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THE ULTIMATE SEGA DREAMCAST

(ONLY THE BEST FOR SEGA'S BEST)

Picture this. It's midnight on a Thursday and you are standing in line at the mall waiting for EB Games to open. Summer is almost over and fall is coming in the wind. Bill Clinton is still President, the economy is awesome, the Twin Towers are still defining the NEW York skyline, but the most exciting part of it all is that the doors just opened and the line has started moving. What is so important that it has you waiting in line at midnight? It's release day for the most advanced home video game console on earth! As it turned out it also became SEGA's swansong, but no one knows that yet. The SEGA DREAMCAST has everyone excited about the possibilities a 128-Bit console affords. SONY wouldn't release the Plastation 2 for over a year, Nintendo wouldn't release a successor to the N64 for more than 2 years, and there are rumblings that Microsoft would enter the game in just over a year too. SEGA was poised to own the space for a whole year. If you were excited about the next generation of consoles, SEGA was offering instant gratification. They dreamed big and went for it. I went with them.

My dad and I got our Dreamcast on 9/9/99, release day. We got a copy of Sonic Adventure, Soulcaliber, and Blue Stinger. All of which are favorites of mine to this day. In fact I'm looking at them on my game shelf as I type this. My family was struggling during the 16-bit era. My Friend had the NES, cousin's cousin had the SNES, and my mom got us a SEGA Genesis. The SNES was something I only saw rarly, at get togethers or daycare. The Genesis was mine! Like many others, the Genesis was my defining console. Sonic was our jam! SEGA separated themselves as a clear and present danger for Nintendo's dominance of the Video game market after Atari crashed it. The Video Game wars were raging and I was living it up. The competition between Nintendo and SEGA had produced some of the finest games you'll likly ever see. The jump from 8-bit to 16-bit was amazing.

I had seen the SEGA CD and 32x in the Toys R US, but couldn't get them. We only had enough money to live on and mom was the penny pincher. But Dad was the spender! He got the SONY PlayStation and we made the jump to 32-bit. That was a ride and a half and made me completely forget about SEGA. I just this year added the SEGA Saturn to my collection and have been enjoying a handful of games, it really was ahead of it's time. However, that was a bad thing back then because the game developers weren't given enough time to take advantage of the hardware and develop amazing 3D adventures until SONY had arrived on the scene with console sellers, like Crash Bandicoot. EDIT: As I look into this more, it's clear to me that SEGA ham strung them selves by not being as approachable to 3rd party developers as SONY was. Like Nintendo they structured deals with 3rd parties such that it limited potental profits had they developed for the Saturn or N64. This drove them to Develop instead for PlayStation. Whereas Nintendo had the capital and market share to withstand the loss of 3rd party development, SEGA did not. SEGA, like Nintendo always had great 1st party development, but was hemorrhaging money selling consoles at a loss with the idea that they would make the money back in software sales. Had they been friendlier to 3rd party developers and waited to released with a Sonic Adventure game bundled with the Saturn, I wonder how SEGA might have changed the video game landscape of today. But they didn't, the Saturn flopped, and they were loosing money for each Saturn they sold. This caused them to produce fewer consoles to limit the bleeding. The Saturn failed big in North America, due to lack of 3rd party support. Turns out, my dad made the right choice and I was lost in the world SONY created, just like so many other kids my age.

Fast forward past the Nintendo's 64-Bit console craze and we arrive at SEGA's last chance to redeem themselves as a contender in the home console market. They went big this time, being the first to 128-bit graphics. Every doubling of Bits back then equaled exponential enjoyment of, and awe at, the video games made. Combine that anticipation with the prospect of a 1-2 year drought before the Gamecube, X-box, and Playstation 2, and everyone expecting SEGA's response to be HUGE!. This is why there was so much buzz around the launch of the SEGA DREAMCAST. SEGA's swansong console has solidified SEGA in my mind as a visionary in the video game industry. It had a modem, making it the first internet capable console. This was a hugely under appreciated facet to SEGA's forward thinking design, and had the developers and customers not been weary of the console after being burned by the Saturn, more AAA games and online multiplayer might have saved SEGA. Unfortunately the pioneers usually brunt the axe, Phantasy Star online was a showcase of the idea, but overall online multiplayer failed to gain traction because people were saving up for the PS2, X-Box, and Gamecube. SEGA's games didn't take full advantage, because they were still developing the tech. I wish online multiplayer in 1999 had matured to the point it had by 2002, but it didn't and the Dreamcast was overshadowed a year later by the launch of the PlayStation 2, then the X-Box, and finally the Gamecube. Microsoft's X-Box survived by benefiting from X-Box live, doing what I wish SEGA had been able to.

SEGA gambled with being first, believing that forward thinking design, pioneering technology, and awesome 1st party games would carry their brand. History should credit them their due, but unfortunately they bared the burden of being in first place. Like so many others, they discovered that's not the best strategy for a race. Being first, having the best tech, taking risks, and being confident in yourself may be the American mantra of success, but it rarely equates to longevity. The industry and public needs to be with you. They tried to force the future before the future was ready. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft followed in SEGA's draft, waiting for the opportunity to take advantage. By then the industry and public were primed for the next generation console, but SEGA was spent. LAck of 3rd party support, loss of consumer confidence, and internal pressure had caught up to SEGA. They burned bright and fast. And like a supernova, they went out with a bang. They went big, taking on the machines that are NINTENDO and SONY, screaming in their face...

sega_scream.jpg&f=1

...I can't help but look back and feel a tragic miscarriage of timing and over-confidence conspired to bring down one of the greatest pioneers in the home console industry. Both the Saturn and the Dreamcast were top notch consoles that never reached their full potential. They failed for being released too soon, they were ahead of their time. SEGA should have learned from Atari's mistakes and embraced 3rd party development. That means a competitive licensing arrangement and enough lead time to allow for development and distribution. That was their recipe for success with the Genesis, and Nintendon'ts resistance cost them. That's not to say Saturn and Dreamcast didn't have great games, they did. Just not as many as SONY got. If there are any consoles more worthy of a AAA game developers attention for new games intended for release on a retro consoles, these would be my first choice. You could throw the Atari Jaguar in that discussion too, but that's another story.

In preparation for the SEGA Dreamcast's 20 year anniversary I have been working on this project. For the past few months I have been on a hell of a ride. I would liked to have documented my steps along the way, but this project has been running simultaneously with my SNES repair thread and I wanted that one to be it's own show. Besides, it was a bit too early. Now I'm ready to start this new thread journaling my Dreamcast Modding Adventure...

PART ZERO: IMPROVING PERFECTION

So, how do you improve upon a perfect design? Well, you can't! I'm just going to fix some issues that arise after 20 years of use:

  1. Replace the aging Optical Drive which is prone to dying. Solid state lasers are dropping like flies after 20-25 years. The SEGA Saturn is experiencing this issue and so are Dreamcast's. You can replace the Giga Byte Rom drive (GDROM) with another, but run the risk of it doing the same thing. The better solution is an update to the modern era - returning to cartridge based media! In this case ,an SD Card by means of an Optical Drive Emulator, the GEDMU. Moreover, I want it to look like it was meant to be there, not a just big hole!
  2. Replace the Case Fan with a larger, quieter fan. As these age they get very noisy. Another thing to point out is that SEGA's OEM fan has a pull up resistor across the +5v (red) and TACH (yellow) line built into their fan. New PC fans don't. This causes an issue when you try to replace the fan. The Dreamcast will shut off during boot because it can't read the TACH signal coming from the fan. It thinks the fan has failed and shuts off power to prevent overheating.  This will need a simple mod to fix.
  3. Wireless controller technology at the time the Dreamcast was released was crap, but not anymore. I will update the console to a modern bluetooth design. Wireless controller, wireless power on/off, while still retaining all the VMU and accessory support (tremor pack, memory cards, microphone, and etc). Even a wireless Gun Conn controller that will work with my modern Big Screen TV.
  4. Lastly, I will bring the Dreamcast into the modern era with a Fully digital to digital 1080p HDMI output via the DCHDMI mod.

This will ensure that my Dreamcast is ready to power my gaming dreams into the future. And do so with all the features I'd expect from a modern Retro console today.

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PART 1: Optical Drive Emulator - The GDEMU

image.png.d56f4daa728a18979ecaf29b17edfa9b.pngimage.thumb.png.52dbb6051a2cbf2e6831255bd7ae4f63.pngHardware:

  1. Buy a GDEMU. Clones are cheaper, but they are knock offs that undercut the original designer and his incentive to continue improving the product. If you would like to take advantage of his firmware updates, you will need his board. DO NOT UPDATE THE FIRMWARE ON A CLONE. The clones use different chips that require a slight change in the firmware for them to work, which means if you try to update the firmware, IT WILL BRICK! Otherwise, clones work the same and I will not disparage anyone who chooses the more convenient option. They are much cheaper and available to purchase immediately, instead of pre-orders and waiting for your batch to ship, which takes months.  EDIT: Clone GDemu's are slightly different from the official. If you plan to buy a DreamPort power supply from Chris Daioglou you may need perform a simple mod to fix an issue with the powering a clone GDemu. See Part 4 (below) for details. The official GDemu doesn't require you to mod the DreamPort, it work's properly out of the box.
  2. Installing the GDEMU is relatively simple. Open your Dreamcast, unscrew the GDROM drive and install the GDEMU in it’s place. A 3D printable mount and SD card extender (15mm is perfect) mod makes this look like it was built for the Dreamcast. One important thing to mention is that the GDROM draws power from the 12v rail on the power supply. In NTSC units this is the only device that does. So when you remove it, the 12v rail is left floating. This causes the voltage regulator to get hotter than it would under load, making your Dreamcast more vulnerable to overheat. The easiest solution is to add a 300Ohm 1W resistor across 12v and Gnd. You can just jam the legs into the connector. This simulates a GDROM drive and returns the load to normal. However, the safest and most efficient solution is to desolder the voltage regulator. It’s not needed (except on PAL units), unless you ever intend to replace the GDROM drive. If you might decide to go back to stock, you would just need to solder it back into place. So use some electrical or Kapton tape to keep the regulator in an out of the way place inside to console. This way you won’t lose it.
  3. Obtain an SD card large enough to hold all the games you want to put on. A full GDI set will require a 400GB card. You can’t use windows to format a card above 32GB to FAT32, but HP USB Format Tool will. I would provide a link, but don't like softpedia or cnet, as I've gotten malware from them before. I did download from it from cnet and it seemed fine, no funny business occurred. Just be careful to read each step in the installer instead of blindly clicking next, they may try to trick you into installing other stuff this way. Download it and format your SD card to FAT32. Usually a quick format will suffice. It may give you a “this media is write protected” warning and exit. Just try again and it will usually continue with the format. If not, double check that the Lock switch on the SD card is not engaged. Move it to the unlocked position if it is. If that still doesn’t work, try it on another computer or try another tool, there are many free ones available online.

