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MAME work and other stuff

The Gulf of Bothnia

May 11, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 37 Comments on The Gulf of Bothnia

As has widely been reported commit 5df1b60963060ea61de7bed8d2e8f68f284bf1d9 marks the beginning of a new age of MAME.

The UME project, which began life as ‘Ultimate MAME’ in 2011 has dissolved into what from this point on will simply be known as MAME.

The option to build an ‘arcade only’ version of MAME remains as a subtarget, and likewise you can still build MESS if you have no desire for the arcade drivers, however the default ‘out the box’ configuration is now one that encompasses ALL the work that is being put into the project. I expect the other build options will evolve over time to become more hardware focused for example, allowing you to build a solution containing all drivers using a given device (which would obviously be beneficial to development) The way we generate the build solutions now using Genie gives us the possibility to explore more options in the future.

At the same time you’re also seeing a drive to clear up the licensing a little more. This, like the above, is just a step in the project maturing. As an arcade-only emulator it was easy to write MAME off as nothing but a toy; while it did have a number of other uses the majority of what it did (and what people ended up using it for) was run games. By bringing in the more serious side of the project we end up with a more professional piece of software with numerous irrefutable uses that extend well beyond any simple misconception of the project being nothing but a toy. With that more professional front to the project the need for a standard license also becomes greater, and I also feel more comfortable in re-licensing my code to be more permissive knowing that it is part of something that has many more legal uses. Obviously a number of the issues with older code that were raised before remain, but we’re in a better place right now than back then.

The main topic for discussion when it comes to MAME doing more than just arcade games is ‘what does MAME stand for’. While people like to put forward suggestions for new names still fitting the acronym I think the most important thing is not to focus on what the letters stand for, but to simply focus on what MAME as a brand stands for. For the longest time now ‘MAME’ has represented a bridge between the past and the present, a project providing a platform to keep creations of the past accessible, providing documentation (an insight into how things worked), reusable components, and importantly a place for those interested in emulation to do their work. Just like nobody really thinks of ‘SEGA’ as ‘SErvice GAmes’ the traditional meaning of the MAME acronym is less important than actual work we do.

If you still want something to mentally associate with the ‘new MAME’ then the suggestions of “MAME And MESS, Emulators” and “Multiple Archaic Machine Emulator” do strike a chord with me, but I doubt the official acronym will be changing, it simply represents where we came from.

People have asked what my opinion on all of this is, probably expecting me to have a lot to say about it now that it’s finally happened, however, I don’t. I don’t mind that the UME brand is gone, it was a fun thing, and yes, I did like the name (EMU backwards, the combination of two things ‘U and ME’, the way it was creatively used in the word ‘ConsUME‘ etc.) but in the end the project was only ever a means to an end, a way of showing that the projects could work as one, and a way of ensuring no further conflicts between the projects crept in after they’d ended up really quite far apart at one point. The brand has served it’s purpose.

I think, as the project grew up, this kind of change was inevitable; just as arcades saw a steep decline interest in the baseline MAME project saw a steep decline; hardware we were emulating was being better tested by non-arcade systems, and a lot of developers were already starting to write more code for the emulation of non-arcade systems than arcade ones. The flexibility and design patterns required for the non-arcade systems were already starting to define the project too, leading to better more reusable code. The source repository used for both projects already existed under the ‘MAME’ name only, the source distributions were already shared, and releases were already being made from the exact same code revisions. Mametesters has also already been taking bugs for the non-arcade side for a while, and a number of other sites were providing support for both due to improved awareness that they really are both built from the same sources. In that sense what we see isn’t such a big step at all, just another small step.

Obviously some work needs to be done on unifying terminology, there are many places in MAME which refer to things as ‘games’ (or in MESS as ‘systems’) where in reality a unified term (something like ‘machines’) would apply better to both the arcade ‘machines’ and home ‘machiness’, but again that would simply be refinement, and another sign of the project becoming more serious, and more mature. Concerns with UME such as not being able to identify the type of system from the XML are more likely to be addressed now that everything is included in the primary target.

For an end user (not interested in developing) all it really means is that you get the option to do more with the binary you download; you have the opportunity to see how the code used for emulating Sega C2 / Megatech / Megaplay games fares when asked to run larger parts of the Megadrive / Genesis library, you have the tools at your fingertips to explore the different home ports of various arcade games and compare them. If the new additions don’t interest you then you can simply ignore them, just like you ignore so many of the terrible games supported by MAME right now.

