Copy Link
Add to Bookmark

History of Dreamcast Homebrew

Launched in the UK on the 14th October 1999, the Sega Dreamcast was to become a legend in the very short time it graced our retail shelves, and even more so since its commercial demise, thanks to the ever popular homebrew scene that has since developed for it.

Dreamcast's profile picture
Published in 
 · 18 Mar 2018

Innovation and originality was at the forefront of the Dreamcast profile and it was the most powerful home console the world had seen. It was a smaller home version of the Naomi arcade board (see boxout) and came with a 33.6k modem as standard (NTSC machines had 56K modems).

Future keyboard and mouse capabilities and a great catalogue of original games was not enough to ultimately compete with the likes of the Playstation and Nintendo 64. Domination of the market by Sony, along with the imminent arrival of the next generation machines, coupled with doubt over the system (due to the failure of the 32x and the Saturn before it) eventually sealed the fate of arguably the best console ever.

After only having been on sale in the UK for 17 months, Sega announced in March 2001 that it was to stop production of the console in a bid to restructure themselves as a ‘software only’ company after some four years of financial losses.

As soon as the announcement was made third party games developers began to drop off the DC bandwagon, and by the end of 2001 game production was all but over. Only hardcore publishers in Japan continued to release games after this (Ikaruga possibly being the best of the bunch), with the last game from Sega themselves being Puyo Puyo Fever in early 2004.

Even though the Dreamcast has been commercially dead for some three years or so, the emulation and homebrew scene goes from strength to strength, with some offerings being equivalent if not better than anything that has already been released.

In fact the only other console to come anywhere near as close to the Dreamcast in terms of homebrew development is Microsoft’s XBOX. If you are looking at playing retro games on your TV, the Dreamcast is a great way to get initiated as you can pick one up for around £20 now, and the best thing about it is that you do not need to modify the machine, unlike the XBOX, to play any of the homebrew offerings.

History of Dreamcast Homebrew
Pin it

The DC homebrew scene was never meant to happen as Sega had a host of anti-piracy methods installed in the console to protect their profits.

They had seen that cartridge based console piracy was virtually non existent due to the cost of buying a programmer and blank cartridges. However it was realised that Sega’s Next Gen machine would need a cd based format (due to the amount of data needed for each game), and therefore the piracy situation would probably change.

They decided that they needed to create a cd system which would be hard, if not impossible to copy, thus stopping the appearance of pirate games as much as they could.

They came up with their own proprietary format (well Yamaha did and Sega bought it from them – See boxout), called the GDRom, which was in essence a 1GB CDRom disc of the same physical size.

Initially the GDRom was the perfect method to stop the copying of games. Blank GDRom discs were not available (and never would be commercially), and the blank space in between the low and high density tracks was not by-passable by normal CDROM drives. All was looking good.

In April 2000 a coder by the name of Skywalker, a member of the demo group Hitmen, released the A.E.G -Demo.

It was shown at the Mekka & Symposium 2000, an annual demo scene meet for all computers and consoles, held in Fallingbostel. It was created with the Dreamcast Debug Handler (a PC to DC cable and software) and ran off of a normal CDRom disc on a totally unmodified console.

The Dreamcast world was stunned, and so was Sega.

The A.E.G Demo gave hope to other programmers, and they slowly started to see what they could create, however the Debug Handler was cumbersome to create and use, so coders all over the world started to look for alternatives. Help was to arrive for them from an unusual and unpredicted source.

Sega’s protection methods in the Dreamcast’s hardware itself had been breached by Skywalker and he had proven to everyone that homebrew software could run on an unmodified machine. Sega, still concerned about software piracy were comforted by the fact that they still had the ace card up their sleeves in the form of their GDRom formatted discs.

For now the games themselves were safe but it was not long before this situation would change and ultimately pave the way for gifted bedroom coders to show off their talents…

Back in 1999 Sega launched the MIL-cd format in Japan. It was created as an enhanced format designed to improve on the then current cd music media by fully utilizing the space on the 1GB GDRom.

The idea was to allow the inclusion of additional elements such as video clips, image galleries and extra data not normally found on the already standardised CD-Extra format.

It was planned that new music cds would include full screen video, internet capabilities and enhanced navigational interfaces, to take advantage of the DC’s ability to play them. It would be this new music cd format that would be the thorn in the Dreamcast’s side as it would allow the booting of code from a CDRom bypassing the need for GDRom discs altogether.

Fast forward to May 2000, and a small company called Bleem Inc had wowed onlookers at the annual E3 gaming show with information on a new piece of software for the DC called Bleemcast.