Software:

  1. You will need games of the correct type. Original Dreamcast games are not Compact Discs, but rather Gigabyte Discs (GDI), which are be about 1.2GB in size. That won’t fit on a CD. Many of the game available on the internet, after dumping directly from the Dreamcast (because they can’t be read by a normal computer’s CDROM drive), were compressed to reduce the size of Video and audio files. This allowed them to be burned onto a CD, which the VA0 and VA1 models of Dreamcast can play (VA2 can’t). I couldn’t get them to work on my VA1, besides it’s compressed anyway and that’s not original. Also, I’ve read it adds strain to the GDROM and hastens the death of the laser. I don’t know if that’s true or just a rumor, but if you plan to lessen the wear on your Dreamcast games by playing backups then the GDEMU is a non-destructive way that also allows you to play uncompressed GDI files. Win win!
  2. The most common format online are CDI (Compact Disc Images). These work well with emulators and are the easiest to get SD Card maker to recognize. However, because they are compressed you will not get the best audio/video experience possible. There is no way to restore the uncompressed GDI from a compressed CDI. It will not be the way the designers of the game intended for them to be seen.
  3. For Dreamcast purists, like me, CDI is unacceptable if you are planning to replace the GDROM (meaning you can’t play your original disc anymore). I don’t want a loss in video/audio quality that will undue all the work I put into upscaling. Do the console justice and get GDI’s. They’re a lot more work, as I detail below, but the Dreamcast is worth it! And once it’s done, you won’t need to do it again unless your SD card fails. So keep a backup.
  4. If you plan to have more than one game on the SD card you need GDmenu, but want SD Card Maker for GDEMU v1.10 by Madsheep.
  5. Making the SD Card Manually:
  • GDmenu must be in a folder called 01 on the root directory of your SD card. Rename GDmenu.cdi to “disc.cdi”.
  • Each disc of your games must be nested into folders named 02, 03, 04, 05…50…101..and so on. This makes it difficult to know which game is in which folder. Let’s take folder “02” for example. It must contain one disc…
  • If you use CDI format, the CDI file must be Named “disc”. Every folder would contain 1 file called “disc.cdi”, so this makes it impossible for you to know which game it is. You can create a text file with the name of the game inside the folder to help you however, as GDEMU will ignore it.
  • If you use GDI format, the GDI must be named “disc”. The BIN and/or RAW tracks must be named “track01”, “track02”…and so on. Keep the same file extension as the file originally had (“track02.bin” or “track02.raw” for example).
  • The GDI file itself is like, but not the same as, a CUE sheet, if you’re familiar with them. It’s just a text file that tells the game which frame each track is found on. You can open the GDI file with notepad, but Notepad++ is much better. You will see each track of the game listed, probably with the original title of the game. You need to make it match the new name of the tracks, “track01.bin” instead of “Shenmue Disc 1 (Track 01).bin”. Once that is done, GDEMU will properly be able to read the GDI and load the game.
  • If you have more than a few games to add, doing this manually is not practical.

Using SD Card Maker for GDEMU v1.10:

  1. This is the only program I’ve found that automates the process of making/sorting the GDmenu, but it has some very annoying quarks. You must work around them or do it manually. That is a real pain if you have more than a few games, so this is just going to have to be annoying. It will be easier and way less time consuming than doing it manually though.
  2. Download SD Card Maker for GDEMU v1.10. Note, because there are relatively few people that visit the site or use this program your antivirus protection may try to prevent you from downloading the file, citing a “bad.reputation” or “trojan virus” warning or even block the link I provided, saying dangerous website blocked. This is a false positive so ignore it and download the program. The antivirus may remove important components of the program and otherwise try to scare you away from using it. This too is a false positive. Just ignore the warnings and make an exception to exclude it from future searches. Be sure to restore any removed components from quarantine. I wish madsheep made a better effort to prevent this and errors in the program, but it's just going to have to be this way.
  3. I had issues with SD Card Maker not recognizing the SD card. SD card maker flatly refuses to see it on my main computer and won’t let me do anything until it recognizes an SD card. I had to use a different computer to get it to work. I never found out why this is, but it’s just something you may encounter.
  4. CDI images are the easiest to use, as it can recognize and add them without much fuss. It may not correctly get the name of the game, especially for hacks. But you can customize the names for your GDmenu before building the SD card. So if you have the game file next to the menu edit window, you can scroll through your games to check which one it was, when it blanks or incorrectly labels a game.
  5. You may experience a long loading time before the GDmenu appears. This is because GDmenu is reading the disc images one by one to build the gamelist. The more games, the longer the loading time. SD card menu has a hack to allow instant loading! Check the box in the lower right hand corner of the program window called “menu hack”. However, it doesn’t work for games SD card maker doesn’t recognize after importing. I had only one in my set, NEO XYX.CDI. This one file caused the GDmenu loading screen to appear for over a minute. Then the GDmenu would appear without the custom names I had setup in SD Card Maker before building the image.
  6. However, GDI images can be much more frustrating to get into SD Card Maker, then again to get it to build the image (error messages galore). When I went to add the game, it would throw an “unhandled exception” and refuse to. I eventually found the cause of that issue and got them in. But after hours of building my image, it again threw an error and didn’t build my GDI file structure correctly. The issue was SD Card maker can’t handle a space appearing at the beginning of a line, or more than one space appearing anywhere else inside the GDI file, or special characters. I don’t know for sure, but it may not like excessively long names before track01, for example.  I just went with the manual GDmenu format (track01), so if I had to circumvent SD Card Maker, I could. Once all those are removed, however, it worked well.

Editing GDIs to work with SD Card Maker:

1.     Download Notepadd++. and Open a GDI file in Notepad++. Many GDI roms available have spaces at the beginning of the first 9 tracks. Those have to go. Also, there may be more than one space for the first few tracks so the text lines up with the next line of text. SD card maker doesn’t like extra spaces! Moreover, it hates special characters and a space at the beginning of a new line. So we’re going to have to edit them to remove these obstacles from SD card makers very picky path.

For example:

A GDI like this…

21
 1      0 4 2352 "Reel Fishing + Wild (USA) (Track 01).bin" 0
 2   5375 0 2352 "Reel Fishing + Wild (USA) (Track 02).bin" 0
 3  45000 4 2352 "Reel Fishing + Wild (USA) (Track 03).bin" 0
 4 266479 0 2352 "Reel Fishing + Wild (USA) (Track 04).bin" 0
… and so on for additional tracks

…has to change to this…

21
1 0 4 2352 track 01.bin 0
2 5375 0 2352 track 02.bin 0
3 45000 4 2352 track 03.bin 0
4 266479 0 2352 track 04.bin 0
…and so on for additional tracks

…otherwise SD Card Maker won’t add the file to the list.

2.    Using Regular Expressions to edit these files is not the most user friendly thing, but I’ve tried to make it as painless as possible. Maybe Madsheep will make an update to his program that eliminates this in the future, but for now we’re stuck with the nitty gritty. It involves editing all your GDI files at once, so it would be a good idea to backup your files to another folder in case something goes wrong. Do that now, and don’t touch those during this process. They are your fail safe.

3.    Open Notepadd++ and go to File --> Close All. When you open Notepadd++ it keeps previously opened tabs in memory. Close them all now and keep Notepad++ open. We’re going to drag all of our GDI files in at once.

4.    Navigate to you newly copied folder which contains all your game subfolders, inside each of which the tracks and GDI files are. In windows explorer, there is a search bar in the upper right of the window. Type *.gdi. This will show all the GDI files within all the subfolders. Highlight all of them (CTRL + A) and drag them into Notepad++. This opens all of them in tabs along the top of the program window. We’re going to edit all of them at once.

5.    My GDI files followed the NoIntro naming convention.

12
 8     4 4 2352 "Game - Name (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es) (Track08).bin" 0
 9   450 0 2352 "Game - Name (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es) (Track 9).raw" 0
10 45000 4 2352 "Game - Name (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es) (Track 10).bin" 0

.This will not work, because SD Card Maker doesn’t like special characters and potentially long names. In any case, to build a card manually these need to change to track##. So that’s what I’m going with.

