copyright (c) 1999 Sam Pettus (aka "the
Scribe"), all rights reserved
All copies must not be altered in any way, including but not limited to reformatting and conversion to alternate document formats, without the express consent of the author. The sole exception is for necessary formatting changes that may be required to adapt this document to suit your particular needs; however, the complete original text must be retained in as close a layout to the original as possible. For any questions in this regard, please contact the author.
No copy may be reproduced in whole or in part within a for-profit commercial publication or Internet site without the express consent of the author. The author recognizes the right of said vendors to reproduce limited portions of his work under the "fair use" clause of the appropriate sections of the U.S. Copyright Act and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
Any trademark or other such indica to be
found within this document is the exclusive property of its respective
owner, and is reproduced here merely for the sake of reference.
1999: The Emuyear in Review
This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared in the January 2000 issue of the Zophar's Domain newsletter
OverClocked fan strip #13, "Tiger" by the Essential Chess Piece Face
OverClocked © 2000 David Lloyd
INTRODUCTIONAnd we're going to party like it's nineteen-- .... Hold up! It is!- Will Smith, "Will-enium"
Back in the early
1970s, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson created what many people regard as their
finest live-action television series. SPACE:1999 was set in
that ominous-sounding year, and those of us who remember it also remember
its premise. On 13 September 1999, a freak nuclear accident on the
dark side of the moon blew the Earth's lone natural satellite out of orbit,
causing mass chaos and disaster on the mother planet and condemning the
311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha to a solitary existence wandering the
stars. While time has finally caught up with the series and its projected
concept of mankind's future, the year itself managed to retain its portentous
aura. 1999 would prove indeed to be a momentous year for many, but
it would prove especially significant for the rapidly growing and often
controversial Internet emuscene. It was a year that was a real roller-coaster
ride for them, and it was shaken to its very core just like those thermonuclear
explosions shook the moon in SPACE:1999. In just a little
while we will begin sifting through the dim memories of the past twelve
months, but one significant accomplishment stands out above all the rest
of that year.
1999 will be chiefly remembered by the emuscene as the year that videogame emulation was finally legitimized.
It would take more space than is available for this article to explain the how and why this came about, and in fact the build-up to this year has been addressed in other places. Most of you who are reading this are already members of the emuscene, so there is little need to repeat what many of you already know. Like me, you have followed the rapid-fire developments both on and off the emuscene, on the Internet and in the physical world, discussed in the message boards and chatrooms or debated in the courtroom. You know how the emuscene came about, and how it has been treated by both friend and foe alike up to this year. This article will therefore limit itself to 1999, and review for you those significant events of that year that helped make this possible. This was a long time building, but 1999 would prove the year that the emuscene was finally accepted by many for what it was - not what a highly vocal few claimed it to be.
THE FIRESTORM ERUPTS
The year's first
notable event was the unearthing of a beta copy of Sega's Sonic the
Hedgehog 2 for the Sega Genesis/MegaDrive (G/MD) videogame console.
It represented an interim game between the retail releases of the first
and second G/MD Sonic games, with lots of unique stuff that never made
it into the final game. Of course, it was soon dumped, and the resultant
ROM made the obligatory rounds. With the IDSA's "great sweep" of
1998 finally dead and buried, it seemed that things were finally getting
back to normal.
Oh, how naive the hope!
The first major topic of the year was the legitimacy of videogame emulation itself. Connectix, the well-known Macintosh support vendor, had demonstrated its Virtual Game Station (VGS) emulator at the MacWorld expo the previous year. This commercial product permitted the playing of Sony PlayStation (PSX) games on a PowerMac personal computer. While PSX emulation was not new to the emuscene (remember PSEmu, Psyke, and PSEmu Pro?), this was the first retail product for any computer system to openly embrace the concept of videogame emulation. VGS hit retail shelves at the first of the year, and many Mac vendors were hard pressed to keep it in stock. This did not sit well with Sony Corporation, makers of the PSX, who was already waging an unsuccessful fight against the emuscene's earlier freeware PSX emulators. They announced their intention to file an intellectual property violation lawsuit against the pioneering vendor, resulting in a sudden artificial boost in VGS sales. Those who supported PSX emulation on the Mac were going to make sure that they had their copies before the emulator was removed from store shelves.
Two other events happened almost simultaneously with the release of VGS that boded ill for the emuscene. Tratrax, one of the chief members of the triad that composed the core of the PSEmu Pro devteam, announced that he was leaving the emuscene for a job with a game developer. Also, a leaked beta of bleem! by Randy Linden, another commercial PSX emulator but this time for Win9x systems, found its way to the Internet and "made the rounds." Both incidents were major news items at the time, and along with the VGS release raised the public profile of the emuscene to new (and perhaps unwanted) heights.
It was about to blast out of orbit altogether.
On 28 January 1999, a new videogame emulator came out of nowhere that rocked both the emuscene and vendor community like nothing had done before. Epsilon and RealityMan's UltraHLE was the world's first working N64 emulator, achieving rock-solid compatibility with several popular N64 titles from day one. These included the console's flagship game, Super Mario 64, the much-beloved Mario Kart 64, and the mother of all Nintendo RPGs - Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. UltraHLE was a phenomenal achievement in that many within the emuscene, including a number of its icons, believed that N64 emulation would not be achieved until the next millenium. These two bright young emuhackers proved everybody wrong. Nintendo's response was predictable, of course - overblown, overhyped, overlegated, and perhaps pressed over-hard. They promptly declared UltraHLE to be an infringing product, declared emulation itself illegal, and began waging a massive campaign against the emuscene, forcing the shutdown of any website that carried UltraHLE or its required ROMs and seemingly threatening swift legal action against anybody that so much as breathed UltraHLE's name. Only the IDSA assault on MAME back in early 1998 came close to the furor that was aroused over UltraHLE, and the legitimacy of emulation itself was once again called into serious question by many in the mainstream press. It would not be until later in the year that the issues raised by the release of UltraHLE would be finally laid to rest.
The month of February
opened with enough dark portents to keep even the most depressed emufan
satisfied. On the very first day of the month, Duddie became the
second member of the PSEmu Pro team to depart, leaving only Kazzuya
behind. A war of words erupted between ClassicGaming.com and Emu
News Service over domain name rights that would eventually result in one
of the emuscene's most respected sources of information closing its doors.
The death-blow for PSEmu Pro came in mid-month, when Kazzuya announced
that he too was leaving for greener pastures; thus, formal development
of this ground-breaking emulator (the very first PSX emulator) came to
an end. Finally, at the end of the month, the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) declared the Internet to be a federally recognized forum
for interstate commerce, thus opening the door to all sorts of potential
regulation and taxation by the government sometime in the not-too-distant
As if that weren't enough, Nintendo continued to fan the fires of the UltraHLE controversy to white-hot intensity. They publicly announced their intentions to sue both Epsilon and RealityMan over UltraHLE, continuing to maintain that it was "an illegal emulator solely designed to play infringing copies" of Nintendo software. They also decried the appearance of several supposed pieces of UltraHLE source that began to appear on the backwater sites, although all of these proved to be attempts at decompiling the executable and thus ultimately worthless. The response of the emuscene was to publicly condemn Nintendo's actions at every opportunity, and Emulation Reality attempted to organize a boycott against the arrogant videogame giant. It ultimately failed, as do most similar efforts, but the emuscene was not happy with the way things were looking for emulation. The only bright spot on the legal front came from the Sony v. Connectix lawsuit, when Sony was denied its initial request for an injunction against continued VGS sales. They promptly re-filed, however, and their action coupled with Nintendo's efforts continued to maintain a dark legal haze over what many contended to be an innocent and non-infringing pastime.
