emulators

Sony’s PlayStation Classic uses an open-source emulator to play its games

Posted by | emulators, Gaming, hardware, open source, playstation, playstation classic, Sony | No Comments

The worm has turned, it seems. Emulators, which let people run old console games on their computers, were once the scourge of the gaming industry. Now Sony is using one of the very pieces of software the industry decried as the basis for its PlayStation Classic retro console.

In the licenses list for the console can be found PCSX ReArmed, as Kotaku noticed in its review yesterday. That’s the ARM port of PCSX Reloaded, itself an offshoot of the original PCSX emulator, which ceased development in 2003.

Don’t worry, it’s not a crime or anything: Sony is well within its rights to do this. It’s just ironic, and indicative of the hard work emulator developers have done for over two decades, that a tool most famously (though by no means exclusively) used for piracy is being deployed officially like this. PCSX and its derivatives are open source under GPL.

It’s a huge vindication of these rogue developers, as you might call them, whose software based on reverse-engineering the proprietary systems of major companies has grown to be not just useful but the best option for running these old games — as chosen by Sony itself! Gaming historian Frank Cifaldi has an interesting thread about why this is so mind-blowing for some of us.

It also makes sense to a certain extent: Sony would have had to dedicate a non-trivial amount of resources to building an emulator from scratch, or (even more complex) rebuilding the PlayStation hardware in some fashion. Why not use a high-quality, open-source emulator with years of active development and testing?

Not every company has made that same choice, though: Nintendo, for its NES and SNES Classic mini-consoles, developed its own emulators, as it did before for Virtual Console (and indeed inside Animal Crossing on GameCube). But even then, those devices run on a custom Linux build, which of course uses a similar open-source license. So one way or the other the gaming world is finding itself in bed with the open-source community.

It’s true that the emulators themselves were never really illegal — unless they used some proprietary code or something. It was always the ROMs themselves, copies of games, that companies fought hardest against. But emulators have always lived in a sort of grey area, even if few actions were taken against them. The last few years have seen a resurgence in interest for retro games and a willingness to pay for them, but if emulators hadn’t been letting us do that for free for decades, there’s a good chance that many of these games would have been forgotten.

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RIP EmuParadise, a haven for retro gamers for almost two decades

Posted by | Emulation, emulators, EmuParadise, Gaming, retro games, retro gaming, TC | No Comments

If you’re a fan of retro games, chances are you have a few emulators installed to let you play Mega Drive or Atari 800 titles. And if you have a few emulators installed, you probably have some ROMs. And if you have some ROMs, it’s likely that sometime since the year 2000 you visited EmuParadise, a stalwart provider of these ambiguously legal files. Well, EmuParadise is no more — at least the site we knew and loved.

The site explained the bad news in a post today, acknowledging the reality that the world of retro gaming has changed irrevocably and a site like EmuParadise simply can’t continue to exist even semi-legally. So they’re removing all ROM downloads.

For those not familiar with this scene, emulators let you play games from classic consoles that might otherwise be difficult, expensive or even impossible to find in the wild. ROMs, which contain the actual game data (and are often remarkably small — NES games are smaller than the image above), are questionably legal and have existed in a sort of grey area for years. But there’s no question that this software has been invaluable to gamers.

“I started EmuParadise 18 years ago because I never got to play many of these amazing retro games while growing up in India and I wanted other people to be able to experience them,” wrote the site’s founder, MasJ. “Through the years I’ve worked tirelessly with the rest of the EmuParadise team to ensure that everyone could get their fix of retro gaming. We’ve received thousands of emails from people telling us how happy they’ve been to rediscover and even share their childhood with the next generations in their families.”

But the games industry is changing; official re-releases of old games and the consequent legal attention that brings to sites hosting original ROMs has created an unambiguously hostile environment for them. Nintendo, it must be said, has been particularly zealous in its efforts to clear the web of ROMs, especially for its first-party games.

EmuParadise and other sites have been the constant target of legal actions, from simple takedown requests to more serious allegations and lawsuits.

“It’s not worth it for us to risk potentially disastrous consequences. I cannot in good conscience risk the futures of our team members who have contributed to the site through the years,” MasJ continued. “We run EmuParadise for the love of retro games and for you to be able to revisit those good times. Unfortunately, it’s not possible right now to do so in a way that makes everyone happy and keeps us out of trouble.

“This is an extremely emotional decision for me after running this site for so many years. But I believe it is the right thing for us at this point of time.”

Alas, they will be unavailable forever now.

I can remember EmuParadise being one of the most reliable sites to get ROMs from back in the day; and in the early 2000s, when emulators were essentially the only way to play many old games — and the web was a bit more wild — it was also one of the few that didn’t attempt to load some kind of virus onto your computer at the same time.

It’s always sad when a homegrown site that single-mindedly pursues a single goal, and in this case one that is arguably a public service, legal or no, is forced to bow out. It’s sad, but they can at least retire knowing that retro gaming is alive and well and finally being embraced by game distributors and makers the way it ought to have been for the last couple decades. Consoles like the NES Classic are outselling modern ones, and love for old games has not abated.

Not only that, but websites like this, while they provide other services, are no longer necessary for the distribution of ROMs. What was practical in 2002 no longer makes sense, and the advent of both legal game stores on PCs and consoles, and of course torrents, mean that even rare games like Radiant Silvergun are just a click or button press away.

And lastly, EmuParadise isn’t just plain dying. They plan to maintain and update their emulator database and keep the community going, and MasJ says there are plans to launch some new things as well. So, out with the old, in with the new.

Thanks to EmuParadise and those running it for all their hard work, and best of luck in the future!

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My favorite summer toy is the GDP XD emulator

Posted by | emulators, Gadgets, Handhelds, TC | No Comments

People ask me all the time about my favorite gadgets and I rarely have any answers. I’ve been playing with stuff since 2004 and I’m pretty gadget-ed out. But this year I’ve finally found something that I really enjoy: the GPD XD, an Android-based gaming handheld that lets you play multiple emulators including an endless array of homebrew and classic ROMS.

As an early fan of the Caanoo I’m always looking for handheld emulators that can let you play classic games without much fuss. The Caanoo worked quite well, especially for 2010 technology, and I was looking to upgrade.

My friend bought a GDP and showed it to me and I was hooked. I could play some wonderful old ROMs in a form factor that was superior to the Caanoo and this super cheap, super awful 4.3-inch device that emulates like a truck.

The GDP, which has two joysticks, one four-axis button, four shoulder buttons, and a diamond of game buttons, is basically a Wi-Fi enabled Android device with a touch screen. It runs Android 7.0 and has a MTK8176 Quad-core+ processor and 4GB of memory. It comes with NES, SNES, Arcade, and Playstation emulators built in as well as a few home-brew games. You can install almost anything from the Google Play store and it includes a file manager and ebook reader. It also has a micro SD card slot, HDMI out, and headphone jack.

To be clear, the GDP isn’t exactly well documented. The device includes a bit of on board documentation – basically a few graphics files that describe how to add and upload ROMS and emulators. There are also a number of online resources including Reddit threads talking about this thing’s emulation prowess. The original model appeared two years ago and they are now selling an updated 2018 version with a better processor and more memory.

GPD recently launched another handheld, the Win 2, which is a full Windows machine in a form factor similar to the XD. It is considerably more expensive – about $700 vs. $300 – and if you’re looking for a more computer-like experience it might work. I have, however, had a lot of fun with the XD these past few months.

So whatever your feelings regarding ROMs, emulators, and tiny PCs, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally been pleased with a clever and fun bit of portable technology.

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