Today is some kind of special day for me : among many other things, this is the anniversary of Jean-Luc Le Ténia, the best French singer in the world ! Jean-Luc would had be 45 years old today but unfortunately is no longer here to celebrate today with us.
Today is also the 4th anniversary of Gamer's Cartridge initial public release. For more than three years, this project was the occasion to meet many people, to loose hair on many bug and -I hope- to have contributed in a better Saturn community
Jean-Luc Le Ténia is no longer here, Gamer's Cartridge production was frozen (not to say discontinued) last year because of enough free time lacking to assemble new cartridges. And Saturn gamers are now either using Action Replay (reliable expansion RAM but no backup memory) or "all-in-one" cartridge (backup memory but sometimes buggy expansion RAM) to play their favorite games.
To makes things a little brighter, the best I can do is to develop a new Pseudo Saturn Kai fitting more nowadays needs and situation :
Built-in support with latest ODEs
In-game save data access for Satiator ODE
Save data storage on cartridge flash ROM
As a consequence of my free time being limited from this year, I thought in stopping non-priority projects to focus on other (not necessarily Saturn) ones. But on the other side, if I don't improve Pseudo Saturn Kai, I'm not sure that somebody else would do it for me !
So if the Saturn community shows enough interest, I would like to contribute to a newer Pseudo Saturn Kai
And to measure if the community is interested or not, I'm making Pseudo Saturn Kai development crowdfunding-based.
Principle is simple : the more interest (support) from the community, the more free time I allocate on Pseudo Saturn Kai. And the less interest from community, the more free time I spend on other projects.
Written by cafealpha 8 comments
As usual I'm not very on time for sending my best wishes but I hope that everyone spent a nice Christmas and are appreciating winter vacations To add even more fun to theses vacations, I'm happy to announce that latest flavor of Pseudo Saturn Kai is -finally- publicly available !
To be frank, there are no new major feature for Pseudo Saturn Kai in this release : the most important news is not hidden in Pseudo Saturn Kai itself, but in Save Data Manager, with a new edition of Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager, featuring 11 new opus !
Regarding this new edition of Dezaemon 2 Save Game Manager, I really want to thank each respective contributor for their passionate work in shmup creation : - mk2, designer of DAIOH Huricane Special - WANG, designer of Houkou Tiger
Also featuring screenshots gallery of DAIOH Hurricane
I also would like to give a special thanks to Dezaemon DB (wiki) for all his support around floppy disk emulation in Gamer's Cartridge and motivating me in developing a new blend of Save Game Manager for Dezaemon 2, which then turned into Save Game Manager 3 (released on last Winter) and Save Game Manager 4, freshly releasing right now. Unfortunately I didn't received any news from Dezaemon DB for more than two years, but I continue to believe he will be back in action in Dezaemon community someday.
Regarding Pseudo Saturn Kai itself, majority of changes in this release concern fixes in automatic game loader and cheat codes list. So if previous version of Pseudo Saturn Kai installed on your cartridge are working fine with your favorite games library, then ... theses games will continue to play fine with latest version.
All theses improvements were directed by privateye, who really deserve warm thanks for this huge work !!
It's a big task to get a project working more or less correctly as it was in previous releases of Pseudo Saturn Kai. But it's an even bigger task when trying to fix all the little details around that project Without privateye, Pseudo Saturn Kai certainly wouldn't had its edges polished so well
And, Gamer's Cartridge users may appreciate that a problem sometimes happening when retrieving Saturn date and time has been fixed in this release.
This bug was introduced in previous (6.314) version because I didn't checked enough side effects of modification done at that time to add support for wireless pads.
Concretely speaking, this fixes the file time stamp of save data files as well as folder naming (which is based on Saturn date) when dumping save(s) to SD card.
Except that, Gamer's Cartridge support is equivalent to previous version, so if you don't want to brick your Gamer's Cartridge (risk is super low, but I can't assert it to be zero), then continuing using previous version may be a wise choice. After all, rather than upgrading to latest firmware, the most important is to play your favorite games
Additionally, I'm also sometimes asked what kind of cartridge is required to play Dezaemon 2 games. The answer is both simple but also a bit complex too, so maybe it would be a good idea to write about it in this blog
The simple answer is "DZ2SGM3 is compatible with any cartridge providing in-game backup memory feature". → DZ2SGM3 was developed simply as an application using standard backup API detailed by SEGA and should work with any cartridge supported by this standard backup API.
