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Console Emulation & Its Impact Andrew Wolan 11-22-99.

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Presentation on theme: "Console Emulation & Its Impact Andrew Wolan 11-22-99."— Presentation transcript:

1 Console Emulation & Its Impact Andrew Wolan 11-22-99

2 Background Information n Involved with console emulation for over 3 years. (Experience) n Webmaster of the, a respected web site in the emulation scene. n Web site noted by C|Net as [one of] the best emulation sites on the web. (Mar. 99)

3 Introduction n Purpose - to talk about the spread of console emulation to its current state with an insiders perspective. n What is an emulator? n Emulation Scene n Legal issues concerning console emulation n Impact of console emulation n UltraHLE tidbits (time permitting)

4 What is an Emulator? n A program which maps and executes instructions intended for one architecture to the host machines architecture. n This allows someone to run software on a machine in which it was not intended to run on.

5 Speed Hierarchy Revisited n Hardware Physical hardware n Emulator Runs in real time, thus interaction is possible. n Simulator Does not run in real time. Interaction not possible while simulator is running. (Spice)

6 Why use an emulator? (Common Apps) n Platform independence. (PC emulation on a MAC.) n Convenience (Terminal emulator: VT100) n Lower Cost (Uses software instead of hardware.)

7 Thus.... n An emulator that runs software intended for a console (video game) machine are called a console emulator.

8 Emulation Scene n A unified collaboration of console gaming enthusiasts from around the world. n Consists of students in software/hardware engineering and general hardware gurus. n These console emulators are written, distributed and supported by the group for hobby and recreational purposes.

9 Emulation Scene (continued) n All information on console hardware obtained through collective hacking and reverse engineering attempts of the units. The internet helped speed the process by collaborating efforts. n Main motivation: to be able to play our favorite console games on the PC. n Emulation was never intended to be a tool of piracy. --->

10 ROM Images n A ROM image is a copy of the software stored in a game cartridge. n Created/Read from a cartridge using a home made ROM reader.

11 Sample Genesis ROM reader based on a do- it yourself EPROM reader design at

12 ROM Images (continued) n Commercial ROM back-up devices exist. (SWC, Doctor V64, etc) Intended for piracy due to its ability to also run copied games. n Since everyone does not have a ROM reader at home (cost or complexity,) ROM images are distributed freely on the web. n General consensus of ROM image distribution is that it is legal as long as you own a copy of the game retrieved. (Though proof of ownership never checked.)

13 Emulation Scene Time Line n Golden Age n Middle Age n New Age

14 Golden Age of Console Emulation n Early 90s to early 1996 n Emulators for earlier 8-bit systems (C64, Atari 2600, NES) and the Gameboy were introduced. n ROM image distribution viewed as ok because they were for old and outdated systems. (Should not affect the companies that wrote the game.) n Gameboy, SNES and Genesis emulators proposed.

15 Middle Age of Console Emulation n Mid 1996 to December 1998 n Emulators for various 16-bit consoles (SNES and Genesis) introduced. n ROM image distribution viewed ok as long as they were being distributed amongst owners. n Though popularity of the SNES and Genesis was dyeing, people begin to use emulation for pirating due to the mass marketing of respected emulation sites which portrayed the ever increasing level of quality in console emulation. (Mid 1998) n Playstation and N64 emulators proposed.

16 New Age of Console Emulation n 1999 to Present n Playstation and N64 emulators introduced (bleem! & UltraHLE) n Emulation Scenes stance on ROM distribution holds. However, many sites become divided on weather or not to welcome perfect N64 emulation due to its high pirating potential. n Mass marketing of console emulation apparent with first retail emulators bleem! and Connectixs VGS.

17 Legalities of Emulation n Emulators are legal provided the following rules were obeyed: n No copy protection on the console unit was broken to discover a functionality. n The ROM BIOS of the console unit was not reverse engineered to learn about the unit. (BIOS is copyrighted.) n Console emulations legality WAS fought in court in favor of the emulator authors. (VGS, bleem!)

18 ROM Image Legalities n Creating a ROM image of a game that you own is legal. (Back-up purposes.) n Distributing or obtaining unauthorized copies of a ROM image is illegal. n The legality of ROM images was never fought in court, so no one knows for sure.

19 Impact of Console Emulation n The reaction of software companies that wrote the games have been mixed: Some are pleased to see their older games being used again and have granted the right for people to distribute their games for free. Some companies have packaged their older games with an emulator and sold them in retail. (SEGA) General consensus does not approve of console emulation. (Excluding the Playstation.)

20 Impact of Console Emulation (cont.) n Media has given console emulation a bad name until recently. Time magazine article associated it with software piracy. n The reaction of the Big Three console manufactures (SONY, Nintendo, SEGA) has been mixed.

21 Big Threes Reaction - SONY n Sony originally had no argument against Playstation emulators until the release of retail Playstation emulators. n Sony has made repeated attempts to sue the authors of bleem! and VGS, but have failed at each attempt.

22 Big Threes Reaction- Nintendo n Originally, Nintendo tolerated emulation. The most they did was order web sites that distributed ROM images to shut down. n The release of UltraHLE prompted change in their policies. They mentioned that they would be suing the authors of UltraHLE, but have not done so to this day. n Their stance is completely anti-emulation. Their web site has a section full of misleading information on emulation.

23 Big Threes Reaction - SEGA n SEGA has quietly accepted emulation. n Sega is believed to have bought the rights to KGen (a popular Genesis emulator) and sold some of their games for the PC which ran under KGen. n Since the dominance of their console has been lost, the spread of emulation, weather good or bad, only helps them by promoting their next generation game system (Dreamcast) though their successful past line of games.

24 UltraHLE Tidbits n Released in Jan. 1999, first N64 emulator that ran in real time. Minimum specs: a P233 with a Glide compatible 3D accelerator. n Its not a true emulator. Only the core CPU (MIPS R4300) is emulated in full. n Uses a unique High Level Emulation technique: instead of emulating the hardware to low-level perfection, its operations are approximated and optimized for the PC. n NOT 100% accurate and NOT applicable to emulation in general.

25 UltraHLE (cont.) n Since UltraHLE approximates graphical func- tionality and fine tunes them for the PC, higher game play resolutions are possible. n Up-to 1024*786

26 Conclusion n Console emulators were written by video game gurus. Were never intended to be used as a tool of piracy. n Emulators are legal, assuming no laws were broken in creating them. n ROM images are legal, but to an extent. n Sony and Nintendo are boldly against emulation, while Sega has quietly accepted it.

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