Ars Technica: How SNES emulators got a few pixels from complete perfection


Well-known member
Dec 11, 2018
As the lead coder of bsnes, I've been attempting to perfect Super Nintendo emulation for the past 15 years. We are now at a point where that goal is in sight, but there we face one last challenge: accurate cycle timing of the SNES video processors. Getting that final bit of emulation accuracy will require a community effort that I hope some of you can help with.
Today, we enjoy cycle-level accuracy for nearly every component of the SNES. The sole exception is the PPUs (picture processing units), which are used to generate the video frames sent to your screen. We mostly know how the PPUs work, but we have to make guesses for some functionality that result in less than total perfection.

The remaining issues are relatively small ones, in the grand scheme of things. If you're not interested in the pursuit of one hundred percent faithful emulation perfection for its own sake, I am not going to be able to convince you of the need for improving SNES PPU emulation further. As with any goal in life, the closer we get to perfection, the smaller the returns.

I can tell you why this is important to me: it's my life's work, and I don't want to have to say I came this close to finishing without getting the last piece of it right. I'm getting older, and I won't be around forever. I want this final piece solved so that I can feel confident in my retirement that the SNES has been faithfully and completely preserved through emulation. No stone was left unturned, no area left unfinished. I want to say that it's done.
In summary, I’ve gone as far as I can with my SNES emulator project, and I need help to finish this one final task. If you’ve read this far, hopefully you can provide that help! Any and all assistance, including contributions to our bsnes GitHub project, or any research documentation into the inner workings of the SNES PPUs that could be created, would be invaluable!

Thank you so much for reading, and for everyone’s continued support! It’s been an honor to have been a part of the SNES emulation community these past fifteen years.

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