It Won't Be Long Before Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Is Fully Playable On PC

Image: Nintendo

Remember how people got Breath of the Wild going on an emulator only days after it launched? It's been a few weeks, and progress on the game has come a ridiculously long way.

When Breath of the Wild launched at the start of the month, developers behind the CemU Wii U emulator fired it up and started the process of getting it working. It wasn't good at first: people got an error that crashed the game, it wasn't possible to leave the opening area without using saves, certain runes didn't work, and the game physics was glitching all over the place.

As a visual reminder, here's how Breath of the Wild ran on CemU 1.7.3:

Starting from next month, however, the situation has improved remarkably. Instead of taking maybe a whole year before the game is playable, the process might only take a few months. The latest preview build has cleaned up a ton of glitches, and while the frame rate still drops in places it's relatively consistent.

Of course, here's where things get a little awkward.

Nintendo emulators have been cool for ages because they let you do things that Nintendo never could, like playing Wind Waker in 4K, better online functionality, and generally helping to preserve a whole lot of titles that have vanished from retail existence.

But Breath of the Wild is a new game, not just on the Switch but the Wii U, and it's a very popular game. It's the kind of game you should honestly go out and buy, even if it's on the Wii U. The game preservation argument doesn't really stand up when you're talking about one of the biggest selling games of three weeks ago, and the fact that the developers are receiving more than $US22,000 a month to help make it happen.

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On the other side, the technical accomplishment is astounding. And as anyone who has followed the Dolphin emulator project will know, getting one game to work can often uncover techniques and tricks that will make other games playable down the road, games that might otherwise be completely lost to the fabric of time. There's also the part where you can't really pick and choose what games get emulated: if you're OK with one being preserved, the logic has to extend to all of them.

For me, it's an astonishing technical feat. It'll be interesting to see how the dungeons handle when you have to drag the gamepad screen around by left and right clicking, since that's the the only way CemU can emulate gyro controls. Otherwise, I'll stick to playing on the Switch - and if you can, do yourself a favour and buy Zelda.


Comments

    The real elephant in the room here is that once this is fully emulated it'll probably be able to run the game on current PC hardware far better than either the Wii U or the Switch can.

      This goes for any console game right? We all know PC power cant be matched

        Anything with an actual port, usually. But if you're talking emulation it's normally years down the track before the emulator and the PC power gets that far ahead. It's just that Wii U and Switch are far enough behind that PC's basically already there.

          It's just that Wii U and Switch are far enough behind that PC's basically already there.

          That is a misconception oft used by the PC Master Race in their rhetoric to describe the PC as the ultimate platform. Not to get too far off topic but there is no one best platform; the PC is just one of multiple options and even in the past has had its butt beaten by the likes of Nintendo.

          Back on topic though.

          The problem with consoles is often they are specialised hardware with one task in mind; gaming.

          PCs are general purpose and have varying configurations. This means that even the raw grunt is there it doesn't mean the game will run better.

          Consoles often have specialised buses that have to be simulated somehow thus eating away the grunt of the PC.

          Also, console games (if built right like in the 90s and earlier) tend to have optimisations that use the nature of the hardware to its advantage for extra speed. Those pathways also have to be replicated thus eating away the raw grunt again.

          It eventually all adds up thus leading to PCs performing worse than the console because so much has to be simulated and in some cases even the timing has to be accurately simulated otherwise the game doesn't work.

          It's nice that the game is getting emulated but I feel the focus should be on the efforts of getting it to be emulated perfectly. All too often I hear a game is better once it's on PC. The truth is if a game is great on a console it will be the same on a PC.

          Same goes for bad games; if it stinks on a console, putting it on a PC doesn't change the fact it stinks.

            You're talking about *perfect* emulation. I'm talking about playable. Only the absolute purists care about emulating the hardware that accurately. We only just recently hit the point that PCs could even do perfect emulation of a SNES.

            Also, it's usually not a case of just throwing processing power at the problem. It's more about timing. You need to do a lot more work per tick than the hardware did, because you've got to re-interpret the instructions. It's also often very CPU bound so the modern gaming PC trend of being able to get away with a generations-old CPU and a recent GPU works against it.

            A good part of why Wii U emulation is already so far advanced is that the hardware is largely based off the Wii so the work that went into optimizing Wii emulation pays off straight away.

              We only just recently hit the point that PCs could even do perfect emulation of a SNES.

              Come again? During my highschool days at the turn of the millenium I actually did play with emulation. This was back when ZSNES was king on DOS.

              Besides one or two games the emulation actually was perfect, even the FX chip games.

              What was still a problem back then that has been fixed now?

