The Joys of Emulation......

Saturday, 9 August 2008

 

Emulation...? familiar with the term... If your in the scene you probably are but otherwise this term maybe a little alien to you..

 

What does it mean..? one online dictionary describes it as so:

  1. Effort or ambition to equal or surpass another.
  2. Imitation of another.
  3. Computer Science The process or technique of emulating.
  4. Obsolete Jealous rivalry.

 

Another provides this very specific explanation:

When one system performs in exactly the same way as another, though perhaps not at the same speed. A typical example would be emulation of one computer by (a program running on) another. You might use an emulation as a replacement for a system whereas you would use a simulation if you just wanted to analyse it and make predictions about it.

I would describe it as using software on your current computer to allow you to run programs that where built for different computing systems or older computing system which would not normally be compatible or able to run at the same speed (running too fast or slow) on a modern computer.


What is the benefit of emulation? why would this be of interest to you?

Emulation maybe interesting to you if you ever wanted to play an old game, from a Console, PC or Arcade or there is a piece of software on an old computer that you found very useful but have never been able to get running on your highly accelerated modern system.

Are they difficult to use and complex to set up?

No, most emulators are quite easy to use, there can be a learning curve in setting up some of the more technical emulators, but most are straight forward and are simple to download.

Before I get into details on what's required to use them, lets have a look at one of the most popular emulators out there.....

 

           MAME

 

MAME (TM)

What does it do, it emulates Arcade games from the late 1970's through to around early 2001. It allows you to play them on your computer, when back in the good old days, you used to shell out the coins to play them at the local Laundromat / Arcade Parlor.

 

        5-1_3                              bjlev1

        blktiger_2                             Kung_fu_master_mame

   mame4                           pac

 

Examples of Mame in Action:

 

 

 

Several people from using Mame have created Arcade Cabinets that run directly from a computer system and allow the selection of a vast range of games to be selected and played (Around Three Thousand Five Hundred Games).

The most popular version of Mame for Windows is MameUI and is possibly the easiest Mame to run and configure for the Windows system. There are multiple versions of Mame across almost every system, including handheld devices.

To find more about the different versions visit the web site MAME World and look under the links section called Build/Ports to check if there is a version for your Operating System.

If you would like to try out MAMEUI just follow the embedded hyperlink.

There is also a handy guide for beginners over at easyEmu to get you started.

MAME main web site: http://mamedev.org/

 

How did MAME come to exist

MAME came together from the efforts of Nicola Salmoria in 1997 as a project to see if it was possible to emulate Arcade hardware on a modern day computer. Since the initial inception of MAME the project has taken the direction of preserving Arcade games from being degraded or lost over time due to the failure of hardware parts and to catalogue the history of vintage gaming. The MAME Team has evolved over the years from one person to more than a 100 dedicated team members and active contributors from all over the world.

 

How it works

Considering that arcade games where originally built from PCB hardware and where never released in any type of software format, you maybe wondering how it is possible for this type emulation to occur.

To describe the process in detail wouldn't be simple, but to give an overview, it could be best described that an owner of an arcade board has opened up the hardware, attached a data cable to the arcade board and taken a copy of the data (which is referred to as a "data dump"), this dumps the zero's and ones (This is the game code) from the board into a file, these files are referred to as ROMS (in reference to Read Only Memory).

Alone a ROM would be unreadable, in addition to this if a ROM is not correctly dumped, it will not even be functional, but with the use of software created by the MAME Team they have been able to create a program which accurately simulates the original hardware of the arcade board via software on your computer and allows you to play the original arcade game, In it's original format with out any type of conversion.

 

Say.....about those ROMS

Well now that you know about ROMS, you should also realise that you can't run MAME with out them. So where can you get them? There are various places on the Internet you can acquire them and I believe that some arcade manufacturers even offer packages with perfect ROM Dumps from their collection and either distribute them for free or sell them at a various prices. If you want to find ROMS try an Internet search and find out what your options are. There are some free ROMS which are available from the MAME developers web site.

 

The legality of ROMS

Now this is a gray area of sorts, The original arcade boards where sold with a copyright, so that the manufacturers product could not be copied directly and reproduced under another companies label in an Arcade PCB format, but in selling arcade cabinets and PCB Boards there was generally no copyright passed over to the purchaser of the Arcade Machine (They weren't paying any kind of residual for making profit when people where putting coins through the machines), they just weren't allowed to make an exact copies of the PCB Board and then sell them off as their own product under a different license.

MAME ROMS exist in a different space though, as the software which lived in the PCB Boards has never been previously put to sale without the hardware and can not be run without an emulator, this changes the classification of what product is. In terms of the sales for the Original Boards, they are no longer being produced for new sales to existing Arcade Parlors. Home Conversions of the arcade games have long come and gone and the systems that supported the games are now difficult to come by and games are not for sale or have possibly been destroyed along side the platform they where made to play on. The only market that these games exist in, is the second hand Arcade Machine market and with the general aging of the PCB Boards, are slowly beginning to run out of products to sell as PCB Boards begin to fail with age and use.

