Showing posts with label Dreamarena. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dreamarena. Show all posts

Top 5 Dreamcast Online Games...That Never Actually Existed

The Dreamcast’s online capabilities out of the box were no doubt somewhat revolutionary for a console back in 1999. Sega couldn’t have played up the fact that a modem was included much more than they did; with a heavy push on web browsing and emailing when the Dreamcast first launched.

The promise was that online gaming would follow shortly and whilst we did get some outstanding online experiences eventually, I think looking back now, it is fair to say that Sega didn’t really live up to their pre-release “up to 6 billion players” hype. There were some great games designed around their online features, but there were just not enough.

The sad part is that the Dreamcast was ahead of its time when it came to online gaming on console, and I can’t help but think that with a few more quality online-focused releases earlier in the Dreamcast’s lifespan, it could have turned an also ran feature into THE reason to buy Sega’s wonderful grey box.

Walk with me as I uncover the five Dreamcast online sensations that never actually existed, but I think wish really should have...

Toy Racer Retrospective: Dreamcast Online Gaming

If you ask most Dreamcast fans what their favourite games are on the system, it’s not unusual to hear things like Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure, Phantasy Star Online, Crazy Taxi, and so forth. One answer you don’t hear very often is Toy Racer; a budget Toy Commander spin-off focusing primarily on online multiplayer racing.

For me, Toy Racer is one of my favourite and easily most played Dreamcast titles - not because it’s necessarily a fantastic game - but because it genuinely changed the way I enjoyed video games forever by fully opening my eyes to the world of online gaming.
Released in 2000, Toy Racer was developed by No Cliché and published by Sega themselves. It only ever saw the light of day on store shelves in Europe, as a planned US release never ultimately materialised. Toy Racer enjoyed chart topping success in the UK thanks mostly to its insanely budget price of just £5 (approx $6-7 today, but more like $3-4 back then) - the same price as a Dreamcast demo disc - and this was certainly a huge reason why I took a gamble back in the day.
Being a student at the time, new gaming purchases were a rare occurrence. But how could I resist at such a low price for a new racing game promising endless multiplayer fun!  Up until this point, I’d been intrigued by online gaming but had never really invested any significant time into it. I didn’t own a gaming PC and my free copy of Chu Chu Rocket (thanks to being an early sign-up to the Dreamarena) didn’t really have any lasting appeal for me beyond the initial novelty of playing against other real people via the power of the internet...

A Quick Look At Free-DC

As you're no doubt aware, the Dreamcast was served by a plethora of online services depending on the territory. In Europe we got the Dreamarena service; the US got SegaNet and in Japan Dreamcast owners were treated to the Dricas service. Dricas - to me at least - looks like it was by far the most feature rich of these three services, and offered such delights as video calling (through the Dreameye) and the ability to spam your friends with nonsense in the form of Dreamflyer. Dricas itself is a truly vast topic of discussion but due to the nature of the internet I fear much of the features and functionality that users enjoyed is lost to the mists of internet lore. No amount of internet archaeology or Wayback Machine plundering can bring back a service that just cannot be accessed anymore because the servers are now in landfill (probably).
Dreamarena went through a flamboyant midlife crisis.
Dreamarena was totally serviceable for web browsing; and SegaNet was fine for gaming (at 56k speeds) over in the US as far as I can ascertain...but Dricas was the real deal. Going from the scant details I can find trawling the internet, Dricas offered Japanese Dreamcast owners some really intriguing features, including something called Dream Map which was powered by Japanese mapping firm Zenrin and allowed Dreamcast owners to locate each other on a Google Maps-style thing and connect with people in their locality. It sounds a bit like the Near function incorporated into the Sony PS Vita...but y'know, actually used by people.
Garish enough for ya?!
There was also a thing called MailChum!, which - and I quote - "...provides you with an instant e-mail penpal, from a variety of characters ranging from beautiful girls to mythical animals." Erm. Anyway, the reason I'm banging on about Dricas and other long-dead internet services for the Dreamcast is that I wanted to discuss something I knew of previously...but just didn't think anyone else would be interested in reading about: Free-DC.

Dreamarena Authentication Cracked, Quake III Arena & Toy Racer To Be Playable Online Via Dial-Up

If you're a European Dreamcast owner and had a system back in the day, you'll no doubt be familiar with Dreamarena. For those who don't know, Dreamarena was the online portal that PAL Dreamcasts would connect to when you wanted to go online; and many games used the service to authenticate your details when you wanted to play multiplayer games via the 33k modem attached like a disgusting carbuncle to the European system. I have fond memories of Dreamarena as it was the first thing I saw whenever I wanted to go online and browse the internet looking for cheats and...erm...the latest news from the international stock markets. Yeah, stock markets. Um.
Was it the Bismarck? Couldn't help myself, sorry.
One thing I don't have fond memories of is that horrendous 'disconnected' sound that used to play as soon as the connection dropped out. That, and the ominous noise of my mother booming up the stairs to see if I was online without permission again. Anyway, that's all irrelevant - this post is about the awesome news that many people (including me) never thought they'd hear: Dreamarena authentication has been cracked and will allow you to once again hook your Dreamcast up to your phone line and, using nothing more than the bundled dial-up modem, play both Quake III Arena and Toy Racer with other people. This isn't an April Fools.

The Dreamcast Internet Guide

One of our unwritten rules here at the 'Yard is that no matter how small, insignificant or useless an item of Dreamcast-related paraphernalia should be, it will always be taken in and given a hot meal (usually gruel). Unless it takes the unholy form of another Dreamcast tissue box holder. Sorry - I did say I'd never mention that abomination ever again lest I have the taste slapped from my mouth by the hand of Zeus himself. So, with deity-administered happy slaps pending, allow me to introduce the newest addition to The Dreamcast Junkyard's outstanding library of (literal) literature: The Dreamcast Internet Guide.

Published by FKB Publishing in 1999, the Internet Guide does exactly what it says on the tin (cover) - it is a handy guide for any intrepid traveller who happens to have a desire to buy a ticket and take a ride on the information super-highway. Albeit, the information super-highway of the late 1990s...on a 33k dial-up modem.
As Sega was also marketing the Dreamcast as a cheap way of getting online back in those halcyon days of MySpace, it makes total sense that they would commission a publishing house to create a tome of this nature, and the book does indeed act like a sort of Yellow Pages for the internet n00b. The version featured in this post is actually a promotional copy and so large tracts of the full version's content is missing, but this is a good taster for what purchasers of the full retail copy could expect.

The first part of the book helpfully explains just what this new-fangled 'internet' thingy is all about, and then goes on to explain stuff like newsgroups, and how to save images to your VMU and turn them into a screen saver. Later sections go on to explain how the NSA are watching your every online move and could burst through your window at any moment with guns drawn. Of course, I jest. It's the FBI you should be worried about, not those amateurs at the NSA. Chortle.
Gonna eBay like it's 1999
I'm not totally clear on what the point of this promo edition of the guide is; maybe it was given away as a freebie with a magazine or some such. Either way, the screenshots offer a fascinating snapshot of how the internet used to look on either a Netscape Navigator-enabled Pentium P90, or a PAL Dreamcast rocking a fully BT-ed up version of Dreamarena. And for that, it holds a certain - if somewhat naive - charm. Well worth the 99p price I paid.

Edit: It's come to light that this promo edition was sent out to magazines for review purposes while the full version sold in shops for around £10.  The source of this information is pretty trustworthy - it comes from somebody involved in the production of the book!