Where do you see the DC "scene" 1 year from now?

This forum is for discussion pertaining to homebrew and indie software for the Dreamcast, such as homebrew games, emulators/interpreters, and other homebrew software/applications. Porting requests and developmental ideas are not to be made here; you can make those here. If you need any help burning discs for homebrew software, this is the place to ask as well.
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Post by Cammyfan » Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:11 am

I care about the Dreamcast greatly. Why else would I be here? Why doesn't everyone else who posts here have a modded Xbox? I love the homebrew/emulator releases for the Xbox but I still love playing Dreamcast games and checking out what the Dreamcast can muster.
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Post by MetaFox » Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:40 am

Cammyfan wrote:I see it as being barely alive. Similar to how it is now except with even less people/interest.
Don't use the front page of this site to judge the state of the Dreamcast "scene". Or even these forums for that matter.

There's a lot of stuff that has been released that isn't even mentioned over here.
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Post by Cammyfan » Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:51 am

:? Okay. :)
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Post by emptythought » Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:11 am

nevermind
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Post by BlackAura » Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:16 am

WARNING! Long post ahead. I've had this thing open in a separate browser tab for about four hours, so it's kind of grown out of control. Most of it concerns the Xbox and X360 security mechanisms, so if that doesn't interest you in the slightest, feel free to skip ahead. It's a bit technical, and most of you won't find it that interesting.

To summarise it: The Xbox security system was deeply flawed, and full of stupid mistakes. That's why it was so easy to break. The X360 appears to be far better built, and it seems really unlikely that it'll be cracked any time soon.
Cammyfan wrote:I do not believe that. The collective will of a huge number of people will prove you wrong.
It doesn't matter how many people want something to happen.

Let me put it this way: the Xbox security system was totally useless. If you don't particularly care about how bad the Xbox security system was, or how comparatively good the 360's security system is, feel free to skip most of this post.

The idea behind the Xbox security system is that you start with a single trusted component that you know can not be modified. In the case of the Xbox, this is the boot ROM. This component is then responsible for verifying the next component, and so on. Components are only loaded / executed if they're authenticated by another trusted component. The boot ROM checks the second stage bootloader. The second stage bootloader checks (and decrypts / decompresses) the kernel itself. The kernel checks all programs to make sure they're trusted by Microsoft, and that they're running from the correct media type (hard drive, DVD, whatever).

The problem is that, at every single level, there were multiple security holes, either as implementation bugs, a misunderstanding of the Xbox hardware (especially the CPU), poorly implemented algorithms, incorrect algorithms, or outright design flaws.

The initial boot ROM, for example, had at least six, maybe seven, major design flaws, each of which left the system totally open to modification. That's not even considering things like the Dashboard (full of holes), the various holes in Xbox development libraries used across nearly all games (like the Xbox Live updater app, which can be used to break into the system from any Xbox Live enabled game), or the games themselves.

If you take a look at all of the security holes in the Xbox, and compare to what we know of the X360, it's clear that Microsoft have learned from their mistakes. The X360 is very close to being the ideal system for locking down this way (or worst, depending on how you look at it).

For example, the initial boot ROM is stored inside the CPU itself, and runs entirely within the CPU. It doesn't even need to go out to main memory thanks to the configurable cache system in the CPU. It's large enough that it can do proper cryptographic hashing functions, like the Xbox kernel did with games (which was never cracked, by the way - it was just disabled).

The flash chip, which contains the actual X360 OS, is encrypted. The decryption key is stored inside the CPU itself, and is different for each system. The flash is encrypted at manufacture time, and the encryption key is never stored on the X360 itself. So even trying to swap the flash chips between to different systems won't work.

Once the boot ROM has verified and decrypted the OS, it writes it out to memory (and all memory access is encrypted by extra hardware in the CPU) where it can be executed. The encryption used is apparently different for each X360 as well, so you aren't going to be able to recover (or replace) the OS in memory using external hardware unless you happen to know the encryption code used by that particular CPU.

Once the system is up and running, there's an additional layer of security - the hypervisor. The hypervisor controlls all hardware access, so programs running under it (even the X360's kernel) can not access the hardware directly without authorisation from the hypervisor. The hypervisor also verifies the X360's kernel to make sure it hasn't been modified, either by outside hardware, or by the software running on the X360. So even if you do manage to inject code into the X360's kernel, you can't remove any of the protection mechanisms. The hypervisor is also contained inside the CPU, and no part of it exists in outside memory.

Add to that the fact that nobody has made even the slightest bit of progress towards hacking the 360. People have managed to read and write files on the hard drive, and make a working DVD-R copy of a demo disc that was already set up to be able to run from a DVD-R (although that was probably an accident). All of that is allowed by the security system.

There are some possible holes in the security system. For example, the code on the CPU (bootloader, decryption keys, and probably the hypervisor) is programmed at manufacture time, just like the BIOS was on the original Xbox. This time, they use standard JTAG ports. JTAG is a standard system that allows you to program embedded ROMs, assert complete remote control of the system, use it for debugging, and loads of other stuff, depending on what it's set up for. The JTAG ports on retail 360s are disabled, but it might be possible to re-enable them, and exploit that.

If you're only interested in pirating games, it might be possible to modify the DVD drive itself so it reports DVD-Rs as real X360 DVDs, in much the same way the original PS1 modchips worked. That really depends on how customised the 360's DVD drive is. It'd also have to simulate the responses the X360 expects for the second level copy protection (similar to the protection found on PC DVD games, which is currently uncopyable without cracking or using drive emulation software). Maybe a full blown SATA emulator connected to a PC? That won't allow you to run custom code though.

There's also the "try to crack the encryption key" approach. That'd get you complete access to the entire 360 - almost the same level of access that Microsoft have. The catch is that, with current technology, that might take until well beyond the end of the universe. It'll certainly last long enough for the X360 (and probably it's successor, assuming there will be one) to have been retired long before that happens. Unless someone comes up with some new algorithm that makes cracking the thing trivial, or finds some flaw in the encryption algorithm, of course. That's happened before, a number of times.

It's also possible that what we currently know is wrong, or that there's more to it, or that someone at Microsoft made some stupid mistake somewhere that will provide an entry. But from what we know right now, it seems pretty solid. I have no doubt that it will be cracked one day - the only variables are the time frame, how much hardware modification will be required, and how much access to the system it gets you.

A good (although very technical) description of the problems with the Xbox security system is available from the Xbox Linux guys here. There's also some information about the 360's security system available from here.

Anyway, enough of that for now.

Back on topic.

Welcome back, all those who skipped the above bit!

This year... I know there are some pretty decent emulation-related releases coming up. Assuming we ever get the damned thing finished, Genesis Plus / DC should be pretty cool.

If Scherzo and / or I manage to get our stuff together, you should see the release of DreamScript, and / or my unnamed Lua interpreter, which are both designed for building 2D games far more easily than before. I don't know exactly what DreamScript will be capable of, so I can't speak for that, but the Lua-based system I'm working on is already capable of some pretty neat stuff. You can build a fairly simple platform-style game inside half an hour if you know what you're doing. There are still loads of holes in it (like a complete and total lack of tools, such as sprite editors, level editors, and similar). If I can get that finished to a point where it's actually useful, and get enough people interested in it, that might prove somewhat interesting.

There are a couple of games in development, along with Heinrich Tillack's Iris-based 3D engine. That should be good too.

I know this much - the only way I'm quitting any time soon is if some other platform has officially supported way that I can write software for it. There are basically three possibilities. First, the PS3 ships with the ability to run Linux, and run user-created software. Second, the Revolution ships with the ability to run user-created software. Third, one (or more) of the consoles allows independent game developers, has a decent distribution channel available, doesn't require too much up-front investment, and doesn't require that I sell my soul to Satan, Steve Balmer, Ken Kutaragi, Comrade Mario, or anyone else.
drybed wrote:If u try the homebrew/emulator things on the xbox compare to the dreamcast, u would honestly wouldn't care about the dreamcast anymore, since xbox can emulate a lot of MAME games and n64 roms at full speed with sound, it can even run most PSX games at full speed with sound
Maybe for the "I want free stuff now!" crowd. You've got emulators, XBMC, and a couple of ports of ex-commercial games, but that's about it. There's sod all original software. Granted, most of the DC stuff is also emulators, and ports of various PC games, but at least there is a fair bit of original software available.
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Post by Cammyfan » Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:40 am

With the new and groundbreaking work that a few others and I are pioneering, lack of homebrew available for the Xbox will be a thing of the past. There is a new method of porting programs involving cutting down Linux to the bare minimum and then having Linux immediately boot to a program. This results in low overhead and will enable software that is closed source to be ported in pseudo fashion to the Xbox.
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Post by MetaFox » Mon Feb 20, 2006 2:59 am

Cammyfan wrote:With the new and groundbreaking work that a few others and I are pioneering... There is a new method of porting programs involving cutting down Linux to the bare minimum and then having Linux immediately boot to a program.
This is neither new, nor groundbreaking.

The Apple ][ emulator by Grendel, Apple][ Soul Captor, used this same technique on the Xbox years ago.
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Post by Cammyfan » Mon Feb 20, 2006 3:03 am

Yes but now it is soon to become mainstream, which is the only thing that actually matters.
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Post by Cid Highwind » Mon Feb 20, 2006 11:57 am

I think 2006 will be a good year for the DC, we already have 2 games released in Q1, and who knows what the rest of the year will bring?

As for homebrew, there are some very interesting projects and there are a lot of motivated and skilled devvers investing a lot of time in the DC, and I'm pretty sure that in the end it will give us a lot of nice homebrew programs or new emulators.

Personally I'd love to see a Genesis emulator and some progress with any of the Snes emulators.

Remember, a scene is what its members make of it, as long as we do not abandon the DC, the scene will stay alive forever ;)
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Post by DCDayDreamer » Mon Feb 20, 2006 3:16 pm

I can't speak for the 'scene' as a whole, but I can speak on behalf of the guys over at DC Evolution, this year is going to be BIG for us, meaning it's going to be BIG for the 'scene'. We've had a major update, there will be at least one full mirror of the site content, and within a year the site content as it is now will be dwarfed by what'll be available then.

There's shed loads of new stuff on the way, along with compilations of what's available within the 'scene' now of course, the X-Box may be more powerful, but there will be no X-Box site that'll match the DC scene for straight download and burn freebies.

No mod chip required!

You will need a box of CDR's though! :lol: .

The DC Scene will only die out when the last person leaving the building turns the lights out! :wink: .
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Post by curt_grymala » Mon Feb 20, 2006 3:37 pm

DCDayDreamer wrote:The DC Scene will only die out when the last person leaving the building turns the lights out! :wink: .
Exactly. People come, and people go. However, enough people stick around for long enough to pass the legacy on to new people. When I entered the scene, there were very few people left that had been here since the beginning. However, there were enough of them to pass on their knowledge to me, and I have been working to pass on all of my knowledge since then. Someday, when I leave the scene (although I don't see that happening any time soon, since I don't, nor do I intend to, own an Xbox, a GC or a PS2), there will still be enough people left to pass on their knowledge.

I see the community being in about the same place next year as it is today. There will be ebbs and flows, just like there are every year. We will see some fantastic releases come out. Just when everything looks like it's dying, a new, ground-breaking release will prove us all wrong.

We will see some of our favorite people drift away, never to be heard from again. We will see one or two of our favorite people come back after a long hiatus. We will see a great deal of new people entering the community.

We will see DreamCon become a monster of its own, bringing in new fans and new devvers.

We will see DC Evolution become one of the mega-sites in the community.

Unfortunately, we will probably see CV continue to flounder, although I really wish something could be done to help it out.

We will see DCEmu UK continue to barrell further and further into encapsulating every console on the face of the planet, and we will eventually see that site require its own dedicated server. We will see fewer and fewer DC fans regularly visiting that site, and more and more PSP (or whatever new console comes out) fans taking over.

We will see DCEmulation continue doing what it's been doing for the last two years. The forums will be as active as they've been for the last two years, but not really any moreso. The site will continue to look like it is a museum for days gone by.

We will see more commercial releases for the DC this year than we have seen in the last two years combined.

Finally, we will see me continue to do the same thing I've always done, as will MetaFox (or Doofus, or whatever he's going by now), BlackAura, DCDayDreamer, and a few of the other mainstays in this community.

Maybe we'll even see AOTB released.
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Post by Cammyfan » Mon Feb 20, 2006 3:42 pm

I cannot wait until AOTB is released. It will truly be something special.
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Post by Phantom » Mon Feb 20, 2006 3:59 pm

I believe the DC scene will stay alive for several more years, at least. My personal interest in Dreamcast development is pretty much gone, however.
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Post by DcSteve » Mon Feb 20, 2006 6:42 pm

Ive been with the scene for a long time. 06 should see development of new appz, games, emuz, and newly discovered programming techniques and ideas for dreamcast. I believe ports of other homebrew like AOTB and BOR will also bring many new fans to the table.
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Post by Wagh » Mon Feb 20, 2006 7:01 pm

still going. Like always.
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Post by JS Lemming » Mon Feb 20, 2006 7:15 pm

I've got something in the works that I think a lot of people will enjoy. I'll go ahead and say that it will focus mainly on two things... good multiplayer and the ability to create your own levels packs (via computer) for other people to download and play (very important to me... just the concept of being able to play levels you created on a computer on a console such as the DC...).

I think I'll actually finish something I started this time because I've already invested a lot of time and effort into a quite complex level editor... and plus, it's actually fun working on this one for long periods of time. Compared to all the other crap I've done where I get bored after one week.

Anywho, I plan to get this thing released way before "one year from now."
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Post by Salamander2 » Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:09 am

As for me, i?m still waiting the "japanese connection":

emulators:
-MSX2( a really serious one, much like BLUEMSX),
-X68000( for high-quality...),
-PC98(or PC88...any model is welcome),
-SHARP X-1
-FM TOWNS MARTY(this would be interesting)

a stepmania compatible simulator(SM is very very flexible),

and...
MORE AND MORE SHUMPS(homebrew or not.)
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Post by impetus » Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:12 am

I predict grizzly bears smashing bugs.
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Post by Imerion » Tue Feb 21, 2006 10:20 am

a stepmania compatible simulator(SM is very very flexible),
I like this one! Something to look into perhaps...
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