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posted by hubie on Sunday March 03, @06:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the are-you-not-entertained? dept.

Nintendo's recent lawsuit against Switch emulator maker Yuzu seems written like it was designed to strike fear into the heart of the entire emulation community. But despite legal arguments that sometimes cut at the very idea of emulation itself, members of the emulation development community I talked to didn't seem very worried about coming under a Yuzu-style legal threat from Nintendo or other console makers. Indeed, those developers told me they've long taken numerous precautions against that very outcome and said they feel they have good reasons to believe they can avoid Yuzu's fate.
"This lawsuit is not introducing any new element that people in the emulation community have not known of for a long time," said Parsifal, a hobbyist developer who has written emulators for the Apple II, Space Invaders, and the CHIP-8 virtual machine. "Emulation is fine as long as you don't infringe on copyright and trademarks."
And others feel operating internationally protects them from the worst of the DMCA and other US copyright laws. "I have written an NES emulator and I am working on a Game Boy emulator... anyway I'm not a US citizen and Nintendo can kiss my ass," said emulator developer ZJoyKiller, who didn't provide his specific country of residence.
Chief among those differences is the fact that Yuzu emulates a Switch console that is still actively selling millions of hardware and software units every year. Most current emulator development focuses on older, discontinued consoles that the developers I talked to seemed convinced were much less liable to draw legal fire.

"There is a difference between emulating a 30-year-old system vs. a current one that's actively making money," Parsifal said.
Many emulator makers also largely agreed with Nintendo's arguments that Yuzu developers were too explicit about guiding users on how to play copyrighted games through channels like their Quick Start Guide and Discord channel. "I think Yuzu definitely crossed some line when they started explaining how to actually pirate games," one anonymous emulator developer told Ars.

"I've personally experienced how strict most emulator communities/discord servers/forums are regarding copyright and piracy, so it's really weird to me that Yuzu devs wouldn't be like that," Lycoder added.
Emulator developers I talked to also pointed out the fact that the Yuzu development team currently makes upward of $30,000 every month through a Patreon campaign. That could imply "that their goal is profit-making and not educational," ZJoyKiller said, which is at the very least a suspect look in parts of the community.

"The fact that they are making money is a big no-no, definitely how you can get on the [legal] radar," Parsifal said.
Among the developers I talked to, it doesn't seem like Nintendo's new lawsuit has had much of a chilling effect on the work they're continuing to do on a wide array of emulation projects. "It's more of a reminder to keep up best practices that I already try to follow," one anonymous developer told me. "It's not going to stop me from making emulators," StrikerX3 added.
For the most part, though, a healthy fear of Nintendo's litigiousness seems to have been baked in well before this week's legal developments. "From a personal standpoint, it just reinforces that if I were to write a Nintendo emulator, even of an old system, I'd probably keep my repo completely private," ZJoyKiller said. "Or if public, I'd do so under a different account. But I've always thought this anyway. So... no, this ruling doesn't change much on how I see this."

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Original Submission

Related Stories

How Your New Laptop is Actually Slower than a 30-Year-Old Apple IIe 81 comments

Have you ever had that nagging sensation that your computer was slower than it used to be? Or that your brand new laptop seemed much more sluggish than an old tower PC you once had? Dan Luu, a computer engineer who has previously worked at Google and Microsoft, had the same sensation, so he did what the rest of us would not: He decided to test a whole slew of computational devices ranging from desktops built in 1977 to computers and tablets built this year. And he learned that that nagging sensation was spot on—over the last 30 years, computers have actually gotten slower in one particular way.

Not computationally speaking, of course. Modern computers are capable of complex calculations that would be impossible for the earliest processors of the personal computing age. The Apple IIe, which ended up being the “fastest” desktop/laptop computer Luu tested, is capable of performing just 0.43 million instructions per second (MIPS) with its MOS 6502 processor. The Intel i7-7700k, found in the most powerful computer Luu tested, is capable of over 27,000 MIPS.

But Luu wasn’t testing how fast a computer processes complex data sets. Luu was interested in testing how the responsiveness of computers to human interaction had changed over the last three decades, and in that case, the Apple IIe is significantly faster than any modern computer.

Original Submission

EmuParadise Removes ROMs After Nintendo Sued Other ROM Sites 40 comments

Retro game repository EmuParadise says it's finished distributing ROMs

Nintendo has had enough of pirates and the websites that enable them, like EmuParadise. After shutting down a handful of sites and a Game Boy Advance emulator on GitHub in July, the publisher has seemingly done the work to convince EmuParadise to shut down. This massive online library of downloadable old games started 18 years ago, and up until this moment it hosted nearly complete libraries of games for various consoles that you could download and play on emulators.

