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Showing posts with label This Is A Dreamcast Disc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label This Is A Dreamcast Disc. Show all posts

This Is A Dreamcast Disc: The Search For The Voice Of Dreamcast

This is a Dreamcast disc and is for use only on a Dreamcast unit. Playing this disc on a Hi-Fi or other audio equipment can cause serious damage to its speakers. Please stop this disc now.

If you've ever put a Dreamcast game into a device that isn't a Dreamcast, you will instantly recognise that foreboding little passage. It's a pretty simple warning, clearly stating that you risk damaging your audio player's speakers if you continue on that well-trodden path of wanton destruction. For the uninitiated, the message is an audio track recorded on Dreamcast GDs from all regions, and the only real difference is the language that the ominous caution is relayed in.


Naturally, being from the UK, and primarily playing PAL games back in the day, the message I hear in my mind is performed by a well spoken Englishwoman, clearly and concisely, as if she were a stern teacher speaking to her class. Indeed, if you are a listener to our podcast DreamPod, you'll also be familiar with the warning as it forms an integral part of the intro and outro jingles. The warning is also recorded in other European languages on PAL GD-ROM discs, but for the purposes of this article I want to focus on that haunting English language delivery.

It's almost a part of Dreamcast folklore these days, that cold, clipped and commanding voice booming out whenever a curious gamer feels the need to see what would happen if the disc is improperly used. "Please stop this disc now" she orders, and naturally, you do. Because she damn well said so. Indeed, there are plenty of Dreamcast games that have special bonus messages recorded on them, hidden in plain sight on the audio portion of the GD, and there's a list of the known games here at Sega Retro. But they aren't the focus of this particular caper. No, what I want to know is slightly more mundane, dull, esoteric and pointless than that. I want to know who that curt English lady is. What's the story behind that recording? When and where was it recorded? Who is she and did she do any other voice over work?
Before I continue, it's probably worth explaining a little bit about this specific warning track stored on Dreamcast game discs. See, Dreamcast games come on GD-ROMs. and GD-ROMs were intended to be Sega's unbreakable proprietary format for the Dreamcast that would prevent ne'er-do-wells from pirating Dreamcast software (and we all know how well that worked). It does this by partitioning the storage area of the GD-ROM into two areas - a high density and a low density area.
The low density area is the part of the disc closest to the centre and high density area is the area towards the edge, and these areas are separated by a ring embossed with Sega's trademark details. The high density area is where all the game data is stored. The low density area contains two tracks - Track 1 and Track 2. Track 1 contains the stuff you can see if you put a GD-ROM into a PC or a Mac - the Bibliogr.txt, Abstract.txt and Copyright.txt files. Track 2 contains the CDDA file which the Dreamcast converts into the scary audible warnings this whole article is concerned with.
The whole point of the warning is the notion that should the audio player try to play the game data stored on the high density area of the disc, the sound it's converted into would be horrendous and damage the speakers as well as your ear drums. A bit like playing a Nickelback album.

Now the science bit is out of the way, let's get back to Dreamcast lady. Or GD-ROM woman. Or scary warning Dreamcast lady. Whoever she is, those few seconds of her voice at the start of Track 2 on a PAL Dreamcast game are every bit a part of the Dreamcast story as the iconic swirl, the 'VMU with a dead battery' beep and the ADX, MPEG Sofdec, and Duck TrueMotion boot screens. And to be quite frank, the warning voice overs from the other regions just don't cut it when compared to the Iron Lady of the PAL territories.

I won't lie to you, dear reader - this will be a meandering and quite pointless escapade, but just as with the In Search of The Barber series from a few years ago, The Dreamcast Junkyard has always prided itself on documenting even the most trivial and niche aspects of the Dreamcast's evergreen existence. So if you're ready, buckle up, take the red pill and let's see how deep this rabbit hole goes...