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MAME work and other stuff

Dirty Hot Rod

July 22, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 5 Comments on Dirty Hot Rod

Sega’s System 24 is an interesting system for a number of reasons, one of them being the use of floppy disks for many of the games, not exactly the most reliable of storage methods, nor one with an especially high capacity.

Quite a lot of arcade games keep some kind of book keeping data for operators (and manufacturers) to see how games are performing on location. With most boards this data is either minimal because it has to be stored in an EEPROM (so sometimes just coin counts) or it gets stored in battery backed RAM.

System 24 is a bit different because it stores a decent amount of data on the actual floppy disk, which means when those disks get dumped they still contain said data. In order to attempt to make images easier to compare and make it easier for somebody to dump their own disk and have it match the image MAME expects we do default this data in the service mode before hashing the disk images, however it can be interesting to see the stats that are stored on a disk before that happens.

Recent Ordyne submitted a new dump of the 4 Player (Japanese / English) version of Hot Rod, it’s actually a Revision C disk, so newer than the already supported disk for this version (which itself is noteworthy because the fragile nature of disk based games means they’re ‘at risk’)

Hot Rod Hot Rod

What was interesting to see is that the dumped disk had been used for a fairly substantial amount of time, recording 10717 hours of uptime, which is over a year even if you consider the machine could have been turned on 24/7, which is unlikely.

Hot Rod Stats
Hot Rod Stats
Hot Rod Stats
Hot Rod Stats

1546 hours of actually playtime in that period suggests that most of the time the cabinet this was from was just sitting there untouched, indicating these stats probably aren’t from the game’s heyday, but still provide some insight into how the game was played.

The peak per-game playtime at 2-3 minutes sounds about right for an arcade, keeping the money flowing and the line moving, the continue count indicates that most players didn’t feel the need to coin feed the game.

There’s not a lot of point to this post, and I haven’t done any work on the System 24 driver (and it really needs it, I don’t think any one game runs perfectly and Gain Ground still has the annoying timing bug causing it to only run in freeplay, not reading the dipswitches at all) but I just thought it was interesting to share some pictures of the bookkeeping mode before the stats are wiped.

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Maya be Clean

July 16, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 6 Comments on Maya be Clean

A while back system11 dumped his Maya board after finding out it was a different version to the ones found in MAME, for some reason nobody actually looked at the dump until now so I decided to take a look. Unlike the other clones it wasn’t a 100% simple rom swap, it actually uses a different rom scrambling on the graphic roms which needed figuring out, nothing too tricky (just some address line swaps) but time consuming all the same.

He also didn’t dump the colour PROMs at the time and once it was added it became quite apparent that they were needed because the colours didn’t match up properly with the new images found in this set, once alerted to this the situation was very quickly resolved.

It’s a “clean” version of Maya, without the adult pictures and nudity, instead it has various cartoons.

Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean Maya Clean

Maya Clean Maya Clean Maya Clean

Now.. as the game is basically a hack of Dragon Punch / Sports Match in the first place what I’m wondering is if these are original pieces of art of if they too have been lifted from somewhere else, anybody recognize any of them? This is the complete set of images the game uses for level rewards. (I’m mostly interested in knowing about the cartoons)

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The Last Choice

July 9, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 21 Comments on The Last Choice

As you may know both myself and system11 are fans of Semicom’s games.

One SemiCom title that has always been shrouded in a bit of mystery is their shooter ‘Gaia – The Last Choice of Earth’

There has been a flyer for the game at ArcadeFlyers for a while depicting what looks like a rather ambitious vertical shooter, but nobody actually recalled ever having played it.

A couple of weeks ago system11 spotted a copy of the game for sale and snapped it up, weirdly the game being sold was not a vertical shooter running on a vertical screen as shown in the flyers (like for example the original Aero Fighters) but instead a vertical shooter running on a horizontal screen (like Aero Fighters 2/3)

At the time we wondered if maybe there was a dipswitch to control the orientation and duplicate sets of rotated graphics in the roms to accommodate this, however once the PCB arrived it became clear that this wasn’t the case, it really was a game designed to be used on a horizontal monitor and a horizontal monitor only.

He dumped the roms, and with a bit of hackery (using modified protection data from Dream World until we’ve extracted the real data) I got it booting. It required the odd fix in the driver too, but nothing major.

Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth
Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth

Now, there are a couple of things interesting here, first, the whole thing with it being a horizontal game. After playing with the dipswitches (and as always, the ones listed in service mode should NOT be trusted on a Semicom title) I discovered that one of the dipswitches controls a sort of ‘vertical lock’ on the scrolling.

When vertical games were ported to consoles with a horizontal monitor (TV screen) it was quite typical to pan the screen up and down as the player moved up and down so that the whole of the larger vertical screen area from the arcade originals could be seen by moving up and down. This is actually quite annoying as it can cause the bullets in shooters to ‘wobble’ up and down as you move because they appear to slow down / speed up or even move backwards if you scroll the screen faster than they’re moving.

