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.


racketboy says:

Sure, there are SOME games that are “perfect” rips, but there are many that aren’t.

I recommend reading this older article of mine for more info:

Karl says:

In theory, burning the gaps of the pit lengths smaller on a cd can fit more data on it, also a modification of the error correction codes can also have an effect as well. If there was new software being developed that used a method like gigarec but allowed multisession burning, we could have the perfect copy to allow it to be played on a dreamcast like it should be.

BlackMoon says:

Well…probably the 95% of rips today are perfect, the biggest Dreamcast games are RPGs like Skies Of Arcadia and Grandia 2…you can burn 800MB files on a 700MB 80 Min CD-r…so most Dreamcast games are about from 200MB to around 800 and something MB…most games that require more than one disc today are already perfect rips for the exception of Shenmue 1 and 2, and I think D2…because Skies Of Arcadia and Grandia 2 have been fixed and don’t require to be ripped from anything anymore…

BlackMoon says:

My point is that most people posting here seem to stuck in 2001 or 2002, all of my Dreamcast rips are 100% perfect rips and work flawlessly. The very few games (around 4 or 5) that are not 100% perfect I already own the original copies and don’t need to rip them. End of story…

Sega Dreamscape says:

I can see that nobody has posted a comment here for quite a while but i’ve only just come across it so ill try my luck. Does anyone know of a fully compiled list of dreamcast backups anywhere (to be played on the dreamcast) that would let one know which games are exact backups and which have the alterations mentioned to fit to disc. It seems some people are under the impression that almost all backups are 100% with only a few containing media downsampled (or even removed). Ive tried Google but the answers found had more contradictions than there worth.

I have a Sega Saturn (my all time favourite console) and am doing pretty good on getting the full collection of original hardware and software (it’s costing me a fortune off ebay). Id like to do the same with the dreamcast at a later date but as im keeping all my available funds for the Saturn backups are the only choice to play the dreamcast games im itching to play for now.

Ibcrootbeer says:

I’ve been wondering about that myself. I love the dreamcast and it was great to come across this effort. No matter what you say, the dreamcast died prematurely and deserves to have its games preserved to the best of our abilities.
Saturn games are hard to come by? THat’s quite insane. Go on Demonoid and look for sega saturn.
I’ve just bought a dreamcast. You say people should buy games off ebay? I agree here, however, living in Canada poses a problem. Paying for shipping out of the US is more than its worth, if its one game that costs 5 bucks, I pay 30 for shipping. And since I’m not making any money, its not worth my while until I have enough to actually buy legit copies of games. Also, sega doesn’t make any money off of this, so what’s the big deal anyway.
I’ll be burning them until I can start buying them, but plan to buy them eventually, anyway.
This here sites quite cool, and I’ll probably end up joining, lots of interesting articles, convorsations etc. Hell, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve only been here for an hour. 🙂

James L says:

okay, so can a dc read dual layer cds? So I can have the same quality as normal dc games?

Tom says:

I don’t think there is such a thing as dual-layer CDs. DVDs, yeah, but CDs are only single layer.

avionlux says:

I completely support what you guys are doing, and I think it will help a lot of people in the future, even companies like Sega who may no longer after a time have the backups and must turn to freelancers to recover these games in their original formats.

I do want to comment; however, on how some people view the use of dreamcast CD-R’s as piracy. I personally do not like emulation or backups. This is a personal opinion as I have absolutely no qualms with whatever other people choose to do. I have found that no emulation software can reproduce the feel of playing on the real thing, this includes ports and emulation on the computer.

With the dreamcast, though, there is an issue I feel that has not been addressed. When the GD-ROM discs were first available new, the care and attention put into them was up to the owner. Now that one has to buy dreamcast games used, even the new ones, the potential of finding a pristine copy is very slim.

The problem with GD-ROM discs, as opposed to other media, is that one scratch, even a surface scratch, can stop a game from working, and resurfacing of these types of discs is hit and miss. On top of that, resurfacing a disc isn’t exactly what I would call a nice item to have in your collection, especially if you paid a lot of money for it.

To give an example, I have PSX games and have had Sega CD games, with numerous scratches on them, but would still play all the way through. While many of the dreamcast games I have bought would not play all the way through.

