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EMULATION, THE WONDER OF DISCOVERY
What is emulation? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Emulation is simply a process of using software to ‘emulate’ hardware. For example, using an emulator you can play N64 games on a PC that doesn’t use hardware anything like an N64.
For the already familiar ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What was your first experience with using an Emulator? Mine was using a Java based Spectrum emulator to play games I recollected from my childhood whilst I was supposed to be doing College coursework.
I remember when I first played on a Spectrum emulator on my home computer. The sounds of the loading screen were like orchestrated music to my ears... for about 10 seconds which is when I was pleased to find the quick load option
Emulation is special because it enables people to play games of memories past without having to go through the rigmarole of searching the second hand shops for countless machines, and then countless games. It also eliminates the arduous aforementioned loading times for older computer games. Another improvement emulation offers, is I can play classic games that were not released in my territory (often not even in my language... bless you translation teams! )
Another area where Emulation can improve games is this, in a lot of Role Playing Games for example I have often reached a level whereby I can kill 99.9% of enemies in my sleep. Sadly though the randomly generated nature of the battles in a lot of these games make them impossible to skip, besides all experience points are often gladly taken. One game I recently completed for the first time on an Emulator was Super Mario RPG. On the actual console I grew frustrated at the incessent nature of the battles, especially when
no enemy could realistically challenge me (apart from the bosses). Using an Emulator such as ZSNes I could activate the frameskip with the press of a button, and zoom through all the random battles by simply tapping the fire button :)
Of course Emulation isn’t just about playing the older consoles, and in recent times the N64 and the Playstation were both emulated before the shelf life of said consoles were totally finished. Sadly this was seized upon by some sections of the media as endorsing piracy, until the advent of UHLE and Bleem, Emulation was still something that the majority of non computer nerds were in the dark about. Now seeing as I am writing this on the premier site for N64 emulation, and as has been witnessed as of recent GC Emulation (http://www.dolphin-emu.com it is slightly obvious that I must see something good in the emulation of semi-recent machines. I do.
The good points are that I can play games that I may not have had the chance to have done new, but more importantly I can play the games I enjoyed back then, complete with additional image enhancement opportunities. Afterall who wouldn't enjoy playing a classic such as Mario64 replete with FSAA, Anisitropic filtering and other graphical niceties. I also gain a good level of satisfaction from testing new emulators, plugins and the like. To see just how talented emulation authors can code things to the self evident level of greatness I have witnessed astounds me.
Surely there could be some way of legitimising Emulation? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sadly the advent of emulation of recent machines also came replete with the spectre of piracy. Suddenly masses of the “won’t pay, want to play’ brigade jumped onto the emulation scene, complete with their unrealistic demands, and worryingly there complete disregard for the commercial sales of machines.
Now I love Emulation, but I also believe in paying for goods that are still available brand new in shops. Sadly I believe I am probably in the minority, though it is pleasing to see that most regular users of Emulation64 for example most of them are ardent Nintendo fans who have supported the GC to the hilt.
Could emulation ever go commercial? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Yes I believe it could, but it would require co-operation between the authors, the community and of course from the main players in the game (Nintendo, Sony etc) If the powers that be provided authors with technical information for their older machines, and then sold the (technically perfect) emulators plus a small amount of titles then they would sell like hotcakes to the genuine enthusiast. Of course the problem lies in just how many genuine enthusiasts exist compared to the pirates of this world.
Worth noting is Nintendo themselves have made use of emulation, both for certain Game Boy Advance games, and for the Gamecube bonus disk that comes with Wind Waker.
Another company that has embraced emulation to an extent is Sega, who have licenced both Megadrive emulationo to Real Arcade, and Saturn emulation to cyberdisc.jp (formerly Giri Giri).
Back on track? ~~~~~~~~~~~
I believe that emulation – mainly due to technical reasonings is back on track towards general harmlessness. PS2 and GameCube have yet to be emulated fully (though both machines are showing some great progress). I for one hope that PS2 and GC emulators (along with X-Box) don’t get released until the machines themselves have died a death. At least then it will not be blamed for the death of the machine in question.
Final thoughts ~~~~~~~~~~~
Emulation is often shrouded in a veil of illegality. Of course this is not always the case, some wonderful companies for example fully support emulation on some of the older 8bit and 16bit machines. The Amiga for example has sites that have a wide range of legally released disk images for people to play via Emulators.
Now who doesn't enjoy playing games of yesteryear via Emulators? Not many surely. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It is sad that Emulation often gets lumped in with out and out piracy by many people. For many people it isn't viewed as an opportunity to avoid playing for games, rather than as an opportunity to play games with the bonus of better image quality. The sheer technical achievement of the emulators and community spirit evident on emulation sites is also a joy to behold.
There will also be the 'can pay, won't pay' type characters throughout all walks of life. Let's hope that Emulation can escape from the shadows, sometime in the future.
Final note ~~~~~~~~
One thing that could be considered anti-emulation is Nintendo are currently having great success releasing older Nes and Snes games on the Game Boy Advance. The arguement against emulation is as this games have probably been played to death by the biggest fans on emulators, it takes value away from the re-releases. In this instance I can fully sympathise with Nintendo.
Bottom line, if you enjoy a game BUY IT Emulation isn’t just a one stop shop for piracy, so don’t treat it like that
(This review was originally written by me 'Trotterwatch' for the site Emulation64.com, albeit in slightly different form). I have thus posted it in a non for profit catagory here on Ciao. Just wanted to get something out there!