Update on the Palm Gameboy Emulator: Gambit

Palm Gameboy EMU: Gambit Maven, the developer working on the Palm Gameboy emulator project, recently released a long awaited email update on his progress with the gameboy emulator. It's new name is Gambit and it currently runs Tetris! Visit this article for the full update. If you want some background information on the project see this PalmInfocenter: exclusive story that broke the news about the Emulator. Now with exclusive screenshots!!!

UPDATE 6/26/00: Gambit is nearing release see this article for more details.

UPDATE 7/7/00: Liberty was released today. Read our review.

UPDATE 8/23/00: Version 1.1 of Liberty is now available.

So you want to play gameboy games on your PalmPilot? That may be a reality soon.

Considering the two devices similarities it's hard to ascertain why this hasn't been done yet. The Nintendo Gameboy has an 8-bit z80 processor with a clock speed of 4.19Mhz, and a 160 x 144 pixel screen with 4 shade greyscale. As a general rule in emulation you need a system at least 3 times as fast as the original system to be emulated. Palm's 16Mhz dragonball processor should be enough to handle that task.

Palm Infocenter recently interviewed Maven, who is currently working on making Palm Gameboy a reality. Maven is writting the emulator from scratch, others have tried to port the Virtual Gamboy emulator to the PalmOS but gave up on the task because of the palm's limited speed and memory. He is also writting the code in assembler, since that's the only way to get enough speed for emulation (the C compilers are not very good at efficient code). Right now the CPU emulator has been built and is running without problems, his next step is to emulate the screen and sprites system. Maven plans to release a demo beta as soon as the ever popular Tetris game is fully playable. Stay tuned to the Palm Infocenter for more updates on this story, we will also have the demo availible to download as soon as it is released. Read on below for exerpts from the interview.

Palm Infocenter: What will you call the emulator?

Maven: Actually, I've been calling it PalmBoy, but Palm Computing has informed me they consider that a violation of their trademarks, so I have to come up with a good name. I am open to suggestions, and maybe even a naming contest! (I just can't have the name 'Palm' in the name of the product)

How do you plan to implement the controls, such as the d-pad, A & B, etc.?
Also, do you plan to add support for the GoType keyboard?

The directional pad will be used by the PalmPilot's hardware buttons. Up/Down corresponds to the Palm up/down, right/left will be the scheduler/ phone book keys, and A/B will be the ToDo/Memo keys. This will probably be configurable by the user. Obviously, the design of the Palm keys isn't the best layout for joypad/buttons. Oh, well. The start will be through the 'find' button. Other options, such as loading games will be available through the menu button, which will also pause the game. At this point, I don't have plans to support any keyboards.

Will gameboy roms need to be converted into a .pdb format or some other method to transfer them to a pilot?

Yes, the ROM's will have to be downloaded into the Palm as a .pdb file from a desktop PC. I will have a conversion utility to put the ROM's in a format suitable for the Palm. At this point, I haven't tried any larger than 64k, although I'm sure it can be done.

When do you expect to near a completion date? Can we expect a beta?

Completion? "grin" I'm hoping to have Tetris running within the next week or two. Other games will take longer. I will release a demo version when Tetris is fully playable.

Will games such as Marioland and Zelda be fully playable?
Or will the emulation will be up to speed or comparable to the gameboy?

As I have said, I am still nervous about the overall emulation speed. I may never be able to emulate the sound of the GameBoy, and I'm sure I won't be emulating any add-ons. I would like to emulate the Color GB (without the colors, of course) if I find the speed is sufficient- The Color GB's clock speed is double the standard GameBoy. There is no reason why most GameBoy games shouldn't run if Tetris runs correctly.

What other palm apps have you developed or are planning?

I've actually played with a FlightSim program for the Palm. I am using the Emulator as a way to really learn 68k assembly language. Once I have that down, I hope to write other games/simulations.