Even if I'm the main developer and manufacturer of Gamer's Cartridge, that's not a reason to restrict my software projects to this specific kind cartridge I kept support for a wide range of backup devices for the simple reason that it's cool to make more and more people appreciating games on Saturn
The complex answer comes from the two following points : - There are many kind of cartridges, and not all provide in-game backup memory - As DZ2SGM3 is not an official application, it is required for the Saturn to be able to boot applications from CD-R
Rather than writing boring theory about the internals of each kind of cartridge (is there somebody other than me interested in that ?), let's simply detail the compatibility status and the pro and cons and also the additional requirements needed to get DZ2SGM working for each kind of cartridge
① Official Memory Cartridge That's the official memory cartridge, sold by Sega during the good old times Saturn was still a commercial product. Because of that, production of theses cartridges stopped around 20 years ago and consequently cartridges available today may damage easily. The only advantage is that it's an official product, made with genuine electronic parts ... but it's now a bit too late if you want any official support for repairing a broken cartridge It's not possible to install Pseudo Saturn Kai on such kind of cartridge, so additional mod (installation of modchip or ODE) is required to use DZ2SGM.
Pro : Official product from Sega. Cons : Contents may suddenly corrupt : don't use to store important save data. Additional requirement : modchip or ODE
② Action Replay The super famous Action Replay : main advantage is from being relatively cheap, widely available, and to provide 1MB/4MB expansion memory.
Disadvantage is that technology used in theses cartridge didn't changed significantly for the last 20 years and that in the meanwhile production of this technology (flash ROM and RAM) stopped. For that reason, quality may not be at the meet even if cartridge is sold as "brand new".
In-game backup memory feature is not available for such kind of cartridge : even if advertised as featuring "4M memory card", this is available only from cartridge :games aren't able to access it. Additionally, this "4M memory card" is a bit ambiguous because it refers to the best effort when save data buffer (internally stored in cartridge 4M expansion memory) can be compressed into lower half of cartridge flash ROM = 128 KB ... if data can't be compressed then an error message will be displayed. It would had been more honest to advertise that as "Guaranteed 128KB, maximum 4MB memory card not accessible from game", but this is a bit less sexy in term of advertising
Because of the lack of in-game memory feature, it is required to use a separate backup device (such as Saturn floppy disk drive) to use DZ2SGM.
Pro : Widely available, relatively cheap, and provides 1MB/4MB expansion memory. Cons : In-game backup memory feature not supported. Additional requirement : Saturn floppy disk drive.
③ Gameshark, and other clones That's Action Replay without 1MB/4MB expansion memory and usually worse overall quality : if you have one still working, it is worth trying to use it but if that's not the case then considering for (at least) an Action Replay is usually wise decision.
Similarly to Action Replay, because of the lack of in-game memory feature it is required to use a separate backup device (such as Saturn floppy disk drive) to use DZ2SGM.
Pro : Worth using if you found a spare cartridge still in working condition. Cons : No 1MB/4MB expansion memory. Poor hardware quality. Additional requirement : Saturn floppy disk drive.
④ Memory Card Plus That's more or less a Gameshark with a specific firmware installed. Main advantage of this firmware is that it allows games to directly access cartridge backup memory.
Similarly to Gameshark, hardware quality is questionable, which makes backup memory to be easily corrupted. Additionally, backup memory capacity is around 200 KB so that it usually can't handle more than three Dezaemon 2 user games. Installation of Pseudo Saturn Kai will remove backup memory feature, so additional mod (installation of modchip or ODE) is required to use DZ2SGM.
The little side story about this cartridge is that its unique way of handling backup memory gave me the idea and motivation to develop Gamer's Cartridge Back in end of 2012, I thought only mapped memory chip could be accessed as in-game backup memory. But seeing that this cartridge was featuring only boot ROM (I tried to dump backup memory ROM, but didn't found anything there and instead there was a small firmware and save data stored in boot ROM area) made me realizing that anything could actually be shown as backup memory device to a game, which was the start point of Gamer's Cartridge project.
Pro : This gave me the idea to develop Gamer's Cartridge ! Cons : Access is not so reliable : whole contents can be wiped after writing one save there. Installing Pseudo Saturn Kai removes the memory cartridge feature. Additional requirement : modchip or ODE.