              A good part of why Wii U emulation is already so far advanced is that the hardware is largely based off the Wii so the work that went into optimizing Wii emulation pays off straight away.

              Ah, sorry, I looked at your post in the wrong context.

              Often when I hear emulation I hear the PC die-hard saying the games are *soooooo* much better because they are off the unwashed consoles so from habit I went down that route.

              Again, my apologies.

        Not really bro. The PS4 Pro is running beautiful games now. I imagine the new Xbox will too.

        The Switch is just a garbage piece of tech.

          Lol the PS4 pro still isn't running native 4K and often has to drop resolution or use mixed mode resolution: So it's a piece of shit still compared to PC. My 4 year old system still has more teraflops than the PS4 Pro!!

          The Xbone looks great and all but is sluggish as hell.

          Switch (and Wii U) just got one of the best games ever made in history - graphics don't make a game. Art style and gameplay do - Zelda has them and looks amazing - even next to Xbone and PS4 games.

          The Switch is an amazing machine that's faster (to use) and portable. Something the PS4 or Xbone are not. Ive spent the past two days in the waiting room of a hospital - playing Zelda!

          The Switch has more tech in it than either PS4 or Xbone, while the later two are just more powrful. Each console (and PC) has its place, calling it shy is your opinion - and in mine your missing out. Its a hell of a console far that just needs game to make it a "must have".

        But don't emulators emulate/match the consoles CPU and GPU clock speeds, and the only thing that's improved are post render filtering? I.e. Anisotropic filtering, antialiasing, resolution, etc.

          Usually, but not necessarily. Consoles have dedicated chipsets and as a result do things just that little differently. The extra power is no use if it cant be accessed. The PS4 and Xbone arent too bad, they're fairly similar to a PC in terms of parts, but Nintendo doesnt really try to compete with them, so there are quite a few differences.

          Its like driving a Ferrari on a 40 kmh road. All well and good to have the power to do 300 kmh, but the fuel economy of a Golf GTI is going to make it a better option for a daily commute. The trick is convincing the Ferrari to mimic that fuel economy.

          Fairly easy to reach in and tweak the values on the way through to increase render size and other things. And with modern games you can potentially modify the software itself to, for example, replace textures.

          Here's Cemu 1.7.0 running Wind Waker HD from the Wii U at 4k resolution for example:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqdSe3m-5HY

          It depends on how the emulator works. One option you can take with modern consoles it to simply emulate the software environment of the console where the games run rather than trying to emulate the hardware.

          If games can only talk to a piece of hardware through the kernel or a system library, it can be enough to emulate that interface or library instead of the underlying hardware. If games access the console's GPU via an API like OpenGL or DirectX (for example), one option would be to identify those call sites and route the calls to the native equivalents rather than emulating the GPU.

          If you're working at a high level like this, you might be able to get the game to render to a larger frame buffer without it realising. That's going to give you more detail to work with than you'd have with simple post processing tricks.

        usually emulating a console adds performance issues though until pcs reach a high enough point above that console that it's a non factor

      That's not the elephant. The Elephant is that this requires the game to be pirated - not single one of these people paying for this emulation to happen will own the game and it can only be run from an ISO, not from the original disc.

        Yep! Greatest game of all time now playable on PC!! Just download this free software and free ISO.

        Seriously - Buy a second hand Wii U or grab a Switch and play this game. Its amazing and worth the money. Nintendo deserves the cash for the work they put in - and to encourage them to make another like it.

          Pay $500 to play 1 game? Yep, that's going to happen.

          The issue is with most other games I can just go to steam and pay for it, and play it on my PC. I can't justify spending at least $300 just to play BOTW. I think most people would agree that's too much, especially when there is no good reason it can't be played on a PC.

          Nintendo is really missing out on a huge market right now by keeping their games exclusive. Demand is only so elastic and at a certain point people will just do shit like emulation to play the occasional game they want to play that's just reality. They could just make a half assed port for PC and get that fraction of the market, but they are going to keep trying to sell their half assed systems instead.

          The issue is with most other games I can just go to steam and pay for it, and play it on my PC. I can't justify spending at least $300 just to play BOTW. I think most people would agree that's too much, especially when there is no good reason it can't be played on a PC.

          Nintendo is really missing out on a huge market right now by keeping their games exclusive. Demand is only so elastic and at a certain point people will just do shit like emulation to play the occasional game they want to play that's just reality. They could just make a half assed port for PC and get that fraction of the market, but they are going to keep trying to sell their half assed systems instead.

        No it doesn't. You can dump a copy of the game of the disc yourself pretty easily.

