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The Quest To Build Xbox One and PS4 Emulators 227

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-you-build-it-they-will-play dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Will Xbox One and PS4 emulators hit your favorite download Websites within the next few years? Emulators have long been popular among gamers looking to relive the classic titles they enjoyed in their youth. Instead of playing Super Mario Bros. on a Nintendo console, one can go through the legally questionable yet widespread route of downloading a copy of the game and loading it with PC software that emulates the Nintendo Entertainment System. Emulation is typically limited to older games, as developing an emulator is hard work and must usually be run on hardware that's more powerful than the original console. Consoles from the NES and Super NES era have working emulators, as do newer systems such as Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii, and the first two PlayStations. While emulator development hit a dead end with the Xbox 360 and PS3, that may change with the Xbox One and PS4, which developers are already exploring as fertile ground for emulation. The Xbox 360 and PS4 feature x86 chips, for starters, and hardware-assisted virtualization can help solve some acceleration issues. But several significant obstacles stand in the way of developers already taking a crack at it, including console builders' absolute refusal to see emulation as even remotely legal."
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The Quest To Build Xbox One and PS4 Emulators

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  • by H3lldr0p (40304) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:24PM (#45640299) Homepage

    Since the original Xbox was running mostly off the shelf hardware, I'm not sure it needs an emulator (aside from whatever security/copy protection hardware).

    But the 360/PS3 is going to be tough. Tougher than average, I'd say since those were both custom CPUs. Yes, there is some papers out there covering how they did their execution but that doesn't cover some of the weird stuff. Stuff like with the PS2 and original PS that took years to sort out.

    Those of you who don't remember the Bleem! saga and the fact that Sony not only lawsuited them to death, but also make emulation even harder by changing the way their compilers did certain undocumented graphic blits and other memory tricks. This was why Bleem! had a specific target list of compatible games.

    Still not sure that all of that was documented.

    Bad memories.

  • by Desler (1608317) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:25PM (#45640311)

    Recently? PCSX2 is at least 11 years old at this point.

  • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Monday December 09, 2013 @12:26PM (#45640313)
    Not really. The PS4 and XBone are essentially fancy x86_64 computers with a small form factor. While the hardware is not exactly COTS it's much closer than the last generation's PPC cores. To emulate an XBox 360 you need to emulate an entire processor etc. To emulate an XBox One you can get away with virtualizing certain components. It should be closer to Wine than to PSEmu.

    Easy? No, not by any measure. But vastly easier than the last generation.
  • Greg Hewgill created "Copilot" by reverse-engineering the original Palm Pilot, and released it under the GPL. It was so useful as a development and debugging tool, Palm Inc. took over development and renamed it POSE, the Palm OS Emulator [wikipedia.org]. Still, of course, available under the GPL.

    (Because of all that, I was able to port POSE to Android [perpendox.com].)

    Admittedly, the ROM images are copyrighted, but that's not the same thing as the emulator itself. Same thing for the game machine emulators like MAME and such.

  • GameCube and Wii? (Score:5, Informative)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:23PM (#45640889) Homepage

    Um, no....
    Not really, some computers, really powerful computers (about the same as playing the most intensive computer game on the absolutely highest graphics possible), can play a few of these games without huge game wrecking glitches. At best I would call the emulator a very early alpha; Proof of concept.

    And we still do not even have something even that good for the original Xbox. The only reason we have something that is even decent at emulating the PS2 is because it is far older than even the Xbox and by far the most popular console of all time. And really that is only like 50%. Very popular games have been made to work, but you can pretty much forget just getting some random PS2 game popping it in and playing it.

    Which is not to say that the current gen will not be easier to emulate, but that is a lot of power to be emulating even if it is already basically 99% a normal PC already.

    The N64 was probably the last decently complete emulator, and you have to go all the way back to the SNES era to get one that is 100% working, every game works, launch and go.

  • by ledow (319597) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:52PM (#45641231) Homepage

    Just about every platform ever made has supplied people with a dev kit which, almost universally, contains some kind of emulator.

    How the hell do you write a launch title, for instance, when the console only exists in prototype versions?

    They are expensive, complex, powerful, and - many of them - are just PC-based emulation environments with some custom hardware to interface with controllers, cartridges, etc.

    There's nothing new in emulating anything. People were doing it back in the days of PC-based NES development kits. Almost certainly, the devkits for the new consoles are out there now, PC-based, very hard to get hold of, very expensive, and very well protected so you can't just pirate them and give everyone a free console.

    But the way the world of console gaming is heading (SteamBox etc.), it may not matter for much longer anyway.

    There is nothing more to "emulation" than pretending to be another type of machine. And if you made the machine, the only advantage you have is that you know what the hardware is supposed to do. If you didn't make the machine, it's the REVERSE-ENGINEERING that's complex and difficult and takes years, not the emulation.

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