6.    Go to “Search” --> “Replace”. In the lower left corner of the replace tab there is a box called “Search Terms”. Select the option called “Regular Expressions” and uncheck the box next to it called “. matches newline”. The idea here is to use Regular expressions to match a pattern in the text and replace with something we want. However, we need to do this in steps and in the right order.

Step 1:

  • Find What =
    ".*track\s+(?=\d{2}\))|".*track(?=\d{2}\))
  • Replace With =
    track
  • Explanation = matches quotes (“) followed by any number of characters (.*) until it finds the word track followed by any number of whitespace characters (\s+), but only if followed by 2 digits) (?=\d{2}\)). The next part signifies an OR (|). The OR is same thing but for a situation where there are no whitespace characters between track and the 2 digits. Putting track in the replace box and pressing “replace all” replaces "anythingTrack_ (the underscore is a space), and “anythingTrack with just track. This simplifies our job immensely.
  • Example, watch how it changes:
12
 8     4 4 2352 "Game - Name (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es) (Track08).bin" 0
 9   450 0 2352 "Game - Name (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es) (Track 9).raw" 0
10 45000 4 2352 "Game - Name (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es) (Track 10).bin" 0

Becomes

12
 8     4 4 2352 track08).bin" 0
 9   450 0 2352 "Game - Name (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es) (Track 9).raw" 0
10 45000 4 2352 track10).bin" 0
  • Press the Replace All button and verify the above worked as expected. If not press the Back button in the toolbar (or edit --> undo) and figure out why. You can undo mistakes as long as you don’t save and close the file. This is why you made a backup copy of everything. Replace all just replaces all the matches in the currently selected tab. “Replace all in all opened documents”, however, replaces everything. Do that only when you’re sure this 5 step process works for your set.

Step 2:

  • Find What =
    ".*\(track\s+(?=\d{1}\))
  • Replace With =
    track0

     

  • Explanation = matches quotes (“) followed by any number of characters (.*) until it finds the word track followed by any number of whitespace characters (\s+), but only if followed by 1 digit) (?=\d{1}\)). This is for a situation where the format is "anythingTrack 1) instead of "anythingTrack 01).

  • Example from step 1 Becomes…
12
 8     4 4 2352 track08).bin" 0
 9   450 0 2352 track09).raw" 0
10 45000 4 2352 track10).bin" 0
  • Press the Replace All button and verify the above worked as expected.

Step 3:

  • Find What =
    [^a-zA-Z0-9 .\n]

     

  • Replace With = empty, we just want them to be deleted. So nothing is in the replace box.
  • Explanation = This will match any special character except the ones after ^.
  • Example from step 2 Becomes…
12
 8     4 4 2352 track08.bin 0
 9   450 0 2352 track09.raw 0
10 45000 4 2352 track10.bin 0
  • Press the Replace All button and verify the above worked as expected.

Step 4:

  • Find What =
    [ ]{2,}
  • Replace With = space.
  • Explanation = If there are 2 or more spaces in a line we replace with just one.
  • Example from step 3 Becomes…
12
 8 4 4 2352 track08.bin 0
 9 450 0 2352 track09.raw 0
10 45000 4 2352 track10.bin 0
  • Press the Replace All button and verify the above worked as expected.

Step 5:

  • Find What =
    ^\s+
  • Replace With = leave empty, we want to delete the space at the begining of a new line.
  • Explanation = This will match one or more whitespaces at the beginning of a new line and delete it. We can’t have a space there or SD Card Maker will error.
  • Example from step 4 Becomes…
12
8 4 4 2352 track08.bin 0
9 450 0 2352 track09.raw 0
10 45000 4 2352 track10.bin 0
  • Press the Replace All button and verify the above worked as expected.

7.    If everything proceeded correctly on this tab, repeat the same five steps, but press the button called Replace All in All Opened Documents after each step. This will do the same thing, but for every  GDI all at once. This is the magic of REGEX!

8.    You can now save all open tabs at once. Be sure they are ok first. Inspect many tabs first, to be sure they all are in the same format. Once you save there’s no going back!

9.    My GDIs were formatted with the NoIntro naming convention. Someone better at REGEX than me may want to chime in with a more efficient method, but this worked for my GDIs. Other naming conventions may not work with the same steps. So, your mileage may vary. You may be able to modify the steps to work for you just by tweaking the expressions. As you get familiar with what they do you will eventually figure it out. It took me a week to get the above working, but I’m not a coder. So if I can do it, you can do it.

10.    That just leave the tracks themselves. Download Regex Renamer. The previous steps involved more steps than this next part will, so it’s not more difficult in that regard. In fact this will be a breeze. It’s just repetitive. The reason it’s harder is because we have to apply changes one folder at time, for a few hundred folders. Moreover, Regex Renamer clears the Match field after each replacement. You just have to select it in the dropdown, however. It goes like this. Replace, select the next game folder, select the match function in the dropdown, replace, and repeat a few hundred times. This will take 10-20 minutes and aggravate your carpal tunnel syndrome, but once it’s done you won’t need to do it again. So lets just get it done.

  • Open Regex Renamer and navigate to the your GDI folder, the one you have been modifying, not your backup. Select the first game folder in your list. This should still have the game name and we won’t change that. The tracks inside will be changed, but the folder name and GDI name don't need to be, if just inporting into SD Card Maker. You would only need to change the gdi to "disk.gdi" and the folder to something like "01", if you were building the SD card manually. Since we're using SD Card Maker to do that, we don't need to change them. Good thing too, otherwise it would be hard to know what game it is.
  • Next locate the dropdown called “Numbering” at the top of the program window. In the dropdown change “pad” from 000 to 00. This makes it so our numbering replacement increment in two digits (track01, track02…and so on) instead of 3 (like, track001 which wouldn’t match what we did in the GDI).
  • Match =
    .*(?=.bin|.raw)

    , this matches anything followed by .bin or .raw.

  • Replace =
    track$#
    , this automatically replaces with Track and a 2 digit number that counts up from 01-99.  
  • Note the preview window on the right. It will show you what was matched and how it will be changed before you press Rename in the lower right hand corner. Be sure it’s correct before pressing rename. There’s no undo button and the changes are immediate. If you screw up you have to rename the files manually or restore from a backup. This is another reason I had you make a backup copy.
  • The procedure is this. Press Rename, select the next game folder, select
    .+(.bin)/track$#.bin/
    in the match dropdown (should be the first one down), check the GDI is not selected in the preview window, press Replace, then repeat for the remaining game folders. This goes pretty fast. It took me 10-20 minutes. My had cramped up, but it’s just repetitive clicking.
  • Now your done. Whew!
  • The GDI file itself doesn’t have to be named disc.gdi unless you want to manually create the GDmenu filesystem. SD card maker will import them correctly now.

11.    Open SD Card Maker and press the plus button. Navigate to the GDI games folder containing all your game subfolders. In the upper right search box put in *.gdi and search. It will find all the GDIs. Select all your GDI files and press open to import them in. There should be no errors importing or when building the SD card now that we’ve curated them specifically for this software. A bonus of GDI vs CDI files is that they import faster.

12.    If you want to add some CDI images, go ahead and import them now.

13.    Press the “name” row in the window to sort the gamelist by name. If any are out of order, you can select it and press the arrow buttons on the right hand side of the program window to move them up or down.

14.    When done, press save. You will have the option to customize the menu and rename items in the list. When done it will begin building the SD card for you. The first time, it has to copy over all the files. This can take a very long time for a full set - many hours. Once this is done you are ready to enjoy your GDemu.

15.    Pat yourself on the back for a job well done and go play some Seaman!

Conclusion and additional Thoughts:

I wish that someone had done a writeup like I just did. It was very time consuming to complie the above tutorial. The biggest issue I had was whiping all my GDIs into shape so that SD card Maker would import and install the games on the SD card correctly. I struggled with Regular Expressions for week before I found the 5 step process above. Then another day for RegEX Renamer to get the BIN/RAW filenames right. If the SD Card Maker software were more forgiving this wouldn't be necessary. So...yeah it's a PITA.

Now that it's done, however, I'm really enjoying it! The 3D printed part looks like it was meant to be there. GDI images look just as good as the GDROM games, but load a bit faster off the SD card, a nice upgrade! When I need to change discs, I can just get up and open it like normal. However, since there are no physical discs, I just press the button and the GDEMU will advance to the next disc automatically. This is a slick as it gets! Moreover, the Start + ABXY reset button combination will return me to the main menu where all my games are, without the need to get up and turn the console off/on. The original OSD menu is still easily accessable by exiting the GDmenu, so changing the clock and managing VMU memory is easily accessable. Overall, this is probably the best "Everdrive like" solution for Dreamcast. The menu is simple and clean. It looks better than the everdrive menu's I've seen. I just wish that you can press right and left to page up/down through the gamelist, like the everdrive. There is a open source project to build a new GDmenu, so maybe this will come in a future update. However, I don't know if mad sheep is ever planning to return to SD Card Maker with an update, so that may be a mute point. I'm happy with it as is!

...But I'm not done there! Next up? The DCHDMI Mod...which should be arriving soon!

