Useful Notes: Sega Dreamcast
9/9/99. The Day the Dream Begins ...
"In the annals of console history, the Dreamcast is often portrayed as a small, square, white plastic JFK. A progressive force in some ways, perhaps misguided in others, but nevertheless a promising life cut tragically short by dark shadowy forces, spawning complex conspiracy theories that endure to this day."
was not out after the massive mismanagement of the Sega Saturn
. Sega decided to get serious about the threat
Sony posed and get serious about the Sixth Generation
. Segata Sanshiro died to save it
. Sega fired Bernie Stolar.
They made it a powerful system that was a snap for developers to program for. They even had a Sonic game
at launch. Heck, even Microsoft helped out on the development of the Dreamcast, and it pioneered online gaming for consoles with games like Chu Chu Rocket
and especially Phantasy Star Online
The Dreamcast would see a number of wonderful games, especially from Sega themselves, who seemed bound and determined to launch a new generation of IPs with games like Jet Set Radio
, Skies of Arcadia
, Crazy Taxi
and more. It was also the console of choice for 2D fighting games
, playing host to the most faithful versions of the Marvel vs. Capcom
and SNK's various fighters; indeed, the long living MvC2 competitive scene
was one of the Dreamcast's major life threads in the U.S. after its fall until the release of the game's Xbox LIVE Arcade
/Play Station Network
port and its sequel
. It's also the system that made Soulcalibur
a household name. Surprisingly after the Saturn's failure outside of Japan, the Dreamcast launch was a smash hit in North America, with more sales in the first months of its existence than any console before it.
That lasted for two years. Then the dream died to the mere hype of the PlayStation 2
in March of 2001, thus ending a console legacy nearly as well known as Nintendo
's. Microsoft, meanwhile, went on to make their own console
. Dreamcast consoles were still sold in Japan until 2006, where third-party games continued to trickle out until 2007.
Without a doubt, this was Sega's Dying Moment of Awesome
as a first party, featuring new franchises in addition to two new main series Sonic games
, such as Skies of Arcadia
, and Jet Set Radio
The system did have its fair share of drawbacks and design flaws, however. Probably the most egregious
was Sega's decision to make the pack-in modem only 33.6K (in Europe and Asia; 56K in North America); this was at a time when 56K was industry standard, with ISDN and Broadband beginning to emerge. Despite the possibility of replacing the pack-in modem, the high cost and rarity of upgrade units (a replacement 56K modem and a 10/100 Ethernet "broadband adapter"), along with the decision to software-lock the console to a small number of partnered ISPs in some territories (the bundled modem setup disc would only allow settings for these ISPs), severely handicapped the console's growth as a potential online platform. There was also the fact that the games were ridiculously easy to pirate
. Perhaps one of the most significant factors in the Dreamcast's failure was the large debt that Sega had accrued from its string of failed hardware in The Nineties
, such as the Sega CD, 32X, and Saturn. Not only did this limit Sega's ability to promote the Dreamcast, it also meant that the Dreamcast had to sell an unrealistically large amount in order for Sega to become profitable again. And worst of all, Sega's action to fire Stolar came a little too late- Stolar had set the price of the console higher than Sega of Japan's wishes and it was launched at the higher price.
Yet the Dreamcast, if not commercially successful, became a legend, with its developer friendly SDK, fun arcade style games, four control ports for local multiplayer, innovative features (the GD-ROM could be played on a standard CD-drive; the VMU is still unique in its design, being both a memory card and handheld player), and a reliability far superior to other consoles. It is recalled fondly by hardcore gamers and still has a large cult following, and even had new games coming out for years. Today it is still recognized as a console with one of the best game quality/price ratios. As it happens, the Dreamcast is/was a de facto open platform — long before its death, modders had hacked it wide open to the point of being able to run versions of Linux and Net BSD
, as well as people writing their own games.