The fact that Gaia offers such a mode suggests that it really was developed originally as a vertical game, as the flyer screenshots suggest. Luckily you can turn off this panning and just deal with the reduced screen area (although you can still shoot things off-screen as the game engine still seems to see things as active even when they’re in the area the game no longer shows you)

Does a vertical version actually exist? Who knows, we’re always being surprised by SemiCom finds so it’s a possibility they made 2 versions, one for horizontal cabs and the other for vertical, but right now we just don’t know.

I’ve recorded 2 videos the first, below shows the game with the vertical scrolling locked

the 2nd video shows it unlocked, notice the annoying faster/slower movement as you move the ship up and down.

The more attentive of you might have noticed something else in the above screenshots, a XESS – The New Revolution logo. For a long time we thought XESS – The New Revolution was the name of the Semicom 3-in-1 title containing New HyperMan, Cookie & Bibi and HyperMan because aside from the ‘New HyperMan’ title screen it lacks any screen indicating it’s a multi-game title. As the same XESS logo appears in Gaia that theory has rather been blown out the water, and it turns out, as you can see from the end credits that XESS is just one of the internal SemiCom team names. The special thanks section lists 2 of the others.

Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth

That suggests the Semicom internal teams were
1st Team – Exit
2nd Team – XESS
3rd Team – AceVer

as it happens we have Exit and AceVer logos, they can be found in More More and Diet Quiz Go Go

Semicom Exit Semicom AceVer

Simple? Not really.

Semicom’s baseball game MuHanSeungBu suggests that the 2nd team was also called DMD, and many other Semicom titles suggest the 3rd team was Tirano (by far the most common logo)

Semicom DMD Semicom Tirano

Maybe the teams just changed their names at some point? I’ve added them to the manufacturer field for the games in MAME for cases where they’re displayed onscreen at least.

As for Gaia, it seems like a pretty decent shooter, like most things Korean rough around the edges tho, there is for example no high score system at all, you have a score, but outside of your game it seems completely meaningless.

That’s all for now, I’ll actually mark the game as working once we get the proper protection data.

Gaia - The Last Choice of Earth

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Late to the 0.163 Party

June 29, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 29 Comments on Late to the 0.163 Party

MAME 0.163 was released a couple of days ago, but I’ve been rather swamped down and haven’t had a chance to write about it (nor finish the writeup for last year, which I haven’t had time to touch in about 3 months)

0.163 is actually a rather light release, it cleans up a couple of reported issues from 0.162 including some long-existing MESS-side bugs that ended up being reported with the increased number of users after the projects were merged. Along the same lines the uimodekey commandline option was also ported over from SDLMAME which is very useful if you’re running an emulated computer and are using a keyboard that lacks a SCRLOCK key.

From the Arcade emulation point of view the most significant thing in 0.163 is probably the discrete sound emulation for Kid Niki and Horizon. The downside to this is that it has slaughtered the performance of the driver, even for some games that don’t make use of the analog drums at all to my knowledge (The Battle Road). You can expect around 250% speed at most on a 4ghz i7 with the new code (down from over 4000% without it) I’m not sure that will improve because emulation of discrete components is always going to be expensive. Speaking of The Battle Road I fixed the colours in that with the help of caius providing a PCB reference.

The Analog sound in Kid Niki and Horizon was done by Couriersud and Andrew Gardner, I’ve uploaded a video of it here (and yes the pops and crackles happen in the emulation, they’re not artefacts of the video)

The Z80 TV Game System emulation is an interesting one too, it’s basically a modern (but very simple) ‘homebrew’ console based around the Z80 CPU. As it actually exists it is eligible for emulation and so ended up being emulated in the MESS side of the project, the games however are reminiscent of the late 70s B&W games. You can see details about the hardware here. Definitely one of the submissions I found most interesting this round, and clearly demonstrates the diversity of the project.

Z80 TV Game
Z80 TV Game Z80 TV Game
Z80 TV Game Z80 TV Game
Z80 TV Game Z80 TV Game
Z80 TV Game Z80 TV Game
Z80 TV Game Z80 TV Game
Z80 TV Game Z80 TV Game

Air Rescue and F1 Exhaust Note are now set up properly as twin display games without hacks, as per the previous news post, however in addition to that SailorSat also contributed some code to simulate the link features of a number of other Sega PCBs across multiple instances of MAME; you need to know what you’re doing to use them however, it’s not exactly plug-and-play like the actual twin display ones are.

The C64 control issue I talked about in the Donkey Kong article has also been fixed, although from various information that has been supplied it sounds like a real fix might be more complex as apparently bits on one of the IO chips can apparently still function as inputs even when configured as output if the external hardware is set up in a certain way, the C64 is set up in a way that causes this to happen, the Amiga is not, so until it’s done properly there could be conflicts.

