Sunday, November 14, 2004

How do I play ROMs?

Sunday, November 14, 2004 0

For the uninitiated, ROMs are 'dumped' images of game data. These can be transferred from either games console cartridges or arcade machine circuit boards, but not computers. If a piece of software is extracted from the media of a multi-purpose system such as an Amiga or Atari ST then the data obtained is called a 'disk image' if it is taken from a floppy disk, or an ISO/CD image when taken from a CD or DVD. The terminology differs though the formats serve the same purpose, and function in a similar way.

ROMs can be played on computers using a piece of software known as an emulator. As the name suggests, these effectively allow you to transform your computer into almost any games machine or computer, past or present, imaginable. The hardware of the emulated system is recreated artificially and games or other software are brought to life by loading files rather than inserting real cartridges into tangible machinery or plugging in arcade cabinets. The main benefit of this is clearly that you don't have to own the original, often rare, hardware or game cartridges of a system in order to accurately experience them. This aside, emulation can actually enhance the original games through the integration of extra features which were previously unavailable, ones, for example which allow you to save your game progress or use overlayed graphics filters to make them more visually appealing.

Emulators are system-specific; there is no single piece of software that will allow you to simulate every games console and arcade machine. Programmers often have different goals in mind when coding their emulators and this has given rise to a variety of software designed to emulate the same systems. Some are better than others, and generally, in each case, there are a select few that are considered the de facto standard for emulating platform x. These include the following...

MAME (multiple arcade machine emulator) for arcade games.

ZSNES or SNES9X for the Super Nintendo, aka the Super Famicom.

Gens for the Sega Megadrive, aka the Sega Genesis.

WinUAE for the Amiga.

ePSXe for Playstation.

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