<-- -!>

Featured Article

Dreamcast: Year Two hits Kickstarter!

Dreamcast: Year One was successfully funded and launched late last year, and those who managed to grab a copy were treated to a beautifully illustrated, fantastically detailed trip down memory lane back to the first year of the Dreamcast's life; albeit with a distinctly PAL flavour. You can read our review of Dreamcast: Year One here.

After the success of Dreamcast: Year One, it was pretty much written in the stars that Year Two would follow on its coattails...and now the Kickstarter for this very tome is live!


It's probably worth mentioning before I go any further, that author and campaign manager Andrew Dickinson has since joined the podcast and editorial team of The Dreamcast Junkyard, and many of the other contributors to this blog are involved in writing content for Dreamcast: Year Two...and that includes yours truly. With that out of the way, what can you expect from Dreamcast: Year Two?
Well, more of the same to be honest...which is no bad thing! A bigger, more content-rich book full of interviews and retrospectives on the games from the Dreamcast's second year on the market; and the Kickstarter campaign features a range a tiers that offer some pretty special backer perks. But what of the main book? I'm glad you asked:
  • Main book has over 50% more pages than Year One
  • Double the number of retrospectives than Year One
  • Brand new artwork from graphic designer Dan Tiller
  • Interviews with the likes of Corey Marshall, John Linneman and Steven Kent (and more)
  • Retrospectives written by members of Dreamcast Years and The Dreamcast Junkyard
But that's not all! Oh no - there's also the opportunity to fund a one-off Dreamcast Years magazine, and a special edition of the Dreamcast Years podcast that will be exclusively available on Minidisc. Talk about going fully authentic on the era-specific formats... (you'll probably need to get a Minidisc player if you're up for that perk, though).
Dreamcast: Year Two is totally unofficial and written by fans of the console and prominent members of the burgeoning online community. The project is initially looking for £12,000 in funding and at the time of writing (a mere hour after the campaign went live) it stands at a staggering £5,000 already.

So there you have it. Dreamcast: Year Two is all set to take the momentum from the ace Dreamcast: Year One and run with it. Want to get involved with this Kickstarter? Of course you do! Check out the campaign page here.
Finally - a disclaimer: none of the contributors from The Dreamcast Junkyard will gain financially from this campaign. In fact, most (if not all) of us who are contributing written content are also backers. In other words - none of us are being paid, we're contributing because we love the Dreamcast, plain and simple!

Will you be backing Dreamcast: Year Two? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter. You can also follow Andrew Dickinson on Twitter here. Oh, and here's the Kickstarter link again, just in case you missed it!

Exploring EMAP's Lost Official Dreamcast Magazine: An Interview With Dave Kelsall

Magazines are an important part of gaming history.

They were the only way that regular people could absorb all the news from the industry and get opinions on games before they spent their hard-earned cash on them. Like much physical media though, they have become increasingly niche as the internet and digital technologies saturate the market. News can be fed right to your phone as it happens, while user and influencer reviews are taken on board just as much, if not more, than the professionally written ones of established journalists.
For many of us who revere retro (and especially Dreamcast, of course), physical media and good-old-fashioned games journalism feels sorely missed. Personally, I can find a place for the old and the new in my life, but when flicking through old magazines I never fail to stumble upon that one thing that made them special - magic.

Okay, I don’t mean magic in the make-believe sense (and most definitely not in the Dynamo sense either), but rather that feeling of holding in your hands the key to a world that is beyond the norm. They were a guide to all of those computers, consoles and games that you had no idea were coming. They held updates on things you were eagerly awaiting, and reviews of games you’d seen in the shop but had no idea if it was worth paying £39.99 for.
When I wrote my first book, Dreamcast: Year One, I took this very specific love of gaming magazines and injected that into the pages - both in the style and also the content. Specifically, I interviewed three people involved in that scene from the time of the Dreamcast; Caspar Field (editor of DC-UK), Ed Lomas (reviews & deputy editor of Official Dreamcast Magazine) and also David Kelsall (graphic designer at Official Saturn Magazine).
The latter of those interviews was more than just a chat about the good old days though, as David had a never-before-seen pitch from the magazine publisher EMAP for the Official Dreamcast Magazine. I therefore decided to share an edited down version of his interview, along with a few of the images he shared with me, in the book itself.

I had always intended to share a longer version of the interview with the images I didn’t use, and as we approach the launch of my campaign to fund Dreamcast: Year Two I figured this was the best time to do that. So here it is!


Andrew Dickinson: David, could you please tell us a little bit about how you got into games journalism?