Although the GD-ROM format was abandoned in 2007, indie developers continue to make Dreamcast games. A complete first-person shooter called Paranoia was released in May 2010
. Later on, a side-scrolling shooter
- CPU: 32-bit Hitachi SH-4 at 200MHz, with a peak performance of 360 MIPS and 1.4 GFLOPS. It also has a 64-bit double-precision superscalar Super H-4 RISC Central processing unit core with a 32-bit integer unit using 16-bit fixed-length instructions, a 64-bit data bus allowing a variable width of either 8, 16, 32 or 64-bits, and a 128-bit floating-point bus.
- It had a 128-bit vector unit, which led to a misconception that the CPU itself is 128-bit. This is exactly how Sega marketed it- as a 128-bit console since the belief of "more bits is better" still hung around.
- GPU: PowerVR2 CLX2 at 100MHz.
- Sound: Yamaha ARM7 based AICA at 45MHz.
- 16MB of main memory running at 100MHz on a 64-bit interface.
- 8MB of video memory running at 100MHz on a 4 x 16-bit interface.
- 2MB of sound memory running at 66MHz on a 16-bit interface.
- 2MB of system ROM and 256KB of flash memory (though this doesn't store game saves)
- Games are stored on a GD disc, a high density format that was incompatible, mostly, with CD drives.
- Part of the GD disc was CD compatible. This was used to either play an audio track informing the person the GD disc is only useable on a Dreamcast or offer some bonus content for PCs.
- Game saves were stored on a device called the VMU, which offered a storage space of 100KB divided into 200, 512 byte blocks.
- The Videologic Power VR 2 100MHz (GPU) is capable of rendering 7 million polygons per second, with hardware (thus at all times, irrespective of software) full screen supersampling anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, VQ hardware texture compression (average 5:1), saving memory on RAM and disk, tile based texture rendering (only shows visible polygons, real time lighting through gouraud shading and bump mapping. Dreamcast games can be expected to run 0.5 to 5 million polygons (depending on the game engine) per second. The most sophisticated chip of the 6th generation, and the easiest to program for, but not the one with the most "brute force." Optimized for 640x480 resolution, capable of up to 1600x1200note . Unlike the PS2, it blends frames together, creating an image with no "shimmering" and less jagged edges at the cost of a blurrier image.
- Note that the capabilities supported by the hardware are optional, so some games may sacrifice graphical improvements to achieve adequate frame rate. For instance, its antialiasing requires the Dreamcast to render 4 times the pixels for a slightly smoother image, so it was usually the first to go.
- There are many, many, accessories, but the ones that really stand out are:
- The VMU, which is needed to save games, and doubled as a portable game system. The memory is flash, meaning it works even when the tiny watch battery is depleted.
- Broadband modem, ultra rare but then oh so useful. Nowadays, not so much.
- VGA box. This should have been offered as standard, as it allows, when in VGA mode, more color than all its competitors(the produced RGB is not converted to Composite/S-Video/Coaxial and back to RGB for the screen to use) which also shortens response time, produces the natural resolution (480p) in progressive mode (lines don't appear when moving, clearer image), does not require external power source (Contact with the graphics port may be faulty though, which makes colored lines to randomly appear on the screen), and it was cheap to make ($20 finds you one). If the screen didn't have a VGA port, you could still use the video and S-Video ports.
There are many other details; here you can read the complete hardware specs
- Air Force Delta
- Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare
- Blue Stinger
- Bomberman Online
- Border Down
- Cannon Spike
- Castle of Shikigami II (Japan-only)
- Castlevania: Resurrection (cancelled)
- Chu Chu Rocket
- Crazy Taxi
- Culdcept Second
- Cyber Troopers Virtual-On: Oratorio Tangram Ver.5.45
- Dancing Blade: Katte ni Momotenshi!
