This post was initially planned for January, then the blog restarted on February therefore my dense backlog of articles and things to do postponed it at the end of March. It happens, when you are erratic and discipline-less like me, and it doesn’t matter anyway: the post topic, ie my will to fill 2013 with many nice retro-video games and above all to play them all, is still valid for another 9 months at least.
Born from the ashes of the deceased FreeDO project, 4DO is an emulator of the historical 3DO console released under an open source license. 4DO aim is to improve on the already remarkable accuracy level of the FreeDO main core by adding new features, bringing bugfixes and making the software compatible with more games from the actually-not-so-large library of titles published for the 3DO.
Even though it has partially overcome its original mission to be the cornerstone of legal retrogaming on PC, GOG.com (formerly Good Old Games) continues to delight old gamers’ taste (and even the new ones tired of the usual FPSes or the dumb casual games for smartphones) by releasing true gems of the past equipped with compatibility fixes for the latest Windows OSes. During the last days the digital store has practically ran wild in that regard delivering the first two chapters of the Thief series and announcing the coming of the historical Full Motion Video horrors made by Trilobyte.
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.
More than two months after version 1.4.0 came out, ScummVM is now updated with release 1.4.1 (code name “Subwoofer”). The new version of the virtual machine for adventurers and retrogaming lovers is depicted by developers as a “maintenance only” one and it is mostly designed to fix several bugs found in the previous release, even though ScummVM 1.4.1 does bring some of the new features introduced afterward.
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.
Despite it offers a service aimed at a very selected public of video games fans, in the latest weeks Good Old Games has been the most discussed topic on-line. “GOG.com simply cannot remain in its current form“, an unexpected message on the retrogaming store homepage stated, and many believed that the service had shut down for financial issues or who knows what. The truth was, it was discovered some days later, that the GOG.com management had decided to close the long beta phase of the site with a shocking marketing stunt.
October 2 and 3 are red-flag days for Italian retrogaming fans: in those days Monza will host the fourth edition of Video Games History, “the landmark event for retrogaming and more generally video games fans“. Organized by GamesCollection in partnership with retro-stores, associations, hardware manufacturers and games developers, the exhibition will be held in the Lombard city Urban Center and will provide the opportunity to go back to the past of video games without ignoring to glance at the present and the future of the medium.
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 having reached its “full maturity” with version 1.0.0, celebrating the occasion with a significant amount of improvements, the old-times adventurers beloved virtual machine updates itself once more. ScummVM release 1.1.0 (code name “Beta quadrant”) brings some new features, squashed bugs, support to seven new games within the compatibility list. And some annoying regression defects too that should anyway be worked out “in about four weeks” with an upcoming release.
I had already talked about Dolphin’s remarkable qualities in a previous post, being it the only emulator currently capable of replicating a Nintendo Wii console on PC and running some commercial games. Another, impressive confirmation of the emulator capabilities comes from this YouTube video (via Joystick Division), that in a single shot shows off what the recently added Full HD video clips viewing (1080p, or 1920×1080 pixels) is really useful for while it demonstrates the growing Dolphin compatibility with the latest games published for the Nintendo console.
This news would have come out a bit earlier if I hadn’t have to deal with some other stuff, nevertheless the subject is interesting and deserves to be reported anyway: MESS, MAME twin emulator which embraces its philosophy of completeness and accuracy shifting the focus from the arcades to the home machines hardware, has recently added support for Philips CD-i, ie what almost certainly is the worst videogame “console” ever appeared in the not-so-young history of the medium.
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”.
Lord Pall, administrator of the spiritual heir of abandonware site Home of the Underdogs, sent me an e-mail in the past days letting me know that works for pushing forward the almost-dead project of Sarinee Achavanuntakul continue at full pace. “We’re still alive with most of the games listed, a semblance of a community, and a nice chunk of user added listings and reviews“, Lord Pall writes, saying that there is still a lot of work to do but the site development goes on as expected.
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.