Phil Spencer, Microsoft's Executive VP of Gaming, advocates for game preservation

Delicieuxz

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Microsoft gaming chief calls for industry-wide game preservation
The details: Spencer is advocating for an approach Microsoft already uses: software emulation.
  • Emulation allows modern hardware to simulate the functions of older hardware and run game files, or executables.
  • “My hope (and I think I have to present it that way as of now) is as an industry we'd work on legal emulation that allowed modern hardware to run any (within reason) older executable allowing someone to play any game,” he wrote in a direct message.
  • Microsoft’s newer consoles — the Xbox Series and Xbox One — run huge libraries of older Xbox 360 and original Xbox games using this technique.

Microsoft's Phil Spencer Wants the Gaming Industry to Embrace Game Preservation Through Emulation
Replaying the favorite video games of your youth isn’t as easy as re-reading a loved book or re-watching a movie you’ve already seen 100 times. And Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of Gaming, thinks that’s a problem the games industry needs to address by embracing emulation with open arms.


Books are arguably one of the most persevering mediums because the same copy you read as a kid can be enjoyed again and again as you grow older. Movies, TV shows, and music start to exhibit the problems with relying on technology for media consumption. ... Thankfully, those industries typically embrace every new technology that comes along and re-release that content again and again on different formats. ...

The video game industry has been nowhere near as accommodating as technology marches on.

Why modern consoles can’t just “run any… older executable”
Spencer told Axios in a recent interview. "I think in the end, if we said, 'Hey, anybody should be able to buy any game, or own any game and continue to play,' that seems like a great North Star for us as an industry."

I really like this quote: "I think in the end, if we said, 'Hey, anybody should be able to buy any game, or own any game and continue to play,' that seems like a great North Star for us as an industry."

It's a bit novel for a head of a top game publisher, especially a US one, to advocate for game ownership and game preservation. And I hope it will help to create awareness and discussion, and help get the ball rolling further on changes to industry philosophy on the matter.

It's probably no coincidence that Phil Spencer has been thinking about the topic while Xbox just announced its final addition to the Xbox console backwards-compatibility program, as that project has relied on preserving older Xbox games through cooperation with their developers / publishers, and using emulation.


Ross of Accursed Farms previously made a great video that comprehensively analyses the crisis of game preservation obstructionism. And I'm sure his video has done a lot to spread awareness, including among publishers.




Rockstar's recent pulling of the original versions of GTA 3, GTA Vice City, and GTA San Andreas, to replace them with the GTA Disaster Edition trilogy (only to restore them after backlash to the Disaster Editions), is also a pretty good argument for why game preservation should be adopted as the expected industry norm.
 

DPI

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Maybe they should release their Xbox emulator software for PC then instead of tying it to the new consoles then. This is nothing but cheap talk.
This right here. Phil isn't a bad guy, but it's always meaningless hot air from him.

"I think aspiring to solving world hunger and climate change seem like, you know, a pretty good idea that, you know, I think we could all aspire to." --Phil Spencer
 

LukeTbk

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Books are arguably one of the most persevering mediums because the same copy you read as a kid can be enjoyed again and again as you grow older. Movies, TV shows, and music start to exhibit the problems with relying on technology for media consumption. ... Thankfully, those industries typically embrace every new technology that comes along and re-release that content again and again on different formats. ...

Outside the non passive media that make it the biggest technological challenge, I think it is the industry that would have the biggest delta in price, on Amazon.com

Casablanca bluray is : $13
Star wars a new hope on Prime video is $19.99

A new movie like Wonder Woman 1984 is 14.99 on prime video and the blu ray is $7

The Beatles white album anniversary deluxe edition (3 cd) is : $27
The regular edition is $18

A new album like Adele released some days ago is $9.97, the 25 album is the same price at $9.95

Making 2 strikes against it, would selling old game to price similar to new one a popular custom, classic would be kept alive more systematically I would imagine.

Maybe they should release their Xbox emulator software for PC then instead of tying it to the new consoles then. This is nothing but cheap talk.

