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Classic Games (Games) Emulation (Games) Open Source Games

MAME Changing License To Fully Libre One 56

jones_supa writes: The source code of MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) has long been freely available, but it's never been completely libre. Instead, it's been available under a modified BSD license that prohibits, among other things, commercial use of the code. MAME engineer Miodrag Milanovic explains that such a license was put in place to deter "misuse of MAME in illegal ways," but it also kept legitimate commercial entities doing business with the software. Examples of such could be museums that charge entry fees from using MAME in their exhibits, or copyright holders rereleasing vintage games encapsulated inside MAME. Now the project wants to go fully open. Milanovic continues: "Our aim is to help legal license owners in distributing their games based on MAME platform, and to make MAME become a learning tool for developers working on development boards." As of yet, there are no specific details about the new license.
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MAME Changing License To Fully Libre One

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  • Given the wording, that sounds like they're going to have to contact either every contributor for copyright re-attribution, or rewrite their code for them.

    It's the same problem as appears in kernel GPL 2 vs GPL 3 arguments - it's moot at the end of the day unless someone contacts every copyright holder and gets them to agree, or rewrite whatever code of theirs is still active in the codebase.

    And MAME's such a big and worldwide project that there's bound to be dead contributors, and lots of uncontactable one

    • by bhlowe ( 1803290 )
      Good luck suing and trying to prove damages. No legal documents or protections are in place. No need to contact or get permission from any developers-- if any complain, they can pound sand.
    • The MAME dev community has always been very up front that the MAME license has no attribution of rights to the ROMs themselves. The emulation code is there's and they can do anything they want with it. I have read elsewhere that emulation is perfectly legal (except when it comes to Macs for some reason) and so I don't see where publisher permissions are the least bit necessary.
      • As far as I'm aware, emulating Macs is perfectly legal. It's only running MacOS on that emulated Mac that's an issue, because the MacOS license specifically states that it can only be used on legitimate Apple hardware. If you want to run Linux on your emulated Mac though, that's perfectly fine.

        Hmm, though I seem to remember that back in the day Macs had required software in ROM as well - and copying that was illegal in most contexts. In fact, I remember some emulator that came with support for a custom e

    • Re:Big job (Score:4, Informative)

      by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Saturday May 16, 2015 @11:12AM (#49705537)

      Given the wording, that sounds like they're going to have to contact either every contributor for copyright re-attribution, or rewrite their code for them.

      That's basically what they are doing [].

    • Sure. I disagree with the news item text though. "been available under a modified BSD license" my ass. It's a non-commercial license pure and simple. Nothing BSD about it.

  • it also kept legitimate commercial entities doing business with the software

    How did it do that? By threatening to kill their pets if they stopped?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2015 @10:59AM (#49705481)

    Having RTFA I wonder if the bigger news isn't this part

    "From now on there will be only one release executable that covers all arcades, computers and consoles," says Milanovic. "But we will stay under name 'MAME,' that is our trademark."

    Does this mean we can look forward to MAME emulating our favourite consoles with the same care they've done for arcade machines? The last 2 years of MAME releases have been phenomenal, best in its history, so I really hope we see the same love given to console because rocking the Sega Master System in MAME would be something else. I've always thought of it as a natural marriage because a large number of the pages on state that many Sega arcades and Sega consoles used the same hardware as each other.

  • to revitalize arcades. There's a few barcades out there (Dave & Busters) but they're mostly ticket games to keep the dollars per minute of play high. There was a bowling alley in my neck of the woods that advertised a real arcade. I called to be sure and they told me they had 100+ arcade machines. 60 minute drive latter and the closest thing to an "Arcade" machine they had was a Sega truck driving game...

    It's the wood really, and the TV. The cabinets are too expensive to make even as hardware gets c
    • by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Saturday May 16, 2015 @11:41AM (#49705651)

      It's not the wood or the TV. It's that home consoles are so good that arcade games are not superior to them. That was what finally killed the arcade.

      That's why most surviving arcade games are sit-down driving and racing games, DDR clones, or other types of games with big pieces of hardware that you probably won't have at home. You're also not going to have ticket games at home.

      • by ledow ( 319597 )

        I agree... the arcade machines are for nostalgia only. The games are able to be played better and more conveniently on any modern display and computer. Sure, you can rig up some "arcade" controls, but again, that's just nostalgia - few things are played better on a joystick than other controls, and those that are tend to be things you buy specialist joysticks for even on PC (flight sims etc.).

        The arcade cabinets are big, clumsy, expensive, not very comfortable, have room for HUGE CRT displays but you woul

        • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Saturday May 16, 2015 @05:57PM (#49707499) Journal

          few things are played better on a joystick than other controls, and those that are tend to be things you buy specialist joysticks for even on PC (flight sims etc.).

          I disagree: games have an element of being designed around the control mechanism. Old arcade games are better played on a joystick (I bought one for the purpose) than a game pad because they were designed with that in mind. The feel is right. In much the same way, console games would suck on an arcade joystick and many PC games (i.e. the ones requiring a mouse---could you imagine playing one of the mousy real time strategy games without a mouse?) suck on consoles. And that's not even getting on to the (multi) touch screen based games for phones and tablets which would suck without such an interface.

          And don't forget the weird control games like Tempest (which is amazing, but requires arcade hardware---specifically a spinner sort of thing) or even whac-a-mole which is immense fun but requires a large, dedicated machine as the input device. Whenever I'm at the seaside (which is where you still find arcades in blighty) with my SO we always seek out a whac-a-mole (or equivalent) machine for a small tournament. Usually followed by one of those two player games with arcade guns where you shoot at hoards of enemies.