This is extremely discouraging for someone who buys a game like Grandia 2 or Shenmue only to get really into it and not be able to finish these games. While a backup may be inferior, at least one is able to actually finish the game in question.

There has also been a lot of talk about how CD-R’s will damage a dreamcast. A couple games that are brought up are Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Last Blade 2. Both these games were programed to be loaded on the fly so to speak, so even the original copies load quite frequently, and Last Blade 2 even has problems due to the way the music loads.

There are lots of backups for the dreamcast out there that have gone back to these types of games, re-arranged the files, and made it so that the constant loading does not happen, one such backup is The Last Blade 2: Bloody Blade.

There are also a number of fans who took some of these games and added content to them or made compilations so you could play more than one game on one disc, making these types of games more refreshing, and a new experience.

My point in saying this is that what makes the dreamcast the best system around is not that it had a great library of games, but because it was the first system that really allowed the gaming community to really expand their creativity without having to mod or somehow alter the experience of the original console and almost anyone can easily and cheaply pick up a system and play some really awesome games without investing a fortune like the Neo-geo.

Thanks for listening and happy gaming!

Brett says:

I am a huge fan of the Dreamcast and have had it since it came out on 9-9-99. I have about 60 original GD-ROM discs now and as far as scratches go, I’ve noticed something: It doesn’t matter how many scratches are on the bottom of the disc as this can be resurfaced with those amazing machines they have out today. The problem is the thin aluminum top sheet of the disc where all the pits are actually engraved- The top sheets of the discs chip and flake off. about15 of my GD-ROMs have done this. Whenever im at a used game store purchasing old dreamcast games, I bring my high powered LED flashlight and shine it on the top of the disc and look on the opposite side to see if any of the light shines completely through on some parts. If you can see little specs of light shine through, this means that the integrity of the top aluminum sheet of the disc has been compromised and is NOT something you want resurface/buy because no matter how prestine the bottom of the disc is, the thin aluminum layer flaking off of the top part of the disc needs to be intact. this problem happens WAYYY too easily on these 10+ year old discs and most people dont seem to realize whats causing the disc to not read if its not that scratched on the bottom in the first place. You can also hold the disc up to a lamp or a light in the ceiling and see if any specks of light shine through. Fortunately, every game that I have purchased online has not had this problem. Maybe this can be of some help to all you fellow dreamcast fans when buying used original GD-ROMS.
As far as ripping the games go, the more data we have backed up, the better. I personally perfer the original retail copies and who wouldn’t?! But like everyones saying on here: the discs are VERY sensative and prone to damage and they need to be handled and treated with great care because Sega’s not making us anymore!

Mozgus says:

I still talk to Kevinski on Steam quite often. I gotta show him our vicious argument in the comments on this one.

kevinski says:

Otacon was right: love CAN bloom, even on the battlefield. XD

I honestly don’t even know how we became friends after this. I still want to pummel anyone who’d rather download Crazy Taxi than buy it, though I suppose the $10-15 asking price maybe justifies the download a bit more these days. Dreamcast is still the one system I’ll still buy physical discs for.

I gave up on doing that for Saturn when I just couldn’t even find a listing for Powerslave. And yeah, regardless of how much I clean them, I can’t fathom the idea of putting some of the gross-ass cartridges you can pick up on eBay into my Mega Sg or Super Nt. Haha. Not to mention dealing with spotting fakes.

That said, I’ve loosened up a bit on the “preservation” aspect. I mean, you’ve got games that’re much newer than these that companies are already dropping the ball on preserving, so I can see why some people are so concerned with legitimately preserving them.

Mozgus says:

You see how Sony is killing off the Vita store this summer? Articles about how roughly 200 english games are gonna be lost forever. Or they would be….had we not backed them all up using PKGJ and NoPayStation. Yeah yeah, piracy in this case. But it’s better than the alternative timeline.

kevinski says:

Digital is a completely different argument, and yeah, the “preservation” angle is completely justifiable with regard to Nintendo and Sony as far as digital offerings go. I don’t trust either of those companies any further than I could throw them as far as digital purchases go. Sure, I can’t play every single digital game I ever owned on an Xbox console anymore, but Microsoft has at least proven some level of interest in preserving and even improving games from its past platforms, so I’m comfortable with that as my main platform going forward.

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