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).

ePSXe: The Emulator of Choice
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  • takuma683 - Thursday, March 11, 2004 - link

    Responding the question of user Shinei:

    Yes, most Playstation games run at 30 effective fps, some at 15, 10 or even slower, and some do reach 60 (59.94 actually) fps. However, the "fps" displayed on ePSXe is "emulated" fps, that is, TV frames (vertical blanks) per second emulated. Games that run at 30 fps display a frame every two vertical interrupts.

    Also a note to all: you don't need an external program to display real fps using ePSXe with Pete's plugins, just turn on the fix "Enable PC fps calculation" and it'll show you the actual fps.
  • Possessed Freak - Monday, March 8, 2004 - link

    DerekWilson -
    'but this reference is a throwback to one of my favorite cartoon duos of all time ... '

    But where are we going to find a duck and a rubber hose at this hour?

    But rubber chafes me so.
    Did I make the right educated guess?
  • Shinei - Sunday, March 7, 2004 - link

    tsee: Aren't PSX games designed to run at 30fps, with the exception of a few later-generation games?
  • tsee - Saturday, March 6, 2004 - link

    Even when I tried to limit FPS to 59.97 all the games run super fast. When I use the outdated VGS not as many games run but the ones that do run at normal speeds.
  • BigFatCow - Saturday, March 6, 2004 - link

    we are adding PlayStaion emulation

  • BigFatCow - Saturday, March 6, 2004 - link

  • PeteBernert - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    I want to add a small comment (since my plugins seems to be mentioned in the article ;)) about the "developed on/for ATI cards" confusions: all of my psx gpu plugins (Win D3D/OGL1/OGL2; Linux Mesa/XGL2) were in fact developed on nVidia cards. Starting 1999 on my good ole TNT1 card, later on GF1/GF3/GF4 ones. Yes, spring 2003 I got a R9700Pro (since the first GFFX cards didn't look to promising - hot and noisy - by then), but all major coding (and optimization) work was already finished at this point.

    So indeed only the pixel shader effects in the OGL2/XGL2 plugins were done with ATI hardware (using no special ATI extensions, though, only the standard ARB ones which are available on nVidia's DX9 cards as well).

    Anyway, I am pretty sure that you also can find psx games which will run faster on nVidia cards (for example if many framebuffer reads are needed - even old nVidia cards are still two times faster with such reads than the newest ATI ones), so the spotlight on the two games mentioned in the article is just this: a spotlight. No need for grey hair ;)
  • ChronoReverse - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    Arguably, you could say that it's pretty boring for the majority of people out there that the A64 plays game X a few frames faster than a P4 (or vice versa).

    These are the people buying Dells and only caring whether or not the system can play the game.

    In any case, I liked this article since I have a passing interest in emulation and emulation is a good way to test both the graphics and cpu subsystems.
  • DerekWilson - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link


    haha ... yeah, I could see how that would be funny ;-)

    exciting from a technological perspective ... really freaking boring from any other perspective :-)

  • Cybercat - Friday, March 5, 2004 - link

    "Of course, getting 4 frames per second of something kind of close to what we see on the Game Cube is still pretty exciting."

    LOL :p Yeah I bet.

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