I was able to run 2 disk images of the Ocean (Europe) version of Donkey Kong successfully.
mame64 c64p -flop1 “Donkey Kong (1986)(Ocean Software)[cr New Stars].d64″
mame64 c64p -flop1 “Donkey Kong 5H NTSC FIX (Remember-Crypt-WDR).d64″
The tape image, and non-cracked version do not appear to function, I’m guessing they fail some kind of copy protection because our emulation isn’t accurate enough. (or maybe you need to disable the disk drive to run the tape one, I’ve heard of other cases where that’s true, haven’t checked)

Donkey Kong C64 Ocean
Donkey Kong C64 Ocean Donkey Kong C64 Ocean
Donkey Kong C64 Ocean Donkey Kong C64 Ocean
Donkey Kong C64 Ocean Donkey Kong C64 Ocean
Donkey Kong C64 Ocean Donkey Kong C64 Ocean

The issue I was having with the PC version of Raiden which meant I didn’t include it in the ‘What to Do in 0.162′ articles was also apparently fixed, haven’t had time to check it out yet tho.

R.Belmont documents an important fix made to the Apple II emulation regarding how we were generating raw signals based on some disk image formats, see here. It was causing at least one non-copy protected image to fail simply due to the timing being slightly off, so very good to see it improved; accurately simulating a floppy drive is much more difficult than you’d imagine.

Sometimes small discoveries are important too, the X1-010 audio fix for downtown actually implements a previously undocumented register to control the sample rate, could affect other things too.

There is also a preview of what could become the new build system, allowing ‘tiny’ builds to be made easily just by specifying the drivers you want to be included and having the build system work out the dependencies. This could eventually replace the current Arcade/MESS sub-targets as it allows much more focused builds for development.

All in all 0.163 is not a major update (I suspect major updates will be rare, there’s simply not much left that will grab people’s attention – Andreas was looking at Namco System 10 but the encryption appears to have got the better of him at the last hurdle, and my time is also more limited than ever due to Real Life too) but steady progress is good progress.

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Choplifter ’92

June 10, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 42 Comments on Choplifter ’92

Sega’s Air Rescue is a spiritual successor to the game Choplifter, you fly around surrounded by enemy vehicles while attempting to land to pick up hostages. Jaleco used the same concept for their overhead perspective ‘Desert War’ too.

The twist with Air Rescue is that while Choplifter is a side-on view, and Desert War is an overhead view the entire game here is presented in a 3d perspective using zoomed sprites.

The game used Sega’s System 32 platform and has been partially emulated in MAME for a long time now. I say partially emulated because we needed some hacks to get it running. The thing with the Air Rescue hardware is that it actually uses 2 stacks of System 32 PCBs which are directly connected using a bridge board placed under the rom board. That bridge board contains RAM which is shared between the two System 32 stacks.

With the real hardware if either of the System 32 PCBs or the bridge board fails / are missing the game does not boot, it is designed to work in the 2 screen, 2 player cabinet it shipped in only. MAME hacked around this faking the response from the 2nd PCB stack in order to avoid emulating it, this however had some unwanted side effects.

For a start, the title screen was cut in half the first time of showing, and subsequent times the single screen title that is meant to be used while the other player is playing was shown. This also meant the intro sequence was never shown in the attract mode. More importantly half the gameplay was missing, the dual screen setup means the game can actually be played as a co-op game in addition to being a single player game, in co-op mode each player flies their own helicopter around the same arena and the number of hostages to rescue + number of enemies is increased to maintain the same level of challenge.

MAME has a nice device based system these days, so by promoting an entire System 32 PCB to be a device, allowing for two to be added to a driver with the shared RAM added just like any other shared RAM, I was able to quite simply emulate this properly.

Note this isn’t a ‘network’ game as such, there are no network cables, it’s a simple case of doubled up hardware. Sega would later refine their system into the ‘multi32′ board which was capable of driving 2 screens on it’s own with half the video capability on each, these full-fat setups were obviously more expensive. The multi32 system was already emulated with both screens (although I do need to look at some bugs that were introduced way back when Aaron rewrote the driver then never fixed the reported bugs)

Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens
Air Rescue - Both Screens

I’ve also made a video, note the sound is rather chaotic because you’re hearing the output from both monitors, which often end up playing the same tune with a slight delay causing an echo effect, this would sound less harsh if sat in front of the speakers for each screen on the cabinet.

F1 Exhaust Note uses the exact same type of link board and benefits in the same way, note how you can see the position of the other players car marked on you screen with an arrow in the final 2 gameplay shots.

F1 Exhaust Note
F1 Exhaust Note
F1 Exhaust Note
F1 Exhaust Note
F1 Exhaust Note

F1 Super Lap is a linked game instead and hasn’t been touched.

Bonus Trivia

For the curious, Sega also released an ‘Air Rescue’ game for the Sega Master System, this 8-bit game has little resemblance to the arcade and plays more like a traditional sequel to Choplifter. With the MAME/MESS merger of 0.162 you can now play this in MAME using the launch syntax of “mame smspal airresc”

Air Rescue - Sega Master System Air Rescue - Sega Master System
Air Rescue - Sega Master System Air Rescue - Sega Master System
Air Rescue - Sega Master System Air Rescue - Sega Master System

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What To Do In One Six Two (Part 2)

June 2, 2015 Haze Categories: General News. 39 Comments on What To Do In One Six Two (Part 2)

Important Introductory note

As well as the very simple to use Console based systems the new MAME also emulates a number of home computers.

