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MAME work and other stuff

See the World

April 21, 2016 Haze Categories: General News. 8 Comments on See the World

Most of what we end up emulating these days is incredibly obscure, often forgotten or never even really noticed in the first place.

Arcade game developers didn’t only make traditional arcade games, there is a whole pool of other material that was produced back in the day, as we saw with things like the Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car, and Sonic Popcorn Shop when they were emulated a few months back.

Those were from Sega, but Capcom was no exception to doing this and a PCB for one of their ‘ride’ machines was found a couple of days ago by a user over at the Arcade Otaku forums.

You can read a bit of background, including a photo of what the cabinet would have looked like, here, but long story short forum user ‘sylphia’ picked up a Capcom CPS1 PCB and the game running on it was not one we knew to run on that hardware, it was an unemulated title quickly established to be ‘Pokonyan Balloon’

Oddly the stickers on the ROM are dated 2002, but all the ingame strings and date code indicate it to be a 1994 release. Anyway, with the game dumped I added it to MAME, CPS hardware is well emulated at this point so it wasn’t a tricky addition. There’s not a great deal more to say about it really because it is meant as an experience for kids (Look at all the backgrounds, look at what’s happening etc.) but the production values are very good, much better than the Sega title IMHO.

Either way, even if there’s not much to ‘play’ that’s never the point, it’s really nice to see this found, dumped and documented, so thanks must go to the generosity of ‘sylphia’ for allowing this to happen.

Here’s a video

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More Clone News

April 19, 2016 Haze Categories: General News. 4 Comments on More Clone News

1945kIII is a game that was released by Oriental in 2000. It’s a surprisingly decent vertical shooter that clearly wanted to cash in on Psikyo’s popular Strikers 1945 series.

1945kIII 1945kIII

At least we thought it was released in 2000, a revision with a 1999 dated title screen showed up and was bought + dumped by system11

1945kIII (1999 version) 1945kIII (1999 version)

The most striking difference is the number of planes on the selection screen, in the 2000 version there are 10 spaces (9 planes + 1 random) in this older 1999 release there are 8 spaces (7 planes + 1 random)

Now, the 2000 release does actually have 10 planes, there’s a special space ship that appears during the random selection in addition to the 9 planes you can select normally.

I thought maybe the 1999 version simply had more planes hidden with unlock codes, or behind the ? and to a point I was correct, one of the normally selectable planes in the 2000 version (Tornado) is in there along with the same secret ship as the 2000 version giving a total of 9 planes.

What isn’t there is the F-117A, and a quick look through the graphic roms shows that the graphics for it aren’t there either, so it really was added to the game between the two releases rather than being a secret.

1945kIII F117-A (2000 version)

The PCB was different too, the 2000 version used an ‘OPCX2’ PCB, with SMT Flash Roms for the graphics, this 1999 release uses regular EPROMS.

A quick test of the old version shows some other differences, for example, pressing ‘Start 1’ on the title screen shows the bookkeeping information, a feature usually present on boards designed for the South American market (many CPS2 games will do this)

1945kIII Bookkeeping

There are some changes to the HUD ingame too, the 2000 version has a little indicator to tell you, with ‘LV1’ ‘LV2’ etc. text the strength of your charge shot in addition to the energy bar. The 1999 version lacks that text, with only the energy bar present.

1945kIII Level Display 1945kIII Level Display (1999 version)

I don’t know if there are other changes affecting the balance of the game, and it might have been a little more of a significant find if the 2000 version had been discovered after the 1999 version, but it does mean we have to rewrite our history books a little to show that the game was released a year earlier than we thought. One question does remain tho, all the select screens show ‘Solite Spirits’ in the background, is that the original title of the game, and do any versions with that title exist?

Another interesting clone is a completely unprotected version of Gaelco’s Touch and Go. As I’ve mentioned before Gaelco’s games are notoriously well protected, so unprotected versions are often our only chance of seeing them emulated. This one was sourced in Korea, much like Glass, and looks to be a 100% genuine unprotected board that never had any of the protection hardware installed.

