By Al Wildey
This past summer I reviewed bleem!, a Playstation emulator introduced at E3 last spring. We rarely revisit software titles but because of the ongoing legal battles between bleem! and Sony, and the recent release of version 1.5b, we at GamesFirst! decided to take a second look. The initial review can be found in it's entirety here; let's get this updated review started by sharing a December 13, 1999 press release:
The ongoing court battle waged by Sony Computer Entertainment of America, Inc. against the makers of "bleem!", a software program which allows games designed for the Sony PlayStation to be played on personal computers, entered a new phase last Friday, following a series of rulings in favor of the tiny startup company. In the day's most notable decision, the Honorable Judge Charles A. Legge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted bleem!'s motion for leave to amend and assert counterclaims against the electronics giant.
bleem! claims Sony has unlawfully acquired, maintained, and extended its monopoly in the video game market through a combination of anti-competitive practices, including misuse of copyright, patents and other intellectual property. bleem! further asserts that the current lawsuit exemplifies these practices and is a "sham," brought in bad faith. Further claims against Sony include combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade, intentional interference with contractual relations, defamation, and unfair competition with regard to Sony's well-publicized efforts to force show management to remove bleem!'s booth from the E3 trade event last May.
In other matters before the Court, Sony's internal Legal and Business Affairs officers attempted to modify an existing protective order and gain access to bleem!'s most confidential business data. The information in question includes detailed reseller information, source code for the bleem! software, identities of bleem! customers, and information relating to negotiations with third-party software and hardware companies.
Commenting from the bench that such protective orders serve to "protect David from Goliath," Judge Legge denied Sony's request to re-classify bleem!'s confidential business information with respect to all but one narrow category of financial information. All other protected information will remain accessible only to outside legal counsel.
This decision came at the end of a week in which Sony stepped up its efforts against bleem!. On December 7, just four days after a discovery conference with bleem!'s counsel and three days prior to Friday's hearing, Sony served subpoenas on 10 of bleem!'s biggest customers, demanding detailed information regarding purchasing, sales, promotion and profits resulting from the bleem! product. Sony issued these subpoenas without adequate prior notice to bleem!, resulting in angry phone calls from unsuspecting retailers.
"What we have here is a pretty transparent attempt by Sony to intimidate the retailers into pulling bleem! from their shelves," said Jon Hangartner, lead attorney for bleem!. "Even if Sony's subpoenas weren't invalid on their face, the information they request is irrelevant to the lawsuit. These subpoenas have nothing to do with potential damages; they only serve to scare bleem!'s vendors into thinking they might be Sony's next target."
At the end of Friday's session, Judge Legge agreed to hear an expedited motion to quash the subpoenas. He also authorized bleem! to tell its retailers they need not do anything until he renders his decision. bleem! is expected to submit the necessary motion to the court early this week in order to protect the confidential information of their customers.
"I've been instructed to take every possible action in defense of bleem!'s retail partners," said Hangartner. " Most of these stores keep their sales figures and arrangements in the strictest confidence, and Sony simply has no business demanding this kind of proprietary data from innocent third-parties, particularly when it has no bearing on the case whatsoever."
Since first filing suit against bleem! on April 2, 1999, Sony has brought three motions before the court in attempts to halt sales of the bleem! software, including two Temporary Restraining Orders and a Preliminary Injunction. All have failed. The original lawsuit, filed before bleem! was even released to the public, alleges a host of claims including copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets in the development and sale of bleem!
bleem!, LLC has consistently denied Sony's allegations in every respect. With a suggested retail price of $29.95, bleem! is a software program that lets gamers everywhere play hundreds of PlayStation games on Windows 95/98-based PCs, with higher resolutions than the original PlayStation and effects that rival next-generation game consoles. Initially released on the Internet, bleem! soon developed a strong following, selling over 20,000 copies in just a few months. A retail launch followed and in less than five months, another 150,000 copies have been sold worldwide. The bleem! website, www.bleem.com , receives over 70,000 visitors a day and offers free updates, compatibility info, and an active message-board community.
