Rather than taking a vacation from writing code and reverse engineering the chips inside old gaming machines, emulator developers use the hottest period of the year to release updates for some of most significant projects in the modern emulation scene. During the last three months new versions of ScummVM and Dolphin arrived, while a project seemingly started to absorb all the emulators in the world presents an important innovation regarding one of the most beloved consoles from Nintendo.
By ending a wait that lasted almost two years, the developers of ScummVM announced the arrival of a new version for the virtual machine preferred by graphic adventure fans: also known as “Lost with Sherlock”, ScummVM 1.8.0 is hailed as one of the most hefty releases ever prepared by the team with the addition of many games and game engines, the substantial update of graphics and sound sub-systems and the availability of new conversions for minor platforms.
2015 started well for fans of old-school graphic adventures, thanks to a new official release of ResidualVM and the addition of a couple new titles to the always-growing list of games supported by ScummVM. The two gaming virtual machines are related, seeing that ResidualVM was created by the same developers of ScummVM, and they both are projects defined by a steady advancement process devouring new games like a Grue devours players lost in the Zork underground world.
Good news are coming for ResidualVM and PCSX2, two virtual machines that in the near future should improve considerably (in the PCSX2 case) and add support for new games beyond the software’s original mission (ResidualVM). Both cases are a useful reminder for the fact that, unlike someone’s opinion, emulation is a world that doesn’t stop moving forward and it’s far from having reached saturation as for ideas, techniques and new old things to replicate on modern PCs.
DICE is a small emulator dedicated to recreating on a modern computer the arcade games based on discrete circuits, ancient and bizarre entertainment machines where the electronic components required for the game experience were soldered individually on the circuit board and where there was no trace of a CPU. It’s an obscure and fascinating kind of emulation, the one served by DICE, and the offering of emulated games grows richer and richer with every new version of the software.
A year and half after its first major release, in the last days PCSX2 got updates again with the release of two new versions in a short timeframe: the only existing (open source) emulator capable of replicating in software the complex hardware of Sony’s PlayStation 2 console reached release 1.2.0 at the beginning of February, followed the day after by release 1.2.1 aimed at correcting some last-hour bugs. PCSX2 is now able to run 2130 games in playable state, a remarkable result considering the about 3900 games making up the total PS2 titles library.
The new year started with the release of updated versions for two “small” 3D emulators, projects essentially managed in a personal way by developers used to take all the time that’s needed - and often more so - to cook the code and publish the resulting executable builds. And as for procrastination no one is better than ElSemi, a long-time mamedev that doesn’t fear reverse engineering on complex platforms the likes of Capcom’s CPS3 and Sega’s Model 2.
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.
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.