To be fair no one that bought an Xbox game expected one day to be able to play it on a pc
 

DukenukemX

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Game preservation works just fine without the need of help from companies. Pretty sure companies would love to sell you the game for $60 with texture upgrades. I'm appalled at the part where Phil Spencer says "legal emulation" like it hasn't been done to death with Sony and Nintendo going to court multiple times. Emulation is very legal, now the acquisition of roms on the other hand is a different situation, but if you rip the data yourself then it's legal. Any console can run emulators, and they do often thanks to the community and their efforts to porting emulators to consoles. Maybe Microsoft legally can't do it, but the community has long given two shits about legality and morality of playing their favorite old games. This is just a reminder that PC is king, cause nobody controls PC gaming.

 

Armenius

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Game preservation works just fine without the need of help from companies. Pretty sure companies would love to sell you the game for $60 with texture upgrades. I'm appalled at the part where Phil Spencer says "legal emulation" like it hasn't been done to death with Sony and Nintendo going to court multiple times. Emulation is very legal, now the acquisition of roms on the other hand is a different situation, but if you rip the data yourself then it's legal. Any console can run emulators, and they do often thanks to the community and their efforts to porting emulators to consoles. Maybe Microsoft legally can't do it, but the community has long given two shits about legality and morality of playing their favorite old games. This is just a reminder that PC is king, cause nobody controls PC gaming.


That is fine for older games, but what about all the newer ones that need to phone home or require some kind of online connectivity? Various games in the past have had the work of the community to reverse engineer a game and make it playable again after replacing the online connectivity only to have it get shutdown by publishers and/or developers in the end. I also should not need to resolve to piracy/abandonware or paying exorbitant prices for a limited and dwindling supply of original copies. Old PC games can be even harder to manage without old hardware to pair with them since not all early 3D hardware is being emulated or emulated well. I've run into my own issues of dealing with 16-bit installers that have no workarounds that have worked for me.
 
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scojer

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That is find for older games, but what about all the newer ones that need to phone home or require some kind of online connectivity? Various games in the past have had the work of the community to reverse engineer a game and make it playable again after replacing the online connectivity only to have it get shutdown by publishers and/or developers in the end. I also should not need to resolve to piracy/abandonware or paying exorbitant prices for a limited and dwindling supply of original copies. Old PC games can be even harder to manage without old hardware to pair with them since not all early 3D hardware is being emulated or emulated well. I've run into my own issues of dealing with 16-bit installers that have no workarounds that have worked for me.

You're responding to DukenukemX - he LOVES emulators... a lot.

I like the idea of emulators, and while most of them for older consoles such as NES and SNES work flawlessly, once you start getting to 3D games it can become hit or miss, or too much of a hassle to get a game to work, and even then it won't run as well as it does on the original hardware.

Emulators for the most part are in their infancy and I doubt they'll ever work as good as the original hardware, our only hope is for Sony or Microsoft to release an official emulator or a re-release of the original hardware (which is highly unlikely) as an anniversary event.
 

DukenukemX

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That is fine for older games, but what about all the newer ones that need to phone home or require some kind of online connectivity?
Demon Souls for the PS3 on RPCS3 actually has online connectivity. Obviously not all old games get online multiplayer working because it depends on the popularity of the game and the community involved.
Various games in the past have had the work of the community to reverse engineer a game and make it playable again after replacing the online connectivity only to have it get shutdown by publishers and/or developers in the end.
You mean like the GTA games? Yea it happens but it doesn't exactly stop the community, it just makes them operate in other countries where these sort of things fall into a legal grey area.
I also should not need to resolve to piracy/abandonware or paying exorbitant prices for a limited and dwindling supply of original copies.
If your morals are preventing you then there's nothing I can do for you. Just remember that having certain morals can be expensive.
Old PC games can be even harder to manage without old hardware to pair with them since not all early 3D hardware is being emulated or emulated well. I've run into my own issues of dealing with 16-bit installers that have no workarounds that have worked for me.
Wine on Linux works surprisingly well for this. I use DosBox on Linux to run my old DOS games just fine.
I like the idea of emulators, and while most of them for older consoles such as NES and SNES work flawlessly, once you start getting to 3D games it can become hit or miss, or too much of a hassle to get a game to work, and even then it won't run as well as it does on the original hardware.
Up to Nintendo Wii and you'll have zero issues. PS3 emulation is a hit or a miss when it comes to compatibility. Wii U emulation is surprisingly well done as is Switch emulation. Xbox and Xbox 360 emulation is just bad. Dolphin is by far the best emulator as it has great performance and plays nice with all games released on GameCube and Wii, plus it works with WiiMote's really well. PCSX2 is also really good and even has built in gamepad emulation using a mouse and keyboard.

