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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 7:01 am 
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Now THIS is a really crazy find.

On February 3rd, 2001, the Dreamcast warez release group released a rip version of the Sega Smash Pack. To the excitement of emulation fans, Echelon seemed to have figured out something very neat about the Smash Pack. The Smash Pack was designed around an emulator for the Genesis games. From the release notes:

Code:
    Miscellaneous Notes:

    - Yes, this pack is based off an emulator that Sega coded.
   
    - The emulator requires a lot of tweaking to get games that are not
      included on this pack to run correctly.
   
    - If we have time for it, we will probably do this tweaking over
      the next few days and release a menu system to launch your own
      ROM's and burn them to a CD.

    - For all of those wondering, the DC console that comes with this
      pack (when you buy it!) DOES play MIL CD's / copies.

    - You will all probably be wondering how to exit out of a game once
      you start it, simply press A+B+X+Y simultaneously, then hit Start
      to return back to the menu system.
   
    - Regards to Uncle Sonic for his help, you know for what!


Now the last line is a bit confusing. Release groups give shout-outs to other groups and people in the scene all the time, but "Uncle Sonic" is a weird shout-out to make. Most people ignored it, of course, because they just wanted to burn their game and play.

And sure enough, two days later, Echelon excited the emulation scene and released something that would create both joy and massive controversy in the Dreamcast emulation and hobbyist programming scene over several years.

Code:
    __|_____ _________________________________________________________|__
      |                                                              .|
      :          _ ___ _________      -  E  C  H  E  L  O  N  -    .::|
 ___ ________  _______ __      /  ___ ________________  _________   _________
    _____    \/     _/  /    _/___   _____    \      /_/    _    \__\  _     \
  _/    /   _/      |  /          \_/    /   //     / _____ /    /     /    //
 //    ____//       |_//    /     //    _____/    _/_/    //    /     /     /
 \_________\_________/_____/_____/\_________/\____\______/_____/_____/_____/
                                                             -rtx/art
    __|_________________________________________________________ _____|__
      |                                                               |
      `- Proudly Presents:

      Game.....: Sega Smash Pack ROM Loader (C) Echelon / Sega

      Origin...: USA - NTSC           -  Filename.....: E-SMPKRL.ZIP
      Released.: February 5th, 2001   -  Format.......: -
      Platform.: Sega Dreamcast (DC)  -  CD(s)........: -
      CD1 Info.: - / -                -  Ripped.......: -

    - --- Release Notes ------------------------------------------------>
   
    As we said in our previous release of Sega Smash Pack Volume 1, we
    were working on a simple menu system for an end-user to load his
    own Sega Genesis ROMs. Well, here it is! This menu system allows you
    to burn your own Sega Genesis ROMs onto a CD and have a nearly
    perfect Sega Genesis Emulator (albeit sound). Please check out the
    README.TXT file included in this ZIP for more information on how
    to burn this and so on.


And so years went by. The original Smash Pack had been ripped and a special Smash Pack loader had been released; there was no reason for anyone with the equipment or know-how to revisit this GD-ROM. But what if someone did?

Lately az_bont and I have been dumping GD-ROMs and helping out with the TOSEC ISO project. TOSEC indexes checksums of known disc tracks for video game consoles, and when two people have dumped matching checksums, the game is verified and entered into a database for the purpose of preserving these game discs. This is very important because these GD-ROMs won't last forever and neither will the required equipment for dumping them.

So anyway, I dumped a copy of the Sega Smash Pack GD-ROM I had. When I opened the disc up with ISOBuster to check out the filesystem, I see what looks pretty normal for a Dreamcast game, but wait...

Image

What the hell is a file named ECHELON.TXT doing on this disc?

Why... it's a message from the emulator's programmer to Echelon:

Quote:
To whomever releases this pack..

