Video game console emulator

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Project64 running Star Fox 64 on Windows 8 StarFox64 Emulated with Project64.png
Project64 running Star Fox 64 on Windows 8

A video game console emulator is a type of emulator that allows a computing device [fn 1] to emulate a video game console's hardware and play its games on the emulating platform. More often than not, emulators carry additional features that surpass the limitations of the original hardware, such as broader controller compatibility, [fn 2] timescale control, greater performance, clearer quality, easier access to memory modifications (like GameShark), one-click cheat codes, and unlocking of gameplay features. Emulators are also a useful tool in the development process of homebrew demos and the creation of new games for older, discontinued, or more rare consoles.

Emulator system that emulates a real system such that the behavior closely resembles the behavior of the real system

In computing, an emulator is hardware or software that enables one computer system to behave like another computer system. An emulator typically enables the host system to run software or use peripheral devices designed for the guest system. Emulation refers to the ability of a computer program in an electronic device to emulate another program or device. Many printers, for example, are designed to emulate Hewlett-Packard LaserJet printers because so much software is written for HP printers. If a non-HP printer emulates an HP printer, any software written for a real HP printer will also run in the non-HP printer emulation and produce equivalent printing. Since at least the 1990s, many video game enthusiasts have used emulators to play classic arcade games from the 1980s using the games' original 1980s machine code and data, which is interpreted by a current-era system.

A video game console is a computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game that one or more people can play.

A time standard is a specification for measuring time: either the rate at which time passes; or points in time; or both. In modern times, several time specifications have been officially recognized as standards, where formerly they were matters of custom and practice. An example of a kind of time standard can be a time scale, specifying a method for measuring divisions of time. A standard for civil time can specify both time intervals and time-of-day.

Contents

The code and data of a game are typically supplied to the emulator by means of a ROM file (a copy of game cartridge data) or an ISO image (a copy of optical media), which are created by either specialized tools for game cartridges, or regular optical drives reading the data. [1] Most games retain their copyright despite the increasing time-span of the original system and products' discontinuation; this leaves regular consumers and emulation enthusiasts to resort to obtaining games freely across various internet sites rather than legitimately purchasing and ripping the contents (although for optical media, this is becoming popular for legitimate owners). As an alternative, specialized adapters such as the Retrode allow emulators to directly access the data on game cartridges without needing to copy it into a ROM image first.

An ISO image is a disk image of an optical disc. In other words, it is an archive file that contains everything that would be written to an optical disc, sector by sector, including the optical disc file system. ISO image files bear the .iso filename extension. The name ISO is taken from the ISO 9660 file system used with CD-ROM media, but what is known as an ISO image might also contain a UDF file system.

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Ripping is extracting all or parts of digital contents from a container. Originally it meant to rip music out of Amiga games. Later the term was used to extract WAV or MP3 format files from digital audio CDs, but got applied as well to extract the contents of any media, most notably DVD and Blu-ray discs.

History

By the mid-1990s, personal computers had progressed to the point where it was technically feasible to replicate the behavior of some of the earliest consoles entirely through software, and the first unauthorized, non-commercial console emulators began to appear. These early programs were often incomplete, only partially emulating a given system, resulting in defects. Few manufacturers published technical specifications for their hardware, which left programmers to deduce the exact workings of a console through reverse engineering. Nintendo's consoles tended to be the most commonly studied, for example the most advanced early emulators reproduced the workings of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Game Boy. Programs like Marat Fayzullin's iNES, VirtualGameBoy, Pasofami (NES), Super Pasofami (SNES), and VSMC (SNES) were the most popular console emulators of this era. A curiosity was also Yuji Naka's unreleased NES emulator for the Genesis, possibly marking the first instance of a software emulator running on a console. [2]

A software bug is an error, flaw, failure or fault in a computer program or system that causes it to produce an incorrect or unexpected result, or to behave in unintended ways. The process of finding and fixing bugs is termed "debugging" and often uses formal techniques or tools to pinpoint bugs, and since the 1950s, some computer systems have been designed to also deter, detect or auto-correct various computer bugs during operations.

Reverse engineering, also called back engineering, is the process by which a man-made object is deconstructed to reveal its designs, architecture, or to extract knowledge from the object; similar to scientific research, the only difference being that scientific research is about a natural phenomenon.