Playing ROMs, as these game files are often referred to as, on an emulator exists in a legal gray area, but distributing these copyrighted works for download on the internet is obviously and clearly illegal. But Nintendo and other publishers have mostly avoided investing resources in tracking down and enforcing its legal right in many of these cases over the last couple of decades. For Nintendo, however, something has changed, and it is cracking down. And EmuParadise has confirmed that it is going to do what it must to avoid facing legal action.

"We will continue to be passionate retro gamers and will keep doing cool stuff around retro games, but you won't be able to get your games from here for now," reads an EmuParadise blog post. "Where we go with this is up to us and up to you."

Read-only memory (ROM) image.

Also at Kotaku and TechCrunch.

Previously: Nintendo Sues ROM Sites

Original Submission

Nintendo Wins Lawsuit Against ROM Sites, Defendants Agree to Pay $12.23 Million 18 comments

Nintendo wins $12m lawsuit against ROM sites run by a married couple

Nintendo has won a legal battle against pirate ROM websites and The judgement from the Arizona court has resulted in the owners of the now-defunct sites having to pay the Japanese game developer $12.23 million in damages.

The ROM site owners are married couple Jacob and Cristian Mathias, who registered the two sites under their company, Mathias Designs. Their legal troubles started this past summer when Nintendo filed a complaint with the federal court against them. In order to avoid a drawn-out legal battle the couple took down the two websites in July and put up a notice that said they were under maintenance.

As TorrentFreak notes, however, the couple soon owned up and admitted to both direct and indirect copyright as well as trademark infringement of Nintendo's games and other copyrighted content. The two ROM sites the Mathias couple ran offered pirated copies of Nintendo's retro games, including Super Mario World, Mario Kart 64, Super Mario All-Stars, and many more. People were able to download these pirate copies and play them on PC and other platforms they weren't intended for with an emulator, thereby bypassing Nintendo's hardware ecosystem entirely.

As the paperwork obtained by TorrentFreak shows, both parties – the Mathias couple and Nintendo – have now reached an agreement after the dispute was raised this summer.

Also at Motherboard.

Previously: Nintendo Sues ROM Sites
EmuParadise Removes ROMs After Nintendo Sued Other ROM Sites

Original Submission

HD Emulation Mod Makes “Mode 7” SNES Games Look Like New 7 comments

Submitted via IRC for AzumaHazuki

HD emulation mod makes "Mode 7" SNES games look like new

Gamers of a certain age probably remember being wowed by the quick, smooth scaling and rotation effects of the Super Nintendo's much-ballyhooed "Mode 7" graphics. Looking back, though, those gamers might also notice how chunky and pixelated those background transformations could end up looking, especially when viewed on today's high-end screens.

Emulation to the rescue. A modder going by the handle DerKoun has released an "HD Mode 7" patch for the accuracy-focused SNES emulator bsnes. In their own words, the patch "performs Mode 7 transformations... at up to 4 times the horizontal and vertical resolution" of the original hardware.

[...] Games that made use of the SNES "Graphics Mode 7" used backgrounds that were coded in the SNES memory as a 128x128 grid of 256-color, 8x8 pixel tiles. That made for a 1024×1024 "map" that could be manipulated en masse by basic linear algebra affine transforms to rotate, scale, shear, and translate the entire screen quickly.

Some Mode 7 games also made use of an additional HDMA mode (Horizontal-blanking Direct Memory Access) to fake a "3D" plane that stretches off into the horizon. These games would essentially draw every horizontal scanline in a single SDTV frame at a different scale, making pieces lower in the image appear "closer" than ones far away.

It's a clever effect but one that can make the underlying map data look especially smeary and blob-like, especially for parts of the map that are "far away." This smearing is exacerbated by the SNES' matrix math implementation, which uses trigonometric lookup tables and rounding to cut down on the time needed to perform all that linear algebra on '90s-era consumer hardware. Translating those transformation results back to SNES-scale tiles and a 420p SD screen leads to some problems on the edges of objects, which can look lumpy and "off" by a pixel or two at certain points on the screen.

The HD Mode 7 mod fixes this problem by making use of modern computer hardware to perform its matrix math "at the output resolution," upscaling the original tiles before any transformations are done. This provides more accurate underlying "sub-pixel" data, which lets the emulator effectively use the HD display and fill in some of the spaces between those "boxy" scaled-up pixels.