Before you start there is one very, very important thing to keep in mind when running a computer in MAME, the default state of emulation is to give the entire keyboard on the system to the emulated machine, meaning that none of the usual MAME keypresses will activate MAME functions, this even means that in this state ESC no longer exits MAME, F3 doesn’t reset the system, P won’t pause/unpause etc.

By default there is one key assigned to toggle this mode on and off and that key is SCRLOCK (Scroll Lock) However some laptops and other modern keyboards (including my wireless Logitech) don’t have this key, so you’ll need to assign something else.

If you’re in that situation then (assuming you have MAME already setup, including ROM paths etc.) you should launch MAME with no parameters and use the internal menu to do the following:
Scroll down to “Configure General Inputs” select “User Interface” select “UI Toggle” (it’s about 70% down the list) and assign a new key to it, one that is out the way and unlikely to be used by the emulated systems, personally I picked ‘END’

I will refer to this key as ‘UI TOGGLE’ for the rest of this document, please be aware that if the UI is in ‘active’ state and you press ESC then you WILL exit the emulation so it’s important to remember to toggle it back off after each time you need to use the UI.

King of Kong – Arcades

In the previous part of the article I looked at how the integration of MESS made it easier to explore the different platforms to which a game was officially ported, this time I’m going to look a bit at how you can see the influence of a game, including both official and unofficial ports.

Even with just the Arcade side of things Donkey Kong is a game with an undeniably huge influence. In MAME, for a long time, there have been a number of takes on Donkey Kong, the arcade original looked like this:

Donkey Kong Donkey Kong

Even in the arcades there were a number of games that ripped off Donkey Kong. Crazy Kong is probably the best known variant of Donkey Kong and has a fair bit of history, and mystery behind it. While very similar in appearance it’s actually a very different piece of code to the original game. The Brazilian ‘Kong’ falls into the same category, it uses the Donkey Kong graphics, but the codebase is entirely different, resulting in a very stiff game with some redesigned levels; don’t be fooled by how similar it looks, there’s not a shred of the original Donkey Kong code in it!

Crazy Kong Crazy Kong
Kong Kong

The influence extended beyond games that were basically just creative bootlegs of Donkey Kong too, the CVS system game ‘Logger’ for example directly took the Donkey Kong concept but gave it a woodcutter theme.

Logger Logger

Even years later the game, and it’s sequels ended up being copied, one example is the ‘Tong Boy’ game within YunSung’s ‘New Multi Game’

New Multi Game - Tong Boy New Multi Game - Tong Boy

Let’s not also forget the unofficial sequel ‘Jump Man Returns’ which was made much more recently (2006) and plays out the idea of a sequel running on a modified version of the original game engine using the original hardware; quite a few PCBs actually ended up being converted to run it! Even more recently there were mods like the ‘Pauline edition’ where you play as the Heroine instead of Mario, although that one hasn’t yet made it to MAME (I’m hoping with the addition of the MESS stuff, and the more open / relaxed attitude towards after market developments it will)

Donkey Kong 2 : Jumpman Returns Donkey Kong 2 : Jumpman Returns

Beyond that there were numerous games that were clearly influenced by the game mechanics of Donkey Kong without actually being the exact same idea as Donkey Kong, there’s little point in me covering all of them, but needless to say it was a very influential game.

King of Kong – At Home

So that’s all things that were available in MAME already, so you’re probably asking ‘where does the newly added MESS component come in?’

Donkey Kong is a much earlier game than the previous covered Raiden, so the systems it was ported to were quite different, this was the 80s when home computers were commonplace.

The first port of Donkey Kong I’m going to look at is one of the most recent additions to the emulator, added in 0.161 it’s the Coleco Handheld which looked something like this

Coleco Donkey Kong Handheld Coleco Donkey Kong Handheld

A little background information is possible required here. This was 1982. While today you have machines in your pocket that are often more powerful than the PC sitting on your desk, in 1982 we didn’t, even the original GameBoy was not released until 1989, and the only real handhelds with a video display to speak of were things like the Microvision with a 16×16 pixel display.

In order to make something with reasonable art a different approach was taken, instead of trying to make up a screen of pixels VFD based displays were used, this allowed the manufacturers to use actual art to make up the game graphics by turning on / off various playfield elements. You can see one of the actual units here . Obviously this technique means animation is non-existent and what could be done with the games was strictly limited, but the Donkey Kong handheld made a brave attempt at simulating both the barrel and rivet levels and has been quite fondly remembered.

I’ve uploaded a YouTube video of this below to better demonstrate it. To run this in MAME you use ‘mame cdkong’ be sure to have the ARTWORK FILE in your artwork folder too because it’s not really playable otherwise.

