Slack engineer figures out way to load messages into a 1995 SNES game

October 22, 2018
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Slack is a relatively simple chat application with a powerfully complex set of capabilities. Case in point: Bertrand Fan’s “Slack on a SNES” project, in which the Slack engineer figured out how to load messages from a custom channel into a 1995 Nintendo game by way of a spoofed satellite transmission.

BS-X: The Story of The Town Whose Name Was Stolen was a SNES game that shipped with an accessory called the Satellaview, which was a modem peripheral for the Super Famicom (the Japanese SNES) that allowed it to receive data transmissions much in the way games are now frequently updated over the internet. Back then, however, you had to wait for Nintendo to beam some data to you. Also, the set up looked wildly complicated:


Image: Muband

But Nintendo did in fact update the game every day for five years, according to Fan. Of course, he didn’t have an old SNES console around, nor a Satellaview. And Nintendo stopped supporting the network about 18 years ago. Instead, Fan used a SNES emulator, a 8bitdo controller mod kit, and a software tool called SatellaWave that lets you generate your own Satellaview files.

From there, Fan came up with a method for updating the in-game merchants in BS-X with the information from a Slack channel, using the time and sender of a message as an item’s title and the content of the message as its description. He then automated the process by writing a bit of custom code, and then using a bot and one of Slack’s APIs to check the channel history and pull the 10 most recent messages. Keeping the emulator running would update the shops in real-time with the messages as they came in.


Image: Bertrand Fan

Fan is first to admit that the project is obviously silly and impractical, but it’s still a testament to how resilient Nintendo’s forward-looking technology was back in 1995 that it can still be emulated and used like this more than 20 years later.



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