back to article Microsoft finally finishes its PowerPC emulator

Microsoft kicked off this year's E3 gaming conference by announcing that its x86-powered Xbox One console can now play games built for the PowerPC-based Xbox 360. The Windows giant took center stage at the Los Angeles Convention Center to announce that its latest console will run games that are available for its predecessor. …

  1. Steven Raith
    Facepalm

    Truly, it's as if man has become GOD

    " The heavily guarded prototype device will now run Minecraft, allowing users to interact with the block-building game in virtual-reality mode."

    See icon -->

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Truly, it's as if man has become GOD

      As if Minecraft wasn't already inefficient enough!

  2. Wade Burchette Silver badge

    What about the original XBox

    Will those games be backwards compatible?

    The reason why I love my PC games is that in 20 years I can still play them. I still play Transport Tycoon, a game released in 1995. Actually, thanks to DosBox, I was playing Starflight 1 (1986), Starflight 2 (1991), and Star Control 2 (1992) last year.

    1. Doogs
      Mushroom

      Re: What about the original XBox

      Yeah, and Total Annihilation still pisses all over Planetary Annihilation.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: What about the original XBox

      A couple of months back I was playing Final Fantasy V on my Playstation 2. FFV was released in 1992; the US PSX port (part of FF Anthology) came out in '99. So it's around 23 years old now, and the binary I was running is 16 years old.

      And yes, that's one reason why I'm not eager to "upgrade" to a "modern" console. There are still plenty of PS2 titles (and even some PSX ones) that I haven't gotten to that look interesting to me. A thousand indistinguishable FPS games, on the other hand, just bore me to tears.

  3. dan1980

    "Finally, Microsoft shed light on an upcoming crop of games exclusive to the Xbox One and PC. Those include Halo 5, Gears of War 4, and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Redmond also touted the non-exclusive releases of Fallout 4, FIFA 16 and Madden NFL 16."

    Good to see so much new IP.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. JohnnyGStrings

    It would be embarrassing if they *hadn't* got a 360 emulator in development/running, since there's already a new open-source one for PC (not just CxBx which mainly just runs Turok) - "Xenia"... runs ISOs and Marketplace games. Currently plenty of issues, though it seems to already run quite fast, so expect Dolphin-like performance on a decent PC (GC/Wii emulator) once they start ironing out rendering issues, stability, and do performance optimisations...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-xYac4ODKY

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5FKb2j2Yx8

    plenty more vids etc, just search for xenia emulator :)

    1. mythicalduck

      Cool, I don't use my XBox360 any more, but it'd be nice to still play some of the games. Esp' some of the indie/marketplace games I bought

  6. Paul Shirley

    Rumour is when you put the disk in it just downloads a ported copy, the disc just validate ownership. That makes sense, emulating PowerPC is hard with endian & 32 v 64bit issues, extensive use of vector ops that don't easily translate to deal with before even stating on the different hardware topology.

    The xb1 CPU was described pretty accurately by a colleague as a mobile CPU, under clocked, under cached. Great memory bandwidth but that doesn't help when the problem is lack of MIPS.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      @Paul

      Which is the 32 bit processor you're talking about? It certainly wasn't the PowerPC Xenon!

      1. Paul Shirley

        Re: @Paul

        Yep, my mistake after a year+ dealing with legacy 32bit crappiness all through a 360 port, because they could assume pointers never needed to be >32bit.

  7. Sykobee

    The emulator must be pretty advanced - definitely a recompiler rather than an emulator, treating the PowerPC opcodes as some form of object code. Each individual core in the XB1 isn't that much faster than one of the cores in the 360, and as a rule of thumb for CPU emulation you need about 10x the performance for accurate instruction-by-instruction emulation, so this can't be what is happening.

    I was thinking that they were recompiling the game binaries and only using the game discs for the game data, but if the titles don't need any changes then that can't be the case.

  8. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Rosetta

    Didn't Apple already cover off PowerPC apps on Intel?

    1. Annihilator

      Re: Rosetta

      Beat me to it, but worth noting that Rosetta only worked in basic instances. "Beefy" stuff wouldn't run (games, Photoshop etc).