It was about this time, however, that the first cracks started to appear in the seemingly solid wall that the vendors had thrown up against videogame emulation, and it was two vendors who were responsible for this move. Crystal Dynamics, perhaps best known for their Gex franchise, publicly broke with the official IDSA stance on videogame emulation. It was the first good news that the emuscene had received from the vendors in quite a while. The real vendor jewel came at the end of the month, however, when Sega of America released the Sega Smash Pack to retail sales. Enterprising hackers quickly discovered that it was in fact a slightly modified version of the popular KGen G/MD emulator by Steve Snake, which he later confirmed to be the case. As the Snake eventually revealed, he had been in negotiations with Sega for the better part of 1998 over a commercial release of KGen, and it was both the support and compatibility reports from the emuscene that finally convinced Sega of the possibilities. Thus, Sega became the first videogame vendor to openly embrace videogame emulation, and KGen became the first public domain videogame emulator to be re-released as a commercial program. It was a heady accomplishment for the cause of emulation, and it gave the beleaguered emuscene a badly needed shot in the arm. At least some of the vendors were listening now, and that was a start.
THE GATHERING STORM
The storm surrounding
videogame emulation continued to build towards gale force as the month
of March came and went. Several background events only added to the
gloom of emufans worldwide. It was at this time that word began to
spread about an embedded serial number inside of Intel's new Pentium-III
CPUs - a practice which had actually been in place since the release of
the first Pentium-II some years earlier - thus drawing the wrath and ire
of privacy advocates everywhere. The last beta build of Psyke,
the second working PSX emulator, was released to the public, and an attempt
to restart Emu News Service wound up going nowhere. Also, to the
surprise of many on the emuscene, Lazarus, the oldest and most respected
emusite on the Internet, was forced to shut down for a wide variety of
internal and legal issues.
In fact, there was precious little good news during this time. Sony's fight against Connectix over VGS was not going well for them, and they were twice refused an injunction by the courts against continued VGS sales. That was some small solace for the battered emuscene, as were the twin announcements that both of the new up-and-coming 128-bit videogame consoles, the Sega Dreamcast (DC) and the Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2), would use firmware emulation to support the software bases of their parent company's older consoles - in this case, the Sega Saturn (which never happened) and the original Sony PSX (which did). RPGe released its long-awaited 100% translation patch for the Super Nintendo (SNES/SFC) game Magical Knight RayEarth, and that was well received by fans of this particular anime TV series. Good news for the Nintendo emuscene came in the person of the Scribe, responsible for the well-respected SNES Chart, who announced that he was resuming work on an SNES/SFC games FAQ along the same lines as his popular Genesis Game Guide (G3). Finally, word about the impending releases of both bleem! and a new Sega 8-bit emulator named MEKA set many tongues a-waggin.'
The publicity campaign Nintendo was waging against emulation apparently came to its head in March, with a number of articles highly critical of the emuscene appearing in various mainstream publications. Even so lauded a public vehicle as Time magazine got into the act in a well-publicized article echoing the mainstream sentiments of the past three months, in that videogame emulation was little more than a transparent cover for blatant software piracy. Tired of the raging debate and sick at the bashing at the hands of both ill-informed critics and anti-emulation activists, RealityMan of UltraHLE fame announced that he was quitting the emuscene. N64 emufans mourned his apparent loss for days. N64 emulation continued without him, with the most promising project being NEMU64 by Lemmy, but even he began to hearing threats of legal action from "the big N." As if that wasn't bad enough, Sony had the long-running and highly regarded emusite Dave's Video Game Classics shut down under threat of a lawsuit for posting a link to an illegal dump of the PlayStation BIOS - a rather stupid move for such a well-respected emusite, in retrospect, but nevertheless an action that reminded the emuscene yet again of the IDSA's "great sweep" of 1998 - a past action that Dave's had somehow survived.
The days were growing dark for the beleaguered emuscene. It would not be long before it would suffer its worst disaster yet.
ICEBERG DEAD AHEAD!
When looking back
at April, two events tend to overshadow all others. It is not that anything
else did not happen during this time. Zoop's eagerly anticipated
was finally released, quickly establishing itself as the new standard in
Sega 8-bit emulation. 3Dfx began a legal crackdown against makers
and distributors of so-called "Glide wrappers," which allowed non-3Dfx
video cards to support 3Dfx-keyed software (and thereby run UltraHLE, nudge,
nudge). Lemmy's NEMU 64 achieved the notable distinction of
becoming the second N64 emulator to actually work (i.e. both load ROMs
and make them playable) - which prompted a swift yet predictable legal
notice from Nintendo about possible intellectual property infringement.
Dave's Video Game Classics found a new home over on the Warzone Network
and reopened its doors, and thus one of the oldest sites on the emuscene
was able to resume operations. The latest news on bleem! was
especially good, with everything pointing to an official retail release
at the beginning of May and Sony refused two successive injunction requests
in their efforts to block its impending market release. While these
were notable events in themselves, they were not nearly as big as two others.
These two dominated the month of April, and their shockwaves continue to
echo around us. The storm surrounding the emuscene had been building
all year, and it was time for the hurricane to hit shore.
The Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado (USA) ripped open a long-running debate on violent content in videogames that had its roots all the way back in the coin-op days of the late 1970s. The fact that the two teenagers responsible for the slaughter were avid aficionados of such first-person shooters as DOOM and Quake served as potent ammo for the blue-nose crowd. Liberal and conservatives alike crossed ideological lines and joined forces to demand new restraints on videogame violence, and a brand-new round of Congressional hearings took place - a mere six years after the Night Trap/Mortal Kombat debate Congress held in 1993. Those of us who paid attention felt like we were watching events through a time machine, except that it was the IDSA's Douglas Lowenstein and not Nintendo CEO Howard Lincoln prostituting his industry before the politicians. Even the emuscene felt the ground shake beneath its feet, as those championing the sanitization of videogames began churning up old titles to support (or refute) the many claims being bandied about. Once again, the emuscene was in the crosshairs of the mainstream press - except that this time it was sharing the field of fire with its bigger brother, the videogame industry itself. Both found themselves in the unwelcome position of having to defend a beloved pastime yet again. The same arguments both for and against violence in videogames were emotionally tossed back and forth, and in time the public debate died down, but the issue remained like a slow-burning coal in the backs of many minds for the rest of the year. Indeed, many vendors pulled violent content from their videogame demos at such trade shows as E3 and the Summer CES, not willing to stick their necks out and risk the public wrath. A lone few held firm, holding that it was the boys themselves and not the games that were responsible for the resulting violence, but the press wasn't listening. So, the videogame industry as a whole kept quiet about the issue, and a few months later it blew over - as it always does. Perhaps talk show host Montel Williams best summed matters up when he noted the following month, "That wasn't hate that was learned from a videogame. That hate was [already] inside of them."
