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Dreamcast Copy Protection Cracked

By drwiii in News
Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 12:14:28 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

After less than a year since its launch in the US, Dreamcast's proprietary GDROM disc format has been cracked. A group by the name of Utopia released their Dreamcast CD Loader image over the weekend, enabling gamers to boot burned CDRs on the console. Although limited to games less than 700 MB, working ISO cracks of Soul Calibur (PAL), Dead or Alive 2, and Evolution are all waiting on FTP sites. Issues of piracy aside, this is a great example of what hardware hackers can do with enough time at their disposal.

Sega introduced the GDROM Gigabyte Disc format in 1998 for use in its then-new Dreamcast gaming console. At the time, DVD drives were way too expensive to justify loading one into a console, so Sega decided to use modified CD technology from Yamaha to achieve gigabyte capacities. A side-effect which helped Sega win developers was the proprietary nature of the GDROM system. Developers could release titles with certainty that it wouldn't be possible to simply burn off copies in a CD recorder, since only registered Dreamcast developers with special hardware could burn or even read GDs on a normal computer.

Flash forward two years. It is found that, with the right data, Dreamcast can be bootstrapped from the second session of a standard CDROM. Shortly following the release of the Dreamcast GameShark, an unlicensed CDROM product, Utopia's loader ISO was released. Upon initial inspection, it uses the same reset-and-load trick that the GameShark uses to get itself running. Combined with the news of the Dreamcast Debug Handler, this only opens the door further for third-party innovation on the console.

The real question is, will this third-party "innovation" make or break the Dreamcast? As a console manufacturer, Sega depends on the revenues generated by developer licensing and game sales to make up for losses generated by low-priced console sales. If what makes the Dreamcast special isn't so special anymore, will it be the final nail in its coffin?

One would hope that Sega would try to harness some of the creative talent on the Internet and create a developer community of its own, akin to what Sony did with the Net Yaroze. Well, that's what you'd hope. In reality, however, Sega has been rather hostile to unlicensed third-party code running on its consoles, as evidenced by its lawsuit against Accolade.

I'm sure that at this very moment there are a few designers at Sega sitting at their desks wondering, "where did we go wrong with GDROM?" Although history has shown that virtually no software copy protection scheme has gone unbroken, Dreamcast put up one hell of a good fight. Now that the secret is out, I hope Sega can see the opportunity presented to them in the distributed development community that is the Internet. I, for one, would gladly pay for a Sega-endorsed version of BSD for the Dreamcast.

If Sega can see through the unfortunate financial consequences of these third-party coders, they'd notice that they have the opportunity to create the next Commodore 64 with the Dreamcast. What made the C64 such a runaway success was that anybody could program it, and everybody had one. It allowed everyday people to learn about the exciting world of the microprocessor without draining their wallets. Hackers would spend nights on end writing machine language to push their 64 to, and even past the limit in strange new ways that Commodore never intended. I truly think that Sega can dominate the set-top box market by releasing an open console. In a world full of thousand-dollar PCs, the world needs another Commodore 64 to lighten things up.

But, at the present time, we've got the keys to the kingdom. I just hope we can use them responsibly.


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Related Links
o Dreamcast CD Loader
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o Commodore 64
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Dreamcast Copy Protection Cracked | 23 comments (21 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
GD-ROM (4.00 / 3) (#2)
by fluffy grue on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 11:31:01 AM EST

Strangely enough, I had figured that one would need to burn GD-ROMs in order to have it work on the Dreamcast; I figured that the drive wouldn't support CDs. Then again, it DOES play CD-audio. I guess that also explains how the Gameshark works without being on a GD-ROM (it looks like it's on a black-dye but otherwise-standard CD).

Now I wish I'd just waited a week longer to get my Gameshark, since the only reason I got it was to allow me to play imports without soldering on a modchip. :) (It sounds like this trick completely circumvents the playback protection, and I coulda gotten it for free with any old CD-R burned at work...) Oh well, I could always sell it on eBay. :)

FWIW, FreeBSD has already been ported to the CPU in the Dreamcast, and the Dreamcast already has a keyboard and will have a mouse soon. Sega's also confirmed that they're working on an Ethernet adaptor for it. So, like, do the math. ;) Hopefully Sega will be smart about this (like you said). It's a pity they got rid of the zip drive, but I think the memory cards would be an adequate storage device for people to store, say, source code, user binaries, documents, and the like.

