Some time ago, I wrote about the amazing efforts to bring a realm of accuracy to emulation, especially arcade machine emulation. The work was (and is) amazing, but one problematic aspect was that the main components for this work in MAME were for the Windows version only, with plans to make it more cross-platform down the line.
The fact that it is down the line and work has been done and we’ve improved the turnaround on the compile time from “new version of MAME released” to “the new version of MAME is running at the Internet Archive” meaning that we can finally put up a nice example of this wrinkle in emulating the vintage experience.
So, by visiting this item on the Archive, you can boot up an arcade machine that is blurry, has ghosting, is slightly curved, and has bleed through some of the pixels and an obvious set of scanlines and reflection….
Seriously, though, this is incredibly important news. It’s a living demonstration of the hurdles and considerations of ’emulating’ older technological experiences. It’s not all ultra high-definition happiness and razor-sharp graphics over surround sound blasted through bluetooth speaker bars. It’s about capturing components of these games that are coming from a different realm than just what the code had to say about it. Between 50 and 80 milliseconds after an emulation is working, people come out to say “it’s not the same, it doesn’t have _____” where _____ is an ever-more-picky set of attributes that makes the experience of the game “real” to them and which they think ruins the entire emulation if the attribute is not right there.
Bear in mind that the potential additional settings for these monitors being emulated are many times more complicated than in this demo, and that the higher the resolution, the better – because now you’re not just emulating the pixels themselves, but the actions and effects around those pixels.
Welcome to the cutting edge of the cutting edge of the blurry edge.
The game I chose for this particular demo is its own nutty story: Crazy Kong. As recounted in The Secret History of Donkey Kong article, and not in Wikipedia any more, Donkey Kong was actually programmed by an outside party for Nintendo. (It was designed by Nintendo, for sure.) This same outside company went on to do other games you might know, like Zaxxon and Congo Bongo. Part of this is that Crazy Kong is not a bootleg of Donkey Kong but a legit license.
It’s also terrible, and wasn’t supposed to be in the US, but then with the skyrocketing success of Donkey Kong, it ended up here in bootleg form.
So, for me personally, Crazy Kong brings back memories of being one of those games shoved into bowling alleys, pizza places, and in shifty locations where the purchase of drugs heavily overrode the quality of the arcade game experience. It seems only right, then, that the slightly crappy monitor panorama be bestowed upon this emulated game, brought up from the depths. I know that’s how I experienced it so many years ago, and you can experience it now.
Some notes: The resolution on this web-based emulation is much higher than the usual games in the Internet Arcade, mostly to really bring out the qualities of the monitor properties. This might slow on some machines, or annoy with some different setups out there. But setting the whole thing to fullscreen will probably make it better for you. As is still the case, Firefox tends to run it better than Chrome and both better than Microsoft Edge (for now) and Safari. You can also always go back to the non-CRT emulation on the site to compare.
A huge amount of applause to the MAME development team for this years-long effort to emulate this important aspect of the vintage experience, and a thanks to everyone who helped make it run at the Internet Archive.