The Pristine Dreamcast Backup & Preservation Initiative
With virtually every disc-based console video game system, there has been an relatively easy way to copy, burn, and play perfect backup copies of games on a system either via an emulator or the console itself. Most consoles use a variant of either a CD-ROM or a DVD-ROM disc. This makes it very easy for a computer to read and store the data and have the option of burning it back onto the same type of media.
This isn’t the case with the Sega Dreamcast. The Dreamcast uses a proprietary disc format known as a GD-ROM. It is very similar to a CD-ROM, but essentially packs the data tighter on the disc. The result is a disc that can hold twice as much as a standard CD and cannot be read by CD-ROM or even DVD-ROM drives.
As I mentioned a while back in my article, How Are Ripped Dreamcast Backups Inferior?, many of the ripped Dreamcast games are actually compressed by either downsampling (compressing to a lower quality level) audio and/or video or ripping them out altogether. Because of this, there are a number of game rips out there that are inferior to the original copies in a number of ways.
While these issues might not bother the casual gamer, it is a bit concerning to those interested in preserving games for the future. Our games and consoles aren’t going to last forever, so having pristine digital copies as a backup is important for preservation.
Until now, there hasn’t been much motivation to have perfect rips of Dreamcast games over 700MBs as there wasn’t a way to play them on an actual Dreamcast unless you have a GD-ROM burner and blank GD-ROM discs (both of which are uncommon and expensive).
However, with the progression of Dreamcast emulation on the PC (primarily the new nullDC emulator), there is now a way to play full-quality Dreamcast rips with easily-accessible hardware and software.
Now the difficult part is actually ripping the Dreamcast games over again. As I mentioned before, a computer cannot read Dreamcast discs (see Can Your Copy Dreamcast Games On Your PC), so only people with some specialized Dreamcast accesories can get this accomplished.
Luckly, there is a small community of enthusiasts, such as our own Mozgus (see his Dreamcast rip torrent here), that have taken the initiative to rip their games in their complete form and share them with the rest of us. Hopefully, as Dreamcast emulation becomes more accurate and commonplace, we will see this preservation effort increase. What will be the biggest challenge will be connecting those with the rarer and unappreciated import games with the means necessary to back them up again.
Obviously, this effort is a bit ahead of its time, but I wanted to bring this topic up to put it in every retro gamer’s mind and get it the attention it deserves. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or comments, I’d love to hear you share them in the section below.