From a developer point of view not much changes immediately; new developers get more in their build by default, and on a sufficiently high end system (as I’ve recently found out) build times and link times are still good. For developers on weaker hardware the old targets can still be built, and hopefully in the future things will become even easier with more focused targets for specific cases becoming much easier to generate than ever before. The project benefits because developers are more immediately aware that their changes must work with all sides of the project, as by including everything by default we’re showing we value it all equally.

There are always going to be people calling the project ‘Bloatware’ or throwing ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ statements around about the project, but in the end the people calling it Bloatware are never really going to be satisfied as long as it emulates things they don’t personally care about, and the only way we’re going to master the emulation of many systems is by increasing exposure, getting people on board, and working hard on doing what we’ve always done; every little step counts. One thing I’ve noticed with MAME is that it stands the test of time a lot better than many of the smaller emulators even if there is room for improvement (the number of older but popular emulators that fail on simple things like coping with a wide-screen display without distorting the image is disturbing for example, I’ve found myself using MAME/UME very often simply due to little things like that, there are many advantages to it being an active and open project with a wide variety of users and tasks that need to be done meaning we’re never far from a release)

Moving on to more random thoughts, I guess UI builds will adopt the existing MESSUI code (as it provides a way to use a number of features that MAMEUI doesn’t) meaning those who have been asking me to do ‘UMEUI’ for a long time might finally get something along those lines, although I’d definitely still recommend a real frontend over either.

Overall it makes me happy to see that the public response has generally been positive, with some uncertainty over how things will work, but I’m sure once there has been a release or two with this as the default configuration people will find it a lot clearer.

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Post Release Progress

May 8, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 4 Comments on Post Release Progress

A while back I covered Race Drivin’ Panorama, but mentioned that it wasn’t full functional due to the side screens crashing when selecting one of the car types.

It turns out that the cause of this crash was actually a regression affecting ALL the Hard Drivin’ / Race Drivin’ sets in one way or another that had been introduced during a modernization prior to my changes. Osso tracked down his error when addressing the original MameTesters report, and as a result Race Drivin’ Panorama now runs correctly, displaying full-screen views (no car panels) when selecting the Roadster rather than crashing; it turns out the code I wrote before was actually just fine and the game can now be marked as working.


Race Drivin' Panorama
Race Drivin' Panorama

Couriersud did some more work on Breakout, improving looks and performance (it now hovers around 100% on a 4Ghz i7 )


Breakout

Brian Troha located some alt Golden Tee Fore! sets, including the original release and the 2002 release. Tracking down the sub-revisions of this could be tricky, especially if the online system was used to provide game updates (I’m not 100% sure on that) Also the game stores a lot of data to disk, including operator info and records etc. as well as allowing full version updates to be installed via CD, so finding clean drives is next to impossible too. These definitely border on the annoying to preserve territory as a result.


Golden Tee Fore! Golden Tee Fore! Golden Tee Fore!


Golden Tee Fore! 2002 Golden Tee Fore! 2002 Golden Tee Fore! 2002

Even better news for fans of the GTFore! series is that Ted fixed the map display making them more or less fully playable.


Golden Tee Fore! Golden Tee Fore!

Peter Ferrie gave some much needed attention to an unknown gambler that uses a i186 CPU. Turned out to be some kind of multi-game. One interesting thing with gambling games is they often have undocumented init codes which are required before the game will boot, sometimes even finding out how to access the page where you need to enter the code can be a challenge. Finding the code screen on this one wasn’t too tricky (last screen of the test mode, although it doesn’t explicitly ask you to enter a code) but working out the actual init sequence required took some digging through the game code; turns out it wanted keypresses of “1 1 X X 1 1 1 X X X 1 1 X 1 1 1 1 X 1 1 1 1 1 X 1 1 1 1 1 1 X” where X and 1 are 2 of the buttons the game uses.

This also required him to hook up a number of other components in the driver, although even with all this hooked up it doesn’t work quite correctly; never underestimate the amount of work that goes into making some of these run tho, they might look like dumb pieces of junk but they can be an interesting emulation challenge to those interested.


i186 based gambler i186 based gambler
i186 based gambler i186 based gambler
i186 based gambler i186 based gambler

Another gambler, this time one running on a Hyperstone CPU was dumped by system11. The hardware is by F2 system and very similar to their ‘Mosaic’ game. It fails to boot with a ‘Secret’ Error, which I’m guessing is something similar to the above, or a protection check.


