different versions of a game for different countries, you are limited to play with people with the exact same version.
For older consoles, this was not a problem, because ROMs had a size of some KB to a few MB which could be even shared via Email. But PSX games had hundreds of MBs and the internet connections at that time were very slow (I had 64 kbit/s), so it was not easy possible to share whole ISOs.
Another problem was, that different plugins and even different plugin configurations affected the execution of the game. Especially sound plugins were a problem here.
Since it was possible to use MemCards with multiple game saves on it, it was required that both players MemCards were identical. The BIOS version used also had to be the same.
It was not really possible to fix that problem. Earlier or later, the games where out of sync.
Later we’ve introduced a PSEmu-plugin-like Net-Plugin interface in ePSXe to better interact with the emulator, but the general problem was never really fixed. So I’ve implemented a functionality to at least detect, when the game is out of sync and show a message.
What did you think of CyberPad being adopted by several communities to play their favorie games online? / What do you think of Kaillera still being used by certain communities today? (And about the emulators that Kaillera got integrated to)
I was impressed and surprised, that communities around PSX games still arise, even many years after the development of CyberPad has been discontinued, and the PS2 and PS3 with native Netplay support have seen the light of day.
Did you ever hear about Honmaru? (Russian/Polonian fansite where there was an Tekken 3 online community; they used ePSXe and CyberPad) / Do you remember any communities that used CyberPad often?
No. CyberPad was a software project for me, I was never involved into the online playing communities. All these communities came up when I had already dedicated myself to next projects.
Did you know the Kaillera developer in some way?
As far as I remember, we had email contact. But Kaillera was easy to implement, so there was no need to get in deep contact with him.
Did you know any of the Kaillera forum moderators in some way?
Have you ever got in contact again with any of your friends in Kaillera communities during those days?
[I had no friends in the “Kaillera” community, at least I can’t remember – but if you want to replace “Kaillera” with “emulation”:]
Unfortunately, I don’t have contact to any of the guys from that time anymore. In 2002 I’ve started to work on other not-emulation related projects, and lost contact with them as time kept going on.
Have you used Kaillera on other emulators before? (Nestopia, Snes9k, MAME32k, Project64k, DEMUL, etc)
What do you think of GGPO/Fightcade?
Never heard about that.
What did you think when I contacted you about this interview?
“Let’s try to see what I can still remember from that time and revel in memories a little.”
What can you comment about the other software you have in your website/portfolio?
After psx emulation cheater I had written a remake of a game from my childhood called Oxyd. I was in contact with the original author, and my remake was released as official successor.
I’ve also implemented online gaming support in that game – without Kaillera. I don’t even remember why I hadn’t even thought about using Kaillera there.
Maybe with Kaillera support, this game might have been even more successful.
Later I got interested in digital photography and wrote a program to analyse meta data from image files.
There are a couple on browser-base games which I’ve created, like Macuro (https://www.macuro.de).
And for me, the future is browser-based. Since 7 years, I’m working on a web-based hex editor called HexEd.it (https://hexed.it).
What all these projects have in common, is my interest in unusual approaches, data analysis and data manipulation.
Starting with Blini!, which allowed to manipulate the undocumented configuration of Bleem!, over psx emulation cheater, which allowed to manipulate the RAM of emulators, over PhotoME which allowed to manipulate undocumented meta data in photos, to HexEd.it which allows to manipulate all types of files.
But what I like most, is that all these tools all used by so many people, and the feedback I get from them. Sometimes I even still get email regarding CyberPad or the psx emulation cheater.
What can you say about the reception when you released CyberPad?
I really don’t remember about that.
Any comments about mednafen (recent PSX emulator) and its netplay support? (If you have heard about it)
Haven’t heard of it before.
What do you think about what will happen with netplay on emulators in the future?
I can’t say anything about that. I don’t really use emulators anymore, nor do I use them to play online.
I was able to contact and interview the owner of Honmaru (the aformentioned Tekken 3 community); do you have any message for him?
I don’t think so.
Do you have any message to all the CyberPad users? / Got anything else to add?
Keep up playing!
I’m very thankful that you replied back; always happy to be able to talk with people that were there so many years ago, always was an fascinating topic to me. In any case, I hope that everything is going well for you.
It is always fascinating to have an insight on the stories behind groundbreaking advancements, and it is interesting in hindight to think that (as it happens often), many of these were just an small personal project, but that ended up having much more of an impact in the past and present communities.
On the note of emulation-related personal projects, recently I also was able to interview some key members from the reicast dev staff (which also are/were NullDC dev staff, as they moved from developing NullDC to reicast), mainly skmp and Znullptr, and it was quite long but fun ride there; so you’d better not miss that one out 😉