Enlarge / The Apple TV and a Horipad Ultimate MFI controller.Andrew Cunningham

For those of us advantageous adequate to have a privilege, late Dec and early Jan move dual things: new toys and a bit of vacation time. That creates it a good time to tinker with tiny tech projects, things that are inessential and maybe a bit time-consuming yet fun adequate and useful adequate to be value doing.

One of my projects was to examination with classical console emulators on the new Apple TV. There aren’t many of them yet, and designation takes a tiny work (Apple doesn’t concede add-your-own-ROM emulators in a App Store), yet new capabilities introduced in iOS 9 and a iOS-based tvOS make it probable to implement them.

Emulation and a Apple TVx

Right now there are dual important simulation projects targeting tvOS. One is a apart relations of a MAME arcade emulator, yet it doesn’t seem as yet it’s being maintained. Another, Provenance, is a one we’ll be spending a many time with. It’s a multi-system emulator that supports many vital 8- and 16-bit consoles, including a NES, SNES, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Game Boy, and Game Boy Advance.

That’s fundamentally it for now, yet some-more consoles could uncover adult in a future. Provenance is already heavily formed on open source formula from OpenEmu and other projects, so anyone with a tiny calm could pier other emulators yet most additional work.

If we wish a elementary set-top box exclusively for emulation, an Android TV box like the Nvidia Shield is a improved bet. There are some-more emulators accessible for a incomparable series of systems, and they’re accessible directly from a Google Play Store yet a need for a compiling and sideloading we’re going to outline here. But if we wish Apple’s TV height for other reasons, hey, during slightest simulation on Apple’s box is possible, and emulator developers typically take an “if it can run it, it should run it” proceed to new hardware.

Getting started

The USB-C pier on a behind of a Apple TV is used for a lot of a things you’d use a Lightning pier for on an iPhone or iPad.

With iOS 9, Apple has non-stop adult a tiny loophole for sideloading apps that we can take advantage of with a tiny bit of work. Basically, anyone can open adult an Apple developer comment yet spending any money, and compiling and loading apps you’ve built to exam hardware doesn’t cost anything either. Downloading prolongation and prerelease versions of iOS and submitting apps to a App Store still requires a paid account, yet anyone with a Mac and Xcode 7 can do whatever they wish with their possess devices.

That extends to source formula that we download and accumulate yourself, that is what we’ll be doing here. It goes yet observant that we should customarily download formula from sources we trust, given these aren’t flitting by Apple’s app capitulation filters and could be doing things to your hardware, software, and information that are not normally possible.

With that disclaimer out of a way, here’s a discerning list of things you’ll need for a Apple TV specifically:

  • A Mac regulating OS X 10.10.5 or later.
  • An Apple ID. Sign in during apple.com to change any aged Apple ID into a developer account.
  • Xcode 7.2 from a Mac App Store, that needs some-more than 4GB of hoop space all by itself. Don’t download Xcode from anyone other than Apple!
  • A USB C to USB A cable, for joining your Apple TV to your Mac around a use port.
  • ROMs, best (legally) combined regulating a device like the Retrode 2. If we name to acquire them otherwise, do so during your possess risk.

Finally, while it isn’t technically required, an MFI-compatible gamepad will be approach improved than a Siri Remote during personification aged games. we privately like the Horipad Ultimate, that Apple sells in a stores for $50—it’s a Bluetooth controller in a mold of a DualShock, it charges around Lightning cables that we substantially already have fibbing around somewhere, and it comes from a association with a repute for creation plain accessories. Annoyingly, MFI controllers won’t work as a general Bluetooth gamepad in OS X or Windows apps, yet during slightest a preference of concordant iOS and tvOS games keeps flourishing (it also works with OpenEmu, incidentally).

Setting adult Xcode and loading adult a emulator

Sign into Xcode with your Apple ID. You can pointer into developer.apple.com with any Apple ID to make it a developer account, yet some facilities still need a paid account.

Once Xcode is downloaded, open it, go to Preferences, and afterwards to a Accounts add-on and enter in your Apple ID. Then, on a Welcome to Xcode shade (or in a menus underneath “Source Control”), elect to check out an existent project. From a Provenance GitHub page, pulp a HTTPS counterpart URL during a tip of a page into a “repository location” margin in Xcode. Choose a “Master” bend of a plan and download it to a place where we can find it after if we wish to.

Official build instructions are available if you’d like to follow them from here, yet we’ll go by a basis anyway.

First, prominence a top-level “Provenance” object in a left-hand navigation sidebar and change a Bundle Identifier to something singular (I used com.andrewiscool.Provenance). Select your developer ID from a drop-down Team menu. If we see any blunder messages here, click “Fix It” after you’ve altered these values and they should go away. Then, bond your Apple TV to your Mac with your USB C cable.

Now, from a Scheme menu during a tip of a window (wedged in between a Stop symbol and a standing box), go to “ProvenanceTV-Release” and afterwards name your Apple TV. Click a Build symbol (which looks like a Play button) and click by any messages seeking we to capacitate Developer Mode on your Mac, and afterwards click by any messages about regulating formula signing issues after Provenance is finished compiling. The finish outcome should be a Provenance tile on your Apple TV home screen.

You can reuse these stairs after with a customary “Provenance-Release” bend if we wish to accumulate it for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod—the simple setup is all a same, yet a onscreen program buttons are sub-optimal as onscreen controls mostly are.

Using Provenance

The app includes no ROMs, so when we initial launch it you’ll have no library.

Fire adult Provenance for a initial time and you’ll be greeted by… nothing. The app itself is only a vacant shade with a hunt box and buttons for tweaking settings and importing ROMs. Hit Import ROMs first, that will start Provenance’s “web server.” Navigate to that IP residence from a browser on your Mac, and you’ll be means to upload as many ROMs as we want. Upload them directly into a /roms office yet formulating any subdirectories—the Provenance UI will classify them by console by itself. Unfortunately, formulating your possess folders doesn’t seem to do anything.

Go behind to your Apple TV and click Stop—if we did things right, your games should all uncover adult in Provenance’s library finish with box art downloaded from a same source that OpenEmu uses. This routine wasn’t always perfect—sometimes it grabbed Japanese box art instead of English box art—but it fits in with a rest of a Apple TV UI, it’s orderly by system, and it’s simply searchable.

From here, all we unequivocally need to do is name a diversion and launch it. Provenance will run it with a suitable emulator. All games run yet filters or other picture processing—newbies will conclude a morality and purists will conclude a miss of smoothing, yet it would be good to have entrance to those settings.

The categorical settings shade for a app is likewise limited. You can allot opposite controllers to Player 1 and Player 2 (no support for some-more than dual players, for a games that underline multitap support), perform some light upkeep on your diversion library, and name either to auto-save (on by default) and auto-load (off by default) save files when we exit and launch games. If this is off, each time we bucket a diversion you’ll start from a commencement as yet we had only powered it on. If auto-saving and loading is on, you’ll always be returned to a place we were when we final stopped playing.

Controls are a tiny peculiar only since of a approach MFI controllers are laid out (trying to use a Siri Remote for anything other than verifying that a emulator works is a fool’s errand). Start and Select buttons for comparison consoles are customarily reserved to a shoulder buttons, where it’s sincerely easy to strike them by accident. For SNES games, a positioning of a A and B buttons and a X and Y buttons is swapped, so a minute printed on a symbol doesn’t compare adult with letters presented to we in a game. You can’t re-map buttons, so you’ll need to be means to live with a defaults.

Provenance is by no means a ideal emulator, and a Apple TV isn’t as good as an Android TV box if old-school simulation is all you’re after. Full-fledged Macs and PCs are still required if we wish to obey anything sole in a final decade. But if we wish Apple’s ecosystem and Apple’s App Store, Provenance is a pretty good emulator that integrates good with a platform, and a Apple TV itself is able adequate to support serve development.

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