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Member of the Month ~ February 2018 ~ a chat with the database God Zandro
Forum Index - Sunken Ghost Ship - Display Case - Interview Archive - Member of the Month ~ February 2018 ~ a chat with the database God Zandro
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Sorry for the delay. Man, two delayed interviews in a month... #oops
Anyway, enjoy.
Erik: First of all, sorry for the delay! With that out of the way, this month we have Zandro as our guest, who's the creator of SMWDB, an impressive database with an enormous amount of hacks, hacking resources and others. How are you today?
Zandro: Thanks for considering me at all. I don't consider myself involved in the community much socially, so this was a surprise to wake up to. I'm having some coffee right now, after playing sm64o too late last night
Zandro: I think they are calling it net64+ now, but that's another game
Zandro: (no relation to smmdb, I came with mine first :P)
Erik: It's good to hear, and you're welcome! We try to recognize everyone's efforts, no matter how much they interact with our community.

Erik: Anyway, let's get to the main point: SMWDB. What were your motivations to start working with such project?
Zandro: Well, you should understand, I come from a midroad of romming where it gets hard to talk about with SMWC's policy.
Zandro: but basically I've kept up with a list of what's out in the wild, and try to preserve a copy of them along with others to improve their permanence. One of the sets involved a large number of hacks coming from SMWCentral, and not well identifiable on their own either
Zandro: I had also scraped the site a few years ago, and shared with a couple of trusted associates, who in turn didn't clean up the names, and delivered them to the list as a complete mess. I felt responsible for that and had to start labelling everything in the pile. Eventually I was able to clean them up, as well as all other SMW roms over time
Zandro: every so often, I get another pile from a more active collector who shall not be named, to force me continue the work (halp)
Zandro: while I am otherwise more casual / semi idle and concentrate on just the hacks that are successfully released via your SMW Hacks list and I am also more interested in the contests SMWC and related sites like FR has, which encourages people to show their best
Erik: I see. It's good to have a preservation of every hack as to see how SMW hacking has evolved, imo. What difficulties did you have along the way of creating this, if any?
Zandro: Two biggies spring to mind, one is that SMWC has very high standards for hacks waiting for inclusion in their relatively short list. The hack moderation team is thorough and will point out every imperfection, and I think over 90% of hacks are rejected on the spot. I am the opposite. If it's a 2 minute level 105 edit that took 5 minutes and had a chance to be downloaded, well, I have no choice but to investigate its origin and give it a place in the catalog. I am thankful the moderators keep such good notes, but there's that small percent that may never be properly identifiable.
Zandro: The other hurdle is something I've seen requested once, but lately I've been picking up on some drama on choices in development as a whole, so I'll probably never ask for it myself. Lunar Magic has a nice little feature where you can export a PNG of the level you're viewing, but for some hacks that has to be done 500 times to complete the catalog in the way I've deemed necessary! That takes a big chunk of time to do, but I am able to do so because of a keyboard and mouse macro utility set up on a laptop with a barebones OS setup to limit interference from other tasks that would interrupt it. A complete pass of all the nearly 20000 hacks would take over a month of processing time if I do it again (and I have), especially since not every hack was created without error.
Zandro: I lack the brain for any actual programming, and have been trying to develop the HTML producing functions in batch scripting language over a couple years. I've only been confident in the end result recently enough to submit it in this C3, but I've been thinking of it for a year.
Erik: Good to hear you overcame such obstacles. What are your plans regarding its future? Any additions you want to make to it, maybe?
Zandro: I've met most of my goals for this database, and sometimes think I have not left enough to the imagination / burdon of exploration for the player to try a hack. Though one feature I'd like to have figured out is how to make a flowchart of which exits lead into others. Something to make checkmarks on for the other completionists out there.
Zandro: I will still be adding other hacks as they become available to me for the foreseeable future. If anyone has ones (or information on current ones) they'd like to donate to me, don't be shy, I'll do what I can to give it a reasonable identity.
Zandro: I'm currently working on a large pile from TRNB of lots of old ones, it's great to see many older names of people you'd still recognize in the community today. It's like opening an album of SMW baby pictures!
Erik: Good luck with that!
Erik: Did you expect the reception the community gave to the page? How do you feel about it?
Zandro: I had a sense it would be liked by a lot of members through some test exposure in Discord over months, but I also wondered if anyone would voice a strong opinion in opposition of its existence. So far, only some funny fright over how I obtained some files. That's fair, I don't always know either. Biggest surprise was honestly a good category to settle into, as I don't aim to derail community effort in other aspects. If this database alters the community's methodology, I have made a big mistake.
Zandro: As an aside, in filling the database I get to find some really underrepresented stuff. This youtube video is now in the catalog as of this minute.
Zandro: 3 views
Erik: It's understandable. I'm sure this platform will allow for finding some hidden gems in the hacking catalog.

Erik: Let's move on to a more broad topic. Have you hacked SMW? If so, do you have any projects?
Zandro: Do I make art? No... I don't have any projects going, I just like wandering the endless gallery. Like watching a food channel for entertainment instead of information, I aspire to consume the goods rather than produce.
Erik: Oh, I see. Did you ever try hacking or did the concept of it just never grasped your interest?
Zandro: I feel like I wouldn't be able to come up with something fresh and original, especially lacking the technical and artistic background some people develop earlier. The time investment for a complete hack also exceeds the tolerance I have. I came into SMW hack scene for a different purpose, and my DB alone is continuous effort enough. For the people who can envision and create a new game, I am impressed.
Erik: It's a valid point. Some have their strengths in different places.

