ePSXe: The Emulator of Choice

There are quite a few free PlayStation emulators out there from which to choose. Out of the ones we tested, PCSX and ePSXe were the most compatible and fastest. We decided to go with ePSXe because it was faster than the others, very popular in the community, and still being developed (as far as we can tell).

This is the main ePSXe interface window.

The PSEmu Pro (a discontinued free PlayStation emulator) plugin standard, which ePSXe (and many others) uses, allows the main emulator to separate itself from the very long list of hardware that it would otherwise have to support. The PlayStation emulator is free simply to emulate the core of the PlayStation while offloading sound, graphics, and I/O to different plugins written for different hardware and operating system environments.

Sure, it's possible to get some degree of functionality out of pure software plugins, but why not take advantage of hardware accelerated OpenGL, DirectX, or even Glide based graphics plugins? Smart CDRom plugins can implement aggressive caching and read ahead in order to speed up CD load times; controller plugins can take advantage of all types of joysticks and gamepads. Rather than simply relying on the CPU to emulate an entire system (as was the case with older emulators), we can make use of our entire PC.

Depending on what we want to do with our emulator, the graphics subsystem can be fairly heavily taxed, even making use of some pretty cool pixel shaders. Let's take a look at what goes into PSX emulator graphics.

Index PlayStaiton Graphics


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  • Snoop - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    I found the article very interesting, good work derek. Reply
  • bigpow - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    This article makes Tom's Hardware ones look smart & usefulLLLLL Reply
  • bigpow - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    Another fine example of a plain stupid article.

    If one really wants to play those console games, he/she should buy the console system instead of messing around with a more expensive GPU & unstable emulators.

  • taleril - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    "From out benchmarks, it is obvious that ATI Radeon cards are better suited for emulating the games that we tested."

    should be:

    "From out(sp?) benchmarks, it is obvious that ATI Radeon cards are better suited for emulating the games that we tested on an emulator programmed with ATI cards in mind."

    To be fair, I think it should be reiterated in the conclusion that these emulators(or the plugins used) were written specifically on and for ATI hardware.

    It's a cool benchmark, but the more I think about it, the less useful it seems to be. At least from a graphics hardware comparison standpoint.

  • DerekWilson - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    There are no xbox, gamecube, or ps2 emus that are in full working order. We didn't want to include one of each since its more of just a show and tell kind of thing ...

    the gamecube emus is currently running one game at full speed (Busta-a-Move 3000 -- which I don't own and couldn't find in time for the review), and lots of games getting past intros to actual 3d that looks somewhat near how it should (while mostly running slowly at the moment). Of course, it may take quite a push to get further since (apparently) the ArtX/ATI graphics card in the system is insane.

    on the PS2 front, we could see some user demos and a title screen or two last time I checked. The PS2 has an advantage: its IOP (IO Processor) is essentially a PSX (that's why its backwards compatible). Of course, the vector processors and insane data paths on the PS2 will be a bit of a hump to get over for emulating games well ... I know the most about PS2 as I did a senior project involving writing a PS2 game.

    and, contrary to popular opinion, xbox won't be that much easier to emulate than other consoles. It has obvious advantages, but the big problem comes in trying to emulate the GPU itself, the relationship it has with the CPU, and the tweaked out programming interfaces and systems of the entire console. Programmers will run into similar issues that all console emulator teams have seen. Actually, if programmers want to make an interpretive version of their emulator, they'll loose much of the x86 to x86 advantage ... Unfortunately, I know the least about the XBox among the consoles (Anand is the XBox guy around here).

    But rest assured that if there is a major advance on any of the three fronts, we'll cover it as best we can.
  • Pumpkinierre - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    I would have thought that Xbox with its near desktop computer architecture would have been the easiest to emulate but you barely give it a mention. Any reasons why?
  • CZroe - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    Who else has personally backed-up a copy of Wind Waker and executed it on both the emulator and the console?

    I have, and I believe I beat Derek Wilson and the Anand crew to it ;)
  • DerekWilson - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    It is very important to note that even if there are many systems out there that can run ePSXe and emulate a game well, you will be loosing out on image quality if you can't pump the internal resolution, run DX9 pixel shaders, and still have room for texture and full screen filters...

    If we wanted to "just run" a playstation game with no regard to quality, we would be looking at running the playstation at somewhere around 800fps (interal framerate) on most of these cards for most situations. Turning on the features drops that significantly.

    Honestly, my PSX games can look better emulated than they did on my Playstation with the right settings, and only the high end cards and processors can handle the right settings as far as our testing has seen.

    And yes, we just popped the CD in and ran the game ... in case anyone is wondering, we used the P.E.Op.S. CDR driver and set it to threaded reading with maximum readahead to minimize disk access impact ... Of course, we also made sure that our benchmarks would run without needing to hit the CD rom drive.

    Since PSX emulators have built in ISO support, in the future we may pull the ISO and run it from our hard drives in order to eliminate the possibility of CD read latency altogether.

    By the way, I wish we had saved the full uncompressed screenshots as the scanline effect really doesn't seem to like being scaled and compressed. ;-) The games really did look great.
  • ChronoReverse - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    Playstation emulation does not require the use of roms.

    My copy of Final Fantasy Tactics (Greatest Hits version) runs quite well on ePSXe.
  • Lycias - Thursday, March 4, 2004 - link

    Ok so after reading this article I wondered where they were playing the game from. I have used SNES and NES emulators before and I downloaded rom files of games I leagaly owned from various websites. There does not seem to be web sites with playstation rom equivalant files out there. Do they just put the disk is the cd drive and then use the emulation software. Please enlighten me as I've been dying to play Final Fantasy VII again. Thanks Reply

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