Major disadvantage is that similarly to Action Replay and official memory cartridge, technology used didn't changed significantly for the last 20 years and that in the meanwhile production of this technology (flash ROM and RAM) stopped. For that reason, quality may not be at the meet even if cartridge is sold as "brand new".
Additionally, similarly to official memory cartridge there is only limited save data integrity check available (file system is rudimentary, and only the first bytes of the ROM are check to verify if a backup memory cartridge is available or not), which is a design flaw from SEGA : it works fine in ideal conditions of cartridge correctly inserted and ROM not corrupted, but will ask to format the cartridge in all other cases. That's acceptable if you just want to copy save data (there are plenty available in Pseudo Saturn Kai Save Data Manager, so have fun with them !) and play a little to a game, but not recommended if you want to play a RPG and won't stand to suddenly lose all your progression in the game.
Pro : Both official Memory and Action Replay in a same cartridge. Cons : Contents may suddenly corrupt : don't use to store important save data. Additional requirement : none.
⑥ Gamer's Cartridge Well, that's my own cartridge project, so my opinion may be a bit biased, but it's recommended if you don't want your saves to be corrupted : as SD card file system is used, it is significantly stronger than the file system used on official memory cartridge. It is also handy if you want to backup or share your save data because exporting saves to PC can be done by simply copying files from SD card.
Additionally, it features virtual floppy disk device support, which doubles the number of Dezaemon 2 user games simultaneously available : it is limited to 5 games with other backup memory cartridges (and count may be lower because of ROM size limitation) while a total of 10 games (5 on cartridge device, and 5 other ones on virtual floppy disk) can be handled by Gamer's Cartridge.
Moreover, DZ2SGM can be accessed directly from SD card so that there's no need to swap between DZ2SGM CD-R and Dezaemon 2 CD-ROM. Major lack of this cartridge is the non-availability of expansion RAM. Also, as SD card access is not super fast, save data access is a bit slower than on other cartridges.
Pro : No risk of losing saves because of data corruption. Data can be easily backed up to PC or shared with other gamers. Cons : Limited availability. 1MB/4MB expansion memory not available. Additional requirement : none, and DZ2SGM can be run from SD card.
DISCLAIMER : play Dezaemon 2 (and other Saturn games) at your own risks ! I'm not responsible of any eventual damages caused to your save data, you Saturn, your cartridge, your dog or anything else !
SMALL REQUEST : I don't have the budget nor the free time to test DZ2SGM3 on all combinations and variations of cartridge and ODEs. So it would be very appreciated to receive feedback about if it works on your own Saturn setup
Feedback can be left by simply adding a comment at the bottom of this article : it is free, doesn't requires any kind of registration, and takes something like 5 minutes to be written ♪ In advance, thank you for the feedbacks
That's a bit late for Easter, but did someone noticed the one hidden in Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314 ?
Easter Egg in Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314
This can be triggered by a key combo from Pseudo Saturn Kai main menu and ODE image selection menu. It's available in both lite and full versions of the firmware and can also be triggered from RmenuKai too.
Keys sequence was changed after taking the video above, so don't try to guess it from there ! Unsurprisingly, keys sequence is more complex in Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314
Why such kind of technical demo in Pseudo Saturn Kai ? Simply because it was fun to implement
Additionally, this is also a small wink to the good old times I was daily using a TI-89 calculator : this Easter egg was ported from Voxel2Space demo by Kai Kostack.
I still keep using my TI-89, but way less more than when I was a student. It's actually quite handy to do quick math or binary to (hexa)decimal conversions at work : the more Windows evolves, the more horrible its builtin calculator becomes (seriously, my eyes are about to bleed each time I see the Windows 10 calculator ), so it's good to have a physical calculator at reach of hands
Let's play a game with this Easter egg : the first one to find the correct keys combo will be rewarded by a Gamer's Cartridge from my own collection !
I was recently asked about the instructions to compile Pseudo Saturn Kai from sources archive provided with Pseudo Saturn Kai binaries, so let's write a short blog article to make things clear to everyone.
The simple answer is : Pseudo Saturn Kai can't be compiled with theses sources.
End of simple answer. Those who want more details can refer to the few lines below.
Technically, some sources files are missing from source archive, preventing someone from opening sources archive, making some few changes, and installing it on a cartridge.
Why ? For the simple reason nobody won't help me if ...
Some dude takes sources, change logo and credits page and then release this as "Pseudo Saturn Kai Gold Edition made by some dude".