I'm afraid I agree with Judge Legge's decision to "protect David from Goliath." Here's the premise of bleem!, direct from their web site:
PLAY HUNDREDS OF PLAYSTATION® GAMES ON YOUR PC!
Now you can enjoy many of your favorite PlayStation games on your PC, with no extra hardware required! In Software Mode, bleem! delivers great compatibility and PlayStation-level graphics, limited only by the speed of your PC and the games you play ? even older systems get great results with many titles!
NEXT-GENERATION ENHANCED GRAPHICS.
And if you have a recent 3D accelerator card, bleem!'s 3D Hardware Mode will blow you away! Many compatible games are also D3D Enhanced? ? instead of standard 320x200 PlayStation resolution, you can play at 640x480, 800x600, and even higher ? for unbelievable clarity and detail. With bleem! and a newer 3D accelerator, even older PCs can perform like raging game platforms.
Installation of bleem! v1.5b is pretty straightforward; go to www.bleem.com, click on the v1.5b is here graphic, and you're on your way. You can even download a trial version?not a bad idea even if you're committed to the idea of purchasing the software. If you have an earlier version you'll want to uninstall it before putting in v1.5b as the newer version won't overwrite the earlier one.
The new version offers a "texel alignment" option to eliminate faint lines that can appear between textures when playing games in 3D hardware mode, a very nice feature. Emulation support has also been bumped up with NegCon and JogCon controllers, and added automatic configuration profiles for game controllers including Microsoft's Force Feedback Joystick and Gravis GamePad Pro USB.
bleem! also includes a control panel that includes the following features :
Full Screen Graphics - allows for as high a resolution as your D3D Card can provide. 3D Hardware Quality Settings - Enable Filtering Polys, Sprites and even Anti-Aliasing. Advance Quality Settings - Enable Gouraud Texturing, Vsync etc etc. It's important to note that you MUST have the latest drivers for both your sound and video card installed when using Bleem! Depending on the PSX title itself, there may be some tweaking involved to get the game to play in a "acceptable" manner; that is to say one in which it's possible to clearly make out the speech and graphics of the game.
bleem! isn't perfect, however. Not every Playstation game will run (roughly 300 titles are currently supported); the good news is that bleem! has been frequently updated and new games are added every month. Some games are partially? compatible; the game may exhibit some minor sound quirks, or perhaps the video cut scenes might be choppy. A lot of problems can be fixed by reading some of the messages on the bleem! support forum and changing some of the configuration settings. We played a good sampling of PSX games on our copy of bleem! and in general were very happy with the results. While bleem! supports PC Joysticks and gamepads, the keyboard also worked surprisingly well as a Playstation controller. With bleem!'s setup menus you can reconfigure your joystick buttons or keyboard layout any way you wish.
Recommended system requirements for bleem! are:
Pentium II level PC or higher
3MB free hard disk space
PCI Sound Card
20X or faster CD-ROM Drive
3D accelerated video card with 16MB+ VRAM
Note the DirectX 6.1 recommendation?turns out bleem! is currently reported to have some problems with early version of DirectX 7. The machine I tested on is a PII 300 with 256MB RAM, a 32X CD-ROM and DirectX 7; unfortunately, I experienced occasional jittery play and weird texture seams even after tweaking the plethora of controls and checking the very good support forums on the bleem! site. For part of this story, see: http://22.214.171.124/ubb/Forum11/HTML/000026.html. Bottom line: if all else fails, experiment with your DirectX drivers starting with the always-popular most-recently-updated-version.
All in all, things continue to get better with each bleem! update and frankly, I find it hard not to cheer for the underdog in the continuing litigation. While I'd like to see full support for all games and less tinkering to make the games that do work play properly, bleem! v1.5b gets a bump and goes to a four star rating. If you don't own a Playstation, or you do and you want to play on your PC or laptop, you'd be well advised to part with 30 bucks (less than the cost of a new PSX title) and pick up a copy of bleem!
First Impressions: Too Human
Lost: Via Domus Review
BioShock DLC and Plasmid Details
Should You Buy An Xbox 360 Hard Drive? (editorial)
Top 20 Things We Want in the Dead Rising Sequel (editorial)
How To Get Podcasts on Your Xbox 360 (how-to)