Exclusive Interview: RPCS3 Team on Crowdfunding, Emulation, and Preserving Game History
Bitsonline reached out for comment on a recent update to the RPCS3 Playstation 3 Emulator, and what we got is a full, in depth interview with their Community Manager “ssshadow”, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of legal retaliation from the gaming industry.
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RPCS3 Is Working Well
We discussed a great many topics with him, the highlights of which are posted here for your perusal:
Bitsonline: So with this newest update, RPCS3 is starting to boot and play some highly coveted “triple A” titles?
RPCS3: Yes, there is now not a single major title (that I can think of at least) that does nothing, except for MGS4. But maybe that already runs to the main menu in an internal test build that may or may not exist.
BO: and what role has crowdfunding played in making this development possible?
RPCS3: In the second half of 2016 RPCS3 was basically dead. Sure, there would be the odd pull request every now and then, but there were no major developments. We also only had roughly 20-30 playable games at this time — almost all of them simple 2D titles, with the odd 3D game as an exception to the rule.
Then Patreon happened. Nekotekina [core developer] could immediately start to work full time, no other job or anything going on at that point. And kd-11 [lead graphics developer] could join in soon thereafter. Today we have tens of thousands of lines of code change every month, now almost a year since crowdfunding started we have literally 600 titles listed as playable.
General compatibility has increased massively, and performance has increased massively. This time last year RPCS3 was basically useless. No one, not me at least, could even dream of actually playing any real game in it. Seriously, something like Demon’s Souls, let alone Uncharted was a dream that seemed years and years away. That I can basically flawlessly play many real games like Persona 5 in 4k today is fucking amazing!
Nothing would have happened without Patreon, probably.
BO: So when are you bringing The Last Of Us to PC?
RPCS3: [Laughter] Soon.
Well, with the recent fixes it now definitely passes the initial loading screen to show a health and safety warning. In some older test builds it actually reached the main menu and even went past pressing new game to show a pre rendered video. However all graphics were missing at the time, and it would sooner or later hang due to a race condition.
This was never fixed and is still the reason it hangs after the health warning. Really this/these race conditions on the SPU side of things explain many of these high end games hanging now, and really many games in general. Anyway, it could actually be very close to running, or it could take forever to fix the hanging. Hard to say. Of course there is a lot of known room for performance improvements.
Preserving History When Download-Only Is the Norm
BO: A lot of PS3 games only saw digital release, and servers are being shut down for games like Demon’s Souls and the PS3 version of FFXIV — are there any efforts being made to preserve these titles?
RPCS3: Sooner or later the entirety of the [PS3] Playstation Network will shut down. There is no software to emulate there, it is all a black box on a server somewhere. If someone would want to revive multiplayer in Demon’s Souls that would be an extremely difficult undertaking. The game server software must be written from scratch but still match the old one exactly. It can be done today if someone were to capture and analyze network traffic while it is still live.
Point is, this is reverse engineering on a per game basis. PS3 emulation is a general approach.
BO: Then, what’s your opinion on the preservation of history in the post-DLC age?
RPCS3: It is going to be a disaster probably. With this console generation we got patches, DLC, etc. So games shipped broken and incomplete on disc.
Once PSN goes down, if no one saved patches and DLC, the games will forever be broken and incomplete
and yes, fucking broken. For example Atelier Shallie, an RPG, doesn’t let you level up skills without a patch. The game will just hang on 1.0.
BO: Does that mean all the indie games that got download only releases are lost forever?
RPCS3: For now, people just back them up from the official PSN servers, but there’s no telling when that won’t be an option.
Where will this and other platform/game emulation projects go from here? Let’s hear your thoughts.
images courtesy RPCS3