Touch and Go
Touch and Go
Touch and Go
Touch and Go

There are some sound emulation issues at the moment (and an issue with vertical scrolling, but I’m struggling to work out how you do the special moves that cause the screen to scroll vertically in the first place, I’ve only managed it once but need to figure out how it’s done in order to fix the scroll issue)

Otherwise, the game is fully playable, as you can see from the screenshots it’s a dual screen game. Thanks to system11 for picking this one up too.

System11 also dumped his Bestri board, which again had entirely different graphic roms, and weirdly different protection (the scroll ports are scrambled) I haven’t checked but my best guess is it will use different pictures between round, maybe one being an adult and the other being a clean version. If I work it out I’ll update this post.

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A Neo-Geo dev board

April 10, 2016 Haze Categories: General News. 6 Comments on A Neo-Geo dev board

Sometimes prototypes never really even develop to the point of being a fully playable game but get stuck at the ‘tech demo’ stage where art assets etc. are still being created.

NeoTurfMasta ended up uncovering the board for a Neo-Geo game in this state and posted his findings on neo-geo.com.

We have no idea what the game was destined to be had the project continued, but whatever it is it gives an early glimpse into what could have been. Unfortunately due to the use of SRAM cards for the ‘S1’ ‘M1’ and ‘V1’ ROM data the entire text layer (energy bars etc.) and sound is missing, those things were only meant for short term storage and the batteries had clearly been dead for many many years. Luckily the C rom data and program roms did not use that type of card, so their data survived.

Here’s a video of it running in MAME

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Not All Clones are Identical

April 5, 2016 Haze Categories: General News. 11 Comments on Not All Clones are Identical

A lot of MAME users are quick to dismiss clones as insignificant, not worth even a passing glance, it’s a shame, because quite often there are real differences between them; sometimes the clones are actually superior versions of the game.

The recent Operation Wolf prototype post shows one example of where the discovery of a new clone is actually significant (at least until our emulation of the base sets is improved) but the last few days have actually seen a number of other interesting clones surface too.

First of all Chris (JunoMan) dumped his version of Android.

Android (Newer) Android (Newer)
Android (Newer) Android (Newer)

It does seem to be a newer version, all evidence still suggest that, it has a fully complete high-score table, many more functional dipswitches etc. but at the same time it doesn’t seem anywhere as good as the older version, in fact I haven’t even worked out a strategy for playing it. In the old version you would hit an enemy 3 times with 1 shot time then once with the 2nd to stop them respawning, in this version both shot types are the same and exactly what stops an enemy from respawning seems completely non-obvious. Furthermore, while it does have the ‘Spinning’ enemy (much less common) there are far less frames of animation for it, and the unique aspect of having to slow it down to attack it is gone altogether. I think this version tells the tale of how what was at one point a unique and interesting game lost it’s way, explaining why it was presumably cancelled in the end. (At least we’ve seen nothing to suggest it had any real / widespread release) I’ll do a more indepth coverage of this later, but both releases are so different it makes more sense to treat them as different games rather than clones from a players perspective.

The Japanese version of Beast Busters was also dumped by ShouTime (and a number of bugs fixed in the driver thanks to dink from the FBA team) Aside from being in Japanese this version is a 2 player version whereas the others are 3 player games, this probably means the game balance is changed in places too (although I haven’t confirmed that)

Beast Busters (Japan) Beast Busters
Beast Busters (Japan) Beast Busters

Potentially very interesting too is a new dump of Atomic Robo-Kid. All versions of the game in MAME displayed a ‘Type-2’ message in the corner of the title screen but I never knew why. A new dump showed up where this message isn’t present, also, unlike all the other dumps this version doesn’t share the same data roms meaning there are definitely some changes in the game data (so potentially things like modified enemy spawns / level layouts etc.) I’m not really familiar enough with the game to do a comparison, but if it’s a title you’re a fan of it might be worth digging into this clone a little more as UPL clearly felt the need to indicate ‘Type-2’ in the later versions.

Atomic RoboKid (original release?) Atomic RoboKid (Type-2)

Graphic mods are maybe a bit less interesting, but a version of Moon Alien in which the aliens appear as planes was dumped and it’s called Kamikaze. Oddly this has some of the messiest dipswitches settings I’ve ever seen with most of the original ones wiped out and replaced with a ton of coinage options nobody would ever really want to use. The original coinage dips now control the bonus ship awards yet if set to 70000pts the game still shows the Free Play text on screen despite the fact that Free Play is no longer controlled by that dipswitch; it looks like whoever modded the game forgot to prevent that!

