As retro gaming enthusiasts, there is one overarching problem that constantly stands in our way. This is the issue of access. Despite having systems today that are many hundreds or even thousands of times more powerful than the gaming setups we had years ago, poor integration of older systems into newer platforms keeps holding us back.
Of course, all is not lost, as the brilliant minds of our communities have come up with ingenious ways to combat such constraints. Looking into the two major examples of this in retro gaming, DOSBox and RetroArch, we want to try to use prior development to track potential future growth. What could the future of retro gaming look like, and why do have so much faith in whatever comes next?
Evolving System Integration
The core strengths of the technologies of DOSBox and RetroArch are owed to their flexibility as a medium between games of old and systems of new. In essence, these work by giving players game access over a wide range of modern devices, far beyond anything which could have been imagined when the games were first released. Today, forward-thinking and multiplatform game development is much more common, but these concerns decades ago were largely ignored.
For a modern comparison, consider the online roulette and other table games from online casinos like William Hill. Owing to their integration with widely accepted HTML5 technologies, these games such as Quantum Roulette and Medusa’s Gaze work perfectly over practically all desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. These not only work on older systems but will continue to work on future devices as well. On the other hand, older PC and console games were only ever designed to run on much more confined systems, with practically zero thought given to futureproofing.
DOSBox and RetroArch
Acting as go-betweens for modern operating systems and older games, DOSBox and RetroArch are evolving technologies. At their base, they act as emulator containers for their involved systems. For DOSBox, this includes DOS and early Windows versions. For RetroArch, the included emulator cores within the greater program run deeper, covering platforms like the 3DO, PS1, Saturn, Arcade, and much more.
In some cases the back-end emulation of the games these systems are involved with is practically perfect, overcoming issues like latency and offering advanced options and features. The front-ends, however, are another story. With each new operating system and update, DOSBox and RetroArch need to be checked and updated to ensure compatibility and freedom from bugs.
This means that the work of these systems is never really done, as they have to continue to evolve to keep pace. Ultimately, from where we stand now, what looks like a likely continued evolution makes these two programs into what could soon be the lifelong defaults of any old school gamer looking to play on a modern system.
While many of us prefer to play older games on classic systems, it needs to be noted that every piece of hardware has a life span. Eventually, older computers and consoles will either die out or become so rare as to become impossible to obtain or afford for most players. Through this lens, it becomes clear that the likes of DOSBox and RetroArch are the way of the future. Make no mistake, eventually, old school gamers will have no choice but to turn to these options, but as for how many more decades this could take, only time will tell.