There's clearly a higher demand for Nintendo consoles to be emulated compared to Playstation and Xbox.
Emulators for the most part are in their infancy and I doubt they'll ever work as good as the original hardware, our only hope is for Sony or Microsoft to release an official emulator or a re-release of the original hardware (which is highly unlikely) as an anniversary event.
You do know that Sony and Nintendo have been caught using open source emulators? Nintendo has even downloaded their roms from the same sources as pirates do. If it's good enough for Sony and Nintendo it's clearly good enough for you.

 

Armenius

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If your morals are preventing you then there's nothing I can do for you. Just remember that having certain morals can be expensive.
I said I should not have to resort to questionable means just to play games. I never said that I did or didn't.
Wine on Linux works surprisingly well for this. I use DosBox on Linux to run my old DOS games just fine.
DOSBox works fine, up to a point. Performance is questionable for quite a few games that I still play. And forget it once you get into early 3D hardware acceleration. It's very hit and miss with the forks that are available out there. And Rendition emulation is non-existent.
Up to Nintendo Wii and you'll have zero issues. PS3 emulation is a hit or a miss when it comes to compatibility. Wii U emulation is surprisingly well done as is Switch emulation. Xbox and Xbox 360 emulation is just bad. Dolphin is by far the best emulator as it has great performance and plays nice with all games released on GameCube and Wii, plus it works with WiiMote's really well. PCSX2 is also really good and even has built in gamepad emulation using a mouse and keyboard.
PCSX2 is an approximation of how PS2 games play. There is nothing accurate about it. It works fine with many games, but it is still not close to the experience on original hardware like most older emulators are now. Dolphin, as much progress as it has made in the past few years, is still much the same. Dolphin at least feels better with games overall compared to PCSX2.
There's clearly a higher demand for Nintendo consoles to be emulated compared to Playstation and Xbox.
Nintendo consoles have historically been easier to reverse engineer.
 

schoolslave

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You mean like the GTA games? Yea it happens but it doesn't exactly stop the community, it just makes them operate in other countries where these sort of things fall into a legal grey area.
There is a big difference between clean-room reverse engineering (ie. what WINE does for Windows interfaces) and decompiling/binary reverse-engineering (ie. what the RE3 people did).
The first is actually allowed under current US law under fair-use for keeping old software functional, the latter is questionable since they also redistribute de-compiled (via ghidra/ida pro) source code.

I am very much in favor of open-source engine re-implementations (or "source ports") where you still have to purchase/own a legal copy of the game assets and the open source engine is completely compatible with those assets. Emulation falls into a similar category. In a perfect world game publishers could sell legal versions of old game assets, maybe open-source the asset formats as well and work with the communities to keep older games functional.

Whatever the case, Micro$hit will fuck it up with DRM, rent-seeking, and retarded pricing as usual. So, please, go fuck yourself Phil Spencer.
 

Delicieuxz

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You do know that Sony and Nintendo have been caught using open source emulators? Nintendo has even downloaded their roms from the same sources as pirates do. If it's good enough for Sony and Nintendo it's clearly good enough for you.
I don't think that Nintendo is the gold standard when it comes to emulation. Their Canoe emulator, which is what the SNES Classic uses by default, isn't that great. It's good, it's not great. It has more input lag than other emulators, and it has some sloppy sound emulation (sounds not playing accurately, cutting-off too quickly). There are a bunch of SNES games it doesn't run, or that it runs with issues. But that's to be expected since they only had to make sure Canoe would run the games they included on the SNES Classic.

Often, people who mod their SNESC with Hakchi will replace the Canoe emulator with SNES9x or something else running through RetroArch.



And Nintendo's N64 emulator on the Switch is reportedly pretty bad.



 
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Armenius

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I don't think that Nintendo is the gold standard when it comes to emulation. Their Canoe emulator, which is what the SNES Classic uses by default, isn't that great. It's good, it's not great. It has more input lag than other emulators, and it has some sloppy sound emulation (sounds not playing accurately, cutting-off too quickly). There are a bunch of SNES games it doesn't run, or that it runs with issues. But that's to be expected since they only had to make sure Canoe would run the games they included on the SNES Classic.