Erik: How did you come across this website? And what motivated you to join?
Zandro: I think the point I took notice was when I saw a bunch of Vanilla LDC 3 hacks listed. Some were still only named with the IPS patch filenames even in 2013, and I noticed sets of entries of this and other contests incomplete because of link rot (files were deleted due to inactivity or sites shut down, or users removed them while cleaning their file bin). Later on I joined to ask if anyone held on to copies to complete them. As of now, most contest entries have been preserved, but not all.
Erik: What do you think of the current state of the community?
Zandro: (Sorry for the late response, I had interruptions)
Zandro: Allowing Kaizo hacks didn't cause a catastrophe for the site after all. Who knew? To be honest, I don't know if I have an articulate sense of the site's health, but it seems to be going well. The steady coming and going of staff in various roles keeps me guessing though.
Zandro: I get it, staffers can get busy or lose interest and move on with things, and this itself not harming the site is interesting to me. I think this proves the community's continued interest, and the site's ability to grant it the opportunity to keep fresh focus on the specific roles needed. Where I am from, there has only been a few moderators in total over several years, providing nigh janitorial services for many different projects which are maintained and almost self-governed by the members themselvees, though those who do go out of whack get sacked.
Zandro: SMWCentral as a site looks rock solid to passers-by, in spite of its apparent volatility within. There's always lots of discourse and people pouring heart into their posts every day, and also great engagement from the staff. This site can offer solace, drama, and the absurd simultaneously, and take it--it's diverse like a city, yet like magic it all continues to click.
Zandro: If this was too fluffy stuffy, just tell them "I think smwcentral needs to use less save states"
Zandro: j/k lol
Erik: That's an interesting point of view.
Erik: Where do you see the community in the future? Do you maybe see yourself playing a distinct role?
Zandro: There has been so much we've seen can be done with SMW, but I want to say it depends on the flexibility and reach into other areas. However, so far, I've seen that SMRPG, SMAS, and even YI have yielded relatively limited results. Each have really functional editors, too, so it's a bit disappointing that the SMWC has not branched out widely with those. I hope for continued interest in N64 at least, though there's other sites competing for it. Down yonder with SMW, I think stagnation shouldn't happen for many more years. The only thing to cause premature death in a community is a failure in administration, or neglect to transfer to a capable enthusiast. But I'm not planning for the bulb to burn bright forever. Participate while the conditions allow for it.
Zandro: My distinct role? As far as maintaining this DB, other than the contests and hacks passing moderation, I don't see myself adding any more than I am wanted to. Don't ask me to pick apart a hack for its faults, they're all decent to me. And organizing people? That probably would not end pretty.
Erik: Yeah, I wonder if we have plans for those sections.

Erik: Anything you want to add before getting to the random questions?
Zandro: Get a job where you can work in a spreadsheet more often than me. It would feel more productive to fill 20000 rows in six months instead of 4 years, AND you'd get paid for it.
Zandro: got my second coffee already
Erik: nice, i have drunk 3 this day

Erik: Alright, ready for random questions?
Zandro: scare me
Erik: Favorite video game genre?
Zandro: I really like open world exploration, such as in the Elder Scrolls series. But I have also spent plenty of time with arcade and world-roaming physics based racers, like Trackmania Nations and, a long time ago, 1NSANE.
Zandro: I've been addicted to DOOM, Diablo II, and Starcraft too, I think just because of the sheer replayability
Zandro: games that don't bore me, will probably be revisited
Erik: Favorite YouTube channels?
Zandro: I don't watch any channel regularly, but ones that leave impression are VSauce, LazyGameReviews, and Bill Wurtz in small doses.
Erik: yeah bill wurtz is good
Erik: If any, what game would you like to see getting more popular in the ROM hacking scene?
Zandro: Super Mario RPG has a lot of potential. It could do with some more platforming abilities to put it on level with SM64 though. Wall kicks and long jumps would be nice additions
Zandro: "yeah, but it's an RPG" Yeah, but it's a Mario game :D
Erik: Anything else you want to add before concluding?
Zandro: I just want to wish everyone a good, safe rest of the year, and don't let your friends sucker you into thinking they're imaginary.
Zandro: Yeah, this took a good many hours, but that's why we're not live. Thanks for delivering the interview, with questions vague enough to last
Erik: Thanks to you for taking the time to reply, and thanks to the audience! I hope you all have a good read and enjoy this (late) interview just as I enjoyed conducting it.
Das some good interview for someone who claims not to be very involved in the community. Congrats!
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to hear birds and see none.
Glad to see our curator get some screentime

Congrats. You've out done yourself
all my belongings are being stalked, thanks to Zandro! (Actually, thanks.)
Congrats on the database Zandro.
its impressive to see what people can find for these massive rom databases and romsets. congrats zandro!
Zandro, you're my hero!!

Not sure where to put here... or is it? (Also: Yay! Old layout!)
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Now that's an interesting interview. Fun to read about the mastermind behind my struggles.
Interesting interview. And again, many thanks for finding and compiling a lot of my old hacks I thought were lost forever, I appreciate it!
Very deserved MOTM, congrats! Your database is really useful
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Congrats Zandro.

Didn´t see this coming, but it´s well deserved.


Interesting read.
I'll be curious to see if I can't find some hacks I was interested in way back. There are plenty I've missed out on.

Please pardon the eye.
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Forum Index - Sunken Ghost Ship - Display Case - Interview Archive - Member of the Month ~ February 2018 ~ a chat with the database God Zandro

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