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Xbox 360 Gets Backwards Compatible, Final Fantasy 455

Posted by Zonk
from the it's-raining-good-news dept.
databeam writes "The official Xbox 360 press conference was Monday evening, and an AP article has news that the 360 is backwards compatible, and that Square Enix will be releasing Final Fantasy XI for the console." Coverage also available at Gamespot. From the article: "Along with a firm release date and price point, the other big question surrounding the 360 was backward compatibility with the library of games from the original Xbox. Robbie Bach, senior vice president and chief Xbox officer in the Home and Entertainment Division at Microsoft, made Xbox fans around the world happy when he announced that the 360 will indeed play Xbox games." Mostly. Gamasutra points out that backwards compatibility will be selective, with most but not all of the top selling games supported. Kotaku and the Guardian Gamesblog have firsthand accounts from the event, and to watch the conference for yourself Xbox.com has the footage. Update: 05/18 20:49 GMT by Z : Of course, not all the people there were people, if you catch my meaning.
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Xbox 360 Gets Backwards Compatible, Final Fantasy

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  • by Stibidor (874526) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @09:00AM (#12554476) Homepage
    It seems odd to me that they would/could make the new system backward compatible for some but not all games. I'm clearly not very well informed, but I would be pleased if someone who is fairly well informed would explain to me how this works. Do the old games run in an emulator-style environment? If so, how hard would it really be to emulate a few more instructions?

    Don't get me wrong. As long as it plays Halo, I'll be happy. I'm just curious.
  • crazy idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kebes (861706) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @09:09AM (#12554599) Journal
    This is a crazy idea I've had in my head lately. Would it be possible to build a gaming console that runs XboX 1, PS 1, PS 2, Gamecube, and even PC games? I know it sounds crazy, but listen.

    Projects like Wine, PearPC, MAME, etc. show that it is possible to re-implement someone else's software or even hardware API. If you emulate a different hardware architecture, you take a performance hit obviously. This makes it impracticle to emulate the latest gaming consoles (like the 360 or PS3 of course). However, would it not be possible to create emulators for older gaming consoles?

    So the idea is that some company sells a small dedicated computer (with good graphics card, etc.) that runs some emulation software (probably based on linux, using things like wine as a starting point to at least enable running of PC games). The unit cannot run any modern games, but it can run basically *ALL* of the older games, from any console. I think there would be a market for this.

    The obvious problem is legality. Reverse engineering is permitted to a certain extent, and re-creating someone else's API is allowed. Notice that I haven't talked about copying other vendor's games onto a hard-drive. You put in your officially purchased copy (on CD or DVD) of a game into this new uber-console's CD/DVD drive, and you play it. You bought the game, after all. Is that allowed? Are there any laws I'm not aware of? Does the EULA of a PS2 game say that you are only allowed to play it on approved hardware platforms?

    I guess the real answer is that no company would ever attempt such a thing, since the big players in the market would all be aligned against them, and they would be crushed in a legal nightmare. This just means that we'll have to wait a bit longer for the homebrew solution I guess.
  • by DrXym (126579) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @09:11AM (#12554629)
    Look at how emulators work on PCs for the answer. The chances are that XBox backwards compatibility is a near total emulation of the earlier platform, at least the machine code instructions. Some games might be more CPU intensive than others and might not run fast enough on the new box. Others might bypass the system or play cute tricks to get the most out of the GPU and not work either. Others might run, but look imperfect due to differences in the graphics or audio.


    Fixing all of this is non-trivial. I guess MS could ship with the emulator in firmware or sell it as an add on DVD - it could install onto the hard drive so they're not constrained by firmware.

  • This is big news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 0kComputer (872064) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @09:21AM (#12554767)
    I remember the backwards compatabilty/Final Fantasy argument being the mantra of just about every ps2 or nintendo fanboy. I'm sure this has something to do with the influx of game designers who have been getting snatched up by microsoft in recent months. Now if RockStar games moves, or even offers on both consoles, that would be a death blow.
  • Fun with emulation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Deathlizard (115856) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @09:23AM (#12554806) Homepage Journal
    Actually, with the amount of power these new consoles sport, they could easily have their predecessors, as well as their Competitor's predecessors games to back them up.

    Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 have more than enough horsepower to emulate not only their own previous consoles, but also each others previous consoles. the only thing that would stop them would be licencing issues, and the PS3 would have the edge since Nvidia is their partner and they designed half of the previous Xbox, which was based on a standard X86 PC to begin with. The only thing that would stop them is the Bios and the Xbox OS.
  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by marat (180984) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @09:24AM (#12554823) Homepage
    Or if DVDs bought in different countries each required own device... oh, wait!
  • Don't forget Live (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @09:25AM (#12554831)
    Remember, Live is now part of the system package, available to everyone for free. My guess is that backwards compatibility will require the hard-drive add-on as well as a Live connection. This will allow Microsoft to "patch" the game, allowing it to run on a 360.

