Posted by: Kai_LeRai | April 26, 2008

Sega programmer hides message for rippers on GD-ROM

Today, I found something that I would have never expected. While strolling through the data of a GD-ROM I found a message that was directed at rippers. This is no new phenomenon. In fact, incidences as such were reported as early as in the mid 80s, when the cracking group “Midwest Pirates Guild” found a message in the game “Buck Rogers – Planet of Zoom” addressing crackers to dial a certain number, which routed to the development studio of the game, so that the developers could see how long it took for crackers to finally get the game and crack it.

Now, the message I found is a little different. It is hidden on the “Sega Smashpack” GD-ROM and tells rippers how to use Sega’s Genesis emulator. I know, you’re all eager to read it, so here it is:

To whomever releases this pack..

Let me give you a few bits of info:

– I emulate a U.S. Genesis, including territory lock-out.
– “.sga” files are standard Genesis/Megadrive “.bin” files renamed.
– The emulator is looking for some parameters to be passed via Ginsu.
If you don’t know what that is, you’ll figure it out:

MDE_US.BIN ALTBEAST.SGA MODE2 SKIP0 SOUND0

MODE0 = standard, fastest video mode settings
MODE1 = slower, supports some extra features
MODE2 = slowest, includes window layers (used by some games)
MODE4 = same as MODE0 with background skewing

SKIP0 = no sprite skipping until maximum reached
SKIP1 = moderate sprite skipping, used to prevent major slowdown
SKIP2 = maximum sprites skipped

SOUND0 = standard sound emulation
SOUND1 = sound tempo increased

And don’t forget to pay your respects to Uncle Sonic.
Sony just doesn’t get it.

– Gary

The message might sound as if it was directed at any ripper out there, but the fact that the txt-file it was stored in was called ECHELON.TXT shows to whom it really was directed. When Echelon released the Smashpack on February 3rd 2001 they announced a loader for the emulator and now you know why. They also credited Uncle Sonic just as he demanded in their nfo for the Smashpack and the Romloader. As I said, developers contacting crackers is nothing new, but helping them is. This remarkable case gives an insight into the clockwork of Sega and also how developers tick.

I assume the coder of the Smashpack emulator wanted to see his work to be used for more than just the handful of games Sega bundled it with. This also shows, that Sega had no one to check the final images, or that this was done by someone high up above in the developer team’s hierarchy. The credits of the Smash Pack are pretty small and the only one who’s shown there that goes by the name of Gary is Gary Lake. He is being credited as a programmer…the only programmer by the way. That’s kind of hilarious to think about. This emu was not just written by a single guy, but that very guy also sabotaged his own company that he worked for. Talk about motivation and love for your own company… This also shows how much access he had to the overall project. Apparently Gary also compiled the image, that was shipped to the GD-ROM factory and obviously he knew that neither the Producer, nor the Senior Producer would check it out. Pretty amazing security holes for such a big company in my opinion.

“Sony just doesn’t get it.”

This is an interesting reference, that is quite hard to understand…at least for me. What does he mean? May be that Sony just didn’t realize that it would be wise to release their old games on other platforms too? In this case he could have only been meaning the back then ongoing Bleem vs. Sony battle. Still, this line sounds as if it should justify his deed and it does make little sense when taking Bleem into account.

At around that time Lake worked on several games that were also released on PSX and PS2: Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000, The Mummy Returns and Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex. So may be this statement was in regard to the way Sony enforced its policies while he was working there. Still, it doesn’t really explain why he sabotaged Sega rather than Sony. May be, he means that Sony won’t get a full scale emulator for a beloved retro gaming console. That might have been the reason, because Homebrew started to become a valid factor when choosing between the consoles – at least when you weren’t a dumb fanboy.

Well, be that as it may. In the end we all profited from Gary’s bravery and help. Or was it even bravery at all? That’s the last thing that puzzles me. He could have created a perfectly running emu while working on the Smashpack by only making small modifications to the original code, but he didn’t. I would assume that it would have been too dangerous for him to do so, as some more experienced personal at Sega might have suspected a professional dev of the deed if some time after the Smashpack’s release a similar emu would have shown up out of nowhere with just the same performance. On the other hand he signed the text with his own name showing that he didn’t expect the situation to be dangerous at all, because he had to take into account that Echelon might as well keep the txt-file on their release, which they didn’t.
If you check out Gary’s bio, then you can see that he worked on quite a lot of games. I wonder if he also left hints for crackers there. I also wonder how many more hints are hidden in other Dreamcast games. I will certainly keep my eyes open :)

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Responses

  1. ahh i wondered why echelon was so talented in the programming department, its a riddle ;) Gary is echelon ;) got you all thinking now haven’t i :D it was probably something to do with the fact Sony is never going to have the franchise “sonic” (the irony, if I’m right) although it could be a range of things :) good article btw interesting read

  2. thanks :) and interesting theory that they could never have the sonic franchise ;) the smashpack was released in january 2001, 2 months after sega had stopped the production of the console. i doubt that the work on the smashpack took more than just a few weeks, so the developers must have known of segas struggle. also, it seems likely that sega would have tried to find other platforms for their newest releases. so this is a very valid idea that you had…still, “Sony just doesn’t get it” sounds more like a blame for a skipped chance, but this was clearly not the case. financially, the smashpack can’t have been very successful.

    after reading through the article again, reading the whole block “And don’t forget to pay your respects to Uncle Sonic.
    Sony just doesn’t get it.” rather than just the last sentence seemed to make more sense now. he calls himself uncle sonic and it seems that sony didn’t pay him the respect he had deserved. may be they didn’t credit him enough, or took away his responsibility from his projects. still, that doesn’t answer why he used a sega game as an outlet for his grief and grief it apparently was. if it was dedication to deliver a free emulator for the masses, he might as well could have done that by himself with only little effort, but he didn’t care about that.

    as for echelon’s skills: that’s not so much of a riddle as it might seem ;) it is very clear that they were technicians with excellent programming skills. they reverse engineered the whole console. this way there’s nothing you can’t do – if you have the skill ;)

  3. What an interesting story.

    I think it’s more likely that this Gary guy knew that the writing was on the wall for the Dreamcast and that there would be no real repercussions for putting such a message in the game.


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