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December 20, 2012 Haze Categories: General News. 24 Comments on Dot Eaters Unite

One of the cool things about UME / MESS is the way it unites the various ports of games under one emulator, which can be interesting to study. Take Pacman, here you have the classic arcade

Original Pacman

Now, when you’re running MAME you have that, and only that (yes I know there are remakes and the Namco Anniversary one is really quite neat, but that’s an aside)

When you add MESS, you can look in the Software Lists and find many more versions of Pacman listed, some official, some unofficial / unlicensed, but all of them trying to be the same game. There are probably many more versions out there too, the lists aren’t complete by any means!

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Some versions are good, and play close to the original, some are terrible and a million miles apart (the notorious A2600 version) Maybe it’s just my nerdy / geeky side coming through, but having an emulator capable of this makes for an incredible adventure, being able to see the limitations of each machine by studying the emulator code, and then being able to see what they came up with.

Of course Pacman isn’t the only game ported to lots of platforms, plenty of the other classics were for example, Mappy, see the original arcade


and some ports… (I was a bit hesistant over putting the Super Cassette Vision one because it runs too fast to play, but it ‘looks’ ok)

Mappy Mappy

Mappy Mappy

Mappy Mappy

Mappy Mappy


Some platforms got ports of more obscure games instead, for example the Casio PV-2000 got .. Super Pacman, under the title Mr. Packn (no idea why they used that title, it’s a licensed port)

Super Pacman Mr. Packn

and it wasn’t only Namco games which received a lot of ports, Nintendo was popular back then too, with the Amstrad CPC getting what is usually considered one of the best home ports (there is a graphic glitch in MESS on the lives bar tho)

Donkey Kong Donkey Kong

Now it has to be said that all of these were in an era where the arcades were vastly more powerful than the home systems so obviously the home versions do end up looking inferior, but from a technical point of view many are actually much more interesting due to their creative use of the hardware available.

All in all it’s reasons like this why I consider the MESS component of our project to be possibly the most fascinating bit (and definitely where the future is) that’s why I offer it as part of the MAME project with my UME binaries. MESS might not be perfect for all systems, and it does have a learning curve, but even with systems I’m mostly unfamiliar with I’ve managed to boot up, run, and take snapshots of many games even if a couple of the systems did take a little figuring out and digging up some basic usage instructions for or plugging virtual joysticks into slots before I had any controls.


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/me agree (you knew that)

Atari Age recently started selling a homebrew Pac-Man for the 2600 that’s really impressive considering how awful the official Pac-Man release was…

it’s certainly better than the official one which was rather shameful when you consider most of the other official ports at least managed to look *something* like pacman, although I’m not entirely sure I’d want to play it all the same ;-)

The story that I read was that the original Pac-Man for the 2600 was a proof of concept to show that 4 ghosts were possible and it was never intended by the developer to be released. However, management decided that it was “close enough” and decided to release it with very minor changes.

I’ve been meaning to do something like this for a long time, finding out which game has more ports and unlicensed varients over all systems. The likely winner being tetris with doom creeping high on the leaderboard for much later systems.

I’d say Tetris for all-time. There’s dozens of licensed versions, let alone unofficial variants.

I’d agree, and it’s not exactly a game where releasing it would seem dated, or need to be in some kind of ‘classics’ pack.

Newer versions tend to be better because they’re more refined (trying to play the original Atari Tetris or Sega Tetris is quite painful compared to the more modern ports, they feel stiff and awkward)

That new Giant Tetris thing is just a bad bad joke tho, considering how tight the Tetris Company want to control the Tetris IP I’m surprised they allowed it, it doesn’t really play like Tetris, it’s entirely a novelty, and basically closer to one of the redemption games than a real game simply due to how few lines there are / how little you can do.

About Pacman, a great achievement needs to be notified : it’s the Pac-man emulator on CPC. Yes, the word “emulator” can be discussed, but i still find it very impressive, even if it lags a bit.