    Think of it as a pseudo-port of top-selling XBox games.
  • Re:Emulation (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @09:36AM (#12554989)
    For what it's worth, PPCs can do some surprisingly good emulation of x86 CPUs. Virtual PC running on a 1GHz G4 with a *console only* linux installed is as fast a server, as fast on benchmarks and as fast in general use as an equivalent 600 to 800MHz PIII.

    No, that's not a joke or a typo. It runs the number crunching and I/O as well as a PC 3/4 its speed. Virtual PC though is let down by its completely woeful graphics and sound emulation which make it only "passable", partly due to the wide range of emulation support needed - it has to translate the emulated PC's graphics to work with every possible graphics card on the target machines, a wide range, far wider than needed by the cpu emulation side.

    Since the emulation needed to run xbox games will be only ONE known complete hardware config (xbox 360) emulating another single known hardware config (the original xbox) then optimizations can be made on the graphics and audio side to work just as well as the CPU-only emulation currently does.

    As a 1GHz G4 can emulate almost to the speed of an original xbox CPU, the 3.2GHz triple-core PPC based chip in the xbox 360 is going to find the job easy going to do the complete task - it just needs more time & testing to be implemented correctly & compatibly - that's a big effort on MS's part, and one I'm thankful they decided to put resources towards.
  • by bWareiWare.co.uk (660144) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @10:07AM (#12555418) Homepage
    Why would you go to the trouble of emulating a x86 game on a PowerPC (then testing to see if it is playable), the games companies won't have lost thier source, can't they just recombile for for the PowerPC. As long as M$ has put some backwards compatablity in the APIs.

    THey could just download the new code via XBox Live when you inserted an old CD (still reading the media content from the CD).

    This way they could market the XBox 360 as plaing version 1 games "Better then the original!", given people a reason to upgrade before they even have a decent games libary for the new system.
  • Well.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shoptroll (544006) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @10:13AM (#12555489)
    I wouldn't exactly call FFXI a hot-ticket item. The game has been in decline for a bit now. This just sounds like S-E trying to expand their user base to the XBox fanboys who dropped the PS2 when XBox came out.

    Future collaborations sounds vague at best. Although the rumor mill has been saying that the exclusive contract with Sony is almost up (I never knew one was ever in existance or with a time limit), and Square-Enix has been branching out over the past few years.

    S-E will ultimately go wherever they think they can perform the best. Which is why they left Nintendo (cartridge would severely limit their options) and if MS is truly poised to dominate the market, then seeing them switch to XBox360 is a no-brainer. Also, they seem to be following Sakaguchi's coat-tails with Mist Walker announcing its two RPGS for XBox360.

    Finally, this could be a good move for MS with the 360, since the original Xbox didn't have a large library of RPGs, which is something the PS2 had an abundance of.
  • by AzraelKans (697974) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @12:51PM (#12557581) Homepage
    Nice of you to show up with an article to an actual important presentation, then water it down with the "nay saying" comments of blogs. "The Xbox Suxors! news on eleven"

    I mean the second comment (blog) started: "(actual comment) Im going to give out the win to PS3 because their graphics were a lot cooler. (/actual comment)"

    Point 1: Sure thing bub! I mean why dont you just skip that theres going to be xbox live for FREE in each 360? that you'll have a cool IM system, with some tivo like features mentioned? or that you could even design and sell stuff for games online? (not buy, SELL even I can see a benefit there!) I mean those are totally not worth talking about features right?

    point 2: this is slashdot land of the "gameplay first, graphics second! damn it!" motto, and now it turns out we are completely signing out a console because the other flashed some pretty graphics at us? nice bias there bub!

    I admit some games shown had lesser graphics (in some cases not, I mean check out gears of war!) but they were all ONLINE capable. In ghost recon 3 each window that pop out was an online partner trying to tell you something or showing you a location in a map, doesnt that add a lot to strategic gameplay?

    Is a bit too early to cast out an opinion on this, at least an intelligent, unbiased opinion that is.
  • Shader replacement (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Namarrgon (105036) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @07:30PM (#12561933) Homepage
    Nah, video games developed for the earlier generation does not mean video games redeveloped for the newer generation, I think that's pretty clear. It'll run your original Xbox discs.

    Obviously a version of MS's newly-acquired VirtualPC will be used to handle the CPU emulation, and the DirectX layer will cope with redirecting most of the the gfx calls smoothly enough. The tricky part is the patented nVidia shader code used in Xbox games.

    The only answer that make sense is that the emulator will intercept the nVidia shader code, match it against a database & replace it with a prewritten equivalent DXSL shader (as gfx drivers often do today, for better performance).

    Nicely sidesteps the patent issues, it's efficient, relatively easy, and can be upgraded via Live updates too, for further compatibility down the road.

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