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I never owned a Dreamcast.  My buddy in high school did and brought it over once.  He had his chipped so he could play imports.  At the time, burning discs wasn't quite yet perfected (something about the way the discs needed to be burned, and he wasn't quite up to to the task of making it work).  But it was nice because he could play imports and domestic, and he had bought a few Japanese shooters that were really cool.  I was a little under impressed myself at the time.  I had nothing against the console or the games, but felt like it was Sega trying too hard to compete against the PS2.  There weren't any games I was like "Damn I wish I had that", so I was happy with just my PS2.  Found out a year or so later he sold it for a modded PS2 (back before they had soft mods and needed like 32 wires).  I wasn't willing to risk burning out my PS2 so I left well enough alone.  Now, years later, thanks to the improved hardware of the ODROID XU4, and an awesome emulator, I can play pretty much all the games he had with only a little hiccup now and then.  Still, after going through my emulating library of Dreamcast games, I gotta say.. I was pretty wrong about things.  The capabilities of the console are way beyond the PS2.  I feel like it was like the Atari Jaguar, a system built ahead of it's time with lack of support.  I'm actually really keen on following your progress with this guy because I might just turn around and do one myself.  I know the first thing I tried to play was Ecco the Dolphin, having LOVED it on the SegaCD.  That game alone just blew my mind, full 3D underwater simulation.  I didn't even really play it so much as just boot it up and swim around a bit.  Can't wait to find some free time to actually dive (pun) into it.  :)

Good luck!

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22 hours ago, hansolo77 said:

... Still, after going through my emulating library of Dreamcast games, I gotta say.. I was pretty wrong about things.  The capabilities of the console are way beyond the PS2.  I feel like it was like the Atari Jaguar, a system built ahead of it's time with lack of support.  I'm actually really keen on following your progress with this guy because I might just turn around and do one myself.  I know the first thing I tried to play was Ecco the Dolphin, having LOVED it on the SegaCD.  That game alone just blew my mind, full 3D underwater simulation.  I didn't even really play it so much as just boot it up and swim around a bit.  Can't wait to find some free time to actually dive (pun) into it.  :)

Good luck!

Thank you I may need it! Actually the DCHDMI install is the most technical soldering I've faced yet. So all the practice I got on the UltraHDMI mod for N64 and the SNES repair have turned out to be very good confidence builders. I'm sure I can do it myself.

I have Ecco the dolphin too, a childhood favorite of mine on the Genesis led me to get it for Dreamcast. I never got that far and I haven't returned to it, maybe I should now! Actually this is always a fun topic.

What Are your Must Play Dreamcast Games?

Every one of the following are must play:

Spoiler
  1. Skies of Arcadia
  2. Seaman
  3. The Typing of the Dead
  4. Blue Stinger
  5. Shenmue 1 & 2
  6. Resident Evil - Code Veronica
  7. Jet Grind Radio
  8. Power Stone 1 & 2
  9. Elemental Gimmick Gear
  10. Sonic Adventure 1 & 2
  11. Soulcaliber
  12. Carrier
  13. Evil Twin
  14. ChuChu Rocket!
  15. D2
  16. REZ
  17. Frogger 2 - Swampy's Revenge
  18. Fur Fighters
  19. Grandia II
  20. The House of the Dead 2
  21. Virtua Cop 2
  22. Virtua Tennis (yes, this game rocks multiplayer!)
  23. Illbleed
  24. MDK 2
  25. NFL Blitz 2K & 2K1
  26. Phantasy Star Online
  27. Sega Bass Fishing (with the fishing reel controller)
  28. Sega GT
  29. Wacky Races
  30. Zombie Revenge

Honorable mentions as the definitive version of the game:

Spoiler

  • Resident Evil 2 & 3
  • Dino Crisis
  • Alone in the Dark - A New Nightmare
  • Legacy of Kain - Soul Reaver
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 & 2
  • Tomb Raider - The Last Revelation
  • Star Wars - Episode I - Racer

 

Holy crap the DC has a great library when you really look at it. Did I forget any of your favorites? Feel free to call me out, I'd love to find a hidden gem.

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A lot of those games are on other systems.  Whereas a few of those I think are sequels only available on the DC.

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8 hours ago, hansolo77 said:

A lot of those games are on other systems.  Whereas a few of those I think are sequels only available on the DC.

Yes, that is true. However, I'm not limiting the list to DC exclusives. For me that's besides the point. Playstation has triangular polygons and Saturn used rectangular, it's fun to compare the different versions of the games. Interestingly, because the DC launched during the 5th generation of consoles it got many of them upgraded to the 6th. The honerable mentions above were all released on PS1, except Star wars E1 racer which was on N64. RE2 got an N64 release, but you had to have the expansion pak. That game had a 32-bit, 64-bit, and 128 bit releases! The DC had a bunch of titles from the 5th generation. I have a GC, PS2, and X-Box as well. It's fun to see how the games changed between releases. Some have exclusive content, upgraded graphics, subtle changes, bugs and workarounds. It's fun finding which console the definitive version of the game was on.

You're noticing a critical business decision SEGA had to make during the Sixth generation console wars. I'll use Shenmue 2 as an example. It was developed by SEGA AM2, but in 2002 Microsoft secured exclusivity in NA, so it was on the X-Box only. Japan and Europe got the DC release. It was a Dreamcast title that MS pilfered from SEGA after it was clear they weren't going to survive the console wars. Otherwise, SEGA AM2 would have released it exclusively on the DC worldwide. SEGA was smart, once they realized they weren't going to survive the hardware battle they doubled efforts to license software content to Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. They made a good business decision and bowed out amicably. They continued to power out quality SEGA games, and still do. This is why they survived as a company and we saw so many games released cross platform. But make no mistake, the Dreamcast was the console they would have been meant for had the Dreamcast slayed. A fringe benefit is that there are a nauseating amount of ports available on PC and modern consoles, so there are many more ways to play. I'm a DC purist! Dreamcast is the beating heart of SEGA's sixth generation games, and that's the console I think they should be played on. I'm clearly biased though! SEGA was my first.

Must Play Games that were exclusive to the Dreamcast and have no port (My top Five in orange).

Spoiler
  1. Blue Stinger
  2. Bomberman Online
  3. Carrier
  4. D2
  5. Elimental Gimmik Gear
  6. Illbleed
  7. Propeller Arena (it was canceled just before it's slated 9/19/2001 release date. Arial combat, but it had planes crashing into the buildings below and it was projected to have low sales anyway. SEGA scrubbed it out of respect for the events on 9/11. Probably a smart call. It's only playable now because it was leaked and is availability online. Can you pirate an unreleased game?)
  8. Record of Lodoss war
  9. Rippin' Riders Snowboarding (a Cool boarders sequel)
  10. Super Magnetic Neo
  11. Toy commander (Toy Story, don't let the name confuse you)

 

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My absolute favorite thing about the Dreamcast is 4 player Worms. Yes it has a great library beyond that but... 4! Player! Worms!

Partaaaay!!

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Want to feel old?

Sega has been out of the console business for longer than it was in it.  SG-1000 to Dreamcast was 18 years. It's been over 18 since since they bowed out.

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PART 2: GOING WIRELESS

(ONLY THE BEST FOR MY DREAMCAST)

     Thanks to Chris Daioglou there exists a way to bring the Dreamcast into the wireless Bluetooth era. It is not a cheap endeavor I have embarked on, but I don't care at this point. I want only the best for my Dreamcast. Enter the DreamConn+ and LigntConn Controllers:

image.thumb.png.e3c21a3de1b281b96f78ddb006531054.pngimage.thumb.png.27a210ac43185387267d3e604d06fa7c.pngimage.png.2bbed28ec0e5a9d2488718ad5f264039.png

 

     These controllers are brand new in box PAL controllers that Chris bought up in bulk and modifies to be wireless with his Bluetooth mod boards. He does the install and ships the units out worldwide. It is quite expensive, but that's his prerogative. They are completely wireless and functional replacements for the original wired controllers. This means they interface with the VMU and peripheral devices exactly as you would expect. Unlike the original controller however, the DreamConn+ controller also has 2 full VMU's worth of memory onboard, without a VMU inserted. So you don't need one to save games. Moreover, both come with a 9 hour battery life with USB charging and a custom overlay that displays the battery level on the VMU! In game reset is selectiable using the VMU menu as well. There is software you can install on your computer to manage the VMU memory and dump/manage saves. This is a useful feature for emulators. I don't think it can yet be used as a Bluetooth PC controller. It would be awesome if they are all you need for both the OG Dreamcast or PC emulation, complete with VMU saves. However, I'm not sure how/if emulators support saving, loading, and displaying VMU information on it. Imagine if that worked though, holy hell would that be awesome.

     As for the lightgun, it connects to the VGA out to get the sync signal. This will still work if using the DCHDMI mod to display video and that doesn't affect the original output of the console. It comes with a Wii style IR LED bar that the Light Conn uses for reference on the screen. This way it can be used on a modern TV. You just need to calibrate the sensor and it will be good to go. It also has been modded to allow auto reload, so you don't have to point off screen to do it. I'm not sure if that was a workaround or something I can turn off in settings. I kinda feel like it's cheating, but if it's needed to get it to work then I guess I can live with it.

     What about the Power supply? The OG power supply was great because it allowed you to use a common non-proprietary cord to plug the Dreamcast in. However, that puts all the heat producing electronics inside the console. One of the issues of the GDEMU mod I performed is that the power supply might get hotter and make the system more prone to overheating, reducing the power supply's lifespan. I removed the 12v rail voltage regulator to solve that problem, but there is another solution - Replace it entirely. Enter the DreamPort:

image.png.aa83e43645f3b5a210f8d9bce9cc8a25.pngimage.thumb.png.daf1858412f5351383bf84a9b043c983.png

     The DreamPort is a drop in replacement for the power supply. It will allow the system to be powered by a 12v laptop charger instead. That offloads the heat producing electronics to the power brick on the charger outside the console, so the console itself will run much cooler. That should extend the life of the console! That's not all, it also has 4 Bluetooth DreamConn+ dongle boards built in. This mean you don't need to plugin the controller port dongles into the front of the DC in order to pair 4 Bluetooth controllers. This frees the other ports for peripherals, like extra controllers, light guns, and the keyboard. The original ports will continue to function as normal. The best feature IMO is that you can power the console on/off with your wireless controller, just like a modern console!