If you didn’t read the important note at the top of the article now is a good time to read it because we’re going to look at some of the home computer versions of Donkey Kong, there were many of them, I can’t possibly cover them all, but to help people understand the functionality it’s worth looking at a couple.

One of the most critically acclaimed ports of Donkey Kong was the one to the Amstrad CPC, and I’m not surprised, for a system that received, for the most part, shoddy reworkings of Spectrum ports that were unflappably slow this is an absolute gem.

Now, for some reason running the cassette version of the game in the base Amstrad CPC464 driver results in raster timing glitches, I’m not sure why, it just does, I guess it might be because the CPC has the disk rom hooked up by default when really it should only be available if you plug the expansion in, but then I’ve noticed it works fine on some of the other models with a disk drive.

Either way, there is an Amstrad clone, the KC Compact, and we’ll be using that for our first example.

Launch MAME with ‘mame kccomp -cass1 dkong” this will launch MAME with the KC Compact drive running, and the Donkey Kong cassette (from the Software List) inserted into the cassette deck. Without loading the game however it will just sit there.

To get us moving type
and press enter, this will prompt you press PLAY then any key. The order you do this doesn’t matter here, so hit a key.

In order to start the tape playing you must enable the MAME interface keys, this is where the text at the top is important. Hit ‘UI Toggle’ (SCRLOCK by default) to enable the MAME keys.
Press F2, this is the keyboard shortcut to start a tape. A timer (3 minutes 36 seconds) appears in the top corner and the game begins to load. Hit the ‘UI Toggle’ key once more to disable the MAME keys again and hand the keyboard back over to the emulated system.

Wait. Eventually the game will load.

Donkey Kong CPC Donkey Kong CPC
Donkey Kong CPC Donkey Kong CPC

The graphics are fairly low resolution, but the look and feel of the game is spot on. Remember, if you want to exit the emulator hit the ‘UI Toggle’ key (SCRLOCK) before pressing ESC.

So far everything that has been covered in this articles has been loaded from the Software Lists. For ROM based games that is absolutely the correct way to go about things as the Software Lists often contain information about what was inside the cartridges, so some features like backup RAM might not end up being emulated properly if the Software Lists aren’t used, however for software that was on Cassette, Disk, or even CD Rom it is useful to know that unlisted software can also be loaded.

For the next example I’m going to look at one of the other 8-bit systems, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

Donkey Kong isn’t in the ZX Spectrum Software List (yet) so head over to the World of Spectrum and grab a loose copy. DonkeyKong.tzx.zip should do the trick, unzip it into your MAME folder so you have DonkeyKong.tzx sitting in the same location as your MAME.exe.

Launch MAME with ‘mame spectrum -cass1 “Donkey Kong.tzx”

this causes MAME to launch with the loose cassette image of Donkey Kong mounted in the cassette deck.

Now unlike the Amstrad, the Spectrum can be a bit of a pain when trying to load something because the build in BASIC uses a Macro system, meaning instead of typing words you must press keys that correspond to keywords. Luckily for loading a game you only have to know how to enter the command LOAD “”, which is ‘J’ (for load) then ‘Shift+P’ twice, for the “” part. After typing that, hit enter. The later Spectrum models have other easier ways of loading games, but not all software is compatible.

The procedure to start the tape is exactly the same as the CPC, hit the ‘UI Toggle’ (SCRLOCK), hit F2, tape starts playing, hit ‘UI Toggle’ again.

Spectrum Donkey Kong Spectrum Donkey Kong
Spectrum Donkey Kong Spectrum Donkey Kong

Not the best version of Donkey Kong, you can tell it’s meant to be Donkey Kong from the basic level structure but the graphics are dull and flickery and the controls / movement doesn’t really feel correct either.

With some of the systems now supported you’ll need to configure slots before launching the driver (unfortunately MAME still doesn’t support changing many of these at runtime which causes a problem with some games) To play the Commodore 64 (c64) version of Donkey Kong for example you’ll have to tell MAME that you want a C64 joystick inserted into one of the control ports. The launch syntax to do this is

“mame64 c64 -cart1 dkong -joy1 joy”

The Donkey Kong game in question is loaded from a cartridge, so the actual loading part is easy (loading a C64 game from Tape / Disk requires more effort) but without the -joy1 joy part, telling MAME that you want a joystick inserted into the first Joystick port it is impossible to control. With that added the game boots, can be started, and plays a reasonably good game of Donkey Kong.

C64 Donkey Kong C64 Donkey Kong
C64 Donkey Kong C64 Donkey Kong

One issue that was touched upon with the mention of the Spectrum is how some systems can be rather difficult to operate simply because the original keyboard layouts were so different to PC layout we have today. While the Macro based inputs of the Spectrum couldn’t really be made any easier there are cases where MAME can assist a little, by attempting to remap keypresses transparently. The option to enable this is ‘-natural’

A good example of where this is useful is the MSX. By default the ” symbol is very difficult to find when running the MSX driver (in all honesty I don’t know where it maps) but if using the ‘-natural’ option it maps to the same place it does on a PC keyboard, Shift + 2.