There’s some history behind the company that produced this hack, advertising their products as legitimate new games etc. back in the day only to be caught out. Actually the whole history of these ‘Moon Alien’ sets is a bit of a mystery in the first place, so many sets adding the Moon Alien / Moon Alien Pt.2 type features, but so many different little hacks it’s difficult to know which, if any, are actually legitimate sets.

Kamikaze (Moon Alien) Kamikaze (Moon Alien)

So yeah, those are some of the clone additions of the last few days to watch out for in 0.173.

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A Wolf in Prototype Clothing

April 1, 2016 Haze Categories: General News. 15 Comments on A Wolf in Prototype Clothing

Taito’s Operation Wolf is a game that has been subject to much controversy in emulation circles over the years.

The most popular bootleg of Operation Wolf, known as ‘Operation Bear’ replaced Taito’s C-Chip protection device with a Z80 and extra ROM to reproduce the functions of the original protection device. For a long time people claimed that this bootleg Z80 ROM was a clone of the original, that the C-Chip was actually a Z80 with internal ROM and that the bootleggers had somehow extracted the protection data from the C-Chip and put it in an external ROM.

This didn’t add up tho, there were some very clear discrepancies on the emulation, and while for a long time that’s how the original Operation Wolf was emulated, using the bootleg Z80 code to handle the protection it clearly wasn’t correct.

Later on Bryan McPhail (Mish) decided to write a new simulation of the protection device, one that didn’t make use of the bootleg Z80 rom, but was created using a combination of studying what that ROM did, and tests on the real board. Taito used the C-Chip game very well on this game however, keeping track of lots of little game state things. Studying the Z80 rom proved beyond any remaining doubt that it was not an accurate reproduction of the original, but infact something the bootleggers had come up with. (Things like the way the game handled difficulty were completely broken in the bootleg)

Bryan’s simulation was an improvement *however* there were still numerous reports of things that were ‘missing’ from the emulation of the arcade game. At the time some thought maybe people were just misremembering things, and that the features were not actually present in the arcade game, only the home ports, but as time went by more and more videos showing them missing features surfaced. Eventually we ended up with a full MAMEtesters report with reference videos etc.

Now, while that told us for sure we were doing something wrong, it didn’t really help too much in terms of fixing it, because as I said, the way Taito used the C-Chip was subtle, Taito were *really* good at protecting things in subtle ways (in the case of things like ‘Rumba Lumber’ there’s a weird calculation done after every stage that only really affects how the game loops the level number once you’ve cleared the game for example!)

That’s been the situation for a while anyway, we had a protection simulation that was better than the bootleg, but still known to have flaws. Now, I’m afraid to say that *hasn’t* changed, but what has happened is something maybe even more surprising.

An Operation Wolf PCB was located in Hungary, not exactly the arcade capital of the world. This PCB, while being an original Taito PCB was slightly different to the usual version. Caius picked up this PCB and dumped it, while providing us with some pictures; It looked like this

Operation Wolf
Operation Wolf

Now, immediately obvious is that one of the program roms is in the wrong socket, this could have been worrying at first because it might have indicated this used more roms and some were missing, but no, it was simply a case of a ROM being in the wrong socket.

The program roms are interesting too, they have handwritten labels, and for Taito PCBs this is usually either a sign of one of two things, an unofficial modification / conversion, or a prototype. Maybe most significantly of all however is that this PCB type does not have a C-Chip, the C-Chip being the protection chip Operation Wolf uses.

Trying to ROM swap the roms from this into MAME simply resulted in a ‘TILT’ error rather than the game booting, so it needed some work.

After an evening of work I managed to figure out that the game code definitely wasn’t accessing anything to do with the C-Chip, which would usually handle the inputs (including the Tilt input) and was instead trying to read the inputs from the top bits of the gun port. Adding those in allowed it to boot.