I guess it’s a port of the same thing somebody did for the Speccy (although obviously it looks a lot nicer on the CPC due to no colour clash)

Yes and on Sam CoupĂ© too… but it looks really close to the original on Amstrad.

It’s just a shame the CPC driver is near useless at the moment due to dsk support not working (because Olivier hasn’t readded support for that format with the modern FDC)

It sounds like it only needs 6128 for the RAM anyway, I wonder how it would be if it actually used the + features / was on the gx4000, I assume hardware sprites would help.

Looks great on the CPC, The spectrum version works great in Mess. I havent had chance to try the SAM Coupe version.


Not so many people owned a CPC Plus, hence it is often considered as a different computer and let alone by the scene without using the extended capabilities (there is still a handful of good productions made like the Plus version of Rick Dangerous for example).

Well it was far too little, far too late, I remember all the major stores ending up trying to flog GX4000 machines for little more than the cost of a new game eventually, it was less powerful than the NES / SMS in many senses (depended on the CPU for a lot more) and released when the NES / SMS had already been mastered, and pushed to the max.

Still, for that reason I’m surprised it’s not become something of a cult machine with people trying to find out what it could have been.

There are strong assumptions that the Plus range was just a way for Amstrad to sell their last components and make a few bucks of a dying success…

I’m not sure, clearly they must have invested some thought (and money) into the extra features otherwise they would have been there in the first place, and if you were just trying to clear out components I doubt you’d bother. Some of the ideas were right with the plus chipset, but they simply didn’t go far enough.

For some reason it was typical of most non-japanese systems to use bitmap based displays, whereas the japanese ones more typically used hardware accelerated tilemaps and sprites. There are obviously limitations to both models, but the latter is far easier on the cpu which when it comes to games is important.

Even consoles like the CD32, CDI and Jaguar suffered from the same problem really, their displays were still bitmap based (sometimes even non-trivial bitmap formats) with some hardware blitters, but still required extensive CPU overhead to manage.

Hi! :)

I usually follow your blog, Haze, and it has been a nice surprise, see the nice comments about one of my programs, the Pac-Man emulator for CPC.

Thanks for your kind words remax!!!

About the 6128 requirement, of course, it’s by the extra 64 KBs of ram. But also because i use the special ram paging modes that add the 6128 pal (and not all the cpc ram expansion support), the project would not be possible without them.

And with respect to a cpc+ version, the sprites would eliminate the slowdowns; that and other extras would improve the arcade feeling… and the better rom paging modes the cpc+ cartridge includes, i would let me to convert Pengo and Ms. Pacman, between others classic arcades.

But the reason that we haven’t upgraded it yet (aside of being working in other projects), it’s simply, i don’t have a cpc+ machine and for me it’s important being able to test in the real machine. I use emulators for developing, but the program need to run in the real CPC.

Pac-Man has a few features that only can be enjoyed in the real machine; as the use of a joystick with 3 fire buttons, the dithered graphics are mixed as extra colours in a CRT monitor, the NTSC mode, …

And when i go to a Retro Meeting, these are the features the people loves, it’s amazing when you see little children playing and enjoying Pac-Man in CPC.

Funny thing, the best ports of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong are on the Coco 3 (Color Computer 3)


Donkey Kong

Those are after-market ports tho, like the emulator, created with modern dev tools (which makes life much easier) as well as with full emulated, debuggable original titles for reference and the original roms available to study (which back in the day most didn’t have access to, especially not outside of Japan)

The Donkey Kong on the CPC is impressive because afaik it was the actual port back then, not one created more recently.

Still, yes, they’re fine achievements, and show what could have been done with the systems if not for limited development tools, extreme deadlines and a complete lack of resources back in the day!

I’m not sure how the CoCo3 runs in MESS because I’m not familiar with the hardware, the original CoCo seems to have some issues with games misbehaving and could probably do with a bit of love. Unless the Software List for Coco also includes CoCo3 software then there is no list for it in MESS, and I did a lot of my testing based on what was in the software lists (makes life easier) the only place I strayed was for the MSX version of Mappy, because I needed an extra screenshot and knew the MSX lists are lacking.