Let’s launch the MSX driver with that option for an example. MAME doesn’t have a generic MSX driver as the MSX was just a rough specification for a machine rather than an actual machine. One machine based on that specification is the Canon V-20E (canonv20). The following commandline is used to launch “mame canonv20 -cass1 dkong -natural”

This starts up the MSX driver with the Donkey Kong cassette in the cassette desk.

To start the tape loading you must type
In the case of the MSX driver the tape then automatically plays.

For the game in this driver I’ve found that once the game has loaded you must select ‘4’ (Joystick) in order for the controls to work well, I’m not sure if this is a conflict with the ‘-natural’ option or something else.

MSX Donkey Kong MSX Donkey Kong
MSX Donkey Kong MSX Donkey Kong

It’s an Ocean Software port, so very similar to the Spectrum version but with more colours, less flicker and generally improvements all round.

If you’re feeling lazy and pick an MSX model with a floppy drive then there’s actually a version of Donkey Kong available on Floppy Disk too.
The Expert DDPlus (Brazil) is one such MSX model, so using the launch syntax “mame expertdp -flop1 dkong” will load the floppy version from the Software List, exact same game tho.

MSX Floppy Donkey Kong MSX Floppy Donkey Kong

One thing I mentioned is influence, and an influential game leads to people still giving it care and attention many years later. Back in 2007 ‘Sock Master’ decided to do a port of the Arcade version of Donkey Kong to the CoCo 3 computer, with the goal of creating something as close to the arcade experience as possible.

In the end he succeeded in creating this port, although admitted that it performed better on a modified machine, one with the CPU upgraded. MESS was generally open to supporting unofficial modified hardware configurations (as long as they actually existed) so has a machine with precisely the recommended upgrades available by default. MESS was also open to some ‘homebrew’ software being documented, so this port made it’s way into the Software Lists.

To launch we use the simple syntax
“mame coco3h dkong”

Before going anywhere else it’s wise to hit the ‘UI Toggle’ key (SCRLOCK) bring up the TAB menu, scroll down to Analog Controls, and adjust the AD stick X and Y Digital Speeds and Auto Center speeds up to 50, why? because the system used Analog Joysticks, and the default mapping of ’10’ for the speeds makes the game very sticky. With the settings adjusted close the TAB menu (press TAB again) and hit the ‘UI Toggle’ key once again to give the system full keyboard access.

The game is on a floppy disk, to see the content of the floppy disk type DIR and press return. You can see see several files listed, the one with the .BAS extension (BASIC) is the game loader and the one we’re interested in, it’s called DONKEY.BAS. To run it just type
and hit enter

once the game has loaded you’ll want to hit ‘P’ to change the Palette Type to CMP (Composite) or the colours will be ugly ingame. By default the controls map to the numpad, NUMPAD0 is credit/start, and the 8/4/6/2 directions move your character.

CoCo3 Donkey Kong CoCo3 Donkey Kong
CoCo3 Donkey Kong CoCo3 Donkey Kong

Sound is a bit crackly (possibly our emulation, or a filter on hardware makes it sound better) and the game skips a few frames (the original machine isn’t quite powerful enough) but it’s a very solid effort and looks+plays great due to being a direct translation of the original arcade code.

Some ports are really easy to get going, the Apple II port for example
“mame apple2p dkong”

With that, the game auto loads and can be played using the Numpad, not a great port, but still recognizable as Donkey Kong.

Apple 2 Donkey Kong Apple 2 Donkey Kong
Apple 2 Donkey Kong Apple 2 Donkey Kong

So far all the versions that need to be loaded via BASIC have been fairly straight forward, and have auto-ran after the initial load sequence. That isn’t always the case however, some need a little more attention, and a little more knowledge of exactly what’s on the tape you’re trying to run. Another thing that you get with certain systems is the ability to configure different RAM sizes as many of these computers came in different models with different amounts of RAM depending on how much you were willing to pay, or modify your machine.

One example that ends up incorporating both of these elements is the Colour Genie EG2000. There was an unofficial port of Donkey Kong to the machine known as “Colour Kong” It was available in 2 versions, a 16K version and a 32K version, we’re going to look at the 32K version.

The launch syntax we will be using is “mame cgenie -cass1 colkong32 -ramsize 32K” The -ramsize 32K option configures the machine as a 32K machine, it’s 16 by default, the valid options here are defined in the driver.

The built in BASIC for the machine is incredibly unintuitive. The first thing I’d recommend is hitting the ‘UI Toggle’ key (SCRLOCK) to enable the MAME controls, we’ll need them in a bit to start the tape.

Upon booting you get a MEM SIZE prompt from the machine, just hit enter, at that point it will say COLOUR BASIC and READY.

