Sega to Support Modding of Games via Steam Workshop

Steam used to hold a collection of games, both old and new, but with its constant updates and the ability to download the games on any internet connected PC, people love the new choices they’ve been given. This love only grows when you give them back a childhood classic, which for many are centered around the games that the Sega Mega Drive offered them, and Sega wants this to grow by supporting not just the games on Steam but also the modified versions that will be shared via Steam Workshop.

Steam Workshop is the user content sharing part of Steam, letting you add mods and tweaks that include the likes of replacing dragons with trains or a new map for your army to conquer. In this respect support for user-created content will be supported by Sega alongside the new Sega Mega Drive Classics Hub being released on Steam on April 28th.

Clearly designed for a VR generation, the hub will include the system being placed in a bedroom, much like the ones where you first encountered the games. With graphical enhancement filters, full controller and keyboard support and “spot-on emulation” listed in the release, you can replay Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Ecco and even Columns just like you did when you were younger.

Saints Row: Undercover Playable ISO Officially Released

The Saints Row series is best known for its wacky, puerile comedy and over-the-top gameplay. While the first two games adopted a more serious tone, the developer began to focus on including sexual weaponry, silly physics and a story which doesn’t revolve around gang culture as much. This allowed the franchise to offer a unique open world experience which didn’t simply clone the very successful GTA formula. In addition to home console/PC games, the studio also commission two handheld games.

The first was entitled, Saints Row: Undercover, but also referred to as Saints Row: The Fall. Sadly, this project never came to fruition and was cancelled during development. Initially, the plan was to simply port a working version of Saints Row 2 to handheld devices. However, the project eventually turned into a brand new title with its own story, characters and gameplay mechanics. If you’d like to read more information about the game’s history please visit here for some additional background information.

In a rather surprising move, Volition has created a playable ISO of the Undercover prototype and released it to public. At the time of writing, you can acquire the game from the links below:

Mirror 1

Mirror 2

Mirror 3

The reason I say this is a surprising announcement revolves around the way modern publishers treat their intellectual property. There’s numerous examples of cancelled projects, and fan-remakes being removed from websites, and video services. I have to commend Volition for adopting such a consumer-friendly approach and providing an insight into what the game was all about. Perhaps, some very talented modders could complete the project or update the graphics slightly. In theory, this should work with any PSP emulator on the PC, or on a soft-modded PSP console. However, it’s still early days and I’m sure there’s going to be some problems running it on certain bootloaders or specific models. Thankfully, in time the community will learn the game’s quirks and how to make it run properly.

Halo Reach Performs Poorly on Xbox One

Microsoft stunned attendees during this year’s E3 expo with the shock announcement that backwards compatibility was coming to the Xbox One at no additional cost. In contrast to this, Sony has decided to charge for digital PlayStation 2 titles and offer PlayStation 3 emulation via a paid streaming service. It’s extremely unlikely for Sony to master PlayStation 3 emulation through traditional avenues due to the cell architecture’s complex nature.

One of the Xbox One’s most popular releases is Halo: The Master Chief Collection which contains Halo 1, 2, 3, and 4. Sadly this collection is devoid of Halo Reach as the story doesn’t center on the chaotic exploits of Master Chief. Despite this, Halo Reach recently gained approval to work on the Xbox One without the need to purchase an Xbox 360. Unfortunately, there are a number of user complaints regarding the game’s performance suggesting it frequently dips to around 10 frames-per-second. One disgruntled user said:

“We need to talk about the HALO Reach port to XBOX ONE. It’s unplayable! I’m getting 10-20 FPS whereas my 360 runs it at a smooth 25-30 FPS… This is unacceptable, I even set my XBOX ONE to run in 720p, but nothing changed!”

Another player had a similar experience and proclaimed:

“What the hell? UNPLAYABLE.is this going to get fixed or what? Why advertise backward compatibility of you can’t even actually play the game?”

Microsoft has acknowledged the current performance problems and issued an official statement which reads:

“We’re aware some users are experiencing issues playing Halo: Reach via Xbox One backward compatibility. The Xbox engineering team is currently looking into the issues and are working to address them.”

