Living the Dream

Living the Dream
Best Little Emulator Ever Made!

Tom Rhodes | 2 Oct 2007 14:04
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bleem!'s developers spent a year analyzing how the PlayStation read and processed games, making sure not to accidentally learn any secrets to which they had no rights. Despite the long development time, bleem! did have its problems, since reverse engineering is rarely an entirely stable procedure. Bugs racked most every game, though they remained, by and large, playable. And, unlike other emulators for earlier consoles (which obviously couldn't read the cartridges) bleem! could read and use the original PlayStation games, which had to be bought in order to work with the program. This, they thought, was the best way to keep Sony from causing them grief.

"We don't expect any problems from Sony. We've taken every possible step to ensure the security of not only our software, but have also worked to protect the rights of Sony and PlayStation developers in general. ... So I don't know how we can protect ourselves any more than we have," David Herpolsheimer, bleem!'s President and CEO, told IGN in '99.

It didn't work. In March of 1999, two days after bleem! began taking preorders, Sony filed suit against the fledgling company. bleem! was a small company of just two people: Herpolsheimer and coder Randy Linden. They just wanted to make PlayStation games more accessible to people, and perhaps make some money off of that.

In its complaint, Sony's vast army of lawyers said that use of high-quality PlayStation emulators would increase the black market in games, which was their main concern. That licensing fee was so very important to them, and they had to defend it at all costs, lest the game manufacturers use emulation as a way to decrease their fee. "If Sony can't retain a hold over the PlayStation, they'll start to see us, the developers, balk at paying royalties," said Robert Stevens, spokesman for the now-defunct Boss Game Studios.

While all this transpired behind the scenes, bleem! was garnering mostly positive reviews. Gaming site Happy Puppy gave it an 8 out of 10, with more than a few users hailing the graphical improvements as "revolutionary." The dream of PlayStation games brought to the PC world was materializing, if only it could get over the war being waged in California courtrooms.

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bleem! quickly ran into money trouble. In April, its publisher cut off the company's credit line, which forced Herpolsheimer to borrow $17,000 from friends to pay the company's attorneys. "[The publisher was] afraid of losing their licensing from Sony," he told Forbes. Over a fifth of the money bleem! was making went to pay for its defense against the industry giant.

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