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The console emulation debate has been raging for close to thirty years now. Is it legal? With what methods can you build one? Can you make money off your emulator? How can you obtain games for it? While much of it is legally settled here in the US, companies are still keen on protecting their games and consoles from being emulated by any means necessary, and bleem! represents the initial spark of that debate.

bleem! (the meaning of the name was never determined) was a PlayStation emulator for Windows 9x and Dreamcast sold at retail, in a box and everything, between 1999 and 2001 or so—meaning it competed directly with the original PlayStation. It allowed users to play their PSX games on their 233MHz Pentium systems and later using intense assembly code trickery, even able to use their 3D accelerator cards to render the games at higher resolutions with filtered textures. Sony didn’t take too kindly to the project and filed for copyright infringement on several counts, losing each but ultimately sinking bleem! with the court costs. Its final update came in August 2001. (Sony would later hire bleem! devs Randy Linden and Sean Kauppinen to work on PlayStation backwards compatibility and promotion of EverQuest II and Star Wars Galaxies, respectively.)

If was a good first Protoweb restoration for me, (suggestion courtesy of YTPMVElfFan in the Discord, thanks) was a solid second project, a smaller site, but with some dynamic pages to recreate instead. had a game compatibility list and game search tool, both through what are called Common Gateway Interface scripts (basically a way for the server to render pages and process data on the fly) and a backend database of game information. Neither of these exist anymore, of course. While I debated rendering out static HTML for simplicity’s sake, I felt that was a copout on my part and certainly inaccurate. With the help of a convenient full offline copy of the bleem! game compatibility database squished into a CSV file, I got to learning PHP to recreate how the search tool and detailed game information pages would‘ve worked when the site was live.

The result? You can search for over a thousand pre-2000 PSX games and see how bleem! ran them, whether they were capable of being 3D accelerated for higher resolutions and smoother frame rates, and any bugs encountered during testing each game. bleem! was never an especially compatible or accurate emulator—about a third of its library is marked as partially working, and a third don’t get into game at all—but the fact that it worked at all and so well for some games is an absolute marvel, as is the fact that it was completely legally cleared, despite it being a paid retail product that competed against its target console. As is the site being in such great shape! You can even still download the bleem! demo from this recreation. Have fun, everyone!

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