You might say the Dreamcast online scene has gotten a big boost recently, not only thanks to Kazade and his amazing DreamPi software but also thanks to a man whose mission is to bring online Dreamcast games back to life. As many of you know, Petter Krossbakken, a.k.a. petter3k, is the guy behind the Toy Racer revival a couple years ago and is currently working on the revival of many other online Dreamcast games. The one right on the horizon being Alien Front Online. Petter has a website called DCSERV which is dedicated to the revival of these games and making sure they're never taken offline again. So what drives a man to dedicate much of his free time to this effort? What games can we expect to be back online in the near future? Will other consoles get the same treatment? Let's find out!
Q: What inspired you to start reviving online Dreamcast games in the first place?
“Well, to be honest, I don't like the idea of other people controlling whether or not I get to play a game where most of the gameplay is actually online.
And let me make one thing clear:
I think all information and technology should be available for everyone to use, modify and contribute to, for free. I believe thousands of minds think better than a small team of randomly selected developers in a company and that is why I have contributed to Arch Linux since 2007 (when it actually was 'KISS') but most of my contributions are now for Gentoo Linux and the Linux kernel itself.
I believe strongly in open source technology (and licenses obviously and everything dcserv.org creates WILL eventually be open-sourced (note: eventually) and open to the public under probably the GPL license.”
Q: Did you play Dreamcast games online back when the original servers were still up? If so, what were your favorite online games?
"Yes I did, but I live in a PAL territory, and even worse - Norway, where Sega seemed to not really do any marketing at ALL. I do NOT remember a single commercial anywhere.
Anyway, a couple of stores like "Toys 'R US' had them, and I had already made up my mind long before the European release.
I bought my Dreamcast around Christmas 2000 if I remember correctly with money I had saved up, and I also bought Sonic Adventure which i absolutely loved.
I later bought Phantasy star Online v1, the version with the Sonic Adventure 2 Trial disc, which has amazing graphics even to this day in my opinion.
Riding that board or whatever with the jumps and everything is so intense and amazing and looks so damn good and runs so smooth I actually honestly believe you can compare graphics like this to some of the games of the 7th generation of consoles.
I also bought Metropolis Street Racer, Sega GT, Shenmue 1 & 2 (for a ridiculously high price at the time, probably equal to 200USD+ at that time so over 100$ per game, which were quite high in 2000/2001.
I spent a lot of time playing PSO (v1) online instead of taking guitar lessons, to my fathers frustration, lol
I can't really recall actually playing any other games online back when the official servers were online, except for the "online functions" in games like MSR and Sonic Adventure (1? 2?)."
Q: What games are you working on now and what online games can we expect to be revived within the next year or so?
"This one's actually a tough one - I actually landed my dream job which I'm now lead-developer in a quite big project, starting in the end of June. The project is very interesting, with things like Kinect, Raspberry Pi or other alternatives where performance and stability is key, as well as both a server and a client which is going to use already-existing APIs. In Norway at least where i live which is a very small city, there's not really a lot of great C/C++ developer jobs so when I landed this I kind of have to focus 100% on this for at least a while. The office is literally 1 minute away by car, and my girlfriend just finished her MSc and landed her dream job where you can actually see their offices from my apartment (which is on the ground floor). So personal things are really good, but then again, as in every new job you kind of have to prove yourself and work hard and late hours.
To actually answer your question, the games I focus on right now is:
- Finishing up the Alien Front Online
- Figuring out what's missing in WWP
but my biggest interest is probably Outtrigger and Bomberman Online which I am heavily investigating for the time being. Those games are convenient for me to work on as well as they both support BBA and custom server addresses.
I have to give out a big shoutout to 'Nominal Animal' for helping me with updating the low-level pre-standard C-code to modern C for the community version."
Q: Is programming something you do for a living or is it just a hobby?
"Programming is my full-time job at the moment - primarily C/C++ but also some x86 assembly.