On 22 April 1999, in the latest round of Sony v. Connectix, the emuscene was handed what many at the time considered to be its legal coup de grace. The U.S. 9th District Federal Court, in reviewing a third request by Sony for an injunction against sales of Connectix's VGS, determined that VGS was indeed a infringing product as Sony had maintained all along. They agreed with Sony in that Connectix had made use of unlicensed proprietary Sony BIOS code in developing VGS, which constituted a violation of Sony's copyright on the BIOS code. The court granted a full injunction against continued sales of VGS in all venues until a formal trial could be scheduled, which was later set for early 2000. One could almost sense Nintendo executives breaking out of their plush offices and dancing in the streets when the news broke. It seemed that their three-month campaign against videogame emulation had finally struck paydirt - and best of all, they didn't have to pay a penny for the results. As for the emuscene, it felt that it had been carpet-bombed by the videogame vendors, with many emufans expressing shock, disgust, and somber reflection at this sudden turn of events. Videogame vendors had been using emulation in their products for almost a decade. It was a proven and legal technology. What was so wrong about somebody else doing it? - or to put it in plain English, "Why should the vendors be allowed to maintain an monopoly on the right to emulate?" Anyway, that's how almost everybody in the emuscene felt, and many of us were at a loss as to what we should do about it.
It was the emuscene's darkest hour.
THE HURRICANE HITS SHORE
The month of
May is seen by many as the worst month for the emuscene all year.
Blown out of the water by the VGS injunction, blasted all month
long (and for some time thereafter) by a freshly invigorated Nintendo,
and buffeted by the actions of its more insistent and irresponsible members,
the battered emuscene staggered on somehow, alternating wildly between
events good and bad like a drunken sailor wandering home from too much
liberty. It was as if we were watching someone trying to walk across
an open field in the midst of a hurricane, tossed this way and that, occasionally
finding one's feet, and then just as quickly knocked off again. Indeed,
period covering 20-24 May 1999 has been termed by Eidolon as "... one of
the worst weeks in emulation history," and those of us who were active
on the emuscene at the time tend to agree with him.
First, the good news. DGen, the emuscene's first decent open-source G/MD emulator, was released to the public. It would eventually prove to be for the Sega emuscene what SNES9X was to the Nintendo emuscene, and would in time displace Sardu's Genecyst as the second-best G/MD emulator available (just a hair behind Steve Snake's KGen98).
Now, the bad news. The public outcry against violent videogame content continued unabated, with the Congressional hearings remaining in session and U.S. Vice President Albert Gore proposing nothing less than outright censorship of Internet content. The politicians were planning to capitalize on the nation's mood in the wake of the Columbine massacre, and it seemed certain that new legislation would soon be proposed that would violate the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. Both videogamers and emufans alike watched with mounting concern.
Again, the pendulum swung. The Scribe openly challenged the validity of Nintendo's assertion that emulation was illegal in a carefully worded response to Nintendo's official emulation FAQ. While it was by his own admission incomplete and in need of further revision, it was widely hailed by the emuscene as the first intelligent countermove to Nintendo's claims. Thus emboldened, the Scribe continued his research into the legality of emulation - a move that would have profound implications for the emuscene.
Now the pendulum swung back. Nintendo's Mike Chandler publicly asserted that the practice of dumping the ROMs of a videogame cartridge was blatantly illegal. His statement was based on a number of court cases that Nintendo had won in recent years concerning the piracy of videogame cartridges for all of its systems to date, as well as attempting to prosecute those companies that manufactured and sold cart dumping equipment. Interestingly enough, his statement excluded ROMs of a disk-image nature - a comment that was largely overlooked at the time.
Once again, the sun shone bright. The long-anticipated PSX emulator bleem!was finally released after production delays, and advance mail orders for the program skyrocketed. Dan Boris programmed the very first Atari 7800 emulator. Glide wrappers gained commercial status once Creative started shipping one with its RivaTNT-based Graphics Blaster. Even Sony's highly vocal protests over the bleem! booth at the year's E3 trade show and their subsequent maneuvering to block sales in retail outlets failed to daunt the emuscene's spirit. Nevertheless, all of that was about to change. The sequence of events that took place from 20-24 May 1999 would rock the emuscene almost as badly as the VGS ruling itself.
Early on the morning of 20 May 1999, the Scribe posted the latest version of his widely respected SNES Chart. The 1.91 release would prove to be the last public edition of that unique document. About the same time, a resurgent Nintendo, apparently encouraged by Sony's legal success and confident of its own might (and right), renewed its assault on the emuscene with a newfound vigor and zeal not seen since the release of UltraHLE. They had the SNES9X home page shut down, threatening its ISP with a lawsuit if they didn't comply with its wishes. Their move prompted NEMU64 author Lemmy to temporarily halt development and go into virtual hiding, since his N64 emulator had achieved working status and was now a prime target for possible legal action. The next day, Nintendo took action against Spirit in the Contraption, one of the more prominent ROM sites to spring up in the wake of the IDSA's "great sweep," and managed to force it to close its doors for a time. Sony chimed in as well, publicly supporting Nintendo's actions and adding to it their assertions that any attempt to dump the PSX BIOS (for use with a PSX emulator) constituted intellectual property infringement.
Finally, on the evening of 21 May, as he was digesting the events of the past two days and continuing his legal research, the Scribe made a shocking discovery that would prove to have profound implications on the emuscene and his contributions toward it. His research into emulation was not covered under the fair use clause of copyright law, thus making him potentially eligible for prosecution as well. The following morning, fearing possible legal action from Nintendo over his SNES Chart. as well as action from certain other vendors over his other emulation-related efforts, the Scribe pulled every single one of his emulation FAQs from the Internet for his own protection and announced a new project. The title was Emulation: Right or Wrong? You know it today as the EmuFAQ. It was a timely effort, as many in the emuscene were by now crying for answers to the verbal and legal assault of the past few months. Taking his own situation by the horns, the Scribe was determined to settle the emulation controversy once and for all regardless of whatever it took ... or cost.
The last notable event of May also deserves mention, because it hit especially hard for Sega emufans. The world's first working Sega CD emulator (that could actually play games), SuiCiDE, was killed by its author before it was ever publicly released. Leila, as she was known by the emuscene, had been constantly hammered by impatient emufans who wanted the emulator "right now" regardless of its performance. They were quite used to dealing with imperfect emulation, and so naturally expected that Leila would come up with the goods. Instead, she chose to publicly break with the emuscene, and the behavior of these impudent little cretins was cited as the prime reason for her actions. SuiCiDE won Leila a job with an unnamed commercial developer, but the program itself would never appear on the emuscene. Again, the actions of a belligerent few had ruined a promising development for the responsible rest, and many and long were the debates that raged within the emuscene over the affair.
THE TURNING POINT
At the beginning
of June, Salon magazine ran a series of article by Howard Wen under
the banner, "Why emulators make videogame makers quake." It was one
of the first mainstream pieces to probe the motivations of the vendor community
and their often virulent attacks on the emuscene, and it nailed the issue
squarely on the head. The reason why certain vendors were so afraid
of third-party emulation was not because of software piracy, as was so
frequently quoted. Rather, the vendors were forced to face the unpleasant
possibility of losing their respective monopolies over their artificially
generated markets. Why buy a PSX for US$100 or so when one could
buy bleem! for US$40? For that matter, why buy the faltering N64
for US$150 when UltraHLE cost nothing and N64 ROMs were available
on the Internet for anyone with the patience and diligence to smoke them
out? Also, one no longer needed to worry about cross-country market
locks or fancy modchips - emulators pretty much ignored these things and
allowed videogamers worldwide to enjoy titles that they had never been
intended to see. The videogame vending community was losing its
stranglehold over its customer base, and emulation was making that possible.
