Showing posts with label Dreamcast VMU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dreamcast VMU. Show all posts

Photos and Video Footage of the VM2 Revealed!

In 2022, Dreamcast fans the world over were buzzing at the announcement of a “next-gen” Visual Memory Unit - the VM2. The news even reached the likes of Yahoo! Japan. Created by Chris Diaoglou, who brought us the very impressive DreamConn Bluetooth controller back in 2016, the VM2 blasted past its goal on IndieGoGo. Congratulations, Chris! 

Including a backlit LCD screen with higher resolution, along with Micro-SD storage internal storage of 128KB (200 blocks), and a rechargeable high-capacity internal battery with USB-C charging; the VM2 looks to be the VMU to end all VMUs. No more having to swap VMUs around when you run out of space, or running through CR2032 batteries every two seconds. Woo!

Anyhow, our friend Derek Pascarella shared some photos on our Discord (as well as his Twitter), courtesy of Chris, of the first test production run of the VM2, and it's looking damn good. Note the larger screen that includes icons for the battery and the SD card, along with a power button (instead of a sleep button).

If you still want to get your hands on a VM2, all hope is not lost despite the campaign having ended. The project has moved to "InDemand", meaning you can still order yourself one. Just head on over to the campaign page and select the VM2 perk you want! It will also be available on Chris’ website DreamMods at some point.

Update: Since putting this article up, Chris has returned to wow us yet again, this time with video footage of the early production units in action. Donning surgical gloves, Chris shows off the many bells and whistles of the VM2. He starts off showing the VM2's many settings options, before diving into some games, all presented on the beautiful backlit display. Some of the options that stood out to me the most included the ability to turn the backlight on and off, view the files contained on the SD card, increase VMU game speed, and change the system's region/language. One of the most notable options that grabbed my attention is one that allows you to turn off the VMUs sound (including toggling the famous startup beep on/off!), which is interesting as it wasn't really made clear if the VM2 was going to include a speaker. While I'm sure many wouldn't miss the VMU's death knell of drained CR2032 batteries, games like Skies of Arcadia use the speaker as a sonar, so good to know one is included on the VM2. Check the footage out below!


Anyway, thanks again to Derek and Chris for the photos and videos. Have you ordered or are planning to order a VM2? Let us know in the comments below!

Let's take a look at Hermes: Limited Edition - the first indie-branded VMU!

If you have dabbled in anything Sega Dreamcast in the last so many years, you'll most likely be aware that the modern indie game scene for the console is bustling, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Despite the abundance of new indie software releases for the Dreamcast, there was one physical indie release in particular that seemed to peak my interest recently for an entirely different reason unrelated to the game itself, that being Hermes: Limited Edition, and its included Hermes-branded Visual Memory Unit (VMU). 

Hermes is a fun indie platformer developed by Retroguru with a glorious chiptune soundtrack where you play as a chef chasing after a chicken. Mike has already reviewed it on the blog a long while back, and you can check out his review here. In this post, though, I wanted to focus on that special VMU, because it is pretty much the first of its kind: the first indie-branded Dreamcast VMU. The only thing that would have come remotely close to something like this was the VMU lamp for Alice Dreams Tournament, which seems to have have been a Kickstarter-exclusive backer reward, as Adam Koralik and James from Shenmue Dojo both told us they own one.

Released by Video Games New York (aka VGNYSoft), Dreamcast diehards across the globe were understandably eager to get their hands on one of these cool VMUs. Unfortunately, dwellers of the United Kingdom like myself couldn't order from Video Games New York's website as they don't ship here. Luckily, Wave Game studios put a very small batch (ten, I think) of the limited edition up for sale on their website, so I snatched up one of those. Thanks, dudes!

The transparent green VMU is printed with the Hermes logo, as well as the chicken you play as, and the chef's meat cleaver. It actually comes packaged in an official American VMU box, which is stored inside the larger Hermes: Limited Edition box. It is pretty obvious that the VMUs used for this release are leftover brand new official VMU stock, but the printing on the VMU is such high-quality, you'd be mistaken for thinking it could have actually been an official release from Sega back in the day. Also, VGNY made a great choice in using the transparent green VMU!