Some dude adds a major new feature to Pseudo Saturn Kai, and start doing business by making this firmware (and the cartridges compatible with it) available for paying. This dude will eventually forget to release any source, but who care about that except me and few other nerds ...
Maybe I would be told this I'm overthinking, but case 1 and 2 above already exist. Theses are detailed in another blog entry, and deserve a look if your time allows it.
Concretely speaking, there is one model using Pseudo Saturn sources (whose sources are fully available, and with build instructions too), hacked to don't show any startup menu (why not would you say, it's more convenient for the consumer), and consequently not showing any credits nor any mention it was made from Pseudo Saturn ... why not would you say, but that's a massive NO for me, and the Pseudo Saturn team will certainly not appreciate that too.
Some other projects are using fancy case and label instead of Action Replay ones (I'm OK with that, especially because Action Replay design guidelines are completely outdated), but don't mention anything about Pseudo Saturn Kai on their covers and labels until booting the cartridge and discovering ... a vanilla version of Pseudo Saturn Kai without any mention of the fancy product name advertised on the cartridge box and label I'm sorry for the consumers who were expecting firmware design to be unified with cartridge box and label : this wasn't done because some few files are missing in Pseudo Saturn Kai sources !
This case of "some people are making money from rebranded homebrew projects" is also detailed on Segaxtreme forums, which deserves a look if your time allows it.
The thread there is not by me, nor about Pseudo Saturn Kai, so I hope how real the fact is that there are people making money from other people's hard work ... that's maybe normal in any work place (), but that's a dick move in such a small Saturn homebrew community.
To sum up the bulky paragraph above, the way of sharing Pseudo Saturn Kai source code is not how it works in free software world.
In an ideal world, everybody share source code, and everybody other make contributions, and the project is getting brighter by brighter. So if the story stops here, I'm the bad one, but in real world, people deface the credits page, rebrand the projects under fancy names and start making cash and show business from projects they didn't contributed on ... Maybe it's selfish from me, but I don't want that and consequently removed few files from Pseudo Saturn Kai source code.
And if I may add an additional paragraph about Pseudo Saturn Kai, I would like to say it is quite open in the magic world of application to play games on Saturn real hardware : modchips are completely closed-sources, ODE too. In Pseudo Saturn Kai, the sources of the exploit to play CD-Rs, as well as the ones to redirect memory devices to SD card are available. The source code of the implementation of cheat codes engine is available too. I coded it from scratch because sources of Action Replay firmware are not open source ...
To add a bit of melodramatic taste to this blog article, I would like to say I spent the last four years developing Pseudo Saturn Kai.
I didn't asked for any payment about it. The next day after I received a $5 donation for it, I changed my donation page from "send money here if you want" to "send me kind message or a comment on my blog".
While four years seems a long period for just two or three features, you probably may want to look at Pseudo Saturn Kai credits page, and all the people who contributed to it. Theses two or three feature are not the kind of thing someone develop, test, re-test, fix, and keep testing more and more during a weekend. From my own experience, normal people don't continue development so far and just give up development after a couple of weeks. And, I won't appreciate this credits page to be defaced. Not for my nick to be removed (I'm listed there only one time), but for the respect to all the contributors being lost.
And while I developed custom cartridge using Pseudo Saturn Kai, I kept support for Action Replay cartridge and their clones. That may sound obvious, but technically speaking it isn't, mostly because Action Replay have limited ROM size. At some point of Pseudo Saturn Kai development, I hesitated to put cheat codes feature in a ROM portion larger than current one, but unavailable from Action Replay cartridges. This would had made more cheat codes available, but the feature itself usable on Gamer's Cartridge only. I choose to keep a reasonable size for cheat codes list, so that it would be available for everyone on Action Replay cartridges
Words count for this initially expected "short" article is about to reach four digits soon (it's 827 words now), and as I doubt a lot of people will read it entirely, it's probably time to conclude :
No full sources for Pseudo Saturn Kai
If you want to make you own Saturn cartridge firmware, then feel free to use Pseudo Saturn sources as a starting point.
Feel free to technically refer to Pseudo Saturn Kai source code, and to merge whatever you find interesting there to your project.
Still begging for Pseudo Saturn Kai full source code ? No problem, I shall make it available to everyone ... if there's not a physical disaster on my dev laptop or its SSD in the meanwhile.
At that time, this will definitely be the end of Pseudo Saturn Kai development. For you, and for me too.