Operation Wolf

The game booted with the usual For Use In Japan disclaimer, so was clearly a board designed for the Japanese market (so quite how it had ended up in Hungary I really don’t know) What was more concerning at this point however was that while the attract mode for the game ran fine, and even exposed an immediate difference in the wording of the ‘Rescue Hostages’ screen, it would hang on the ‘Operation Map’ screen.

Operation Wolf Operation Wolf

Now, what’s interesting about Operation Wolf is that it has a language dipswitch, regardless of region. When that language dipswitch is set to Japanese on the original game you get a ‘Course Selection’ screen at that point, but when it’s set to English you don’t, you just get the ‘Operation Map’. As I’d imported to dips from the basic game it was set to ‘English’ by default. On a hunch I set the language dipswitch to Japanese and instead of the broken Operation Map screen I was greeted with the Course Selection screen, no hang. I asked Caius to try this on the PCB and he said the behaviour was the same, the game would hang / reset with the dipswitch set to English. All signs now clearly pointing at this being a Japanese prototype.

Operation Wolf Operation Wolf

What followed surprised me. At this point I was expecting this to be quite an early prototype as the other Taito prototypes we’ve seen, even early ones, show that English language support got added quite early on, so the hang might indicate this was an early build, although the final MASK roms being used for Graphics on the PCB did suggest otherwise.

I noticed some of the dipswitches had different effects to the final game, the 2 unused ones granted Infinite Health and a hit % bar across the top of the screen (presumably debug features) I was also getting Infinite Ammo, that turned out to be controlled by the dipswitch that on the final game gives discounted continues.

Anyway, I left the cheats on, blasted through the game, all levels were intact, but maybe most significantly, so were the features that people had said were missing from our emulation of the original game. This was a 100% unprotected prototype with everything intact, clearly Taito finished the game before implementing any kind of protection (unlike some other Taito games where the protection was added earlier in development) Here are some screenshots from the Prototype showing things that don’t occur in our emulation of the final game due to the incomplete protection simulation.

Operation Wolf Operation Wolf
Operation Wolf Operation Wolf
Operation Wolf Operation Wolf

From top to bottom
1) A hostage situation at the end of the Jungle level
2) A ‘The Enemy Has Located You’ random event that can occur before any one of the stages once during a loop
3) The camera panning up at the end of the final level for the final few enemies, showing the building tops and sky rather than the ground.

The game seems to be basically be complete, all levels are present, and it loops, as you’d expect to the dusk / nighttime 2nd loop if you complete the first loop without ‘failing the mission’

I also recorded a YouTube video (with the cheats turned on) to show these features in the prototype.

What remains to be seen is if this prototype gives us enough information to improve our protection simulation on the original game. Eventually we would like to be able to dump the C-Chips and emulate the protection properly, as a CPU running the protection code, but right now we still don’t have a viable method for doing that, Taito did a good job of securing the chips.

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MAME 0.172

March 31, 2016 Haze Categories: General News. 17 Comments on MAME 0.172

Somehow I didn’t actually get around to covering the MAME 0.171 release, these things happen from time to time.

0.172 was released this morning tho and it’s a significant release for a number of reasons.

First off the licensing. As a general MAME user you might not care too much about this, and actually might see more negatives from it than positives due to a handful of drivers being removed, but as far as MAME is concerned it is a big step because with the majority of the code now available under a 3-clause BSD style license we’re basically giving our work away for people to do whatever they want with. The bits that don’t have a BSD license are GPL, which is a bit more restrictive for people in certain industries, but still more of a free license than our previous one.

I guess I’ll state by stating the drivers that were removed and haven’t been rewritten.

Popper, released by Omori. This was an interesting Q-Bert style game, the hardware isn’t TOO complex, hopefully it will be back soon.

Marine Date, released by Taito. Probably the nastiest of the removed and not restored games, hardware collisions etc. Not sure it was ever 100% correctly emulated tho, and the board uses discrete sound that was never traced / emulated either. Interesting game, but maybe it can come back stronger at a later date.

Flower, released by Clarue / Komax / Sega / Alpha Denshi. This was a simple 80s style shooter, quite good fun, annoying sound hardware, slightly annoying video hardware with some zooming if I remember correctly.

In the non-arcade part of the code one of the Chess board simulation engines had to be dropped too, as well as a couple of the Chess drivers, if you like that kind of thing those will probably be missed.