Often, people who mod their SNESC with Hakchi will replace the Canoe emulator with SNES9x or something else running through RetroArch.


Super Metroid is certainly a PITA playing on the SNES Classic.
 

scojer

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You do know that Sony and Nintendo have been caught using open source emulators? Nintendo has even downloaded their roms from the same sources as pirates do. If it's good enough for Sony and Nintendo it's clearly good enough for you.

Yeah, I knew that, why wouldn't they use an emulator already available? It's less cost for them. PCSX2 does a decent job at some games, but not every game, they have a huge library that's "playable" but as Armenius said it's not perfect. That's actually what I used for a while, but honestly I got fed up with it and found a PS2 to use, and I don't regret it one bit. Nothing beats the original hardware... currently. In a few years when emulators actually work flawlessly, then I might change my tune.

I DO use emulators, but they're just not up to par in my opinion.
 

cybereality

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If he's for real then Microsoft should release the full source code and hardware specification for all previous Xbox consoles (obviously they won't do this for the current gen, but that is fair).

This would help community developers, they could get things up and running in a matter of months, rather than having to reverse engineer everything.

But Microsoft won't do this, so anything Phil says he's full of shit.
 

Krenum

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The only emulators I've had a problem with is RPCS3 (Its still needs a lot of work) . That being said, I've spent many years converting my games into rom files, I have about 25 consoles that I emulate & they all work flawlessly. It is a good way to preserve them, I agree. You never know when that old hardware is gonna blow a capacitor or just fail from age.

Keep in mind, that nearly all of the emulation software being used today is High Level Emulation, Low Level Emulation is an entirely different beast and takes a massive amount of computing power to accomplish.
 

cybereality

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I use the Retro Game line handhelds (Anbernic) and everything up until and including PS1 is emulated 100%.

Some of the newer models can do PSP and N64 is sort of working but not 100%. I don't think newer than that is supported.




But I agree that older, but not that old, games (like from a few generations back) would be nice to play as well.
 

DukenukemX

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Yeah, I knew that, why wouldn't they use an emulator already available? It's less cost for them.
The debate here is that Sony and Nintendo know how to emulate their hardware better than anyone else, but here they are using the stuff that the community built. So who knows their hardware better, the community or the manufacturer?
PCSX2 does a decent job at some games, but not every game, they have a huge library that's "playable" but as Armenius said it's not perfect. That's actually what I used for a while, but honestly I got fed up with it and found a PS2 to use, and I don't regret it one bit. Nothing beats the original hardware... currently. In a few years when emulators actually work flawlessly, then I might change my tune.
According to this list, out of the 2,691 games released on the PS2, only 30 are considering unplayable on PCSX2. Compared to the Xbox One list of unplayable Xbox 360 games which is in the hundreds, I'd say that's pretty good. Nobody knows Microsoft's hardware better than Microsoft, and they have zero excuses for not having a perfect working emulator.

Look who released a video on the subject. He seems to have the same opinion as I do.
 

ChosenUno

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This is likely just a water test to see the community reaction. If it's positive, they're likely pushing towards this direction, in order to not have to "remaster" but still can resell you "emulated" games. Nothing virtuous about it.
 

Armenius

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The only emulators I've had a problem with is RPCS3 (Its still needs a lot of work) . That being said, I've spent many years converting my games into rom files, I have about 25 consoles that I emulate & they all work flawlessly. It is a good way to preserve them, I agree. You never know when that old hardware is gonna blow a capacitor or just fail from age.

Keep in mind, that nearly all of the emulation software being used today is High Level Emulation, Low Level Emulation is an entirely different beast and takes a massive amount of computing power to accomplish.
A lot of older consoles have emulators that are doing LLE now. One of the newer N64 ones is doing LLE, but it is still a little rough even on current hardware. Mednafen's PSX core is LLE and runs flawlessly.
The debate here is that Sony and Nintendo know how to emulate their hardware better than anyone else, but here they are using the stuff that the community built. So who knows their hardware better, the community or the manufacturer?

