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MESS 0.153…The next generation of Atari 7800 emulation

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RevEng and I have worked together in bringing better emulation accuracy to MESS for the 7800 system. Both NTSC and PAL
regions have benefited
which has been publicly made available in the recently released MESS 0.153.

 

For more technical details please see this post by RevEng, the mastermind behind many of the great improvements to 7800 emulation.

 

Some game highlights...One-On-One Basketball, Commando, Double Dragon, Planet Smashers, Midnight Mutants, Hat Trick, Xevious, Dig Dug, Centipede, Kung-Fu Master, even protos like Plutos look, run, and play excellently. Homebrews seen improvements as well with previously graphical issues with Crazy Brix's 'Brix' are fixed containing proper gradual color shift. Movement of characters under Beef Drop emulates the real hw - not slower or faster. Worm! starts and plays without issue.

 

Extra RAM demos/carts such as "Soft Cell - Tainted Love" and "Multi-Lock On" work perfectly. Other ROMs that no 7800 emulator could run before - such as the 7800 Diagnostic Test cart, runs under MESS now. Here are the needed ROM files with proper headers:

 

Diagnostic Test Cartridge (19xx) (Atari) !.zip

Multilockon.zip

Softcell.zip

 

Attached is a sampling of the aforementioned games. They are captured from MESS 0.153 with a few CRT simulation effects turned on inside a window.

post-18-0-66426100-1396874468_thumb.png

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post-18-0-21535600-1396874511_thumb.png

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post-18-0-09560700-1396874551_thumb.png

post-18-0-09937700-1396874553_thumb.png

post-18-0-14829700-1396874558_thumb.png

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RevEng and I have worked together in bringing better emulation accuracy to MESS for the 7800 system. Both NTSC and PAL

regions have benefited which has been publicly made available in the recently released MESS 0.153.

 

For more technical details please see this post by RevEng, the mastermind behind many of the great improvements to 7800 emulation.

 

Some game highlights...One-On-One Basketball, Commando, Double Dragon, Planet Smashers, Midnight Mutants, Hat Trick, Xevious, Dig Dug, Centipede, Kung-Fu Master, even protos like Plutos look, run, and play excellently. Homebrews seen improvements as well with previously graphical issues with Crazy Brix's 'Brix' are fixed containing proper gradual color shift. Movement of characters under Beef Drop emulates the real hw - not slower or faster. Worm! starts and plays without issue.

 

Extra RAM demos/carts such as "Soft Cell - Tainted Love" and "Multi-Lock On" work perfectly. Other ROMs that no 7800 emulator could run before - such as the 7800 Diagnostic Test cart, runs under MESS now. Here are the needed ROM files with proper headers:

 

attachicon.gifDiagnostic Test Cartridge (19xx) (Atari) !.zip

attachicon.gifMultilockon.zip

attachicon.gifSoftcell.zip

 

Attached is a sampling of the aforementioned games. They are captured from MESS 0.153 with a few CRT simulation effects turned on inside a window.

Trebor,

Could you try MSX under MESS 153 for me? All I get is an error message. Other systems work fine. I went back to MESS 152 and every thing is fine with MSX. Actually, I'm using MESSUI from the MESSUI site.

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Trebor,

Could you try MSX under MESS 153 for me? All I get is an error message. Other systems work fine. I went back to MESS 152 and every thing is fine with MSX. Actually, I'm using MESSUI from the MESSUI site.

Under 0.153:

post-18-0-73365100-1396983044_thumb.png

 

There were some fixes/updates to the MSX driver since 0.152 - Try a "clean" install/new folder.

 

Same results with 0.153UI:

post-18-0-46000000-1396983452_thumb.png

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ok I am stumped...I know how to configure MAME and I can get MAME 152 working just fine....but I am running into a brick wall with MESS153...where can I get the MESS153UI

 

EDIT: DISREGARD I FOUND IT

Edited by NIKON

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Under 0.153:

attachicon.gif153_MSX.PNG

 

There were some fixes/updates to the MSX driver since 0.152 - Try a "clean" install/new folder.