Dave Kelsall: It’s quite a long story! I’ve always been obsessed with games magazines (and games of course). I used to buy everything available, even books with type-in BASIC listings. I wouldn’t necessarily type them, but I liked to read the code and look at the artwork.

I was on an art trip to London with my Sixth form college and I spotted Julian Rignal (renowned games journalist and editor) sitting in the buffet clutching a camera. He was off to do one of his seaside reports on the latest arcade machines, so I went over to say hi. I didn’t live that far from Ludlow (where Newsfield, the publishers of Crash and Zzap! 64, were based) and so he invited me down to take a look around the offices whenever we were both free.

A few weeks later I went down for a visit and he very kindly showed me around, took me to the pub, and we of course played games. Fast forward a few years and I had just finished my HND in Graphic Design and I was on the train accompanying my girlfriend who was going for an interview in London for a job in the fashion industry. I happened to be reading a copy of Mean Machines and there was an advert in the News section looking for a designer. As I remember it, I turned up to the EMAP offices and enquired about the job. I think I spoke to Julian beforehand and mentioned who I was, and I was promptly shown upstairs and told to design something. They must have liked what I did as I was offered the job the next day and that was the start of a career in magazines, and initially games journalism. I absolutely loved my time there and I only left the games division when EMAP sold it to Dennis. I moved on to other titles within EMAP.

Simulant - a new game engine for Dreamcast

The name Luke Benstead is, by now, synonymous with the world of online Dreamcast gaming. That's because Luke is the man who created the DreamPi and along with DreamPipe and Dreamcast Live, kickstarted the online gaming revolution we now find ourselves in the midst of. Not content with having this impressive credit on his resume, Luke has now launched his next venture - Simulant. Simulant is a general purpose game engine designed to work with Android, Windows, Mac OS, Linux...and Dreamcast.
As Luke explained on a recent episode of our podcast - see DreamPod episode 80 here - Simulant's development actually precedes DreamPi by several years, with work first starting on it back in 2011. As many reading this will no doubt be aware, a game engine is the foundation of a game and is the toolkit developers use to create the interactive experiences we all know and love. In this case, Luke likens Simulant to something like Unity, however unlike Unity, Simulant doesn't have a graphical user interface and instead relies on the developer to use pure code.
Luke explains in his own words:

Simulant is a general-purpose game engine for multiple platforms: Windows, Linux, OSX, and of course Dreamcast. General-purpose means it can be used to build any style of game. It's similar in concept to Unity but it doesn't come with a pretty user interface - games have to be developed purely in code.

I've been developing Simulant for almost 9 years, I started it well before I got involved in the Dreamcast scene and for the majority of that time I've been the only developer. 

It's really very powerful, and is currently being used to build (at least) two Dreamcast games: Swirling Blades (my chopper game) and another 3D game called Dark Space Pioneer.

It's also spawned a whole community and a number of related projects, including a full OpenGL library called GLdc, which is being used by Summoning Signals, and the nuQuake Quake port to accelerate performance. An OpenAL audio library has also been built, as well as a software profiler for the Dreamcast called dcprof.

Even after all this time, Simulant is still in Alpha state. I'm always on the look out for skilled developers who want to help! I particularly could use help with the Android and OSX versions!

If you want to see what Simulant can do, check out Swirling Blades on itch - it's a fairly basic 3D helicopter shooter, but as a proof of concept that can be burnt to a disc and played on a Dreamcast hardware, it is impressive.
So now you know the basics, why not see if Simulant is something you'd like to try out for yourself? The Simulant project is open source, and released under the LGPL license, and the code can be found at the repository on GitLab here: https://gitlab.com/simulant/simulant

There's also a dedicated website with more information, screenshots and documentation at: https://simulant.dev.
It seems there's already a really active scene springing up around Simulant, with some well known Dreamcast indie developers testing the waters; and the Simulant Discord server has become a popular home for all kinds of Dreamcast developers. There are nearly 200 lurkers there, and about 20 or so active people, and everyone shares their work and helps out where they can. If you want to have a go at writing a game with Simulant, or if you just want to dip into Dreamcast development, then the Simulant Discord server should be your first port of call (after downloading the code, of course!).
So there you have it. A very brief introduction to Simulant. It's worth nothing that to use Simulant you'll need some level of C or C++ development skill , or at least some good experience in another language (and enthusiasm to learn), but hopefully this will bring a whole new wave of indie developers to the Dreamcast scene.

Be sure to follow Luke on Twitter for updates on Simulant. What do you think? Will you be taking your first steps into Dreamcast development with Simulant? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.