So, anyone want to port w3m to the thing? (Much better HTML renderer to start with than Netscape, IMO. :) I can already imagine using the controller as a sort of ubermouse alongside a keyboard. Damn, now I have a really good reason to get a keyboard for my Dreamcast, too. :)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Re: GD-ROM (none / 0) (#9)
by Satoriz on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 03:02:31 PM EST

When the DC first came out, I remember hearing that the GD-Roms were mastered with standard yamaha burners. Does anyone else remember hearing this or am I just imagining stuff. Cause if so, I wonder why no one's written stuff to write the larger discs.

[ Parent ]
Re: GD-ROM (none / 0) (#12)
by fluffy grue on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 05:39:32 PM EST

I heard that GD-ROMs were *readable* by Yamaha CD-ROM drives, but GD-ROMs aren't burned, they're pressed, like all mass-produced optical media (like CDs and DVDs), and it would have taken GD-Rs (which, incidentally, there was a picture of on that GD-ROM format page, with 'sega confidential' printed on the front) to burn anything with the proper GD-ROM density. However, it'd seem that that's not necessary. :)

Another thing I had always just assumed about the Dreamcast is it wouldn't have been able to read CD-Rs, for the same reason that older DVD players (like mine) can't, namely that it only has a single UV laser which can't grok the dyes in CD-Rs. Looks like I was definitely mistaken, and shouldn't have assumed such things.

IN any case, a standard CD-R certainly wouldn't be able to support GD-ROM burning, since a CD-R's 'grooves' are at CD density, not GD density. I can also see where even after this games can be made uncopiable to CD-Rs by just making it 1GB big, or to GD-Rs by making the ISO9660 session larger than the GD-R's (presumed) default ISO9660 session would be. If you ever look at the underside of a GD-ROM, it's pretty obvious that there's two sessions, one a standard CD density - and by putting it into your PC you can see that it's ISO9660 - with the rest at GD-ROM density, and the size of the ISO9660 bit is different for each game. Also, the fact that (as this wonderful writeup said) it's just the second session, regardless of the density, which gets read at bootup is pretty interesting as well. :)

Okay, time to stop rambling and trying to rationalize and sound like anything more than a slightly-clued-in idiot. ;)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: GD-ROM (none / 0) (#14)
by Cryptnotic on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 09:37:34 PM EST

I think you're thinking of NetBSD, not FreeBSD. AFAIK, FreeBSD has only been ported to x86 and Alpha.

[ Parent ]
Good work .. (1.00 / 1) (#4)
by Eloquence on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 12:02:38 PM EST

Now how about a crack for the Rocket E-Book?
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
Re: Good work .. (none / 0) (#5)
by crayz on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 12:31:29 PM EST

Man that would be amazing. I've already got a few e-texts of good books, and it'd be awesome to have a whole library of them. I really don't mind reading on the screen all that much.

[ Parent ]
Re: Good work .. (none / 0) (#10)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 03:29:28 PM EST

Check #bookwarez on EFNet...plenty of texts there, and we're always looking for more

[ Parent ]
Where is the C64 now? (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by conner_bw on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 12:34:36 PM EST

The world need another c64? I agree but wouldn't a company like sega look at the history of c64 and view it as a 'bad' thing?

Re: Where is the C64 now? (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by Greener on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 12:46:02 PM EST

I still set up my C64 occationally. It's the best game platform I've ever used. I've had problems getting emulators working and even if I could it wouldn't quite be the same.

[ Parent ]
Hard Drive Loading (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by Neuromancer on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 02:23:14 PM EST

What would be even cooler, is a hardware interface to the hard drive of a computer. Perhaps you could make separate partitions or just files for the games, or images or something. That would REALLY blow the door open for development/hacking and so forth... Too bad I don't have a Dreamcast. Heck, maybe will do with my old NES and Atari though ;-)

Re: Hard Drive Loading (none / 0) (#11)
by nastard on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 04:46:02 PM EST

Well, if Sega is releasing an ethernet card for the DC, I'm sure it's just a matter of time before someone figures out how to save to remote drives. Can't be THAT hard. The NES, however, would probably be a bit trickier.

[ Parent ]
NES (none / 0) (#23)
by Neuromancer on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 08:21:08 AM EST

Actually, the Japanese version had a floppy drive that plugged into that expansion slot that wasn't used in the US.

[ Parent ]
Why this isn't going to facilitate massive piracy: (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by Cryptnotic on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 09:04:43 PM EST

GD-ROM's are a 1GB format. CD-R's are 650-700MB, and aren't going to get any bigger without making the discs physically bigger. Some GD-ROM games have been copyable because they didn't use all the space available on the discs. Example: Soul Calibur uses about 660MB. It's written on a GD-ROM disc. That data can be read from the disc and recorded to a 700MB CDR. The Dreamcast won't usually load a CD-R like this. However, if these guys' boot loader is used, then it will.