The first command you need to enter into the emulated machine is
entering this, and pressing return gives you a *? prompt
This prompt is expecting you to enter a filename, to operate this system it appears you actually have to know the name of the file on the cassette, which is inconvenient to say the least. In this instance the filename is KONG32, so type KONG32 and hit return.
The system won’t prompt you to press play on the tape, but that’s exactly what it wants you to do right now, so hit F2 to start playing the tape. It takes about a minute and a half to load the game, during that time you’ll see some * symbols in the corner. After loading it returns you to the *? prompt

Again at this point it isn’t obvious what you must do, the game doesn’t auto-start (some games on the system do, but this isn’t one of them) to boot the game you must type a / symbol and press enter.

‘S’ starts the game, arrow keys move, Z is jump. It’s an unofficial port to an obscure system, and the barrel level is really tricky, but it does look like all the levels are implemented!

Colour Genie - Colour Kong Colour Genie - Colour Kong
Colour Genie - Colour Kong Colour Genie - Colour Kong
Colour Genie - Colour Kong Colour Genie - Colour Kong

Another unofficial one I’ve since been made aware of in the comments below is the BBC Micro game ‘Killer Gorilla’ The BBC was another popular UK system, so it doesn’t surprise me to see somebody wrote a DK clone for it.

Launch the emulation with “mame bbcb -cass killergo”

I don’t recommending using the -natural option here because it does interfere with the keyboard controls of the game, so when typing the following commands into the emulation you’ll have to be careful because the keymapping isn’t entirely obvious.

To load the game you must type
pressing return after each line. The tape will auto play and the game will load.

As I mentioned the key mapping isn’t obvious but on my keyboard the * symbol maps to the @ key, just up and left from the right shift key, this is also one of the game controls (climb up ladder)

BBC Micro Killer Gorilla BBC Micro Killer Gorilla
BBC Micro Killer Gorilla BBC Micro Killer Gorilla
BBC Micro Killer Gorilla BBC Micro Killer Gorilla

Nintendo released versions of Donkey Kong on their own platforms too, one many people encountered is the NES version, it’s a decent port of the game. “mame nes dkong”

NES Donkey Kong NES Donkey Kong

That’s an easy one out of the way, now let’s look at something a bit more complex again.

For some systems you have to attach additional hardware before slots become available. One such system is the Famicom, aka the Japanese version of the NES. The Famicom had a ‘Disk System’ addon which allowed for games to be distributed on Floppy Disk. To use the Disk System add-on, and thus play games on Floppy you had to first plug it into your main system. In MAME you have to do the same.

There are two ways of doing things from here, option 1 is that we launch the Famicom with
“mame famicom -cart1 disksys”
this boots to the disk system bios.
from there you can press TAB to bring up the MAME tab menu, scroll down to ‘File Manager’, select it, scroll down to ‘floppydisk (flop)’, select it, scroll up to ‘[software list]’ select it, then ‘Nintendo Famicom Disk Images’, select that, then just type dkong to scroll the list to Donkey Kong and hit return. Assuming you have the ROMs available and where MAME can find them that will work. While for the purpose of this example I’m just loading Donkey Kong, which is identical to the NES version, there are a number of unique titles for the Disk System too.

The other way to do the same thing (without having to navigate all the menus) is to simply launch with
“mame famicom -cart1 disksys -flop1 dkong”
however navigating the menus is good practice for some more complex cases you might encounter later, where you have to change disks at runtime.

Famicom Disk System Donkey Kong Famicom Disk System Donkey Kong
Famicom Disk System Donkey Kong Famicom Disk System Donkey Kong

The majority of the rest of the Donkey Kong versions I managed to launch were easy cases, there are 3 of them for Atari Systems

The Atari 2600 had a very basic looking version of the game, with minimal presentation

“mame a2600 dkong”

Atari 2600 Donkey Kong Atari 2600 Donkey Kong

There was an Atari 800 version..

“mame a800 dkong”

Atari 800 Donkey Kong Atari 800 Donkey Kong
Atari 2600 Donkey Kong Atari 800 Donkey Kong

and an Atari 7800 version

“mame a7800 dkong”

Atari 7800 Donkey Kong Atari 7800 Donkey Kong

The interesting thing with the Atari 7800 version is that back in 2012 a new version was released to make use of the XM expansion card for the A7800, this expansion card added High Score Save support as well as additional sound chips. The original A7800 version of Donkey Kong has rather awful sound, so ‘TEP392′ decided to reprogram the game, improving it in significant ways. He released demo versions of this to the public to show off the improvements. The Demo version is softlisted, and our emulation does support the XM unit, unfortunately support seems to have broken at some point causing the Pokey to output static instead of the new music meaning I can’t really add that one to the ‘Things to try’ list for now.


It would appear that the Software Listed version of the XM Enhanced Donkey Kong does NOT work, however the one that is listed as MESS compatible (dkxm_demo_v12_ntsc.a78) does – for some reason none of the files on that page are recognized, I guess they’ve been updated since it was originally added to the list. The version that is listed as for the real hardware works the same as the one in MAME, ie the Pokey doesn’t work, according to etabeta it did work at one point(?) but I don’t know.

Either way, with that loose file you can launch the enhanced version.