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Palm Gamboy - IR support

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/29/1999 11:31:20 PM #
Will the Gameboy emulator support the IR port? This would be so handy to transfer a pic from the Gameboy camera into the Palm, from there it could be emailed sent to other Palms and hotsynced to the PC.
RE: Palm Gamboy - IR support
Maven @ 8/30/1999 8:35:06 AM #
Not anytime soon. Speed issues
RE: Palm Gamboy - IR support
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 3:41:59 PM #
Not to mention multi-player functionality
ahh...4-person F1-race championship during boring meetings
RE: Palm Gamboy - IR support
Guillaume Ross @ 9/28/1999 4:29:10 PM #
Can you just tell HOW you would make 4 Palms communicate together, by IR? It's...kinda...hard!
Hmm,a beta test?
I.M. Anonymous @ 10/9/1999 1:30:20 AM #
Ok-hi guys.My name is kevin.Yeah,maven here knows me pretty well cos I have been doing beta testing for this emualtor.I am not trying to boast.there are still a couple of bugs to be ironed out.Unfortunately,you cant play zelda on it yet.just relax.i know maven said he would have a beta in march and even during these whole 7months,i kept in touch with him once a week.he told how busy he was with his job and he had his first baby.would you spend time with your family or your computer??think about that!family is way more important.btw,only 4 people have the,and three other guys.i will not mention names nor will i leave email addresses.i have had enough people bugging me to give them my copy in the promise that they wouldnt give it out.sorry,no can do.right now,maven is having some discusiions about the visor and um...ill leave you to think about what and what might not come sure you guys might want to contact me to see if im real,i can provide loads of palm screenshots,but no emu-thats the deal i had with maven.right now,he cant release the emu yet because nintendo is getting on everyone about emus.imagine,the palm is a portable device and it can play gb games.that would give gameboy a run for its money.all the issues have to be settled first.just's my email before i forget( email me if you need to know anything about the emu(not that you cant ask maven,but dont bother him,let him work on the emu)please dont bug me for anything cos you wont get it:P
ok?if you need to know something,maybe you can letme know?

regards to all,

Gambit is a Hoax
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/17/2000 2:10:59 PM #
I've seen the emulator and it's a joke. A message below says it's ok, but slow. The author claims they got it from a warez group. This is obviously an attempt to stir up hype. I downloaded gambit and will tell you that it's so slow it appears it's locked up. Given 5 minutes time, the intro screen has only scrolled about an inch. My guess is the author is emulating the sound processes even though it doesn't play sound. Can't think of any other reason for this. And for posting that message to get hopes up? I'll leave that to the public to decide. Everyone, ask yourselves why a demo hasn't been released or you can't find it anywhere, even on most warez sites? Because it would be embarassing to release a demo and no one gives 2 s**ts about busted software to carry it.

You suck. :P

RE: Gambit is a Hoax
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/28/2000 1:43:27 PM #
I figured out your problem. You're running the OTHER GB emulator out there. It comes with the scrolling 'world' over stars. Yes, it's WAY to slow to ever work. The warez Gambit plays Tetris - and it's PLAYABLE. Especially if you run one of the overclocking utilities.

Show us some screen shots!

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 12:14:09 AM #
At least the programmer of the Wolfenstein 3D project
for the Palm released some screen shots to show its not
RE: Screen shots are up now
@tomic212 @ 8/30/1999 1:05:44 AM #
The Screens are up now. I got them a short while after I posted the news.
RE: Show us some screen shots!
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 2:45:46 AM #
i can't see any screen shot


I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 12:17:30 AM #
Can't wait to try a beta :). Will there be any sound support? Just curious, I'd turn it off anyway.
RE: Sound?
Maven @ 8/30/1999 8:35:45 AM #
No sound until we get faster Palms (soon, we hope?)
RE: Sound?
Aaron Ardiri @ 8/30/1999 10:47:03 AM #
how about overclocking the palm when running the emulator? i have some code to do this :>

// az

RE: Sound?
EuroThrash5000 @ 1/17/2000 4:47:09 PM #
Screw faster palms, what about Handsprings? Arent they faster? More memory? They'd be perfect!
RE: Sound?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/5/2000 2:04:53 AM #
I obtained a leaked beta, and I run it on my handspring visor deluxe... It flies... Easily as fast as the real gameboy if not faster... With or without overclocking utils, its still fast.