Royal Poker 2

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UME / MAME / MESS 0.161

April 29, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 43 Comments on UME / MAME / MESS 0.161

UME (logo by JackC)
UME is the complete/combined version of the MAME / MESS project.

Official whatsnew texts for (MAME, MESS) provide full details of what has changed since 0.160.

This is based on the official ‘mame0161′ tagged version at GitHub.

UME 0.161 Windows binaries – 32-bit, 64-bit and all tools
(source matches official mamedev.org source distribution, here for completeness)

Other Binaries (if you don’t know what these are you don’t need them)
MAME/MESS split 0.161 Windows binaries – 32-bit, 64-bit and all tools

Windows SDL builds
The regular Windows build of MAME now has an OpenGL video mode, if you’re having BSOD issues with nVidia hardware on XP try that instead of DirectDraw, it should be more compatible with existing frontends etc. than the SDL builds were. I may reassess the situation later however because I’ve found the opengl output in regular MAME to have some drawbacks, it appears to be locked to vsync causing unwanted slowdown, especially on older hardware.

However, I’ve found, at least on my older hardware that the OpenGl renderer in the baseline build doesn’t perform as well as SDLMAME, so if you’re on older nVidia/XP hardware, or using integrated Intel graphical and getting corrupt graphics you might still prefer to use the SDL builds.

SDL MAME/MESS/UME 0.161 32-bit Windows builds
SDL MAME/MESS/UME 0.161 64-bit Windows builds

Experimental binaries
MAME / MESS / UME 0.161 64-bit Windows builds, compiled using CLANG (windows_x64_clang option)

Notes

I skipped 0.160 due to lack of time. I’ve upgraded my hardware since then cutting compile times from over an hour to around 7 mins. 0.161 also brings a brand new genie based build system, so there could still be some teething issues.

Points of Interest

The main thing of interest over the last 2 months comes in the form of the emulation progress made with the old handheld games, most of these are MCU based, so simply seeing somebody dumping them is an achievement, and beyond that the work required to create artwork etc. means that the number of them we see marked as working in this release is phenomenal. Some screenshots of these running were uploaded here. Most of these require external artwork to be functional, the current artwork being used can be found here.

Ted Green’s improvements to the driver for the more recent Golden Tee games continue to be a revelation, many of them boot and can actually be played to a degree, although there are still graphical issues (of note the map display on the bottom left) and no sound. They also require a pretty beefy machine but do actually hover around 100% on my new setup (faster when unthrottled but a bit uneven when throttled as the CPU load for each individual frame varies quite a lot) Interestingly the version we have marked as ‘Golden Tee Fore 2002′ actually shows 2003, I’m not sure if that means we’re missing a real 2002 set?

*edit* they have sound, some of them just have the volume set to 0 by default, it can be adjusted in service mode. We’re definitely missing images of Golden Tee Fore! and Golden Tee Fore! 2002, all the images we have are upgraded ones (it adds an extra partition to the drive each time you upgrade, unfortunately deleting the extra partitions doesn’t reverse the process as other data is changed too)


Golden Tee Fore Golden Tee Fore
Golden Tee Fore Golden Tee Fore
Golden Tee Fore Golden Tee Fore
Golden Tee Fore Golden Tee Fore
Golden Tee Fore Golden Tee Fore
Golden Tee Fore Golden Tee Fore

Work was also done on the Sega ‘Spider’ system, which is really just a revised Naomi platform (not actually compatible with Naomi) which Sega used mainly for Medal style games, and some novelty products. Tetris Giant was one such release, it boots to a title screen but hangs shortly after before showing any gameplay.


Sega Spider Sega Spider

A host of fixes to the GBA driver in the MESS part of the code significantly improved compatibility there.

In addition to the very rare French version of Berzerk I mentioned in an earlier update the Spanish version was also dumped thanks to Bartolomé López Giménez and Ricky2001. The Spanish version was licensed to ‘Sonic’ (or at the very least they made the cabinet and modified the game code to show ‘Sonic’) Interestingly it has far less speech than the other versions, choosing to reuse a much smaller selection of speech clips more frequently; I can only assume budget constraints.

Of course the things I’ve covered here already were also included; Table Tennis Champions, Car Hunt, Ma Cheon Ru etc.