No wonder proprietary-minded vendors like Sony and Nintendo were so upset.
Good news for the emuscene came early in the month, when Eidolon's Inn reported that the Scribe would be resuming both G3 and the Genesis Chart. All legal questions regarding Sega-related emulation that had plagued the Scribe since his ill-fated discovery were resolved with the assistance of Steve Snake, KGen author and longtime videogame programmer. With that, the Scribe officially resumed his work on the Sega emuscene, much to the delight of its fans. No such aid was to be had from Nintendo, however, who officially denied him permission to continue using emulation in researching the software base of its systems. It resulted in the immediate (and apparently permanent) suspension of the SNES Chart, and threatened the SNES/SFC software FAQ that the Scribe had wanted to write for so long.
The next target on the radar turned out to be the all-too-brief revival of PSEmu Pro - one that would quickly die. Again, the ruffians and hooligans at the fringes of the emuscene were to blame. A promising beta of PSEmu Pro 2 was leaked by an inside source and spread like wildfire, with the emusite Emulation Ireland going so far as to actually post it. Infuriated, the new PSEmu devteam abruptly abandoned the project and publicly condemned the emuscene for its behavior. Coming on the heels of the SuiCiDE debacle as it did, and reviving unwelcome memories of the NeoRAGE hack of 1998, the sudden and swift demise of PSEmu Pro 2 gave the emuscene new cause to ponder its public image - along with the unwelcome behavior of its less savory adherents.
The legal issues surrounding emulation continued as the battle between Sony and the two commercial PSX emulators raged on. Sony began to subpoena bleem! betatesters for their dispositions in their efforts to prove that the bleem! code infringed upon Sony's copyrights. One of the side effects of Sony's move was the temporary shutdown of Matthew Elzer's EliteGamer website, as he was one of bleem!'s more prominent betatesters. 3Dfx began what is now perceived by many to be the start of its public downfall when it filed suit against Creative Labs over the inclusion of a so-called "Glide wrapper" for its non-3Dfx based Graphics Blaster video card. Perhaps the biggest legal news of the month was the bill proposed to the U.S. Congress by Republican representative Henry Hyde, which sought to censor possibly violent, pornographic, or any other kind of content that could be perceived as being offensive. It was shot down by the House of Representatives in a 282-145 vote against, and rightly so, with both Democrats and fellow Republicans alike joining ranks to kill the Hyde bill. The stated reason was also the proper one, as the proposed bill would have been in violation of the First Amendments rights of free speech and freedom of expression. With that, the public outcry over the Columbine affair pretty much disappeared from the radarscope, aside from the occasional mention, for the rest of the year, and both the videogame industry and its fans could breathe easier. Yet another attempt to censor videogame content had been thwarted ... for now.
The rest of the month's activities on the emuscene are brief, yet notable. Tristar64, the world's first Nintendo 8-bit (NES/FC) and 16-bit (SNES/SFC) cart adapter for the 64-bit N64, was announced. NeoCD, the very first working NeoGeo CD emulator, made its debut. Two promising GameBoy emulators, DBoy and HelloGB, were suspended due to the possibility of legal action by Nintendo against their authors. Finally, in a move long awaited not only by emufans but the videogame community at large, word began to spread that Square would release Chrono Cross, a PSX sequel to the legendary SNES/SFC RPG Chrono Trigger.
The last significant event of June is perhaps the most important one of the month in terms of legitimizing the emuscene. On 29 June 1999, Nintendo quietly posted a new, revised version of its policy statement regarding videogame emulation. To the open shock and surprise of the emuscene, Nintendo's new FAQ now acknowledged the existence of unlicensed yet legal ROMs for Nintendo-based emulators. It also implicitly acknowledged the legal possibility of unlicensed videogame emulation as a whole. Credit for this breathtaking change in public policy can be rightly credited to the Scribe, as early drafts of his EmuFAQ were by now beginning to circulate on the Internet. It was as if he had assumed the role of the news anchor so brilliantly portrayed by actor Albert Finney in the movie Network, who proudly proclaimed to his audience, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" The Scribe had caught Nintendo in several factual errors regarding their assertions about the emuscene, and the videogame giant had no choice but to grudgingly acknowledge his research. It was a stunning achievement in the Scribe's one-man war over the legality of emulation, and many began to pay more attention than before to his work on the EmuFAQ. Thus began what the Scribe calls "a curious relationship" between him and Nintendo as work on the EmuFAQ continued, and both the vendor community and the emuscene began to take his efforts more seriously.
The mouse had roared.
July was a rather
mild month on the legal front of the emuscene. Bleem! finally
hit store shelves, having been delayed by Sony's pressuring tactics on
the retail industry. Nintendo's activity on the emuscene subsided
somewhat, with its only major move being against nodeX over possible infringement
of its highly profitable Pokemon franchise. Over at The Dump, Harry
Tuttle was forced to abandon his cherished Dracula X
Project - the posting of the CD image of one of the best games ever written for the Turbo Graph/X 16 (PC Engine for you Japanese fans, TG16/PCE for short), - after failing in negotiating distribution terms with Konami, the game's original vendor.
Perhaps the biggest news of all legalwise was the RIAA v. Diamond decision, i.e. the "Rio case," in which the courts ruled that converting a CD-audio recording to MP3 format for personal use on Diamond's Rio MP3 player was in fact legal. There was open speculation that this decision could be applied to ROMs at some point in the future, and some posited that it was a de facto justification of the current practice of ROM dumping. While such was (and is) not the case, as the Rio case dealt specifically with audio recordings and not with multimedia efforts as a whole, it nevertheless demonstrated the growing acceptance of such format conversions - provided that they are of a purely non-commercial nature. Hope continues to abound that a similar decision will apply to ROMs someday.
In fact, most of the month was preoccupied with emuscene-specific news. ZSNES, by far the most popular SNES/SFC emulator, resumed updates with the v0.9xx series after a half-year lull and also became the first such emulator to support the games StarFox and Vortex. Factor 5, the noted German videogame programming powerhouse, joined the growing number of vendors supporting the emuscene by posting ROMs of five of its most popular Amiga games. Borland released its venerable Turbo Pascal and Turbo C DOS-based compilers to the public domain, and this was notable in that they were among the most powerful such compilers of their day. All of this was fine and good, but one event that happened at the end of the month would dominate the news for days to come, and give the battered emuscene yet another needed shot-in-the-arm in terms of good press.