According to this list, out of the 2,691 games released on the PS2, only 30 are considering unplayable on PCSX2. Compared to the Xbox One list of unplayable Xbox 360 games which is in the hundreds, I'd say that's pretty good. Nobody knows Microsoft's hardware better than Microsoft, and they have zero excuses for not having a perfect working emulator.

Look who released a video on the subject. He seems to have the same opinion as I do.

"Playable" does not mean enjoyable. A lot of games just don't feel right on PCSX2. Gran Turismo 3 and 4 are perfect examples.
 

Krenum

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A lot of older consoles have emulators that are doing LLE now. One of the newer N64 ones is doing LLE, but it is still a little rough even on current hardware. Mednafen's PSX core is LLE and runs flawlessly.

"Playable" does not mean enjoyable. A lot of games just don't feel right on PCSX2. Gran Turismo 3 and 4 are perfect examples.
Yeah, I agree, GT3 & 4 have some issues, specifically on the Speedway oval track in Gran Turismo 3, using 8 bit textures is supposed to fix the frame drop on the strait away but I havent tested it yet.
 

Armenius

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Yeah, I agree, GT3 & 4 have some issues, specifically on the Speedway oval track in Gran Turismo 3, using 8 bit textures is supposed to fix the frame drop on the strait away but I havent tested it yet.
The physics just feel weird sometimes even when the framerate isn't having issues. Something in the PPU/VU0 calculations, possibly approximating the results or running at the wrong rate, is throwing it off. I've tried different options for the VU0 emulation and nothing seems to make it better.
 

Lakados

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This is likely just a water test to see the community reaction. If it's positive, they're likely pushing towards this direction, in order to not have to "remaster" but still can resell you "emulated" games. Nothing virtuous about it.
I think it's a little more than that, but essentially. Trying to get their back titles working on newer hardware is sure a selling point on the new stuff to a degree but it costs them money to do and license and blah blah blah for a small community. So by "supporting" emulation and all that jazz, they move the work and the bulk of the costs to the community and let's face it most of that community is not obtaining licenses for their emulated software. So by supporting emulation they are giving that subset of the community exactly what they want at next to zero cost to themselves while taking a shot at Sony who has provided at least PS4 compatibility but still has nothing really in place for PS1-3 but there is a pretty decent community-led series of projects working on those systems, which as per previous conversations are in various states of usability. But nostalgia sells, and by supporting the emulation community they are at least keeping people engaged with the brand, and that leads to increased sales.

This can also tie back to the UWP development stuff as that compiles packages and it makes it very easy to support across the Windows ecosystem, so it can also be seen as a way to keep Windows more relevant for gaming as they see huge upticks in Linux for that instead.
 

Krenum

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The physics just feel weird sometimes even when the framerate isn't having issues. Something in the PPU/VU0 calculations, possibly approximating the results or running at the wrong rate, is throwing it off. I've tried different options for the VU0 emulation and nothing seems to make it better.
Just tested it with these plugin settings,
GT3 Settings 1440p.jpg


Constant 60fps on the speedway track. Processor is 6700K, if I play it on my emulation machine with the 3570s / GTX980 I get some frame drops, but I'm using Batocera v32 (latest) I'm not sure if it has the latest PCSX2 version on it and I have to render it with OpenGL. I think its the OpenGL that's causing the issues, PCSX2 seems to favor DX11.
 

Armenius

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Just tested it with these plugin settings,
View attachment 415475

Constant 60fps on the speedway track. Processor is 6700K, if I play it on my emulation machine with the 3570s / GTX980 I get some frame drops, but I'm using Batocera v32 (latest) I'm not sure if it has the latest PCSX2 version on it and I have to render it with OpenGL. I think its the OpenGL that's causing the issues, PCSX2 seems to favor DX11.
Seems to run best in recent builds using the D3D12 renderer, in my experience.
 

Armenius

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Maybe we need squatting laws for software. If you don't patch something for two years, somebody else can and they have rights to their fork.

Same as changing the locks on a house.
I don't think we need to go that far. Just codify the abandonware concept into law, and extend that to third-parties being allowed to reverse engineer the game once it has been abandoned. Make it something like 5-10 years after removed from sale or online servers are shutdown, whichever comes first.
 
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