Finally MAME emulates its first laserdisc videogame

August 20, 2008 · Filed Under Emulation & Retrogaming, News 

News - A succession of fresh, quality news, from inside and outside of the WebSummer brings memorable news for the emulator of emulators MAME, that after the introduction of the dynamic recompilation engines and the preservation of obscure soviet games experiences a “first time” long awaited by enthusiasts, priers and simple players interested of the matter: the last version of the software adds the first lasergame (or laserdisc videogame) to the supported arcade titles, making real a work of years and putting an end to controversy and speculations that go along with the matter since.

The maker of the exploit is once again Aaron Giles, dean of mamedevs and current supervisor of the MAME project on the whole. Giles himself had announced, almost two years ago, that the endless debate on the lasergames addition to the emulator would had given way to facts and concrete coding work. A work that has evidently been long and toilsome, during which the coder and emu-maniac Giles has ran into the difficulty to adapt the analog nature of the games recorded on laserdiscs to the principle of “accuracy first of all” pushed by the emulator-Borg core team and by Giles himself.

As in fact is well known to the enthusiasts, on what are optical supports to all intents and purposes (laserdiscs, precisely) the publishers have encoded, in the period of time between 1983 (release year for Don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair) and the half of the Nineties, analog animations rather than digital ones, dooming the contents to a slow but steady reduction in quality with the time passing by.

And just the implementation of proper lossless codecs was the first of many problems confronted (and evidently solved) by Giles, worried as usual about integrating the lasergames emulation with an adequate cleanness and structural consistency of the code, to let the archiving of the inner workings of the laserdisc-based arcades be as closer as possible to the original hardware. Daphne, the emulator that since and first has reproposed the genre classics on PC, is satisfied by a hugely inferior level of fidelity being enough a simple audiovisual stream in MPEG-2 compressed format.

According to the information published by Giles in the past months and years, the movies that act as a background to lasergames “semi-interactivity” (that are for the most cartoons to wind on by using the fire button or the joystick lever just at the right time) have been captured to the standard resolution of the DVD format with NTSC video (720×486), packed with an ad-hoc custom algorithm and lastly stored in enormous files in CHD format (Compressed Hunks of Data), already used for those arcades based on hard disks or optical disks like CD or the above said DVD.

Cube Quest - screenshot 1

Cube Quest is the game chosen to be the bridgehead of the new “laser” era of MAME, opened by the just released version 0.127. Therefore not games extremely popular (despite the twenty years passed) as Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, but a semi-unknown psychedelic shoot’em up dating back to 1983 too which combines a polygonal graphics with the animations stored on the laserdisc “projected” in streaming on the background. Some multimedia contents on the game are available on the site The Dragon’s Lair Project, including six clips in AVI format taken in a pre-MAME era.

The Cube Quest CHD weighs 12 Gigabytes: a size that’s remarkable and that should further increase with the addition of lasergames fully based on animations like the above said Dragon’s Lair saga, Cliff Hanger, Mad Dog McCree and others, but that nevertheless appears to be a lot smaller than the estimations considered correct up to now that expected 35 Gigabytes for every 30 minutes of movie. Even so, anyway, the yet substantial amount of space needed to hold a complete collection of the titles emulated by MAME (that on the whole takes up to 20 DVDs for the version 0.126 set) is excessively increased.

Most of the known lasergames are yet in the capable hands of Giles and the mamedevs, and the list of unemulated titles should now be reduced with time. Returning to talk about Cube Quest, anyway, it seems that the game is fully working under MAME 0.127, and the first information available regarding the performance report of a speed barely up to 100% on an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU at 3 GHz without the CHD. A fault, says Giles, of the complex hardware for the management of the graphics and the game logic to whom the laserdisc animations act as a background.

Before handing the word over the images of the first laserdisc videogame emulated in the decennial history of MAME I close by pointing out, for whom isn’t afraid of the technicalities of video encoding and knows how to manoeuvre between the constant angular velocity of optical disks and vertical blanking interval lines, that Giles has recently started again to talk about the inner workings of lasergames by discussing of DirectShow (1, 2) and the full-blown disks (1, 2).

Cube Quest - screenshot 2

Cube Quest - screenshot 3

Cube Quest - screenshot 4

Cube Quest - screenshot 5

Cube Quest - screenshot 6

Cube Quest - screenshot 7

Cube Quest - screenshot 8

Cube Quest - screenshot 9

Cube Quest - screenshot 10

Cube Quest - screenshot 11

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8 Responses to “Finally MAME emulates its first laserdisc videogame”

  1. arthur on August 21st, 2008 11:37 pm

    WOW!
    at last my hope of being able to relive my childhood memories of playing M.a.c.h. 3 and (as I own a genuine atari ’starwars’ yoke controller!) Firefox at home are just that tiny bit closer….
    :)
    Applauding not only the efforts, but also the expertise of the mame team seems barely enough, but it is all I can do.
    Well done guys!


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  2. Joe M on August 22nd, 2008 5:19 pm

    It is unfortunate that only Aaron’s name got mentioned for the emulation effort credits. There were several people involved, but to name one specific, Phil Bennett’s efforts deserve mention. He wrote the complex driver for the game. This was not your simple run of the mill driver. I’m not saying Aaron couldn’t have done it, but Phil was the one who did it. Way to go Phil and Aaron, thank you.


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  3. Sir Arthur, King of Ghouls'n Ghosts on August 22nd, 2008 5:44 pm

    Well, for what I know Giles has worked more on the codec/back end tech side of things, something that has taken years to complete in the right way. So yeah, I’ve totally avoided to take into consideration the driver work to focus on the main technology behind all the laserdisc thing :-P

    Nevertheless it’s obvious that MAME won’t go anywhere without proper drivers, and the credits to Mr.Bennet are fairly right in the code…


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  4. Dan on February 2nd, 2009 1:45 pm

    Daphne emulates Laserdisc very well since some years. Try that.


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  5. Sir Arthur, King of Ghouls'n Ghosts on February 2nd, 2009 8:47 pm

    Daphne emulates Laserdisc very well since some years. Try that.

    Yes, I know about that. But MAME emulation is a totally different story….


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  6. Sir Bob on March 14th, 2009 12:46 am

    Sweet - It’s about time Mame got on board with Laser Disc emulation. Can’t wait for Ninja Hayate to be emulated…. the very best Laser Disc game around town!

    I think Daphne is a fantastic emulator, but I know for a fact that the Mame team will take it to that next level of precision… getting everything just right :)

    But 12Gbs for a CHD is a little on the large side, haven’t they heard of H.264 or Xvid..?


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  7. Sir Arthur, King of Ghouls'n Ghosts on March 14th, 2009 12:48 pm

    But 12Gbs for a CHD is a little on the large side, haven’t they heard of H.264 or Xvid..?

    I think Daphne is a fantastic emulator, but I know for a fact that the Mame team will take it to that next level of precision… getting everything just right

    Here we have an incompatibility: you get precision and giant 12 GB CHDs with MAME, OR you get “emulation to simply play games” with Daphne. There isn’t a third choice :-P


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  8. Raul on August 7th, 2011 3:06 am

    I still cannot play Firefox,because the message says now:”Laser disc video must be compressed with A/V codec!”I really need your help right here,right now.Thank you.


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