Chris also makes a wireless keyboard for the few games that use it, KeyConn controller, but I'm fine plugging in a PS2 keyboard into this adapter and using an extension cord to reach my seat. He also sells Backlit VMU's, which are kinda cool, but a luxury I don't need.

I purchased these a month ago and they just shipped. I will edit back when I have a chance to fully test them...

***

EDIT:

Okay I received an exotic looking package from Greece the other day, complete with a bunch of interesting looking stamps. Even the USPS delivery guy who made me sign for it was admiring the stamps. It looks like it took a trip across Europe! Anyway, inside were the Lightconn light gun and DreamConn controller. The Dreamport power supply will be in another package and hasn't shipped yet (I bought it after these shipped). After testing them a for a day I have some initial impressions.

LightConn light gun controller:

Spoiler

Internals.thumb.png.ab4b5d51ef7e830023fc1a807241a3ed.png

  • I was initially disappointed! The issue is that I can't get far enough back to calibrate the gun in my gameroom. I made the picture below to illustrate what I'm talking about. Think of the lightgun's sensor as a flashlight. If you point at a corner of the screen, the sensor needs to still be able to see both the the LEDs on the sensor bar. If you're too close then the cone of sight is too narrow. Step back a few feet and then it'll work. It's probably partly my fault for not realizing the limitations of a wii style IR sensor bar setup in my gameroom. The minimum distance I calculated I could be from my 55" TV is 8.5 feet, and I'm just a bit closer. There's no room to move back, so it just won't work for me unless I can increase the field of view of the sensor in the gun.

Lightconn_distance.thumb.png.14ec8a5f12d1fcdcf73b2b3ba267051b.png

  •  EDIT: This works well if you are in a large enough room for your TV. Because the Sensor has limited field of view you need to be far enough away from the TV for it to work. The example calculation below is based on my 55" TV, but you will need to plug in a different measurement for your TV size. This is how you can calculate the minimum distance you need to be from the screen for your TV. I measured Ø at about 23 degrees.

Lightconn_distance_w_Trig.thumb.png.bec2fd5f9e05d54e77a8d2bdaea98bd6.png

  • For a more detailed explanation, read the following in the geekiest voice you can imagine (I hear Bentley from Sly Cooper in my mind):
    Spoiler

    10495956_Lightconn_Fieldofview.png.04b2b25ab5015a04b0f504cd0f1365cf.png

    • I did some testing to find the minimum distance I could be from the Sensor Bar before the it would not pick up the IR signal. I measured the distance and walked closer pointing at the center of the Sensor bar. At 12" it could see both LEDs at the same time, but at 11" it couldn't. Since I know the IR LEDs are 9.5" apart and the minimum distance is 11", I can use trigonometry to find 1/2 the Gun's field of view. Technically, the arc-tangent of half the LED spacing divided by the min distance is about 23 degrees. Sorry, I know the math sucks, but I need this angle because it determines the radius of the area that the sensor can see. It gets larger as you walk away from the screen and, as long as you don't walk too far, the Gun will be able to track it's position on screen. If you walk too close then it will lose tracking once it can't see both IR LEDs, starting at the corners furthest away from the sensor bar. Lightconn_distance_w_Trig.thumb.png.7496cdcebb23f9ab8f595b5a24be3847.png
    • Using more trig I found the minimum distance I needed to stand from the sensor bar to be able to point at the furthest corner of my 55 inch screen and still have both IR LEDs fall within the radius determined by the that 23 degree angle (half the field of view).  According to my interpretation of Pythagoras, the minimum distance the gun can be from the screen is 8.5 feet.
    • The issue with my gameroom is that I'm about 8 feet from my 55-inch LCD. I think for a 55" TV to work I'd need to be sitting about 10-12 feet back to account for the length of my arms when pointing at the screen. I wonder if the sensor inside the Light gun doesn't have a wide enough angle/view, or if it's set back in the gun where maybe I could move it forward. I suppose I could cut some plastic away from the tip too, in case the shell is blocking some of the view. I just need to widen that sensors field of view. It's too narrow for my game room. Perhaps replacing it with one that has a wider field of view could work.
    • EDIT: I dove a bit more in depth to find out if it was the sensors placement (E.g. to far back causing the housing to block some of it's line of sight). Here's the internals:

    placment.png.f8775828d54f36156aae5aff455eb2be.pngcentered.png.93493249b56816f1529edf4e41229afa.png

    • The Light sensor is set back 4mm from the tinted glass filter (which I presume only permits IR light to reach the sensor). So the PCB could have been designed 4 mm longer to get the sensor closer to the edge (which would increase the field of view available to the sensor). However, from the sensor to the edge that restricts the field of view there is 9mm. From the center to the edge is 8.5mm. So that placement gives the sensor an 86 degree field of view. Note, I'm not taking into account the refractive index of the glass filter. It's maybe 1mm thick, so I wouldn't expect it to move the beam enough to ruin my calculation, but figure 80-90 degrees is a good estimate of the field of view available to the sensor, given that placement. The sensor itself I have repeatedly tested as having about 46 degree field of view. So this placement inside the shell should be doubly sufficient. Placement in the housing is not the issue then.
    • Neither is it's centering. While it could be better, It's about as good as one might expect to achieve given his design. I could easily 3D print a part that would hold position the PCB dead center, and it would add rigidity so that end doesn't flap. I don't think it's really necessary though.
    • So my conclusion is that it's a limitation of the sensor itself. I tried to find the Foxconn sensor he used but couldn't find it. I don't see a part number listed it. Perhaps this will come as an upgrade in future hardware revisions. If were as simple as de-soldering and replacing with another sensor, It wouldn't be that difficult a mod to DIY later.
    • In any case, it's not as plug and play as the old CRT based light gun calibration procedure was.
    • EDIT: The sensore is a from a Nintendo wii remote. It's not possable to replace it. However, a simple wide angle or fisheye lens made for cell phones increased the field of view of the sensor such that I was able to get this to work in my gameroom.
  • The calibration "procedure" itself is easy. Pressing Start+B on the light gun brings up a calibration menu on the VMU. There are 2 options. Test calibration allows you to shoot around at your TV and see if the Light gun sensor can pick up the IR sensor bar. One beep means it picked it up, 2 means it didn't. This allows you to figure out how far back you need to be from the TV. The second option is the calibration. You just point at the upper left corner of the screen and fire. Then the lower right. Calibration is easy, if you are far enough away from the TV. Then you just need to calibrate again inside the game as you normally would.
  • I've only had it a day, so we'll see if it's worth the expense (which is hard to justify in the best case scenario). Right now I'm feeling like the Lightconn IR tech is so fiddly that there is no way to justify the $205 premium unless it can measure up to the light gun experience on a CRT. Even then, it's a luxury price! I'm blushing for having spent that much for this. I need to play with it in a best case scenario to test accuracy, lag, and etc. So I'll move over to a larger room and smaller TV. I'm holding out hope it'll be what I expected after I accept the minimum distance issue. Right now I'm having buyers remorse. I can't recommend it at this moment, but maybe I can after I get a chance to get over the disappointment of this limitation and test it in it's element.849732266_LightgunLensmod.png.16e6e741f2aa239a8ed49cc97431ae87.png
  • EDIT: Chris confirmed the sensors are harvested from Nintendo wiimotes. He suggested using a wide angle lens like those used for cell phones. I picked up a 270-Degree fisheye lens and 0.65x wide angle to test out. The picture to the right shows how I attached the fisheye lens to the barrel with some white electrical tape. I have tested this out a bit and can confirm that it does indeed work. It greatly increases the field of view, although I haven't calculated by how much. I was able to calibrate the mod, which is easy. Then again as normally done in game. The result is as you would expect from a Wii style light gun game. The only difference is that you can't see the reticle moving on screen. You have to point and shoot to find out where the bullet hits. The lag is about the same as the wii, which I never really cared for. CRT based lightguns have no lag and offer a WAY better lightgun experience by comparison. But that's not the point of this. This is to allow you to use your Big screen HDTV, and it does that using modern lightgun technology. The fact that it doesn't hold a candle to the old lightgun technology is not something I can [email protected] about. That's beyond Chris' control and it would be unreasonable to compare this to the experience on a CRT. I can say that the fish eye lens is very sensitive to the angle you are sitting at. You can't move very much from the spot in which you calibrate it. If you move more than a foot or so, the accuracy suffers or tracking is lost. The wide angle lens is better, but yields a smaller improvement to the field of view. Accuracy doesn't seem to be bad though. I was worried that the lens' would distort the tracking calculation, and it may, but it doesn't see to ruin the accuracy. The bullet lands pretty close to where I'm pointing, no matter where on screen I point. However, because of the lag and larger inaccuracy compared to CRT technology, it's really hard to hit small targets or those far away. I tested The House of the Dead 2 and had trouble tracking/hitting fast moving enemy's, small enemy's like owls/fish/slugs, and enemy's in the background you can snipe before they get a chance to attack you. If they are right in front of you, no problem. If they are attacking a civilian and you need to protect them, harder, but reasonable. That first boss (judgement) has a weak-point, the fast moving bat character flying around. That little jerk is pretty hard to hit with this mod, considerably more so than SEGA intended. I had the Difficulty on very easy and had to use multiple continues.
  • EDIT: So after having this for awhile and experiencing its limitations I can say that it does what it's supposed to do. No, it can't equal the experience on a CRT. Yes, it's hard to justify at such a high price point. Considering there is no other lightgun for the Dreamcast that can work on an HDTV, I can say that it might be worth it to you. IF there is a lighgun game you just have to play again, manage your expectations. The Lightbar based triangulation method is laggy. There's no getting around it. CRT lightguns are superior and these games were programmed with them in mind. Their difficulty was balanced with them in mind. Your memory of the game was literally formed with them in mind. You're experience of the game using this lightgun will be worse and that's just a given. Having said that, the games are still fun and playable at easy difficulty. Your enjoyment of them with this will be highly subjective. I kinda like having the ability to play these games on my HDTV. However, I'm looking forward to HD-Retrovision's Dreamcast Cables to use with my CRT. Then I'll get a stock lightgun and play these games the right way. I don't see this as a replacement for the CRT in my setup, just as a way to play on my HDTV. More of a novelty than a serious controller for total domination. I have nothing against Chris. This is a technically impressive mod, it just costs more money for him to produce and sell for profit than it delivers in performance and value to the end user. In my case it's not worth it, but to someone with money to burn and no room for a bulky CRT it might be. Your Milage May Vary is what I'm saying. The bottom line is this, I'd buy again for $60, but not for $205. Will I be asking for a refund? No. Part of the reason I bought this was to write it up in this thread and provide my unbiased opinion. The main reason is that I was going all John Hammond on this build, "sparing no expense". 