On 28 July 1999, a development team headed by Neill Cortlett released an English translation patch for the ROM of the SNES/SFC RPG Seiken Densetsu 3. Known in the U.S. as Secret of Mana 2, the game had never been released in this country by its vendor Square for a number of reasons - a decision that had caused much grief and anger among RPG fans. The patch was an instant hit, but its popularity went way beyond the emuscene. News that Secret of Mana 2 had finally "made it" spread like wildfire among the online Nintendo gaming community, and Seiken Densetsu 3 had climbed to the #6 spot in GameFaqs' top ten list by the end of the month. Pretty good for a four-year old RPG, eh? "Either this is a mix-up with the Legend of Mana, or the translation has struck a chord throughout gamers everywhere," noted taichou of Zophar's Domain in a news posting. In retrospect, the Seiken Densetsu 3 patch probably did more to increase public acceptance of the emuscene in the eyes of "straight" videogamers than anything else since the unspoken acceptance of the emuscene's "900-pound gorilla," MAME.
The tide was turning ... but the best was yet to come.
THE SLEEPER AWAKENS
By August of
1999, a number of mainstream Internet videogame sites had small sections
devoted to emulation, including one or more emulators for various classic
consoles and arcade hardware.
That was a far cry from the beginning of the year, when some of these same
sites were belittling or even condemning it outright. Public perceptions
on emulation were in the process of changing for the better, and the claims
of "infringement" and "software piracy" were beginning to fade away as
new fans discovered and old hands
relearned the benefits that emulation could bring. Thanks to the Emulation Timeline, a side product of the Scribe's EmuFAQ project, the emuscene was now aware of its heritage, while the developing EmuFAQ reminded them of their responsibilities. Attitudes towards emulation were changing both without and within the emuscene.
Mention must be made of an emulation hack that was used to solve a problem with the existing betas of Windows 2000 (Win2K RC1) that were circulating about this time. A number of betatesters had reported problems with support for certain models of SoundBlaster and SoundBlaster compatible audio cards. The solution was found in the SoundFX-NT program by Software Solutions, designed originally for WinNT but found to work just as well with Win2K. Once again, emulation was employed to resolve a hardware problem - just as it had so many times before in its storied history.
August also market the v3.0 release of Amiga Forever, the commercially vended version (by Cloanto) of the popular WinUAE cross-platform emulator. To date, it is the emuscene's only commercially vended BIOS-dump dependent emulator to include licensed copies of the required BIOS and system software along with the emulator itself - in this case, a Kickstart image and copies of the AmigaDOS system software.
It was also at this time that some enterprising emuhackers caught Sony with their pants down. They determined that Capcom's PSX re-release of the NES classic MegaMan (Rockman in Japan) was little more than a modified version of the original ROM running under emulation. This was in stark contrast to Sony's public assertions about the supposed illegality of third-party videogame emulation, and Sony wisely chose not to comment on the matter. Capcom was merely continuing in its unspoken support of videogame emulation, as it had permitted the licensing of several CPS-1 arcade ROMs for inclusion with the new HotRod arcade-style joystick back in June. What was good for personal computers apparently worked just as well with the PSX - and best of all, Capcom was making money off of emulation (unlike somebody else). Sony might not approve of videogame emulation, but it couldn't stop one of its best-known licensees from using a scaled-down Nintendo NES/FC emulator to make a fast buck or two.
An interesting bit of news regarding the emuscene's past came around mid-month, when MSNBC ran an article about software piracy on their website. The article referenced a GameWeek interview conducted with Sega's Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS: Into Dreams. In the interview, he revealed that he had written an NES emulator back during the heyday of the Sega Genesis, and that it gave him "great satisfaction" to see Nintendo software running on Sega hardware. This pushed the date for the first known "true" videogame emulator back to 1991, and Yuji Naka's NES/FC emulator thus supplants Argonaut Software's Gameboy 68000 as the first such program in existence. The fact that such a respected programmer had dabbled in emulation even before the emuscene existed was heady news to emufans. The news of Naka-san's accomplishment only added more fuel to the fire that was stoking the growing acceptance of emulation as a legitimate practice.
There were several other events that occurred in the emuscene proper during August. It was at this time that the Scribe finally abandoned his SNES/SFC research, having reached a point where he simply could not continue without the use of emulation (an avenue for which Nintendo continued to refuse permission). Hong Kong videogame bootleggers finally "broke" the Sega Dreamcast's unique 1 GB custom CD-ROM format (called GD-ROM by Sega) after ten months of its use on the market. Also, the devteam for 1964 (a new N64 emulator) quit posting open source code after another N64 emulator devteam plagiarized it and claimed it as their own.
A sharply worded article regarding videogame emulation by T. Liam MacDonald titled "You will be emulated" appeared in the September issue of MaximumPC, released in mid-month in order to hit the racks in time. It was a honest assessment of why the emuscene existed and why videogame emulation should be accepted. One of its oft-quoted passages was this: "The statement that the only purpose of emulators is 'to play illegally copied games from the Internet' is just a lie. Once you buy a game, you can play it wherever and whenever you want. It's yours. If you want to patch together a lawnmower, a Watchman, and a pair of ice tongs to play Sonic Cruises for Hookers, or anything else that [the vendors are] publishing, that's your right." MacDonald's opinions were shared by many, not just in the emuscene proper, but its adherents would be provided backing for their beliefs faster than anybody expected.
24 August 1999 is a date that will be forever remembered by emufans. That was the day on which videogame emulation was legitimized. On that day, Judge Charles Legge of the 9th Federal District Court threw out Sony's third request for an injunction against bleem! retail sales, noting Sony had failed to prove intellectual property infringement on the part of Bleem LLC. Nobody blamed Bleem LLC for celebrating their victory, and company CEO David Herpolsheimer wasted no time in voicing his opinion. "Sony had all the weapons on their side this time ... and they still couldn't make a case against bleem!" he said in an interview with GameSpot. The official bleem! website posted a message of thanks from Bleem LLC to its many customers and supporters later that day, saying, "This is a great step for bleem! and we want to thank all of you, because without you, we would have never made it this far.... Thanks again!" While cooler heads reminded the emuscene that the actual trial was still almost a year away, it did little to dampen everybody's enthusiasm. Judge Legge's decision had effectively negated the VGS ruling back at the end of April, and even those in the mainstream press acknowledged the emuscene's sudden turn of good fortune. From the depths of legal limbo to the shining light of public and legal acceptance, the emuscene had not only survived, but triumphed.
24 August 1999 ... a day that will live in emulation history.
NEW LIFE, NEW DEVELOPMENTS
month of September did not turn out to be the disaster that had been so
dramatically predicted in SPACE:1999. How could anything be
disaster after emulation's victory the previous month? As it was,
September turned out to be a rather mundane month for the emuscene, with
only the occasional negative byline or two to keep everybody's perceptions
down-to-earth and the by-now requisite "big event" at month's end.
Good news first came to the Nintendo emuscene in the form of resumed development of both DBoy and HelloGB - both emulators having been suspended back in May for legal reasons. At the same time, and to the delight of emufans worldwide, RealityMan announced that he would resume work on a new and enhanced version of UltraHLE, the first and by far still the most powerful N64 emulator of the year. Complete English translation patches for the RPGs Sailor Moon: Another Story (SNES/SFC) and Radia (NES/FC) were released. Finally, RealityMan posted a long and rather pointed editorial on the UltraHLE website in which he noted that the same miscreants responsible for killing both SuiCiDE and PSEmu Pro 2 were now apparently after him and his emulator. He noted that they were seemingly "intent on smearing and destroying the UltraHLE name and project as well as other emulation projects (e.g. PSEmu Pro, probably one of the most promising PSX emulators there was) and I WILL NOT let this happen." His posting garnered widespread support across the emuscene, as might be expected in the wake of the aforementioned PSEmu Pro 2 debacle.
