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The Future of Emulation?

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That only seems to be a requirement for applets, though. As long as you're not running the code in a browser, you don't need a certificate, at least as I read the new requirements.

 

I guess some good news is better than no good news. Still sucks that people won't be able to play online without a certificate. A good quality online emulator makes it easier for people who don't want to or don't know how to download an emulator and get it running.

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I also wanted to comment that some games work better and are easier to set up in DOSbox than back on original hardware. In dosbox you can tweak speed and graphics cards, soundcards, controls, and especially memory configurations almost instantly. And you can do it quickly without getting dragged through reboot after reboot. And some of the interrupt and DMA issues seem to kinda go away.

 

While I just mentioned videocards as being tweakable, I'd still like to see more choices and options. Perhaps include some of the very first 3D chips like Rendition Verite, nVidia Riva128, S3 Virge, 3Dfx Voodoo 1, intel i740.. And maybe throw in a few more soundcards or wavetable options.

 

Bahh.. I just want to see DOSbox updated, period. It it still stuck at 0.74 for over 2 years now!

Soundblaster with generic VGA driver should be enough. Then you can set the RAM and processor speed configurations. I learned the hard way running old DOS apps under Windows ME and XP, that some applications would simply go ape-sh!t if you fed them too much RAM or CPU to play with. Certian DOS games that were written back in the days of 8 and 12 Mhz CPUs went berserk or played back at "ludicrous speed" whenever I attemped to run them inside a DOS window on my 1999 400Mhz Celeron PC (upgraded to 256Mb RAM). Ironically, Windows 98/ME was not to blame as they behaved in an identical fashion when I copied them to a boot floppy and booted the PC into native DOS. My CPU was just too fast and the software simply wouldn't throttle properly. That was at only 400Mhz. I'd love to see how one of those proggies would behave on an overclocked, 4.2Ghz, 8-core AMD bulldozer with 8 gigs of RAM. Too bad most newer motherboards don't have floppy controllers anymore. :P

 

I would like to add that old emulators sucked primarily for two reasons:

 

1) documentation was largely missing or incomplete, so authors had to use trial and error until they got rudimentary games at least half-working onscreen.

 

2) PCs were so slow back then that low-level chip emulation was impossible. Emulators only tried to simulate the instruction set and game logic rather that emulate the actual chips themselves like most (good) emus do now.

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I would like to add that old emulators sucked primarily for two reasons:

 

1) documentation was largely missing or incomplete, so authors had to use trial and error until they got rudimentary games at least half-working onscreen.

 

2) PCs were so slow back then that low-level chip emulation was impossible. Emulators only tried to simulate the instruction set and game logic rather that emulate the actual chips themselves like most (good) emus do now.

 

I would agree with your first point for the most part. There were various places devoted to documentation especially for arcade machines and the sites name escapes me now.

 

For the second part I would say they emulated but fudged the cycle accuracy piece by running an emulator for x amount of cycles for a period of time which of course would throw the timing off. Documentation for CPUs(6502/z80/6800x) was readily available along with cycle counting which obviously was done but not at the same granular level as today. When I think about simulation I think about the handheld LED games as they are trying to reproduce the experience but in no way emulating it while the early emulators did emulate however with timing considerations and hacks to make things work when the emu core crashed. But I guess it all boils down to semantics at some point. There were emulators written in assembly at the time and some were quite impressive. Thomas Djafari wrote a 2600 emu along with a Coleco emu which if I recall the later would run fine on a 386. I'd love to see these early folks who created these emulators code something today as I'd imagine it would surpass what is out there now as they were true pioneers.

 

I imagine or hope that the future of emulation is FPGA based / cycle accurate based on logic analysis of the chips. Not sure what most folks think about current emulation but no matter how good it is it just seems off in aspect or an another. In the early days of emulation I was blind to the difference as i had almost none of the old hardware and loved the convenience and over time when building a collection and using the old systems the difference was very apparent and still is today. By playing in various HSC groups with emulators and the real machine the difference is apparent and funny how sometimes the emu is easier and sometimes considerably more difficult. I believe someone mentioned previously about documentation of chips however that only goes so far as undocumented aspects of the chips are ignored and that is bad as I'd imagine that many folks used them to there advantage. So the only way for emulation to be just like the real deal is doing an analysis of the various chips to determine the undocumented aspects. There seems to be a trend in this regard with various emulators and that is a good thing. Without this I fell the experience will always be somewhat off.