 

Same results with 0.153UI:

attachicon.gif153UIMSX.PNG

Yeah, that did it. I had originally just replaced files but apparently that doesn't always work I guess. Thanks.

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I haven't tried MESS for a few revisions; how is MIA running on it now?

 

Mitch

 

It's still not running well. MIA is an interesting story.

 

I ran it in the MESS debugger and found it was reading from write-only registers, and some other odd behaviors. Digging deeper, it seems to be using the TIA player motion and collision registers, apparently as a sort of line-timer or line-check. The lack of this emulation seems to be causing odd memory access.

 

To get it running properly will require (at the very least) additional TIA emulation code.

Edited by RevEng
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Hey Guys,

 

For those that don't venture over into the Programming area too much, but perhaps can help...please see this post here:

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/224025-7800-hardware-facts/?do=findComment&comment=2963781

 

Particularly this section:

 

Here's my test program. Moving the joystick left and right switches the running test. I don't have a PAL console, so watermarks are provided for NTSC only. Someone with the ability to run a PAL bin on real hardware could assist by reporting if the PAL levels on various tests differ from NTSC, and if they differ, what the new mark is. (move the joystick up and down to reposition the level measure mark)
Attached File 7800test.bas.ntsc.bin
Attached File 7800test.bas.ntsc.a78
Attached File 7800test.bas.pal.bin
Attached File 7800test.bas.pal.a78
If any from the PAL community has the ability to run the PAL test ROMs posted in the above link and provide results, it would be greatly appreciated. It would not only further assist in the preserving and emulating of the 7800 console hardware information, but assist in providing more specific references and technical notes for developers of new and upcoming titles.
For Cuttle Cart 2 users the bank switching is "7800_32K" and run it with "78BIOS".

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PAL BIOS: attachicon.gifa7800p.zip

 

NTSC BIOS: attachicon.gifa7800.zip

 

Place the above files in a folder called roms located where your mess executable resides. Do not unzip the files.

Thank You Trebor works like a charm the files I was getting just were not working

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I really would love to try MESS. but I don't get it to work at all. All this frontend bs and "good old DOS" feeling... I tried to install it for 5200 a year ago and ended up totally frustrated, now I tried it for the Atari 7800 (since ProSystem obviously has walked the plank") and run into the same problems. I tried several of those crappy frontends... They look just like Norton Commander from 1993... I am just too stupid to get it up and running...

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The standard Windows looking frontends are generally easiest to use.

 

But MESS is just that when it comes to ease of use - dedicated system emulators are usually much easier and faster to change configurations, the essential test is doing such basic things as changing a disk image or two.

 

But last time I used it for 7800, one feature came into it's own - you can resize the screen and roll your own aspect ratio which makes Galaga a better experience.

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I really would love to try MESS. but I don't get it to work at all. All this frontend bs and "good old DOS" feeling... I tried to install it for 5200 a year ago and ended up totally frustrated, now I tried it for the Atari 7800 (since ProSystem obviously has walked the plank") and run into the same problems. I tried several of those crappy frontends... They look just like Norton Commander from 1993... I am just too stupid to get it up and running...

 

No I don't think so. MESS is genuinely a mess. The inability to put roms in a directory and access them like mame is simply a poor decision on part of the developers. Mess has this gay-assinine thing with software lists and not being able to use relative directory. You and 500,000 others have complained about it. And you're right about front-ends, they're limited and just as klutzy as 1993's Norton Commander!

Edited by Keatah

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I beg to differ with Keatah's post....I have been using MESS for years and it works just fine for me...and it is easy to set up rom directories and Software list are a matter of preference

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Great. Now I can perhaps get rid of ProSystem.

 

Can someone refresh me on what the I686 optimized vs. "standard" builds are?

I686 builds will likely provide some slight speed gains over standard builds if you have P6 type processor (Think Pentium Pro/II/III). I used to see some slight speed bumps with my P4 2.6GHz processor utilizing the I686 over the "standard". Standard is just a vanilla 32-bit (x86) build.

