Abystus

September 14th, 2017
Lazy Bastard: Among a lot of other codes, you've hacked a BUNCH of really cool ASM codes for retro systems. How did you pull these off? Any general tips for ASM hacking beginners?

Abystus: Retro systems are relatively simple all the way up until jumping into 32 bit and beyond. Most hacks aren't hard per se, but more of a challenge to fit within the requirements of hardware for the earlier systems. Some hacks that are considered advanced are actually relatively simple once you know the general methods of accomplishing them. As far as tips for ASM hacking, the best tip is to play around with it as much as possible. Play with branches to see what affect they have, and once you determine exactly what they control, examine the code preceding them to see why they took the path they did. Conditionals are the decision makers, and are most likely the most powerful instruction that assembly has to offer.


Lazy Bastard: What's something you did in the scene which you think was pretty cool, but isn't very well-known?

Abystus: I was the first person to make the secret characters playable in Mortal Kombat II arcade while retaining all their special attributes. It did get some attention from several news sites, but it was for such an old game (20+ years) that no one besides enthusiasts cared. It was this hack which set the current record for the most users online at one time for "Pugsy's MAME Cheats" forum. 


Lazy Bastard: What is your favorite code/hack that you hacked? What gave you the idea, and how did you go about hacking it?

That would be "Free Camera" for Mortal Kombat II (MAME). I was doing several 3D free cameras, and thought that it would be cool if I did it for a 2D game. Hacking it was pretty simple, I just found the camera coordinates, disabled P1 joystick input, detached the camera from following the characters, and wrote a custom routine in my assembler to move the camera around based on what directions were pressed on the P1 joystick. After that, I ported it to the remaining MK games and any other TMS processor based games I could find. I've since posted all of them on Pugsy's forums, and they should be included in his recent cheat releases.


Lazy Bastard: What is your favorite code/hack of all time, by any hacker?

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) - "Kill-Switch for Floor" by Ryan Toluchanian. That in combination with a levitation code was awesome as enemies just fell through the floor to their doom while you levitated around. Once you were happy with your mass killings, you could restore the floor to normal and strut away like nothing happened.


Lazy Bastard: What was the first thing you hacked for any game?

Abystus: Life Force NES invincibility. I still remember it, because it wasn't just a simple 0/1 toggle, but a 0/2 toggle which was found by using increase, decrease, and equal searches...


Lazy Bastard: Who would you say influenced you the most in the video game hacking scene? Who did you 'look up to' when you first entered the scene? (doesn't have to be the same person for both)

Abystus: Back when everything was conducted through gscentral.com, I learned the most from a hacker named Kong K. Rool (aka Parasyte). I would say his accomplishments at the time were astounding to me, and the fact that he was willing to help me out at all was greatly appreciated.


Lazy Bastard: What do you think is the most difficult type of code/hack to hack, and why?

Abystus: They would be hard-coded values, and shared RAM locations which are constantly rewritten and are impossible to search.


Lazy Bastard: On that note, what was the most difficult, 'hair-pulling' hack you've ever accomplished?

Abystus: This would have to be the stage modifier for Killer Instinct SNES. The reason it was difficult, is that the value was not stored in RAM permanently. It was a shared location in RAM that held many things and was constantly overwritten, so I had to do a lot of back tracing and breakpoint watching to see at what point in code the value for the stage was written, processed, and overwritten. Using this knowledge, I was able to inject code which would load the value of my choice, and loaded that specific stage instead. I actually had to create this code twice, because the single player game used a different routine than the two player mode to load stages.


Lazy Bastard: That said, was there ever a code you hacked that you just couldn't get to work quite correctly?

Abystus: Sure. I once hacked a hit anywhere code for the genesis version of "The Adventures of Batman & Robin". it worked great until I encountered the first boss which had specific areas that it was vulnerable, and attacks anywhere else would register as being blocked. As you can imagine this boss just blocked all the anywhere attacks, which is a problem for such a code. Even with a pair of fresh eyes (nolberto82), I was not able to resolve the issue and release the code.


Lazy Bastard: What is your favorite type of code/hack?

Abystus: Free camera codes would be my current favorite. I find they are a lot of fun to play with after the hack is completed, as they allow you to go places and see things you normally wouldn't be able to.


Lazy Bastard: Which game did you find the most fun to hack, and why?

Abystus: Mortal Kombat II SNES. I enjoyed hacking things that were once thought impossible, such as playing as the secret characters while retaining all of their special abilities. Overall, I think this may be the game I've hacked most.


Lazy Bastard: Did you ever hack something awesome, but then lose it somehow?

Abystus: Back in the early 90s, I didn't really know how to hack codes, so I used to modify existing GameShark codes in an attempt to create new codes. Using this method, I hacked a code for Mortal Kombat II SNES that made Liu Kang morph into the Dragon from his fatality when shooting his fireball. I somehow lost the code even though I thought I had written it down. I haven't tried to re-hack the code since, but it was definitely an "awesome" code that I wish I still had.


Lazy Bastard: Aside from hacking and gaming, how do you like to spend your time?

Abystus: With my family, programming, 3D Modelling, YouTubing, playing RetroPie, and trying to learn new things (I try to do this at least once a day).


Lazy Bastard: What is your favorite video game ever?

Abystus: That would be a tie between Killer Instinct arcade and Mortal Kombat II arcade.


Lazy Bastard: What do you think must happen for the video game hacking scene to continue to thrive?

Abystus: An onslaught of new hackers, developers to keep writing emulators with debugging tools, and for some well funded company to release a commercial grade cheat device that is guaranteed protection from being patched out of existence. 


Lazy Bastard: One last question: if you had one thing to say to current, aspiring, and future hackers, what would it be?

Abystus: Don't stop at learning RAM hacking. ROM (ASM) is not as hard as people play it up to be. The power of ROM hacking is unbelievable in comparison to RAM, and once you go ASM, you never go back...