Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies and their noxious inclination to spoil the day for PC gamers are steadily at the focus of the gaming debate, and almost everyone takes for granted the fact that it’s a contemporary issue not concerning games of the past at all. Nothing more wrong: maybe some years ago (or many years ago) they were more trivially called “copy protection”, but DRM restrictions continue to do harm even among people that engage in the noble art of retrogaming or are interested to digital contents preservation.
Followers of the VOGONS board and DOSBox official forum are already aware of this: one of the forthcoming versions of the best PC-with-DOS emulator out there should include a very important architectural novelty, ie the software implementation of the historical Voodoo Graphics chipset created by 3dfx Interactive in the Nineties. “Kekko”, the programmer working on the project with the aid of the DOSBox crew and the coding-capable VOGONS users, says that his aim is the complete and faithful emulation of SST-1, the first Voodoo chipset marketed in 1996 inside the first 3D graphics accelerated cards on the PC.
During the past few days two important facts happened in the emulation world: DOSBox, the virtual machine that accurately replicates the PC world obsolete hardware has been updated with a new version release, while the Dreamcast emulator nullDC has found itself at a crossroad in its erratic history. Both cases concern software that are almost unique in their kind, and both the news are worth being told for the practical effects they have on the many fans using them.
After the release of DOSBox version 0.73, I was asking myself why the emulation status page wasn’t updated yet and kept reporting the own features of version 0.72. Actually mine was a rhetoric question because I knew that sooner or later, as already happened in the past, the page would have been updated with the current status of the several subsystems of retrogamers PC/DOS preferred emulator.
On the occasion of SourceForge.net’s project of the month award granted to DOSBox, I asked the crew behind the best PC/DOS emulator out there to reply to some questions about the project. The developers were busy with the last works on the new version of the emulator, thus the interview was changed to include some DOSBox 0.73 related features and finally in the past days the crew was kind enough to send me back the replies I was seeking for. There is no Big Scoop (tm) here nor I was asking for one, but I hope the conversation is an interesting reading anyway.
Even though the last works on the code have been slowed down by some last hour bugs, around the end of May the DOSBox developers have kept their word by releasing the new version of the best PC/DOS emulator out there. After almost two years since the previous official main release, DOSBox 0.73 comes to improve the already remarkable compatibility level of PC retrogamers’ preferred virtual machine and introduces a lot of new stuff in practically every aspect of the emulation.
DOSBox, the emulator designed to run DOS games on modern operating systems (and not necessarily on a PC), has been chosen as project of the month for May 2009 on the open source platform SourceForge.net. It’s the latest award granted to a software that “simply does what it is supposed to do“, as the authors state, and that after having summed up more than 10 millions downloads is ready for an update awaited since almost two years.
Alerted by the inexorable advancing of the next digital dark age, the European academy started a preservation plan for digital contents and artefacts with great ambitions. The KEEP (Keeping Emulation Environments Portable) project considers with particular care videogames and intends to create what has been defined the first “general purpose” emulator, capable of providing access to obsolete media and formats for nowadays and future generations.
If there’s something that the new digital store Good Old Games has clearly emphasized is the fact that retrogaming can become a business, but at its heart there must necessarily be the passion and the commitment of hobbyists able to feed that business with their coding and software engineering efforts. Without projects amateurish in shape but extremely sophisticated in essence like DOSBox and ScummVM, to say it frankly, probably GOG.com would have never opened.
UPDATE: on the DOSBox official homepage Qbix writes that, “after careful studying the statistics“, the date in which downloads summed up the 10 millions amount has been determined in July 21. Because of this the contest with the CD edition of Dune as a prize is still valid, and the winner selected “randomly” from the 4 people that guessed the date will be contacted shortly to receive it.
That’s an important goal achieved by “the x86 emulator with DOS“: DOSBox has passed over the crucial amount of 10 millions downloads, including all the supported platforms’ versions. As stated on the official forum hosted on VOGONS, the stats on SourceForge.net (the delivery platform that hosts the emulator) of the 17th of August have scored 10,025,792 downloads, and now DOSBox is the 43rd of the 50 most downloaded FOSS projects.