Emulation and Me–The gamer Side of me

First of all, sorry for a late post, I have been busy in researching DDOS mitigation solutions, and have been going through a lot of data sheets, specs and devices for the same. Also, Prohack celebrated its one more year of its technological legacy and I thought why not to cover about what made me tick and started it all..Well...to be frank, it was the games, old school games.Emulation and Me - The gamer Side of Me - prohack

The earliest memory of a videogame I played was at the local computer centre (Hind Computers) at my local town, it was Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia in mid nineties, well..I remember the beautiful graphics on the monochrome monitors, elusive I must say, but I knew I was hooked to it for my life. It was also my first interaction with computers.

The 90's were a sort of a period when you can get your hands on an Atari (if you were lucky) , a PC (if your parents were either merchants and needed the machine for their financial transactions..or just hard-core geeks) or Terminator Ending Man series of NES clones that later in early 2000's flooded the market. The arcade scene boomed (provided you knew the places) and old CPS1 machines saw bouts of Street Fighter 2, Cadillac's and Dinosaurs (Fondly called as Mustafa due to the titular and strong character of the game) and if you were lucky Tekken 3 .

As time progressed home consoles, as I already said I witnessed 8 bit revolution in India when it was almost forgotten by the east and west. Well..not bad for me. I got my hands on an NES clone (Media 1000) for which I was able to get the Chinese/Taiwanese multicarts every once in a while, and witnessed the greatness of late eighties and early 90's in the form of Mario, Mario 3, Contra , Super C, Rockman , Mighty Final Fight, Metal Gear, Zen - The Intergalactic Ninja, Kage (Shadow of Ninja, Jap version) , Nekketsu series, Summer Carnival 92 - Recca , Little Ninja Bros,Disney’s Jungle Book, GIJOE, TMNT 3/ 4 Tournament Fighters and much much more..and to be frank, Capcom, Konami and Nintendo were my Gods .

Ending Man Taiwanese console - prohack / Photo Courtesy heimcomputer

I witnessed 16 bit gaming during my summer vacations at modded arcades at Dehradun (Tibet Coloney, Buddha temple, they are still there today), modded in the sense that they were home consoles of Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and SNES, which were fitted with Hori Style arcade sticks and hooked up to make shift cabinets, when for 5 Rs you can get your hands on Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 , Comix Zone, Contra Hardcorps, Street Fighter 2 , Super Mario World for 30 minutes and lots more. Players duelled there and its there I got my first taste of fatalities in UMK3, and I am still good in pulling them off without breaking a sweat. Its there I had my first contact with 3d fighters like Tekken 3, Street Fighter Ex/EX2/plus , Mortal Kombat 4 and many more and I longed for my summer vacations so that I could go to my native place and play the games .

Growing up, I had my first RPG as Little Ninja Brothers by Culture Brain, when I bought the multicart, I was perplexed by the gameplay as I wasn't used to the concept of resource mining/hogging, spells, random encounters and a chained story. Getting dragstar, beating Devillion, getting to Yokan , the 7 bells..I now realise how generic it was , but back then , the sweet taste of going into an adventure in your own way was awesome. Nevertheless, I had a record of beating each game I got and mastering to the point of flawless execution, a thing that needed time which my parents frowned upon, a lot. The second thing they hated the most was the chiptune music which I liked a lot (still have a great collection of them today :) in my cell phone ) which later hooked me to the demoscene, I am a fan of the Farbrausch, .theprodukkt, Fairlight, mfx, kewlers and used to enjoy the intros/cracktros in my pastime.

Then there was Prateek, he had a blazing fast Pentium 3 at his home and I remember him cursing Windows and playing Dinocrisis (and swooning on Regina :P) , on a side note, we also started our experiments by getting a copy of Turbo Linux, experimenting with it , then after bouts of frustration and incoherent manuals (it was a time when IT WAS HARD finding the correct Linux drivers for your box, coding them was out of question since we were kids) but that's a different story. Doom , Dangerous Dave and Wolfenstein 3d was what we had with us at that time as shooters. Then after a lot of haggling, and by scoring good marks i was able to get a Sega Genesis for me (PAL version, used, with my first carts as Contra Hardcorps and Utlimate Mortal Kombat 3) and I spent my days tinkering with Super Hang On, Monaco GP, Rambo, Aladdin and lots more. It was during those days when I got a PC and then, my life was changed.

Comix Zone - Prohack
At that time, PC for me meant 3 things -

  • Games
  • Programming
  • Internet

Of which Games was the primary part and programming was done at late hours of night (VB/VBS if you are curious, it was in my courseware at school , I moved on to C as I got bored of dragging and dropping and wanted some real challenge).Initial games were Project IGI, handful of Virgin interactive classics (The Lion King..anyone ?) The real twist came when I picked up a dusty copy of Street Fighter Alpha 3 from a shop, and when I ran it from CD, a DOS based interface opened , and the game ran. But there was something peculiar about it, it wasn't exactly DOS based, I later figured out, the game ran in DOS mode using an emulator, which was a new term for me, but as a rule of thumb, anything that made me play games is something to be learnt and something to get good at, I started exploring them. I am lucky it was in those days emulation scene was still kicking ass, with fresh releases of Kawaks/Nebula/Final burn Alpha and all other CPS/CPS2/PGM emulation systems lots of documentation to read, a great community to mix and great games to play. It was then I found I had an inherent taste in emulation and I had a hand on almost all emulators which ever found their way to Zophar's Domain or scene sites. I found my own configurations that worked for me (and my own box) flawlessly, debugging through 68000 debugger in Kawaks , the first taste of loading games through Callous, and playing Super Mario World using SNES 9x (without paying money again, ever :D) .I used to play “borrowed” MAME roms on early builds of MAME and the understood the full glory of arcades . I remember playing Chronotrigger (the best RPG I played..ever) on ZSNES and dumping SPC files, only to be later converted into mp3 and then playing the sweet music on Sunday mornings. Nobuo Uematsu..thanks for making my childhood sweet.

