Console Emulators: Our Newest Benchmarkby Derek Wilson on March 3, 2004 11:33 PM EST
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One late night (or perhaps it was an early morning), during the testing of the ATI Radeon 9800 XT and the NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra last Fall, we decided that the only truly "correct" way to test a video card is to test it in every possible situation for which it could be used. Of course, since there is no magic benchmark fairy that brings us numbers while we sleep, testing everything is impossible. We decided to compromise and make the 30 most popular games at any given time our standard GPU benchmark. We are still trying to hit that 30 game mark, but in the delirium of the long nights of testing, we managed to think of a few more ways we could push hardware. Unfortunately, we are all out of rubber pants and whipped cream; we had to go with our second choice: console emulation.
The original idea was to use either an NES or SNES emulator as a real world framebuffer upload benchmark. Emulators of aged consoles can use the CPU to emulate the entire system and just send frames over to the GPU as fast as they are cranked out. Something like this may still be a possibility, but as we delved deeper into the depths of the emulator community, we discovered much more exciting things that we could bring to the table. We finally settled on benchmarking a PlayStation emulator. The N64 and Dreamcast emulators are out there, but nothing is quite as popular as the PlayStation right now. There are PlayStation 2 emulators in development, but nothing that can play games quite yet. We will take a look at a very early Game Cube emulator running "The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker" as a bit of a preview of things to come. Before getting too excited, it's not really playable yet; we just wanted to include Game Cube emulation to take a look at where we are at this point.
There are a few factors that need careful consideration when looking at PlayStation emulation. First, running a PlayStation game on a PC without upsampling textures, applying a bit of blur, and possibly adding a TV-like scanline filter won't quite deliver the look of the original game. It really is amazing how much the television can hide those jagged edges and make low resolution textures look all right. Of course, the trade off is performance, so it really is a user preference kind of issue. We wanted to make the game look and feel as much like the original as possible with the emulator settings we chose. The added bonus is that our hardware gets pushed a little harder.
And this wouldn't be an article about emulation without mentioning the fact that it is perfectly legal (because of a lovely thing called "fair use") to emulate hardware that you own in order to run software that you own. It is not legal to distribute games (or even the PlayStation BIOS for that matter).