Thursday, March 25, 2010

Because I Must Be Insane

This is why I don't play modern games on my PC: They don't work. Usually it's an issue of insufficient hardware specifications, but in this case, it's that the technology doesn't yet exist to play the game I want to play. Which game, you ask?

Mega Man 10.

Wait wait. You're saying that you can't get some dinky little 8-bit Nintendo game to run on your computer?

Yes, inner monologue. That is exactly what I'm saying. But it's more complicated than that: Mega Man 10 couldn't possibly run on an old-school Nintendo. It looks and sounds like an 8-bit NES game, but blowing on it doesn't make it work any better, therefore it's not. I mean, uh, there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than you'd realize at first glance.

Okay, so the game is a little more system-intensive. But you can play Super Nintendo and PlayStation games on your computer, so Mega Man 10 should be a cinch to get running, right? No! Any time I pose a hypothetical question ending in "right?" the answer is always, "WRONG!" Have we learned nothing?

Obviously we haven't, because I've spent three weeks trying to get MM10 to a playable state anyhow.

The problem is twofold: First, emulation of current-gen systems is far from perfect; as I understand it, developers essentially have to recreate these intensely complicated video game hardware as software, with little or no documentation as to how that's even possible. Second, Mega Man 9 and 10 in particular are designed in such a way that, even though many other games are perfectly playable in emulation, configuration settings need to be absolutely perfect for the game to run at all.

Compounding these problems is the fact that certain versions of an emulator may be more compatible with specific games, and the fact that it's often unclear whether it's the emulator or your computer that's having trouble running the game. Beyond that, there's no definitive guide to emulation troubleshooting; there's just a few discussion threads dedicated to specific games, and YouTube videos that show you that it's possible to run the game without ever explaining how.

The best part is that, even if you do manage to track down exactly the right emulator revision, figure out exactly what settings need to be applied, and have a top-of-the-line computer that can run absolutely anything, there's still a chance that something inexplicably won't work.

After three weeks of trying out every possible setting and numerous revisions of Dolphin, the Wii emulator, I finally got Mega Man 10 to work. After countless hours of frustrating toil, I finally had two different options for playing the game: I could play the game with virtually perfect graphics and sound... at roughly 40% of the regular game speed. Or, I could play at almost full speed, but with semi-sloppy graphics (which is really saying something for 8-bit) and constant screen flashing that would send me into an epileptic seizure in a matter of minutes.

Game Over, right? Give up and forget about this silly endeavor, right? Why did I even need to play MM10 on my computer in the first place when it works just fine on my perfectly functional Wii?

Well, you see... I wrote this beefy review of Mega Man 10 not too long ago, and stock screenshots from GameSpot aren't good enough for me. First of all, the screenshots that are currently available hardly capture the parts of the game I wanted to illustrate; second of all, I had plans of posting the review to as well as to this blog, and the comedic potential of picture captions is much greater if I get to set up the screenshots myself.

And I always provide funny captions with the pictures in my reviews. (Whether anyone else thinks they're funny is beside the point.)

Because there was no indication that I'd be able to properly run MM10 any time soon, and because I wanted to post the review to GameCola while the game was still remotely relevant, I took action: I began to play through Mega Man 10 in slow motion.

Slow. Motion.

Even without dying or incurring any significant amount of damage (dodging is much easier in slow motion, and it also looks more cinematic), it took me nearly three hours of continuous playing to reach the second castle stage. That's enough time for me to beat the game at least twice at regular speed!

Fortunately, there are built-in sanity breaks after you beat each boss: the length of time it takes for Mega Man to automatically run to the center of the screen and absorb the boss's power, teleport out of the level, visit the "Weapon Get!" screen, and return to the menu screen is more than enough time for a bathroom break, a snack break, or a brief-yet-meaningful phone call. Just be sure to never let Mega Man get knocked off of a platform or get killed, because the amount of time it takes to get back to where you were can be intolerably drawn-out.

Why am I subjecting myself to this? Well, I'll get some dandy screenshots for my review. And I'll load up GameFAQs with a pile of cool-looking screenshots, beyond the ones I'll use in the review. I'll be an Internet hero.

Also, because I must be insane.


Scott said...

Hate to be a naysayer, but with the latest release of Dolphin, MM9 and 10 play fine for me.

zharth said...

This is the reason I gave up trying to get Realms of the Haunting running on my modern (well, modern for 5-10 years ago) machine. It's doable, as certain YouTube videos will prove, but that doesn't change the fact that I could never get it to work. Which is a shame, because that's one of the greatest story-driven action/adventure horror games for the PC I have ever played. [/plug]

I'm a little perturbed about this idea that things have to constantly get more complicated. You'd think better technology would make things easier, yet often they just make things more complex. Take Doom, for example. While it's great that there are source ports that can run the game flawlessly on modern systems (at least, the last time I checked), they keep adding functionality that wasn't in the original game. And while it's cool to be able to do things in a game from 1993/1994 that we take for granted today - like going under water instead of just walking over it, being able to construct a bridge that the player can walk over, and under (no longer will you have to choose between the two!), or hey, simply being able to lift your feet off the ground and jump - adding all these Cool New Features (r) just makes it more complicated to design a level and get it working properly, considering the array of different ports available to run it, and the differing specifications they have.

Simplicity, I say!

Scott said...

I think that for people who grew up with those features, that IS the simplest thing they can imagine. Simplicity for someone who grew up with, say, an Atari probably means walking and shooting in a world of 16 colors or something like that.

I see your point, though, and I completely agree. Feature bloat is annoying.

zharth said...

Regardless, even if someone who is used to, say, Star Fox, and thinks that is simple, and that a game like Asteroids is beyond simple, he's still not "simplifying" Asteroids by rendering it in three dimensions.

Scott said...

No, he's just bringing it up to an acceptable level of simplicity for himself.

zharth said...

Right, complicating it in the process.

Flashman85 said...

I grew up with an Atari 2600 and an NES, and I think that's why the gameplay is so much more important to me than, say, graphics. I don't mind options and features and complexity as long as they add something meaningful to the game that would really be missed otherwise, and/or as long as they're fun extras that don't make you feel like you're missing out if you choose not to mess around with them.

I'm more interested in a simple game with complex challenges, rather than the reverse. That's part of the reason why I'm not fond of fighting games--ridiculously complicated controls for a simple goal of "beat up your opponent."

Lastly, Scott: You'll just need to tell me your configuration settings for MM10, 'cuz I'm still having trouble!

Scott said...

Latest build, Dolphin OpenGL graphics plugin, XSB enabled, VSynch enabled, I get a smooth 60 fps.

It may also simply be a matter of processing power; my laptop has an i7 quad-core processor and a decent graphics card, too.

Flashman85 said...

Tried all that; apparently, the problem is that my computer is too slow!