Let me give you a few bits of info:

- I emulate a U.S. Genesis, including territory lock-out.
- ".sga" files are standard Genesis/Megadrive ".bin" files renamed.
- The emulator is looking for some parameters to be passed via Ginsu.
If you don't know what that is, you'll figure it out:

MDE_US.BIN ALTBEAST.SGA MODE2 SKIP0 SOUND0

MODE0 = standard, fastest video mode settings
MODE1 = slower, supports some extra features
MODE2 = slowest, includes window layers (used by some games)
MODE4 = same as MODE0 with background skewing

SKIP0 = no sprite skipping until maximum reached
SKIP1 = moderate sprite skipping, used to prevent major slowdown
SKIP2 = maximum sprites skipped

SOUND0 = standard sound emulation
SOUND1 = sound tempo increased

And don't forget to pay your respects to Uncle Sonic.
Sony just doesn't get it.

- Gary


So who exactly is "Gary"? Why, the guy listed as the programmer of the project:

Image

The message at the end is quite interesting. I did some research on Mr. Lake.

Besides working for Killing Time for the 3DO in 1996, he worked on 6 games for Sega, of which the Smash Pack was his final game. He is also credited under "Special Thanks" for Acclaim's Dreamcast port of Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000. After that, he went to work on games for Universal, Vivendi, Midway, and EA. He is currently the Director of Technology at Capcom.

I don't exactly know how to interpret the guy's ending comment. I don't think Echelon understood it either, because I don't think that Gary Lake wanted to be called "Uncle Sonic," but rather he was making commentary on people respecting Sega vs. Sony. The Smash Pack was released on the same day that Sega announced the discontinuation of Dreamcast console production, though they continued to sell the system for quite a while after. So it's obvious Gary knew what was going on at Sega when the game was released to manufacturing. I tried to see if I can find some sort of online presence for Gary Lake, but I can't figure out any sort of way to get in touch besides sending a letter to Capcom USA with his name on it or paying $20 to get access to LinkedIn to message him.


Anyway, this doesn't change the stance of this site's staff in distributing the Sega Smash Pack binaries. Regardless of the developer's opinion, the emulator is owned by Sega and as such, it is still illegal for us to distribute.

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 8:12 am 
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Haha, it's like "Fuck it I know this will happen and by who let me just give them a bit of a helping hand".

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 1:41 pm 
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O_o Nice Find!


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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 4:48 pm 
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|darc| wrote:
Anyway, this doesn't change the stance of this site's staff in distributing the Sega Smash Pack binaries. Regardless of the developer's opinion, the emulator is owned by Sega and as such, it is still illegal for us to distribute.


That surely is a nice discovery and I think it'd be worth to at least discuss it within staff sooner or later. AFAIK, the emulator itself was freely distributed by Sega of Japan. SOA decided that it would be better to sell it as part of the Smash Pack, that doesn't change the fact that the emulator itself was freely available.

That said, there also was a PC Engine emulator by SOJ - did anyone ever try to get that isolated and working ?



Edit: I noticed that the files are from 12/2000. They surely knew that Dreamcast was history by then - as that's when they stopped production.

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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 6:10 am 
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Wow, that's really interesting. I also wonder what he had in mind when he did that.
Christuserloeser wrote:
AFAIK, the emulator itself was freely distributed by Sega of Japan.
With no ROMs?

By the way, it occurred to me that being freely available doesn't imply in being freely redistributable. This reminds me of when Sega told cheatah to take down the Sonic Adventure 2 demo from the site.

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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 12:16 pm 
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Wow, that is really interesting. I wonder what it is all supposed to mean. It must have been a reprint of some sort. Can you post the .gdi info as well?


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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 4:42 pm 
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It's not very surprising to me. In fact, I always sort of assumed that Sega (at least SoA) counted on the Smash Pack emu getting cracked and becoming available on the Internet. They certainly couldn't have made it any easier for the hacking community to do it. It wouldn't have been hard at all to obfuscate the loading routine or at least encrypt the ROMs somehow.

Having a freely available Genesis emulator gave the Dreamcast a little bit of that backwards compatiblity that Sony was pushing so hard for the PS2, but without the trouble of having to negotiate the rights with all those third parties and come up with distribution channels.

It's just too bad it wasn't a better emulator.