My main skill set is network programming (but not pre-standardized networking) and low-level programming which I'm now "lead-developer" for a great company right where I live, with both of those (networking and performance/memory handling) being my main responsibilities, for a company I prefer to keep secret at least until I actually start the job.
As I said above, I also use a lot of time contributing as a developer for Linux and Linux-distributions as well as open-source software in general. Fortunately the company I now work for is not a Microsoft partner (which would've been a no-go, and I'd rather keep my old job than to work in a Microsoft environment).
What you guys probably don't know is that I have also spent countless hours for a very long time developing my own concept, model and networking system, inspired by various networking systems designed for online multiplayer gameplay as well as things like communication and cloud-solutions) where the main concept is (like everyone else is trying to accomplish as well, only mine is better ) to give every client the exact same experience, WITHOUT frame interpolation by queuing the packet streams in a specific way (very, very simplified explanation) which at the time being. there's two huge companies which have shown great interest in actually buying, hinting at a price at 6 figures.
Important note here is that this is NOT related to dcserv.org (although my knowledge of this stuff will probably not hurt dcserv.org, only the time it takes to complete all tasks) at all and we have had weekly demos with the first big gaming company that showed interest, which I actually signed a contract with as well as an NDA (regarding the source code which they are NOT allowed to see at this point, just to make that clear).
This is a while ago and they in October '15 helped me with funding and financial support with a rather big sum. The negative part is that (I don’t know the English word, neither does google translate) as long as the price is agreed upon (which I have to set before the actual sales offer), the company supporting me has legally the right to purchase the product even if other companies are willing to pay more. I think the two companies interested right now is willing to pay around 6 figures just for the concept of the networking model. Note that this started before dcserv.org, and has been an ongoing project for me for as long as I knew how to code."
Q: Would you say that a lot of the developers you contact are willing to help or do most of them just say "No, sorry, can't help you there." or just ignore your email altogether?
"Most of them are quite polite, but they either don't remember, or they cant help me, or they send me a name (or if I'm lucky - an email) for a person which actually can help me.
Not too many have helped so far though, only with (no offense to anyone) quite vague information about how things worked, and there seems that SEGA themselves were in a very transitional phase at the time of the creation of SNAP and so, although the idea was good, they did not follow through with the Dreamcast games (and it was not called SNAP either), keeping it all to the same system. This is part of what I am doing by creating my own concept/model/system where you have, lets say 6 main servers which handles requests sent by clients through proxy servers and redirecting them to the appropriate server (with options like location, auth, game-points, geodata, legal privacy invasion (which I do not support) - the list goes on). And its all encrypted two-ways with quite strong but fast encryption so that hacking would be insanely difficult as the servers will just reject all packets not containing the appropriate data, and (if things goes as planned) will be running on of the worlds fastest broadband-lines with really, really expensive and solid nodes/hardware."
Q: What's your philosophy on releasing the server software and source code? Do you believe all of this should be available to the public?
Q: I noticed you've added PlayStation 2, GameCube, and PC game sections to your W.I.P. page. Any hints on what you're working on there?
"I am sorry but I can’t really say anything about the work being done for PS2 but I can say that so far, Gamecube is not really a priority (while PS2 is, after DC of course, but the PS2 has advantages for me as a developer and troubleshooter when it comes to networking).
Sorry that was probably not the answer you guys wanted."
Q:Lastly, is there anything that others in the community can do to help you?
"Well, I’m thinking of getting more developers to the dcserv.org project as I’m already way in over my head here so please contact me if you have strong skills in C and TCP/IP as well as the hardware being used (like modem connections etc.)."
So there you have it folks! A man on a mission to revive and preserve Dreamcast game servers, not only for us, but for future generations of gamers to experience the dawn of online multiplayer on a home console. A huge thanks to Petter for all his hard work and for taking the time to answer a few questions. Be sure to check out dvserv.org for reports on progress and for information on how to contact Petter if you're interested in helping out. You can also click the Donate button on the website if you wish to help out monetarily.