Original Submission

Orbital: QEMU-Based Playstation 4 Emulator 5 comments

In its fifth year of life, some promising development of a Playstation 4 emulator has emerged thanks to its mostly standard PC architecture and abundant FOSS projects to draw from. From

Orbital is the combination of three separate projects which together allow us to boot into PS4 kernels. Those being:
orbital-bios, orbital-grub and the most important part: orbital-qemu. A summary of these would be that orbital-bios is a SeaBIOS fork to add support to the PS4 quirks (no VGA, no ISA bus, etc.). This is needed because the PS4 is not really a PC. orbital-grub simply forks GRUB and adds a modified freebsd bootloader to add support for Orbis kernels, since they include custom sections written by Sony and orbital-qemu is a QEMU fork that adds support for PS4 hardware: Aeolia (USB, Ethernet, etc. etc.) and Liverpool (GPU and Audio).

It seems they were able to translate the graphics stack to run on top of Vulcan fairly well, but this system currently requires a physical DualShock 4 connected to the host with USB passthrough. Further, it can only work with decrypted firmwares made available via previously known exploits on physical consoles.

The repository is hosted, somewhat amusingly, at GitHub:

Original Submission

Collector Unearths Long-lost 8-bit Konami Games, Dumps Them for Emulation 6 comments

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

Collector unearths long-lost 8-bit Konami games, dumps them for emulation

At this point, you might think the entire history of a major gaming company like Konami would be well and fully documented. But you'd be wrong in the case of Space School, a series of game-like educational Famicom cartridges Konami designed for Japanese elementary school children in the '80s.

Designed in partnership with Japanese broadcaster NHK, the Space School series was never available in stores, and it could only be ordered directly by the schools themselves. The games also made use of a special "QTa" adapter that fitted Konami's specially designed 40-pin cartridges into the 60-pin slot of the Famicom.

Both of those factors made these games some of the rarest and most expensive in the Famicom collector's market. It also made reliable information about the titles hard to find—while a few Space School ROM files were floating around, their unique memory mapper configuration made them practically unplayable on modern emulators.

Enter a collector and YouTuber going by "Russian Geek," who managed to track down both a Space School cartridge (Part 1 of the "5th Grade" set, specifically) and an even rarer QTa adapter by scouring multiple Japanese auction sites (and spending hundreds of Patreon-provided dollars). In a lengthy video (Russian with English subtitles), Russian Geek lays out how he got access to these rarities and provides the Internet's first real glimpse into how these games look, sound, and play.

The video also features well-known NES hacker CaH4e3 (pronounced "Sanchez"), who took a deep dive into the QTa adapter and cart to decipher its unique memory mapper. While the cart itself just contains simple ROM files, the adapter apparently contains a unique Konami VRC5 microchip that isn't found in any other Nintendo cartridges (though other VRC chips are well-documented). This chip gave the Space School games capabilities similar to an MMC5 game like Castlevania 3, including more on-screen tiles and graphics that appear to "overlay" on top of backgrounds.

Original Submission

‘Randomizers’ Are Breathing New Life Into Old Games 24 comments

Submitted via IRC for chromas

'Randomizers' Are Breathing New Life Into Old Games

Like a longtime partner or a favorite pair of socks, there's comfort to be found in revisiting a familiar game from your youth. There's a sense of ease knowing what lies inside each treasure chest, which bush an enemy will spring from, or the secret tactic that vanquishes a foe with ease. That calming intimacy makes games like these an easy nostalgic choice when you just want to take a load off.

But what if you want to add some spice back to that familiar experience? After playing a classic game to the point of memorization, how do you recapture the sense of adventure and discovery you experienced the first time you played it? A small but growing community in the retro emulation scene is aiming to answer those questions with a class of mods and hacks called "randomizers."

Denuvo Promises to Kill Nintendo Switch Emulator Piracy With New Protection 18 comments

Anti-piracy company Denuvo has announced a new product that aims to prevent pirated copies of Nintendo Switch games from being played on PC-based emulators. Denuvo says that 'Nintendo Switch Emulator Protection' will have no impact on the gaming experience and will ensure that anyone wishing to play a game will have to buy a legitimate copy.

DenuvoMost video gamers will be familiar with the concept of an end-of-level or end-of-game 'boss'. They take many forms but tend to present as an escalated challenge designed to prevent gamers from progressing any further.

[...] Providing there's no obvious reuse of copyrighted code or trademark abuse, emulation software is mostly immune to legal attack. Emulators that mimic gaming hardware are mostly legal to develop, legal to distribute, legal to own, and even legal to use.