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I really would love to try MESS. but I don't get it to work at all. All this frontend bs and "good old DOS" feeling... I tried to install it for 5200 a year ago and ended up totally frustrated, now I tried it for the Atari 7800 (since ProSystem obviously has walked the plank") and run into the same problems. I tried several of those crappy frontends... They look just like Norton Commander from 1993... I am just too stupid to get it up and running...

 

Hi Marc,

 

I'm willing to walk you through and assist step-by-step. Tell me exactly what you are doing or what doesn't work. Honestly, for 5200 emulation there are better alternatives. I use kat5200 or Altirra for that system. MESS needs some significant fixes to its 5200 emulation - Ms. Pac-Man and Pitfall are hosed up for example.

 

Nonetheless, here's a very descriptive setup for getting Atari 7800 emulation working under MESS...

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 1 - Setting Up Files

 

Let's start with downloading the most guaranteed compatible version: "Standard" build. Download MESS 0.153 Standard build from this page. Or, directly download it from here.

 

Once the file mess0153b.exe has completely downloaded, it needs to be uncompressed. You uncompress that file by double clicking on it. Then direct where you want the files to be stored. Let's presume C:\MESS.

 

Go to the folder where you have uncompressed MESS (I.E. C:\MESS). You will notice a series of folders. One of those folders is labeled 'roms'. Place the BIOS ROM files, provided earlier in the links above inside the 'roms' folder. Do not unzip those files.

 

post-18-0-35591800-1397299073_thumb.png

 

MESS by default looks for game images in a folder called 'software'. However, you can store your game images anywhere you like. Your game images can either be individually zipped or uncompressed format. Whether uncompressed or zipped, the game images must contain a proper header. They must be *.a78 files. *.bin files will not work.

 

Presuming we want to keep the MESS default way of sorting game images, you want to create a software folder, and then the folder name according to how MESS stores the system name (look to the BIOS file name). For example, your zipped set of individual ROM images may look similar to this for storing those specific to the PAL Atari 7800 system:

 

post-18-0-24963300-1397296367_thumb.png

 

After you have setup the above files for either NTSC or/and PAL, you are now ready to run MESS.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 2 - Running MESS

 

There are many ways to actually run MESS from this point, but let's presume no fancy video options and the most standard, basic way without a front-end. This is performed by simply double clicking 'mess.exe'.

 

After you have launched MESS by double clicking mess.exe, MESS checks its 'roms' folder for valid systems that have their necessary BIOS set(s) present. Subsequently, you will see a window specifying which system to run. Use the arrow keys to highlight the desired system, and press 'Enter' to select it.

 

post-18-0-41003700-1397299615_thumb.png

 

After selecting a system, you will be presented with a screen telling you some basic hardware info about it. Press any key to continue, which will then launch the system as if you just "powered on" the console.

 

For Atari 7800 PAL, like the real system, Asteroids automatically boots once the system is "powered on". Press the 'tab' key to bring up the internal menu. Scroll down and select 'File Manager'.

 

post-18-0-84402000-1397355427_thumb.png

 

As mentioned, use the arrow keys to highlight an option, and press 'Enter' to select that option. To back out of a menu/option, press the 'Esc' key. 'Esc' will also ultimately exit MESS when no internal menu is present.

 

After you have selected 'File Manager', press Enter on "Cartslot".

 

post-18-0-86770900-1397355526_thumb.png

 

If you placed your game images at the MESS default location ('software' folder and additional sub-folder by system name as shown earlier) you will now see a list of all your game images. If not, just navigate to where your game images are located.

 

post-18-0-97566800-1397355631_thumb.png

 

Once you've navigated to the game you wish to play, just press 'Enter' when highlighted. The system will reset (Like turning off the console, inserting the cartridge and powering back on the console on real hardware), and the game will now be running.

 

From this point, you can try the different internal 'Tab' menu options. This includes remapping inputs and video options among other things.

 

As a side note/addition...The difficulty switch settings are located under "Dip Switches" from the 'tab' menu. Use the left and right arrow keys to toggle between A/B positions:

 

post-18-0-14759300-1397355289_thumb.pngpost-18-0-80721300-1397355289_thumb.png

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 3 - Alternatives To Launching Mess.exe

 

If the desire is for something more 'GUI' without resorting to external application options, try MESSUI here: http://messui.the-chronicles.org/

 

The setup of files remains the same as described above, but now you have a front-end to utilize.