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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 4:59 pm 
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Wonder if Sega reprimanded him in any way... Maturion, get your ass off dcgermany and interview this guy.


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PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 2:04 am 
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:o
Only way to express it. Best DC related story in a LONG time.

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PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 10:53 am 
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Echelon means a ladder, literally. Echelon is a funny, French word: To me this is a snotty way for Sega to say to the, "Here you go pip-squeeks, We can afford to do this and we quit. It is just such a shame ya'll will never really learn to do this. And yeah, it probably only took us five minutes of work."

Echelon also sounds a little funny because of how the gd-rom partitions are like ladder rungs. I mean if the patents were not enough to figure it out, Someone meant to spill the beans it seems.

And Uncle Sonic? Uncle Sonic probably just means Sega knew they were blowing the lid off the industry with a home console emulation scene: Another lovely "piss off" to Sony.

The funny thing, Sega only makes games now, and every console available seems to be cracked, hacked or wacked.

This was a nice news post to read: God bless Sega and God bless Dcemulation.


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PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 12:50 pm 
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I hate to post, myself, twice in a row; But to clarify what I had tried to say,

Echelon = Bottom Rung
Echelon = The Next Step
Echelon = Step Up
Welcome to the Next Generation.

Btw, Anyone notice, while rewatching the Sega Saturn commercials, The very first one demonstrated the swap trick?

If Sega would only make one more Sega, I would buy the "Omega Sega".
Until that day I hope the Dreamcast is pushed to its burning point, and the whole video game industry also pushed to its burning point.

But I know nothing, and I cannot do anything.


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PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 3:22 pm 
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Caboose wrote:
Wow, that is really interesting. I wonder what it is all supposed to mean. It must have been a reprint of some sort. Can you post the .gdi info as well?


Not exactly sure what info you're looking for, but...

Code:
SEGA SEGAKATANA SEGA ENTERPRISES 6484 GD-ROM1/1 U      0799A10 MK-51146  V1.002 20001213 1ST_READ.BIN SEGA ENTERPRISES SEGA SMASH PACK VOLUME 1

is the data from the IP.BIN info header.

I couldn't find anything of interest in the track header other than dates that agree with the above date from the IP.BIN.

2000 12 11 10085700
2000 12 13 18291800
2009 12 11 10085700
2000 12 11 10085700

I dunno what the numbers at the end are for, but the December 2000 dates make sense (except for the 2009, that must be a typo).

If you want the actual GDI file itself, I'm not going to post it here because it's 40 lines long, but you can get it in the GDI pack here.

This couldn't have been a reprint. Echelon released the game two days after its original release date with the "thanks Uncle Sonic" text in their release notes.

Sweater Fish wrote:
It's not very surprising to me. In fact, I always sort of assumed that Sega (at least SoA) counted on the Smash Pack emu getting cracked and becoming available on the Internet. They certainly couldn't have made it any easier for the hacking community to do it. It wouldn't have been hard at all to obfuscate the loading routine or at least encrypt the ROMs somehow.

Having a freely available Genesis emulator gave the Dreamcast a little bit of that backwards compatiblity that Sony was pushing so hard for the PS2, but without the trouble of having to negotiate the rights with all those third parties and come up with distribution channels.

It's just too bad it wasn't a better emulator.


That's definitely an interesting theory, but by the time the Smash Pack was released, the DC was already dead and the war was over. Certainly, it couldn't have been any easier for us. It could have been apathy, or it could have been a gift to the community.

Juan wrote:
Wonder if Sega reprimanded him in any way... Maturion, get your ass off dcgermany and interview this guy.


That'd be interesting to see. This was his last game with Sega, after all. But it's hard to know if that was because of this or because of changes in the company after giving up on hardware.

CaptTrips wrote:
Echelon means a ladder, literally. Echelon is a funny, French word: To me this is a snotty way for Sega to say to the, "Here you go pip-squeeks, We can afford to do this and we quit. It is just such a shame ya'll will never really learn to do this. And yeah, it probably only took us five minutes of work."

