Emulating The Original Xbox - I Hate to Ask, but..


New member
I don't want to be "that guy" and I'm not trolling. I have read the stickies and I've been emulating games on half a dozen systems for years now. I still have my original Xbox ("personalized" for greater functionality) and all of my games, so this is not really a plea or demand for something I know is non-existent. I'm just looking for some info or updates.

I'm just here to ask about the progress of Xbox emulation. I know a few games are "runnable" if not really playable on at least one emulator. Is there a specific, technical reason Xbox emulators have been so much harder to develop than others? I know that current PCs can't really handle 360 or PS3 emulation yet, is this also true for Xbox? Or is it something more esoteric like lack of interest or lack of exclusive games, as I've heard? I have a hard time believing that last, since even obscure consoles that I've never heard of receive much attention, though I know they are ostensibly much simpler than more recent machines to emulate.

This leads me to believe that the Xbox is either too powerful to emulate right now, or that it is simply too complicated and it's just a matter of time and energy from some industrious team to bring a working emulator about. Am I on the right track? I'd like a little technical insight here, but I'm no coder, so please nothing too heavy please!


The Old Kid
It's a combination of everything you just said. Lack of interest isn't the primary reason that Xbox hasn't been emulated to the fullest. I've stated it a few times before (probably not on this forum though), but I still get a steady number of requests and volunteers willing to help with Cxbx and other Xbox related projects. Usually, those who make such requests known to me either are fairly new to C++/Win32 and completely unaware of the very steep learning curve, or assume that it's an easy console to emulate because it has PC hardware. Long story short, they usually don't have the experience to pull it off or know where to start. If anyone has to ask someone "where do I start to contribute to <insert project name here>", there's a 90% chance that the individual is not ready to pursue such a task. It's even worse when people assume that it can't be that hard to do. Let's take Cxbx as an example (again); unfortunately, the majority of users assume that Cxbx's mechanics are simple (convert from .xbe to .exe and replace a random D3D function like "D3DDevice::BlockUntilVerticalBlank()" with the PC equivalent). It's not that simple, and to [indirectly] quote Caustik from about 10 years ago: "It's not like saying engine + gas = move(car)". There's some really complicated things going on in the background to ensure that the converted .exe actually runs, and is very OS specific and highly sensitive code.

Okay, I'm kinda going off into a tangent here. Let me touch base on the difficulty part. For those who assume Xbox is easy to emulate because of it's PC based hardware, think about this, is a PC easy to emulate? The fact that it also has loads of non-PC standard hardware makes it worse. Has an NVIDIA GPU ever been emulated? What about the NVIDIA SoundStorm? Got any decent MCPX documentation? Speaking of documentation, the Xbox is just now becoming documented well enough to have a decent emulator. The GPU wasn't figured out until sometime in 2007, the SoundStorm afaik still isn't documented, the other sound hardware isn't fully documented either, and the discovery of a master and slave SMBus was made just a few months ago! On the bright side, the boot process has been documented well enough, and Xbox-linux did a great job at documenting other bits of hardware. So, yeah, it can be done, but pulling it all together is harder than the majority of us thought.

As for the lack of interest, there are those who assume that Xbox doesn't have enough exclusive content. They often assume that it's all about Halo and all the good games got PC ports, which isn't true. Did Panzer Dragoon ORTA have a PC port? No. Did JSRF have a PC port? Nope. Did Conker get a PC port. I wish. Did Azurik: Rize of Perathia have a PC port? Hell no! It's really only the most popular titles that get PC ports. The countless exclusives that didn't get much exposure got buried under Halo and Fable's publicity. The underrated titles (especially Azurik) don't get the recognition they deserve. The vast majority of the Sega titles never got PC ports either. To top it off, I think the bias against Xbox came from the PS2 fanboys that would much rather play the PS2 version 'just because'.

Okay, I think I rambled on enough without getting too technical as you requested. After spending countless nights working on Cxbx and battling mindless PS2 fanboys for years, these are the conclusions I came to.


New member
Wow, that's a pretty much perfect answer, thanks. Also, keep fighting the good fight with Cxbx, I'm behind you 100%, and it's remarkable to get answers direct from the troops on the ground, so to speak.

I make no claims to know anything about coding or emulation, so thank you for laying it out simply while packing in good info. As I said, even if Xbox had fewer exclusives and such, I just can't believe that a console selling 24 million units suffers from a lack of interest. I would say there are enough original Xbox consoles chugging along (It has proved to be my most durable system by far) that fans just play the original article, and that may contribute somewhat, but it is surely not a primary factor.

I hope that awesome efforts like Cxbx (I've tried it a couple times and I really commend you for putting the effort into it) eventually make it to commercial emulation. The Xbox was a powerful machine, and it still is, considering all the software you can run with a linux install. It is very much more powerful than a Ps2, which wasn't even up to GC specs. Add to this the tendency of m$ to lead the pack in fighting piracy and free distribution, and it really is a tough nut to crack, even in theory. I can't imagine how rough it really is.