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Looking Back at a List

December 7, 2020 Haze Categories: General News. 11 Comments on Looking Back at a List

Back in May of 2013 I wrote up a small article looking at some of the things MAME had not yet conquered. That page is at https://mamedev.emulab.it/haze/the-path-ahead-of-us/ although most of the embedded videos are now broken either due to then no longer being on YouTube, and the YouTube embedding code changing in that time.

The article was designed to provide a bit of background information on each platform (such as what was causing issues) as well as anything else I thought might be useful.

Here is the list of sub-topics from that article.

AMT Games – Beauty Block & IQ Pipe (Arcade)
Konami – GX Type 1 – Racin’ Force & Golfing Greats 2 (Arcade)
VM Labs – Nuon (Home)
Jaleco – Megasystem 32 Extended – F1 Super Battle (Arcade)
Atari – Playstation Hardware – Primal Rage 2 (Arcade)
Atari – Space Lords (Arcade)
Stern – Mazer Blazer & Great Guns (Arcade)
Konix Multisystem (Home)
Casio – Loopy (Home)
SNK – Hyper NeoGeo 64 – Fatal Fury Wild Ambition, Samurai Shodown 64, Samurai Shodown Warriors Rage, Roads Edge, Xxtreme Rally, Buriki One, Beast Busters 2nd Nightmare
Kaneko – Gals Panic II (Arcade)
TCH – Wheels & Fire (Arcade)
Nichibutsu – Tatakae! Big Fighter / Sky Robo (Arcade)
Space – Quiz Punch / Quiz Punch 2 (Arcade)
Gaelco – 16-bit Era games – Thunder Hoop 2, Glass, World Rally 2 + more (Arcade)
Taito – Air System – Top Landing & Air Inferno (Arcade)
Bit Corporation / UMC – Gamate (Mobile / Handheld)
Sandisk – Sansa Fuze (2) (Mobile / Handheld)
Data East – Genesis based hardware – High Seas Havoc (Arcade)
Seibu – Cross Shooter / Air Raid (Arcade)
Seibu / Taito – Panic Road (Arcade)
Various – Fruit Machines
Various – Improving what we have

I figured as that was almost 7 years ago it would be a good time to look at what, if any, progress was made on these systems, and my thoughts on that.

AMT Games – Beauty Block & IQ Pipe (Arcade)

No progress

Konami – GX Type 1 – Racin’ Force & Golfing Greats 2 (Arcade)

No public progress shown. More is known about the chips involved now than was back then, but there’s nothing at all to show for it.

VM Labs – Nuon (Home)

No progress

Jaleco – Megasystem 32 Extended – F1 Super Battle (Arcade)
No progress

Atari – Playstation Hardware – Primal Rage 2 (Arcade)

Somebody outside of the project did come up with some hacks to get this in-game, but they were objectively wrong, and not friendly to other things on similar hardware, no attempt was made to improve them, so they were never merged.

Atari – Space Lords (Arcade)

Peter Wilhelmsen and the late Morten Kirkegaard figured out the protection on this one, and it now runs perfectly in MAME.

Stern – Mazer Blazer & Great Guns (Arcade)

There was some progress on these from Kale, they’re basically playable now, but still not perfect. Mazer Blazer still has the red flag due to significant issues, and we still haven’t seen a populated speech board for it.

Konix Multisystem (Home)

No progress, there are still no proper BIOS dumps to my knowledge, only looks software rips that will require heavy HLE, which isn’t a very MAME friendly approach.

Casio – Loopy (Home)

No progress

SNK – Hyper NeoGeo 64 – Fatal Fury Wild Ambition, Samurai Shodown 64, Samurai Shodown Warriors Rage, Roads Edge, Xxtreme Rally, Buriki One, Beast Busters 2nd Nightmare

There was significant progress in this time period, including dumping of the I/O MCU and hooking it up (I wrote a CPU core to handle it) but not enough for any of the games to be considered ‘working’ The remaining tasks are very difficult and progress has entirely stalled.

Kaneko – Gals Panic II (Arcade)

No progress

TCH – Wheels & Fire (Arcade)

There were improvements in the time period, and it even got promoted to working, although I’d make a strong case for that being premature; the speed still seems all wrong, and the video glitches are severe.

