DB's guide to Emulation on the PC.

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  • Dirtbox 9 Apr 2006 19:45:28 78,120 posts
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    el_pollo_diablo's EG Emulation Group for MOAR.

    Big subject this, but I'm not one to shy away from anything much, so armed with balls of steel and a tentative grip on the English language I bring you another in my series of shonky guides for beginners.


    Emulation for the PC in 3 easy steps *

    The PC is easily the best piece of kit for emulation, through sheer number crunching brute force and a dash of slick coding it can disguise itself as anything from a teeny weeny Pokemon Mini to the slightly less diminutive Xbox. the Emulation scene is vast, with everything imaginable and more on offer. Obviously this is me that's writing this, and I can't be arsed to create myself more work than I have to, so I'll just cover the basics and try and show you some of the odder sights along the way. Okay? Okay.

    Before I lead you by the hand through the finer points of playing games you haven't paid for, I'll slap a disclaimer in to appease Lutz: Emulators are perfectly legal piece of software, it's the games you'll be playing on them that aren't so I'll avoid all reference to the thousands of ROM and bittorrent sites that pepper the net and yap about the ways to play instead. They're all out there with a mere tinkle of google after all.


    The Basics

    Emulators come in various types, the simplest of which is an executable file and a rom directory, put a rom in the directory, select it in the exe and play. No problem. Where it begins to get complicated is for the more recent systems such as the PSone or the N64. You'll find you have plugins which cover everything from controllers, graphics, sounds, image mounters, etc. I'll try to cover each of these as I cover the emulator in question. Suffice it to say, it's normally down to a little effort tweaking different options for 10 minutes and once it's done, you needn't bother messing about with it anymore. Emulators that use plugins are not really the best solution, they bottleneck the emulation process where a complete program should ideally run games as they were intended.

    Another big boon to accurate emulation is the speed of your computers processor. Take into account that console X should run at speed Y, you'd need to have a computer at least triple the speed of the consoles to get close. With more recent consoles, this poses an obvious problem that only time will solve.

    Another necessary evil are bios. As with your PC, your console needs a basic operating instruction to start loading a game. These bios aren't normally included when you download an emulator, so need to be leeched from the original hardware. Some scallywags are said to have put them up on the net though. Disgusting.


    Arcade Emulation

    Only one way to start this, really. The daddy of all emulators, it's practically a household name up there with the likes of Hoover and Sellotape. MAME, Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, started life 10 years ago when a young programmer named Nicola Salmoria began working on single hardware emulators. Eventually merging them together to create what has to be the best emulator of all time.

    Now with a vast team of coders, MAME boasts support for 6147 games spanning dozens of arcade systems, has up to 5 incremental updates per month and comes in more shapes, flavours and forms than any other emulator. Admittedly not all of those games are supported, but it's only a scant matter of time and the list grows with each of those frequent updates. At this time, the official version stands at 0.105b.

    Of course, the best version is the original, but for those of you not so comfortable piddling about with command line operation, there's always MAME Plus! which is updated just as frequently (although usually a week behind) and has all the usual options available with a click of a mouse.

    Some of the games such as the require a BIOS to successfully emulate hardware such as ST-V and NeoGeo, they can all be found here should you need them.


    Nintendo

    The most loved set of consoles have a big following on the emulation circuit and unsurprisingly are some of the best emulated around. They are many and varied, but I'm not about to start from the bottom up, I'll just give you the ones that are essential instead.

    -SNES
    Only two spring instantly to mind, ZSNES and Snes9X. I'm not a big fan of ZSNES, although it's the most compatible of the two, I find the 16 bit interface about as fun to use as a tax form. Snes9X's windows gui is far easier on the eye and does a perfectly good job as long as you don't mind missing out on some of the more obscure PD tech demos and betas. Also some of the funkier graphical effects with ZSNES such as Super Eagle aren't available on 9X, but being a purist i don't miss them. You on the other hand should give it a whirl.

    -GBA
    The best of the pack is Visual Boy Advance. Much like Snes9X it has a simple to use windows gui and plays everything you throw at it.

    -N64
    For many the holey grail of emulation. In it's short life, the N64 had some of the greatest games ever ever. Ever.

    You'll be happy to know that they've pretty much nailed it with two emulators, Project64 and 1964. The bad news being, these both use those plugins I mentioned earlier. The good news is I'm going to tell which are the best plugins to use, and since they both share the same code structure, you can use the same plugin setup for both of them. Yay. But not right at this second, I'll finish the rest of this guide and have a break first.