I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 12:29:54 AM #
PalmBoy is much better than Gambit.
RE: Name
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 12:44:48 AM #
3Com said he couldn't name it PalmBoy because of copyright infringment. You can't have "Palm" in the name.
RE: Name
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 6:27:29 AM #
How about GamePilot?
RE: Name
Aaron Ardiri @ 8/30/1999 10:41:36 AM #
how about:

PälmBöy :>

use the 'accented' characters from the scandanavian languages.. in many english speaking countries they actually look like the normal 'a' and 'o' :>

has 3com protected the use of 'Pälm'? :>
(which of course is not a real word)

// az

RE: Name
Niklas @ 8/31/1999 8:40:05 AM #
You couldn't imagine how silly PälmBöy sounds in Swedish. Imagine inspector Closeu from the PinkPanther movies and then ad some swedish to that and youre getting close to what i sounds like.
RE: Name
Niklas @ 8/31/1999 8:43:58 AM #
Oh, now I see you can imagine it. Du kommer ju från Sverige... :)

I have two words...

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 12:47:15 AM #
Worms and Nemesis. If you only are going to get 2 games to work, look no further.
RE: I have two words...
Maven @ 8/30/1999 8:36:41 AM #
I don't have either of those ROMs. I'll look into it.
RE: I have two words...
Xak ( @ 7/4/2000 10:47:58 AM #

But anyway Worms on the GameBoy sucks... Why would you want it emulated on the Palm?

N.B. All ROMs should work, when the final version of Gambit (or any other emulator) is released. Possibly we could get someone to write a .gb|.pdb converter? For purely educational purposes, of course.

unclear points

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 12:56:26 AM #
I have some questions....
1. Will Gambit run on older palm units (palm III, palm prof.)?
2. Will Gambit be freeware?
3. How many Kilobytes is gambit now?
4. After the rom is converted, does it change in size?
RE: unclear points
Maven @ 8/30/1999 8:37:19 AM #
1. Should
2. you have to buy the ROMs of course
3. under 30k for the emulator + ROM (32k on Tetris) Also requires ~64k working RAM
4. Not really (a few bytes)
RE: unclear points
Aaron Ardiri @ 8/30/1999 10:43:40 AM #
you never answered question #2 :>

the really surprising point here is whether Nintendo is going to have something to say about the emulator.

// az

RE: unclear points
kappy @ 8/30/1999 1:31:28 PM #
1. Will you be able to carry more than one rom and select from a list ( I have 8megs so storage is not a problem )?
2. I have quite a few roms and a orignal gameboy, have you tried any other games?
I think it can be done maven, assembly is not easy and if you have gotten this far sound and large roms are possible.
I was confused if gambit was only being designed for the newer palm processors, I figured I would use Eco-hack for speed enhancement.
I don't want to press you, but can you give a rough estimate on a beta release?
keep up the good work, you are pushing the palm farther than anyone thought.
Hi...Aaron Ardiri

You Guys are LATE

Maxx @ 8/30/1999 1:27:34 AM #
Nice interview with Maven. I'm a tad skeptical about this whole deal. In the interview he has stated that he will release the beta when Tetris is fully playable, and has said that this will take "a week or so". That was March 31st 1999 (at time of publishing, god only knows when you actually interviewed the guy).

Today is August 30th.

Do the math.