The obvious solution: make the games use all 1GB of the space on the disc. If you game doesn't use all 1GB, then add redundant data. Make your code check that all the redundant data is actually present on the disc.

Sure, there will be some warez d00dz who will remove the redundant data and crack your code to disable the check. However, there won't be the mass piracy that occurs with Playstation games.

(2.00 / 1) (#15)
by Zer0 on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 05:48:54 AM EST

Games also have to be cracked individualy before they work (wasnt mentioned in the article so i thought i might mention it). :)

More info can be found here.

Quote from page:

"UTP STAFF Okay. What we have done is finally cracked the Dreamcast. You all will be able to enjoy all the different Dreamcast games we release. first of all get Dreamcast.CDLoader.V1.1-UTOPiA if u don't know where don't ask us, it has been released your 0-week site should get it soon :p READ the nfo included, info says burn it with discjugler !! when u burned that iso, u have to boot yer Dreamcast with it to be able to play copies the games we release can be burned with cdrwin if u want -You can not make your own copies, because we have to crack the games -The games DO fit on normal cd's -UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE WILL we send u files or games, if u don't find it yet .. wait :p -This has all been tested and reliably works, this is NO hoax, it WORKS. We will release all the Dreamcast games as we crack them. Please do not ask us to crack certain games. We will get to it when we get to it. Thank you. UTP STAFF"

Dreamcast debug handler (2.00 / 1) (#16)
by Zer0 on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 06:35:52 AM EST

I forgot to include this link in my previous post. Information and screenshots of the dreamcast debug handler here.

[ Parent ]
Issues of piracy aside....? (2.00 / 1) (#17)
by Carnage4Life on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 10:23:08 AM EST

God I hate this so much. What is all this crap about piracy being innovation? Sega sells consoles at a loss and plans to make the shortfall on licensing CDs to developers only for the CD protection scheme to be cracked. This is not something that should be praised. It harms myself and other users of Sega systems for a variety of reasons (except warez d00ds).

1.) Sega will either have to jack up the price of their consoles or cut back funding on Dreamcast. Remember Sega has already contemplated leaving the console market due to low margins, acts like this will not entice them to stay.

2.) Piracy makes good game companies shut down even if they do have a good product.

3.) If there is going to be piracy rampant on the system this will keep some developers away from the platform which means that some killer games may not get made or ported.

To see a technology site praising piracy is so completely abhorent and disgusting I doubt that I'll be returning to this l337 h4x0r site anytime soon.

Re: Issues of piracy aside....? (1.00 / 1) (#20)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 04:00:22 PM EST

This "piracy" is best translated by Sega execs as information.

I have no doubt that you will respond to this emotionally, so taking the time right now to respond to your letter is likely a waste.

[ Parent ]
Re: Issues of piracy aside....? (1.00 / 1) (#21)
by Cryptnotic on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 11:07:54 PM EST

I don't think that Looking Glass studios closed down due to piracy. There is in fact no mention of piracy in that article AT ALL. Looking Glass studios probably closed down due to poor management. I.e., they probably spent too more money in operating costs and in making the games than they received in revenues.

Anyway, just because a game is pirated by 100 people doesn't mean that 100 people would have bought the game if they hadn't been able to pirate it. Maybe 10 would have bought it. The other 90 just want to play for free. And of the 100 people who pirate a game, probably half of those same 10 will go out and buy the game if they really like it.

I'm not condoning piracy. I firmly believe that going through the legitimate channels to buy a game or a CD or a movie will get you a higher quailty product. And that justifies the expense. However, getting past the shit products to get to the good ones is getting harder and harder when all the game magazines are completely corrupted by their advertisers. It's ironic that the same technology that facilitates piracy (the internet, bbs's, etc) is the same technology that provides unbiased reviewing of consumer entertainment products.

[ Parent ]

Big friggin deal (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 01:02:43 PM EST

I personally respect the hackers who created the Free Dreamcast Dev suite not the crackers who broke the GDROM copyprotection.

Having said that... there is some legal use for this if of course you can't code elegantly and your 2d scroller takes up a Gig. DeCSS is clearly more useful legally than this crack.

is this all that great? (1.00 / 1) (#19)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Jun 28, 2000 at 02:15:46 PM EST

the dreamcast has been out for 2 years. its lifespan is pretty much on the downside(you could say it has been for a long time). isn't this an accomplishment for sega that it took so long for this to happen? playstation bootlegging happened pretty soon after it was released.

So what ? (1.00 / 1) (#22)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 06:33:00 AM EST

This is not newsworthy, and is certainly not worth any discussion here. Redundant gaming machines are 2 a penny.

Dreamcast Copy Protection Cracked | 23 comments (21 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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