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When emulation looks as good as the real thing to you

When emulation looks as good as the real thing to you  

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  1. 1. When you can't tell the difference between emulation and the real thing, does that make you ... [choose all that apply]

    • complicit in the destruction of retro gaming as we know it!
    • a clueless tourist who wouldn't know a proper retro game if bitten on the ass!
    • probably a software pirate, or worse!
    • insensitive to the subtle nuances of the Yamaha YM2612 FM synthesizer in the original Sega Genesis.
    • a filthy casual who is part of the problem and should go back to Candy Crush.
    • driving down the prices of secondhand cartridges on eBay.
    • kind of a chump for not using a flash cartridge on real hardware, for the best of both worlds.
    • you're obviously deaf and blind, but can you at least tell the difference between the early AtGames units and Kega Fusion?
    • putting convenience over authenticity.
    • a reasonable person.
    • Something else. Specify below:


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Hmm, this can be answered in several ways, depending on the assumptions:

  • If it's because the emulation is perfect compared to real hardware, then it could be for convenience or even necessity (you may not have access to real hardware, and have no means to obtain any).  So 'convenience over authenticity' or 'reasonable person'.
  • If you're a developer, then emulation is always going to be much more convenient than testing on real hardware (although the latter is still necessary occasionally).  So 'reasonable person'.
  • If the emulation is terrible and almost anyone can see that it's not authentic, then perhaps 'clueless tourist'.

 

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Allahu Akbar!!!

But seriously, I've always found software emulation to be the easy part. With newer features in the emulators, it's at least as good as ever, just a bit different due to inevitable hardware advances. Recreating that immersive experience of playing in the arcade has always been the tricky part. That's half about hardware and half about your brain (age/maturity/experience.) Sadly, there's not much that can be done about the brain to make you approach the classic games like you did for a quarter a play when you were a teen in the 80's. You lose something when they're so accessible and you're not ponying up what little money you have just to play it. 

 

To address hardware, I made my own home arcade cabinet from scratch decades ago before I saw anything about others who had done it, not that others weren't doing it at the time. I was mostly missing a couple arcade cabs I had in my apartment that I picked up for cheap as the arcades were shutting down. It was a kick designing my own controls and stuff. I've since built out 3 of my own design and thinking about a 4th. It's great fun to have such a functional piece of craftsmanship for your efforts. If some folks aren't as handy, who could blame them for buying some of the home arcade kits or similar?

 

The purists are always gonna moan about original hardware, but that's not practical in most cases. They can keep clutching onto their antiquated gear like the LP and turntable fans. I'll take compact disc and digital everyday, just be sure to play it through a good set of speakers instead of some cheap tinny Bluetooth thing. It's the games produced on the cheap (arcade 1 up) that are a little disappointing to me. They're like classical music played on an Iphone in a Pringles can. But, where there's demand they fill a need. I think it's less about the wine being in a bottle or a box, and more about the glass you drink it out of. 

 

P.S. - Where console games are concerned, if emulation runs the stuff within 90% accuracy or speed of the original console, I've never had the slightest concern. It's always beat the hell out of trying to get the old clunker console to connect to modern TV's or just work in general. I do like to keep my original controls and adapt them to the PC for play in cases where the original controls didn't suck, but I usually prefer to use real arcade controls on a good cabinet. All the consoles before PlayStation and N64 were just trying to emulate the arcade experience at home anyway. 

Edited by JBerel
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stephena said it best.

 

If I can't tell the difference, I would say I'm still a reasonable person.  I'll still hang on to my consoles and cartridges, but I'll appreciate the wizardry that went into the emulator to make it look, sound and play as accurately as it does.

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I've been known to be 100% perfectly fine with a stretched 16:9 display on emulated games, so I'm not exactly a good witness. :lol: But I'm fine for the most part with "whatever". I'm not a 100% emulation, or a 100% real console guy. I'm a full mix of whatever's convenient at the time. e.g playing Adventures of Lolo is best for me on a real console + CRT. But that doesn't stop me from playing it on the PSP or 3DS while sitting on the crapper. Just saying.

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I actually put multiple votes in.