- Dancing Blade Katte ni Momotenshi II: Tears of Eden
- Daytona USA 2001
- Dead or Alive 2
- Densha De Go 2
- Dino Crisis
- Donald Duck Goin Quackers
- Ecco The Dolphin: Defender of the Future
- Elemental Gimmick Gear
- Evil Dead: Hail to the King
- Evolution: The World of Sacred Device
- Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves
- Fighting Vipers 2
- Fire Pro Wrestling D
- Frogger 2: Swampy's Revenge
- Fur Fighters
- Gauntlet Legends
- Giga Wing
- Grandia II
- Grand Theft Auto II
- Guilty Gear X
- Half-Life (beta, never released)
- House of the Dead 2
- Hydro Thunder
- Jet Set Radio (AKA Jet Grind Radio)
- The King of Fighters: Evolution
- Langrisser Millennium
- The Last Blade 2
- Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
- Maken X
- Mars Matrix
- Marvel vs. Capcom
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0079: Rise From the Ashes
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon DX
- Mortal Kombat Gold
- Mr. Driller
- Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness
- Napple Tale: Arsia in Daydream
- NBA 2K and NFL 2K, which launched the companies 2K Sports and 2K Games; critically, they were critically praised more than the offerings from venerable EA Sports and NFL 2K was a rare Killer App sports game. When Sega's first party run ended, these two series wound up on the current consoles and continued their run of success, eating well into EA Sports's market share. Although NFL 2K came to an abrupt end when EA won the NFL's exclusivity bid in 2005, NBA 2K eventually outclassed Live both commercially and critically that EA didn't offer a game for four years over failed reboots that even the company knew could not compete with 2K and cancelled them.
- There were also NHL 2K and MLB 2K series, but those didn't take off the way the other two did.
- Neo Golden Logres
- Nightmare Creatures II
- Omikron: The Nomad Soul
- Panzer Front
- Phantasy Star Online
- Pier Solar and the Great Architects HD
- Plasma Sword: Nightmare of Bilstein
- pop'n music 1-4
- Power Stone
- Prince of Persia: Arabian Nights
- Pro Pinball Trilogy, consisting of Pro Pinball: Timeshock!, Pro Pinball: Big Race USA, and Pro Pinball: Fantastic Journey on one disc
- Psychic Force 2012
- Project Justice
- Puyo Puyo~n
- Puyo Puyo Da!
- Puyo Puyo Fever
- Quake III: Arena
- Railroad Tycoon 2: Gold Edition
- Rainbow Cotton
- Rayman 2: The Great Escape
- Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
- Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2
- Record of Lodoss War
- Resident Evil 2
- Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
- Resident Evil: Code: Veronica
- The Ring: Terror's Realm
- Samba de Amigo
- San Francisco Rush 2049
- Sega Rally Championship 2
- Silent Scope
- Skies of Arcadia
- Slave Zero
- SNK vs. Capcom
- Soldier of Fortune
- Sonic Adventure
- Sonic Adventure 2
- Sonic Shuffle
- Soul Calibur
- Space Channel 5
- Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles
- Star Wars Episode I: Racer
- Street Fighter Alpha 3
- Street Fighter III
- Super Robot Wars Alpha
- Tech Romancer
- Test Drive 6
- Test Drive Le Mans
- Test Drive V-Rally
- Tokyo Xtreme Racer
- Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
- Toy Commander
- Triggerheart Exelica
- Twinkle Star Sprites
- Under Defeat
- Unreal Tournament
- Urban Chaos
- Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service
- Vigilante 8: Second Offense
- Virtua Cop 2
- Virtua Fighter 3tb
- Virtua Fighter 4 Passport
- Virtua Fighter History
- Worms Armageddon
In the late 1990s, a commercial PlayStation
emulator called Bleemcast!
was released for the Dreamcast. A port of the first PS1
emulator ever, it was able to enhance the graphics of PS1
games by increasing the resolution and smoothing the textures out, which was an impressive feat considering that the PS1 was still being sold
. Unfortunately, the huge task of creating the emulator and a lawsuit from Sony meant that only three games were supported — Gran Turismo 2
, Metal Gear Solid
, and Tekken 3
. The programming for this emulator ended up becoming the backbone for the PlayStation Portable
's backwards compatibility with PS1
It's (Still) Dreaming.
Sayonara, Reader... until we meet again!