Some of you might remember the buggy emulation on the Xbox 360 which made older games unstable or difficult to play. At least Microsoft is looking into the performance problems and hopefully they should be rectified soon. On the other hand, it’s vital for Microsoft to ensure each game runs properly before giving it their seal of approval.

Is backwards compatibility a feature you often use?

Latest PlayStation 3 Emulation Looks Very Promising!

The PlayStation 3’s cell architecture is renowned for being overcomplicated which makes it extraordinarily difficult to emulate. Up to this point, there hasn’t really been any evidence of a working emulator and many people raised concerns about the graphical horsepower needed to play various games at a smooth frame-rate. However, the advent of DirectX 12, a low-level API has the potential to revolutionize hardware optimization and offer emulation of bizarre engineering solutions like the cell chip. YouTuber ‘John GodGames’ has released footage of an open source PlayStation 3 emulator using C++. The performance across various titles is surprisingly good and a huge step forward from anything we’ve seen before. Clearly, it’s in an early development stage and has a great deal of room for improvement.

During these videos, the emulation revolves around a fairly decent mid-high end setup including an Intel Core i7-6700K @4.6GHz, 16GB DDR4 memory and NVIDIA 970. This means it’s likely that a high specification will be necessary to play each game smoothly. Then again, as the programming improves, the technical requirements should reduce.

As with any emulation project, it will be interesting to see how Sony reacts and if they make any demands for the emulator to cease production. I really hope this doesn’t happen because the idea of trying out PlayStation 3 games on a PC with a high framerate is very appealing. Plus, it’s much easier to use legitimate game disks instead of pirating huge Blu-Ray ROMs.

PlayStation 4’s PS2 PAL Emulation Runs at an Upscaled 50Hz

Sony’s decision to charge for PlayStation 2 emulation on the PlayStation 4 has ruffled a few feathers and divided opinion. Some users believe the asking price is reasonable given the addition of trophies, 1080P render and other functionality while critics of the move suggest Sony is offering poor value. Whatever the case, it seems Sony is intent on the paid route for emulation and isn’t going to support any kind of trade-in scheme where retail copies are exchanged for digital versions. Additionally, UK customers on average have to pay around $3 more than American customers under the current currency conversion.

Not only that, an investigation into performance by Digital Foundry provided first-hand evidence of the PAL games running at the original native 50Hz refresh rate. Clearly this isn’t ideal with the modern 60Hz standard so games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas are upscaled to 60Hz from the original 50Hz PAL source. This causes stutter and poor frame timings. During the video, a fairly shocking statement is made and recommends users:

“…to experience the game as it was meant to be played you really need to grab the US version…”

Digital Foundry also went onto say:

“We’ve been looking at more PlayStation 2 titles running under emulation on PlayStation 4, and it now seems clear that all the UK code we’ve tested is running at 50Hz with a crude frame-blending ‘upscale’ to the 60Hz output. We made an error in the original analysis below – GTA San Andreas under emulation does have some frame-pacing issues, but much of the judder we encountered is actually a result of the frame-blending, registering to our eyes (and our analysis tools) as unique frames when in fact they are simply the interpolated results of two images – we did think that it may be an artefact of the emulator working with PS2’s original motion blur effect, but this is definitely not the case. Credit goes to commenter Malek86 for noting that his copy of Twisted Metal Black is definitely European code, albeit outputting at 60Hz – a situation we have also confirmed with Dark Cloud. This was originally a 60fps game in NTSC territories, running at 50fps on the PS4 emulator, then frame-blended back up to 60fps. As you may imagine, this is not ideal.”

In 2015, it’s absurd to see the 50Hz masters being used for European regions, especially given the asking price. Hopefully, this can be resolved so everyone gets the same experience, but I highly doubt anything will change in the near future.

Image courtesy of Emu-Paradise.org.