      1. Irony Deficient

        Re: Rosetta

        Annihilator, Photoshop (from the PowerPC version of Creative Suite 2) runs on SWMBO’s Leopard partition using Rosetta.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Rosetta

      Conversely, as an optional LPP for AIX 3.1, IBM offered an x86 PC emulator - RIOS POWER emulating x86. It wasn't terribly fast (it was an actual emulator, not a translator, if memory serves), but it worked. That was in 1991.

      Emulating a '486 under RIOS POWER is a lot simpler than emulating a recent PPC generation, of course, particularly when performance isn't a major concern.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if FIFA 16 will feature in-game purchases (of World Cup hosting votes, for example)

  10. Denarius
    Thumb Up

    not only but also

    Does this give Microsoft and Intel/AMD a chance to offer virtualisation of older PowerPC servers? I can think of government departments which are using EBay for spares. This might be more useful than mere games.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: not only but also

      Those government departments are just penny-pinching. My guess is that they are mostly using AIX (rather than IBM i/iOS/OS400), and there is great compatibility with older systems, so probably there is a good chance that they could install modern IBM POWER systems, and expect the applications to either run unchanged or for newer versions of the applications to be available.

      If the code would work in AIX 5.3, then they could also use an AIX 5.3 WPAR on a recent system to run the code. There's plenty of options out there, and modern kit is so much more powerful that they are unlikely to have performance issues. If they are using hardware that needs normal PCI (as opposed to PCIe) or MCA (it'd have to be really old kit for this!) then it would be a problem, but you would probably struggle to find an Intel box with PCI nowadays, and MicroChannel would be completely out of the question for a server with an Intel processor, unless you wanted a 486 system!

      They probably just don't want to install any new kit, probably because they no longer have the skill in house to change anything, and their outsourcing partners have quoted the GDP of a small country to do it for them.

  11. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Might finally push me to buy an X-Box one then. That and when it is under the £200 mark.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fairly

    unimpressive list.

    No reason to give up my 360 yet.

  13. P. Lee

    Remind me again

    Why did Microsoft pick powerpc for its Windows games console?

    Regardless of the relative merits, I suspect the answer for Intel-centric MS was, "to be awkward." You might have a Windows PC at home, but you'll need to purchase a whole extra device for games, because your GMA graphics ain't up to it.

    It may have been a convenient anti-piracy device to restrict games to a locked-down console, but now we have lots of games showing up on OSX and Linux on Intel. I'd guess cross-OS is easier to do with games than coping with the different powerpc architecture. Cross-OS development is a far larger threat to MS than game piracy.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Remind me again

      At the time that the system was designed, PowerPC was regarded as an in-vogue processor. Apple were using it, as were Nintendo in the GameCube and the Cell processor (which is where the PowerPC core used in the XBox360 came from) was exciting a lot of people, including Sony with the announcement of what was going in to the Playstation 3.

      It also had good price/performance and performance/power levels compared to Intel processors of the same generation. Remember, Microsoft did not have a stellar success with the original XBox, with it's single core Celeron derived processor. And Microsoft even had some expertise in PowerPC, because they had a PowerPC port of Windows NT.

      IBM were also much more willing to produce a custom chip for Microsoft at an acceptable price, and the Cell PowerPC core was a very suitable processor for use as a core on a multi-core chip due to the work on the Cell architecture (Intel's Pentium-D was launched in 2005, the same year that the Xbox 360 was announced - previously it was only the expensive Xeons that were multi-core).

      It's only in hindsight (and a quite significant change of direction by Intel) that PowerPC looks like it may have not been the best choice, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. If only we could predict what it shows us after the fact.

      I still think that POWER and PowerPC processors have a future, although maybe not in gaming consoles.

  14. MJI Silver badge

    I am surprised they managed this

    The CPUs on the new consoles are not exactly powerful. (CPU side of CPGPU)

    Now I THINK the X360 CPU was 3 core but 3.2GHz, the Cell was 7 or 8 core at 3.2GHz.

    Now the X1 is slightly higher clocked than the PS4. But still a lot slower than PPC

    Anyway well done on achieving it.

    The ONLY way Sony have any hope of doing the same is to emulate SPU on the GPU.

    In fact it is possible still that Cell is the most powerfull CPU (not including GPU) ever in a console, someone who knows please let me know.

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