DreamConn Bluetooth controller:

  • Awesome! It's really cool how he was able to seamlessly integrate the VMU interface wireless. It works as expected, with its animations, but has a battery indicator added in the corner.
  • Everything works as expected. The X+Y+B+A+Start button combo still works to reset the game to the start screen, then to the GDEMU if pressed on the start screen. The only difference I can tell from a wired controller, besides the battery indicator on the VMU, lack of a cord, and the blue PAL logo, is that there's some lag...
  • I noticed it's more difficult to pull off moves in Soulcalibur than a wired controller. I have been playing a lot of Soulcalibur in testing DC mods over the last few weeks and getting used to Cervantes' special attacks again (He's my go to). The lag is not egregious or anything. It's just noticeable when you're used to the feel of a wired controller. This is a real con, I don't mean to downplay this. I HATE lag! One of my main goals with this project was to reduce it as much as possible. However, you don't lose the ability to plug a corded controller in and lag is a given for wireless controllers. From what I've read about how demanding the timing for the Maple Buss is, I doubt this can be improved at all. In other words, this may be the best we can hope for.
  • So how much lag is there? It adds 53-55ms, just over 3 frames. I shot 240FPS footage of sonic jumping after a button press and averaged 10 jumps. I compared the wired time (122+/-13ms) to the Dreamconn+ time (176+/-12ms). The +/- is one standard deviation. The fact it is basically the same tells me that my methodology was consistent (about the same amount of imprecision between measurements). Note, these times are for my VIZIO P55-F1 TV over HDMI input 5 (low latency port, which adds 15.3ms for 1080p60 content) via the DCHDMI mod.
  • The Dreamconn is expensive, but exactly what I expected when I paid the premium for it. It's not like I've really put it through the grind yet though.
  • EDIT: I have had enough time to get over the new car love affair, and have a pretty good idea of the limitations of the controller now. My opinion has soured a bit. I wouldn't use it for fighting games because of lag. It's fine otherwise. However, I tried to play through Blue Stinger, an action title that doesn't require super tight controls, but every so often it would drop connection for 2-3 seconds. When that happens the character just stops, or keeps running in one direction, then you get control back 2-3 seconds later. Now that's unacceptable lag, no matter what you're playing. In fifteen minutes of gameplay it maybe happened twice. I'm not sure what causes this, but I'm only 6 or 7 feet from the console, so I don't think signal strength was an issue (perhapse interfereance?). Once it happened while I was fighting and caused me to take damage! That's when I decided it wasn't worth it and switched to the wired controller. I removed the VMU and transferred it to the wired controller. Then I plugged in the wired controller. This was while the game was still running. The controller was super buggy! Controls were messed up and the VMU wouldn't display the animation. Maybe I wasn't supposed to remove a VMU which was paired through the Bluetooth controller. I ended up having to restart the console with the wired controller plugged in to get it to work properly. My guess is that you are only allowed to have 1 controller in a port at a time. So if you have a wired controller in the P1 port and try to pair the Bluetooth controller, it will be assigned P2. This isn't a problem unless you have the DreamPort installed (See Part 4). The Bluetooth dongle would normally block a controller from being inserted in the P1 port, but the Dreamport has the dongle board mounted to the power supply internally in the console, which leaves the controller ports free. So now it's possible that 2 controllers are trying to communicate over the maple buss at the same time, which doesn't work. I found that out the hard way, losing some progress in the game.
  • EDIT: So the infrequent drop-outs in the Bluetooth connection are my only real complaint about the DreamConn+. Not being able to trust it won't happen at a critical point, causing frustration, was enough to make me switch back to using a corded controller with an extension cord. I played through the rest of Blue Stinger with the corded controller and never missed a beat. I'm disappointed to have to mention this, as the controller mod is almost perfect otherwise. However, it was annoying enough that I had to stop using it in order to fully enjoy my game. So I have to mention it here if I'm being unbiased. I don't know if this is just my controller or a known issue. Given this limitation I have a hard time feeling 100% confident in the purchase. When it was just the 55ms of lag, I was happy. But periodic 2-3 second drop-outs is almost a deal breaker. Now, I should mention that at CES 2018 Retro-Bit teased wireless Dreamcast and Saturn controllers. Assuming it's in the $60 range, it might make for an affordable alternative. However, they said that they were targeting late 2018 for release, and that never materialized. The Saturn controllers are now slated to be released late this year, which is a pretty firm promise. They actually have a Saturn product. I would recommended you wait to see what Retrobit brings to the table. If you buy a Dreamconn+, then retrobit releases a half-way decent product, you will have wasted $100. However, after a full year they still don't have a wireless DC controller. According to Retro-Bit they are aggressively targeting late this year (For the Saturn Controller), but want to have a product 'they and SEGA will be proud of'. The dremcast controller was only mentioned in passing, and may be refferring to the corded USB controller for PC they also promised at CES. So although the Dreamconn+ is likely the only option currently, you should be aware there is a remote possibility an alternative could be on the horizon.
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Anyone besides me feel like Nintendo ripped off the the Dreamcast's design?

image.thumb.png.e0348fe2b9b432bea8e7f963d3dcbce2.pngimage.png.660871362a8e72d1e5f1731bcb2ad337.png

I've never read anywhere that the designs were derivative, but just looking at them side-by-side makes me wonder. That controller port rectangle is very suspicious to me. I can't help but feel there's a story there.

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PART 3: GOING HI-DEF

(Dreamcast HDMI)

The problem I was having with Dreamcast on my setup before the DCHDMI was that I could only get VGA to pass-through the OSSC to my TV at 480p DTV.  The Dreamcast has a 480p DTV video signal, which is misinterpreted by my TV. This is a complicated issue, but to put it simply, the screen will look narrower than it should. The OSSC has a DTV option that fixes this. Line doubling 480p --> 960p would work, but my TV won't accept that resolution. I really wish I had gone with an LG OLED at this point instead of this evil VIZIO! So 480p DTV was the best I could do! The mCable was able to take that 480p and upscale to 1080p with anti aliasing, but it stretches to 16:9 and my VIZIO refuses to let me change the aspect back to 4:3 (LG and TCL do) . Even If it did, that wouldn't be the correct aspect ratio for DC. It would be close enough to not bother me though. If I had another TV, one that was more forgiving of input resolutions and Aspect ratio changes, the OSSC might be all I Need. But I don't, and it's still a compromise. Besides, I'm trying to make the Ultimate Dreamcast here, which mean no comprimizes! Moreover, there was some interference I couldn't clean up with the Low pass filter on the OSSC. A rolling bar of static plagued me. From a distance, it mostly disappeared, but If I looked for it on dark screens I could spot it. I want more than 480p DTV through the OSSC! And this project demands it!

Enter the DCHDMI:

After 2 months of waiting I received my DCHDMI yesterday! The install went well, though I had some trouble with the tiny resistors on the motherboard. There are some very small resistors you have to solder to for the controller to access the OSD, but the moment my iron touched them they desoldered. I was just trying to attach a wire to one end, but the whole resistor moved! So I had to reposition it with some fine forceps and solder it back into place, which is difficult see, non-the-less solder back into place (they are that minuscule). This is certainly not an install for beginners! You NEED a temperature controlled solder station, flux, and confidence going in. Otherwise this install could go south pretty quick. The flex cable install went smooth. It's quite a bit more complicate than the UltraHDMI flex install for the N64, but not so much so that I wasn't prepared. Here's the install video I followed:

The actual flex cable I received from a Round 6 kit was different from the one in the video. It doesn't have the jumper to bridge. He must have removed it. Cool, less work for me!