Because I was so excited to receive my Hermes VMU, I actually mustered up some courage and decided to record a short clip showcasing the VMU, so check that out below! Apologies if I say “erm” a lot, I was ad-libbing!

If you want to get yourself one of these VMUs, there is currently stock available on VGNYSoft's website and Canadian site Video Games Plus. As for whether or not either will ship to your country, I'm not quite sure. Either way, let's hope this is the first of many indie-themed Dreamcast peripheral releases to come!

Next-gen Dreamcast VMU 'VM2' campaign is now live on Indiegogo

A few months ago we brought you the news that Dreamconn creator Chris Daioglou had turned his attention to the humble Dreamcast VMU. In a scene not too dissimilar to that bit in that documentary where Steve Rogers is enrolled in the Super Soldier program, Chris has embarked on a full-fledged project to completely upgrade and overhaul Sega's diminutive little handheld-cum-memory card and turn it into a device befitting the 21st century.

Titled VM2, the newly redesigned Dreamcast memory card will boast such features as:

  • A new monochrome backlit LCD screen
  • Higher screen resolution
  • Micro-SD storage
  • Internal storage of 128KB (200 blocks)
  • Embedded High-capacity battery
  • USB-C connection
  • Original audio support
  • DreamEye support
  • The ability to stream LCD game images to a PC
Originally, VM2 looked like it would come in a slightly altered, chunkier bespoke form factor. However, with a little bit of internal jiggery-pokery it appears that Chris has managed to shoehorn all the internal gubbins into an original VMU case. Lovely stuff.
Source: VM2 Indiegogo campaign

So far, so good then. A new iteration of the VMU to sit alongside your GDEMU-enabled, DCHDMI-capable, Noctua fan-bequeathed Dreamcast console. But what of the price of such a device? Chris initially hinted that the price would come in around the £100 mark...and that's exactly where the newly launched Indiegogo campaign has landed.

It's a hefty sum for a VMU, but for the additional features and sheer novelty value, I'm pretty sure many Dreamcast nuts around the globe will have little issue with the asking price. The predicted delivery date is August 2023 and the flexible goal is currently set at a smidge over £78,000; but time will tell if VM2 hits these targets.

We took a few moments to ask Chris some questions about the VM2 Project, and he kindly supplied us with the answers!

DCJY: Hi Chris - I suppose the burning question is...why choose to update the VMU?

Chris Diaoglou: As a modder, I've been working with VMUs for the past 6 years offering services like the backlit LCD and rechargeable battery. Although the modded VMUs have been very popular across the community, lately I realised that the Dreamcast scene needed something more.

Getting original VMUs, new-in-box, is growing more and more expensive, and finding VMUs in specific colours is getting harder. As a developer, and being a perfectionist, I also wanted something 'cleaner' than simply modifying VMU shells and adding electronics. Finally, as a huge Dreamcast fan, I was aware of the original VMU design flaws, and always wished for them to somehow be corrected.

For all of the above reasons, the possibility of re-making the VMU started to take shape in my mind over the last couple of years. As an outcome, last February I decided to get on with this project and went straight through to designing a new PCB, external shell, and firmware. The result of this was the VM2.

DCJY: What was the reasoning behind starting a crowdfunding campaign?

Chris Diaoglou: Originally, I thought the VM2 was going to be a fairly simple project, that would interest only a few around the globe. When the project info released and the first prototype was shown, it turned out that actually a lot of Dreamcast users were very interested in the project.

Also, the cost for reproducing specific parts - like the external shell (with accurate molding, not cheap 3D printing), or the VMU special connector - was huge and required to be manufactured in large quantities. So, it turned out that for making the VM2 a reality, a crowdfunding campaign was actually a necessity.
Update (17/09/22): After listening to community feedback, Chris is now upgrading the VM2 to use USB-C instead of the initial micro-USB port. He has updated the packing list accordingly, as there is now no need for an additional micro-USB to USB-C adapter to ship with units. He has also updated the campaign page to list the updated specs and design.
***

So there we go. Thanks to Chris for answering our questions and also for heeding the requests of the community to include a USB Type-C adapter. Will you be investing in this next generation reimagining of the humble Dreamcast VMU? Let us know in the comments.

