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T.M.R'S WORKSTATION :: THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF EMULATORS 

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF EMULATORS

Written by T.M.R of Cosine

A lot has been said in the past about C64 emulation, and almost all of it is negative. Some people dislike the fact that a different computer is involved rather than a real C64, others mention the differences in behaviour between emulated machines and actual ones and yet more mention how much of a pain in the arse those people who use emulators to play the odd game are.

On the first point, I have nothing against people making a decision and sticking to it, if you personally feel that an emulator isn't as good as the real thing that's your decision. But why piss on other peoples parades? I don't like Indian food but I don't go around demanding that other people don'teat it. As far as accuracy goes, the modern C64 emulators like the latest issues of CCS and VICE are now closer to the real deal than ever before and probably the most accurate emulation of an 8-bit computer going. There are differences but it's now very difficult to find them unless you know where to look.

It's now possible and indeed practical to program C64 products almost without touching a real C64. Elysium's IllMatic was developed in part with a cross assembler and VICE running under Linux and I've written about half of my most recent output in the DOS version of CCS V2.0 using my regular assembler. And I would say it's impossible to tell which code was developed where. For me, the difference between my C-128D and using an emulator is that I don't get 2MHz mode for crunching - instead I can crank the emulator speed to maximum and watch it scream along. And what about oldie cracking? Why spend days or even weeks waiting for a cassette original to arrive through the post when it could just be converted to a TAP file and emailed? Does it make any difference to the cracking of a game if it arrives that way? No, the game loads in the same way as it would from tape so it still takes the same skills to get past the protection.

Okay, I'll grant you that the "feel" of a real machine isn't there, that the display is a little too sharp (and the colours always seem to need tweaking!) or the keyboard sometimes doesn't feel quite right and so forth, it's not a perfect copy. But if you don't have access to a breadbin for some reason, an emulator is the only remaining option for you. So why wouldn't someone have access to a real C64? Although there are a lot of machines still available, they're becoming more and more scarce (partly due to a few wankers buying in bulk to try to make a killing later on eBay! =-)

And it may not be just due to a lack of availability, an emulator allows a nondescript PC to pretend to be C64 in environments where it would be difficult to have the real machine, for example when you're at work, university or whatever you do during the day. If you have a lousy job, are underpaid and willing to take a few minor risks, why not install an emulator and write code, do graphics or (if you have a sound card and some privacy) compose music, then test the results when you can next get to a real machine? As long as a little care is taken and the testing is done it does no harm to the scene, and can prove beneficial by giving us a new product. Bet you can't guess where I wrote this..

Finally, we get to the emulamers, people who have very little idea about the C64 and have just downloaded an emulator to play a game they vaguely remember from their childhood. Personally, I do find game requests a little annoying, how difficult are the search engines to use?! But we have to put up with them in the same way that we used to have to ignore the lamers who were just interested in games. And, although the gamers were sometimes irritating we'd occasionally get a few converts who decided that they'd like to have a go at producing a game or demo for themselves and there isn't anything to stop the new breed of gamers making the same choice.

If they're making an idiot of themselves then fine, ignore them. But someone who is an emulamer today may turn into the demo or game coder of tomorrow and rightnow the C64 scene needs new members. Let's not lose potential sceners because we don't want them to play in our sand pit...

This article originally appeared in issue 1 of Attitude.

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