Some interesting events were occurring in the mainstream videogame community as well that also captured the fascination of the emuscene. The Sega Dreamcast, the industry's first 128-bit videogame console, made its North American debut on 9 September - shattering all launch records set by the PSX some four years earlier and more than making up for its lackluster Japanese launch back in November 1998. Sega was back, in a big way, and everybody was rooting for them - including their many supporters within the emuscene. Nintendo announced that the venerable GameBoy would be getting a serious overhaul, which would make it the industry's first 32-bit handheld portable. Beam International released some two dozen of their classic Amstrad CPC, C64, and Spectrum titles to the public domain, thus joining the steadily growing ranks of those vendors either openly supporting or willing to work with the emuscene.
The emuscene finally became aware of its true origins near the end of the month, when the Scribe revealed to all concerned how the concept of emulation had actually arisen. He credits the information to the Professor, one of his EmuFAQ contributors, who in turn credits it to computer historian Emerson Pugh. It seems that emulation's origins lie back in 1964 during the development phase of the IBM System/360 mainframe computer family, and was devised by systems engineer Larry H. Moss as a means of allowing IBM's new product line to run programs originally designed to run on the older IBM 7070. Today, Larry Moss is considered to be the "father of emulation," and one of the oldest and most respected U.S. technology firms, International Business Machines (IBM), deserves credit for having been the vendor that made the concept of emulation a reality. The emuscene thanks the Professor for alerting its members to the real story behind the birth of their favorite hobby, and you can find the full account in the Articles section of Zophar's Domain.
The only two blots on the record for September for the emuscene were the Amiga announcement and the resumption of the Elite dispute. Long-suffering Amiga fans, who had been eagerly expecting a fourth-generation version of the ubiquitous "chameleon machine," were heartbroken when the announcement came that it simply wasn't going to happen. Gateway's newly acquired Amiga subsidiary would concentrate on software instead, retooling their programs for industry-standard hardware. Somewhat later in the month, in an event that literally came out of the blue, co-authors Ian Bell and David Braben resumed their long-standing legal squabble over the rights to Elite, the legendary sci-fi strategy videogame and widely acknowledged as one of the true classics of the genre. The legal status of Elite remains in doubt as of this date.
End-of-month events were by now almost de rigeur to the emuscene, and September proved no exception. 25 September 1999 saw the release of the complete edition of the EmuFAQ - the Scribe's commentary on the state of emulation and the first in-depth scholarly analysis of its kind regarding the emuscene. To say it was controversial would be an understatement. It was one of those documents where people either praised or denounced it, with nary a fence-straddler to be seen. Many in the emuscene felt betrayed that the Scribe had reversed his position on UltraHLE, declaring it to be an nothing less than an infringing emulator. Nintendo, who had been one of the few vendors to aid the Scribe in his research, was of course pleased by this development, but remained unsatisfied in that he left the door open as to the possibility of a legal unlicensed emulator derived from Nintendo hardware. Friend and foe alike praised his insights into the background of emulation and its unwelcome association with software piracy, yet at the same time were quick to challenge his assertions regarding the limits of legal emulation without researching his sources for themselves. The EmuFAQ was a no-holds-barred, pull-no-punches document that cast a critical eye on almost every aspect of the emuscene, and it ended by the Scribe blasting both vendors and emufans alike - the vendors for their monopolistic attitudes and the emufans for their irresponsible actions. In short, it ticked off almost everybody - which mean that the Scribe had probably achieved his goal of writing a balanced document. Its impact and influence were not immediately obvious, and the controversy within the emuscene over the EmuFAQ would rage well into October.
A TIME FOR REFLECTION
probably the most quiet month for the emuscene all year. There
was no major event all month in the courtroom, and no big event at the
end of the month to grab everybody's attention. This brief lull was
welcomed by all sides in the emulation debate, with the vendors attending
to other matters and the emuscene keeping largely to itself.
Not much happened this month on the legal front. IDSA president Douglas Lowenstein, seemingly ignorant that the Columbine massacre was now old news, voiced plans to restrict sales of videogames with mature or offensive content to minors and to limit such content on the Internet - a move that was for the most part ignored by the industry he was supposed to be representing. Bleem! v1.5 was released, significant in that it was the first version to use an INI (initialization) file for storing its game compatibility database. It was similar to the technique that UltraHLE used, and PSX fans quickly discovered that it could be used for the same purposes as the one used by the popular N64 emulator - game cheats and user hacks. Finally, Sony began taking yet another round of depositions by anybody even remotely connected with bleem!'s development as it prepared for the up-and-coming formal legal trial in early 2000.
All was rather quiet on the emuscene, too, save for the often emotional debates that raged on the message boards and in private emails over the EmuFAQ. The commercial release of Final Fantasy V in the U.S. for the PSX was noted, as fans of the series acknowledged that the groundbreaking English translation patch by RPGe for the original SNES/SFC version was in many ways superior to Square's own for the PSX release. An old friend put in a new appearance, as the most unique port yet of the venerable multi-system arcade game emulator MAME appeared - this time for the Kodak Digita D265 digital camera. There were also new translation patches (Super Gajin 2, Fire Emblem Gaiden) and new hacking utilities (Eidolon's SCDConv), but by and large the real action was taking place in the popular forums of scathing denouncement and emotional flame.
By mid-month, the row over the EmuFAQ had become so great that the Scribe felt the need to comment. In an extensive interview conducted with MDMaster of Genesis Temple, he explained how the final draft of the EmuFAQ came about and why he had changed his position on UltraHLE. In a seeming nod to his many detractors, he made the following observation
I wanted the EmuFAQ to be a statement of the facts and the law, not illegal desire and emotional ranting. I'm not going to get caught up in silly word games about the technical difference between an adaptation and a derivative work, because the law treats them as one and the same. I'm not about to devolve into the 'personal use only' debate, because that's not what the EmuFAQ was about. It was about defining concepts and finding the true limits, not blurring the lines between legitimacy and piracy. For that matter, I'm not about to let others pervert the EmuFAQ into justifying illegal activities. The emuscene needs to know for its own good where the line lies that divides black from white instead of obscuring it in multiple shades of grey, because that's the only way we're ever going to get our reputation back.The controversy died down after the interview, and even those who had seemingly had their feathers ruffled the most now acknowledged his intentions. Today, the EmuFAQ's influence both within the emuscene and upon mainstream perceptions continues to flourish. It is recommended to others by both emufans and vendors alike, and its impact on the public can be measured in part by the tone and direction of the many articles that have since been about emulation written in the trades. The average man on the street now understood what emulation was all about, and he was more than willing to give it the chance that it deserved.