Next-gen Dreamcast VMU 'VM2' coming soon from DreamMods (updated)

We've seen various mods for the humble Dreamcast VMU over the years, with modders the world over going to great lengths to add extra functionality, or repurpose the thing altogether. From the implementation of illuminated screens, to full-on Raspberry Pi-powered gaming systems crammed inside the unit's diminutive shell; it seems people from across the Dreamcast community have found myriad inventive ways to milk even more out of the little memory card that could. 

It looks like the VMU is about to embark on its greatest transformative journey yet though, as the VM2 nears completion. Coming from Chris Diaoglou, the same genius who brought us the DreamConn Bluetooth controller back in 2016 (and, incidentally the rechargeable backlit VMU linked above), VM2 is a complete technological overhaul for the VMU, and adds such awesome new features as:

  • New monochrome LCD with backlight: Which can also be turned off to save battery
  • Higher screen resolution: Switchable between original (48x32), or scaled (96x64)
  • MicroSD slot: Gives the VM2 almost unlimited capacity
  • 4x VMU memory capacity: If a microSD is not present, a combination of the Sega 4x Memory and a standard VMU will be accessible. The user will be able to cycle through 4 128Kb pages, while keeping the LCD functionality that the official 4x Memory lacked
  • Embedded high-capacity LiPo battery: This will replace the batteries and provide longer operation time (sadly this will eliminate the beeeeeeep 🙃)
  • External charging: VM2 will charge either from its micro-USB connector, or from the controller while playing
  • PC connectivity: VM2 will be able to connect to a PC via micro-USB
  • Memory management: Connecting to a PC and using a custom GUI, the user will be able to backup/restore/manage both the main (4x) and the additional (mini-game) storage

VM2 will benefit from a new injection molded shell

We reached out to Chris for comment on this highly intriguing project and asked just what the hell was going on in his Dreamcast-powered laboratory:

"The VM2 aims at being a total reproduction of the original - the connector, outer shell, electronics, everything will be manufactured from scratch. For this reason, and depending on the community interest, I plan to start a campaign so I can raise the funds to put it into production.

"This means no cheap 3D printing or anything - everything will be made with quality injection molds, etc. and this is the main reason that a campaign is needed.

"Also, instead of the initial plan of 4x VMUs (main) plus 50+ minigame (additional) memory, I implemented the integration of a microSD card slot. This will allow for literally infinite space and virtual VMUs / minigames.

"The user will be able to create/copy/restore VMU files, either at the root of the SD, or organized in folders (i.e. per game). In addition, in case that a user doesn't want to use a microSD card, the VM2 will also support a default 1x(or 3x)VMU internal memory; and the selection of the current VMU file/memory to use, will be selected from the VM2 user menu."

- Chris Diaoglou, DreamMods

The VM2 has been in development for some time now, and you can find details on the various stages of its creation over at the DreamMods website (where you can also register your interest). 

There's no concrete information on when the VM2 will be available for purchase as yet, but as Chris says, a crowdfunding campaign may well be on the horizon in the near future. The projected price will be around the $100 mark - which may sound steep - but when adjusted for inflation the original VMU would have cost you $75 in 2022 money. Do the math. On that note an Atari Jaguar would have cost you less than £40 in 1999. Swings and roundabouts, innit.

Protoype showing the new hi-res, backlit screen

Judging from the exceptional quality of Chris's previous Dreamcast-related creations in the DreamConn and the DreamPort PSU (which adds full Bluetooth support to the Dreamcast without the need for an adapter), the the VM2 is a very exciting prospect indeed. That, and the small matter that VM2 looks set to offer a riposte to many of the main gripes aimed at the original VMU - namely the piss-poor battery life and the limited space on the card. The added bonus of a backlit, higher resolution screen make the VM2 an even more enticing project and one we'll be keeping a very close eye on.

Watch this space...and while you're doing that go to DreamMods and register your interest!

Oh, and thanks to Derek Pascarella for alerting my colleague Lewis to this. Who then alerted me and made me get my arse in gear and reach out to Chris.


Update

Since we posted this article, Chris has released some images of the redesigned prototype. Sexy, eh?!

We'll be sure to fill you in on whether this is a worthy purchase as soon as we can!