Otherwise, that’s really it, out of everything there were only a handful of people we couldn’t contact. We managed to rewrite a couple of drivers during the cycle (otherwise there would have been 3-4 more entries in the above list) but yes, overall, and quite amazingly with around 20 years of history to the project we managed to contact the authors and get approval to relicense practically every piece of code in our codebase. Impressive.

I think it’s fair to say the majority look first at the list of “what runs now that didn’t before” so now that I’ve got the license talk out the way I’ll take a quick look at those for this release, starting with 2 I haven’t already covered here

Tournament Solitaire is a PC based Solitaire game, fairly self explanatory really. It doesn’t seem amazingly good, Windows has had a better built-in Solitaire game for many years which probably doomed this kind of thing as a stand-alone arcade game.

Tournament Solitaire Tournament Solitaire Tournament Solitaire

Magical Touch on the other hand is a bit more ambitious, it’s another piece of PC based hardware, but this time it’s a multi-game thing controlled with a touch screen. It too has a version of Solitaire, better than the one above, and a number of other bare-bones games. We’ve actually had a fair few requests over the years to get this one up and running so I guess it holds a place in the hearts of some people.

Magical Touch Magical Touch Magical Touch

I’ll quickly cover the ones I’ve already shown on these pages, first off Android. This is the early prototype version I covered in an earlier article, the later version was not dumped / added in time for 0.172, maybe next time. Interesting concept for a shooter, doesn’t really feel intuitive enough tho.

Android Android

Fire Ball is a bomberman clone, actually more historically significant than we realised because one of the developers was the guy who went on to become the head of ExPotato, a better known Korean developer still around today.

Fire Ball Fire Ball Fire Ball

The 3rd of the already covered games is Lock On, Philko’s attempt at doing a 16-bit shooter, ends up coming across as a bit of a Carrier Air Wing / US Navy wannabe tho.

Lock On Lock On Lock On

Merit’s Chicken Draw was also added, like most Merit games it seems to be a ‘for fun’ casino styled game. There are a lot of these, we don’t know exactly how many, so it’s nice to see them turn up from time to time.

Chicken Draw Chicken Draw Chicken Draw

While not technically a new game I did put some work into fixing up the Flash Point bootlegs, the last time these worked to a playable degree was a ridiculous amount of time ago, and even then they weren’t using the real sound roms etc. The Flash Point bootlegs are actually very interesting because they seem to be based on a different version of the game to the released version, possibly a prototype. There are also English and Japanese bootlegs, whereas for the original game it appears only a Japanese version exists. Things like the ‘Mirrorsoft’ disclaimer (used on Tetris games) appear in the bootlegs, but strangely not on the original, although the bootlegs lack a high score table.

Flash Point Flash Point Flash Point

In some cases having a layout can be an important step in making a game playable. While the Scorpion 4 hardware games do still have to operate in something of a freeplay mode the game ‘Frankie Dettori’s 7th Heaven’ was vastly improved with the addition of a basic internal layout positioning and naming all the lamps and reel symbols correctly. There’s still an odd issue with MAME layouts where using the £ symbol causes them to not show up (XML parse issue maybe) so $ signs are used for now. It’s a long road, but we’ll get there with these eventually. (the £ symbol issue has been fixed now, fix will be in the next release)

There are some new additions that are NOT WORKING but still interesting too. Big Buck Hunter 2 was added, you can watch the attract, but it doesn’t seem to be possible to calibrate the guns (and if it’s anything like the first game there might be protection issues after that)

Big Buck Hunter 2 Big Buck Hunter 2 Big Buck Hunter 2

Another NON WORKING addition is a Sega Master System / MSX based bootleg collection. This is unusual because most of the arcade mulitgames are NES / Famicom based, so seeing one with the likes of Alex Kidd and Final Bubble Bobble is rare. The dump is incomplete for the time being tho, there’s a MASK rom containing 11 of the games that hasn’t yet been dumped, hopefully that can be resolved soon and we can look into emulating it; the timer and credit system might be MCU based and require some HLE simulation tho. I think Buk Doo Gun included here is a previously unknown Korean title hack of ‘Hokuto no Ken’ which makes it kinda interesting even outside of this collection (you can extract it and run it as a standalone ROM)

Super Master System Super Game Super Master System Super Game

For the next couple you’ll need artwork from the MESS Artwork pages. Popular arcade games got many home adaptations, including numerous handheld games based on the (at the time) well known IP, often with different games based on the same original titles being released by different manufacturers. Bandai and Gakken were 2 manufacturers who got in on the act and for Bandai the featured games here are the adaptations of Data East’s Burger Time, Sega’s Zaxxon and Sega’s Pengo. For Gakken there is an adaptation of Konami’s Jungler.