THE VENDORS CHIME IN
with what has to be the most important development in the personal computer
industry since its inception. An initial "finding of fact" was
issued as part of the process towards rendering a final verdict in the
long-running U.S. v. Microsoft legal battle. It essentially
stated that Microsoft had routinely engaged in unfavorable and often monopolistic
practices against any would-be competitors. The court may as
well have painted the word GUILTY in bold block letters several
hundred feet tall around the sides of Devil's Tower. To anyone with
even the slightest knowledge about the lawsuit and how it had come about,
there was but one conclusion to be reached - "Microsoft holds a monopoly
on the software industry." While the real reasons behind the lawsuit
and the finding of fact continue to be a subject of debate, and the possible
implications of a recognized Microsoft monopoly remain to be seen, Microsoft
itself remained strangely quiet on the matter. It was a severe blow
in their legal dispute with the federal government, but Microsoft chairman
Bill Gates was known for his uncanny ability to deal with sudden changes
in fortune, and the industry waited to see what would happen next.
Rumors of a possible settlement flourished until the end of the year, but
nothing definite materialized.
Meanwhile, on the emuscene, November marked the official return of Bloodlust Software (minus Sardu) and news that Steve Snake was going to resume work on KGen in early 2000. The very last text-only version of the Genesis Game Guide was posted, having outgrown its format, and the Scribe chose to release G3 to public domain as a gift to the emuscene before transferring his efforts to its heir, G3O. The first edition of Zophar's Newsletter (i.e. this newsletter) was issued as part of the third anniversary celebration at Zophar's Domain, and the first issue of David Lloyd's popular OverClocked comic put in a well-received appearance later that month. The first working NeoGeo Pocket emulator made its debut, and two more complete ROM translations (Sanrio Smashball for SNES/SFC and SD Splatterhouse for NES/FC) made their way to the boards. Things appeared to be pretty much back to normal for emufans, but the news that arrived at the end of the month (surprise!) was especially sweet.
In a joint venture with longtime partner NEC, Sega of Japan announced on 30 November 1999 that they would make available over 300 vintage G/MD and TG16/PCE ROMs on its website in Japan for Dreamcast owners. The ROMs would be usable under appropriate emulation software for Sega's 128-bit console, and could be downloaded for the modest sum of US$1-3 apiece. This bit of news delighted the emuscene to no end, and it further cemented Sega's positive reputation among them. Sega had started off the year by openly endorsing commercial emulation with the Sega Smash Pack, and it was ending the year by openly endorsing the Internet emuscene - at a profit, of course, but one that did not attempt to "rip a new one" with its many customers worldwide. North American and European Sega fans began to cry for a similar service in their markets, and the emuscene smiled in knowing understanding. It was the first such move by any vendor, and emufans were confident that others would follow before long. If there had been any doubt about the legitimacy of emulation support via the Internet before this, then Sega's announcement had neatly done away with it.
The emuscene had finally been vindicated.
THERE AND BACK AGAIN
The end of
the year found emulation a long way from the position in which it had been
when the year started. It had gone from being the onus of vendor
ire to the darling of an increasingly tolerant videogame market.
It had seen its public reputation shift as well, with its perceived shroud
of possible illegality replaced by an air of public indifference.
It had gained the mainstream's attention, and they were now beginning to
give it the respect that it was due. Like it or not, emulation was
here to stay.
There were a number of major events on the legal front, each being unique in its own way. On 1 December 1999, law enforcement officials in Hokkaido, Japan filed formal charges against a college student for maintaining an illegal ROM site that was distributing unauthorized NES/FC and GameBoy games. Nintendo had neither forgotten nor forgiven "free emulation," but for now wisely concentrated on prosecuting cases it knew it could win - such as chasing down unauthorized Nintendo ROM sites. 3Dfx finally threw in the towel on the "Glide wrapper" front, and posted both the actual Glide APIs and the source code on their own web site. It was another blow for what had once been the most respected 3D-accellerated graphics chipset manufacturer in the industry, marking yet another waypoint in their fall from grace. Back in the videogame market proper, though, and in a move that should not have surprised anyone, Bleem LLC countersued Sony for engaging in anti-competitive trade practices in the latter's underhanded efforts at trying to prevent bleem! from making it to market. Herpolsheimer and company were only following in the footsteps of other past unfair trade victims, such as Lewis Galoob Toys (the NES Game Genie) and Advanced Micro Devices (the Am386DX CPU), and past precedent seemed to favor an eventual out-of-court settlement sometime in late 2000. Finally, the "violence in videogames" controversy reared its ugly head once again, but this time in a new venue - Brazil, of all places. A well-publicized shooting caused by a drug-crazed videogame fan resulted in total ban of such shooters as DOOM and Duke Nukem 3D by Brazilian authorities, and more titles were slated to be added to the ban by year's end. It was Columbine all over again, except that this time the players involved were speaking Portuguese.
In other related news, Nintendo finally won a clear-cut victory against Bung Enterprises in their long court battle over unlicensed N64 and GameBoy cart dumpers. The court ruled that Bung had committed multiple violations of Nintendo's patents, copyrights, and trademarks with its devices, and the court granted Nintendo a permanent injunction against the sale of such devices by Bung in North, Central, and South America. Anybody who had read that section of the EmuFAQ which discussed the legalities of ROM dumping could have predicted the outcome. As it was, it was pretty evident to all parties concerned that Bung had willfully and egregiously violated Nintendo's intellectual property on numerous occasions and in various ways. They had publically defied Nintendo, and now was the time to pay the price. Oh well, so much for ROM underground's forlorn hopes that this would turn out to be the case that would somehow justify unauthorized ROM dumping. Nintendo was sticking to cases it could win, and this time it paid off.
There were also a number of events that kept the emuscene rather happy throughout the month. Emuhackers discovered yet another PSX title employing emulation, and it turned out to be none other than Square's re-release of Chrono Trigger. The actual game code proved to be nothing more than a modified SNES/SFC ROM dump, and was found to work under some of the popular SNES/SFC third-party emulators. Paul Robson and David Winter released the world's first emulator for the very first videogame console - the Magnavox Odyssey - which was quite an accomplishment due to the console's use of pre-chip (ancient!) discrete logic circuits. Rumors also began to circulate of a commercial vendor for the HiVE arcade videogame emulator, which, if true, would mark it yet another emuscene product that would join the likes of KGen98 and WinUAE and "go commercial." Dave Spicer's Sparcade, one of the oldest programs and the first multi-platform videogame emulator on the emuscene, received a long-awaited and much-needed update.
On a lighter note, it seems that Sega and NEC's move to profit from the Internet emuscene struck a chord with at least one of its competitors. Nintendo, longtime rival of both, announced plans for a NES ROM downloading service for N64DD owners (N64s with CD-ROMs) in Japan. It was to be a joint venture with the Randnet service, and Randnet president Masanori Tanaka confirmed that the games would be played under emulation. This move was seen by many in the emuscene as a complete about-face for Nintendo. Truth be told, they had actually began contemplating the move back in the days of the UltraHLE affair and had said as much in a public statement from that time. It had taken Sega's bold initiative to finally smoke them out from their earths, it seems. The one company that had for long been the bitterest foe of the emuscene now found it necessary to change tune and join their ranks - at a profit, of course. While details were still sketchy at press time, Nintendo's suggested download fee was reported as US$1 per NES ROM - comparable to Sega and NEC's initial offering. The affair makes for an interesting epilogue to Nintendo's battles with the emuscene in 1999.
