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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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It's a long, long way from Canada
A long way from snow chains
Donkey vendors slicing coconut
No parkas to their name
Black babies covered in baking flour
The cook's got a carnival song
We're going to lay down someplace shady
With dreamland coming on
Dreamland, dreamland
Dreamland, dreamland
 
- Joni Mitchell
 
When it comes to "perfect emulation" I think Joni says it best.
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51 minutes ago, John Saeger said:

When it comes to "perfect emulation" I think Joni says it best.

 

I'm sorry but I will admit this freely -

 

What? I understood not word 1 of that.

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Fun...

 

I selected the convenience, reasonable, and also something else on that since it didn't really fit.

 

Yes it's convenient and reasonable to use it, but I'm not some newb that can't tell the difference if something is off as I've been tinkering and helping out with emulators since the mid90s watching them develop from barely working to stunning after years of work.  There are some that truly are so accurate you'll need to sit there running their internal memory checker, or some timing device, or some scope for audio and video to find something that's just so lightly off you won't know it without that or doing a strict side by side to catch it.  I like using those when they present themselves for general use.  Now if it just comes for a lazy moment, trying before buying or using by another means (a flash kit), or whatever other reason before really jumping in, it just seems reasonable to do so.  It's not like you can get shareware of all this stuff, and few games other than the PC from those earlier eras even had numerous demos or otherwise to get a real feel.  That said I don't buy real games much anymore, they really have to make me respect and like them enough to buy them in todays toxic environment, so I rely on using flash kits.

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Why does today's environment have to be toxic in the first place? Seems it takes a lot of work and effort to do the things piss off customers.

 

Years ago it was simple. And simple is better.

 

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12 hours ago, Keatah said:

Why does today's environment have to be toxic in the first place? Seems it takes a lot of work and effort to do the things piss off customers.

 

Years ago it was simple. And simple is better. 

 

Plus one on this. Totally. But It's not about *needing* anything. It's about *wanting* something. There's no reason to it -- either way actually. It's just what you want.

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Emulation is just another form of enjoying gaming with advantages and disadvantages.  Frankly, I almost expect it to look better and have fancier features than the real deal.  Like higher res and texture smoothing on PS2 emulators.  Or, the SuperEagle filter on SNES9x.

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This topic just evoked a related memory and a thought.  I remember back in the day, using the CRT tech of the time, that my friends, acquaintances, myself and pretty much anyone I ran across pretty much always lusted after the ever more crisp, clear, and resolute displays.  In other words, the results we get with modern display tech would have been the envy of all back in the day.  I think it's a bit ironic how now some people long for the convex shape, loosely fit together scan lines, and sometimes bloomy displays of old.

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I seek a balance.  I'm not that nostalgic for the burned-in, blooming fishbowls with off-tuned RF signals a lot of us had to accept back in the day, but a nice studio-quality flat-screen CRT with perfect saturation and convergence being fed an S-video signal or better would have been perfect to me back then and would still be perfect to me now.

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The crappy RF distortion and interference laden CRT TV of the late 70's was sufficient for the low-resolution VCS, Odyssey2, and Intellivision consoles. It wasn't until computers (Apple II w/80column support) that I started paying attention to sharper displays.

 

Today I game on nothing but the best and most state-of-the-art displays. But I also use the options in emulators to fuzz-up the image and give it an 80's warmth. Just a little.

 

I don't mind the pixels being a little fuzzy and bloomy. A good thing even. But I can't stand geometrical distortion like bad keystone/pincushion or simply lines that aren't 101% straight. Convergence issues are another pet peeve as is a faded palette.

Edited by Keatah

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On 7/29/2019 at 3:25 PM, zzip said:

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.

 

Agreed. Not only are custom flash carts/boards high priced and hard to obtain, they are still picky about file formats and directory layouts. There always seems to be some hidden constraint. But with emulators, you're limited only by NTFS (for example). And most emulators support 10, 20, or more file formats too; whereas a flash-based addon is nowhere near as flexible. And as new formats are invented (.WOZ for Apple II example) emulators in active development will pick that up and support them. This helps eliminate having to learn new hardware or find tricks to make those images work.