Nintendo Japanese video game company

Nintendo Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto. Nintendo is one of the world's largest video game companies by market capitalization, creating some of the best-known and top-selling video game franchises, such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon.

This rise in popularity opened the door to foreign video games, and exposed North American gamers to Nintendo's censorship policies. This rapid growth in the development of emulators in turn fed the growth of the ROM hacking and fan-translation. The release of projects such as RPGe's English language translation of Final Fantasy V drew even more users into the emulation scene.

ROM hacking is the process of modifying a ROM image or ROM file of a video game to alter the game's graphics, dialogue, levels, gameplay, and/or other elements. This is usually done by technically inclined video game fans to breathe new life into a cherished old game, as a creative outlet, or to make essentially new unofficial games using the old game's engine.

Fan translation of video games

In video gaming, a fan translation is an unofficial translation of a video game made by fans.

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

United States

As computers and global computer networks continued to advance and emulator developers grew more skilled in their work, the length of time between the commercial release of a console and its successful emulation began to shrink. Fifth generation consoles such as Nintendo 64, PlayStation and sixth generation handhelds, such as the Game Boy Advance, saw significant progress toward emulation during their production. This led to an effort by console manufacturers to stop unofficial emulation, but consistent failures such as Sega v. Accolade 977 F.2d 1510 (9th Cir. 1992), Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. v. Connectix Corporation 203 F.3d 596 (2000), and Sony Computer Entertainment America v. Bleem 214 F.3d 1022 (2000), [3] have had the opposite effect. According to all legal precedents, emulation is legal within the United States. However, unauthorized distribution of copyrighted code remains illegal, according to both country-specific copyright and international copyright law under the Berne Convention.. [4] [ better source needed ] Accordingly, video game publishers and developers have taken legal action against websites that illegally redistribute their copyrighted software, successfully forcing sites to remove their titles [5] or taking down the websites entirely. [6]

Internet Global system of connected computer networks

The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail, telephony, and file sharing.

Nintendo 64 1996 video game console

The Nintendo 64 (officially abbreviated as N64, model number: NUS, stylized as NINTENDO64) is a home video game console developed and marketed by Nintendo. Named for its 64-bit central processing unit, it was released in June 1996 in Japan, September 1996 in North America and Brazil, March 1997 in Europe and Australia, and September 1997 in France. It was the last major home console to use the cartridge as its primary storage format until the Nintendo Switch in 2017. The Nintendo 64 was discontinued in mid-2002 following the launch of its successor, the GameCube, in 2001.

PlayStation Gaming brand owned by Sony

PlayStation is a video gaming brand that consists of four home video game consoles, as well as a media center, an online service, a line of controllers, two handhelds and a phone, as well as multiple magazines. It was created and owned by Sony Interactive Entertainment on December 3, 1994, with the launch of the original PlayStation in Japan, and has been owned by that company ever since.

Under United States law, obtaining a dumped copy of the original machine's BIOS is legal under the ruling Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc. , 964 F.2d 965 (9th Cir. 1992) as fair use as long as the user obtained a legally purchased copy of the machine. To mitigate this however, several emulators for platforms such as Game Boy Advance are capable of running without a BIOS file, using high-level emulation to simulate BIOS subroutines at a slight cost in emulation accuracy.[ citation needed ]

In computing, a core dump, crash dump, memory dump, or system dump consists of the recorded state of the working memory of a computer program at a specific time, generally when the program has crashed or otherwise terminated abnormally. In practice, other key pieces of program state are usually dumped at the same time, including the processor registers, which may include the program counter and stack pointer, memory management information, and other processor and operating system flags and information. A snapshot dump is a memory dump requested by the computer operator or by the running program, after which the program is able to continue. Core dumps are often used to assist in diagnosing and debugging errors in computer programs.

BIOS classic firmware of x86-based PCs

BIOS is non-volatile firmware used to perform hardware initialization during the booting process, and to provide runtime services for operating systems and programs. The BIOS firmware comes pre-installed on a personal computer's system board, and it is the first software to run when powered on. The name originates from the Basic Input/Output System used in the CP/M operating system in 1975. The BIOS originally proprietary to the IBM PC has been reverse engineered by companies looking to create compatible systems. The interface of that original system serves as a de facto standard.

<i>Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc.</i>

Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc. was a court case which established the rights of users to modify copyrighted works for their own use. The case revolved around whether or not the Game Genie device which could modify video games in real time constituted creating a derivative work.