The big news on the emuscene for December, however, was the return of David and Cedric Michel's Magic Engine. This all-new edition of the well-respected Turbo Graph/X 16 and PC Engine (TG16/PCE) emulator, termed by [E]mulation [N]ever [D]ies as "the only [videogame] emulator worth buying," boasted the usual assortment of new features. Two stand out above all others, however - support for CD games and the inclusion of a custom "System Card" for CD support. CD game support had long been anticipated by fans of this emulator, but what made it especially sweet was the inclusion of the fully reverse-engineered custom System Card ROMs. This eliminated the need for any possibly infringing dumps of actual System Cards, thus permitting Magic Engine users to be able to play their CD games for the first time in a completely legal manner. To my knowledge, this was the first time that a freeware videogame emulator for a CD-based videogame console (or accessory) was developed that could be used without a ROM dump from the original console.Bleem! had paved the way, and now the emuscene proper was beginning to take its first faltering steps down the trail it had blazed. This was a big move forward for the emuscene, and it is hoped by some that this will establish a new trend to be followed by those striving to emulate other CD-based consoles - such as the Sega CD, Sega Saturn, NeoGeo CD, and even the Sony PlayStation.
1999 .... what a long, strange trip it's been.
It is simply amazing
to look back and see what has happened in the past twelve months.
The emuscene that came out of 1999 is quite different than the one that
started the year. We have gone through one of the darkest moments
in our shared experience ... and survived. We have experienced what
may be the emuscene's highest point yet ... and rejoiced. We have
shared and witnessed events that brought us both joy and grief, and many
of us are now the wiser for our journey. Yes, 1999 was quite a year
for the emuscene.
I would like to thank Zophar, Lycia, and the many kind patrons of Zophar's Domain for allowing me to share the year with you, and once again - if only for a few days - relive that "long, strange trip" that was 1999. I beg your indulgence if it seems to some of you that perhaps I may have stressed my part overhard, for I was one of the prime movers and shakers on the emuscene this year. It is a lifelong belief of mine that history is best written by those who have actually lived it, and no one can argue the fact of what I went through this year along with the rest of you. If there remains any doubt as to the part that I played, then name somebody else who was able to make Nintendo admit that they were wrong on anything regarding emulation, and then I will gladly step aside.
While mine may have been one of the more prominent roles that were played, mine was not the only one. There are many others whose parts were more important than mine, whose deeds I have hopefully recounted with proper justice.
Connectix ... Randy Linden and David Herpolsheimer (bleem!) ... Sony ... Epsilon and RealityMan ... Nintendo ... Sega ... Steve Snake ... Lazarus (R.I.P., you will be missed) ... RPGe ... Lemmy ... Dave's Video Game Classics (now the Vintage Gaming Network) ... Howard Wen ... Diamond Multimedia ... Duddie, Tratrax, and Kazzuya (PSEmu Pro, R.I.P.) ... Neill Cortlett and the entire Seiken Densetsu 3 translation team ... Yuji Naka ... T. Liam MacDonald ... the honorable Charles Legge ... Larry M. Moss ... the IDSA's Douglas Lowenstein ... Paul Robson and David Winter (the Odyssey emulator) ... the boys at Bloodlust ... David Lloyd ... David and Cedric Michel ... and more.There are also many others that, while their deeds were less notable, were no less important and though unsung helped share the many burdens that the emuscene bore. We weathered the field of fire together, and we survived. I in my own small way helped make that possible, and I am proud of our shared accomplishments.
There is an oft-repeated
quote by George Santayana that is now a cliché of sorts. "Those
who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it." In retrospect,
it seems that parts of this year echoed the Apple-Readysoft debate of 1988-1989,
in which the legitimacy of emulation was challenged for the very first
time. One would think that the vendor community would have learned
its lesson then, but it didn't. One would think that today's emuscene
could have learned from past precedent, but few today were aware of what
happened during that time. While neither side is completely innocent
of the confusion and cross-contentions that were the chief cause of concern
this year, I hope that both are now better aware of their heritage and
responsibilities with regards to the emuscene. One does the right
thing not because one must, but because one wants.
Perhaps, now that 1999 is behind us, both vendor and emufan alike can work
together to allow the emuscene to flourish into what it could be, instead
of what it has been.
The emuscene has now been legitimized in the eyes of many. The only thing lacking is official confirmation of that inescapable fact. The year 2000 marks the beginning of the court phase of the legal battle over PSX emulation, which should settle the matter in the eyes of what Alexander Hamilton once called "the great unwashed" once and for all. While I rarely gamble, I would almost be willing to bet money on its outcome - and I'm not known for being willing to gamble. Sony is going to lose, big-time, provided they aren't wise enough to settle first, and that will result in a clear-cut victory for the emuscene. Everything that I know or have learned up until now points to that inevitable outcome. Those holdouts in the mainstream who continue to refuse acceptance of us before this will have no choice after that. The emuscene is here to stay, and it's high time that the recalcitrant ones "get a grip."
See you there.
All you people, can't you see, can't you see? How your love's affecting our reality?REVIEW QUESTIONS
Every time we're down, you can make it right, and that makes you larger than life.
- The Back Street Boys, "Larger Than Life"
1) What is the significance of the year 1999 with regards to videogame emulation?
2) What was the very first major event of the year for the emuscene? The first lawsuit? The first major new emulator?
3) What one emulator more than any other provoked the emuscene's legal woes in 1999? Who coded it? What did it emulate? Why was it so controversial?
4) Describe in your own words Nintendo's position regarding emulation as the year began. How did its position change by year's end? What events brought about this change?
5) Describe in your own words Sony's position regarding emulation as the year began. How did its position change by year's end? What events brought about this change?
6) What original vendor is probably responsible more than any other for the eventual public acceptance of videogame emulation? How did it deal with the emuscene? What were the products it released that aided in resolving the debate?
7) What effect did the Columbine massacre have on the videogame industry in general and the emuscene in particular? How did the emuscene get dragged into the debate? How did the public react? How did the politicians react? What was the eventual outcome?
8) What was "the emuscene's darkest hour?"
9) Explain in your own words why May 1999 is considered to be "the worst month for the emuscene all year." What significant development for the emuscene had its roots during this time? What brought it about?
10) Which two promising emulators for the year were never released? Why? What do these failed releases have to do with the great emulation debate?
11) What bearing does the Rio case have on the legitimacy of videogame emulation?
12) Explain how a translation patch for an unlicensed videogame ROM dump played an important role in the great emulation debate. What was the game involved? Who did the patch? What impact did it have on the videogaming public?
13) Which date "will forever be remembered by emufans" and "go down in emulation history?" Why?
14) How did the emuscene respond to the Scribe's EmuFAQ? What was his response? What was the significance of the EmuFAQ for both the emuscene and the general public?
15) Which three vendors declared limited support for the Internet emuscene by the end of the year? Of the three, which one had originally been reluctant to put the idea into practice? Why do you think they resisted the notion for so long?
16) What is the significance of the TG16/PCE emulator Magic Engine with regards to the future of videogame emulation?
THOUGHTS TO PONDER
1) Explain in your own words why the Scribe felt that Sony was going lose the legal fight over videogame emulation. How close did he come to the way events actually unfolded?
2) How has Nintendo contributed towards setting the legal bounds of videogame emulation? What is your opinion regarding their efforts?
3) Will the controversy over violence in videogames ever be completely resolved? Why or why not?
4) What is the significance of the quote by the Back Street Boys in reference to the emuscene?