    -Gamecube
    There are several of these knocking about at the moment, the best one being Dolphin. There's actually less of a point to this one than the others, but interesting regardless. It's more of a curio than a playable emulator, but it does work and you can play games if you really want. Just don't expect to get to the end of a level in your lifetime. It's slooooow. Couple that drawback with the fact that you can't play GC disks with your PC's CD/DVD drive and it looks like a loser from the start. However, it's a start and usable GCM files are knocking about to combat the disk problem.

    I fully expect this to be a fully usable emulator within a year, they just need to speed up the 3D rendering.

    CD image note
    From here on, a lot of the emulators require disk images, these aren't hard to find, but they come in all shapes and sizes, the best and most compatible way of mounting an image in whatever flavour it comes in is Daemon Tools 3.47 (look down the page for the right version). It's a piece of cake to configure.

    Sony

    -PSone
    Like the N64, this has a well maintained emulation following, some of you might remember the now defunkt Bleem! which used to be commercially available until Sony stopped them in their tracks for trying to earn money by using their bios (Scph1001.bin and scph7502.bin) and possibly damaging the sales of the PSone. As if.

    The seminal ePSXe which is way better than Bleem! for speed and compatibility. You'll need to mess about with the plugins, but there's not much faffing about to do, and once you've got it, you've got it.

    Another forum favourite is PSX which is currently at version 1.9. It doesn't use plugins, so technically is a little faster. However, most recent computers can handle the higher specs of ePSXe, which gives better control over graphical options and so forth. The most recent versions combat copy protection problems that were encountered in some games which weren't previously unemulatable in any other form than disk images.

    -PS2
    Like the GC emulator, this is a mixed bag. The best one, however is PCSX2, which while not being able to emulate all that many games (around 80 to varying degrees and counting) beyond the menus, some 25 or so are said to be playable. I've personally had mixed success with this one. The difficulty comes from different regions not appearing to be emaultable in the same way, so while a US version of Burnout 2 ticks along at 20 or so frames, the Pal version won't even boot. Exciting stuff and worth watching for. The complete set of bios roms (PS2 Bios 30004R V6 Pal.bin, PS2 Bios 30004R, V6 Pal.MEC, PS2 Bios 30004R V6 Pal.NVM, rom1.bin, scph10000.bin, scph10000.NVM, scph39001.bin, scph39001.MEC, scph39001.NVM, SCPH-70004_BIOS_V12_PAL_200.BIN, SCPH-70004_BIOS_V12_PAL_200.EROM, SCPH-70004_BIOS_V12_PAL_200.NVM, SCPH-70004_BIOS_V12_PAL_200.ROM1, SCPH-70004_BIOS_V12_PAL_200.ROM2) might be a little difficult to come by, mind.


    Sega

    -Megadrive
    Much talk on the forum about MDs recently, and like the SNES, it boasts a couple of spot on emulators - Gens and Fushion. Gens is very much like Snes9X in style and excecution, but Fushion stands above it for the fact that it also emulates almost every other piece of Sega hardware, from the Game gear to the 32X. The only things it doesn't emulate is the Saturn, Dreamcast and some obscure arcade hardware, but it's not a problem, because for those we have...

    -Saturn
    Bit of a heated war raging over this one. For years people tried and failed to create a working Saturn emulator with varying degrees of success until from out of nowhere came Giri Giri (meaning "just in time"), which was created by Japanese programmer Shinya Miyamoto with the help of Sega for their planned download delivery service. The service was soon scrapped and copies of the canned Giri Giri leaked onto the internet to be pulled apart by coders and crackers from everywhere.

    The first of the backward engineered emulators was SSF. I can't comment on this one personally, I'm not too tip top at hacking my way through Japanese error messages and have never got this one to work.

    The second is Cassini which is considered by most to be a complete rip off of Giri Giri, not even bothering to change the file icons. In fact the only difference I can see between the two is a few filename changes and the "programmers" responsible have been ripped appart from every angle. Their forum is still awash with fans of the original Giri Giri trolling about, looking for a fight. Anyway, the war wages on. I've actually found the easiest version of Cassini to use isn't the one on the site (which is frankly complete shit), but the Lite version.

    -Dreamcast
    Essential if you ask me, not least for it's Naomi arcade hardware ports such as Ikaruga and other stuff like REZ. Chankast is about the best one at the moment, sadly the project has been on "hold" for about 18 months (dead as a coffin nail to you and I), but it's very playable if you've got the power to throw at it. You'll need to sap the dc_bios.bin off your DC and pop it in the dir before you can play. Chankast EX is better than the original as it has various fixes for popular games such as Ikaruga and SFIII

    Demul is the most recent and is currently back in development and available to the public right now. It's a little shakey and the framerate isn't as good as Chankast's, but considering the Russian programmers responsible for it are slaving away as I type this to unleash ever brighter versions into the frey, we can hope to expect some great things. \o/

    NullDC is a new emulator which has questionable parentage, but appears to be almost fully functional and is set to be a Chankast killer IF it gets released. So far there's been a lot of hype and speculation but the community remains quietly contemplative about it since it's forefather, Icarus didn't deliver in any way.


