the Mouth of Madness:
By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
What's new this week in loonygames? As our loony editor.
efore I start a rantin’, let me first get the loonygames news for this week out of the way. :)
First off, this week you’ll be happy to know that the Guest Editorials have returned. This week’s is by Kenn Hoekstra of Raven Software, and we’ve got a killer one lined up for next week as well. Be sure to check those out this and next Thursday, respectively.
Also this week, you’ll notice that I’ve changed the Table of Contents page slightly. This was based on a lot of feedback we received when we switched over to the new design…and I think while subtle, it’s a definite improvement. We’ll be integrating a lot of those changes site-wide fairly soon (the different link color, the full width table, etc.) so stay tuned.
Lastly, this week we’re moving to the new server at long last, so you’ll probably notice a bunch of weird numbers up top there for a few days while the switchover takes place. Don’t panic…that’s perfectly normal. :)
Alrighty…so let’s talk about UltraHLE, shall we? In case you missed it, UltraHLE was an emulator that was released (briefly) last week. I say briefly, because the program was actually only released for four hours on Thursday, January 28th. What’s it do? Well…to be frank, it does something nobody thought was possible. It runs Nintendo 64 games perfectly on a PC.
Now that’s a weird concept. If you’ve ever seen one of the other Nintendo 64 "emulators" they represent the state of emulation technology as of last Wednesday. That is…they blinked a bit, and occasionally displayed that rotating "N" logo. They are slightly crude, but they’re what you would expect from a project created by hobbyists in their spare time.
UltraHLE is not what you would expect at all.
Not only does this thing run many N64 titles perfectly, it manages to do so on mid-range systems with no noticeable framerate loss. Wow. I was at least expecting for UltraHLE to have some major problems, but I didn’t find a major one in the program. I’m not talking about some of the weird problems it has with some titles (Duke 64 for example works…but it’s a bit on the funky side). I was expecting it to at least have some weird sound problems that prevented it from accurately emulating the N64’s sound system…but nope. It runs perfectly.
Whatever alchemy was involved in the creation of this program is nothing short of pure genius. I can’t begin to imagine how they did it, especially since I’ve talked to some programmers who are just as baffled as I am. Typical guesses pictured Pentium III systems running at 800Mhz with gobs of ram and uber-powered video cards to play N64 games with anything that began to look like its console counterpart. As a way of contrasting here, UltraHLE’s minimum requirements are a pII 233 with 32 megs of ram, and a Voodoo 1 card. Yow.
What’s really incredible about the program, is not only does it actually run many N64 games, but it does so in ways that the N64 hardware can’t even imagine. Chances are you’ve seen some screenshots floating around the ‘net that show Zelda running at 640x480. Yawn. I say it again…yawn. That’s the N64 in its high-res mode.
Now, admittedly, I have a very high-end system here. I tested UltraHLE on a pII 450 with 128 megs of ram, and dual Voodoo 2 cards. So while a lot of other people were admiring the smooth images of Mario 64 in 800x600, I fell out of my chair as that big ol’ smiling face showed up on my screen in…1024x768. Dear lord, this is just too incredible. I hope that somewhere Shigeru Miyamoto is looking at this…because it’s one of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen. I’ve taken the liberty of putting up some screenshots for you here…they’re huge, no question…but they really must be seen to be believed. Let’s take a second to drool over them, shall we?
Credits: From the Mouth of Madness logo illustrated by and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. From the Mouth of Madness is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, you naughty boy, you.