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Education Classic Games (Games) Emulation (Games) Entertainment Games

UK University Making Universal Game Emulator 217

Techradar reports that researchers at the University of Portsmouth in England are working on a project to create a game emulator that will "recognise and play all types of videogames and computer files from the 1970s through to the present day." One of the major goals of the project is to preserve software from early in the computer age. David Anderson of the Humanities Computing Group said, "Early hardware, like games consoles and computers, are already found in museums. But if you can't show visitors what they did, by playing the software on them, it would be much the same as putting musical instruments on display but throwing away all the music. ... Games particularly tend not to be archived because they are seen as disposable, pulp cultural artefacts, but they represent a really important part of our recent cultural history. Games are one of the biggest media formats on the planet and we must preserve them for future generations."
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UK University Making Universal Game Emulator

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  • So basically (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @07:30AM (#26825531)

    It's going to be a GUI that just links dozens of different emulators?

  • Re:So basically (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @07:38AM (#26825589) Homepage Journal
    So, are they trying to recreate MAME []?
  • by Alarindris ( 1253418 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @07:40AM (#26825595)
    What? You guys are just gonna mash up a bunch of emulators? That's so stupid!!
    I could just download a bunch of different ones doing a bunch of research and do it that way!!
    I hate that you guys are just putting all that together for me, cause I could just do it myself!!

    That's why you can't have nice things assholes, you don't appreciate it.

    Why do people have a problem with this?
  • Re:mess, eh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2009 @07:43AM (#26825623)
    mess is just that for home systems (consoles and computers), while mame is for the arcade machines... so where are the news except that someone just decided to invent the wheel once again?

    You've already answered your question right there. The article specifically mentions that they won't focus on certain emulator types. This is FAR more reaching in scope than MESS or MAME are. Also, it's entirely possible that they're getting permission to use MESS and MAME code in their project. The article doesn't go into enough detail. But to pretend that these guys aren't aware of the emus that are already out there (since they mention them in the article) is disingenuous.
  • Re:So basically (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @07:46AM (#26825653)
    Would you care to bet on that? While decryption capability is fascinating, its use for DRM is not its strongest use. The keys are consistently handled quite badly. Witness the failures to protect the keys for DVD's and the very swift cracking of Blu-Ray protection for examples of how quickly such technologies can be cracked.
  • Re:So basically (Score:5, Insightful)

    by syntaxglitch ( 889367 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @07:58AM (#26825737)

    DRM still has the awkward flaw of giving the user both the key and the lock and hoping that they won't figure it out.

    Modern encryption is computationally intractable for solid, mathematical reasons, but that doesn't really apply to smoke and mirrors DRM schemes. The keys and everything else are in there, and a university probably has better access to stuff like high-end hardware analysis tools vs. your average basement-dwelling w4r3z guy.

  • by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @08:02AM (#26825753) Homepage

    Accepting games as a cultural artifact is very important. This will in the long run open up a legal way of running abandonware, which is a great thing both for history as well as entertainment.

    When credible, tax-funded institutions start highlighting the legal problems with running and copying old software the law will eventually adapt.

  • by Mathinker ( 909784 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @08:23AM (#26825855) Journal

    This is cute, but just think about the problem of trying to preserve the gameplay of various MMO games, without the servers. I'm not thinking of a real preservation, but of how you might attempt to reconstruct the graphics and the movement and battle models from captured screen video + synchronized keyboard + mouse inputs.

    To be more concrete, say we have as many players as we want playing WoW using a real time KVM-over-IP setup and we record the IP streams. How could we use the information to produce a single-user "game" which would give a cursory impression of what WoW was like, minus all the social interaction?

    Now this is a real research-level problem, I think.

  • Preservation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @08:31AM (#26825879) Homepage

    I'm glad someone is taking preservation seriously. These are a part of our history. I wonder what the government will do about copyright, which is the usual counter-argument. Especially now that copyrights last for 6 billion years or so.

  • Loading... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PhilJC ( 928205 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @08:32AM (#26825889) Homepage
    If they really want to emulate systems of old are they going to add the loading screens to the tape loading computers?

    The countless hours I lost of life watching the eplieptic fit inducing loading screen of my Spectrum 48k really made you appreciate the game once you did finally start playing (oh and then when you did get them loaded up a speck of dust would land on the power cable or you had the temerity to press a key a little too hard and the whole system would reset)
  • Controllers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EdgeyEdgey ( 1172665 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @09:13AM (#26826205)
    How are you going to play the games?
    What is pong without the rotary control?
    Imagine (in 50 years time) playing Wii bowling without the wiimote.
    How are you going to get a light gun to work without a screen that does a full refresh.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2009 @09:21AM (#26826253)

    Few things.

    (1) Portsmouth, like many "universities" in the UK, is only so by name. It was historically a polytechnic until Thatcher renamed them all to universities in the late '80s. A polytechnic is more for vocational than theoretical activity. The unfortunate thing is that polys and unis both had different non-competing roles in society - now the ex-polys are considered second-rate unis.

    (2) Cambridge is probably the most highly regarded university in the country. Of course, Microsoft also managed to build a "research" campus there to suck up graduates, so obviously they're not selecting quite the right candidates. I assert that no-one lacking a passion for a particular subject should be selected at a top university, and that no-one with a passion for computer science will work for the stifling Microsoft. MS opened their campus there around the time I was applying to uni, and for that reason, among others, I applied for Oxford and Imperial. Cambridge seems to commercialise its comp sci efforts too much for my liking - if you're bright and want to make big $, fuck off to America.

    (3) Don't overestimate Xen. As with many of today's computing fads, virtualisation's all been done before by IBM at least two decades ago. Xen is not a theoretical or engineering breakthrough (nor is VMware, nor is "cloud computing", ...).

  • Re:Preservation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gm a i l . c om> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @09:26AM (#26826301) Homepage Journal

    Especially now that copyrights last for 6 billion years or so.

    Um... the sun will explode in 5 billion years.

    Which is entirely the point of making the copyright term obscenely long: so that the work is worthless by the time the copyright expires, while getting around the constitutional "for limited times" restriction on copyright law in the United States and other countries.

  • Re:So basically (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hobbit ( 5915 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @09:34AM (#26826379)

    Get over yourself. He never said that government ought to mandate anything. Designing websites for accessibility gives you a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

  • by Threni ( 635302 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:10AM (#26826731)

    > I don't know why you got downmodded for this... There's a lot of really cool music in early games, especially considering the hardware and software restrictions of early devices. Take the C64 SID
    > chip for instance. Composers had to learn some pretty interesting techniques for making music in those days.

    I think it's because only computer nerds like computer game music. It's generally dreadful (largely until CDs became available for in-game soundtracks and they got proper musicians in). Lets face it - there's a good reason why the people who did computer game music in the 70s-90s are only known for doing computer game music.

  • Re:So basically (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:15AM (#26826793)

    Have you ever seen a traffic light? The only difference between the red, yellow and even the green light is: guess what.


"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin