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Virtual Super System Emulator Tutorial
by Tim "Tooth Protector" Warner (timandsusan2002 at earthlink dot net)
This tutorial will get you up and running in no time flat, playing Atari 5200 Super System games on your Microsoft Windows computer by using Dan Boris' Virtual Super System (VSS) emulator and Todd Lawrence's Regal Beagle 2000 Windows front-end application. As many of you know, Mr. Boris is a frequent participant on the AtariAge Discussion Forums.
To follow this tutorial to play Atari 5200 games on your PC, you'll need the following files:
Here is a link to the official Virtual Super System home page:
I found a link to Regal Beagle 2000 at the following Web site:
Remember that you can always run a Google search on the string download regal beagle 2000 and you'll probably find some worthwhile hits.
I found the Atari 5200 BIOS ROM and game ROMs at the following Web site:
Again, a Google query for the string download 5200.ROM will get you where you need to go. Of course, the best place in the world to download Atari game ROMs is right here at AtariAge.
You should first use WinZip or another ZIP file-management utility to unpack all of your files. Next, you should create a folder on your hard drive for your emulator (call it VSS, perhaps). In your VSS folder, create a subfolder named ROMs and place your "naked" game ROMs inside this folder; you don't need to zip them first. Don't run the Setup.exe program for Regal Beagle 2000 yet. At this point your VSS folder should look something like the following:
For those of you who aren't that command-prompt savvy, you can place your game ROM files in the same folder as the 5200.EXE executable and simply drag and drop the desired ROM file on top of the 5200.EXE program file; this has the same effect as starting the game ROM from a command prompt.
For the command-line nerds out there (a group of which I am proudly a member), follow this procedure for starting a game ROM with VSS. I'm assuming that you are running either Windows 2000 Professional or one of the Windows XP variants.
1. The first thing we need to to is set up the ROM file path to make using 5200.EXE easier. Right-click the 5200.CFG configuration file in the VSS folder and select Open With from the shortcut menu.
You might or not see the preceding Caution dialog box. If you do, then click Open With.
If you see the preceding Windows dialog box, then choose Select the program from a list and then click OK to continue.
In the Open With dialog box, select Notepad, optionally select Always use the selected program to open this kind of file, and then click OK.
2. Whew! We are finally there. The 5200.CFG file is where we can adjust the emulator's behavior and keyboard mappings. What we want to do is to edit the path = entry to match the appropriate ROM file path. If you used my example of C:\VSS\ROMs, then your 5200.CFG file should look something like the following:
3. Save your work and close the 5200.CFG file. It is now time to play some games! Click Start => Run, type cmd in the Open text box, and then click OK.
4. Navigate to the \VSS folder you created earlier in this tutorial.
5. Type the command 5200 rom_name.bin, where rom_name is the name of the Atari 5200 game ROM. While the names of the ROM files are not case-sensitive, the .BIN extension must be appended to the file name. However, you don't have to add the .EXE to 5200.EXE. Consequently, the command strings 5200.EXE pacman.bin and 5200 pacman.bin are equivalent.
6. Before the game starts you'll see the following preliminary screen:
7. Press ENTER to start the game. By default the game will run full-screen.
Controlling the Action
Following are the default keyboard controls:
Q: Quit the emulator
F8: Enter the debugger
After you have downloaded and unzipped the Regal Beagle 2000 installation files, navigate to the folder that contains your Regal Beagle 2000 installation files and double-click Setup.exe.
In the first screen of the Regal Beagle 2000 beta1 Setup dialog, press OK to continue.
In the second screen of the Regal Beagle 2000 beta1 Setup dialog box, be sure to click Change Directory. You need to ensure that you install Regal Beagle 2000 into the same directory as your Virtual Super System files.
In the Change Directory dialog box, browse to the location of your Virtual Super System files and click OK.
Press OK and Continue to continue the installation process.
In the Choose Program Group dialog box, rename the Start menu program group name as appropriate and then click Continue. If all goes well, the installation process will complete successfully and display the following dialog box.
To start Regal Beagle 2000, click Start => All Programs => Regal Beagle 2000 beta1 => Regal Beagle 2000 beta1.
If you have properly configured the 5200.CFG file with the path to your ROMs directory, then you should not have to mess around too much with the Search portion of the Regal Beagle dialog box. You should see your available Atari 5200 ROMs in the Choose a BIN or A78 file list box. Note that the entry for PolePosition.bin in the above screen capture is for illustration purposes only; as of release 0.82, VSS does not support Pole Position.
I have found that most Atari 5200 games tend to run much too quickly on my 2.8 GHz computer. If you own a fast computer, then you might want to select the Speed Limiter radio button in the Display portion of the Regal Beagle dialog box.
In the Control portion of the Regal Beagle dialog box, select a control type. For simplicity's sake, you might want to begin by selecting Keyboard.
You can use the Yes and No radio buttons in the Sound portion to toggle sound. If you run Windows XP and are experiencing sound problems with your Atari 5200 games, then please see the troubleshooting portion of this tutorial for a solution.
Make sure you save your settings! Click Settings => Save to save your Regal Beagle settings.
To play an Atari 5200 game ROM, open Regal Beagle and double-click a game ROM in the Choose a BIN or A78 file list box. Alternatively, as long as your ROM directory is properly selected, you can start a game by double-clicking an entry in the 5200 List list box. The following dialog box appears:
Press ENTER to start the game. By default, the game will run full-screen.
Although it is doubtful, your computer might not be powerful enough to handle the heavy-duty graphics of the Atari 5200. (!) If this is the case, then you'll want to configure frame-skipping. By dropping some frames from the video output stream, you'll reduce the load on your graphics card and enjoy better gameplay.
Because so many options in Regal Beagle 2000 appear non-functional, let's instead configure frame-skipping by modifying the properties of the 5200.CFG configuration file.
What we want to do is to find the entry named fr = and increase the default value of 1 to a larger value. For instance, you might want to start with a frame-skip setting of 3.
More commonly, you'll have problems with your fancy-schmancy sound card and Windows XP. Indeed, your Atari 5200 gameplay might be dampened by profound audio artifacts such as clicking or buzzing. To fix this problem, download and install VDMSound. You can download the utility by visiting the following Web site:
VDMSound is an audio card emulator that "tricks" VSS into thinking that you are running an old MS-DOS-compatible Sound Blaster audio card. You'll also find VDMSound useful for running all of those old MS-DOS games you grew up playing, like Duke Nukem 1, Blake Stone, Wolfenstein 3D, etc.
Well, those are the basics. I hope that you found this tutorial helpful. Happy retro gaming!