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    Emulation has been a viable thing for playing games for decades now, however in the eyes of some it enjoys a "lesser" status than the custom designed hardware things were originally made for, others still go for the opposite and consider the hardware often the inferior way. In the future this might be unarguably rendered moot by computers having programmable hardware that can quite literally recreate the original or approaches that software emulate from the transistors on up.
    There are certainly fairly clear cut cases where emulation accuracy falls short and impacts a game, as well as more esoteric concerns. It should also be noted that transistors might not need to be the only things emulated.
    To take it to a slightly different concept though we should first talk about vinyl records, here you would often hear many expounding the virtues of the format with phrases like "it is warmer", "it sounds better" and similar such things. Some of this might have a basis in limitations and mastering, though we spare bringing the loudness wars to our fair site, but in the end if any sample of sound can be described by a series of sine waves and thus are maths which can be modified. If computer games are quite literally a set of fixed computer rules, aka straight up maths...

    Alternatively some argue that a kind of irrational nostalgia exists wherein the fiddling with gunk on contacts and scents of 30 year old fire retardant chemicals and plasticisers are necessary. It is an effect previously seen in books when computerised versions of those were on the rise, for those now considering the obvious then we hold no claim to that business idea.

    Others take a different tack and argue the prevalence of cheats, filters, savestates, turbo buttons, et al, all perks for many when considering emulation, mean you are not playing the same game as the original people. From a game theory perspective this is quite accurate but one then never stops drawing increasingly unhelpful lines -- did playing with the sound off to prevent frustration in my parents which did not appreciate chip tunes, thus not appreciating the sound design or talespin on the NES at all points, mean I played a different game? Ask a video engineer what NTSC stands for and they may quip "never the same colour", and we have all seen what subtle colour changes can do to a design.
    On the other hand what does someone's potential lack of self control have to do with your play?
    Similarly if one played a later port, different region version with changes or so forth does that count as having played the game? Do the developers/publishers have some kind of vision or claim that gets perverted? What if you played a game steaming drunk one day?


    This is part of a series on GBAtemp where we consider game design, aspects of play and game industry concepts. Previously we discussed a favoured game style that might have become less common in recent times. Earlier editions still saw skills one might have learned or honed because of a game, games on the PS4 and Xbone that will stand the test of time, games that got better after launch, cancelled games and shuttered devs, and story canon in games.
    This is somewhat less involved than previous topics, though no less controversial at times.
    You are invited to post your thoughts on the matter.
     
  2. Discussion (93 replies)

  3. Chary

    Chary Never sleeps.
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    So long as the game plays at full speed and doesn't have any major gamebreaking issues, I'm fine with emulating it on any platform. I don't notice the 0.0001 frame lag discrepancies that some seem to.
     
  4. usernamecharlie

    usernamecharlie GBAtemp Regular
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    I prefer original input methods e.g. gamecube controller compared to 3rd party systems like Nvidia Shield (that is why I love my Wii U which is the perfect Nintendo console in aspects of emulation AND hardware) :yayps3:
     
  5. the_randomizer

    the_randomizer The Temp's official fox whisperer
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    I like to take a middle ground, like for example the Analogue Super NT. It uses an FPGA and at its core, it's hardware emulation, far more accurate than software to the point of being indistinguishable. It's a fantastic compromise.
     
  6. jimmyj

    jimmyj Official founder of altariaism. Copyright jimmyj
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    as long as it's playable I don't really care
     
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  7. Zumoly

    Zumoly GBATemp Analyst
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    I think hardware beats emulation anytime as it has the best compatibility with the game. It is sometimes a nightmare to even approach emulation (all the configurations, optimizations, etc involved) and the end result would always be a half baked product no so much enjoyable like the original. I would most of the time go for the actual hardware to keep my "peace of mind". And that is the reason I quit PC gaming (newer hardware all the time, higher game requirements, etc.). Still...emulation would have been tolerable if it was not ruining gaming experience with "cheats, instant saves."
     
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  8. CallmeBerto

    CallmeBerto The Lone Wanderer
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    Emulation all day everyday and twice on Sundays.

    Emulation means I don't need the original hardware which saves me space in my home. It also offers convinces such as save states, cheats, the ability to transfer my games and saves to multiple devices, multiple controller options.

    Emulation is not perfect however, this is a limitation of the emulator itself though as not all games look and play like they did on original hardware. No I don't care about pixel perfection emulation either.
     
  9. Tom Bombadildo

    Tom Bombadildo Dick, With Balls
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    Depends on the console. If it has a relatively simple and inexpensive method of loading "backups", then I much prefer actual hardware. Otherwise, I stick to emulation (which ends up being most of the time) unless the emulation is awful.

    A good example here would be things like the N64 or the SNES, the "good" flashcarts for both consoles are easily $100+, which is something I'm not generally willing to initially spend (especially when they become 2-3x more expensive than the actual hardware itself). So, I generally stick to just emulating those on whatever.

    And then there are consoles like the Saturn or the original XBOX, which have generally poor emulation (though CXBX's development is picking up speed, finally), and hacking either one is generally cheap and super simple (ie the Phantom Universal modchip for the Saturn, $30-ish and only requires you to solder 5v power to it).
     
  10. RedoLane

    RedoLane Unemployed Punmaster
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    My experience at the emulation scenes comes into 2 different parts:
    1. when I play for fun.
    2. when I play for the sake of reporting issues.