Obviously in many cases the Softlists aren’t conclusive at the moment (some systems are HUGE undertakings) so typically they get populated with things useful to whoever is working on a system, and updated at various points when things are actively being worked on unless somebody has decided to maintain a specific list.

I did want to include the CPC / Speccy emulated ports because they’re kinda interesting, but with the CPC floppy code being missing at the moment I opted not to show them. Looks like the MSX also had a port of Pacman (and the unofficial Oh Shit! which also looks like a close adaptation) There also seems to be a decent Mode 0 PD version of Pacman on the CPC, but again with disk support currently missing due to the floppy rewrite I couldn’t test things to include them, and I wanted the list to be reflective of the current MESS SVN.

Thanks for your comments SyX, it pleases me to see people still enthusiastic about these old machines and having owned both a CPC and Speccy growing up it’s always fascinating to see what they were actually capable of.

Thanks to you, Haze, your hard work in UME (for me is the official name nowdays ;) ) over the years is highly regarded by many of us, you have been always sensible and open-minded, two vital characteristics for advancing the project ;)

If you want to feel and share the enthusiasm, come any year to RetroMadrid: http://www.retromadrid.org/

You will can play to a lot of arcades or rare computers that we only can see in emulators those days.

Enjoy the new games published for CPC, MSX and ZX (the main 8 bit computers in Spain).

And even if you feel like giving a talk; for example, “Past, present and future of UME”; i’m sure my friends in the organization will love to having you there :)

Merry Christmas!!!

PD: If i remember well, you were an amiga user too, because that i think that you will love this cpc demo from the last year:

Nice demo. I really hope one day MESS / UME can reach the level needed to run such things, but it’s still years away from the standalones in most areas because to achieve such accuracy you really need somebody dedicated to understanding and emulating every aspect of the system so such levels of hardware abuse tend to fail badly.

I think for some systems it’s pretty good, I’ve heard the A2600 copes well with abuse, but things like the speccy need proper waitstates / mid operation bus stealing etc. and such things are having to be added into the framework because they were never even considered when emulating arcade games.

UME is the combination of MAME and MESS, most of my actual work has been in MAME, so it’s the MESS guys who really deserve the credit for quietly developing the emulator in the background, although I do think it’s about time they were considered equals, hence UME.

The history of MESS and how it relates to MAME, how MAME has helped it, hindered it, and how it has done the same for MAME is really the ‘story’ but I think we’re approaching a time now when the real needs of the MESS side are starting to be seen by the core project development team (mostly because the majority of the current core MAME team is the MESS team) There is however still a fair amount of resistance to them officially becoming one project.

I can understand it to a degree, not being able to run demos like the one you show does leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, as do performance and compatibility issues with other things such as the SNES, but for all the things it gets wrong it still gets twice as many right, and opens peoples eyes to systems they might otherwise have not been aware of, or ones where the standalone emulators have been neglected, or are really only supported on Japanese operating systems etc.

Anyway, indeed, Merry Christmas to you, and other readers of this blog, it will certainly be interesting to see what the new year brings, 2012 has certainly seen a lot of steps taken in the right direction when it comes to MESS, and UME, even if some of it been a little turbulent, for example the impact of things like the ongoing (essential) floppy rewrites.

I’ll attempt to do a bit of a yearly write-up closer to the new year, highlighting some of the things we’ve seen over the past year.

Great article :) I enjoyed seeing this. I have hoped for a single unified emulator since the NeoRageX / Callus / Nesticle days. And that other one that proudly boasted to be the first arcade emu to emulate Salamander.. it wasn’t Raine… that one that also did some Irem M92 stuff wayy before MAME emulated them.

Rage? The one before NeoRage ;-) well Rage did IREM M92, not Salamander tho. Sparcade did Salamander IIRC, but not IREM stuff?

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