    The news outlets that are currently yelling about CEMU and supporting this blatant attempt at depriving BotW's hard working team of developers of deserved recognition and compensation (because what, Big Bad Nintendo? That's what I heard a Youtuber say!!1) won't stop, of course.

    That's fine.

    I think the best way forward is to try and show the sheer absurdity of this.

    Imagine, for example, any article about an exclusive PS4 or Xbox One game.

    It'd be like reading to the bottom of that article and then seeing included, for no reason at all, the equivalent specs one would need to build a PC that is on par with the Pro or Scorpio.

    Sounds absurd, doesn't it?

    No more absurd than seeing articles about pirating a new game alongside articles about how that new is cool/interesting/revolutionary/etc (one that's also apparently reason enough for a new console).

    Taking this article to its logical extension, you may as well link to the Patreon the CEMU people have put up so I can put my money in their pocket instead of Nintendo's.

      I don't know that blindly pretending it's not happening is a better solution. I'd rather take the opportunity to point it out, and use that chance to encourage people to buy a very, very good game and probably one of the best Zelda games ever. Readers are smart enough that they will know and see the work that's happening on emulators eventually, thanks to one algorithm or another.

        Oh, I totally agree. It's increasingly hard to express (delineate?) an opinion on the 'collective' reporting on it as opposed making it seem like I'm hassling you, so apologies!

        That it's out there and happening is one thing, it's interesting to see how it is parsed and talked about, fascinating even, I'd say.

        If just one person, after hearing about CEMU/etc either at work, the pub, in passing, or reading about it on-line, goes 'well, I've wasted my money buying the game from the shop haven't I' then that's not good. That perception of value is lost.

        I know that isolation is no defence, but it's always worth pointing out the legality of these situations.

        We have mothers coming up to EB Games counters and asking for emulators and R43DS carts, I kid you not.

          What do you tell them?

            Some say outright that they're illegal, giving no further explanation.

            Others are more careful with their words and say things along the lines of; They're not sold at EB Games because they can be used as tools to perform illegal activities.

            It really depends on who is asked and who they're talking with, and the hours during which they ask the question.

            The general idea though is that someone at school informed their child of its existence, and in turn their child asked their parent to go get them one.

            Personally, I'd love an emulator that's somewhere inbetween DOSBOX and Windows 10, so I can play games like Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, which seems impossible to run on a current-gen machine.

      Funny, I just read this article and I seem to recall the author specifically saying that people should go out and buy Breath of the Wild, not pirate it. Publishing articles about the amazing development progress of emulation software does not equal an endorsement for people to go out and pirate all of the games it can currently run.

      See, here's the thing. People who are looking to play BotW on Cemu fall into 2 main categories:
      1) They have already bought, or are going to buy the game and are looking forward to playing it on Cemu for the higher res, better textures, smoother framerate etc, thus both supporting Nintendo and getting the benefits of what Cemu offers.
      2) They haven't bought the game and were never going to in the first place, in which case these are people Nintendo were never going to make money from at all. These people are the ones you should be truly angry at, not Kotaku nor any other journalistic outlet that talks about what the Cemu devs are up to.

      Like it or not, Cemu being able to run BotW in mere weeks is an astounding technical achievement, which means that news outlets are going to be talking about it.

        Those two categories don't make any sense because I'm not talking about such things in binary 'black or white' terms.

        My other post mentioned the way a person reading about the emulation takes away from the article that there's just simply no value in what BotW has to offer. Yet they'll prop up the devs of CEMU with won't they....

          Well I did say "main categories", not "these two are the only possible permutations," but anyway, how do you figure that this article in any way says to people that BotW has nothing of value to offer? If anything it says the opposite:

          Breath of the Wild is a new game, not just on the Switch but the Wii U, and it's a very popular game. It's the kind of game you should honestly go out and buy, even if it's on the Wii U.

          I just don't see how talking about what Cemu is up to in any way denigrates the work Nintendo put into BotW. All this article talks about is how far Cemu has come in such a short space of time. Nowhere does it say "Don't waste your money on BotW, because Cemu exists."

            I really don't mean to litter this article with nothing but my comments :)

            I did make that clear to Alex, there's no rancour aimed at any one person or article. I hate 'the game' not 'the player' as the kids say.

              Haha, all good. I guess we can just agree that pirating games is for arseholes ;-)

                What about gba games that never got a VC release ;-). At that point I'm just an Arse right? We need to share the responsibility.

                I love a bunch of RPGs that never received VC treatment (many did get digital PSP releases though so I do play them on Vita.) I'm just making a point that some of the hardware these games are stored on would disintegrate if there wasn't Yarr! scene dedicated to keeping them alive.

                  In that case you'd only be slightly arse-ish. An arseage ratio of slim to somewhat, perhaps.

