Dreamcast Graveyard: Websites We Miss from the Post-Sega Era

While logging into Phantasy Star Online the other night, with my GD-ROM screeching away under the immense pressure of having to load a lobby with three other players, it struck me that my character is now 18 years old. That’s a bloody long lifespan in gaming terms, and in fact, means that this morsel of code stored on my VMU is now quite a bit older than I was when I first brought it into existence. 

Flicking through the guild cards (effectively virtual business cards) my character has amassed, and especially the early ones, I was presented with a snapshot of the Dreamcast scene of yesteryear. In the notes of these cards, aside from the frequent appeals for cannabis legalisation made by idealistic teenage stoners, the URLs of a multitude of Dreamcast fan websites cropped up - the majority of which are sadly now ceased or in a moth-eaten state.

The Grubensau of 18 years ago would be pleased to hear how his dream has now turned into a reality in some parts of the world.

So, instead of tackling one of the many unfinished D.I.Y. jobs that are strewn though my house, I’m scribbling this post and inviting you to celebrate the good times that these fallen virtual-comrades-in-arms gave us. A blog post that contains a list based on nostalgia might be a worn out trope, but that's what I'm serving up, so strap in. In no particular order...

Dreamcast-Scene.com (2002-2018)

The final Dreamcast-Scene website header image.

The project of Max Scharl and a close knit team of associates, Dreamcast-Scene was a bit of a powerhouse back in the day. As their initial moniker of ‘Dreamcast-Petition’ would suggest, their roots lie in directing campaigns for GD-ROM production to continue, and for Dreamcast ports of late-stage Naomi arcade games to be made. How influential these campaigns were is hard to gauge, but the demonstration of consumer demand certainly can’t have hurt, and the subsequent flow of shmup releases on the Dreamcast between 2003 and 2007 no doubt exceeded expectations. 

The DCS crew sticking up for the Dreamcast alongside now defunct import store, Lik-Sang.com
The DCS crew sticking up for the Dreamcast alongside now defunct import store, Lik-Sang.com, at a gaming conference in 2003. Image courtesy of jeuxvideo.com.

Rapidly expanding beyond their founding purpose, the website morphed into a place for Dreamcast news to be reported at a time when mainstream outlets had halted their coverage, and to act as a kind of life-raft for those who didn’t wish to give up on the console after Sega pulled the plug. With in-person events, contests, press releases, t-shirts, and the rest, Dreamcast-Scene was a flame that burned brightly; the website is still online, but has not been updated for five years. Founder Max Scharl would go on to establish indie publisher RedSpotGames that delivered several top quality indie games, including Wind and Water: Puzzle Battles and Sturmwind, which, alas, has also since bit the dust.

Dreamcast.OnlineConsoles.com (2003-2018ish)

This beautiful forum header image takes me back...

OnlineConsoles.com was the umbrella under which three distinct forums for the Dreamcast, PS2 and GameCube lived. Stirring into life in 2003, it served a much needed purpose in connecting those who wanted to play the Dreamcast online, giving guidance on how to connect, and reporting on the status of servers. Picking up where the much more barebones DreamCast Online Gaming (dcog.netfirms.com) left off, the forum was home to a plethora of kind and knowledgeable people from across the globe, without whom things would have been difficult for fresh-faced ignorant newbies like me. You needed to know how to get a free copy of DreamKey 3.0 or a new PSO serial number from Sega? Check. You wanted detailed assistance setting up a Japan-only account to play Sakura Taisen or Guru Guru Onsen online? Check. You had a hankering to get trounced by some unmerciful French lads on F355 one last time before its server was axed in 2006? Check, check, check.

Of course, it’s public knowledge that quite a few users had run-ins with the site’s owner LordNikon over the way he chose to administer the site. It would be tasteless to try and recount all the ‘he said she said’; suffice it to say that the forum was run like a tight ship, perhaps too tight for some, which was one of the factors motivating the establishment of Dreamcast-Talk.

Formally speaking OnlineConsoles is still online, which I personally appreciate as the thousands of posts it contains can be a rich archive for investigative purposes. However, as acknowledged by its administrator, it has been practically dead for several years now.

Blue Swirl (2003-2023)

The header image for the now defunct Blue Swirl website
Feast your eyes on all those VMU icons!

One of the latest Dreamcast websites to kick the bucket (the world is a cruel place), Blue Swirl (bswirl.kitsunet.org) was an Aladdin's cave of VMU files and saves. Founded by Speud, who also created the immensely useful VMU explorer tool, the site was a one stop shop for VMU downloads and served the community admirably during its twenty year stint. While VMU files can be found elsewhere, they are disparate and unorganised, which is why the loss of Blue Swirl is such a crying shame. Fingers crossed that its contents may yet reappear on archive.org or somewhere similar. For the time being, you can still survey the website as it once stood via the Wayback Machine.

DCArena.de (2004-2016)

The DCArena header image from 2005 showing the games that could still be played on official servers at the time. 

Sprechen sie Deutsch? No, me neither. However, the number of times DCArena would crop up in signatures and during online conversations made me wish I could. Its proponents repped the site hard, displaying the URL proudly at any opportunity. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if there were respectable professionals out there in Stuttgart or Munich with DCArena tattoos hiding underneath shirt sleeves. The website was clearly a valued hub for German-speakers who wished to play the Dreamcast online in the noughties, with a forum, online game schedule, player database and more. Given the sustained voluntary effort required to maintain such a website, and with behemoths like Reddit and Discord eating into the territory of independent online message boards, it is probably not too surprising that the site ceased in 2016. Nevertheless, we’ll remember DCArena fondly, and pour out a high-quality hefeweizen in their honour. A more detailed retrospective has kindly been provided by our friends of SEGA-DC.DE.