My first impression after turning it on was, "Um...where's the picture?" I had a bunch of trouble getting it to output to my TV. I thought it might be my TV, so I tried it on another TV, but it had the same issue. I thought I might have installed it incorrectly, but I finally was able to get it to display by pressing the button combo for resetting back to VGA mode "L+R+Y+B+START". Then I had issues getting it to stay on after reset. I eventually worked out that I needed to "Force VGA". And in order for that to work I needed to have a VGA cable plugged into the Dreamcast as well as the HDMI cable. In "Cable Detect" mode it's supposed to choose the correct output based on the mode the Dreamcast is in, which is affected by which cable is plugged into the video out port. Sometimes I could get it to display, get into the OSD and change settings, and other times I couldn't - which required me to reset back to VGA mode to get the screen back. I kinda wish it would just work, like the UltraHDMI for the N64 does. However, I guess the DC having various display modes makes that not as easy. I still haven't figured out all the quarks yet, but I'm happy with the "force VGA" method. I did find the mCable was able to accept more resolutions and upscale them to 1080p, which actually made things a bit easier to deal with while finding the best resolution to output.

The real reason the DCHDMI is king is it's 1080p output option. It places 960p image inside a black 1080p border, which it outputs to the TV. This is a perfect integer scaled, DTV aspect correct, upscaled 1080p signal any TV will accept. I did have to manually set the output color space to Full range, to match my TV setting, but then it was perfect. AND I MEAN PERFECT. This is a really good looking pure picture. There is Zero lag, zero interference, and the upscaled picture is very crisp! It looks like an emulator, but it's not. This is a Digital image coming strait from the digital source on the motherboard. No analog conversion process for information to get lost in. Because the aspect is correct and resolution so close to 4K, the picture is as clear as possible. Smoothing is only applied by the TV's upconvert from 1080p to native 4K, but if I had a 1080p screen there would be none.

If I had a capture card, I'd take some screenshots to show you the difference this makes vs the OSSC. But it's a serious upgrade. This is a good review that shows similar results to what I'm seeing:

EDIT:

Because I installed my GDEMU before the DCHDMI I didn't initially update the firmware. The reason is that the GDEMU is unshielded and can interfere with the wireless module on the DCHDMI during the firmware download, potentially corrupting the firmware flash. I was afraid of bricking, so heeded the warning. I  soldered the 12v rail's voltage regulator back in and replaced the GDROM, then downloaded the firmware update. I then desoldered the regulator and replaced the GDEMU, but now with the latest firmware. I'll have to do this each time there is a significant firmware update, but it's not that difficult (if you have the right tools). I might be able to shield the GDEMU, but I'll have to think about that.

Firmware updates have added HQ2X filtering to the video output. This was mentioned in the video above and it's a nice improvement. While it does soften the edge slightly, it's more about guessing geometry and inserting pixel data that's not there. So at times it gives an antialiasing like effect, but mostly it fills the corner of jaggy's with a triangle of the same color. This goes a long way to reducing sawtooth edges. It doesn't look to my eye to soften the entire image like AA usually does. Just the edge between high contrast colors seem to be the most affected (in a positive way). Anyway, the result looks from a normal viewing distance to be coming from a PS3, not a Dreamcast! It's kinda mind blowing that the DC can look this good without emulation. And because it's original hardware, I don't have to worry about the accuracy of emulation, which is something that plagues the DC.

There is supposed to be Antialiasing coming in a future Firmware release, so that may be an interesting feature to try out. HQ2X is very impressive as it is.

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So I was just messing around in Retroarch and running the Reicast core to check out how far I could push it. I was running sonic adventure in 4K with all the textures and upscaling to the max with Antialising. Of course my Video card doesn't support 4k60 so I was stuck with 4K30, but DA-AMN does that look ridiculous. It's crazy how sharp and delicious these games can look via emulation. Accuracy is all over the place, but the potential to push the graphics is way higher than on OG hardware.

Lol...I'm sitting at $1000 in upgrades to my ULTIMATE DREAMCAST when emulation can do better for nothing. I tell myself it's for compatibility, accuracy, and input lag. It is, but that's a hard sell. Of course you don't need to be crazy like me and spend $1000. Like I said, I've been saving for this for years in anticipation of the 20 year anniversary. The DC is my 3rd favorite console, and isn't as well emulated as many others. So I wanted to update it and keep it front and center for the next 20 years. However, $150 DCHDMI + $80 GDEMU will do the trick. And for many, emulation is good enough.

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I need a better video card.  :(  My oDroid XU4 emulates Dreamcast, but only just barely.  My computer I've had to recently rebuild with new parts from scratch due to our cat blowing the power supply and frying the mobo.  It's got a sweet new i7 processor, but I'm still using an old GTS 250 video card.  (Damn I just looked it up on google, it's 10 years old this year!).  So I'm probably going to be in the market for a new one soon.  The part I'm most concerned about is the output.  My current card only has VGA and DVI.  Most cards nowadays seems to have HDMI.  That would be great, but how do you get audio through that?  My current card I'm using a DVI->Hdmi adapter, it goes video only to my TV.  Audio is done through the SPDIF coaxial to my AVR.  If I get a new card with HDMI, do they support audio out through that?  And if so, how does it get it from the mobo?  My current motherboard doesn't have an internally accessible audio out pin header, so there's nothing to connect it.  Do the new video cards just have onboard audio?

Anyway, still following your build!  Don't have the money to waste on parts, but it's fun watching.  I still can't get over all your Sheldon Cooper trig math.  Way over my head! lol

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These are my specs:

image.png.450bc38313d11a5a357521699e1b9076.png

A GTX970 should be selling for reasonable by now. It has one HDMI and 3 Display port (which I'm not a fan of). I just use the HDMI out to my HDTV's low latency port. Audio/Video is all passed through the one cable, nothing else needed. No internal cables. No sound card.

As for the trigonometry, that was kinda fun to actually put to use. I did skip a few steps in the pictures instead of write out everything, the algebra solving for the angle or distance I wanted. It looks more difficult than it is because of this laziness on my part. My instructor would have marked me down for not showing my steps. Bad Felix...bad! Oh, and I googled to refresh my memory, it's not like I can remember that stuff 6 years after taking the class. LOL. It can actually be simplified a lot. I measured Ø at 23 degrees. This is probably much easier to understand:

Spoiler

Lightconn_distance_w_Trig.thumb.png.9ffa7c0e77c8c1120a3eb2e6af22661b.png

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PART 4: GOING WIRELESS (DreamPort Update)... 

I received and have been testing the DreamPort wireless power supply. I have run into some problems getting it to work with my clone GDEMU and am currently in discussions with Chris about it. He wants some photos of my install to help him with diagnosing the issue, but my stupid e-mail won't let me upload the Hi-Rez pics. I was going to share them here anyway, so whatever.

To the astute observer, please forgive my blob of hot glue on the 3-pin Fan connector. With all the plugging in/out the right angle on the conn caused shearing force on the solder pads and gradually lifted 2 pads. I had to bodge wire them back together, so the douche goo (as Voultar would say) is just to support the connector to help prevent it from moving so much. A mod that might prevent this would be to replace the right angle conn with a strait one. That way there isn't any shearing forces on the pads while inserting/removing the fan, just pulling out force that the solder fillet will physically resist and pushing force that the PCB will resist. This is one nit picky design flaw I have found on the Dreamcast.

DC_mod_install_1.thumb.png.98adcaebc133deba447201a7e03a4dfc.pngDC_mod_install_2.thumb.png.8d86d82ab05fb1901ca05087cb35d899.pngDC_mod_install_3.thumb.png.1739ed0b040d537c308f4e2191bd6931.pngDC_mod_install_4.thumb.png.3f2712e341f20fb26cbabd107d910538.pngDC_mod_install_5.thumb.png.2c0c3efff78afb3790ef338bb7720bf8.pngDreamPort_top.thumb.png.cd5e3bccd60bbc899772adb85616b205.pngDreamPort_Btm.thumb.png.b9be8df0efd0fff63049fcc9f42fb2a2.png

So what's the problem? Basically there's weird behavior with the Boot process. It hangs on the BIOS splash screen with the audio in slow motion, taking a few minutes before continuing to the set clock screen. Then there is serious input lag to change the clock. From there it goes to the DC menu, not GDmenu like it's supposed to, and tries to read a disc indefinitely. When I replace the OG power supply, the GDemu works as expected. When I replace the GDemu with the OG GDROM, the DreamPort works as expected. Chris has confirmed that the DreamPort works with the official GDemu. So it's possible that my clone is causing a conflict, or that I got a bad DreamPort.

Chris has been forthcoming and responded very quickly to my e-mails. The guy is very pleasant to work with. The price is premium, so it's good to see that the support is premium too. I feel confident he's got my back. We'll see if I've make a mistake getting a clone GDemu or not, time will tell.

EDIT:

Okay, Chris solved the problem. Here's how he explained it:

Quote
As initially suspected, the clones use a different HW which draws a bit more power from the 3.3V rail. This, in conjunction with the DreamPort's PCB means that the 3.3V rail fails to deliver the required current resulting in a voltage drop.
 
Anyway, the solution is quite simple & easy. Just solder a wire (like the red one of the DreamPort's power socket) to the 3.3V rail and the DC mobo input. This will allow the increase of the current and prevent the voltage drop.

Here's a Picture of the mod:

DreamPort_Btm_cloneGDemu_mod.thumb.png.efaeaf85ab3ef62845bccf65a075541b.png

It's an easy fix and did indeed take care of the problem. I got to say that turning the console on by pressing the start button on the wireless controller is quite convenient! Turning off is easy too, just holding the start button for a few seconds causes the controller to shutdown and then console follows a few seconds later. It's crazy to experience the Dreamcast looking and acting like a PS3. Very cool!

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Is there still a Dreamcast in there somewhere?!? :lol::lol::lol:

Looks fabulous!

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11 hours ago, ClassicGMR said:

Is there still a Dreamcast in there somewhere?!? :lol::lol::lol:

Looks fabulous!