                  There's a massive difference to emulating a console and pirating a game of a 20+ year old console and the pirating of a game that's only 3 weeks old.

                  The fact that so many people are willing to give money to this Cemu developer to allow them to pirate BotW so soon after release is indicative of people willing to pay money to play BotW. So anyone that suggests these people were never going to pay for the game are deluding themselves.

                  The kind of people that will be making use of this emulator are people that will balk at the thought of spending a few hundred dollars on a console to play a game or games on but think nothing of dropping two or 3 times that on a graphics card for their beloved PC.

                  It's actually getting beyond a joke how many people are actively looking to play NIntendo games but don't want to pay NIntendo for the privilege!

    Only if you promise to link your receipt.

    EDIT: where did that comment about "Nintendo should only make games for proper systems" go?

    Apologies if somehow this post is a reply to someone else.

    Last edited 23/03/17 11:15 am

    Plot twist: BOTW is actually being ported to PC by nintendo and this is all a cover to generate buzz and gauge the market in PC ports of nintendo games which is why it's progressing so fast

    So if I buy BoTW but not a console to play it, then re-sell the game on ebay or whatever, am I allowed to emulate on PC with a clear conscience knowing that I have paid the devs?

      No, because the emulator most likely will need a BIOS rom from the console which itself is protected by copyright.

      Even if you have the console, taking a copy of the BIOS from your own unit is still considered an unauthorised copy of copyright protected code.

      Also, unless the programmers at Nintendo have opted for deferred payments they have already been paid for their hours of work. Unless they have a contractual stipulation entitling them to royalties from sales, then all profit goes to Nintendo who then decide what happens to it.

      From a legal perspective, "format shifting" of video games is not allowed in Australia full stop. Australian law is weird, letting you copy the software part of the game, but not the art assets or music. Since you usually can't separate these (and probably don't want to), that essentially means you can't copy games without an explicit license.

      Now lets assume that the law did let you format shift a game. You can only use those copies while you still own the original. If you sell the original, then you need to destroy the copies. If you don't, it is no better than if you pirated it.

        If the music or art is digital, its muddier than that. Telco Act lets you make backups of digital information, or reasonable facsimiles. The reasonable facsimile part opens the door for format shifting.

        I dont think thats ever been fully tested though, I just remember it being part of the argument when the court case allowed modding of PS1's and Xboxes back in the day. Its something that comes into piracy in general. There are laws saying you can format shift, but other laws saying you cant break DRM to do so, so which takes priority? What if its not YOU breaking the DRM?

        Having said that, you do still need to own the original, as you say. It hinges on you actually owning a legal copy. For things like this, that tends to make the crowds pretty much mutually exclusive - if you have a copy, you'd be playing that rather than emulating.

        Of course, with a lot of developers claiming they dont actually sell you a copy to own, only a lease, whos to say that disc you bought is legally yours or not? Not sure thats a safe assumption these days...

    Have people worked out how to read Wii U discs on a PC yet? If you can do that, it would seem to solve the "emulation vs. piracy" debate: just buy the game on disc and play it in the emulator directly.

      That's still illegal due to the fact that you are breaking the terms of service of the game by playing it on an unauthorized system.

        Pretty sure breaking a ToS is not illegal.

        Which terms of service? I don't think I've ever noticed anything like that printed on a game box, and have never been warned about anything like that by a retailer.

        I agree that you may not have a right to access any online services associated with the game (which might stipulate that the only authorised access to the network service is via a Nintendo console), but that is separate from running the software found on the disc.

        How is this different to running a Windows game on a Mac or Linux via Wine?

    They are making $22,000 a month from their theft. That shouldn't just be a cease and desist and a fine, that should be a criminal conviction.

    Spotify giving people unlimited free access to music decreased music piracy because it's a good value proposition to the consumer who no longer needed to illegally download music to enjoy the music they wanted.

    Emulators are a good value proposition to consumers. The trick is to get a service that presents a good value proposition legally while still providing remuneration to the developers and rights-holders of games (I'd argue that EA Access is closest, followed by PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold). The problem is when the proposition by the legal owners is too steep (for example buying a Switch to play Legend of Zelda if that's the only game you're interested in, for some, would be too much money for not enough benefit).

    The format is shifting, and people who develop technology like CEMU and Dolphin are pushing it to where it needs to be by acting as the Napster of the video games industry. They're showing what can be done with the technology we currently have and making rights-holders react to it to create better services that more actively respond to what consumers want, or are willing to buy.

    The ethics of the situation are inextricably tied to the market forces at work, and I think that there's very little ethical resolution you can arrive at while companies ignore the advance of illegal services either with complete denial or DMCA's.

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