* THE UNOFFICIAL DREAMCAST FAQ *
* ---=================================--- *
* by Number Six *
* D I S C L A I M E R *
* The author of this FAQ does not condone the blatant piracy *
* of Sega Dreamcast software in any form, shape or fashion. *
* The purpose of this FAQ is rather to attempt to answer many *
* of the questions regarding the rise of this particular *
* "scene" and the technology involved. He is also making it *
* available as a public service to Sega, its many licensees, *
* and its customers in an effort to explain in common man *
* terms just what is going on here and why. *
* Sega(TM) and Dreamcast(TM) are registered trademarks of *
* Sega. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the *
* respective property of their owners. *
---===< last updated - 20000823 >===---
PART 1: TERMINOLOGY |
BGM: Common acronym for [B]ack[G]round [M]usic;
the tunes you hear playing in the background
while a multimedia presentation is running on
BIN/CUE: The storage format used by CDRWin for
archiving CD-ROM discs. It is normally
comprised of two parts - a binary image file
with a BIN extension, and a cuesheet with a
CUE extension. If the original disc
contained CDDA tracks, then there may be one
or more WAV files present as well. The
cuesheet directs CDRWin how and in what
manner to arrange the BIN/WAV archive(s) so
that the disc can be re-burned just like the
BOOT DISC, BOOT A specially modified self-booting CD-ROM
LOADER devised by Utopia to enable the use of
Dreamcast bootlegs in the common Utopia
bootleg format. The disc itself only does
three things - it boots up the console to
the point where it prompts you to swap
discs, it enables the reading of standard
PC CD-ROMs (i.e. Dreamcast bootlegs) on
consoles capable of doing so, and it
disables all known regional market locks
to enable use of any Dreamcast software from
anywhere in the world on a stock console.
The Utopia Boot Loader, as it is known, will
will only work on consoles that can read
BOOTLEG: An illegal copy of a commercial product. The
term arises from the centuries-old practice
of people hiding contraband in the sides of
their boots during travel (such as a revolver
or stolen goods).
CDDA: Acronym for Compact Disc Digital Audio; an
industry standard means for storing digital
audio on compact discs. It is also known by
the term "Red Book" format. The official
industry specification calls for one or more
audio files sampled in 16-bit stereo sound at
a sampling rate of 44.1 KHz.
CDI: A special disc image format used by Padus
DiscJuggler 2.X and higher for archiving
CD-ROMs with nonstandard data. All self-
booting Dreamcast bootlegs to date when
unpacked are in CDI format.
DELETER: The only form of life in the software piracy
food chain lower than a lamer, deleters log
on to pirate FTPs and delete as much stuff
as they can - usually after they have already
downloaded what they want - so nobody else
has a chance to "enjoy the goods." Deleters
are despised by the pirate boards, and they
spare no mercy whenever they catch one and
discern his or her true identity. They have
been known to post all of the personal data
they can discern about the deleter thanks
to back-trace techniques, as well as
devising means to "burn" the deleter at his
or her own game.
DUMMY FILE: A technique used to pad out the program data
on a Dreamcast bootleg in order to speed up
load times. It involves inserting as much
extraneous space or null data as possible at
the front end of the disc image so that it
will push the program data as far toward
the outer rim of the disc as can be managed.
This allows a Dreamcast bootleg to in part
simulate the appearance of a regular GD-ROM,
which already has its program data located
in the high density area of the disc.
GD-ROM: Sega's unique variation on the various ISO
specified CD-ROM formats. At a minimum, it
consists of a multivolume disc composed of
three unique volumes - a small (x.x MB) low
density area, a burned-in notification track
embedded with the phrase PRODUCED BY OR UNDER
LICENSE FROM SEGA ENTERPRISES LTD followed
by the word TRADEMARK and the Sega logo (TM),
and finally a large (1.2 GB) high density
area in which actual Dreamcast program code
HIGH DENSITY AREA: Sega's term for the portion of a GD-ROM in
which program data is stored. If you take a
typical GD-ROM and turn it over, it's the
outer three-fourths of the disc - between the
ring with the burned-in trademark notice and
the outside edge. This area is not readable
by common PC CD-ROM drives. According to at
least one inside source, the high density
area of a GD-ROM acts just like a regular PC
CD-ROM save that it is in ISO 9660 Mode 3
format, even to the use of standard "mixed
mode" format with some titles.
ISO: Acronym for Industry Standards Organization;
an organization that sets standards for,
among other things, computer storage formats.