Games like this are something of an acquired taste, the adaptations all manage to squeeze in certain elements of the games, but the biggest challenge of playing them is working out how the ‘rules’ of each game work, in terms of visuals you’re dealing with very infrequent updates, so an enemy that looks far away might only actually be 2 moves away from touching you etc. Either way, these are a lot of work to get going (dumping the MCUs, often visually, then having to find and correct any errors, making the artwork, testing them..) so it’s great to see them actually emulated.

Burger Time Zaxxon Jungler
Burger Time

There were others too, not based off arcade games. Castle Einstein is a ‘Simon’ clone, repeat the sequence you see. Very simple, so simple we can represent it entirely with the internal artwork.

Castle Einstein

While Conic’s Electronic Football I’m not really sure how to play, seems to be based on American Football, which I’m not really overly familiar with anyway. Again this one can be represented with the internal artwork

Conic's Electronic Football

There are a few other things in there that I don’t really know how to operate, so I’ll look over the clones and see what’s interesting. I did already cover Flash Point above, but there are some other noteworthy clones here. Topping that list I have to say is the Last Resort prototype. This is a NeoGeo game, and there are very noticeable difference in the stage design (enemy attack patterns) when compared to the final game. I made a video of it a few weeks ago when the dump was submitted to us. If you’re familiar with the game you’ll be able to see that despite my terrible play there are some obvious differences in the enemy placement, including 2 of the big metal enemies near the start rather than a wave of different ones after you beat the first.

I don’t think any of the other clones really give anything to show in screenshots. The Buccaneers set provide a slightly different gameplay experience by not allowing you to backtrack at all, but there’s no visible difference. The collection of bootlegs that were dumped and added from Spanish boards often have Spanish text, but otherwise look the same as the original games. The Spartan X (Kung Fu Master) bootleg is probably the most significant in terms of hardware changes, but again the end result in a screenshot isn’t too different (the bootleg hardware can’t output as many lines tho, so the bottom 16 are cut off, likewise it has inferior sprite hardware so the sprites entering the screen from the left and right are slightly glitchy in the first frame)

The Software List additions section to the whatnsew is a fairly recent addition where we list interesting things that are now listed in the Software Lists, sometimes these tie in to actual driver developments as is the case with the Apple /// list changes, where some software exposed a number of bugs in the driver, those bugs were fixed, and so we decided to document the software that was used during the process. As the Apple /// was basically a failure any software that documents what it could do is interesting, the majority of software available runs in simple text modes, so an actual game, like Atomic Defense (a Missile Command clone) can tell us a lot more about the hardware and provides a better test case than a lot of other software; fixes made in 0.172 allow it to work

Atomic Defense Atomic Defense Atomic Defense

Preliminary Software Lists were also added for the Pocket Challenge V1 and V2, the Pocket Challenge V2 is actually basically a WonderSwan at heart, so while a dedicated driver with proper input mappings does not exist yet you can actually boot the software in the WS driver. The Pocket Challenge V1 appears to be unique / different hardware, so the only thing dumped for that doesn’t do anything yet. Both are Japanese educational systems, but without proper drivers are obviously still marked as NOT WORKING even if the V2 stuff can be booted.

Pocket Challenge V2 Pocket Challenge V2
Pocket Challenge V2 Pocket Challenge V2

Another one considered ‘NOT WORKING’ is GP Race in the Gamate list, although it is somewhat playable, however sprite flicker is presumably a lot worse than the real system. Games for obscure systems like the Gamate are not well known as they weren’t popular systems compared to the Gameboy etc. so seeing them dumped and documented is important.