 

 

 

From a command-line, if you simply just wanted to run a game - let's say for the PAL Atari 7800 system, it would be:

 

C:\MESS>mess a7800p -cart "C:\MESS\software\a7800p\Centipede (1987) (Atari) (PAL).zip"

 

 

To run a game for the NTSC Atari 7800, it would be:

 

C:\MESS>mess a7800 -cart "C:\MESS\software\a7800\Centipede (1987) (Atari).zip"

 

 

Or, if you are like me and have your ROMs sorted a different way, just substitute accordingly:

 

C:\MESS>mess.exe a7800 -cart "d:\RNI\Atari 7800 ROMS\Centipede (1987) (Atari).zip"

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 4 - Enabling Advance Video Control Options [CRT Effects]

 

If you want to unleash a plethora of additional video controls and your graphics card can handle it...

 

First create a mess.ini file.

 

That is easily done by issuing on a command line the following statement:

 

C:\MESS>mess -cc

 

For those that rather a simple file to click, here's a batch file that will create the mess.ini file for you: mess-cc.zip

 

Simply unzip the file to the same folder where mess.exe resides and double click it. It will create a file called mess.ini.

 

Mess.ini can easily be edited through Notepad. You want to change this:

 

post-18-0-90570700-1397356548_thumb.png

 

To look like this:

 

post-18-0-39486500-1397356549_thumb.png

 

In other words enable HLSL. HLSL relies heavily on your graphics card('s abilities). Anything within the last ~7 years or newer should be fine.

 

If enabled, your available slider control settings will go from this:

 

post-18-0-72733500-1397356926_thumb.png

 

To all this:

 

post-18-0-47231600-1397356945_thumb.pngpost-18-0-83400300-1397356946_thumb.png

post-18-0-75247700-1397356947_thumb.pngpost-18-0-67112100-1397356949_thumb.png

 

NOTE: The above settings are found under the "Slider Controls" option:

 

post-18-0-58991000-1397357111_thumb.png

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 5 - Tweaking Advanced Video Control Options

 

For 0.153 as well as earlier versions of MESS, two common complaints for the HLSL effects turned on from the first update are:

 

1. Wanting 'absolute black'.

2. "Bloom" effect is too strong.

 

Here's how to manage both:

 

1. 'Absolute Black'

Modify this:

 

post-18-0-44645900-1397397296_thumb.png

 

To look like this:

 

post-18-0-40526100-1397397299_thumb.png

 

As illustrated above change:

floor 0.05,0.05,0.05

to...

floor 0.0,0.0,0.0

 

 

2. '"Bloom" effect

Modify this:

 

post-18-0-91390400-1397397570_thumb.png

 

To look like this:

 

post-18-0-00210800-1397397574_thumb.png

 

As illustrated above change:

raster_bloom_scale 0.225

to

raster_bloom_scale 0.165

 

Note: Your millage may vary with bloom. Typically most prefer a range between 0.125 - 0.185. It depends on personal preference and of course individual display configurations. Regardless, it can be tweaked to perfection for *you*.

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Awesome. Thank you so much. One on One is one of my all-time favorite games.

Really? I thought most people hated that game. What exactly do you like so much about it?

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Really? I thought most people hated that game. What exactly do you like so much about it?

I'd been a huge fan of the original Apple II/Atari/C64 version for a long time -- I played them a lot as a kid. It's amazing how much control you have with a joystick and one button. Dunking, 3-point shots, blocks, steals, fouls, excellent animation. It's a great groundbreaking game. Very realistic. For example, you actually have to get position and box out to get rebounds. Two player games are a lot of fun. Finding the Atari 7800 version as an adult was like finding hidden treasure. The 7800 version plays a little slower, but the gameplay is intact, and the graphics are better. Thanks to this version of MESS, I can play it without having to get my 7800 out (and use those awful joysticks).

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