In computer slang, an ISO is a universally
recognized single-pass CD-ROM binary image
format that is normally used for archival
purposes. In piracy slang, ISOs (or ISOz)
are bootleg copies of computer software
stored in the universally recognized ISO
PC CD-ROM image format. Almost all over-the-
counter CD burning programs support the ISO
KALISTO BOOTLEG: See self-booting bootleg.
LOW DENSITY AREA: Sega's term for the portion of a GD-ROM in
which non-program data is stored. If you
take a typical GD-ROM and turn it over, it's
the inside one-fourth of the disc - between
the inner hub and the ring with the burned-in
trademark notice. This area is readable by
common PC CD-ROM drives, and is sometimes
used to store such extras as gallery pictures
and in-game screen snapshots. According to
inside sources, the low density area of a
GD-ROM is in standard ISO 9660 Mode 1 format
and at most has only two tracks - one data
and one audio.
MIXED MODE: A special multimedia format used for CD-ROMs
in which Track 1 is comprised of program
data and the remaining track(s) are comprised
of digital audio in Red Book (CDDA) format.
Some Dreamcast games employ mixed mode format
in the high-density area of the GD-ROM; the
additional audio tracks are usually the game
sountrack or BGM tunes. The low-density area
of a GD-ROM can also be used for mixed mode,
although its size limits the use to only one
data track and no more than one audio track.
OVERBURNING: A common technique for adding another 50 MB
to a standard CD-ROM by burning data beyond
the normal 650 MB limit all the way to the
edge of the disc. Overburned CD-ROMs hold
a maximum 700 MB of program data or 80 MB of
digital audio. Almost all CD-ROM drives and
audio CD players support overburned discs;
but not all CD-R/RW drives support the
RED BOOK: See CDDA.
SELF-BOOTING A variation on the original Utopia bootleg
BOOTLEG: format for pirated Dreamcast software. The
big difference between the two is that a
Kalisto bootleg is self-booting - i.e., it
requires no boot disc. Due to the unique
way in which the bootstrap code must be
duplicated, these when unpacked are in Padus
DiscJuggler CDI format. This is sometimes
referenced as the Kalisto bootleg format due
to the group that devised it, although it
must be said that Kalisto released many other
titles in the common Utopia bootleg format.
SDK: Acronym for Software Developer's Kit; a
special compilation of programs and support
software/hardware released to licensed
developers of a particular computer product
in order to better facilitate program
UTOPIA BOOTLEG: A copy of a commercially released program for
the Sega Dreamcast videogame console that has
at a mininum been converted from its intended
GD-ROM format to standard CD-ROM. The main
purpose of this conversion is to facilitate
the unrestrained duplication and distribution
of Dreamcast programs at will by whomever
produces or obtains them. This is the
original Dreamcast bootleg format, and was
specifically designed for easy duplication
across the widest possible range of CD-ROM
duplication hardware. Unlike the Kalisto
bootleg format, it requires a separate "boot
disc" to be loaded first in order to run.
WAREZ: Software piracy slang for illegally copied
or distributed computer software.
WAV: A common computer audio format defined by
Microsoft. Audio tracks for Dreamcast
bootlegs when unpacked are normally in WAV
PART 2: HISTORY |
Q: How did Dreamcast bootlegs come about in the first place?
A: In October of 1999, a number of private hackers and software
pirate groups operating independently of each other managed
to "break" Sega's proprietary GD-ROM format and read the
program data previously hidden away on the outer high density
area of the discs. At the beginning of 2000, several pirate
groups obtained full-blown legit copies of both Dreamcast
SDKs along with the appropriate hardware, which enabled them
to read GD-ROMs directly. The key breakthrough apparently
came in the spring of 2000, when one of these groups chanced
upon a security hole in the Dreamcast's bootstrap sequence
that had been deliberately put there by Sega of Japan. When
actived by what has been described by some as "a convoluted
control sequence," it enabled a stock Dreamcast to read
program code from a standard CD-ROM instead of searching for
the high density area on a presumably preloaded GD-ROM. From
that point forward, it was only a matter of time until one of
these groups devised a means to both enable standard CD-ROM
support for stock Dreamcasts and to convert program code
stored on GD-ROM to CD-ROM.
Q: Who did the first Dreamcast bootleg, and what was it?
A: The first bootlegged Dreamcast game was Dead or Alive 2,
released by the German pirate group Utopia on 23 June 2000.
They also released the Utopia Boot Loader on the same date,
which was a special Dreamcast boot disc that included both
code to bypass territorial lockout codes and enable standard
CD-ROM support for the many bootlegs that were soon to follow.