 

Probably a Pirate! is one I stopped on.  Yeah, I think anyone emulating anything is almost definitely a pirate.  How can you not be?  I'd stop short of disparaging anyone from using emulation (I use it all the time), but I have found more and more evidence that the real hardware is a different experience over the years.  I haven't really been looking for differences but they do show up every so often.  Usually if you find someone who is claiming emulation is perfect, it means they haven't spent much time comparing it to the real thing.

 

Frankly, I love emulation.  Is it good enough?  Yeah most of the time, but I still like to have the original hardware for stuff I really care about.

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It's a "choose all that apply," you're supposed to/allowed to check as many boxes as you want. I'm all of the above, and none of them too. I'm generally so happy to be relaxing with an old game, I don't much care if it's "perfect." Just like Donkey Kong on Colecovision, which I once thought was the pinnacle of human achievement. 

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Some points:

I don't give a rat's ass about purists and the complaining they do. Even fun to see them squirm.

I would prefer to adjust settings in CONFIG.INI instead of playing with a soldering iron.

Emulation, today, gets us over 95% of the way there.

Emulation is the enlightened way of enjoying old games and is incredibly reliable.

Emulation accommodates new displays better than old consoles ever can.

I'm glad to see discussions about Framemeisters tapering off. Was getting old.

Emulation fulfills a childhood desire of having an all-in-one unit that actually works.

The magic of emulation tends to be lost on the average gamer. That's ok.

 

Edited by Keatah
fix spelling
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I know some people insist on real hardware.   But a year or two back, I pulled out old my real hardware out of storage and tried to play some things.   But I found that half my floppies no longer worked, ditto the carts, the "real" keyboards were complete crap compared to what I'm used to now, the "real cables" became brittle over time and some stopped working.  When it did work, the real floppies took forever to load compared to the fast-load features in many emulators.   And the hardware was generally a pain to set up.

 

Sure I could sink money into floppy emulators, custom-cables, multi-carts etc.   But such things tend to be high-priced and custom-made, sometimes hard to obtain.   I will just stick to emulators on mainstream hardware for my classic fix when it hits.

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57 minutes ago, Flojomojo said:

 Just like Donkey Kong on Colecovision, which I once thought was the pinnacle of human achievement. 

Well to be fair, for a brief period of time (basically during the Colecovision launch), it fully WAS. 

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PC hardware can and will experience some of the same issues as the original consoles. Internal connectors may need cleaning, some mainboards need to be recapped, external peripherals like keyboards and mice get ratty after some time. CMOS batteries sometimes blow a load on your motherboard. USB ports get dirty. Disks need backing up. All this needs a'fixing'n'replacing. OSes can evolve enough that workarounds and improved virtualization become part of your toolkit.

 

Yes. Emulators need maintenance if you want to see continued advancement. But the silver lining here is that the hardware necessary for emulation is cheaply available everywhere. Especially in today's day and age of e-commerce and eBay/Amazon.

 

In the end the pros significantly outweigh the cons. And my 10 year old self back in the day was smart enough to envision such a state of affairs. I just had to bide my time till it all came together.leaving.gif.773ac355f86d05740849f0bf36828c26.gif

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I had originally found out about emulation in the mid-90's and was really amazed that it was possible to play "vintage" game consoles (although some of them were not all that vintage then!) on computers. Some were much better than others, but I knew with time these (and computer hardware/power) would only get better and better. And it did...now to such a degree that most systems up to the 32-Bit era (and some even later than that) can be very faithfully emulated in software without the need of any sort of FPGA. 

 

Does it play "just like the real thing"? For the most part (in my eyes) yes. For the full experience you would have to add some "original" controllers (ie: for Genesis emulation perhaps using the Sega authorized Retrobit USB controllers..etc). 

 

I have always been for emulation, however I am also one for real hardware. I personally prefer updating real hardware with modern emulation type devices. Like the GDEmu, flashcarts, and so on. And, updating their video out abilities. But, you need coin to do all of that stuff and a certain passion for those original consoles to even invest the time and money into to begin with. Emulation can work great for someone just wanting to have those experiences again and who doesn't care about all of that. They'd probably be shunned by the "purists" and called names, but who cares ;)

 

Emulation has more benefits than economical however. With a Pi and RetroPie you can have a nice little box that connects to a modern TV, looks great, plays great and has a ton of options that the real hardware does not have. And, its a convenient little thing to take on a trip when you can't bring a U-Haul of game consoles with you!