    When it comes to what is more superior, I can't really pick a side.
    On one hand, when you play a PS3 game on the real console, you can't really notice any slowdowns(unless that's the game's fault), which won't require you to apply patches or any other bypassing methods.
    On the other hand, emulation IMPROVES the overall experience. Custom shaders/filters, internal resolution boost which transforms PS2 games into a marvelous HD showoff, the ability to use different controllers through input plugins, I can name so much stuff that the real hardware will never support.
    Well, I can't deny that even the real hardware has its own improvements after a jailbreak, but visually, you can either keep it native or downgrade it using filters(for example, CRT filter).

    My favorite part in emulators is that they are being developed for consoles as well! It was pretty cool playing my favorite GBA games on a PSP, with the support of grade 3 filters, which was so easy to install.
    HOWEVER! While it may look simple, configuring an emulator like PCSX2 every time I want to load a different game is a pain in the ass, but worth it in the end.
    Also I should mention that not every console has an emulator yet(for example, the PS Vita), but the thought of looking at people working hard to recreate these consoles, always put a smile on my face.
     
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  11. SirNapkin1334

    SirNapkin1334 Renound Aritst
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    Hardware is better of course if you just want to play the games, but emulation is probably the way to go if you want tools, like speed up, slow down, savestates, etc.
     
  12. Memoir

    Memoir Hi, I'm Cynical!
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    .0001? Is that legit? Lol
     
  13. Axido

    Axido GBAtemp Advanced Fan
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    It is scientifically proven by a study that I just made up. :tpi:
     
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  14. Memoir

    Memoir Hi, I'm Cynical!
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    I was never good at statistics..
     
  15. osaka35

    osaka35 Instructional Designer
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    Curious you didn't mention one of the legit reasons to prefer old hardware, and that's of original experience.

    Gaming can be seen as a collection of experiences. Some see the original hardware and original software as all important for having the experience everyone else did while playing the game. Emulators usually use very different hardware (meaning things like controllers, delay, monitor, etc) and only the software is the same (with varying degrees of accuracy, but usually "good enough").

    Some folks require old CRTs as part of the original experience, though I personally don't mind a nice 1080p output through mods. But I do prefer original controllers (or "close enough" which is rather quite hard to find) and original delays, etc. Emulators feel more like an imperfect facsimile experience than a complete recreation. This is what's so infuriating about those "play all your old games!" devices that just dump the rom and emulate a (sometimes iffy) rip, rather than try and use as close to old hardware as possible. They go out of their way to not divulge the information, which just pisses me off.

    I'm fine with playing with a snes/nes/etc controller adapter on a PC, as long as the input isn't too bad, but I can totally understand the desire to go all the way.
     
    Last edited by osaka35, May 7, 2018
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  16. Deleted User

    Deleted User Newbie

    I like running a ds emulator on my ds
     
  17. mituzora

    mituzora Advanced Member
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    I like both. I love having the original hardware, I love to play on the original hardware, but I have zero issues emulating something either.
    For starters, I have a TV with a single composite output, and my consoles look like garbage on there. I'd rather boot up retroarch and get a better picture.
    It's much more convenient to have a ROM file and boot it up via an emulator instead of looking through my library, finding the game I want, finding the cables for the console, unhooking any hooked up console to the composite input, then finding all of the controllers, memory cards, etc.
    and no, I refuse to buy a CRT television for the sole purpose of era-fitting gameplay experience. they take up way too much room. and a framemeister is waaaay to expensive.

    It boils down to price, and convenience for me. I'd rather fire up my emulator then going through all of the clunky process just to hook up one of my old systems.
     
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  18. the_randomizer

    the_randomizer The Temp's official fox whisperer
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    Yes and no, on original hardware, and using modern TVs, old consoles look like hot garbage. Scaling them with HDMI is the best way to play older games.
     
  19. snails1221

    snails1221 GBAtemp Fan
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    While emulation is great, it will never feel the same as playing on the real hardware. I own multiple CRT tvs so older consoles aren't much of a problem for me.
     
  20. chirogan

    chirogan The Engineer
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    Playing on a genuine platform is one of the greatest feelings.

    But emulation has that great important role in gaming. Piracy is not the main reason.

    Emulation lets you play games upscaled. With all the enhancements possible.
    Emulation also plays a big role in preservation of games, meaning, if someday these consoles are not available anymore, you can play them on any device you currently have.

    Emulation's main role for me is for future generations to see and experience the wonderful games and ideas brought up by people, and to see how far we've gone.
     
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  21. kuwanger

    kuwanger GBAtemp Advanced Maniac
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    To me it's not a question of "emulation vs hardware". It's a question of "not exaggerating the pros and cons or simply skipping over them entirely". Yes, sometimes accuracy is king to fixing bugs, but there's no requirement that every emulator be accurate. In the end, it's about the right tool for the job. If you don't know what other people want, don't assume. Just give them the information you know, and they can decide what they want.

    PS - There's some games on the GBA I'd prefer to play on real hardware and others I'd rather use an emulator--mostly to skip past dialog. This definitely creates a different game experience (for better or worse). Whether one way is "right" doesn't even make sense to me.

    PPS - Can't wait until we have accurate Saturn, N64, and XBox emulators. :) Oh, and DOS of course. Long-term archiving of real hardware but also emulation to avoid touching that hardware as much as possible is something I definitely support. For a long time I didn't think games were art--or at least, I felt it was very much a gray area--but I tend to now. Regardless of if it's art or not, I think it's valuable to preserve the history of computers and gaming and make it as accessible to future generations as possible. In 300 years, maybe Nintendo/Sega/Etc will be the Mozart of games.
     
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