 

Now I'm not opposed to learning new stuff. But I am opposed to learning "yet another way" of doing what I've already learned, for sake of change.

 

Also host hardware like a PC will degrade through time like anything else, but the infrastructure morphs at a comfortable rate that allows emulation to migrate throughout the years. And replacement hardware is ultra generic and readily available. No longer do I store MAME or VCS stuff on a CD-R/W or Zip drive. No longer do I do emulation on a PIII, but instead a modern i7.

 

As we age I'm fairly certain that classic gaming becomes less important as other more complex and dynamic issues take center stage. And that leaves less time to futz with recalcitrant hardware.

 

I spent almost 150 hours spread out over a year spit-polishing, plating, cleaning/adjusting, conducting repairs on battery leakage, and doing in-depth diagnostics & verification on my old 486. I would say, now, today, it's in better shape than when it was new. And it's primed for another 30-40 years of service. I'm not likely to do that again, to any machine. The most I'll do is cleaning and perhaps configuration work. And I certainly would not invest such time in a console or non-sentimental computer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"As we age I'm fairly certain that classic gaming becomes less important as other more complex and dynamic issues take center stage. And that leaves less time to futz with recalcitrant hardware."

 

I like this description!

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Personally, I'm a real hardware with flashcarts and backups kind of guy.  Call me a pirate, but none of the original game companies are making a cent off people buying $500 carts and CDs off ebay.  Emulation is great for 8 and 16 bit Nintendo, Sega, and Atari stuff, but some consoles like the Saturn can still be a little flaky.   All that said, I don't see much reason to play N64 games on original hardware ever again.

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I have complete sympathy for the point of view that the RF interference and what-not on the TV set when playing a real Atari is annoying. That emulation is somehow "better". There was a time, and it lasted for a long time that I thought emulation was "better" too. That somehow we were finally seeing the original programmer's true intention. For the first time actually. Finally the perfect model of TIA was showing us the perfect rendition of the game. The abstract perfection was somehow more beautiful than the real version because we were seeing what the programmers must have been thinking.

 

All I can say is something changed for me. The perfect pixels stopped being beautiful. They started looking dull and lifeless. There is something about the real machine that's been missed, and it's not just blur or scanlines or some other "effect". Colors don't change smoothly. They change weirdly. You can say what you want about whether it's an accident, on purpose, or accidently on purpose. For me it's become part of the beauty of the machine. The beauty lies in the imperfection. As emulators have become so popular I fear this may be lost. So yeah. Get a 2600. Get a TV set. Save a CRT!

 

That said I've found out something interesting about CRT TV sets. I scored another one just yesterday. Instead of collecting consoles I collect these. Anyway, I was at a thrift store and there was a pile in the parking lot strapped to pallets. Typically, I guess these guys don't even put them out on the floor any more. They can get money for recycling them. I don't know how much but this seems to be why they are so hard to find. They disappear immediately. Anyway I saw something in the pile I wanted and if you ask they'll sell you something for cheap. So one way you can still find these things is to look in the recycle pile.

 

 

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It makes me very happy because I can have a brand new system of the old games I love to play! Also, I don't have to worry about having to spend money to replace old hardware with other old hardware that will break down again.  I prefer a crystal clear screen to play my games on instead of a snowy/grainy mess  I was stuck with because of old technology.  Yes some use RGB cables, but even that is inferior technology.  I say keep it Retro and keep it new! 😎

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One example which emulation runs better then the real hardware, is PPSSPP running running the Outrun game using a fixed 333 clock speed,

 

PPSSPP run the game this way with a smooth 60 FPS,  when the original hardware is having hard time a needs to drop frames to run full speed...

 

Also PPSSPP can run on bigger, higher resolution displays with better quality (OLED), 

 

After playing this way it is very hard to return back and play on the old original psp hardware.