Impersonation by malware

Due to their popularity, emulators have also been a target of online scams in the form of trojan horse programs designed to mimic the appearance of a legitimate emulator, which are then promoted through spam, on YouTube and elsewhere. [7] The Federal Trade Commission has since issued an advisory warning users to avoid downloading such software, in response to reports of a purported Nintendo Switch emulator released by various websites as a front for a survey scam. [8]

Official use

Due to the high demand of playing old games on modern systems, consoles have begun incorporating emulation technology. The most notable of these is Nintendo's Virtual Console. Originally released for the Wii, but present on the 3DS and Wii U, Virtual Console uses software emulation to allow the purchasing and playing of games for old systems on this modern hardware. Though not all games are available, the Virtual Console has a large collection of games spanning a wide variety of consoles. The Virtual Console's library of past games currently consists of titles originating from the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Wii, as well as Sega's Master System and Genesis/Mega Drive, NEC's TurboGrafx-16, and SNK's Neo Geo. The service for the Wii also includes games for platforms that were known only in select regions, such as the Commodore 64 (Europe and North America) and MSX (Japan), [9] as well as Virtual Console Arcade, which allows players to download video arcade games. Virtual Console titles have been downloaded over ten million times. [10] Each game is distributed with a dedicated emulator tweaked to run the game as well as possible. However, it lacks the enhancements that unofficial emulators provide, and many titles are still unavailable.[ which? ]

Until the 4.0.0 firmware update, the Nintendo Switch system software contained an embedded NES emulator, referred to internally as "flog", running the game Golf (with motion controller support using Joy-Con). The Easter egg was believed to be a tribute to former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who died in 2015: the game was only accessible on July 11 (the date of his death), Golf was programmed by Iwata, and the game was activated by performing a gesture that Iwata had famously used during Nintendo's video presentations. It was suggested that the inclusion of Golf was intended as a digital form of omamori—a traditional form of Japanese amulets intended to provide luck or protection. [11] [12] [13] As part of its Nintendo Switch Online subscription service, Nintendo subsequently released an app featuring an on-demand library of NES titles updated regularly. [14] The app features similar features to Virtual Console titles, including save states, as well as a pixel scaler mode and an effect that simulates CRT television displays. [15]

Due to differences in hardware, the Xbox 360 is not natively backwards compatible with original Xbox games. [fn 3] However, Microsoft achieved backwards compatibility with popular titles through an emulator. On June 15, 2015, Microsoft announced the Xbox One would be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 through Emulation. In June 2017, they announced Xbox original titles would also be available for backwards compatibility through emulation, but because the Xbox original runs on the x86 architecture, CPU emulation is unnecessary, greatly improving performance. The PlayStation 3 uses software emulation to play original PlayStation titles, and the PlayStation Store sells games that run through an emulator within the machine. In the original Japanese and North American 60GB models, original PS2 hardware is present to run titles; however all PAL models, and later models released in Japan and North America removed some PS2 hardware components, replacing it with software emulation working alongside the video hardware to achieve partial hardware/software emulation. [16] [17] In later releases, backwards compatibility with PS2 titles was completely removed along with the PS2 graphics chip, and eventually Sony released PS2 titles with software emulation on the PlayStation Store. [17]

Commercial developers have also used emulation as a means to repackage and reissue older games on newer consoles in retail releases. For example, Sega has created several collections of Sonic the Hedgehog games. Before the Virtual Console, Nintendo also used this tactic, such as Game Boy Advance re-releases of NES titles in the Classic NES Series.[ citation needed ]

Other uses

Although the primary purpose of emulation is to make older video-games execute on newer systems, there are several advantages inherent in the extra flexibility of software emulation that were not possible on the original systems.

ROM hacking and modification

Disk image loading is a necessity for most console emulators, as most computing devices do not have the hardware required to run older console games directly from the physical game media itself. Even with optical media system emulators such as the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, attempting to run games from the actual disc may cause problems such as hangs and malfunction as PC optical drives are not designed to spin discs the way those consoles do.[ citation needed ] This, however, has led to the advantage of it being far easier to modify the actual game's files contained within the game ROMs. Amateur programmers and gaming enthusiasts have produced translations of foreign games, rewritten dialogue within a game, applied fixes to bugs that were present in the original game, as well as updating old sports games with modern rosters. It is even possible to use high-resolution texture pack upgrades for 3-D games if available and possible. [fn 4]

Enhanced technical features

Software that emulates a console can be improved with additional capabilities that the original system did not have. These include Enhanced graphical capabilities, such as spatial anti-aliasing, upscaling of the framebuffer resolution to match high definition and even higher display resolutions, as well as anisotropic filtering (texture sharpening).