 

All of that said, emulation DOES looks as good (and sometimes better) as the real thing to me, and I voted as such. Doesn't mean that I *like* it better than the real thing (I don't), but I appreciate it existing and think it compliments the hobby entirely.

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I agree with @eightbit ... Emulation seems perfectly fine to me on almost anything I play. I also agree that using USB adapters to play with real controllers just completes the experience. Play Intellivision's AD&D Treasure of Tarmin or Space Spartans sometime via emulation then play them with the Vision-daptor and a Sears or Flashback controller. Completely different experience. Feels great.

 

Other side of the coin is that there are some games that you just know the emulation is off but that falls into the 5% that @Keatah mentioned. A good example is Punch-Out for the NES. Emulation just doesn't allow for the timing required to beat the game. I can beat it on the real hardware but not when emulating it. That game is in the vast minority though.

 

I run a PC repair business on the side and have people drop things in my lap they don't want or need or can't bother with anymore. A while back I had 2 Windows XP HP laptops given to me that are locked up but in the box there was an Asus Transformer tablet as well. Worked great and had Windows 8.1 running on it. I turned it into an emulation machine. It barely manages PS1 but plays everything before that easily. I got multiple offers from people to buy it. People go crazy for nostalgia! :) (FYI if I do sell it I will strip the games off it and make the people "get their own". Done that before too.) There's a definite market for pre-set emulation systems if you're into that kind of thing. Hell just look at all the people selling loaded RetroPi builds.

 

Having said that I also have real hardware and a Craigslist Special ™ Sony Trinitron TV. All my classic/retro consoles use loader carts though. I have given up on collecting game carts. I no longer have the patience, money, time or space to do it. Loader carts make the retro consoles sing their classic tunes while not costing an arm and a leg to play and, these days, that's all I want. I just want to play the games.

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Agreed...I just want to play the games as well :)

 

I do like to play them on the real hardware because I know I am physically playing them on real hardware (lol, it truly is a mind thing) but I gave up on cartridge collecting long ago after having run into many dead carts over the years and fears of loosing some serious investment over some ROM chips that are just dying of old age. I know people are going to say that their copy of XYZ from 1977 still works great....but the question is for how long? Same goes for CD's. They do bit rot, and I have had quite a few in the past that did. 

 

So, the hardware is all I collect now. I just use clever ways (modern devices) to bring the game code to them. And, one day that hardware will fail as well. But when that day happens at least the games will live on through emulation. 

Edited by eightbit
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In terms of emulators, they've come a long way and agree with others that believe that they definately have their place in the gaming hobby.

 

My first experience with emulators was with MAME in the late 1990's and it was a dream come true to play the literal classic arcade games at home.

 

As time went on, I started using VICE for C64 games & programs and it's much more appealing (and cheaper) than having to invest in a whole new C64 setup (which I have no room for anyway) and I have no desire to deal with the Commodore 1541 disk drive alignment problems on a regular basis ever again.

 

In recent times I use the Fusion emulator (for Sega Master System, Genesis, 32X, and CD games) as well as the SNES9X emulator as  often as I use the real hardware.

They're A+ emulators and with the save/load states and cheat code options it's a pleasure and convenience to just plug in a USB controller and play within seconds.

 

The Raspberry Pi kits to use as game emulators are popular and interesting (I almost bought one recently) but I have everthing I want in the emulators stated above.

Technology is moving so fast and interest in classic gaming is booming so it will be interesting to see what comes up in terms of gaming methods in the near future.

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The Pi is popular because its cheap and provides an excellent experience. Every time I buy expensive hardware (like the Sega Mega Drive I recently purchased) I always think in the back of my mind "well, my RetroPie setup does this already". I however make the purchase anyway and try to forget that fact! But yeah, its popular because it is a very inexpensive way of making most folks retro gaming dreams come true. You could spend $100 or so and have a really really nice setup including controllers, wireless keyboard/mouse and large capacity storage...all running just awesomely if you know what you are doing.

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Emulation is something you don't need to worry about if and when a disaster strikes. No hastily loading the car with cases of cartridges when you should be worrying about other necessary items. All you need to grab is one little box. And even then you can forget about it and not lose anything if you've conducted an off-site backup. As one does. Seen that happen a few times already.

