After the last November’s lively beginning, the commercial race of the eighth generation home consoles is still nurturing the perpetual machine of controversy over each machine performances, the plans of the three big corporations in the industry (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) for the future and everything. Unlike the recent past, however, controversy and rumors are just the garnish coming with the main dish - ie how many units the new consoles can sell to the customers still willing to invest their money on the gaming business.
The seventh generation of home consoles is about to reach the last stage of its commercial life, a new console war looms on the horizon and the emulation scene delivers the nth project with an “impossible” objective, ie a software replica of the powerful hardware components of the Sony PlayStation 3. The new emulator is called RPCS3, the development team has great ambitions but right now the software isn’t more of a multi-window shell with little to show on the screen.
What 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
NullDC, the Dreamcast emulator released with an open source license by its author after years of inactivity, remains a noteworthy example of what kind of results the community devoted to emulating the newest gaming machines can achieve. Although there is wide room for optimization and the implementation of still-lacking features, nullDC is a powerful engine which renders with ease - granted it run on a suitable hardware - several instances of the Sega console at the same time on a single PC.
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.
UPDATE: After a few months the CPU upgrade turned to be a remarkable failure. I advise anyone against this kind of practice and I invite you to read the post regarding my useless troubleshooting efforts.
I purchased my latest computer in absolute emergency conditions, and except for an annoying, sound-related issue when I extensively use the network (a fact for which I would be inclined to blame and damn Vista SP1) I’m satisfied with it until now. But being obliged to spend a limited budget obviously didn’t hinder me to upgrade the system main component, the CPU, overlapping to satisfaction the pleasure of having a fairly recent setup to let me use it in scenarios that are a little less retrograde than the ones I’m usually accustomed to.
As the yet partial success obtained by PCSX2 with PlayStation 2 emulation demonstrates, adequately recreating the last generations videogaming machines on a PC screen - it doesn’t matter how much powerful and advanced equipped CPUs and GPUs are - isn’t an easy task. For this reason the results recently achieved by GameCube and Wii emulator Dolphin are exceptional to say the least and let foresee a bright future for the Nintendo machines emulation “scene”.
“PS2 emulation is a complex task“, as it can be read on the about page of PCSX2, but it isn’t an impossible task as demonstrated by the advancements achieved during time by the only software currently able to replicate the most successful Sony console (a hit enduring even today) with an accuracy level that is enough to run a good number of commercial games. PCSX2 emulates the PS2 on PC, and the last release of the emulator delivered in these days, version 0.9.6, once again confirms that a group of talented and passionate coders is generally much more capable of achieving such kind of objectives than a multinational investing billions of euros and obtaining in return results embarrassing at least.
Parallel computing and GPGPU, the super-PC genesis between universal libraries and proprietary platforms
Far from slowing down because of the worldwide economic crisis, PC technology evolution (and particularly the videogaming peripherals one) continues to break records and Gigaflops, opening usage scenarios that was solely related to super-computers just a few years ago. Such scenarios are currently colliding with the opposite development of standards and API competing with each other, resulted from the desire of market supremacy or from the need to reach an agreement on a common computing platform.
The last week of August has been the opportunity for NVIDIA to invite public and press to attend NVISION, a convention devoted to the technological vision of the historic GPU and discrete graphics cards manufacturer held in San Jose. No new products were showed at the expo, but the statements against the competitors have been clear: NVIDIA will continue to keep the performance leadership in the future too.