In reality, most emulator gamers like to gloss over that last bit. In the time it takes the minority to shout "HOMEBREW", the rest will have downloaded several hundred MAME ROMs, a few Nintendo Switch games, and will be playing them on a PC.

Nintendo is concerned about all piracy, but emulator piracy is special in that gamers don't need to buy games, and they don't need to buy a console either. Denuvo announced today that it has a new product to bring this to an end.

[...] Denuvo says its solution integrates "seamlessly and automatically" and works by detecting differences in the way a game behaves compared to what it was designed for.

"In this way, our software can tell that your game has been tampered with – and will make it unplayable." Denuvo says its solution will stop Switch games from being pirated and help to secure income for developers. As for gamers, they will "simply have to pay" if they want in on the action.

Original Submission

Convicted Console Hacker Says He Paid Nintendo $25 a Month From Prison 32 comments

When 54-year-old Gary Bowser pleaded guilty to his role in helping Team Xecuter with their piracy-enabling line of console accessories, he realized he would likely never pay back the $14.5 million he owed Nintendo in civil and criminal penalties. In a new interview with The Guardian, though, Bowser says he began making $25 monthly payments toward those massive fines even while serving a related prison sentence.

Last year, Bowser was released after serving 14 months of that 40-month sentence (in addition to 16 months of pre-trial detention), which was spread across several different prisons. During part of that stay, Bowser tells The Guardian, he was paid $1 an hour for four-hour shifts counseling other prisoners on suicide watch.

[...] Nintendo lawyers were upfront that they pushed for jail time for Bowser to "send a message that there are consequences for participating in a sustained effort to undermine the video game industry."

[...] Bowser also maintains that he wasn't directly involved with the coding or manufacture of Team Xecuter's products and only worked on incidental details like product testing, promotion, and website coding. Speaking to Ars in 2020, Aurora, a writer for hacking news site Wololo, described Bowser as "kind of a PR guy" for Team Xecuter. Despite this, Bowser said taking a plea deal on just two charges saved him the time and money of fighting all 14 charges made against him in court.

[...] Now that he's free, Bowser says he has been relying on friends and a GoFundMe[] page to pay for rent and necessities as he looks for a job. That search could be somewhat hampered by his criminal record and by terms of the plea deal that prevent him from working with any modern gaming hardware.

Despite this, Bowser told The Guardian that his current circumstances are still preferable to a period of homelessness he experienced during his 20s. And while console hacking might be out for Bowser, he is reportedly still "tinkering away with old-school Texas Instruments calculators" to pass the time.

Alternate source with GoFundMe link (added to the story above): Nintendo Sued a Man So Severely That He Can Only Survive on GoFundMe

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Original Submission

Switch Emulator Makers Agree to Pay $2.4 Million to Settle Nintendo Lawsuit 9 comments

The makers of Switch emulator Yuzu say they will "consent to judgment in favor of Nintendo" to settle a major lawsuit filed by the console maker last week.

In a series of filings posted by the court Monday, the Yuzu developers agreed to pay $2.4 million in "monetary relief" and to cease "offering to the public, providing, marketing, advertising, promoting, selling, testing, hosting, cloning, distributing, or otherwise trafficking in Yuzu or any source code or features of Yuzu."

[...] ending "effective immediately," along with support for 3DS emulator Citra (which shares many of the same developers)

[...] The proposed final judgment, which still has to be agreed to by the judge in the case, fully accepts Nintendo's stated position that "Yuzu is primarily designed to circumvent [Nintendo's copy protection] and play Nintendo Switch games" by "using unauthorized copies of Nintendo Switch cryptographic keys."

[...] While that admission doesn't technically account for Yuzu's ability to run a long list of Switch homebrew programs, proving that such homebrew was a significant part of the "ordinary course" of the average Yuzu user's experience may have been an uphill battle in court. Nintendo argued in its lawsuit that "the vast majority of Yuzu users are using Yuzu to play downloaded pirated games in Yuzu," a fact that could have played against the emulator maker at trial even if non-infringing uses for the emulator do exist.

[...] While emulator programs are generally protected by US legal precedents protecting reverse engineering, console makers could bring similar DMCA actions against certain emulators that rely on the use of cryptographic keys to break copy protection. But many emulator makers feel that such hardball lawsuits are less likely to be brought against emulators for defunct systems that are no longer selling new hardware or software in significant numbers.

[...] Nintendo's legal department has established a track record of zealously defending its copyrighted works by going after fangames, ROM distribution sites, and hardware modders in the past. While direct legal action against emulator makers has been less common for Nintendo, the company did send a letter to Valve to prevent Wii/Gamecube emulator Dolphin from appearing on Steam last year.