RE: You Guys are LATE
Maven @ 8/30/1999 8:39:35 AM #
No problem. I understand, but then again, I have a full-time job, and a new baby (our first!) As I said in the e-mail, I didn't touch the project for almost 6 months, despite my best intentions. Better late than never? -- which reminds me of a joke... oh well, I'll tell you later :-)
RE: You Guys are LATE
Aaron Ardiri @ 8/30/1999 10:49:06 AM #
Maven: need some help?

i wrote ports of LodeRunner and Game&Watch classics (Donkie Kong Jr, Parashoot, Octopus and Fire!).

i own a GameBoy, have have numerous roms
(legal, which i have transfered myself) :>

// az

RE: You Guys are LATE
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/27/1999 5:32:04 PM #
If Aaron would help he would probably convince Maven to make it shareware, as he seems to be a greedy little fucker, since all of his games are shareware...
RE: You Guys are LATE
Guillaume Ross @ 9/28/1999 4:06:42 PM #
Hey man!
You call someone a fucker because he charges a couple of bucks for excellent games? Beside, would you work months on a project, when you have a full-time job, and then give it away? I really think Gambit should be shareware. I'd buy it for 20$ after testing it to see if it works well.
RE: You Guys are LATE
Aaron Ardiri @ 9/29/1999 11:35:37 PM #
Guillaume Ross: thankyou.. some people just have
some real nerve!

if i help Maven - i would have no intentions to make the software shareware, thats his choice.. in order to make it shareware he needs to ensure that more than one ROM is supported :>

as for your "comment" on charging (Mr Anonymous - thats even more lame) - what is $5? did you care to realize that my latest game, Phire! was released as postcard ware?

Two other ports existed, so.. to prevent any conflict with sales.. i released mine for free - but you just had to send me a postcard.. what is so greedy about that? the Phire! implementation is probably close to the original than Fire! or Fire Escape will ever be..

The better program.. but FREE? you do the math.

Then figure out who is greedy.

// az

RE: You Guys are LATE
dirk @ 1/24/2000 12:39:08 AM #
march 31 ?
Are you sure it was not 1 day later :-(

Some points to ponder

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 7:49:12 AM #
Yesterday the update article said he was talking to a company that can't be named (but wasn't Palm Computing). Now that part is gone. Hmmmm...
If it is hard enough to get it to run at full GB speed with only tetris, how in the world will it be able to run the other games that actually do something? The Palm isn't a desktop computer with megs of memory and lots of HD space. It is very limited in terms of memory and available space. If you ask me, the speed of the processor isn't the problem, it's the memory available. There are GB emulators for winCE machines because at least they have a decent amount of memory, but the Palm .pdb format has a record size limit of 64k, so any rom images that are usually 300k or more will have to be split up into 64k chunks. Good luck trying to program the emulator to jump all over between the different records. As the original article stated, the general rule is you need at least 3x the original processor speed. Because of the tight memory conditions on the Palm, even 4x won't be enough. But hey, it can run tetris! :)

RE: Some points to ponder
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/30/1999 8:26:36 AM #
Give the guy a chance! At least he's actually trying something!
RE: Some points to ponder
Maven @ 8/30/1999 8:42:32 AM #
Believe it or not, the equivalent of "Record size" in the Gameboy (the ROM page size) is only 32kb, so I'd actually split larger ROMs into 32kb records anyway. No problem there.
I haven't written the paging code yet, but the time shouldn't be any greater than in the real Gameboy.
After doing this emulator, I must say I'm REAL skeptical about the 3x rule. Of course, you can't get a GB emulator for the PC that runs on less than a 33MHz 386, and that's for a hihgly-optimized one. (So that works out to 8x?)
Memory doesn't matter too much, unless you are talking the larger ROMs.

Thanks for the input

Maven @ 8/30/1999 8:46:41 AM #
I want to thank all of you for your comments... but I gotta ask- Why so anonymous? Just curious. :-)

Anyway, I'm not going to hold the negative comments against you. I'd be just as skeptical as some of you are.

I'll be glad to continue to answer any questions here that I can.

Have a great day!

RE: Thanks for the input @ 8/30/1999 1:27:48 PM #

Appreciate the fine work that you're doing with this. I think the general sentiment is that the community in general is fairly skeptical of the possibility of this really happening. How close is Tetris to running at full speed? What kind of time frame are we talking about before a beta is released? ...

If you ever need a tester.. =)


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