Emulation galore: news for ScummVM, ResidualVM, PCSX2 and Supermodel!

January 22, 2012 · Filed Under Emulation & Retrogaming, News 

News - A succession of fresh, quality news, from inside and outside of the WebWhat follows is a report for a long series of news occurred in the emulation world during the last period, and by “last period” I mean the latest months before the beginning of the new year at least. For this reason, in some cases I can’t exactly talk about “news”, but it felt right to me to emphasize them considering that these are already established advancements that will be the foundations on which to build the future ones. After all emulation is an ever-evolving world, and I want to start over to tell its progressing without losing too much important things along the way :-P

Let’s start with ScummVM, the retro-gamers’ favorite virtual machine that re-interprets the data files from point-and-click adventures making them compatible with the new operating systems and the new entertainment devices. ScummVM is now at release 1.4.0 and celebrates its first 10 years of adventures with the work of 131 developers, more than 1 million lines of codes and more than 7,6 million downloads from the project’s main site alone. The latest stable version of the adventurers virtual machine brought support for a great classic from the RPG genre (Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos), a lesser-known adventure (Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch) and a little game for children (Blue’s Birthday Adventure) - aside from bugfixes and new features (the PC speaker sound for Lucas’ classics!), of course.

After version 1.4.0, the ScummVM developers worked further to add support for the “enhanced” soundtrack of Beneath A Steel Sky by James Woodcock, for the Polish (yet translated in English) freeware game Soltys, for two children games and the Blue Force adventure game. All the aforementioned changes are available in the latest intermediate version of ScummVM, and will clearly be part of the next release of the virtual machine.

ScummVM - screenshot 1 (Lands of Lore) ScummVM - screenshot 2 (Lands of Lore) ScummVM - screenshot 3 (Revenge of the Patriarch)

If ScummVM has made a lot of improvements in supporting many more games outside the traditional adventure games genre as well, ResidualVM has finally reached an important goal in its short yet troubled history: after two years of silence, the interpreter that wants to bring LucasArts 3D graphic adventures (and those based on the Lua scripting language in particular) back to life is now capable of running Grim Fandango till its completion. In brief the games is now “completable with a few minor glitches“, out of the many fixed bugs and a secondary project that uses the virtual machine to “remaster” Lucas’ little gem making it less stodgy for the graphic tastes and computer hardware of modern players.

ResidualVM - screenshot 1 (Grim Fandango) ResidualVM - screenshot 2 (Grim Fandango) ResidualVM - screenshot 3 (Grim Fandango)

From the games of the Nineties we go next to more recent times with PCSX2, by far one of the most complex emulators ever created that aims to recreate the polygonal delights of Sony PlayStation 2 on fairly recent PCs: PCSX2 arrived at version 0.9.8 but it hasn’t stopped its run toward the accurate and complete emulation of the powerful Japanese console. The latest news include a new “speedhack” which greatly increases games running speed by making use of a third thread aside from the two already in use (plus the minor one for the GUI), a feature that benefits from systems with multi-core processors especially with three or four cores.

After having implemented the new speedhack for PCSX2, developer “cottonvibes” announced his leave from the project to follow a professional career suitable to his programming skills. Speedhack aside, the PS2 emulator can now rely on a documentation wiki and official video channels on YouTube and Vimeo for an even greater accessibility to the wonders the software can create on the screen, a new input plug-in that supports USB mice and lightguns. To have an idea of what PCSX2 can do, I advice you to enjoy the following video (from the official YouTube channel) and maybe even the Full HD screenshots “curated” by the Electric Blue Skies blog.

Closing with a bang means returning to the Nineties and the arcade video games with Supermodel, a software that likely hasn’t much to envy PCSX2 as for complexity. Supermodel tries to emulate the Sega Model 3 system, a true “monster” with a RISC CPU (66-166 MHz) and double graphic processor “Real3D” developed by Lockheed Martin that in 1996 was the absolute technology top for 3D polygonal games. The new Supermodel is born in January 2011, it’s based on the documentation work made by Ville Linde, Stefano Teso and Bart Trzynadlowski between 2003 and 2006 and is managed by the aforementioned Bart Trzynadlowski together with Nik Henson.

The emulator of one of the least documented arcade systems is currently in an alpha stage, works from the command line and is now at version 0.2a. The software is open source (GPLv3) and it’s available in 32 and 64-bit versions for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X systems. Even if it’s still in a very initial stage, Supermodel can already run quite well known titles like Daytona USA 2, Virtua Fighter 3, Scud Race and Virtua Striker 2. The latest developments include improvements to polygons rendering and management of all the rendering works in a separate thread - a feature that greatly improves the emulation speed on multi-core systems. As in the case of PCSX2, a YouTube video can explain better than many words what Supermodel can do and how big the improvement margin of a project so young is.

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