Bleem came in three varieties - Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo 2 and Tekken 3. Smackdown was planned
Pin it
Bleem came in three varieties - Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo 2 and Tekken 3. Smackdown was planned but Bleem Inc was shut down before it was released.

The demo they showed was touted as an emulator that would not only enable you to play PSX games on your Dreamcast, but also enhance the experience, as it would use portions of the consoles hardware to dramatically improve those games. What was remarkable was that it was an unofficial product, but more importantly it used the DC’s ability to play the MIL-cd format, which was the way Bleem Inc managed to bypass the consoles protection mechanisms.

Initially promised as a pack of four emulators, each able to run 100 games, Bleemcast was eventually released in 2001 as a set of three discs each emulating only one title each (Gran Turismo 2, Tekken 3 and Metal Gear Solid) before Bleem Inc went bankrupt. The reason for them shutting up shop are not crystal clear however it is rumoured that Sony offered to pay off Bleem Inc’s massive debts if they stopped production of all Playstation emulators, which obviously included Bleemcast.

It was a shame, as Bleemcast is an exceptional piece of coding, and proved that the Dreamcast had great potential for homebrew coders to create truly amazing programs. Even today the enhancements that Bleemcast gives over Gran Turismo 2 cannot be matched by the backwards compatibility of the Playstation 2 and its Emotion Engine, which shows us just what the DC was, and still is, capable of.

Not so long after the success of the Bleemcast announcement at the 2000 E3 show, a guy called Marcus Comstedt started to document the MIL-cd format.

It was known for some time that MIL-cd would allow unauthorised code to be booted from a CDRom disc, so he went about disassembling of the Dreamcast and found that it was possible to self boot programs by placing an audio track before the data track and then scrambling the binary information. He posted his findings on his website along with sample code and tools that would let other coders create their own bootable Dreamcast CD's.

In June 2000 the famous Utopia boot disc was released, along with pirated Dreamcast ISO images, by a warez group named Utopia.

They took all the glory by claiming to be the first group to release pirate games for the Dreamcast, however it was the hard work of Skywalker, Bleem Inc and Marcus Comstedt which made it all possible (albeit they were working towards developing the homebrew scene – piracy was simply a horrible side effect of their combined work).

The Utopia boot disc used the MIL-cd structure to boot specific code into the consoles RAM which would then execute and allow the loading of unauthorised programs and imported games (bypassing the region coding) as well as pirate games.

 The Utopia reindeer - This little guy would spin uncontrollably on the title screen of the original
Pin it
The Utopia reindeer - This little guy would spin uncontrollably on the title screen of the original boot disc.

What made this more accessible to the DC community was the fact that it could be burned onto a normal CDRom disc with a normal cd writer, and the fact that you did not need the console modified with a mod chip or other device to use it. People all over the world were using copied software in the knowledge that their warranties were still intact.

It was not long before the boot disc was discarded as warez groups found ways of incorporating the boot code into the released ISO, thus eliminating the need for a boot disc at all.

Sega were losing money on the hardware as it was, let alone the money they were losing due to lack of software sales through the ever increasing piracy scene. They had to do something fast, and so they started shutting down websites that were advertising or offering the Utopia boot disc and associated games ISO’s.

One of the biggest ISO release groups at the time was Kalisto (not of Kalisto Entertainment software house fame we hasten to add.).

It is regarded in Dreamcast circles that they were the first to contribute a number of things to the scene including PAL / NTSC conversions, self booting pirate games (without the need for the Utopia boot disc) and the removal of the dummy file from games (which too was included as a copy protection mechanism).

It is reported that Sega contacted members of the group and offered them stock options in Sega themselves on the promise that the group were to stop releasing pirate games immediately. This has never been confirmed, and in some instances ridiculed, however it would not be the first time this type of thing has happened.

 Like Kalisto, the Pompey Pirates also took bribes to stop cracking games and releasing their effort
Pin it
Like Kalisto, the Pompey Pirates also took bribes to stop cracking games and releasing their efforts on the warez scene....allegedly.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that a few years previously Pompey Pirates of Atari ST warez fame were also allegedly offered bribes and products from top game publishers, in exchange for the group stopping the release of cracked versions of new titles. However, although they apparently accepted the goodies on offer, it never stopped them releasing the odd game or two down the line.

The story goes that when Kalisto eventually bowed out of the DC warez scene to turn their attentions to Playstation piracy, a new group called Echelon instantly appeared who could do everything that the famous Kalisto could do and then some.

It is considered and generally accepted in the piracy scene that Kalisto and Echelon are one and the same, but whatever the true story behind this really is, unfortunately for Sega, the pirated game releases kept coming and their debts kept growing.