Q: Whatever happened to Utoptia?
A: Their true identities were eventually discerned, due in part
to their foolishly including a picture of themselves on the
Utopia Boot Loader. They were later arrested by German police
on or around 5 July 2000 and charged with multiple counts of
copyright violation. No other news has surfaced concerning
their fate as of this date. As a result, the DC bootlegging
scene has coined the term "Utopia bootleg" to honor the group
they consider to have invented what remains the most popular
format by far for such efforts.
Q: Are there other DC release groups?
A: Yes, and their numbers swell with each passing month. The
oldest and most notorious is Kalisto (not to be confused with
the videogame firm of the same name), who have set a pseudo-
standard of sorts for releases within the DC bootlegging
scene and added their own unique contributions as well.
There are many others, such as ACC (Accession), NBC (Natural
Born Chillers), and so on, but Kalisto appears to be the DC
bootleg standard bearer for now - whatever that implies.
PART 3: RELEASES |
Q: Where can I find some Dreamcast ISOs/ROMz/bootlegs?
A: Sega will gladly sell you all the legitimate Dreamcast games
Q: How are Dreamcast bootlegs released?
A: Like almost all forms of pirated computer software nowadays,
they first get released in the Internet chat channels - you
know, the inside connections on IRC, ICQ, and the like. From
there, they make their way to several hundred FTP and FXP
sites worldwide, and from there to the regular HTTP sites.
Some even wind up on such popular account sites as IDrive and
MySpace, with the requisite HTML links to pirate sites, but
Sega is shutting that little operation down as as fast as it
possibly can. Sega also shuts down any regular or pirate web
sites with illegal DC content whenever it finds them, so
web sites with dedicated DC content are rather difficult to
find unless you dig dilligently and paitently for many moons.
Q: In what manner are Dreamcast bootlegs released?
A: They almost always come in the form of multiple numbered RAR
archives. Each archive is usually 15 or 20 MB in size, with
the last file in the set being the smallest. They are often
accompanied by an NFO (info) file by the release group
describing their latest accomplishment, as well as an SFV
file for checksum purposes. In addition, some sites post
scans of the actual commercial CD jewel case box inserts,
thus enabling downloaders to reproduce the original box as
Q: Why are Dreamcast bootlegs so big?
A: Because they contain at minimum a binary image dump of the
data track from of the original CD-ROM masters that the
release group(s) groups produced. That can range anywhere
from 9 MB (the smallest known Dreamcast game, Mr. Driller) to
almost 700 MB (overburned releases). It should also be noted
that due to the extremely large size of Dreamcast bootlegs,
which can average around 150 MB for a complete archive set,
potential downloaders have very little hope of quickly
compiling an entire set of archives without a fast Internet
connection (cable/ADSL/ISDN/T1 or better). Sometimes you'll
get lucky, but most of the time you won't.
PART 4: TECHNICAL ISSUES |
Q: I'd like to learn more about GD-ROM and how it works. Where's
a good place to start.
A: The best place to start would be one of the two authentic Sega
Dreamcast SDKs, but you're not going to get access to those
unless you either cough up lots of dough or luck out with your
pirate contacts. The next best place to look, and the place
where I learned a lot of what I know, is the last place you
might expect - the U.S. Patent Office. Due to changes in the
patent laws a few years back, anybody who files a patent has
to among other things make their patent application as
detailed as they can. Sega's various patents on Dreamcast
technology are quite detailed and even include illustations.
Just go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office web site
(http://www.uspto.gov), access the patent search engine, and
look up patent #5627895. That is the actual GD-ROM patent
awarded by the U.S. to Sega. Other patent numbers of interest
are #5460374, #5525770, #5688173, #4442486, #4454594, and
#4462076. BTW, all of these numbers are printed on the back
of almost every Dreamcast game package, and the patent filings
themselves are considered to be public domain documents. The
USPTO will even print and mail you hardcopy for a small fee.
Q: Why won't Dreamcast bootlegs work with certain Dreamcasts?
A: There's been a lot of confusion over this issue, which has
been further fueled by several misstatements of fact from
Sega executive Peter Moore when asked the same question. As
far as I know and based on my own personal experience and
examination of various iterations of the console, the problem
lies with the type of GD-ROM drive used inside the Dreamcast.
There have been different ones at different types made by
different vendors (including Sony, of all people!), but the
lot that seems most susceptible here in the U.S. was the lot
produced prior to the official launch of the console in
September of 1999. These are the ones at this time that seem
the most suspect; every one I have personally examined will
not and cannot be modified to read CD-Rs. There are reports
of other such cases scattered though subsequent production
lots, but the ORIGINAL production one (not later ones, Mr.