Echelon also sounds a little funny because of how the gd-rom partitions are like ladder rungs. I mean if the patents were not enough to figure it out, Someone meant to spill the beans it seems.

And Uncle Sonic? Uncle Sonic probably just means Sega knew they were blowing the lid off the industry with a home console emulation scene: Another lovely "piss off" to Sony.


Well, I think you are confused a little bit about this. Echelon certainly isn't Sega. Echelon is responsible for releasing about 200 Dreamcast games for free on the internet, and they plagued Sega for a very long time and they are arguably responsible for killing the Dreamcast's profits (of course, if they hadn't, someone else would've).

By the time this release came out, GD-ROMs had already been cracked and pirate games were pouring out for a while, and the console emulation scene was already on the Dreamcast, though it was small.

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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 3:55 pm 
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|darc| wrote:
Caboose wrote:
Wow, that is really interesting. I wonder what it is all supposed to mean. It must have been a reprint of some sort. Can you post the .gdi info as well?


Not exactly sure what info you're looking for, but...

Code:
SEGA SEGAKATANA SEGA ENTERPRISES 6484 GD-ROM1/1 U      0799A10 MK-51146  V1.002 20001213 1ST_READ.BIN SEGA ENTERPRISES SEGA SMASH PACK VOLUME 1

is the data from the IP.BIN info header.

I couldn't find anything of interest in the track header other than dates that agree with the above date from the IP.BIN.

2000 12 11 10085700
2000 12 13 18291800
2009 12 11 10085700
2000 12 11 10085700

I dunno what the numbers at the end are for, but the December 2000 dates make sense (except for the 2009, that must be a typo).

If you want the actual GDI file itself, I'm not going to post it here because it's 40 lines long, but you can get it in the GDI pack here.

This couldn't have been a reprint. Echelon released the game two days after its original release date with the "thanks Uncle Sonic" text in their release notes.


My bad, I meant something like this:

Code:
Title   PSO VER.2
Media ID   FBB5
Media Config   GD-ROM1/1
Regions   U
Peripheral String   2799A10
Product Number   MK-51193
Version   V1.004
Release Date   20010828
Manufacturer ID   SEGA ENTERPRISES
TOC   DISC
RIP DATE   20080404


(feel free to use that for the dumpcast thing if you want to/need to)

However, I guess if all the info matches the other discs that have been dumped, then it doesn't really matter.


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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 3:15 am 
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What a great find Darc! Like that interview with TheGypsy, it's like many questions of the past are answered now. Altough it's crazy this one wasn't found earlier. Especially as it is just a plain .txt file and not encrypted on the disc somewhere.

Maybe we now will get an answer on the big question in the scene soon; what was the real reason Bleem!cast stopped?

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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 5:20 pm 
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Money?


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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 8:50 pm 
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That's VERY interesting. Isn't there someone who looks over these things before they go to mastering?


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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 5:10 am 
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sixtyten wrote:
That's VERY interesting. Isn't there someone who looks over these things before they go to mastering?
Maybe the people who would be responsible for that in this particular case were too busy cleaning out their desks?

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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 6:18 am 
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Caboose wrote:
My bad, I meant something like this:

Code:
Title   PSO VER.2
Media ID   FBB5
Media Config   GD-ROM1/1
Regions   U
Peripheral String   2799A10
Product Number   MK-51193
Version   V1.004
Release Date   20010828
Manufacturer ID   SEGA ENTERPRISES
TOC   DISC
RIP DATE   20080404


(feel free to use that for the dumpcast thing if you want to/need to)

However, I guess if all the info matches the other discs that have been dumped, then it doesn't really matter.



That is what I posted above, just not laid out like you have it from the httpd-ack status screen.

That's not the info we collect for the project anyway; we use track checksums.

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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 11:39 am 
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Your tutorial needs to be changed then :P


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PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2008 4:03 am 
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Caboose wrote:
Your tutorial needs to be changed then :P


I think you misunderstood the tutorial. While the information you posted is very helpful and ought to be shared with the project, it is not the data that the project is out to collect. Track checksums, in order to verify the integrity of a dumped disc, are the point of the project. ;)

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