Sony to Charge For PlayStation 2 “Emulation”

Microsoft caught Sony by surprise during E3 this year and announced backwards compatibility for retail Xbox 360 discs on the Xbox One. Technically this requires you to download the previous generation title, and the disc is simply needed for verification purposes. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic incentive which doesn’t cost any money whatsoever. On the other hand, some might argue the Xbox 360 isn’t an expensive console to acquire so it’s not going to entice many Xbox 360 owners to upgrade. Nevertheless, it’s a great addition to the Xbox One and handy if you have space limitations.

The PlayStation 3’s highly complex Cell architecture makes it an incredibly difficult task to emulate. This means it’s sensible for Sony to focus on older emulation via traditional avenues while the PlayStation Now streaming service is used to offer PlayStation 3 games. Unfortunately, Sony will not be offering any support for retail PlayStation 2 discs, and charging for digital copies on the PlayStation Store. The PlayStation Blog revealed Sony’s pricing model and plans for the future:

  • Dark Cloud — $14.99/£11.99
  • Grand Theft Auto III — $14.99/£11.99
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City — $14.99/£11.99
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas — $14.99/£11.99
  • Rogue Galaxy — $14.99/£11.99
  • The Mark of Kri — $14.99/£11.99
  • Twisted Metal: Black — $9.99/£7.99
  • War of the Monsters — $9.99/£7.99

As you can see, this is a fairly expensive proposition on games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City which can be picked up for £2 in second-hand stores. Although, JRPGs like Rogue Galaxy go for a decent amount of money on the pre-owned market. Nevertheless, physical copies have the advantage of gorgeous artwork and resale value. Additionally, these games can be played quite easily via a PC emulator without any performance problems. Some critics might argue that this is a legal issue, but as long as you own the original games it shouldn’t be frowned upon!

I honestly believe it’s poor form from Sony to charge high prices on PlayStation 2 titles and expect UK customers to pay extra. For example, the $14.99 games actually cost $18.12 in the UK according to the current currency conversion. While the introduction of trophies might add some value, I cannot see the point of purchasing given the cheap price of the PlayStation 2 hardware. That’s not to say there isn’t potential in the scheme, as sale prices would make the games more appealing.

Clearly, some people will purchase these at full price and be content with playing their favourite PlayStation 2 games at 1080P. However, Sony is relying too much on their old library and reselling existing content. This is madness to a PC gamer who can easily up the resolution of a 10 year old game in the future at zero cost.

Image courtesy of Emu-Paradise.me

PlayStation 2 Emulation Finally Arriving on PlayStation 4

Sony has officially confirmed that it is “utilising” PlayStation 2 emulation for the PlayStation 4, following the discovery that a number of re-released Star Wars games for PS4 were PS2 originals.

Super Star Wars, Star Wars: Racer Revenge, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, and Star Wars: Bounty Hunter were included as part of the Star Wars: Battlefront PS4 console bundle this week, in the form of a single PSN code, with the latter three games being familiar to PS2 owners. And, indeed, instead of remastered versions of Star Wars: Racer Revenge, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, and Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, gamers were treated to emulated versions of the original PS2 games, without any kind of announcement from Sony at the time.

The initial absence of any formal announcement from Sony was strange considering that, when it revealed its PlayStation Now streaming platform back in January 2014, PS2 emulation was billed a big part of its backwards compatibility strategy. But now Sony has confirmed that PS2 emulation is indeed being used, and suggests that we should expect more in the future. “We are working on utilising PS2 emulation technology to bring PS2 games forward to the current generation,” Sony told Wired. “We have nothing further to comment at this point in time.”

Running Mac OS 6.0.1 On The Amiga 500 Computer

The perception among the tech industry is one of constant updating, but retro tech certainly has its place within fans minds if this fun hack is anything to go by. A Reddit and Imgur user by the username of wowbobwow (yippi yo yippy yay) Sorry but that sprang to mind, used an emulator called “A-Max” which in turn allowed the Mac ROM OS 6.0.1 to run on the Amiga 500.