    General Emulator

    As much as I'd like to, I'll refrain from going sub-16bit into the gritty, monochrome underworld of ogres, goblins and Blerk. However, I couldn't resist giving this one a mention for it's sheer audacity.

    Of all the ridiculously ambitious projects I've ever head of, MESS has to be the maddest. So far it emulates 427 home computers and consoles, and counting. All of the 80's classics from the Speccy to the Amiga right up to some recent platforms I've listed above all the way across the board to pieces of hardware so obscure even their creators don't know about them: WAVY PHC-35J, CF-2700, Fellow, Microbee 56, Jupiter Ace, Sord and Mato are all in here, each one bringing a lump to the throats of perhaps as many as six or seven people.

    One day they'll probably have an emulator to emulate a user playing an emulation of a emulator emulating everything from the start of this sentence. Mind boggling stuff, MESS for the absolute win.

    Edit: Nearly forgot!

    * Not actually 3 easy steps, more like 9.


    FooAtari wrote:
    Not sure if this has been mentioned in thread before but I came across an app called Gamebase the other day and I'm pretty impressed with it.

    From the site:
    GameBase is an Open Source "Emulator Frontend", released under the GNU General Public Licence. It is a program that attempts to make running games on various emulators very easy, so that you don't have to remember lots of command line parameters and config settings. GameBase is the Official Frontend for the GB64 Collection of C64 games.

    - Supports virtually any emulator
    - Manages games, music, docs, screenshots and more
    - Stores multiple versions of games
    - Supports game re-zipping (saves highscores/savegames etc.)
    - Imports from RomCenter/TOSEC datafiles
    - Extensive database search/filtering engine
    - Links games to their precursors and sequels
    - Multi-language support


    So far I have download databases for Atari ST, Amstrad CPC 464 and Amiga and it's pretty handy being able to launch games from one place and also have screenshots, box scans, manuals and loads of other extras dedicated people have put together.

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  • Retroid Moderator 9 Apr 2006 19:57:13 44,716 posts
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    Emulation, eh?

    It'll never catch on.

    /Writes out reasons why he's a hardcore gamer

    /Is lynched
  • Spectral 9 Apr 2006 20:01:01 4,989 posts
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    Anyone know the specs needed to run an Amiga emulator well?
  • matrim83 9 Apr 2006 20:01:42 5,587 posts
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    Great thread DB.

    Project 64 even has a mouse plugin so you can play Golden Eye etc with it.

    + Zelda OoT with a quicksave = Gaming Nirvana.

    Edited by matrim83 at 20:05:09 09-04-2006

    Valar morghulis.

  • Dirtbox 9 Apr 2006 20:03:29 78,120 posts
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    Spectral wrote:
    Anyone know the specs needed to run an Amiga emulator well?
    You can run an amiga emu with 500mhz.

    You can have a go with MESS there if you feel lucky, but WinUAE is the coice of the pros.

    Edited by Dirtbox at 20:03:34 09-04-2006

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  • Dirtbox 9 Apr 2006 20:04:32 78,120 posts
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    matrim83 wrote:
    Great thread DB.

    Project 64 even has a mouse plugin so you can play Golden Eye etc with it.
    Yeah, I'll get to the plugins once I've had a fag and finished my coffee.

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  • Retroid Moderator 9 Apr 2006 20:10:16 44,716 posts
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    Dirtbox wrote:
    Spectral wrote:
    Anyone know the specs needed to run an Amiga emulator well?
    You can run an amiga emu with 500mhz.
    Mate of mine was getting full-whack A500 emulation on a 233MMX back in the day :D

    Best Commodore C64/128 emulator. Also has emulators for several other 8bit Commodore machines but they're in various stages of development. Rather good considering, though :)
  • Deleted user 9 April 2006 20:16:40
    1) Download MAME32
    2) Download ROMs
    3) ???
    4) Profit
  • Deleted user 9 April 2006 20:21:50
    Bored_Gamer wrote:
    Yeah but it isn't just download MAME and off you go you know!

    Uh.

    Yeah, it is.
  • Dirtbox 9 Apr 2006 20:25:19 78,120 posts
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    Truk wrote:
    Mr. Dirtbox sir, you are teh r0xx0rz. Great thread. :)

    I've been using ZSNES and a NES one, but I was going to ask about other emulators. Question answered without even writing it. Cheers!
    My pleasure.

