www.smspower.org

SMS Power was set up on the 27th of March, 1997 by Omar Cornut, aka Bock, aka Zoop. It's aim is to provide a museum for the Sega 8-bit systems (at first only the Sega Master System, hence the title, but now the Sega Game Gear, SG-1000, SC-3000 and SF-7000 are also now supported), and, in the founder's words, to "Keep Sega Master System interest and enjoyment alive".

As well as providing a site with the usual trimmings (a forum, information about the different games available on the different systems), Omar has dedicated what must be a huge portion of time to two other not-insignificant activities. Firstly, he has programmed, almost single handedly, what is probably the best Master System emulator available, the wonderful MEKA. The emulator supports all the Sega 8-bit systems previously mentioned, plus the Othello Multivision, the Colecovision, and (whisper it) the NES. Only some NES games are supported though, and since the author has repeatedly made it clear that he isn't too fond of Nintendo, I don't think we're likely to see ful NES support any time soon...


One the Meka options menu, there is an option labelled "Mario is not just a fat plumber". Naturally, any Nintendo fans, and in fact anyone with a little curiosity will click on the tickbox to turn this option on and see what it does.

(Appearing in the bottom information bar) You cannot deny Facts!


The other activity which Omar has chosen to devote himself to is possibly even more tough. As an gamer who is interested in emulation will tell you, finding a specific ROM is often very tricky. And sometimes, when you do find it, it's got some introduction thrown onto it by whoever dumped it. While watching "CRACKED BY DA MASTAH" scroll up and down and change colour is nice, having a hacked ROM is not. Especially if a translation patch is released, because chances are you will not be able to use it on a hacked ROM. Basically, what emulation people like best are "verified good dumps". This is a ROM that has not been messed with at all, and is exactly what you would find in the cartridge if you were to play that instead.

For most other system's emulation scenes, there is not really a centralized dumping effort. People who buy backup units dump what they have and release that. While this can be good, if people who are not particularly skilled dump a game, it can easily turn out bad. And unless they bother to check it, these bad dumps can easily get distributed round the Internet and become very widespread. This is A Bad Thing. Omar has decided to remedy this, and has made redumps of all the Master System games. He releases these dumps through SMS power. While obviously many ROM sites don't last long because of legal issues, Omar is protected because he only hosts the ROMs to people who have directly helped the cause of SMS power. Well, it may not be entirely legal (thanks Servo5678) but it certainly attracts less attention, and so it has stayed up for 6 years and counting. The idea is, people get these verified dumps and distribute them. In this way, we will eventually end up with a full set of dumped Sega 8-bit ROMs which are completely 100% perfect. Then, Omar can make sure they are 100% perfectly emulated.

However, unlike other systems such as the SNES which have numerous games which used special chips (DSP-1, 2, 3, 4, SPC7110, SDD-1, SuperFX, the list goes on..) most Master System games work perfectly with MEKA. In fact, almost all of the games supported work very well. There are problems with some, but due to the number of good dumps which Omar himself (or one of the SMS Power team; he has picked up a few people to help him along the way) problems can usually be sorted out quite quickly. This is vastly different to most other emulation communities, where the people coding the emulators are not the people dumping and distributing the games. This leads to distributed bad dumps (a number of the ROMs in the current GoodTools set are listed as "No Good Dump Known", due to the dumper not taking enough care in what he was doing, or simply being inexperienced, and a generally decreased quality of emulation.

SMS Power is funded through contributions to Omar. Users of Meka who like the software are encouraged to send in Sega hardware, software, or just good old fashioned money. If the things he receives are undumped, Omar will be able to dump them (or, as is more common, to verify or update the existing dump). Otherwise, the things received are sold, and the proceeds go towards the site and buying undumped items. People who contribute get a MEKA key file, access to the ROM releases on www.smspower.org (which are blocked to non members), and most importantly a clean conscience.

Overall, SMS Power is a great example of the way that emulation communities should be run. The problem with most is that the efforts are spread out and isolated. While Omar has taken on a lot of work for himself, he has undoubtedly made Master System emulation much better today than it otherwise would be. I highly recommend that you contribute to the cause if you can (like I did).


Goodnight, Brave Warrior. Good night, Monster land....



Sources:

Playing ROMs in Meka
Having registered it.
www.smspower.org (durr..)

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