 

What do you think ?

 

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On 8/2/2019 at 1:09 PM, John Saeger said:

I have complete sympathy for the point of view that the RF interference and what-not on the TV set when playing a real Atari is annoying. That emulation is somehow "better". There was a time, and it lasted for a long time that I thought emulation was "better" too. That somehow we were finally seeing the original programmer's true intention. For the first time actually. Finally the perfect model of TIA was showing us the perfect rendition of the game. The abstract perfection was somehow more beautiful than the real version because we were seeing what the programmers must have been thinking.

 

All I can say is something changed for me. The perfect pixels stopped being beautiful. They started looking dull and lifeless. There is something about the real machine that's been missed, and it's not just blur or scanlines or some other "effect". Colors don't change smoothly. They change weirdly. You can say what you want about whether it's an accident, on purpose, or accidently on purpose. For me it's become part of the beauty of the machine. The beauty lies in the imperfection. As emulators have become so popular I fear this may be lost. So yeah. Get a 2600. Get a TV set. Save a CRT!

 

That said I've found out something interesting about CRT TV sets. I scored another one just yesterday. Instead of collecting consoles I collect these. Anyway, I was at a thrift store and there was a pile in the parking lot strapped to pallets. Typically, I guess these guys don't even put them out on the floor any more. They can get money for recycling them. I don't know how much but this seems to be why they are so hard to find. They disappear immediately. Anyway I saw something in the pile I wanted and if you ask they'll sell you something for cheap. So one way you can still find these things is to look in the recycle pile.

 

 

The graphics designers designed their graphics to look good on a CRT, because that's all they had at the time.  They had to compensate for all the weird color bleeds and scanlines.

 

That's one reason SD content often looks so bad on flat-screen TVs.

 

Some emulators have pretty good CRT emulation that goes beyond just adding scanlines.   I use that when I can.   I no longer have space or patienct to set up real CRTs

Edited by zzip
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I have a collection of real hardware and games. And I also enjoy emulation. The thing about the real hardware and games that I started to realize is that they're going to become more and more difficult to keep in good condition. As the years go on, my interest in them has to expand beyond the games themselves and will involve a learning curve regarding preservation. At the same time, I'm not a perfectionist and my nature is to allow for some wear and tear. So I didn't get too upset when my teething 1-year-old daughter started chewing on a previously mint condition manual during a moment when I was looking in the other direction. Now that she's 7, she likes to take games off the shelf and look at the box art and read the manuals just like I do. That's one aspect of a physical collection that emulation is hard pressed to provide a corresponding experience.

 

On 8/5/2019 at 11:13 AM, zzip said:

Some emulators have pretty good CRT emulation that goes beyond just adding scanlines.   I use that when I can.   I no longer have space or patienct to set up real CRTs 

 

I've been really impressed with the BGFX shaders for MAME. You can really get in there and tweak all sorts of aspects, adding a slight curvature to the screen, phosphor persistence, hum bar, defocus... there are tons of sliders to play around with. You need a good graphics card, so it might be overkill for some, but it's definitely more detailed and realistic than just some horizontal lines across the image. I also have a nice Trinitron CRT and I know it's not as nice as the real thing but it's pretty cool! And I expect in the coming years shaders will continue to be developed and improved upon. I also like adding the bezel overlays sometimes. There are a lot of cool options. I guess that's what I like best - having lots of options and trying things this way and that. I also have a VGA to S-video adapter so sometimes I hook up my laptop to the CRT and play emulated games that way. And I have a flash cart for the Sega Genesis. I guess what I'm realizing is, I'm kind of crazy. But I'm having a blast!

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It's obviously #1 through 9. ;)

 

I've long since eschewed authenticity since I'm not interested in an NES with composite (or paying $200 to have one modded) or any original hardware that's RF-only. The only way I'll do an original console is if it has S-video or better, and if I actually want to own the hardware (which disqualifies the N64 and PC Engine, even though they have S-Video and RGB, respectively). 

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