The interface of the discontinued Bleem! emulator
|Initial release||March 1999|
1.6b / August 16, 2001
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows, Dreamcast|
|Type||Video game console emulator|
|Website||www.bleem.com at the Wayback Machine (archived May 15, 2001))|
Bleem! (styled as bleem!) was a commercial PlayStation emulator released by the Bleem Company in 1999 for IBM-compatible PCs and Dreamcast. It is notable for being one of the few commercial software emulators to be aggressively marketed during the emulated console's lifetime, and was the center of multiple controversial lawsuits.
Bleem! was a PlayStation emulator designed to allow people to play original PlayStation games on their PC or Dreamcast gaming consoles (the Dreamcast version was called Bleemcast!). It was released in March 1999. The company that developed and commercialized Bleem! initially consisted of just two people, David Herpolsheimer (president) and Randy Linden, but in the commercial phase included Will Kempe, Scott Karol, Sean Kauppinen, Bryan Stokes, James Sinclair, and Paul Chen, later of Rovio Entertainment.
To allow for full-speed emulation of what was at the time a current generation console on even lower-end computers, the authors coded Bleem! in assembly. This allowed them to create precise optimizations. Unlike Connectix's commercial Virtual Game Station, it made use of a PC's 3D graphics hardware for rendering allowing for enhanced resolutions and filtered textures not possible on real hardware. Despite claims of "enhanced" graphics, bugs plagued bleem! as well, with all but one game (coincidentally titled One) being plagued by major bugs according to bleem's own compatibility charts.
Bleem! used low-level memory emulation and other real-mode technology. It did not function on operating systems using the Windows NT kernel, including Windows 2000. In fact, Bleem!'s statement at the time was that Bleem! would never support running on Windows NT-based systems, as Windows 98 was the dominant operating system at the time.
Sony, despite having lost its case with Connectix, continued to pursue legal action against Bleem!. Bleem!, financially unable to defend itself, was forced to go out of business.
As of 2005, 2 members of the team were working for Sony - Randy Linden was working for SCEA on porting titles and looking at the possibility of emulation of previous generation titles for the next PlayStation, and Sean Kauppinen was promoting EverQuest II and Star Wars Galaxies for Sony Online Entertainment.
To combat redistribution of the small downloadable emulator, the user had to buy the Bleem!-CD, containing about 35 MB of data: a DirectX distributable and the actual version of Bleem! available at the time of the CD's printing. The rest of the CD was only for copy protection and was impossible to copy by conventional means; nevertheless, the copy protection was cracked within two weeks of the release.
Further updates to the emulator were free until the company ceased operation several years later.
Two days after Bleem! started taking preorders for their emulator, Sony filed suit against them alleging that they were violating their rights and that providing access for PlayStation games to run on non-Sony hardware constituted unfair competition.
Ultimately Bleem! won in court and a protective order was issued to "protect David from Goliath". Sony lost on all counts, including Bleem!'s use of screenshots of PlayStation games on its packaging. The court noted that Bleem!'s use of copyrighted screenshots was considered fair use and should be allowed to continue.
Despite the legal victories, the legal fees allegedly forced the company out of business. eBay auctions of some of the company's possessions were held soon after - including a huge library of worldwide game releases used for compatibility testing.
Bleemcast! is an independently developed commercial emulator by Bleem! that allows one to load and play PlayStation discs on the Sega Dreamcast. It is compatible with most Dreamcast controllers and steering wheels and leverages the Dreamcast's superior processing power for enhanced graphics. It was created by using the MIL-CD security hole found in the Dreamcast BIOS.
Originally, Bleem! was planning to have the disc able to run any PlayStation game on the Dreamcast, but due to technical difficulties, they developed the concept of the "Bleempak", in which the software would boot only 100 specific games each. New Bleempaks would have to be purchased if one game was not available to boot in a Bleempak. Due to the Dreamcast controller's fewer buttons compared to the PlayStation, there were plans to release a Bleem! controller somewhat similarly designed to the PlayStation controller, and a PlayStation-to-Dreamcast controller adapter, which would allow one to use a PlayStation controller on the Dreamcast. As technical difficulties grew further, all these ideas were scrapped, with no "Bleempak" and no hardware releases.
However, they managed to release individual Bleemcast! bootdiscs for three popular games: Gran Turismo 2, Tekken 3, and Metal Gear Solid. WWF SmackDown! was also being planned for a release, but was not completed, while a couple of screenshots of Final Fantasy IX were surfacing during this time, but was never announced as a planned release. As promised from the beginning, the games ran in a 640x480 resolution, as opposed to the PS1's 320x240 resolution, and featured anti-aliasing and bilinear filtering. This drastically improved the games' graphics but also brought out some graphical imperfections that were originally hidden in the lower resolution.
Closure of Bleem!
Although Sony ultimately did not win any of its lawsuits against them, Bleem! had to shut down when the huge court costs became too much for the small company to handle. Bleem! shut down in November 2001, the same year Sega announced that they would discontinue the Dreamcast in North America. Bleem! closed their website with only an image on their front page of Sonic the Hedgehog tearfully holding a flower next to a Bleem! gravestone. The image was later altered and Sonic was removed, possibly to avoid a lawsuit from Sega.
A beta build of Bleemcast! was eventually leaked. Even though it was buggy and incomplete, it would run some PlayStation games, though not all the games it ran would be playable. Using this beta, hackers were able to create Bleemed games — discs of a PlayStation title with the Bleemcast! emulator built in. ISO images of many of these discs circulate on file-sharing networks.
After the leak, Rod Maher, one of the developers of Bleemcast!, made a public statement regarding the beta, providing some insight into the development process. He revealed that the leaked beta predated the beta that had been shown at E3 and that the leaked beta was 30% complete. The commercial Bleemcast! release was notable as the only release on the Dreamcast that had not been pirated, as it had a complex copy-protection scheme. All three Bleempaks were finally cracked and made available online in December 2009, eight years after their introduction.
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