DoDonPachi Dai-Fukkatsu Black Label was also added, although like all the SH3 based Cave titles it lacks emulation of the hardware limits so much of the slowdown is missing resulting in a much more difficult game. I’m starting to wonder if we shouldn’t just mark them as NOT WORKING until it can be emulated properly, it can be game breaking in places. For those not in the know the ‘Black Label’ version of this game is significantly reworked from the original releases and even includes a brand new soundtrack.


Golden Tee Fore Golden Tee Fore Golden Tee Fore

The Medal games Luca showed on his page are also supported.

The hard work of Couriersud and the DICE authors means that BreakOut becomes the 2nd major discrete game to show promise, it’s not yet marked as working, but can actually be played in it’s current state, runs at 60-70% speed on a 4ghz i7 tho, so be warned, it isn’t quick!


BreakOut

All in all it’s a ‘bit of everything’ release; I even had to dig out the old CPS2 key-finder for the new Super Puzzle Fighter 2 clone (parent)

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Little SemiCom in Dragonworld

April 13, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 21 Comments on Little SemiCom in Dragonworld

system11 recently picked up another SemiCom title, this time it’s Ma Cheon Ru, a tile matching game which seems to be heavily inspired by IGS’ Dragon World series (the overall feel of the game is quite close to Dragon World 2)

It’s actually a bit of a mashup of your regular tile matching games and a selection on minigames because after each round you’re presented with one of a number of bonus features, including timed stamping of envelopes, punching a guy in the face and a shooting gallery of sorts.

The actual protection data for the game hasn’t been read out yet, but by hacking it up to use data from the XESS (Semicom 3-in-1) game I was able to get something which appears playable, obviously I want to extract the real data for this game before marking it as working tho (that’s the next task, working with system11 to do that)


Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru
Ma Cheon Ru Ma Cheon Ru

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French for Robots

April 5, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 3 Comments on French for Robots

Over the last few days 2 new dumps were forwarded to the team via the AUMAP community usually known for supplying Spanish dumps.

In this case both the games are French versions, and very rare at that.

First up, supplied by ‘Arcade Vintage’ is a version of Berzerk with French sound roms.

All versions of Berzerk have multiple languages for the on-screen text, but a number of versions were also produced with different Speech roms. A few years ago the German version was dumped (which, if you ask me, makes the robots sound more intimidating than ever) and with the addition of the French version the only known variant missing is ironically, the Spanish one. These are significant because apparently producing the speech was a painstaking task back in the day.



The other French game is a version of a previously undumped Sega title known as ‘Car Hunt’

This wouldn’t be the first time where the only region we have for a game is for a very specific and unexpected region, our Midnight Landing (Taito) is a German region set for example.

The game is another take on ‘Head On’ but in this case you have full control over your car with up,down,left and right directions rather than swapping between lanes. Each level has a number of blue cars that move around the maze without really homing in on you, then occasionally a red car will appear out of nowhere directly on your tail.

If you lead the red car under the bridge section it will vanish (interestingly there are no collisions under the bridge, so time things correctly and you can pass through the blue cars in that section of the maze too) As with Head-On the fire button makes you go quicker. Overall the less restricted movement means this plays more like PacMan than Head-On.

Visually the player car looks a bit glitchy, with a missing pixel in the middle, some wheels wider than other, and the occasional flicker of one of the wheels. I’m not sure why, and we could do with verifying it on the hardware to make sure it isn’t a dump problem. The boardset that was dumped was also lacking the sound boards, and although it’s likely the sound was discrete components only it means we don’t know how it should sound, and so it remains silent in MAME.

The board is actually one of the 2-in-1 games on the Vic Dual platform, the other title included is Deep Scan, which has previously been seen paired with Invinco. Oddly the controls are a bit of an issue with this one because UP for Car Hunt maps to ‘drop charge on left side’ for Deep Scan, I’m not sure how the panel would have mapped for that.


Car Hunt / Deep Scan Car Hunt / Deep Scan
Car Hunt / Deep Scan Car Hunt / Deep Scan
Car Hunt / Deep Scan Car Hunt / Deep Scan
Car Hunt / Deep Scan Car Hunt / Deep Scan

Thanks to Ricky2001 (from AUMAP) for this one.

As the audio board was missing Ricky has put out a request. In the unlikely event anybody has schematics for this specific game (not the Vic Dual board, but the Car Hunt specific parts) could they post them.

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Making Your Ears Bleed

April 1, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 11 Comments on Making Your Ears Bleed

April 1st is typically about making your brain hurt with ridiculous concepts and fake news. This year I’ve decided that instead of hurting your brain I’m going to hurt your ears with some very preliminary sound emulation.