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I would like to add that old emulators sucked primarily for two reasons:

 

1) documentation was largely missing or incomplete, so authors had to use trial and error until they got rudimentary games at least half-working onscreen.

 

2) PCs were so slow back then that low-level chip emulation was impossible. Emulators only tried to simulate the instruction set and game logic rather that emulate the actual chips themselves like most (good) emus do now.

 

Counterpoint:

 

1- The real pioneers! They got the ball rolling and proved it could be done. Lack of documentation was good, it didn't set a precedent and allowed for total freedom.

 

2- What an accomplishment! Doing so much with so little. And the fact that simulated chips were working so well one would think they were 100% emulated. Simulated chips were cool, made use of limited PC power, easy to make, easy to tweak..

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I hold a somewhat lesser standard of accuracy when it comes to emulation. As long as the original game code is running and output looks like the real thing in significant detail then that's alright.

 

If you were to fully emulate the chips, each individual IC (DIP-16 or DIP-40 for example), you'd need to build a virtual power bus and have all the I/O represented by an analog quantity. In other words a virtual power supply. The chip would need to become unstable as the voltage was lowered in the same way the real one did. But during normal operation it would exhibit ringing, overshoots and undershoots, clock skews, and cycle time delays. One could even argue the point of flight time as being important. And let's not forget race conditions and bus loading. As long as the host computer doesn't explode under the load everything'd be peachy-keen!

 

This could mean huge advancements in accuracy when considering mixed-signal types like sound and video output and a/d d/a converters, modulators, things like that..

 

Awesome!

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I wasn't aware of any emulators for the Amiga in its early days. Perhaps latter toward the mid 1990's a few came to pass. It would be interesting to see what was available early on. I know about the PC emulator. But those are boring. An arcade emulator, no matter how crude and unfinished it was would be amusing to see.

 

One of the first, if not the first, emulated game *I played* was Amidar. But I believe (and would need to research my files) the first emulated game was Galaxian.

 

 

I need to find my old drives and see what i can find. I used to assist at EmuNews with news and maintained the list for all PC emus. I recall you from the A][ group on usenet I think along with Tempest.... I believe you asked for titles that were not dumped and I posted a list of missing titles.

 

Haven't found the Amiga emus that I know existed however found this which I am sure you know about. emulators.com.

 

An emu from 1987....

ST Xformer 3.0. This is a free release of the Atari 8-bit emulator for Atari ST.

This is the last version of the original Atari 800 emulator that started our company. This emulator was first featured in the disk issue of the A.N.A.L.O.G. Atari magazine in 1987!

The complete Laser C compatible source code is also supplied.

I am certain there are many others from the Amiga / ST period that are either computer / arcade emus however are not easy to find as I believe most people did not even get the concept of emulation at that point. Even when it started to gain popularity with the PC many people did not believe what was happening and thought people were just porting the games or making clones that were close to pixel perfect with the original game play. Champ games made many wonderful arcade ports which were outstanding.

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I hold a somewhat lesser standard of accuracy when it comes to emulation. As long as the original game code is running and output looks like the real thing in significant detail then that's alright.

<snip>

 

 

I am thinking more along the lines of the current emus that are going for cycle accuracy like BSNES(now HIGAN), WinUAE and others. If just getting things to look like it should with timing off then fine but I think having the timing be accurate is very important and in many emus it is definitely lacking. You could say that these targets were accomplished in the 90s for many systems even though we know that things are much better now. To me at least a large part of the appeal to these old systems was their unique feel and each had it own unique quirks. To just say it runs the code and looks right I think does a disservice to old / new users.

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One other comment about FPGA emulation. I'm not a big fan of it too much. FPGA emulators tend to handle only 2 or 3 systems at best and do have limitations set in stone from the get go. Whereas software-based emulation is infinitely more versatile and flexible.

 

And more importantly, everyone can enjoy software emulators.

 

With FPGA you need to have a separate board, power supply, controllers, memory, mass storage, flash for the descriptor language. The list rolls on.

 

What I think could possibly be cool is somehow, someway, make an array of FPGA chips and put them onto a PCIe card. Simply to make millions of reconfigurable gates available to do whatever you want with. A generic emulator assistant card if you will.

 

Another thing that'd be nice is to make a module and integrate it into the main CPU core. This would give you a couple million gates to lay out your own custom chipset and cpu. Or something that lets you make custom instructions. Give the programmer a way to re-wire a small section of the cpu as he sees fit. A mini-FPGA built in by the fab.

 

One good thing though is that intel is constantly adding new instructions to the x86 repertoire.