You tell me, is there any hint of awesomeness inside from just looking at the outside?

DC_Mod_1.thumb.png.d360e109d1b23dbb54c50da114f0efaa.pngDC_Mod_2.thumb.png.aeb789747a6e7d5fe05732dab1868f3d.png

The mods in this thing have really brought this console back to life. A total overhaul. Here's a recap of the build:

  • New Optical drive emulator to replace the aging GDROM with an SD Card reader that not only lasts longer and runs silent, but loads games faster (slightly).  The GDEMU's SD card port is extended to the CD drive tray as if it were meant to be there. The GDROM port is filled, and not just a big hole! I'm thinking of wiring an LED to the Disc change button. It's printed in a translucent Blue that should glow nicely.
  • Digital to Digital HDMI output added, bypassing the analog DAC and it's noise. Nothing but a crystal clear VGA 480p DTV signal that gets line doubled to 960p in a black 1080p frame for compatibility with modern TVs. Perfect compatibility, perfect upscale, and it's even got HQ2x filter to smooth out the jaggies without smoothing the whole image. Looks amazing!
  • New power supply to remove the heat generating components to an external AC/DC adapter. This doubles as a 4-port Bluetooth receiver for the DreamConn+ wireless controllers. This way they don't need a dongle to block a physical port on the console. Those still function as normal and can have a keyboard, lightgun, and wired controllers hooked up simultaneously without issue. Moreover it allows the console to be wirelessly powered on/off like a modern console. I have it hooked up to an HDMI switch. When I press the start button the TV automatically switches to the Dreamcast. When I hold it down for 3 seconds the console shuts off and the TV goes back to the previous HDMI input. Awesome!
  • Although heat is not as big of a concern now, I installed a Noctua fan mod. This 40mm fan is basically silent and pushes more air than the stock fan. The 3D printed fan shroud adapts it to the mount and directs the air out the vent nicely. Another use for the printer! Not only will the console run quieter, it will run cooler! This should keep it running longer and increase my enjoyment.
  • Then there are the Wireless controller and lightgun. Expensive, but a nice luxury! As fot the lightgun's range limitation, I've been e-mailing Chris about that. He says he's been able to decrease the minimum distance by ~50% using a simple wide angle lens, like the ones used for cell phone cameras. So I'm looking into that for my gun. The controller is great as is. The added lag is fine for most games, but I can just plug a wired controller when it matters, like fighting games, a genre the DC excels at.

I think that's a good summary. I just need to tie up one loose end before I call this a successfully concluded project. Solve the lightgun's range limitation. So that's the last step. I'm on a time crunch now! Just 19 days left!

9/9/19 - Mark your calendars

(Play a DC game to Honor a great console's 20 year anniversary)

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Tonight's the night, tomorrow's coming.

According to my VMU saves, the first DC game I ever played was "Blue Stinger".

Spoiler

I like this video better than the others I viewed. This guy was at least more adept at playing this style of game and not totally derisive about the dated voice acting, gameplay, and graphics, although it looks like He's playing on an emulator. EDIT: I fast forwarded to a hilarious timestamp. LOL..."You're not invincible while drinking? NOOOOOOO..."

Oh, and here's the reason I prefer not to emulate the Dreamcast!

 

I actually really like this game. But yes the voice acting was pretty bad, with needless swearing and some sexist objectivization of the female character. It's kind of like watching 50s TV, with abusive husbands, homemaking wives, and their gender segregated roles in the family. You can watch with hindsight being 20/20 and be bitch about the customs of the past, or you can try and see it in historical context. I prefer the latter, mainly because I'm not a trolling dick. It's a more enjoyable lifestyle to forgive the erring ways of the past and move on. The gameplay was fun and still is, when taken for what it is, and not for what it isn't.

What was the first game you played on Dreamcast?

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I'm being floored now with the crystal clear and ultra smooth playback I'm getting on the N2 with Dreamcast.  I've never actually PLAYED anything, other than tests to see if it runs.  I actually spent like 3 hours the other day playing Sonic Adventure.  It's a huge upgrade from the classic 2D Sonic.  So much so it's hard to get used too.  But I'm enjoying it, and that's all that matters.  I tried to load up Phantasy Star Online because I read somewhere that you can manually update a file to point the game to a user-ran server and be able to play.  But, the game prompts for a serial number right at the first screen, and I don't have one.  I didn't bother looking, but I'm sure there are generators out there.  Still, I don't even know if I really want to check it out.  It's all hype from my perspective.  I've never played it or seen it played.  I've never played any of that game's titles either, so I don't know if it's worth it.  But Sonic looks and runs great, as does Ecco and Crazy Taxi.  Getting Dreamcast to run is just the start.  Arcade systems like Atomiswave and Naomi also run on the same hardware, which opens up even more games!  So many games, so little time in 1 life.

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 Yeah, I must have liked it when I played it. I finished it 100% with all characters. I don't think I've played through it since then though, besides a few minutes during testing and etc.

Well I decided to play through Blue Stinger again and I can say that it kept me entertained for the last 12 hours (didn't have work today). I first played it on 9/9/99 release day, and finishing it again 20 years later seemed fitting. I enjoy this game, despite it's flaws. A fitting 20 year anniversary. I was going to get into Skies of Arcadia, but had a me a hankering for a monster masher.

EDIT:

I went back and played through it a second time managing 4:49:23 this time. Doing this allows you to save and restart the games, but with all of Eliot's weapons in my inventory from the start of the game, including the elusive Ray Gun. On the first play through it's out of stock at the gun stores and can't be found. You have to be awarded it by beating the game in under 8 hours. My first attempt was just over 10 hours and I only received 100 or so small and large Hasseys (they refill your life meter). So having a save starting the game with all the weapons and full ammo is a nice save to have. That's one I think I'll have to export to my PC and keep on file.

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I tested Skies of Arcadia on a previous build and it looks like a pretty good RPG.  Is it the first (or only) in a series?  I'm trying to get in the habit of playing games in order.  Another game I played a little bit of before Sonic was Shenmue.  Actually, I just sat through the opening cut scene then got controller confused when I was in control and quit.  I was really impressed with it because it's not a video, it's all in-game rendered, and the emulator was probably 98% accurate.  There were some glitches where it didn't handle opacity very well, and some hard clipping, but other than that it was completely watchable.  When I tested it before, it ran very slow and the audio kept cutting out and popping, etc.  This time it was very clear and fluid.  I'm excited for the future. 

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Yeah Shenmue is a really influential game. I'm like you, I never did get very far in the game. Again I've only played a few minutes of the intro during testing. So I have that title to look forward to as well. Shenmue and Shenmue II are available cross platform now in a set. So that's the definitive way to play, spotty emulation unnecessary. I have it on my modded DC and like the retro look, so that's is where it's at for me. As for Skies of Arcadia, I think the definitive version was the re-release on GameCube. I think there are some extras too, but I don't recall off the top of my head. Dolphin runs more accurately than any of the DC emulators. So that's your best bet for SOA.

In general, I have been most disappointed with DC emulation. It has made big strides since RetroArch devs ported Redream and Reicast cores. It's gained user attention and thus development momentum again. I hope they can work out the kinks. The biggest problem I notice is texture rendering doesn't get layers correct, in Sonic Adventure's opening scene for example, after you beet Chaos he turns to a puddle and goes down a drain. I don't remember if it was redream or reicast, but half of the drain was clipped by the concrete texture, or Sonic's eyes were missing! One would have better options for graphics, and the other wouldn't. You might have to switch to the other to progress in the game, copying a save over to that cores directory. In Blue Stinger, I've seen super annoying flickering in Nephy's glow (the ethereal blue follower). There are sometimes random crash-points in the game, invisible walls, and otherwise glitchy behavior. I just prefer to play on OG hardware and get the experience that was intended, instead of worrying about fighting the emulator.

PS1, GC/Wii, GameBoy, SNES, NES, Genesis and etc. have very good emulators that I trust not to bunk up the experience for me. So in those cases, I prefer emulation because of save states, graphic improvements, and versatility of platforms they're playable on (like my phone). I would like to see N64, DC, PS2, X-Box, and Saturn reach the same level of fidelity. I'd say that N64 and PS2 are the closest of that group to be acceptable, but the beefy specs needed limit the devices that can play them properly.

@hansolo77 you mentioned smooth playback on your "N2". What is that?

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Ah, how does that compare to an XU4. Last I heard, the XU4 was quite a bit better than RPi, but not quite there for DC emulation. From the benchmarks the N2 looks only slightly better. Does that 1320MHz RAM make all the difference? Pretty interesting if it can. Also I haven't been following the software side of things for Odroid. Has that matured, or is it still a PITA?

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It's still a PITA, but the TheRA group is crunching bugs all the time and coming up with new stuff.  I can get nearly 99.9998% perfect N64 emulation now, and Dreamcast is maybe 98%.  There are the occasional glitches, but there is a way to change the rendering mode for layers from "per triangle" to "per line".  I've found that "per line" is much better in the games I've tested.  The N2 can do PSP emulation too, and most games run great at 2x rendering resolution.  The advantage of the PSP to DS (playable on the XU4 but not tested yet on N2) is that when the game is available on both devices, the PSP is superior because it's a single screen 16x9 resolution, whereas the DS is like playing a vertical MAME game but the game itself takes place in the top half (top screen).  So you have a lot of wasted space.  The N2 is just superior in everything tested so far.  I think a big advantage it has is that it's a 64bit processor, whereas all other SOC boards so far are all 32bit.  This opens up many new advantages as the PC side of emulation is mostly 64bit now and all tweaks and fixes can be ported over.

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