Kickstarter: Not every retro game gets a Dreamcast stretch goal

Another day, another retro game Kickstarter. Refreshingly, today's effort is slightly more interesting affair in that it is targeting the Nintendo 64 audience for a change, aiming to publish a near two decade old cancelled game from the era.

40 Winks (aka Ruff and Tumble) did see the light of day on the original playstation, but the Nintendo 64 port was cancelled when its publisher GT Interactive went belly up, and when Infogrames picked over the carcass, the game ended up in the chaff pile instead of the wheat. Piko Interactive has recently picked up the rights to the game, and have already secured their modest US$20,000 goal within one day. They plan to develop, test and manufacture some brand new minty N64 cartridges for the game, so that it can be finally realised in physical form all these years later.
Some good ol' 90s era 3D platforming (apparently, never heard of it)
Hang on, isn't this the premiere destination for all things Dreamcast? Why are we suddenly talking about the Nintendo 64? Well, with every successful Kickstarter campaign that features a retro, or retro-inspired game, it's only natural that the masses start shouting "Dreamcast Stretch Goal! Dreamcast Stretch Goal!" And with good reason.

By all reports, the Dreamcast is easy to develop for, has a strong community backing, and there is no need to muck about with stone age PCBs. Just press it to CD - instant Dreamcast hit! It's worked for other recent successful Kickstarter campaigns, such as Xeno Crisis, Tanglewood and FX Unit Yuki (formerly Henshin Engine), so why not 40 Winks as well?
A Dreamcast 64? I knew google wouldn't let me down
For starters, those previously mentioned games were for vastly inferior 16-bit hardware. The Mega Drive and PC Engine already have very decent Dreamcast emulators (official ones even), and those developers could easily wrap their original 16-bit games in an emulation wrapper to "port" the game to Dreamcast. This can be a more than satisfactory solution, as this method was more or less used by Chui on behalf of JoshProd for the Neo Geo ports of Breakers and Ganryu. Job done, let's go grab a pint, Dreamcast stretch goals made easy.
and lets just wait for this whole thing to blow over
Not so fast. This idea would be a lot more difficult for a Nintendo 64 game. The technological gap between our two systems isn't as wide, and there are no decent N64 emulators for Dreamcast (unless 10fps is considered decent). A potentially cheeky solution would be to run the playstation version of the game in a Bleem! based emulator, but that's a surefire way to incite an angry mob with pitchforks to your door at 6am in the morning.
obligatory Simpsons reference? check.
The only way forward would be to do an honest to goodness port - re-compiling the game for the Dreamcast architecture. This task usually requires the "source code," the instructions required to make the game work, which can be edited and reconfigured to match the host hardware. Without the source code, you would need to reverse engineer the ROM of the final game, which requires an intimate understanding of the binary code contained within, and how the console understands and moves that binary code into the different microchips of the host hardware.
Oh oh
Piko Interactive doesn't have the source code, they only have the compiled ROM. They have said that they are continuing to tinker with the ROM they were provided, but it's one thing to add features or remove bugs in a ROM already compiled to run on a specific hardware platform, and a complete whole other thing to significantly re-engineer that ROM to run on an entirely different piece of hardware. Even Elon Musk would struggle to do that, and he's a super genius space alien from the future, sent back to save us from our own stupidity.
I really enjoyed that car floating in space thing
So the chances of a Dreamcast stretch goal in this particular instance are getting very slim. Furthermore, the official campaign makes no mention of the Dreamcast at all, and if you do a little digging on the page, you'll find these curious responses in the comments section.
So, um, is it real or fake?
The "leaked" image of the currently locked stretch goals does include a Dreamcast port, but only if the campaign exceeds a quarter of a million US dollaroonis!

It's difficult to say if Piko Interactive is really serious about that proposal. They seem to have a foot in both camps. To give them the benefit of the doubt, they look like a decent retro game publishing house, and they could be just innocently dreaming big, with pie-in-the-sky aspirational hopes for a phenomenally successful campaign. On the other hand, they really shouldn't be stirring up the easily stirred up Dreamcast camp. It's only going to lead to confusion and misery when Dreamcast fans attempt to support the project and then retract their pledges at the last minute when that unlikely stretch goal isn't met.
C'mon, c'mon! Execute!
Can't we just let the Nintendo 64 have its own Kickstarter moment? We don't really need to get involved this time, do we? I don't want to discourage Dreamcast indie game development or potential game ports to our beloved system, but we really should pick our battles. This is why we end up with Mega Drive ports instead of potentially amazing original Dreamcast content like In the Line of Fire or Xenocider meeting their funding goals. I wish Piko Interactive all the best with their Nintendo 64 game, but I'm saving my money for the next big Dreamcast thing (probably just some more JoshProd reprints but whatever).


P.S. Speaking of Kickstarter news, those who backed the Dreamcast port of the Mega Drive title Xeno Crisis can now fill in their BackerKit surveys and choose whether to receive the game with US, PAL or Japanese style artwork. I'm in danger of going off on another rant here. While choice is always a good thing, this one annoys me because: a) I'm indecisive about which style I like best, b) the mock-ups are usually unfinalised placeholders which doesn't help with making a decision, c) I have an entirely unhealthy obsessive compulsive need to own all versions so I can digitally scan them for historical posterity, which seriously hurts my bank account. 
Which one? I dunno? Why can't I have all 3?
JoshProd was onto a good thing when he made his NTSC releases with a reversible manual, so the game could have both a Japan and US style cover in the one package. With some origami style ingenuity, I'm pretty sure all 3 style covers could be included in the one jewel case. You could even go so far as to have both versions of the US style packaging too, one black and one white. One game, one purchase, 4 different style covers. You know it makes sense.


Unknown said...

Right now they have 'hidden' kickstarter goals which I think is silly. Imagine going to a potential investor..

Investor: 'well tell us your long term plans and how we can help fund this project'

Clown: Well I have plans but they are a s-e-c-r-e-t, show me the money and I'll show you the plans!

Investor: Go away

OneStar said...

Yea, hidden kickstarter stretch goals are pointless. The whole idea I thought was to try to get people to throw in a few extra bucks for some more perks to be unlocked.

I would like to see a DC version, but alas I dont see it happening. I kicked them a small amount of cash to support them though, n64 fans need some love too.

hoogafanter said...

This game doesn't look that great anyway. I'm not one of those who gets excited over a bad game being released on my favorite console just because it's my favorite console...

Let it stay on N64 lol

Tom Charnock said...

The ROM is freely available online and it can be played using an emulator or an Everdrive so I'm not entirely sure what the fuss is all about with this one. That said, nice write up Scott :)

hoogafanter said...

Collectors gonna collect, Tom lol

Tom Charnock said...

True, true.

Hiro said...

If it were the source code, I would agree to fund it for DC.

But not this way.

skyrunner14 said...

Just a heads up, the Kickstarter was updated, and the goal is no longer hidden. Not only that, but they've announced that if they reach the Dreamcast goal, they'll be making the port from the ground up starting with the PS1 version's source code, and will even add in the co-op mode from the N64 version!