And if you look at all the extensions available one finds it hard to imagine there isn't anything you can't do. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X86

 

Also with 4-cores being the standard for entry level systems today, maybe the general architecture of emulators needs to be reconsidered? On a quad-core machine you might use core#1 for processing, core#2 for input/output and sound control, core#3 for memory management and glue, and core#4 for graphics control. As soon as 6-core machines become entry-level, you'd use core#5 for overall system/host operation and core#6 for video signal conditioning, think NTSC artifacting. Just a thought, I have no idea if that is an optimal balance.

 

But in any case it would be cool to fund a totally up-to-date emulation architecture that uses today's hardware completely.

Edited by Keatah

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I hold a somewhat lesser standard of accuracy when it comes to emulation. As long as the original game code is running and output looks like the real thing in significant detail then that's alright.

 

Allow me to re-phrase that. "I hold a somewhat lesser standard of accuracy when it comes to emulation. But internally only. If parts of an emulator need to simulated and worked around to enable something to exist at all that's alright by me. As long as the original game code is running and output looks like the real thing in significant detail then that's alright. As time goes on what was once simulated is usually upgraded to emulated status."

 

I think it's great that cycle-exact operations are being focused on. Now if we could get a cycle-exact NTSC & CRT emulator we'd be cooking with gas! :ponder:

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@SKOSH:

 

Many years later, today, I'm quite pleased that just about everything I wanted emulated back then has now been done. Except for one or two arcade games - lost to depths of time.

 

Yes! I clearly remember visiting and messing around with material from Emulators.com, though at the time I was still pretty shit-faced & green. I was interested in banging women and annoying the local constabulary with smoke shows and loud music. Typical youth stuff.

 

I enjoyed reading then (and now re-reading) NO EXECUTE! http://emulators.com/nx_toc.htm You just gotta love the ridiculousness of the PC ecosystem (ahemm! garbage dump!)

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Ahh yes. Before the upgrade, Atariage would consider a space after the url a termination, today it does not. Must remember to put links on their own separate line.

 

http://www.emulators.com/nx_toc.htm

 

A lot of the reading there reminds me of the tedium of the early MHz race and the Pentium-4 folly.

 

http://emulators.com/pentium4.htm

http://www.emulators.com/docs/nx02_standards.htm

 

And then there's this, about how electronics are needlessly complex and difficult.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/get-me-the-geeks/

 

There have been times I've found it easier to set up an emulator as opposed to a new television these days!

Edited by Keatah

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It's very likely I'll purchase a MiST board over the holidays. I could do all the things it can do through emulation, but the big pluses I think FPGA offers are 1) a dedicated box for (your platform here) and 2) switch it on, and your platform boots, just like the real thing. You could argue then "why not just use the real thing?" but I also approve of gaining things like VGA output, SD Card storage, and very low power consumption (as compared to running an emu on my quad-core PC).

Admittedly it's not for everyone, but for me an FPGA offers just the right balance between emulation and the real thing.

I'd disagree with the statement the each FPGA can only emulate one or two devices. Partially correct, but this is more a limitation of what's been ported to that particular FPGA, moreso than the abilities of a particular device.

 

Coolest new device I've seen, though not an FPGA: http://www.86duino.com/

Roughly $50 USD for a tiny power-sipping x86 compatible device that also runs the Arduino IDE. The 86duino One (not yet available) has already been demoed running DOS games.

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So they've successfully FPGA'd an x86 CPU? Good luck interfacing the RAM parts. I would consider a 66Mhz 486 the gold standard of DOS computing.

 

I like the idea of the 720p HDMI FPGA NES currently being worked on by Brian Parker of RetroUSB aka BunnyBoy. It's in the "I have a dream" thread on NA.

 

Better yet, have a massive reprogrammable FPGA to support SNES, Genesis, TG-16, NeoGeo, and ALL of the legacy 8-bit consoles from Atari to NES. Output @ 480p over HDMI and call it a day. :D

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speaking as a developer I've always thought that emulation was absolutely one of the most awesome things. It preserves the artefacts we made and will let other people see them long after the physical hardware needed to reproduce them has vanished or become extremely rare. I like to think that maybe someone studying the history of videogames 300 years from now may find a reference to an obscure old Commodore game and be able to fire up Revenge of the Mutant Camels and there it'll be, long after all the Commodores and my old bones have turned to dust. That's why I've never had any qualms about people using my old game images on emulators, it'd be like moaning about your old books you wrote 20 years ago being in the library.