 

Insurance may cover the monetary loss, but not the time and inconvenience of rebuilding. And the anxiety. And a rebuilt collection isn't quite like the first time especially if your carts are from childhood.

 

On cartridge life. Masked ROMs or PROMs have the potential to last 200 years. At least that's what the chipmakers quote. Things like FLASH, EEPROMs, EAROMs, EPROMS, and other memory tech based on the storage of a charge in a well - much less. Industry says 10-20 years for most Flash products. So you never know. But migration and simpl backups across magnetic media will let you transcend time.

 

On purists. They take things too seriously. And they have only one mantra, "It's not the real thing." They don't come up with any other argument. They spend inordinate amounts of time massaging another year out of dated ratbaggy hardware long past its prime. At least some of the ones I know do that. They might even start following you around too!

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As you mentioned flash based products, just an off tidbit of information for those unaware. I work in the flash based industry, and I have people come up to me all of the time explaining that they have stored data on a USB drive or other flash based media and stuck it in a drawer or a safe only to find a year or two later the item would either no longer function or the data was gone. Without a charge (using these periodically) this will indeed happen. Surprising how many people are unaware of this fact. Mileage may vary, but don't use it for a while and you will most certainly lose it :)

 

Off topic I know, but what Keatah just said reminded me to remind you. Backup and keep backing up. Platter based hard drives are still safer in my book...combined with cloud based solutions.

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6 minutes ago, eightbit said:

Surprising how many people are unaware of this fact. Mileage may vary, but don't use it for a while and you will most certainly lose it :)

 

It may be as simple as people assuming these tiny flash drives are durable with no moving parts and nothing to break. Whereas a mechanical drive is comparatively big, has moving parts, and perhaps even scary "do-not-drop" warnings on the label itself. So the decision that Flash drives are nearly indestructible and will operate forever is easily made.

 

Some advertisements have you believing that a mechanical HDD will break if you look at it wrong. So no help there.

 

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Emulation will keep the games alive...

 

And no difference for me if you are using an original controller + CRT TV/Good GPU Shader on modern TV 

 

The bottom line is to play the games and have fun 

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13 hours ago, eightbit said:

I work in the flash based industry, and I have people come up to me all of the time explaining that they have stored data on a USB drive or other flash based media and stuck it in a drawer or a safe only to find a year or two later the item would either no longer function or the data was gone. Without a charge (using these periodically) this will indeed happen. Surprising how many people are unaware of this fact. Mileage may vary, but don't use it for a while and you will most certainly lose it

What is a good practice for freshening them?   Is plugging them into a powered USB port periodically enough? (how long?)  or do you actually need to read/write data to them?

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6 hours ago, israelg said:

Emulation will keep the games alive...

 

Yes. I don't see any other long-term solution or preservation method. Replacement consoles are being made for some systems in small numbers, true, but they are niche in a niche in a niche. And since they are flash-based (the FPGA core is stored in serial flashrom) there's a limited lifespan. Don't expect them to last the 30 or 40 years like originals.

 

A curiosity: I wonder if Altirra or Stella (for example) have more working installations compared to working physical consoles?

 

 

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2 hours ago, zzip said:

What is a good practice for freshening them?   Is plugging them into a powered USB port periodically enough? (how long?)  or do you actually need to read/write data to them?

 

None of today's flashrom is designed for even near-term storage. Transport only. People simply should not use flash devices for anything remotely archival.

 

I personally say a full re-write every 6-12 months, if you are using flash devices.

 

There are many thousands of controllers, firmware versions, and flash memory arrays out there. Not to mention the inferior TLC and QLC types of cells. All of that has to be taken into a consideration to arrive at a recommended refresh interval. The consumer will be hard-pressed to find out even the basic behavior of the firmware's garbage collection, refresh, and trim routines let alone exactly when they activate, if they activate, or if they are present at all. Good luck in finding and evaluating that information.

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18 minutes ago, Keatah said:

A curiosity: I wonder if Altirra or Stella (for example) have more working installations compared to working physical consoles?

 

If you consider all the devices that are running Stella now, one would have to assume more copies of that are in the wild than actual Atari 2600s.

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