The Legacy Game Emulator
An Introduction to why I am starting the Legacy Emulator Project:
Video games have a legacy that is worth preserving. As hardware becomes obsolete, the gaming systems, physical game media, and more become impossible to get without spending a small fortune. If you are anything like me, there are games you loved as a kid that you either sold to GameStop for next to nothing, lost or broke the systems/games, or never owned them in the first place. While I did a good job hanging onto my gaming systems and hard disk copies of games, I did make the mistake of selling some for no good reason. Perhaps, as an adult, affording a new game isn’t an issue like it was as a kid, which makes the selling of used games for practically nothing so much more tragic.
For many of us, the fact that we never owned older games and systems is the reason we never played the games, despite wanting to. For me, I have always wanted to play the older Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Games. Breath of the Wild was the first Zelda game I played since at the time, it was the only one that I could buy without having to track down a working used console to play it. Also, Nintendo has decided not to release them on their store so they can be played on the switch (The only Nintendo Console I own at the moment).
What was my solution? Emulators. I was lucky enough to meet a coder/programer who amassed a collection of 10,000+ video games. He owned several versions of every console, and would make modifications to them as a hobby. He introduced me to using emulators and we built a modded Original Xbox to play older games. This started me on my path to learning emulation and lead me to conceiving the idea for this Legacy Game project. While it is nice to have all 10 of my consoles lined up in a row, it’s starting to become somewhat unmanageable. And the longer I can preserve my consoles, for me at least, the better.
After a few months of emulating on the original Xbox, I transitioned to using ROM’s and Emulators on my first Gaming PC was built late 2020. Emulation on PC has been of interest to me since the Xbox One and PS4 released without backwards compatibility. I was a Senior in High School back in 2013 when these systems launched, and didn’t buy one until late 2016 when the S model and Pro were released. A decision that I am happy to have made since the system was improved and cost less than it would have originally. Also shortly after my purchase, Xbox released backwards compatibility for the 360 on Xbox One. This satisfied my urge to find a way to play my 360 games on PC, at least for a few years.
We are getting close to a year since the release of the Xbox Series and PS5 console releases, though no one but a few lucky soles and scalpers actually have one, and gaming seems to be moving in two directions. Xbox and Microsoft have been working on bridging the gap between console and PC, making their once exclusive titles available to play on Windows. While Sony seems to be ignoring backwards compatibility in favor of looking forward and creating exclusive content for the new systems. While I will give credit for the PS5 for having backwards compatibility with the PS4, it is still frustrating that they refuse to offer options for their other three systems (not to mention the portable ones). In an age of constant remakes and remasters, I grow frustrated at the seemingly constant need to repurchase the same game over and over in order to continue to enjoy it.
As games age and go out of print (production or whatever), and as game console hardware grows old and breaks down, it won’t be long until the legacy of the past becomes lost. I lament to think about what would have happened had emulation not stepped in where game giants like Nintendo, Xbox, and Sony have failed.
While I understand the grey aria surrounding emulation, the dislike that game studios and companies have for what they call “stolen games”, and the problems of piracy that plague every digital media/entertainment product; I do not believe these big companies can have their cake and eat it too. Either make older games available and playable on modern hardware or support emulation. And stop repackaging games at a $50-60 price tag for your new console.
Alas, I digress. The purpose of this post is to outline a new project I will be working on. The Legacy Game Emulator. Without any further adieu, here is an overview of the project and the hopeful development timeline.
What is the purpose of the Legacy Game Emulator?
The Legacy Emulator is designed to operate as an OS and Windows Application that operates like a console dashboard. You will be able to manage your game library, emulators, and game streaming tools from one central location. While I plan on making the project open source, I will be working on the project privately until it’s first official release. While there is a lot of other programs that perform similar functions. Hyperspin and Rocketlauncher is one example and I will leave it up to you to research other programs.
Why create a new version of something that exists?
The personal satisfaction of creating something I wish I had. There is always room for improvement, and I have always disliked Windows application management and file structure. Having a single place where I can view, launch, and display my collection of digital media is something I want. What is currently out there and available doesn’t satisfy my desire to combine modern and vintage. Most importantly, I dislike how it looks and functions. I want to bring the console experience to Windows and combine everything I love about a Console with everything I love about the PC gaming experience.
One of the more dominant problems I have always had with digital media is the lack of ownership associated with it. Digital movie services have left a bad taste in my mouth since Ultra Violet failed and other services during the initial digital media craze got bought out or died. I’ve lost dozens of movies and shows because the media was only accessible from the service and once the service failed, the media was gone. Being dependent on another company or service to access media I have paid for feel like I purchased a lease and that I don’t actually own it. That’s why I still buy physical media for movies, tv shows, and games when possible. Also, as much as I love the internet, it’s nice to enjoy something without running into buffering, bandwidth, or other prominent internet issues.
Another issue with digital media is how difficult it can be to access or how time consuming it can be to peruse. You always seem to be logging back in to something and you forgot the password, or you have to download a new app, or you can’t find the file on your computer, or any number of other issues. For me, there has always been a sense of satisfaction to sitting down and looking at my collection of games, choosing one, and popping it into the console. A feeling I don’t truly get with digital media. And honestly, a lot of other programs are complex to setup and take a lot of time to get right. In a perfect world, there would be a console that could play any game as perfect as the original system would have.
The Legacy Game Emulator will let you view your game library and launch it directly using a GUI. It will also make it easy to access your game libraries from other apps like Steam, Epic Games Store, Origin, Xbox Companion, and stand alone PC ROM files. The end result will be similar to a game console dashboard that can be launched as an application on your computer. No more windows file system navigation, no more clunky emulator configuration, and no more game file management problems.
What Systems and Emulators will be included?
The Legacy project is primarily focused on bringing your games to PC after the consoles are no longer manufactured or supported by the original developers. Since the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles have built in compatibility with the previous systems, they will not be a primary focus during initial development.
Additionally, it is worth noting that the program will be developed to include any emulator and compatible ROM file, but will require additional work on part of the user to configure. Since this is a passion project I am undertaking, my time will be spent focused on systems I want to emulate rather than trying to include and please everyone.
The emulators I will start with include:
NES, Super Nintendo, N64, Game Cube, Wii, Wii U, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, DS, 3DS, Original Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation, PS2, PS3, PSP, PS Vita, Sega Saturn, Genesis, Dreamcast.
All other systems will be worked on after the initial release.
How will the Project be Built?
The program will be coded using C++ and will be based on Unix operating system architecture. By using the same coding languages and frameworks used during the creation of actual consoles, the hope is to contribute to the improvement of game emulation across the board.
While this project isn’t necessarily an emulator, but a tool to bring existing emulators together, the hope is to make more considerable contributions to the virtualization of game consoles and help drive innovation in the industry.
While this project will be a bit of an undertaking, I look forward to working on it and sharing my progress in future posts. When the time comes that it is available, I encourage you to give it a try and hopefully have some fun in the process.