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70-90 years later copyrights expire. Unless of course you're Walt Disney and lobby congress for infinite renewal of Steamboat Mickey. Atari is dead, but will Nintendo be around 70+ years from now to defend Super Mario Brothers?

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70-90 years later copyrights expire. Unless of course you're Walt Disney and lobby congress for infinite renewal of Steamboat Mickey. Atari is dead, but will Nintendo be around 70+ years from now to defend Super Mario Brothers?

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I think software emulation of the older systems (8/16 bit) has kind of plateaued. Pretty much all the older 8 and 16 bit game consoles and "personal computers" now have pretty good software emulators.

 

However it's still "early days" for FPGA emulation of these systems. It's only in the last few years that we've seen FPGA emulators like MiniMig, MIST, FPGA-Arcade and Papilio Arcade appearing (due to the appearance of low-cost FPGA dev boards).

 

From what I see the FPGA emulation is better than software in some ways because the FPGA recreates the actual circuitry and logic in the emulated system. Also you can "build your own" real (physical) Amiga / C64 / A8 etc.

 

Right now only the hard-core retro computer / game console / arcade enthusiasts are prepared to pay $200 to $300 for an FPGA emulator, and there are only a few retro systems implemented in FPGA. But in the next few years more retro systems will be implemented, and the price of FPGA hardware should drop (while also getting more capable), so I'm hoping it becomes more mainstream in the next few years.

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I think software emulation of the older systems (8/16 bit) has kind of plateaued. Pretty much all the older 8 and 16 bit game consoles and "personal computers" now have pretty good software emulators.

 

However it's still "early days" for FPGA emulation of these systems. It's only in the last few years that we've seen FPGA emulators like MiniMig, MIST, FPGA-Arcade and Papilio Arcade appearing (due to the appearance of low-cost FPGA dev boards).

 

From what I see the FPGA emulation is better than software in some ways because the FPGA recreates the actual circuitry and logic in the emulated system. Also you can "build your own" real (physical) Amiga / C64 / A8 etc.

 

Right now only the hard-core retro computer / game console / arcade enthusiasts are prepared to pay $200 to $300 for an FPGA emulator, and there are only a few retro systems implemented in FPGA. But in the next few years more retro systems will be implemented, and the price of FPGA hardware should drop (while also getting more capable), so I'm hoping it becomes more mainstream in the next few years.

I would like to see high quality "replacement" consoles running FPGA chips. Please no more cheap clone SOACs with state-of-the-fart Chinese engineering. Even multicart things like Retron5, only done right with proper cart bus and I/O instead of an all-in-one crapulation dumper. Done right an affordable clone system could be have the potential to be good, but current clone manufactures have proven they're just not up to snuff.

 

Brian Parker aka Bunnyboy aka RetroUSB is designing an NES console with 720p HDMI output, based on an FPGA implementation. Goal is 100% NES/Famicom compatability, with the lone exception of NES Zapper, which will not operate on HD displays.

http://www.nintendoage.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=7&threadid=92557

 

I would love to see somebody give the same treatment to the Atari, playing 2600/7800 games in HD.

Edited by stardust4ever
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I think software emulation of the older systems (8/16 bit) has kind of plateaued. Pretty much all the older 8 and 16 bit game consoles and "personal computers" now have pretty good software emulators.

 

However it's still "early days" for FPGA emulation of these systems. It's only in the last few years that we've seen FPGA emulators like MiniMig, MIST, FPGA-Arcade and Papilio Arcade appearing (due to the appearance of low-cost FPGA dev boards).

 

From what I see the FPGA emulation is better than software in some ways because the FPGA recreates the actual circuitry and logic in the emulated system. Also you can "build your own" real (physical) Amiga / C64 / A8 etc.

 

Right now only the hard-core retro computer / game console / arcade enthusiasts are prepared to pay $200 to $300 for an FPGA emulator, and there are only a few retro systems implemented in FPGA. But in the next few years more retro systems will be implemented, and the price of FPGA hardware should drop (while also getting more capable), so I'm hoping it becomes more mainstream in the next few years.

 

I tend to agree that development in emulators has slowed down. The pace of change is decreasing with each passing year. A downside is that any new emulator is going to start out fresh and crude and not very compatible. As it matures it picks up more and more nuances of the subject console. And then the original author loses interest or development stops for whatever reason. Emulators that are handled by teams and that are open sourced are much less prone to this course of action, but they also proceed at a much slower pace.

