When work began on JSMESS a couple years ago, I knew that it was probably somewhat easy to do all this conversion work for MAME (the arcade side) as it was for MESS (the computer and console side). I specifically chose not to, because I was not interested in a pile of work just to make another game platform. This was about software history, and it’s not that hard to get MAME up and running for the game or games you want to play.
Over the next few years, we got JSMESS working, and working pretty darn well – in a lot of cases, you can boot into a wide range of computers in your browser and it’s working great. There’s hiccups here and there, and we have work left to clean it up, but on the whole.. the proof exists. You can browse the historical software collection and the software library and wow, thousands of programs instantly there!
So, earlier this year, I decided to futz around with our build environment (which, it must be absolutely stressed, the other JSMESS team members built, not me), just to ask the question, “And how hard would it be to build arcade games, anyway?“.
It turned out to be easy. Very, very easy.
Months of testing, refinement, improvements and efforts, and this week I have announced the result: The Internet Arcade.
Of the roughly 900 arcade games (yes, nine hundred arcade games) up there, some are in pretty weird shape – vector games are an issue, scaling is broken for some, and some have control mechanisms that are just not going to translate to a keyboard or even a joypad.
But damn if so many are good enough. More than good enough. In the right browser, on a speedy machine, it almost feels perfect. The usual debates about the “realness” of emulation come into play, but it works.
This is the week it’s been dropped. Not a huge announcement (unless you count this weblog entry), no parties or fanfare beyond, yes. There it is:
So then begins the question that I ask myself more and more in this endeavor: Now What?
Obviously, a lot of people are going to migrate to games they recognize and ones that they may not have played in years. They’ll do a few rounds, probably get their asses kicked, smile, and go back to their news sites.
A few more, I hope, will go towards games they’ve never heard of, with rules they have to suss out, and maybe more people will play some of these arcades in the coming months than the games ever saw in their “real” lifetimes.
And my hope is that a handful, a probably tiny percentage, will begin plotting out ways to use this stuff in research, in writing, and remixing these old games into understanding their contexts. Time will tell.
Until then, game is on.
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