    /best threads since 2002

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  • Deleted user 9 April 2006 20:32:17
    There's Windows versions, and DOS versions. There's a version for each that's optimised for Pentium processors.
  • silentbob 9 Apr 2006 20:33:50 28,969 posts
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    Cheers DB - very good work. Now I can ease my lazy arse back into emulation without any real effort. Except of cours ethe days now committed to grabbing the latest ROMs.

    VR News: www.roadtovr.com -- Follow us on Twitter.

  • Amajiro 9 Apr 2006 21:50:45 2,214 posts
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    Awesome post DB.

    Any sign of a DS emulator?
  • Retroid Moderator 9 Apr 2006 21:54:40 44,716 posts
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    Some news sites, as I posted on the 'hardcore gamer' thread:

    MAME:

    MAME World is always very up-to-date

    Haze's MAME WIP is great if you're interested in some of the detective work which goes on in the background

    General:

    NG Emu - excellent for the latest news on PS1-onwards emulation including their latest plugins, but usually very busy :(

    Emu X Haven is usually decent

    Emulation 64 was originally for N64 stuff but now covers pretty much everything :)

    Emu HQ covers a lot of the more obscure releases too

    ^^ I usually swap between those lot so I don't miss anything out.
  • lost_soul 9 Apr 2006 22:11:40 9,369 posts
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    Anyone remember Dave's video game classics?

    /disappears off down memory lane
  • Stormflood 9 Apr 2006 22:15:28 2,263 posts
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    For Xbox emulation, try the Xbox 360 - it doesn't work with all games, and isn't updated often, but it sort of works.








    sorry ;)


    p.s. great thread, nice work

    Edited by Stormflood at 22:19:37 09-04-2006
  • ProfessorLesser 10 Apr 2006 01:04:26 19,356 posts
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    Because obviously Deeb doesn't know how to spell 'reading'...
  • Tabasco 10 Apr 2006 01:14:47 5,780 posts
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    Bravo DB Bravo! I know what I'll be doing for the next couple of weeks (And if all goes well, a couple of months after that...).

    /Doesn't know where to start/

    Ah wait a cocking picking wee minute....Goldeneye with a mouse!

    /Does know where to start/

    \o/
  • Dirtbox 10 Apr 2006 03:48:09 78,120 posts
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    Amajiro wrote:
    Awesome post DB.

    Any sign of a DS emulator?
    Nothing that's worth mentioning at the moment, there are several, but they're all rather slow and glitchy, if they work at all.

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  • Bunda 10 Apr 2006 03:59:51 5,241 posts
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    VBA and Snes9X also have Mac versions, not sure about other softwarez. Love the thread; have been emulating for years. Snes9X is teh r0x. But is there a good Mac N64 emulator? The only one I've got, it's called KIGB, it sucks. So what good N64 emus are there for Mac?

    Edited by Bunda at 04:00:46 10-04-2006
  • Dirtbox 10 Apr 2006 04:09:12 78,120 posts
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    Sorry, i haven't got a clue about Mac stuff. I know how to emulate macs on PCs, though :)

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  • Bunda 10 Apr 2006 04:27:53 5,241 posts
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    And I know how to emulate PCs on macs.
    :D
  • Dirtbox 10 Apr 2006 05:40:06 78,120 posts
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    Post deleted

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  • Dirtbox 10 Apr 2006 05:40:13 78,120 posts
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    Post deleted

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  • Dirtbox 10 Apr 2006 06:01:30 78,120 posts
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    Bored_Gamer wrote:
    ProfessorLesser wrote:
    Because obviously Deeb doesn't know how to spell 'reading'...

    Who is Deeb?
    That'll be me, thanks for deleting the junk.

    To get MAME up and running, you'll need either of the top two from here depending on what processor you have, it says which is which next to them.

    Once done you'll need a rom, which can be procured from any one of a thousand places. Lets say you want Pong, which is one of the few public domain roms around.

    Search for mame pong download, you'll get a site within a couple of hits.

    Pop the rom file, which is in .zip format (you don't need to unzip it or anything) into the rom directory in the MAME folder and start mame, click the Available folder on the side and if you can see it, play it, if not, go to the file menu and click audit games, then you should be able to see it.

    Edited by Dirtbox at 06:02:52 10-04-2006

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  • Dirtbox 10 Apr 2006 09:04:47 78,120 posts
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    I'll have a go at it later on and think about adding it.

    Cheers for the heads up.

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  • Kay 10 Apr 2006 09:32:13 17,871 posts
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    No NES emulators? I've found VirtuaNES and Nestopia to be the best.

    Also, although Gens is brilliant, Gens+ is a better (and newer) version that also emulates the Game Gear/ Master System.

    K

  • Retroid Moderator 10 Apr 2006 09:34:48 44,716 posts
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    /Remembers the first ever version of MAME

    :D
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