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Emulation Community Expresses Defiance in Wake of Nintendo's Yuzu Lawsuit - 20240303

Original Submission

Here's How the Makers of the “Suyu” Switch Emulator Plan to Avoid Getting Sued 14 comments

Last week, the developers behind the popular Switch emulator Yuzu took down their GitLab and web presence in the face of a major lawsuit from Nintendo. Now, a new project built from the Yuzu source code, cheekily named Suyu, has arisen as "the continuation of the world's most popular, open-source Nintendo Switch emulator, Yuzu."

Despite the name—which the project's GitLab page notes is "pronounced 'sue-you' (wink, wink)"—the developers behind Suyu are going out of their way to try to avoid a lawsuit like the one that took down Yuzu.
After consulting with an unnamed "someone with legal experience" (Sharpie would only say "they claimed three years of law school"), the Suyu development team has decided to avoid "any monetization," Sharpie said. The project's GitLab page clearly states that "we do not intend to make money or profit from this project," an important declaration after Nintendo cited Yuzu's profitability a few times in its recent lawsuit. Other emulator makers also told Ars that Yuzu's Patreon opened the project up to a set of pesky consumer demands and expectations.

The Suyu devs have also been warned against "providing step-by-step guides" like the ones that Yuzu offered for how to play copyrighted games on their emulator. Those guides were a major focus of Nintendo's lawsuit, as were some examples of developer conversations in the Yuzu Discord that seemed to acknowledge and condone piracy.
The Suyu GitLab page is upfront that the developers "do not support or condone piracy in any form," a message that didn't appear on Yuzu's GitLab page or website.

Switch Emulator Suyu Hit by GitLab DMCA, Project Lives on Through Self-Hosting 7 comments

Switch emulator Suyu—a fork of the Nintendo-targeted and now-defunct emulation project Yuzu—has been taken down from GitLab following a DMCA request Thursday. But the emulation project's open source files remain available on a self-hosted git repo on the Suyu website, and recent compiled binaries remain available on an extant GitLab repo.

While the DMCA takedown request has not yet appeared on GitLab's public repository of such requests, a GitLab spokesperson confirmed to The Verge that the project was taken down after the site received notice "from a representative of the rightsholder." GitLab has not specified who made the request or how they represented themselves; a representative for Nintendo was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment.

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Here's How the Makers of the "Suyu" Switch Emulator Plan to Avoid Getting Sued - 20240318
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Emulation Community Expresses Defiance in Wake of Nintendo's Yuzu Lawsuit - 20240303

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by looorg on Sunday March 03, @07:15PM

    by looorg (578) on Sunday March 03, @07:15PM (#1347237)

    While Nintendo seems to be hot for lawsuit I'm not sure this will accomplish much. I guess there is, or might be, a difference between emulating a system that is currently for sale and is their current handheld machine and one that is old as dirt. Even tho they apparently don't like it when you write 8bit NES emulators either. Probably cause of the rampant ROM piracy. Lets be honest here, nobody uses these to play their own private cartridge collection. At least I have never met such a person. Still it's not like they sell those old cartridges anymore anyway, they might sell online versions thru one of their stores or something. But I'm not sure how I would run those on my NES unless I burned them to cartridges myself afterwards.

    Personally I backed up *cough* *cough* all my old cartridges so I can enjoy them in emulators ...

    That said if you want to be sure that you'll have your copy of YUZU you could just drop by their github and fetch a copy. Game ROMs not included. []

  • (Score: 2) by Mykl on Sunday March 03, @10:44PM (1 child)

    by Mykl (1112) on Sunday March 03, @10:44PM (#1347254)

    I agree that Yuzu is getting heat at the moment because they are emulating a product that is currently being actively promoted and sold. It also looks very much like they are doing it for profit, not for more lofty ideals - making them even more of a target.

    Nobody cares if someone's putting together an emulator for the SNES or the VirtualBoy (well, Nintendo is still making some stuff available for the SNES via their online subscription service, but piracy of a 35 year old system is far less concerning than a current product).

    • (Score: 2) by Samantha Wright on Monday March 04, @07:15AM

      by Samantha Wright (4062) on Monday March 04, @07:15AM (#1347290)

      Entirely agreed. The headline should be more like, "Emulation Community Expresses Apathy in Wake of Nintendo's Yuzu Lawsuit." At most this is a cautionary tale. Did the Ars editor who came up with this title even read the article first?!