Moore) seems to have the CD-R read problem. The one drive
that always works is a Yamaha-produced GD-ROM drive; other
types do not always work. Sega will reportedly incorporate a
firmware fix in the next U.S. iteration of the console (fall
2000) that will permanently disable CD-R/RW support for all
future production units, so better stock up on those older
Q: What are the different flavors of Dreamcast bootleg discs?
A: There are three general variations of which I know, as
1) Version 1 - Invented by Utopia. When unpacked, it
(original) consists of a BIN/CUE image file for the
06/23/2000 bootleg's data portion only! These must be
burned with CDRWin v3.7a or higher, or a
comparable program that supports the BIN/CUE
image format. This format was specifically
designed to be easily copied across the
widest range of hardware, which is why it
remains so popular.
2) Version 2 - Kalisto's first modification to the format
(Kalisto 1, was to add CDDA support. It's exactly the
adds CDDA) same as Version 1, except that the archive
07/28/2000 includes an UNPACK.EXE file containing all
of the CDDA tracks in compressed format.
You must run this file first and unpack the
CDDA tracks before attempting to burn the
disc, otherwise the cuesheet will not work.
3) Version 3 - Kalisto's most recent change to the original
(Kalisto 2, format is the most significant one. These
self-booter) incorporate the Dreamcast boot code and
08/19/2000 CD-ROM switchover code onto the same disc,
thereby eliminating the need for the Utopia
Boot Loader. When unpacked, these appear
as CDI image files and must be burned using
Padus DiscJuggler v2.X or higher due to the
special bootstrap code in the disc image.
This version is also known as the Kalisto
or self-booting bootleg format.
Q: Why are the movies/cinemas/music in some Dreamcast bootlegs
not as good as the original?
A: See the next question for the answer.
Q: Why are Dreamcast bootlegs sometimes missing stuff, like the
music and the cinemas?
A: Since CD-ROM (650-700 MB) is only half the size of GD-ROM
(1.2 GB), some Dreamcast games with lots of data have to get
trimmed before being converted to Utopia bootlegs. As a rule,
it seems that the release groups (such as Kalisto) first try
to downgrade the quality of any extraneous audiovisual files
they can find, such as music and cinemas, and then see if
everything will still fit. If it won't, then this stuff gets
stripped out prior to release. Also, all of the early Utopia
bootlegs were Version 1, including those that had CDDA tracks.
You'll also notice that most of the second-rate and third-rate
DC release groups still don't know how to do CDDA and just
leave it off. In the end, you still wind up with a playable
release, but it's not always the same quality nor may it have
the same content as the actual GD-ROM original.
Q: How do I add a dummy file to an old Dreamcast bootleg release
so it will load faster?
A: There are several excellent utilities out there for doing
this, but all to date work only with Version 1 releases. If
you have a Version 2 (CDDA) release that isn't already padded,
then you'll have to wait for an update. I note in passing
that Kalisto and a couple other of the other Dreamcast release
groups are already padding their releases with dummy files,
so you don't have to mess with their stuff - it's already
"fixed" for you.
Q: How well do dummy files work with Dreamcast bootlegs?
A: It depends on the size of the release. If it's a big one,
like Code Veronica, there will be no discernable difference.
If it takes up about the same room or less on the CD-ROM than
does the high density area on a real GD-ROM, you can expect
a HEALTHLY increase in load times. For example, when padded
with a dummy file, the Utopia release of Dead or Alive 2 loads
almost as fast as the GD-ROM original, lagging by only a few
seconds during that beaut of an intro cinema.
Q: How can I make my own Dreamcast bootlegs?
A: You can't. It requires three things - special knowledge about
how the Dreamcast works, at least one of the Dreamcast SDKs,
and one or more types of special hardware to enable the GD-ROM
to CD-ROM conversion. If you can somehow put together those
three things and have the knowledge to make them work, then
you stand a chance. Unfortunately, the average Joe Blow user
isn't going to be able to copy/backup their own Dreamcast
games anytime soon no matter how hard they wish.
PART 5: LEGAL ISSUES |
Q: What is Sega's official stance on Dreamcast bootlegs.
A: They're illegal, period, and they'll prosecute anybody they
can catch who either produces or distributes them. By the
way, they'd welcome any info you can send them on the DC
bootlegging scene at email@example.com
Q: Why are Dreamcast bootlegs illegal?