          No modern games play well on joysticks because they're rare so no one writes games for them. That's not a "things were better in the days of yore" nostalgia trip, it's just an observation that the hardware has changed and games must necessarily use what is available.

          One of my favourites is Robotron. Technically it plays on a game pad, but it is much more fun on dual arcade joysticks.

        • Some games that play better with joysticks:

          Track and Field
          Smash TV

    • If you're in the Chicago area, try this: http://www.gallopingghostarcad... [] Massive free-play arcade.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2015 @11:05AM (#49705513)

    Posting as AC because I don't have an account, but I've been a periodic contributor to MAME and MESS for the past 15 years or so. For those unaware, MESS is the sister project to MAME. While MAME has always concentrated on coin-op games, MESS is the effective catch-all for everything else - handhelds, phones, set-top-boxes, consoles, computers, development boards, and more - using the same core library. For the sake of visibility, just this past week we have made the decision to incorporate MESS into MAME as a fundamental component.

    As for licensing, The vast majority of contributors have been contacted, and responses are trickling in. In general the responses seem split across "I don't care", "GPLv2", and the stock BSD 3-clause that we're hoping to move toward. You can keep track of the ongoing per-source-file relicensing on MAME/MESS's Github page here:

    I can say that the move to Github has been a uniformly positive one, as it has streamlined the process of incorporating patches from external developers, and has brought more visibility to the project. Visibility is a critical thing for projects like MAME and MESS, because we're literally working against the clock to preserve digital history, so more people feeling motivated to contribute to the project is unequivocally a Good Thing(tm). While there are those out there who see the project as nothing more than a venue for free games, the fact is that the project allows people who own these arcade boards to repair them in many cases, and it provides an archive for companies that are not otherwise interested in preserving their own history. Bit-rot is a real thing, and by preserving the contents of EEPROMs, flash ROMs, PROMs, PALs/GALs and other programmable devices, people are able to restore their games to a working state more often than not.

    I would go so far as to say that the project, in fact, benefits game companies themselves. I've worked in the industry for the better part of 10 years now, and I can tell you that most companies are not interested in proper archiving of their early games. However, with retro game packs being an actual viable product these days, these companies are now going back through their archives only to find that they didn't keep any copies of the disks or ROMs around. MAME and MESS, by incentivizing the decentralized distribution of these games, has essentially ensured that these games will still be around when the companies decide to unearth them. This isn't just idealism, either - if you look at retro game packs from companies like Sega, Taito, Namo, and Konami, you'll find that more often than not, they actually use the same ROM files that MAME does, in ZIP files, sometimes even containing the readme.txt from the original dumper - so you know it didn't originate internally to the company.

    Ultimately, the relicensing is one of many steps necessary to bring broader appeal to the project, whether it is to businesses, developers, or users.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Grant Galitz's browser-playable versions of GBC [] and GBA [] are light years ahead of the emscripten version of the MESS code for those. Any chance they can be used?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      As for licensing, The vast majority of contributors have been contacted, and responses are trickling in. In general the responses seem split across "I don't care", "GPLv2", and the stock BSD 3-clause that we're hoping to move toward. You can keep track of the ongoing per-source-file relicensing on MAME/MESS's Github page here: []

      As someone who contibuted to the MESS code over 10 years ago, I'll say that I can't even recall exactly what code I touched, or if my changes even still exist. And other than this note, they'd have pretty much no way to contact me, as my old addresses lapsed years ago. But I have no problems with a more libre license; I just can't quite figure out how they could possibly pull off moving to one, as there must be many other minor code contributors like me out there.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Then contact them and tell them what you want (they did keep track of a lot of who did what). They are currently going thru and tagging everything properly. Or setup up a merge pull.

        They are more than willing to work with anyone who thinks their code does not belong. The majority is BSD, GPL/LGPL now.

        Your point is a valid one. One that is not clear. But you have also basically abandoned the code. So you can not really make an claim for harm either. Al

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Also depending on when you contributed you may have been under a different license which assigned the rights to Nicola.

          Bingo! I was wondering why I hadn't thought of this in years. This was, in fact, the case. Of course, it's questionable whether such assignments are actually legal, but I for one am not about to question it; I'm not even in a position where I could easily prove the code was written by me at this point.

          Mostly, I just want to ensure they've covered all bases so that the code can be properly freed up and not become the target of some copyright troll. Of course, so many hands have touched the code that drop

  • I'm a little lost... why under the existing license would it be hard for the rightsholder to specific games to just go to the MAME team, and work it out? OF course, a more flexible, and open license is always a good thing IMO (too much rigidity hinders efforts that could be legal and good of course, but this specific example given still puzzled me.

    And I wish they'd make some progress on Bemani System573 Digital emulation. :(
    • It's got absolutely nothing to do with the rights to code for the games themselves, which are not a part of MAME. This is about the code that does the emulation of the game hardware that the game software then runs on.

  • by 0xdeaddead ( 797696 ) on Saturday May 16, 2015 @08:47PM (#49708259) Homepage Journal

    Since everyone knows that MAME has the best chiptune emulation! There are other uses for the MAME code than full system emulation.

    One can hope that the Yamaha YM2151 emulation will join the list but either way its a good thing for retro enthusiasts!

  • Little known fact: Hats off to one of the original geeks who inspired a generation who is an author of MAME32, Chris Kirmse. Also the author of one of the first MMORPGs ever based on the Doom engine, Meridian 59, and a Virginia Tech alumni. The geek is strong in that one.

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer