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The lost Dreamcast port of Heroes of Might and Magic III has been released!

We recently covered the fundraiser that was set up to release the long lost Dreamcast port of Heroes of Might and Magic III for the Dreamcast. If you're not sure what that last sentence even means, here's an info dump: Heroes of Might and Magic III was a best-selling PC strategy game featuring a fantasy setting in which players could command armies across a vast campaign and was scheduled for a Dreamcast release back in the early 2000s before Sega ditched the Dreamcast, everything was cancelled and the entire house burnt down...or so you might think.

According to the developer it was actually because the game was too big for the Dreamcast system to handle:

"Heroes of Might and Magic III was not canceled because the Dreamcast was discontinued or anything, but because it failed due to the technical limitations. The game was technically too big for the Dreamcast, and since 3DO / NewWorldComputing and thus Ubisoft only wanted to see it published as a 1:1 conversion on the Dreamcast, eventually a point was reached at which the Dreamcast was basically just technically overwhelmed."

Read the full thread at Dreamcast Talk here. Regardless, Heroes of Might and Magic III was once categorised as one of the most famous 'lost' Dreamcast games - of which there are many - but now, thanks to the awesome Dreamcast community, it is now available to sample (in beta form, that is).
This is down to the work of Dreamcast collector and YouTuber FatalistDC and Dreamcast expert Jan Baumgartner. We salute them both, naturally. After a small fundraiser (which was achieved, again due to the Dreamcast community), Heroes of Might and Magic III has been dumped online after 20 years in the wilderness. And you, dear reader, can download it and play it either in your actual Dreamcast console, or using an emulator. Unfortunatley, I'm unable to run the game myself through an emulator as I use an Apple Mac, and lxdream seems to have been abandoned (it doesn't run on Catalina); while ReDream doesn't recognise the GDI or CDI version. Maybe you'll have better luck.

Links are as follows:
  • GDI dump (for use with GD-EMU / DreamShell etc.): download here
  • CDI version (for burning to a CD-R using DiscJuggler): download here
The Dreamcast Junkyard is but a messenger in this tale, and takes no kudos for this release. That all goes to FatalistDC, Jan and those who donated to the fundraiser on GoFundMe. Awesome work indeed, folks!
If I manage to get the game working, rest assured you'll get a post-mortem review very soon! Have you downloaded the game and played it? Have you got it to run in an emulator or on Dreamcast hardware? If so, what are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Retro Surge Games announces new Dreamcast title Summoning Signals

Remember the awesome Reaperi Cycle demo we looked at recently? If not, check it out here. Well, after we were wowed by the clever puzzling elements shown in that game we were quickly brought back down to Earth when it was revealed that Reaperi Cycle is actually on hiatus. But all is not lost - the reason for the hiatus is that developer 12db.soft is currently working on another Dreamcast exclusive puzzle game: Summoning Signals.
Summoning Signals is pencilled in for a Winter 2020 release on Dreamcast, and will be released by Retro Surge Games, the publishing arm of online retailer The Bit Station. From the press release:

Summoning Signals is an experimental narrative game. You play as Bertholet, an antique collector with a passion for old technology. As you are making a delivery across the galaxy, your ship starts behaving erratically and crash on an unknown planet. Get to know the planet's strange inhabitant, repair your ship and escape before the fabled Minotaur finds you.

Use your radio to call for help and communicate with the galaxy's inhabitant. Make sure to charge your battery and keep the signal alive! Bertholet will need to find spare parts on this new planet to repair his ship. Break apart old machines and dig for circuits in computers! Make use of your tools to get your ship running again.

The world’s inhabitants like to speak in riddle. Are you wise enough to understand them? Use your wits to find the clues and progress through the game. The game's unique world is made using photogrammetry, a technique used to create 3D models from pictures. The result are unlike anything you have seen on the Dreamcast.
- Summoning Signals press release
The visuals on show are looking quite fabulous even at this stage, and as described in the press release, it will be the first game on the Dreamcast that employs photogrammetry. I suppose the best current analogue to this visualisation technique would be something like Google Maps' ability to turn flat 2D satellite images into fully rendered 3D locations when you zoom down to ground level. Below is a Google Maps 3D mode shot of Manchester, the Greatest City on Earth™to show what I mean:
Imagine if this tech had been available to Shockwave Assault's devs back in the day; those flat pixellated landscapes would've looked so much less like you were flying over a bowl of vegetable soup while blasting alien invaders. Pretty sure my 3DO would have melted into a pile of black plastic though. I'm waffling, let's get back on track. Photogrammetry is certainly an interesting technique and will definitely give Summoning Signals a unique look on Dreamcast.
We'll bring more info on Summoning Signals as we get it, and you can follow 12db.softRetro Surge Games and The Bit Station on Twitter for updates as they happen.

What do you think? Are you intrigued by Summoning Signals? And did you play the super cool (and brain meltingly difficult!) Reaperi Cycle demo? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.

Hark! The lost Dreamcast port of Heroes of Might and Magic III could be released soon...

Heroes of Might and Magic III is another one of those PC ports us Dreamcast owners were promised back in the day, but which was then pulled from release lists and chucked into the big wheelie bin in the sky. As with any wheelie bin, this hypothetical trash receptacle was raided and the contents squirrelled away into a private collection. And there Heroes of Might and Magic III stayed for several years until Dreamcast collector FatalistDC purchased it for $600 back in 2005.

For those not in the know, Heroes of Might and Magic III is a turn based strategy game that features armies of the fantasy/Medieval persuasion, lots of knights of the realm and horses and stuff. And probably trumpets. And shields. Oh, and knaves. Probably.
It transpires that FatalistDC is now looking to release this long lost Dreamcast port of Heroes of Might and Magic III, and is about to launch a fundraiser in order to do so. This is most probably because he paid $600 for the disc in the first place and while this is likely to incense some people, we'd rather see a fundraiser than see the disc go back into another private collection.

Update: the fundraiser is now live on GoFundMe, with a target of €250.

All things considered, the Dreamcast port of Heroes of Might and Magic III is - not unlike Ron Burgundy - kind of a big deal, and is one of those mythical cancelled games that hitherto has never seen the light of day. Here's some Dreamcast gameplay FatalistDC uploaded to YouTube:


The game FatalistDC is looking to release is actually a beta version and as such isn't 100% complete and not totally free of the odd bug (random crashes and freezes), but for many Dreamcast fans the opportunity to get their hands on yet another 'lost' game is a pretty exciting prospect, regardless of how complete the build is.
The full story of this potential release can be read over at the Obscure Gamers forum, and you can find the fundraiser at GoFundMe. There's also talk of FatalistDC releasing a very early build of the similarly 'lost' Test Drive Cycles, which will apparently also be released following a fundraiser. More on that when it happens, though.

Thanks go to Jan Baumgartner, creator of the Compact Flash-modded Dreamcast, for this information.

Will you be backing this fundraiser? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

This Is A Dreamcast Disc: The Search For The Voice Of Dreamcast

This is a Dreamcast disc and is for use only on a Dreamcast unit. Playing this disc on a Hi-Fi or other audio equipment can cause serious damage to its speakers. Please stop this disc now.

If you've ever put a Dreamcast game into a device that isn't a Dreamcast, you will instantly recognise that foreboding little passage. It's a pretty simple warning, clearly stating that you risk damaging your audio player's speakers if you continue on that well-trodden path of wanton destruction. For the uninitiated, the message is an audio track recorded on Dreamcast GDs from all regions, and the only real difference is the language that the ominous caution is relayed in.


Naturally, being from the UK, and primarily playing PAL games back in the day, the message I hear in my mind is performed by a well spoken Englishwoman, clearly and concisely, as if she were a stern teacher speaking to her class. Indeed, if you are a listener to our podcast DreamPod, you'll also be familiar with the warning as it forms an integral part of the intro and outro jingles. The warning is also recorded in other European languages on PAL GD-ROM discs, but for the purposes of this article I want to focus on that haunting English language delivery.

It's almost a part of Dreamcast folklore these days, that cold, clipped and commanding voice booming out whenever a curious gamer feels the need to see what would happen if the disc is improperly used. "Please stop this disc now" she orders, and naturally, you do. Because she damn well said so. Indeed, there are plenty of Dreamcast games that have special bonus messages recorded on them, hidden in plain sight on the audio portion of the GD, and there's a list of the known games here at Sega Retro. But they aren't the focus of this particular caper. No, what I want to know is slightly more mundane, dull, esoteric and pointless than that. I want to know who that curt English lady is. What's the story behind that recording? When and where was it recorded? Who is she and did she do any other voice over work?
Before I continue, it's probably worth explaining a little bit about this specific warning track stored on Dreamcast game discs. See, Dreamcast games come on GD-ROMs. and GD-ROMs were intended to be Sega's unbreakable proprietary format for the Dreamcast that would prevent ne'er-do-wells from pirating Dreamcast software (and we all know how well that worked). It does this by partitioning the storage area of the GD-ROM into two areas - a high density and a low density area.
The low density area is the part of the disc closest to the centre and high density area is the area towards the edge, and these areas are separated by a ring embossed with Sega's trademark details. The high density area is where all the game data is stored. The low density area contains two tracks - Track 1 and Track 2. Track 1 contains the stuff you can see if you put a GD-ROM into a PC or a Mac - the Bibliogr.txt, Abstract.txt and Copyright.txt files. Track 2 contains the CDDA file which the Dreamcast converts into the scary audible warnings this whole article is concerned with.
The whole point of the warning is the notion that should the audio player try to play the game data stored on the high density area of the disc, the sound it's converted into would be horrendous and damage the speakers as well as your ear drums. A bit like playing a Nickelback album.

Now the science bit is out of the way, let's get back to Dreamcast lady. Or GD-ROM woman. Or scary warning Dreamcast lady. Whoever she is, those few seconds of her voice at the start of Track 2 on a PAL Dreamcast game are every bit a part of the Dreamcast story as the iconic swirl, the 'VMU with a dead battery' beep and the ADX, MPEG Sofdec, and Duck TrueMotion boot screens. And to be quite frank, the warning voice overs from the other regions just don't cut it when compared to the Iron Lady of the PAL territories.

I won't lie to you, dear reader - this will be a meandering and quite pointless escapade, but just as with the In Search of The Barber series from a few years ago, The Dreamcast Junkyard has always prided itself on documenting even the most trivial and niche aspects of the Dreamcast's evergreen existence. So if you're ready, buckle up, take the red pill and let's see how deep this rabbit hole goes...