Emulation software may offer improved audio capabilities (e.g. decreased latency and better audio interpolation), enhanced save states (which allow the user to save a game at any point for debugging or re-try) and decreased boot and loading times. Some emulators feature an option to "quickly" boot a game, bypassing the console manufacturer's original splash screens.

Furthermore, emulation software may offer online multiplayer functionality and the ability to speed up and slow down the emulation speed. This allows the user to fast-forward through unwanted cutscenes for example, or the ability to disable the framelimiter entirely (useful for benchmarking purposes).

Bypassing regional lockouts

Some consoles have a regional lockout, preventing the user from being able to play games outside of the designated game region. This can be considered a nuisance for console gamers as some games feature seemingly inexplicable localization differences between regions, such as differences in the time requirements for driving missions and license tests on Gran Turismo 4, [18] [19] [ better source needed ] and the PAL version of Final Fantasy X requiring players to defeat almost impossible bosses in order to complete the game, as well as making it prohibitively expensive to purchase the character Yojimbo's "Zanmato" move compared to the NTSC versions.[ original research? ]

Although it is usually possible to modify the consoles themselves to bypass regional lockouts, console modifications can cause problems with screens not being displayed correctly and games running too fast or slow, due to the fact that the console itself may not be designed to output to the correct format for the game. These problems can be overcome on emulators, as they are usually designed with their own output modules, which can run both NTSC and PAL games without issue.[ citation needed ]

Cheating and widescreen functionality

Many emulators, for example SNES9X, [20] make it far easier to load console-based cheats, without requiring potentially expensive proprietary hardware devices such as those used by GameShark and Action Replay. Freeware tools allow codes given by such programs to be converted into code that can be read directly by the emulator's built-in cheating system, and even allow cheats to be toggled from the menu. The debugging tools featured in many emulators also aid gamers in creating their own such cheats. Similar systems can also be used to enable Widescreen Hacks for certain games, allowing the user to play games which were not originally intended for widescreen, without having to worry about aspect ratio distortion on widescreen monitors.

See also

Notes

  1. These target platforms usually have available compilers to allow such emulators to be available.[ citation needed ] These include (but are not limited to) a personal computer, video game consoles, and Android devices.
  2. One example is PlayStation controllers being used with Nintendo 64 games.
  3. The Xbox architecture is similar to a PC with an x86 architecture, whereas the Xbox 360 is a PowerPC system.
  4. Having these improved textures requires a demanding graphics chipset which is capable of handling such.

Related Research Articles

Super Nintendo Entertainment System home video game console developed by Nintendo

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), also known as the Super NES or Super Nintendo, is a 16-bit home video game console developed by Nintendo that was released in 1990 in Japan and South Korea, 1991 in North America, 1992 in Europe and Australasia (Oceania), and 1993 in South America. In Japan, the system is called the Super Famicom (SFC). In South Korea, it is known as the Super Comboy and was distributed by Hyundai Electronics. The system was released in Brazil on August 30, 1993, by Playtronic. Although each version is essentially the same, several forms of regional lockout prevent the different versions from being compatible with one another.

ROM image

A ROM image, or ROM file, is a computer file which contains a copy of the data from a read-only memory chip, often from a video game cartridge, a computer's firmware, or from an arcade game's main board. The term is frequently used in the context of emulation, whereby older games or computer firmware are copied to ROM files on modern computers and can, using a piece of software known as an emulator, be run on a computer.

Homebrew (video games)

Homebrew is a term frequently applied to video games or other software produced by consumers to target proprietary hardware platforms that are not typically user-programmable or that use proprietary storage methods. This can include games developed with official development kits, such as Net Yaroze, Linux for PlayStation 2 or Microsoft XNA. A game written by a non-professional developer for a system intended to be consumer-programmable, like the Commodore 64, is simply called hobbyist.

Retrogaming playing or collecting older video and computer games

Retrogaming, also known as classic gaming and old school gaming, is the playing or collecting of older personal computer, console, and arcade video games in contemporary times. Usually retrogaming is based upon systems that are obsolete or discontinued.