Nichibutsu – Tatakae! Big Fighter / Sky Robo (Arcade)

The MCU was decapped for this one, and it is now a fully working game.

Space – Quiz Punch / Quiz Punch 2 (Arcade)

There was some progress, MCUs dumped etc. but there are still too many issues to mark them as working, and Quiz Punch doesn’t boot without a lot of hacks. One of the Quiz Punch 2 ROMs was also identified as being bad.

Gaelco – 16-bit Era games – Thunder Hoop 2, Glass, World Rally 2 + more (Arcade)

Again thanks to the work of Peter and the late Morten, these are fully playable; I actually thought this was the most difficult / unrealistic target on the entire list, something nobody wanted to tackle, so to see it actually get done really tells you a lot about the talent of those involved.

Taito – Air System – Top Landing & Air Inferno (Arcade)

There was significant progress on these from Kale, and Top Landing is considered playable, although Air Inferno still has a NOT WORKING flag

Bit Corporation / UMC – Gamate (Mobile / Handheld)

Again Peter and Morten worked on getting these dumped, while I worked on the emulation. MAME is the ‘best in class’ emulator for these at this point.

Sandisk – Sansa Fuze (2) (Mobile / Handheld)

No progress

Data East – Genesis based hardware – High Seas Havoc (Arcade)

The protection PIC was decapped and dumped, but the encryption problems remain, no progress has been made on those

Seibu – Cross Shooter / Air Raid (Arcade)

No progress

Seibu / Taito – Panic Road (Arcade)

I thought I’d got this working, but then some critical emulation bugs with the collision were found and it was demoted back down to not working. No solution to those issues has been found.

Various – Fruit Machines

Progress has been slow for the non-video ones, although breakthroughs on things like the MPU4 video systems have improved the stability of the non-video systems there too, and a lot of the improved device emulations have been slowly pushing things forward behind the scenes to the point it might be worth another stab at things. Likewise there have been a lot of improvements to MAME’s presentation layer that could help here.

Various – Improving what we have

There’s been an incredible amount of this, even fixes for things we didn’t realise needed fixing at the time, discrete sound in previously silent games. This is where an overwhelming amount of the work has been done, in terms of emulation quality and correctness the project is nearly unrecognizable from the one in 2013.

Conclusion

Even as somebody close to the project, what I wanted to see happen, and even thought would happen based on the difficult of the tasks etc. had no bearing on what actually ended up happening.

A lot of the things I thought we’d see progress on, no progress was made, while others, that I thought were maybe a bit unrealistic did end up happening. 3 of the items on that list that did end up seeing significant progress to the point of promotion to working state only did so due to the efforts of Morten Kirkegaard who is sadly no longer with us.

Really the only way to be sure that something you want to see done gets done is to do it yourself. Creating lists of things you’d like to see is basically pointless, as even here, where I’d created an educated list based on what I felt was likely to happen from my own experience with the project, most of it missed the mark entirely.

Maybe the thing that amazes me most however is how many things did happen that weren’t even on my radar at the time. MAME really is a project of discovery, a place to learn. To pluck one example from the air, at the time of writing the original article I had no idea what a SunPlus un’SP based CPU even was, yet in the past couple of years I’ve spent an extensive amount of time emulating things using that technology. We had no real idea that emulating Game & Watch units was even possible, it was widely believed at the time that they were entirely logic and didn’t use a CPU. Many of the improvements to existing drivers have also only come about because in those 7 years the quality of the resources available is so much better; the original videos (most of which are now gone) were typically 30fps 480p at best. These days there’s footage being recorded from original hardware at 4k resolutions and 60 frames per second as well as people analyzing the original hardware using tools of a capability not previously available to the public as well as people in professional industries making use of ones still not really available to the general public.

You might look at the number of ‘no progress’ entries in that list I made and think the last 7 years have been a failure, but that doesn’t tell the whole story at all. Some of those, maybe even most of those, still might not have seen meaningful progress in another 7 years because most of them are going to take somebody with a real interest in them, the required skills, and the time to do anything, in order to make any progress and the combination of those things is extremely uncommon. It is really up to people outside of the core team to take the initiative.

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