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Old 05-04-2012, 07:58 PM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default Running Sega Dreamcast Games on Your PC with nullDC

Want to play your Sega Dreamcast games but don't want to haul the console out of the closet? You're in luck, because there exists an outstanding emulator that I recently became addicted to: nullDC. This article covers all you need to know about it, including how to get started. So what are you waiting for? SoulCalibur is waiting.

Read through our article to find out how to get started with nullDC and then discuss it here!
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:55 PM   #2
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So are the game discs readable now? Best I remember when I was active in the emulation community the DC had a slightly proprietary format and we were dumping the disc images through the console.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:07 PM   #3
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I said earlier on another thread that Arcades, the ZXSpectrum and the PC were the extent of my gaming experience and consequently my sole emulation interests. That remains true for most purposes. But reading about emulation always puts a smile in my face.

Technically, it is an area of software development I find absolutely fascinating. If I could, I'd emulate the world just because of the fun of it. It's fun the write emulators, it's fun to learn the specifics of the machine we are emulating. Even when reading about a system, like the Dreamcast, for which I have no affinity, I nod approvingly at any emulation attempt. To me, there's nothing that shouldn't be emulated. And I didn't even touch the number one reason why they should; because it's the only way to guarantee these systems will never die and their history can be revisited by future generations. Each emulator is a veritable museum in its own right.

So I say loud and clear, "Long live emulators!"

...

nullDC is one in a very long list of great programs that will help keep alive long lost systems. However, I do differ slightly on how I like to enjoy emulated games. I want them as close to the original as possible. Any deviations from that and I'm not in emulation world anymore. I feel I'm on imitation world.

I'm speaking of options like the Extra Geometry. I'd rather play a game with black borders but that is a facsimile of the game I enjoyed years ago on a 4:3 screen, then just make a caricature of the whole experience by insisting on filling my widescreen. And this is particularly true of situations where the game graphics themselves become distorted -- And many, many, games used graphics for typefaces. Fonts in graphical games are a relatively recent addition.

I'm known for instance to sometimes actually wait a whole ~10 minutes for game to load on Spectaculator, simply because it can emulate to perfection the time these audio cassette games used to take to load a game to the ZX Spectrum. The distinct whirring and whizzing noises of a game loading on a cassette player are music to my ears.

For most purposes I do advise anyone to get a good 4:3 monitor and use that for their emulation. I don't follow my advise. Yet! I did have one up until a couple of years ago, but eventually got broken. It was a second hand piece of bad hardware anyways. I intend to replace it soon actually. But make no mistake, you won't regret getting one. It's a far better experience than trying to pretend your widescreen monitor is meant to play these games. But at the very least, if you truly love your old system, make yourself a favor and don't accept anything but a pristine emulation. Play with those black borders. Your heart won't stop, your hair won't fall down (not to mention other things hanging from your body) and you will not die. Instead, you have lived!
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Old 05-06-2012, 08:04 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RainMotorsports View Post
So are the game discs readable now? Best I remember when I was active in the emulation community the DC had a slightly proprietary format and we were dumping the disc images through the console.
You still have to dump through the console, either via the BBA or an SD card. As I mentioned in the article, the route most people will have to take is downloading them from websites that offer them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by marfig View Post
Technically, it is an area of software development I find absolutely fascinating. If I could, I'd emulate the world just because of the fun of it. It's fun the write emulators, it's fun to learn the specifics of the machine we are emulating. Even when reading about a system, like the Dreamcast, for which I have no affinity, I nod approvingly at any emulation attempt. To me, there's nothing that shouldn't be emulated. And I didn't even touch the number one reason why they should; because it's the only way to guarantee these systems will never die and their history can be revisited by future generations. Each emulator is a veritable museum in its own right.
I couldn't agree more. It still blows my mind that this sort of thing is even possible, because we're talking about complex processes here. You need to do a lot of research and be one hell of a coder to undertake a project like an emulator - especially an "accurate" emulator.