A: There are at least five different reasons why Dreamcast
bootlegs are illegal, as follows:
1) the production of an unauthorized derivative work based
on program code protected by copyright (the GD-ROM to
CD-ROM conversion itself is the violation),
2) the unauthorized copying of licensed program code for
illegitimate purposes without permission from the
3) the unauthorized distribution of licensed program code
without recompense to the copyright holder,
4) unlawful usage of the backup clause of copyright law
(backups have to be exact copies unless authorized by the
copyright holder, and that includes format changes),
5) unlawful abuse of the fair use clause of copyright law
(fair use, i.e. "personal use," is no justification for
There are, of course, other laws Sega could bring to bear on
the issue, but traditional copyright protection (according to
most authorities) is currently Sega's strongest legal defense.
Q: Is it legal to own/use/copy the Utopia Boot Loader CD-ROM?
Note: This FAQ is quite out of date and has proven to be inaccurate in many cases as additional information has been learned. The following original answer is NOT correct. It was later discovered that the Utopia Boot Disc was created using an unlicensed Katana SDK. Therefore, Sega has every right to not allow its distribution -- and they have explicitly stated that they do hold the rights to the libraries within the Utopia Boot Disc and that it cannot be used or distributed legally.
A: Yes. Perfectly legal. Remember, it was Sega itself that
created and then burned into firmware that little security
hole whereby a stock Dreamcast can use CD-ROMs. We weren't
supposed to find out about that little secret, but now the
cat's out of the bag, and there's not a thing they can do
about it. That's why you don't see them whining and bitching
about it like Nintendo does in similar circumstances. At
least Sega is man enough to take it on the chin in this
particular instance. The law treats the Utopia Boot Loader
the same way as it would an Action Reply CDX or Game Shark DC.
It's just another unauthorized yet perfectly legal and
noninfringing third-party product according to current
interpretation of copyright law. Remember, it's not the
Utopia Boot Loader that has the legal problem - it's all of
those Dreamcast bootlegs out there.
Q: Is it legal to backup a Dreamcast GD-ROM, and if so, how?
A: Yes, but there's no way to do it at this time. That's
because current copyright law requires you to make an EXACT
copy unless otherwise authorized, and that includes the
duplication of the title in its original GD-ROM format. As
of this date, there are NO commercially available CD burners
for common folks that can do that. There's one or two that
can READ GD-ROMs with special firmware (Yamaha 200T/400T),
but they can't WRITE them. So, unless you're willing to
shell out a hefty five-digit some for a real GD-ROM burner
and then figure out a way to make it boot just like a retail
release, the answer in a word is NO.
PART 6: COPY PROTECTION |
Q: Are actual Dreamcast GD-ROMs copy-protected?
A: Yes, as a matter of fact they are. That's why the DC warez
scene came up with the CD-ROM format conversion. It bypasses
all of the GD-ROM format's built-in protection completely.
Oh, by the way, three or four actual Sega developers who
contacted me recently (and who are going to remain anonymous,
thank you very much) have made mention of some kind of a
special protection track similar to what late-generation
PlayStation games use that their official Sega GD-ROM burners
can't (or won't) duplicate - hence the need for the CD-ROM
format conversion by the software pirates. Interesting!
Q: What has Sega done or can do about the CD-ROM booter code?
A: Not much, actually. Oh, they can protect against it, but
it's kinda like closing the barn door after the horses have
already bolted. There's all kinds of stories floating around
about how it got there, who put it there and why, and whether
or not they're coding against it now. I wish I could tell
you the whole sordid story about the booter code, but I can't.
I've been warned, so I'm not talking. All you need to know
is that Sega can close the door on the booter code any time
they want, forcing the pirates to actually "crack" such titles
and thus cementing their already illegal status under
copyright law. They can do it via software now, but a final
firmware solution is supposedly not far away.
I would like to thank all of the folks who helped out in the
development this FAQ. You know who you are, and I honor your
requests not to be identified; nevertheless I couldn't have come
this far without your assistance.
My apologies for deliberately obscuring certain issues, but like
I said earlier - I was WARNED not to delve too deep in this FAQ.
I'll skirt the edge as close as I can in, but I won't cross that
line. Sorry 'bout that, but I'd rather be able to issue updates
in the future instead of getting my ass sued by Sega. Hope ya
understand, guys ....
If you have something you would like to see added to or corrected
in the next update, just drop a line here at Boob. If they find
it worthy, you can bet I'll find out about it before long ....
Be seeing you!