Import gamers are a subset of the video game player community that take part in the practice of playing video games from another region, usually from Japan where the majority of games for certain systems originate.

ROM cartridge removable enclosure containing read-only memory devices

A ROM cartridge, usually referred to simply as a cartridge or cart, is a removable memory card containing ROM designed to be connected to a consumer electronics device such as a home computer, video game console or, to a lesser extent, electronic musical instruments. ROM cartridges can be used to load software such as video games or other application programs.

Nintendo video game consoles Wikimedia list article

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higan (emulator) multi-system emulator developed by byuu

higan is an emulator for multiple video game consoles, including the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Originally called bsnes, the emulator is notable for attempting to emulate the original hardware as accurately as possible through low-level, cycle-accurate emulation and for the associated historical preservation efforts of the SNES platform.

A home video game console, or simply home console, is a video game device that is primarily used for home gamers, as opposed to in arcades or some other commercial establishment. Home consoles are one type of video game consoles, in contrast to the handheld game consoles which are smaller and portable, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place, along with microconsoles and dedicated consoles.

In the history of video games, the eighth generation of consoles is the current generation. It includes those consoles released since 2012 by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. For home video game consoles, the eighth generation began on November 18, 2012, with the release of the Wii U, and continued with the release of the PlayStation 4 on November 15, 2013, and the Xbox One on November 22, 2013. The Wii U was the first home console of this generation to be discontinued, on January 31, 2017, to make way for Nintendo's second home console competitor, the Switch, released on March 3, 2017. These video game consoles follow their seventh generation predecessors from the same three companies: Nintendo's Wii, Sony's PlayStation 3, and Microsoft's Xbox 360.

Super NES CD-ROM Unreleased video game media format and peripheral for the SNES

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RetroArch is a free, open-source and cross-platform front-end for emulators, game engines, video games, media players and other applications. It is the reference implementation of the libretro API, designed to be fast, lightweight, portable and without dependencies. It is licensed under the GNU GPLv3.

Game development kits (GDK) are specialized hardware used to create commercial videogames. They may be partnered with game development tools, special game engine licenses, and other middleware to aid video game development. GDKs are typically not available to the public, and require game developers to enter an agreement, partnership, or program with the hardware manufacturer to gain access to the hardware. As game console generations pass, development kits often get sold through websites like eBay without repercussions. This is often because the console manufacturers discontinue certain development programs as time passes.

NES Classic Edition replica of the Nintendo Entertainment System, launched November 2016

Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition, known as Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe and Australia and Nintendo Classic Mini: Family Computer in Japan, is a dedicated video game console by Nintendo, which emulates the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It launched on November 10, 2016 in Australia and Japan, and November 11, 2016 in North America and Europe. Aesthetically, the console is a miniature replica of the NES, and it includes a static library of 30 built-in games from the licensed NES library, supporting save states for all of them.

Video game preservation form of digital preservation applied to video games

Video game preservation is a form of digital preservation applied to the video game industry. Such preservation efforts include archiving development source code and art assets, digital copies of video games, emulation of video game hardware, maintenance and preservation of specialized video game hardware such as arcade games and video game consoles, and digitization of print video game magazines and books prior to the Digital Revolution.

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References

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  3. see Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc. , 574 F.Supp. 999, aff'd, 704 F.2d 1009 (9th Cir 1982) (holding the computer ROM of Pac Man to be a sufficient fixation for purposes of copyright law even though the game changes each time played.) and Article 2 of the Berne Convention
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  5. Good, Owen (July 22, 2018). "Nintendo sues to shut down two big ROM sites". Polygon . Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  6. Musil, Steven (30 March 2017). "Don't get conned: That free Nintendo Switch emulator is a scam". CNET . Retrieved 24 April 2017.
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  12. "Hidden Switch game is actually a tribute to former Nintendo president [Updated]". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  13. Knezevic, Kevin (September 17, 2018). "Nintendo Switch Online Service: More Details Revealed In Nintendo Direct". GameSpot. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
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  15. "Play PSone and PlayStation 2 Games on a PlayStation 3". Sony Playstation Services and Support. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
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  18. https://www.gtplanet.net/forum/threads/pal-versus-ntsc-versions-of-gt4-what-are-the-differences.87195/
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