Quote:
Originally Posted by marfig View Post
nullDC is one in a very long list of great programs that will help keep alive long lost systems. However, I do differ slightly on how I like to enjoy emulated games. I want them as close to the original as possible. Any deviations from that and I'm not in emulation world anymore. I feel I'm on imitation world.
I aim to run games, if possible, as close to the original as possible, but it doesn't affect me too much if it's not perfect. I am trying to play the games that I came to love so much, not try to relive memories.

Quote:
Originally Posted by marfig View Post
I'm speaking of options like the Extra Geometry. I'd rather play a game with black borders but that is a facsimile of the game I enjoyed years ago on a 4:3 screen, then just make a caricature of the whole experience by insisting on filling my widescreen. And this is particularly true of situations where the game graphics themselves become distorted -- And many, many, games used graphics for typefaces. Fonts in graphical games are a relatively recent addition.
The Extra Geom setting has nothing to do with distortected text or icons, as I mentioned in the article. That happens because the resolution in which I'm running the games at is much higher than the original console. There's no simple fix for this aside from perhaps running the display resolution to match the original console (but then it'll look uglier than the original console due to the fact that few monitors scale well).

As for the fact that the games were 4:3 to begin with, I understand exactly where you are coming from. Again, I guess I am just not that peculiar about it. If I can play one of my favorite games suddenly in widescreen mode and it look good, I'm all for it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by marfig View Post
I'm known for instance to sometimes actually wait a whole ~10 minutes for game to load on Spectaculator, simply because it can emulate to perfection the time these audio cassette games used to take to load a game to the ZX Spectrum.
For whatever reason, I'm not remotely like this. As much as I love old platforms, I don't actually care about the hardware it was run on, or what it looks like on the screen. It was the games I enjoyed, not the fact that they looked super pixelated with dull coloring on my old beater TV.

Quote:
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For most purposes I do advise anyone to get a good 4:3 monitor and use that for their emulation.
If I ever build a MAME cabinet, I'd consider going this route. The problem is, I hate CRTs, it it seems that's all people use for those things (no doubt for the fact that LCD doesn't "emulate" the look of old platforms well at all).
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Old 05-06-2012, 09:03 PM   #5
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If I ever build a MAME cabinet, I'd consider going this route. The problem is, I hate CRTs,
Nah, you don't
How could you have lived with computers up until ~10 years ago if you did?

Quote:
it it seems that's all people use for those things (no doubt for the fact that LCD doesn't "emulate" the look of old platforms well at all).
It's all a matter of technology in fact. Nothing to do with preferences of a CRT over an LCD. MAME even includes several different types of old monitor "effects" like scanlines, burnt screens, etc, that you can enable and that are applied via shaders. There should be no reason to prefer a CRT. But unfortunately, even if we could get a 4:3 LCD, these monitors cannot work properly outside their native resolution. We gained a lot with LCDs, but we lost this important feature. That's the No. 1 reason why CRTs are preferred; one can play the games at their intended aspect ratio, without borders and can change the screen resolution on the fly, which allows one single CRT monitor to cover pretty much all ~30 years of arcade gaming emulated in MAME.
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:51 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marfig View Post
Nah, you don't
How could you have lived with computers up until ~10 years ago if you did?
Being forced to use something because nothing better exists doesn't mean you can't hate it. I hate floppies too, but we had to use those for a while ;-)

Quote:
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We gained a lot with LCDs, but we lost this important feature. That's the No. 1 reason why CRTs are preferred; one can play the games at their intended aspect ratio, without borders and can change the screen resolution on the fly, which allows one single CRT monitor to cover pretty much all ~30 years of arcade gaming emulated in MAME.
Yup, that's just it. Even worse is that on some displays, when you run a non-native resolution, it can introduce input lag :-/
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Old 05-07-2012, 02:17 PM   #7
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I love the look of a good, crisp CRT. It's a shame that such technology has long since been made obsolete by the space saving and energy efficiency of LCD. Let's be honest - nothing has better contrast, nothing has better resolution capability. CRT is a beautiful thing - except that it's heavy as hell and monstrous to look at.