Gamate GP Race Gamate GP Race Gamate GP Race Gamate GP Race

Back to WORKING titles, the Pyuuta list got 2 rare additions too, Super Bike is the first, I’ve made a video of that. You can see why it’s rare, it’s not a good game, the game mechanics make little sense, it feels forced so you can rarely rely on initial instinct to know what to press, a lot like the handheld games that I mentioned earlier even if it’s on a system with full video capability.

The other Pyuuta game added is ‘Battle Fighter (3D)’ which is a more playable title. Essentially it’s a Xevious style shooter but with a perspective angle, there are air and ground targets, as well as air and ground attack buttons.

BattleFighter 3D BattleFighter 3D BattleFighter 3D

I talked about drivers being dropped due to relicensing earlier, and one driver that was initially dropped was the driver for the ‘SVI-328’ However, as a result of the driver being dropped it ended up being completely rewritten during the release cycle and is now back and better than ever, in fact it now runs a fancy demo doing various tricks with the hardware that the old driver fell over trying to run. Here’s a video (not my video)

One big piece of news for 0.172 is that the HLSL shader system has been ported to the ‘BGFX’ video mode, meaning it’s now cross platform rather than Windows specific. The way the shaders in BGFX work is also enhanced over the hardcoded HLSL of the D3D video mode, you actually specify the shader chain on the command-line and can set it up to use different shaders on different screens etc. With regular HLSL you were forced to have the same shader for all screens which looked a bit silly in cases like the Mahjong games where 2 of the ‘screens’ are LCD panels which shouldn’t have had effects applied. This looks much better now.

House Mannequin (with BGFX) House Mannequin (with BGFX)

As the shader system is now more open ended it should be possible to drop new custom shaders in more easily, so you might see ports of many of the effect files found in other MAME versions and be able to use them in the baseline MAME. The only word of warning I’ll give is that things aren’t 100% stable right now, doing things like ALT-ENTER to switch between fullscreen and a window tends to have undesirable effects and will often crash if you have the shader enabled.

HLSL itself has also been tweaked and enhanced over the course of the cycle, it’s gained ‘preset’ support, and a number of presets are shipped, including one for the ‘gameboy’ which gives a more authentic look.

Super Mario Land (GameBoy) HLSL
Super Mario Land (GameBoy) HLSL

Another ‘plugin’ system was introduced to expand MAME’s LUA scripting capabilities too, and for the first time in years the baseline version of MAME can again use hiscore.dat via these plugins. This is actually an incredibly powerful system with a lot of interesting possibilities, for example you could potentially write something like a Pacman AI in LUA and have it play the game for you, or display real-time translations of Japanese games if you write scripts to look for certain characters being displayed and then display an overlay in English using the MAME interface. Of course nobody has written those scripts yet, only the high score one, but it’s definitely an area of MAME that people could put to good use.

Hiscore Plugin

One last significant end-user visible change in 0.172 comes in the form of the multi-language interface. A lot of work was put into language files over the past month, converting our interface code to use them. What this means is that all UI strings (MAME menus etc.) can be shown in a wide variety of non-English languages. While this might not seem much it is actually important these days as the increasing complexity of MAME means that some advanced things are much easier for non-English speakers with the interface translated.

MAME Interface in Italian

There’s also been a massive effort made to improve the MAME documentation on the official site ( http://docs.mamedev.org/ )

Less user visible are all the ‘under the hood’ changes in this release, a lot of the MAME file handling code was refactored for example, this is good because it brings features like the 7-zip support entirely on-par with the regular zip support, meaning all tools (romcmp etc.) now work with the 7-zipped images, as does the file manager for selecting loose files.

Finally, and maybe of interest to less users is the news that a number of GroovyMAME features were integrated, allowing for integer only scaling etc. which should help with people wanting to use the baseline version on CRTs etc. (There was a lot of concern over the DirectDraw output mode being dropped as that was the only mode with integer scaling in the past, but as the entire DirectDraw interface is deprecated by Microsoft it couldn’t stay around forever)

Definitely a big release, and a lot of work for 1 month. I might tack on a few 0.171 highlights to the end of this to make up for the lack of coverage last time, we’ll see.

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