The Hyper NeoGeo 64 is a system we’ve never quite got to grips with, it’s a difficult emulation target on several levels, and even the sound system is an unusual setup; a DSP found on a fairly expensive synth, driven by an NEC V53A processor (the synth also uses a V53 interestingly)

Over the last few weeks I’ve been looking at the V53 side of things. A V53 is a V33 with added onboard peripherals, and as it happens those peripherals are basically NEC equivalents / modified versions of a typical PC chipset (DMA controllers, Serial controllers, and an Interrupt controller). Luckily with all the advancements in PC emulation in the MESS side of the project, all of those components are now emulated, so I was able to create a new CPU type and hook them up to it.

With the peripherals and their associated/configured ports identified and hooked up the remaining ports on the sound CPU stuck out more, and things like the ROM banking were immediately more obvious; fixing that up improved the flow of the V53 code dramatically. I’m actually unclear why they even need it, they had 2MB of sound program RAM for the V53 program and data structures, but no game uses even close to that, in fact, everything that is uploaded could have easily fit into the standard V53 address space with no banking at all. It looks like earlier in the design of the system they’d planned for 4MB of sound program RAM too, as there is an unmapped 2Mb space below the sound program on the MIPS side (if you map it then Xrally gets confused) and all bank addresses on the V53 side have the highest bit set.

Anyway, despite configuring various devices, I’m not entirely sure the system makes use of the serial functionality (although there’s clearly an interrupt associated with it) and all it ever seems to DMA is a buffer of 0x00 data from RAM. Maybe I’ll find out what these are for later, maybe, like so many things on the system, they were simply underused, or even unused.

Kale hooked up the 2 way communication ports between the MIPS and the V53 (surprisingly they didn’t just use the shared RAM) and also an interrupt on the V53 side that appears related to those ports, and for most of the games we started to see communication across the CPUs, commands being sent when sounds were trigger etc.

During the whole process described above a lot of code was refactored in preparation for more work.

With all that in place I then hooked what I’d earlier identified as writes to the sound chip to a new placeholder sound core, triggering some very rough sample playable. I took what seemed to be the sample start address, and set up the code so that it would play 0x2000 bytes of samples at that position for each request. What that resulted in can be seen / heard in the video below.




Of course, this sounds TERRIBLE. The PCM data format I’m using is wrong (it seems to be some kind of 8/16-bit hybrid format rather than plain signed 8-bit PCM) and there’s no concept at all of sample length, so some samples are cut off (Final Round) and others play for too long, resulting in garbage sounds, or unwanted extra bits of voice clips (Round 1,2) instead of Round 1 etc.

However, as terrible as it sounds, the first time you hear sound in something is a very special moment, so I decided it was worth preserving in a video. People have said that I don’t post enough ‘Work in Progress’ news pieces here these days, so here it is, as raw and ugly as it comes.

There’s still a long way to go with emulating the Hyper NeoGeo 64 to any good level, I did make some fixes to the texture rendering on Xtreme Rally (billboards etc.) a few weeks ago, but the 3D is still a flickery mess there because we don’t fully understand the 3D buffering techniques. The floor on Fatal Fury still needs hooking up again (I have some ideas) The network CPU needs emulating properly (otherwise Roads Edge is broken even if you force it to go ingame) Priorities and mixing need handling properly (I imagine that will hide a lot of the garbage sprites and layers you see at the moment) Sprite zoom needs fixing, Mosaic effects need adding, 3D colours and texturing still needs further fixing, 3D projection needs fixing in some cases (very obvious on the letterboxed Fatal Fury intro where it clearly attempts to project to full-screen instead of the letterboxed area) The 3D needs threading out to improve performance, and even the I/O is still an issue because the I/O mcus are not dumped, and the exact communication protocol isn’t understood meaning we’re relying on hacks to get any inputs at all.

As you can see, there’s a huge list of things that still need doing here, but, every little step is important with this driver, so finally being able to hear something is very significant, even if you’re not going to be able to tolerate it for more than a few seconds.

Some of the tasks are remarkably difficult, the network CPU is a truly insane Z80 based chip, with many opcodes only taking a single cycle, and a complex MMU system slapped on for good measure, to make things worse, the only documentation is in Japanese. The I/O MCU problem we can’t do anything about, we have no way to dump them, so it’s going to reqiure painstaking simulation code. Understanding a lot of the video registers is also going to take time, and maybe even hardware tests, because so many features are barely used.

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