 

The issue I see with FPGA is that they're real hardware and require real skills to use which aren't developed till later in life, if at all. I'm talking about electronic skills and understanding power supply polarity and soldering. When I was a kid we were shorting out diodes and blowing up batteries as part of the learning and discovery process that every kid does. Today you don't see that. Everything and everyone is buried in their smartphones. Heh. The phones get smart while you get stupid.

 

FPGA simulation has great potential, and I would like to see it modularized and cleaned up for public consumption as opposed to a bunch of files on a website. The act of acquiring the FPGA chips supporting them with the right peripheral circuitry and then just bringing it all together is real intimidating for many people. Whereas installing an emulator is a seemingly universal skill doable by anyone.

 

I would like to see a nice FPGA PCB, in a nice case, that has good PC connectivity. It would also have SD slot and bliss-box controller interfaces. USB too. It would have a number of switches and buttons. More than enough necessary for handling all the older consoles and then some. It would have stereo audio out, spdif compatibility. And VGA, DVI, HDMI, composite, component, and real NTSC ch 3/4 outputs. A universal emulator box. Much like a tricked-out PC but without all the driver issues and OS instabilities and all that.

 

It would handle anything from the 1970's through the early 2000's. And it would have more than enough power in reserve to handle upgrades and all that.

 

Just a pipe dream, like when I got thrown out of the "serious" emulator discussion some ibm engineers were having when I was a shit-faced kid in mcdonalds when I was in grade school.

 

I would like to see high quality "replacement" consoles running FPGA chips. Please no more cheap clone SOACs with state-of-the-fart Chinese engineering. Even multicart things like Retron5, only done right with proper cart bus and I/O instead of an all-in-one crapulation dumper. Done right an affordable clone system could be have the potential to be good, but current clone manufactures have proven they're just not up to snuff.

 

Brian Parker aka Bunnyboy aka RetroUSB is designing an NES console with 720p HDMI output, based on an FPGA implementation. Goal is 100% NES/Famicom compatability, with the lone exception of NES Zapper, which will not operate on HD displays.

http://www.nintendoage.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=7&threadid=92557

 

I would love to see somebody give the same treatment to the Atari, playing 2600/7800 games in HD.

 

I totally agree. These SOC clones are all crap. It's hard to take them seriously. They are mere curiosities in my eyes. And I'd much rather spend a day or two at your house versing you in the wonders and conveniences afforded by emulation.

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A nice thing would be a lightgun that has a real CMOS image sensor in it and onboard processing coupled with a small ARM microcontroller.

 

This lightgun would "patch in" to the original video signal as one source. It would also sense the image on the real screen and do a comparison and image processing and determine if you hit a target. An active lightgun like so would then send a signal to the console saying it caught the target on the scanline, at the right time - to use a phrase. It would have uploadable profiles for each game. And it would sense the distance from itself to the main screen. There would also be an automatic calibration sequence done with little or no interaction on your part - nothing more than pointing at the screen. It would even be wireless via whatever short range "wi-fi" technology is in vogue at the time.

 

The technology exists for such a peripheral. It's just that the market is too small to support development. I could have my design house put this (and the universal FPGA) console together though I am completely unsure of recouping the investment, let alone make a profit. Not to mention the licensing and patents.

 

I've seen all sorts of hassles and protracted discussions revolving around the production of just one game. I can't imagine what a project like so would cost.

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Starting on January of 2014, people who make Java applets will have to pay at least 200 bucks every 3 years to have a certificate. For example, Javatari will probably stop working since Paulo Peccin doesn't make any money from his emulator. That's probably not the only hobby project that will die out there in Internet land. Seaweed Assault already has this warning in the dialog box:

 

Warning: Running unsigned applications like this will be blocked in a future release because it is potentially unsafe and a security risk.

 

Java emulators will only work if the creators have enough money to pay for the certificates.

 

You know.. When shit like this happens and things become too complex and inconvenient I would hope they kinda-sorta just go away.

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Does this affect standalone downloadable JAR excecutables too, or just web applets? I know several projects that write utilities, emulators, and other forms of software as standalone JAR excecutables that you can run locally on any Windows or Apple PC. It's a good way to design cross-platform apps. It would be a bitch if all those apps stopped working just because I updated Java.

 

Java's policy sounds almost as bad as Microsoft's assinine driver signing requirement so nobody can create homebrew hardware that interfaces with Windows anymore.

Edited by stardust4ever

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I do think in the future, all the games can be played on one device. There will be only one system for all the games like emulator games, sony games, android games.

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I know that emulated games are practically unplayable with touch screen controls. Gaming tablets with built-in directional pads might be an option but I don't know how good they are.

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