Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts

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

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.

You Can Still Use Dial-Up To Surf The Internet With A Dreamcast

In recent times much has been written about the Dreamcast's ability to get online with a Raspberry Pi and a few other easily available components. The DreamPi method has single handedly revitalised the online gaming scene on the Dreamcast, and sites like Dreamcast Live have made it their mission to breathe new life into titles such as Chu Chu Rocket and Worms World Party. But what if you don't have a DreamPi or you just don't play online games in general? What other things can you still do in 2017 with a Dreamcast when it comes to exploring its online abilities? can still browse the internet with a dial up connection if you so wish.
Line Di. See?
I already know what many people are going to say or write in the comments sections without actually looking at this article: what's the point? What's the point in using a dial up connection and a 33k or 56k modem to go online with a Dreamcast in 2017? It's slow, most of the sites won't load anymore and it's expensive. The point is that we can. And that's the only excuse I need, to be honest.
Don't act like you've never Googled yourself!
While it is true that all of these hypothetical points are valid, there's just something cool about once again firing up Dreamkey, and throwing information through those long redundant wires and circuits that reside inside the plucky little dial-up modem stuck to the side of the console. And the best bit is that you can do it right now, with very little effort if you so desire...

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!