Ok, so the front page of this blog is looking rather neglected. There have been updates over on the 2021 page to the left but a lot of the general chit-chat now takes place on my streams https://www.youtube.com/mamehaze.
So far the pace of the year has been quite different to 2020, not necessarily slower, but in terms of what can be covered it ends up looking that way.
Some of the most important developments in MAME’s timeline have happened over the last year, such as Aaron’s rewrite of the Yamaha FM sound cores, finally putting them under a more obviously free license in the form of the BSD, rather than the GPL which required users to keep their source open, which was problem for a lot of commercial users, or the older license which didn’t allow any kind of commercial use at all. It’s difficult to cover such work, because while there have been improvements (such as the horn sound in the Micro Machines games on the Genesis) it’s not a case of me being able to put up screenshots and have the changes leap out at you.
There have been fewer Plug and Play devices dumped, this was expected as the majority of them that remain are incredibly difficult dump cases, many for which there are no solutions at present.
Elements of burnout are probably creeping in across the scene too. 2020 was a tough year, and at least for me meant I spent more time doing emulation work because real world options weren’t available. The start of 2021 wasn’t much better, but now it is possible to do things outside of sitting at a computer again, I’ve been making use of the time I have to do those things.
There have been plenty of dumps for educational systems such as the V.Smile, which haven’t really received any coverage anywhere, and a ton of work done on miscellaneous electronic toys that I need to look into giving some coverage on the write-up pages. Emulation of a variety of computers and consoles has also been taking big leap forwards from my own cursory glancing over the changelogs.
Some of these I have been covering on my livestreams, for example, the great work that has been done on improving the Sharp X68000 of late means I’ve been able to play many games that failed to run previously. It was great fun to look at ports of arcade games on the platform, seeing which ones were good, which not so good, while also browsing the massive library of original titles available.
Research from outside of MAME is also constantly being fed in to MAME, allowing the fine tuning the emulation of many classics, eg. the research done for FPGA implementations that led to fixes to the emulation of the 3D stages in Contra. Many outside developers have also made a big difference; I was especially impressed with the sound improvements to many of the Nichibutsu action games, but again not something easily covered in screenshots. MAME’s support for obscure unlicensed NES games has improved greatly too thanks to the contributions from one of the regulars on my streams adding support for a lot of the more recently documented ‘mapper’ chips.
Some less frequent MAME contributors have also made a huge mark this year, Ville for example who can be very quiet at times took the emulation of several Konami games forward by strides while Aaron has been back in the swing of things of late, improving and optimizing MAME’s VooDoo emulation. Happpy is another, presenting us with far more stable looking 3D graphics in the Hyper 64 Samurai Shodown games.
Even I was looking at some of the Namco drivers in recent months, fixing up many issues with the Final Lap and Suzuka 8 Hours games, so I’ve been busy too, just not always writing about it here; again many of those fixes and improvements have been talked about on the livestreams instead.
I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s been a busier year for everybody than my lack of updates here would suggest, and the deeper you dig into the changelogs from the year, the more you realise that.