It has been reported that Near, the developer behind the excellent SNES emulator BSNES (also known as Higan), has tragically taken their own life.
Near – who also went by the names ‘byuu’ and ‘Dave’ in the past and identified as non-binary – posted a Twitter thread over the weekend which opened up about the bullying and harassment they had received online.
Since issuing the statement, several Twitter followers have attempted to get in touch with Japanese resident Near via the US Embassy. An anonymous acquaintance later reported via mutual friend Hector “Marcan” Martin – a security consultant and hacker – that Near had passed away (we’ve chosen not to link directly to this statement as it contains distressing details). Martin later confirmed that he had spoken to “the police department in charge of the investigation”, which confirmed that Near died on June 27th.
People touched by Near’s work have been paying their respects via Twitter:
Near’s work in the realm of retro gaming preservation and emulation was nothing short of remarkable. Work on BSNES began in 2004, with the aim of making an emulator which was as accurate as possible. Early versions of BSNES ran slowly on anything but top-level hardware, but, thanks to the fact that Near went the extra mile and actually decapped SNES chips to better understand them, it has become the gold standard of SNES emulators, boasting 100% compatibility with the entire SNES library. However, despite being focused on their own emulator, Near took the time to offer assistance to the developers of Snes9x to improve that project, too.
Outside of emulation, Near was also a major force in the world of preservation and even bought an entire North American and Japanese SNES / Super Famicom collection so they could dump them and ensure the ROMs were as faithful as possible. A passionate campaigner for the retro community, Near was also one of the major voices when it came to pointing out how companies like Retro-Bit, Hyperkin and Cyber Gadget had illegally used non-commercial emulators without permission in commercial products.
In 2018, Near told Eurogamer:
Given we are working for free, we often simply cannot afford to challenge license violations, and I’m sure the violators are well aware of this fact. Further, speaking from personal experience, any time one raises complaints, they face significant backlash from a small percentage of the general public. You absolutely will have fans of these products disparaging you for criticizing the company or product they’ve invested money into. Most emulator developers I know wish to keep a low profile, and choose to stay silent when their rights are infringed. The reasoning is, ‘nobody likes a complainer.’ Daniel [De Matteis, software developer and current lead of both RetroArch and Libretro] and I are very outspoken, and as a result we tend to be rather infamous within the community. It can be rather exhausting at times.
Near also spent many years trying to produce the perfect English localisation for Bahamut Lagoon, a Squaresoft Super Famicom RPG that never saw release outside of Japan.
Speaking to Vice, Near explained:
I have attempted this fan translation five times. The reason I’ve started over each time was because I learned more, and felt I could do better. The reason I’ve released this fifth attempt is because I no longer believe there’s anything left that can be improved upon.
Near also created what many people see as the best translation for the Super Famicom title Der Langrisser, another game that never saw release in the west.
Near’s personal site includes the following autobiographical section, in which they stated that they were driven by an “overwhelming drive to achieve perfection”:
Personality wise, I’m an INTJ-T. I mostly prefer to keep to my own spaces, and generally won’t reach out first to others. I work alone, though I am at my best when I have friends nearby to support me. I tend to be overly sensitive and self-critical, and I am not the most adept at social graces, but I’m working on these challenges as best I can. I value honesty above politeness, and rationality above emotion. I have a strong desire to understand everything, and an overwhelming drive to achieve perfection, which often leads me to implementing everything I can myself.
I find I’m not content unless I am working on problems that are just beyond my limits, always seeking to increase my knowledge and capabilities. You’ll pretty much always find me working on something, as I don’t enjoy leisure time.
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