This raises the argument that without there being a direct distribution platform for these products to be sold on or being supported by the original manufacturer and in comparison to the quality and pricing of existing software available in the market place today, ROMS that are created to run under MAME should be made available for free for personal use. This is an opinion that is held widely amongst emulation enthusiast communities.

So far there have been various arguments over the legality of ROMS and there status, in general though unless there has been a legal event to clarify the commercial status of a particular ROM, it is not illegal to utilise ROMS for personal use, providing you are not actively distributing them for profit at the expense of the original copyright holder or operating in a way that actively infringes upon the copyright in a commercial manner (This is an informed opinion but should not be considered as legal advice). This position is NOT supported by the MAME developer team and they operate in a manner that supports the copyright holders and they will NOT distribute or provide information regarding the acquisition of ROMS that have not been specifically released for free use.

Copyright laws are generally active for 70 years for Intellectual Property (depending on the country your in), This is the same license that is applied to books and other written works, but these laws came into effect long before the age of digital information and do not take into the account the rapid declined of digital platforms and information when they are no longer supported. The influence of this law in relation to ROMS will come from test cases and so far there have been very few, with no significant impact or legal ramifications for home users so far.

 

So what to do ? make a decision based on what is relevant to you, the laws that are applicable to your country and of course what you are comfortable with.

ROM Image resource on Wikipedia, refer to the following article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROM_image

Legal FAQ is provided by the MAME Team and can be found here: http://mamedev.org/romsfaq.html

Abandonware Wikipedia, which covers the subject in general can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abandonware

Other Platforms

Emulation exists for many different platforms some of the more popular platforms include the Nintedo Entertainment System (NES), Super Nintendo, Sega Megadrive / Genesis, Sega Master System, PC Engine / Turbo Graphx-16, Nintendo 64, Playstation, Playstation 2 and DOS Software for the PC.

Some of the more popular emulators are:

 

Nintendo Entertainment System / Famicom

 

                                                    nes-console

 

                    FCEUX                                                    Jnes                                                 VirtualNes

01jnes-screens-punchoutVN snapshot

Super Nintendo / Super Famicom

 

                                                      250px-SNES_800_thumb

 

                                       SNES9X                                                                              ZNES

    zelda    screenshot7

PC Engine / Turbo Graphx-16

 

                                          PC_Engine           TurboGrafx-16

 

                       Ootake                                                   Hu-Go                                           Magic Engine

ootake_1 bonk redalert_7

Sega Master System Game Gear Sega Mega Drive / Genesis Sega 32X Sega CD

 

250px-Master_System_IIgamegear250px-Megadrive_no_shadowgen-32xsegacd

 

The above Sega consoles can all be emulated by either one of the two emulators below!

 

                                       Fusion                                                                              Gens

      sonic6       mickeymania_cd1

Nintendo 64 

                                                     280px-N64

                     Project 64                                                1964                                              Mupen64plus

project64dukezero191Zelda-OOT-02

 

Playstation 

                                                     21831403__1206187874__1__1-9c71a305bfc5c80e42c18bf75f710df4.__big__

 

PCSX

psx1 ff8_screen075 playstation_Tekken

 

 

Playstation 2

 

                                                               220px-PlayStation_2

 

PCSX 2

pcsx2_1147789651f2 pcsx2_1147789153f2 pcsx2_1147790491f2

 

 

Personal Computer (DOS) & Amiga 500

                   ibm_pc_xt                 300px-Leander_Amiga500

                     DOS Box                                           ScummVM                                            UAE

Dune_2mentat Monkey Island north_and_south_01

 

 

Roms for these emulators fall into a similar category as the Mame Roms and in the case of Playstation 1 & 2, you will require either the original disc or an ISO of the disc to run in order for the games to run.

PCSX 2 is still under development and whilst some games are playable under this emulator, they will require A LOT of grunt from your hardware in order for games to run at an adequate speed, every release seems to improve running speeds and brings down the CPU requirements, possibly in the next release there may be some major speed improvements, time will tell !

 

There are many more emulators out there, if you are looking for a particular computer system to emulate - Google It!

or have a look over at Emulation 64 Network: http://www.emulation64.com/ an invaluable emulation resource.

DISCLAIMER: This blog does not: provide legal advice of any kind, encourage the download, link to or provide direction for the location of ROMS in any exact manner and is provided for information purposes only (and of course for your reading pleasure! ).

Till next time - Bobski smile_wink

 

Arcade Machine 112 

 

 

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