“mame a7800 -cart1 xm -cart2 dkxm_demo_v12_ntsc.a78″

Donkey Kong Enhanced XM A7800 Donkey Kong Enhanced XM A7800
Donkey Kong Enhanced XM A7800 Donkey Kong Enhanced XM A7800

If you set the Level order to Japan and start level to 2/3 then you get to see the newly added Pie Factory level too, something which was absent from the original A7800 release.

The Gameboy got a port of Donkey Kong too, however it’s not really faithful to the original game logic, you can do some back-flip type jump instead of using the ladders at times!
“mame gbcolor dkong”

Donkey Kong Gameboy Donkey Kong Gameboy
Donkey Kong Gameboy Donkey Kong Gameboy

The Gameboy version was also special in another way, it was one of a handful of Gameboy games to have ‘Super Gameboy’ support. The Super Gameboy was an underutilized expansion device for the SNES which allowed Gameboy games to be played on the big screen with extra content (typically more colours, and a bezel) Most SNES add-ons are supported in MAME via the slot device system, however the Super Gameboy hasn’t been fully converted yet and is treated as a standalone system. For the purpose of running Donkey Kong this is good enough.
“mame supergb dkong”

Super Gameboy Donkey Kong Super Gameboy Donkey Kong
Super Gameboy Donkey Kong Super Gameboy Donkey Kong

The Intellivison got a basic, slow and ugly port of the game, remember to use the numpad to select difficulty etc. or it looks broken.
“mame intv dkong”

Intellivision Donkey Kong AIntellivision Donkey Kong

The Colecovision port plays well, but has minimal presentation

Intellivision Donkey Kong Intellivision Donkey Kong
Intellivision Donkey Kong Intellivision Donkey Kong

There was also a TI99-4a port
“mame ti99_4a donkeykg” (really this should be renamed to dkong to be consistent with the rest)
This one also plays a good game.

TI99-4A Donkey Kong TI99-4A Donkey Kong
TI99-4A Donkey Kong TI99-4A Donkey Kong

Venturing well into obscure territory is a port that was done for the BeLogic Uzebox. The Uzebox driver is marked as NOT Working in MAME, and lacks sound, but the actual gameplay of the Donkey Kong port runs fine, it’s not a great port, and the emulation does struggle to maintain 100% even on my 4Ghz i7, but it’s an interesting one because it shows how we’re interested in emulating these ‘Open Source’ games consoles and the homebrew software developed for them.
“mame uzebox dkong”

Uzebox Donkey Kong Uzebox Donkey Kong
Uzebox Donkey Kong Uzebox Donkey Kong

Not All Working

That concludes all the versions of Donkey Kong I could get working, there were a couple of others I couldn’t, the Vic20 version for example hangs on the title.

VIc20 Donkey Kong

The GBA version which is a ‘NES Classics’ release doesn’t work because those have some kind of anti-emulator protection on them that our ARM core fails, the IBM PC version is out of the scope of this article to run (if I do a Part 3 I might cover it) and a number of the other cases where there is a Donkey Kong port the drivers are just skeleton drivers or don’t seem to have the tape / floppy hooked up to a point where it can be loaded. There are one or two others that are just direct ports of existing versions too. There are a couple more fan remakes that aren’t in the Softlists yet that I haven’t covered, and countless commercial rip-offs that wanted a chunk of the action from back in the day, but I feel I’ve covered enough here to demonstrate the features of the emulator I wanted to demonstrate. One significant thing I haven’t covered here at all are the Donkey Kong licensed Fruit Machines, those were rather interesting too, but as our drivers in MAME don’t yet work there’s nothing to show yet.

Wrapping Up

It should be noted that for a lot of the systems covered here MAME isn’t the absolute best emulator available, however, it’s certainly good enough for many use cases, as hopefully all these different versions of Donkey Kong running demonstrate. Knowing which machine to use, or how to configure the machine you want to use can be a challenge, and in some cases you’ll need to do a bit of research (I had to myself here for loading an MSX game from cassette) but don’t let that put you off, plenty really are just as easy to use as any arcade game.

What’s interesting with Donkey Kong is that while it was ported extensively outside of Japan there don’t seem to be that many cases where it was released on home systems in Japan, this contrasts greatly with the output of Namco where their most popular games were ported to a wide range of Japanese systems. Covering some of the Japanese systems is definitely an area I should consider for a follow-up article too because the obscure Japanese systems have some good ports and in many cases are an area in which the MESS code we’ve imported really excels.

I hope some of the things covered in this little write-up have been useful and again help show exactly what new abilities having the MESS code integrated has opened up to people. I think it’s fair to say that MAME is now the King of Kong, you can trace the game right from it’s arcade origins down to the best and worst of ports

*If* I do a Part 3 it will likely cover some even more advanced use cases for the emulator, such as using the PC emulation where you need to install the operating system first. I was going to do that using Raiden as an example (like Part 1), but have since discovered it suffers from an emulation glitch meaning I need to rethink my plan there.

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