Games of Yesteryear: Emulator Roundup
September 22nd, 2006
Bringing Back the Past: MacMAME
It could be a sign of becoming a certified Geezer (I turned 29 back on August 30th), or the fact that marquee video games are costing as much as mid-level movies to produce these days, but I've become interested in game emulators again recently.
Nothing had to be an official production back then and even though games were in competition with each other, the prevailing logic was that the title that was the most fun would win, no matter how intricate or simple it was.
My official Geezer card is due to arrive in the mail any day now.
MacMAME by Brad Oliver works to bring back the arcade games of the past like nothing else currently out there. A near-flawless freeware program that recently became a Universal Binary application, MacMAME emulates the hardware settings found in arcade cabinet games. Once installed, the program fully emulates even the interaction. Load the program, insert a coin into the game by pressing "5" on the keyboard, then select the number of players and have at it with the classics of yesteryear.
What was once technical, especially in the early days of hardware emulation, has become easier. Download MacMAME, copy the files where you'd like, then run the program and quit it to create a user data folder for the program. Like other emulation programs, MacMAME is based around the idea of game ROMs, or the code the composes each title. Once downloaded, these files are placed within a ROM folder (Users -->Documents-->MacMAME User Data-->ROMs) and appear in a menu of available games when MacMAME is rebooted again.
Moon Lander lives again via Brad Oliver's MacMAME emulation program.
MacMAME is free to anyone who'd like to use it and is a 12.6 megabyte download that expands to occupy 39.2 megabytes of disk space when installed. The program requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later to run. For anyone interested in participating in the project, the full source code can be downloaded from http://www.macmame.org/files/macsrc0.103u2.dmg.
Since hardware emulation requires the ROM files of old games, which have traditionally been bootlegged over the Internet, the most honest approach is to purchase them where possible. Starroms.com offers legal ROM file downloads for as low as $2 per title. Not a bad price and if it puts some money back in the hands of the creators on some level, then it's more than worth the investment.
For the truly hard core, ROM importing converters can be purchased from companies like Lik-Sang that bring the file into the computer where it can be read by programs like MacMAME.
Mario Redux: Sixtyforce
Every time it conks out, I replace it. If it was a talentless mistress, I would have built it a summer cottage by now and wondered how I could win its heart. Everyone has a game console of choice and mine has been the Nintendo 64, if only for Ocarina of Time, Perfect Dark, Goldeneye and a remade version of Resident Evil 2 available for it.
One of longtime Mac programmer Gerrit Goossen's pet projects over the years has been Sixtyforce, a $15.00 emulator program that emulates the hardware functions of Nintendo's classic Nintendo 64 game console.
Mario introduces Bowser to the laws of inertia in Gerrit Goossen's Sixtyforce emulator program.
Similar to MacMAME, Sixtyforce loads ROM files (which can be stored anywhere on the computer and aren't restricted to a specific ROM folder). From here, the player navigates their way through the menus and begins the game. Having decked out the program to be close to the console's hardware as possible, the program can run in full screen mode as well as emulate the rumble pak controller.
Sixtyforce is a 1.0 megabyte download that occupies 2.3 megabytes of disk space once installed. The program requires a G4 processor or better to run and the "Gerrit" watermark will be removed and full application functionality restored once the copy has been registered for its $15 fee.
Like MacMAME, the only sticking point is the legality of the ROM files and their acquisition. Make an effort to legally procure these sans bootlegging, making both parties all the happier in the long run. In the short run, give Sixtyforce a try and see what you make of it. This is something Gerrit has worked long and hard on and deserves your consideration.
For Everything Else: Bannister's Programs
I've never met Richard Bannister. I don't know what he's like or if he helps the elderly cross the street, but from his body of work, I'm more than impressed. With literally dozens of freely distributed emulators for the Mac to his name, Bannister has written something to run ROMs on most every type of hardware that's ever existed including the Nintendo Gameboy, Sega Genesis, Atari Lynx, Atari 5200, Thomson M05 and Commodore 64.
Boycott Advance, one of Richard Bannister's many free emulation programs available for download.
These programs are also aided by Emulator Enhancer, a shareware program that adds features such as full screen mode, real time video and sound filtering and support for USB game pads and joysticks to many of the programs.
Like the other emulators, Bannister's programs use ROM files to run games. Make sure to check out starroms.com and similar legal ROM download sites to purchase the files legally. The programs, which are usually only a few megabytes to download, generally expand to occupy less than 10 megabytes of disk space each and require Mac OS X 10.4 or later to run. Richard Bannister's programs are available completely free of charge.
If you want to emulate it, odds are there's a program available that can make this happen on the Mac. The classics can live again, even if the hardware the games was originally designed for happens to be at or beyond the length of its production cycle and thus gone the way of the dodo. Maybe your kids will find "Zaxxon" just as cool as you did, maybe they won't. But with the right software, maybe they'll get the chance to pass judgment.
That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe, .
Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.
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