For a minute let’s talk uber tech with regards to this application, emulation is any other faster computer program which mimics the behavior of a piece of computer hardware. The problem with this process is that when a program is run via emulation, said program becomes slower and therefore is unable to run at full speed due to the lack of bandwidth when imitating another system.  Therefore this project is not true emulation but is rather defined by a statement from the clever Hacker which is as follows,

“Worth noting that this is not “software emulation” like how you might run Mini vMac on a modern computer. This setup literally connects two Apple Macintosh ROM chips (from a Mac Plus, in this instance) to the Amiga’s floppy drive, and via some unholy alliance of A-Max controller software + Apple ROM code + the Motorola 68000 CPU in the Amiga (the same chip that powered all the early Macs), this is a “hardware” emulation system. Interestingly, the Mac boot disk I have is too old to be 32-bit compatible, so while it “sees” the full 9 megs of RAM in the Amiga, it can only access 512k of it.”

This project has been coined CoMacintosh by the author and it again conveys little limitation of what can be achieved by a skilled ethical hacker.

Thank You to Techworm for providing us with this information.

Xbox 360 Emulation Just Made a Huge Advancement!

Emulation of Xbox games was near impossible, although many attempts have come close to something that almost works, nothing has really been playable. The Xbox 360 has suffered a similar fate, with its odd hardware setup proving complex to emulate over the years; until now.

Xbox 360 Emulator “Xenia” has been in development for some time, but it’s just taken a huge leap forward in terms of usability in what could be the opening of the flood gates for improving the software, bringing more games into its compatibility list.

Ben Vanik, creator of Xenia, has released a new video of the emulator running A-Train HX at a steady 60fps, albeit with a few of the graphical shaders missing, hence the extensive glitches.  This demonstration isn’t about the graphics though, it’s about getting the CPU/GPU core emulation right and so far, it looks like Ben is making some very impressing progress.

Check out the official GitHub for more details.

Is Emulation the Best Feature of the Nvidia Shield?

Introduction


Emulation is a popular pass time for many PC gamers, and in recent year there has been a big increase in GPU horsepower in the mobile market, allowing us to enjoy many classic games on the go, not just  on our desktops. The Nvidia Shield is one of the most powerful mobile gaming devices on the market, and this is especially thanks to its Nvidia Tegra 4 GPU/CPU, which is not only capable of running many older games such as those from the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive, but also a lot more advanced 3D titles from consoles such as the Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast and more. What I hope to find out today is whether or not these games work well enough to justify using the Nvidia Shield as a dedicated emulation device.

Obviously there are some grey area legal issues when it comes to emulation, most of which focus around the piracy of compatible roms, so I feel obligated to mention that I do not condone anyone downloading games, but that there are also many other ways to obtain these games. There are tools and apps out there which let you rip games you own, and this applies to both cartridge based games as well as disc based games. Fortunately I’ve been collecting games for many years now and can use games I already own and have at my disposal, but keep in mind that you’re responsible for sourcing your own titles how you see fit, as we here at eTeknix take no responsibility for this, nor will be providing sources to where or how you can obtain the games. Boring stuff out of the way, let us get back to the action!

Getting roms configured on your Nvidia Shield, or to be honest any powerful mobile device can be a little tricky. Generally the more powerful your device, the better chances you’ll have of getting your games to run, as the task of emulating hardware can be quite demanding, especially when it comes to more modern titles such as those from the Sega Dreamcast. So while I am focusing this article on the Nvidia Shield, there is no reason why you can’t try this out on your mobile phone or tablet, so long as you think it’s powerful enough to do so.

The Nvidia Shield has a few extra tricks that make it a great choice for emulation, firstly because it has a controller built directly into it, as well as a high quality touch-screen display. You can use USB OTG to connect wired controllers such as the Xbox 360 controller, a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable to put the device into console mode and play on your big screen and more, so you’re not going to be limited to only playing this as a handheld, but virtually anywhere you want, on whichever screen you want (so long as it has Miracast or HDMI).