If I built a MAME (or even vintage emulators altogether - atari, nintendo, etc) cabinet, I would totally - TOTALLY - put a big-ass CRT in there. Unfortunately, outside of building a genuine cabinet, it's just too much work to keep one around simply for the emulation. I'll live with the black bars and the aliasing that comes from an LCD any day, if for nothing other than the convenience and power usage.

God I love emulators though - they're like a portal to the past.
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Old 05-07-2012, 03:35 PM   #8
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Thanks for the write up on this. I will be checking this out shortly as i am a big sega fan. The last time i tried to get DC emulation to work was last year with the Chankast. I couldn't make it work at all. I have over 60 Dreamcast games, and my console still works, but hooking it up to my HDTV i found it to be a lackluster experience due to the blurriness. I wish there was a way to hook this thing up via HDMI.

As other emulators go, The only one of Sega's I have not been able to play is the DC. I have in the past 9 months been playing my Sega Saturn library via SSF. I gotta tell ya, I don't know who this guy is, but he defiantly knows his stuff. There are only a handful of SS games that will not run just yet as of version Ver0.12 beta R2. Ver0.12 beta R3 is out but i haven't had the time to test it yet. It will also play most of your games from the disk.

By the way. I tried to register, but haven't received any conformation email, and it's not in me spam folder.
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Old 05-07-2012, 03:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
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God I love emulators though - they're like a portal to the past.
That's for sure - and just imagine if emulation just didn't exist. All of these old games would be essentially unavailable to most people.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Some_Guy893
I have over 60 Dreamcast games, and my console still works, but hooking it up to my HDTV i found it to be a lackluster experience due to the blurriness. I wish there was a way to hook this thing up via HDMI.
I couldn't agree more. In testing nullDC, I decided to hook up my real DC to the same monitor, and the result wasn't pretty. Colors were no longer vibrant, and as you mentioned, blurriness was introduced. After playing SF Rush 2049 that way for about 15 minutes, I started to get a real bad headache (I am not sure if this was releated, but it was sure coincidental). It was with this, that I unfortunately decided that I prefer playing the DC through nullDC rather than on the real console.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Some_Guy893 View Post
As other emulators go, The only one of Sega's I have not been able to play is the DC. I have in the past 9 months been playing my Sega Saturn library via SSF. I gotta tell ya, I don't know who this guy is, but he defiantly knows his stuff. There are only a handful of SS games that will not run just yet as of version Ver0.12 beta R2. Ver0.12 beta R3 is out but i haven't had the time to test it yet. It will also play most of your games from the disk.
I'll be diving into Saturn emulation soon, so it's good to hear that SSF is quite good (I've heard the same from elsewhere also). The last time I tried Saturn emulation was in 2007, with Yabause. For the most part, it just wasn't that great. I don't even think I was able to interact with the games I was running (so perhaps it was a problem with plugins not the emulator itself, I'm not sure).

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By the way. I tried to register, but haven't received any conformation email, and it's not in me spam folder.
Welcome to the forums! I manually activated your account, so you should be good to go. Looking into this issue now, thanks a lot for mentioning it.
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:35 PM   #10
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Appreciate your efforts Rob. I am now able to log on with intended name. Number change.
Here is an official link to the SSF Emulator. http://www7a.biglobe.ne.jp/~phantasy/ssf/index.html Thanks again.
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Old 05-09-2012, 09:59 PM   #11
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Wow, a Japenese emulator, huh? I'll give this a shot in the next week!

I am REALLY glad to see that the emulator can run actual Saturn discs. I can't wait to play my JAP copy of Nights through it
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