DreamcastGallery.com (2003-2011)

What's the "freakin' button", I hear you ask? DON'T PRESS THE FREAKIN' BUTTON!

Back when I was earning £4.50 an hour in my weekend job serving up lunches to kids that were practically my own age at the local private school, I would frequent this website frequently to daydream about acquiring a glitzy limited edition Maziora Dreamcast. The creation of Bert Hardy, Dreamcast Gallery featured high quality photos of practically every piece of Dreamcast hardware out there, including many a fancy non-retail item. Much of it was well out of my price range, and still is today, but the site was an excellent source for browsing all those elusive Japanese variants at the time. Look, but don't touch.

dcserv.org (2014-2018)

dcserv wasn't pretty to the eye, but it sure delivered the goods.

Founded and operated by petter3K, one of a handful of saviours who have made meaningful contributions to the revival of the online gameplay of Dreamcast games in the preceding two decades, dcserv.org acted as a central hub for all kinds of information pertaining to this task. Looking through the news posts it is heartening to see people excitedly commenting as progress was made on highly anticipated titles like Alien Front Online and Worms World Party. The repository of information gathered by petter3K's outreach to a huge number of old developers is particularly impressive. Fortunately, many of the functions that dcserv.org served, such as publicly hosting some of the acquired server hosting software, are now covered by DreamcastLive.net

Dreamcast.es (2007-2021)

Isn't this a sight to behold? Makes us look a bit scruffy over here at the Junkyard...

Another website that is in internet purgatory: technically still online, but effectively moribund with no updates for several years. As the domain suggests, Dreamcast.es is a site designed to cater to Spanish-speaking fans. News posts began in 2007 and ran all the way up to 2021, with the forum fairly active over this same period, though it is sadly now overrun by spam bots offering “high quality counterfeit bank notes” (if this isn't spam, and you can sort me out, then do drop me a line). The most noteworthy project stemming from our Iberian comrades was their magazine, which published seven issues between 2014 and 2017 and provided enthusiastic coverage of the indie and homebrew releases of the time.

Dream-Storming.com (2004-2007)

Goodies?! Why doesn't the Junkyard have goodies?

I'll level with you, I hadn't heard of this site until I decided to do some last minute checks for this article. I was also a little hesitant to plug the URL into the Wayback Machine, as I wasn't entirely sure what I would be greeted by (I don't want my dreams being stormed!). Therefore, it was a relief to see that this was in fact another Dreamcast fansite; a French one founded on the prospect of Dreamcast fans getting together and brainstorming some cool stuff. Like Dreamcast.es, they offered up a stylish in-house PDF magazine, along with an archive of promotional videos, Dreamcast literature, and a bunch of other bits and bobs. Check them out on the Wayback Machine if you'd like to get a hefty dose of magnifique mid-noughties website design.

Itsstillthinking.com (2012-2022)

Headline banner image from Itsstillthinking.com
Their minimalistic design sure is purdy.
A tidy little blog that offered up news, reviews and retrospectives, titled after the renowned Dreamcast marketing slogan. Founded by a talented collective of four writers, It's Still Thinking surfaced with a flurry of posts between 2012 and 2014, including several longer form pieces such as Gregory Osborne's introspective ode to PSO. Things have slowed considerably since, with the last post being from October 2022. Technically speaking Itsstillthinking.com could spring back to life yet, but even if it doesn’t, then the content on show is still worth a rummage through.

Dreamcast-Lives.tk (2003-2006)
One of the banners for the website's forum, Dreamcast Online.
NiktheGreek's homage to "the best thing to happen to hardcore gamers since the Neo Geo" screams early noughties web design, topped off by that .tk domain name (whatever happened to those, huh?). It offered what would become the standard fare of reviews (some of which covered then contemporary titles such as Border Down and Shikigami no Shiro II), news, and a discussion board, all now only accessible via the Wayback Machine. Fortunately though, under the guise of his proper grown-up name Nick Thorpe, NiktheGreek is now the features editor for Retro Gamer magazine and is still demonstrating his love for the little white box to this very day.

* * *

If you’ve made it this far, reading a list of defunct Dreamcast websites, then congratulations, you are truly down with the sickness. A bit of pointless esoterica is harmless now and then though, right?

In the near future I’ll compile a list of active Dreamcast websites, which may prove a little more useful. In the meantime, let us know in the comments if you have any fond memories of the websites highlighted above.

Oh, and if you'd like to help the Junkyard avoid the fate of our peers listed below, then do consider sending a few quid our way over at BuyMeACoffee.


Lewis Cox said...

Excellent piece, Lozz! Being a long time user of the internets, it’s such a shame to see websites you frequent come and go. One I remember from back when I started getting into the DC properly around 2010 was IsoZone. So much great homebrew stuff on there, although I like to forget the download speeds 😂

DCGX said...

Damn this is depressing. I didn't know Blue Swirl closed. And I was just wondering a couple of days ago if RedSpotGames was still around. Dreamcast Scene hurt when it closed.

Tom Charnock said...

Superb trip down memory lane, this. Nice work Lozz. There's another one I recall using every now and then called Dreamcast Altar (I think). Great to recall some of these sites, many of which I often visited back before the DCJY was even a thing!

Laurence Goodchild said...

Thanks for comments you lot. I've got a follow-up piece on the backburner as lots of further recommendations have been brought forth. DCGX, sorry to bum you out dude! Fortunately the Junkyard and a whole bunch of other great sites are still trucking. I will do a piece celebrating them shortly too.

DCGX said...

lol No worries! I look forward to your follow-up!