Today I’ll be taking a look at the Super Nintendo, Sega Megadrive, PlayStation 1, PlayStation Portable (PSP), Dreamcast and Nintendo 64. There are plenty more emulators and formats out there, but I feel the ones I have chosen cast a wide net over what is possible on mobile device emulation. Even older or less powerful systems such as Gameboy, MAME, NES and Master System generally all work from the same emulators I’ll be testing and already have widespread, proven compatibility with most mobile devices, so feel free to experiment with them at your own leisure.

Elite Announce Recreation Of Sinclair ZX Spectrum

The recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum will be a Bluetooth keyboard, initially for iOS and subsequently for Android and Windows phones and tablets (as well as for PCs and Macs), in the form-factor of a 48K Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It will be known as the Bluetooth ZX Spectrum. The Bluetooth ZX Spectrum will connect wirelessly to, for example, an iPad and in turn to a TV via Apple Airplay.

This is a great way to relive some classic gaming and of course coding moments from back when things were less about DLC and more about awful loading noises, games on cartridges and tapes, typing our code from magazines for hours on end to get a free game and all that other crazy nonsense that the Spectrum was great at.

“By default, when used in conjunction with the simultaneously released and separately sold Bluetooth ZX Spectrum apps, available from the iTunes App Store and subsequently from the Google Play, Amazon App Store and Windows Store, the Bluetooth ZX Spectrum will provide authentic rubber-key play-control over a comprehensive catalogue of 100% original, officially licenced, paid-for Bluetooth ZX Spectrum games (and more) via a secure App Store environment. Either at launch or sometime later, the Bluetooth ZX Spectrum will also be ‘backwardly compatible’ with the existing and separately sold, ‘ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection’ apps, either by default or perhaps via an in-app purchase from within those apps.”

You can read more about the existing ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection apps for iOS devices here and here. Meanwhile you can check out the just launched Kickstarter for the new Bluetooth ZX Spectrum here.

Thank you Elite for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Elite.

Cloanto Releases Amiga Forever and C64 Forever 2013

Cloanto released today Amiga Forever 2013 and C64 Forever 2013, the latest versions of the award-winning Commodore-Amiga preservation, emulation and support suites for Windows.

The 2013 editions for Windows had a focus on making the software easier to use, while providing new and more powerful features for advanced users and content creators. For example, the packages are easier to download and install, and emulated systems can be “repaired” with one click after unintended changes. Power users can now build ISO images and portable USB drive environments, use the visual Screen Clip Editor to better blend old screen modes into modern systems, or experiment with the new WinFellow emulation plugin or with a fresh build of the AROS Research OS. Outside the player, the RP9 thumbnail handler adds a new level of eye candy to File Explorer.

“One of the most fascinating challenges of user interface design has to be how to please both novice and sophisticated users. The attempt to keep things as simple as possible often limits learning and can be perceived as a ‘dumbing down’ by a more demanding audience,” noted Cloanto’s Mike Battilana.

“Even looking at recent versions of Windows, Mac OS and Linux, you can feel the pain of some choices. In today’s search engines, queries that used to work reliably have become less precise. Word processors won’t let you select the exact characters you want. Lacking perfect artificial intelligence, we are increasingly being ‘autocorrected’ beyond recognition.

C64 Forever brings us back to an era in which users knew that they were, or could be, in complete control of the machine, rather than vice versa. Tens of millions of home computers came with a powerful reminder of this, as they included a programming manual. Even today, the Amiga continues to inspire for how it elegantly met the needs of different audiences, leaving a feeling of freedom rather than one of artificial limitations. In addition to preserving access to a digital culture of tens of thousands of games, demoscene creations and other titles, we are trying to introduce new generations to these different angles, as we are convinced that this deeper perspective can help achieve a better view of the future.”

In Amiga Forever and C64 Forever 2013, the same interface transparently connects to three different emulation engines, giving consistent access to more than 25 computer models, all with fully licensed operating systems. The shared RP9 file format makes titles easily portable across computers and software versions. While novice users only need to press Play, advanced users can Edit titles and browse through options that are designed to also help understand how the software works.

Amiga Forever Home Page

C64 Forever Home Page