It was due to emulators , I witnessed the actual history of gaming , starting from Spacewar to Atari, the console wars between Nintendo and Sega, the ditching of Sony by Nintendo, the revenge of Sony in the form of Playstation, the Sega 32 X, Saturn and the dawn of Sega, the tryst of Nintendo in the form of N64 , the console wars of millennium starting from the iconic date of 9/9/99 , the failing of Sega as a hardware developer and Dreamcast being ousted from market despite its innovations, the PS2 and Xbox and coming to the semi-present day scenario of PS3 vs XBOX 360 and the coming next generation of consoles.

Playstation - PSX - prohack

Later on when it came to PC Gaming, we formed the Project IGI club, guys who started their PC gaming careers with their first game as Codemaster’s Project IGI and finding new and innovative ways to beat it. Also, when it came to PC gaming, Prateek and my brother Vaibhav , both hated me for emulators, according to them it was lame and the latest was the best, I on the other had found anything with a configuration file worth my time and played through all the classic titles one by one. The only game we all agreed was awesome was Mario Kart 64 on Project 64, hell, who would argue it was bad :) Then there were PlayStation emulators epsxe/pcsx/adripsx/psx and the best plugin pack you could get your hands on – Aldo’s Plugin Pack, having the best drivers from one of my favourite coder Pete Bernert , his fantastic plugins were easy to tweak/compile (courtesy of his PE oPs project) and had exceptional performance.

Coming of age , I got my hands on Halo: Combat Evolved, CS 1.6 , Hitman series, Max Payne series of which I still can repeat dialogues of Max Payne line by line, I just liked the Nordic ,violent,noir setting of the game like with a great story line. It was also at that time I came across modern emulators PCSX2 , CXBX/DXBX, Potemkin, XEON, Dolphin,  Chankast and found except Chankast each one of them required to have an Alienware or Origin PC to even run the games (well, I wanted to play God of War at that time, bad..but they were on nascent stage then) , in laymen terms, they needed exceptionally high configurations just to croak  . I also found Doom 3 also needed an Alienware to run :| literally.

After a while, I found the emulation scene started getting stagnant with few updates and releases and I started focusing on genres I haven't tried. At this point of time, I vaguely remembered a trailer of Metal gear Solid 3 : Snake Eater in an early review at Ten Sports, and thought to give a shot to the series starting of MGS on EPSXE.

That proved to be the most exciting gaming experiences of my life.

Well..i found it alluring, awesome storyline, well developed characters, a gruff snake and the best voice acting I have ever heard on a videogame . Wow..just wow. It was time for Metal Gear Solid 2 : Substance on PC and got my copy cheap off from a retail shop. the experience ? Well..2 words – Fucking Awesome ! I will cover it in a later review some other day. Also, during those days. I saw a demo of RE4 on a gamecube machine and its still the best survival horror game ever. Speaking of which, my life had came a full circle, Capcom’s Shinji Mikami’s RE , Capcom Clover’s Killer 7,Hideki Kamiya’s Devil May Cry, Konami’s Hideo Kojima’s MGS and Shigeru Miyamato’s Mario series..Everything a gamer could want. Capcom, Konami and Nintendo..the game Gods revisited again.

Paper Mario 2 - Prohack

Mid and late 2000’s brought me Warcraft 3, StarCraft, Farcry, Half life 2 , Prince of Persia : Warrior Within (which I only play due to the refined combo system and kickass music by Godsmack) and CPS3. A special mention to Half Life 2 for the most immersive shooter of its time, although I wished the crap about G Man was solved :X . While Warcraft 3 and Starcraft are the best RTS experience, the reverse engineering of CPS3 encryption was what caught my eye during those days. One of the first POC emulators was written by Miguel Angel 'ElSemi' Horna better known as Elsemi of Nebula fame and one of the first games which I played was Street Fighter 3. Heck, CPS3 means Street Fighter 3, the finest and most technical fighting game ever made. Don't believe me ? well..just Google “Evolution 2004 Daigo” and you will know what I mean. Its the pinnacle of fighting genre only for the dedicated. Nowadays, add GGPO to it and you get a heady mix of online play in the most competitive manner in an already highly competitive game.

Street Fighter 3 Third Strike - Prohack

Nowadays, a lot of titles are revised, repacked and innovative games are being launched, you have got staples like Street Fighter 4, Killzone, God Of War 3 , Gears, RE, MGS, Super Mario Galaxy / Galaxy 2, Halo 3, Portal/Portal 2 (however I liked Narbular Drop just as much) and the innovation bandwagon of Bastion, Tower of Goo, Limbo, Bulletstorm,Journey, Infamous and a lot more..they are online and fun, the DLC allows for replayability , but still, I prefer the old school emulation any day over the current titles. Call me a nerd, but then, thats the way I am . As i type this , i have an opponent waiting for a rematch on Third Strike.

I had a great gaming childhood, if you had one, you might share my sentiments, else, I just might have some great geeky stories to tell you.

by Rishabh Dangwal · 1

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