In June 2000 Dan Potter decided to experiment with compiling code without the need for the official Sega development kit, and just one month later he released his work as LibDream, a freeware independent Dreamcast library, which would become the defacto software that many coders used to port over the first emulators, games and applications.

In the same month the WinCE Dev kit was “leaked” and a group of coders operating from used it to release an application called BoobPlay (an mpeg and AVI player).

August 2000 was a busy month with not only another movie player released in the form of GypPlay, but this was the month in which the first emulators were successfully ported over to the console.

Gleem was a NES emulator written by Chuck Mason using LibDream, and shortly following that the SNES emulator Sintendo was released written with the WinCE development kit.

Many other emulators and applications appeared, made with both the LibDream and WinCE development kits, and in December 2000 LibDream evolved into KallistiOS, which is still in use today.

Sales of Dreamcast hardware took off virtually overnight as more and more applications, emulators and pirate games appeared. Sega were selling consoles by the bucket load, however they were also selling them at a heavy profit loss, and the lack of game sales meant that they were building up a large debt very fast. Sega rapidly changed the code in the Dreamcast in an attempt to stop unauthorised code from being booted, and as of October 2000, NTSC machines had additional code installed in the bios which would not allow booting of the MIL-cd format from CDRom.

This stopped unofficial games and programs running on the newer consoles once and for all, however it was too late by then. The damage through piracy had been done, and the console was condemned to the grave in early 2001 when Sega officially ceased production.

The compromising of the MIL-cd format was amongst the reasons for the demise of the machine as it helped create the pirate scene in the first instance, however in a strange twist of fate if it was not for MIL-cd support being included in the consoles hardware, the homebrew scene may never had happened.

Admittedly, the current homebrew scene on the Dreamcast is not as strong as it was in late 2000, but that does not stop new software being written and the updating of games and emulators.

With the likes of the ever increasing Beats Of Rage mods, the ability to play MP3’s, VCD’s and even Divx, as well as the new emulators being developed like the Neo Geo one the future of the homebrew scene is looking good, if not terrific.

In addition to this, projects such as the GOAT Store endeavours to take the best homebrew games and press ready for commercial distribution.

GOAT is an online shop which caters for virtually all consoles both with software and hardware sales, and is to the best of our knowledge the only publishers outside of Japan that both press and distribute DC media.

Inhabitants and Maqiupai, winners of the First Annual Dream On Contest (a contest for homebrew coders) had their creations made available for sale via the GOAT Store as prizes, so there is hope for those of you thinking about delving into the Dreamcast programming scene and want to make a few pounds from it too!

For those of you considering this, there are many websites out there now that include all the freeware tools you need to code and compile a project on the console. With some of the best programmers around there is always a helpful hand available from one of the many forums if you decide you want to try your hand at a little programming. Over the years there have been many homebrew projects produced including the DC Tonic compilation disc handed out at E3 2001 (see boxout) as well as countless other games, emulators and applications.

In the next few pages we take a look at just a few of these creations, as well as showing you where to get help when you are stuck, and listing some of the more well known Dreamcast websites for further reading.

It is not meant to be a definitive guide by any means, however what it will show you is what is actually possible with the console in its stock form, with no additions whatsoever.

These pages alone will prove that there is still life in the old dog yet!.

The GDRom (Gigabyte Disc Read Only Memory) has the ability of holding up to 1GB of data, as apposed to the standard 650 / 700MB on normal CDRom media.
The disc, created and manufactured by Yamaha, had three sections to it.
The innermost section was a low density track of around 35mb which was produced to the usual cd standard. In this section of the disc you can usually find an audio track. Sega decided to record a message to this sector which stated that the disc was only to be used in the Dreamcast and not an ordinary cd player.
The outermost section of the disc contained around 1GB (or 112 mins) of data that was written in a high density format. The data pits on this outer part were packed tighter than normal CDRoms and therefore meant that they could not be read on normal computer CD drives.
The section in between these two was a blank space. It could not be written to, nor could it store data, so it was used to display the following writing:
‘Produced by or under license from Sega Enterprises LTD’
‘Trademark SEGA’
Technically an un copyable disc, even to this day (unless you have a GDRom writer of course), however, as in all things, some clever chappy got around this little problem!

The Naomi (New Arcade Operation Machine Idea) was an arcade board developed by Sega. It was initially revealed in 1998 and was proposed to be the natural successor to the Sega Model 3 board. From this board and its architecture the Dreamcast was created.
The DC was virtually identical to the Naomi board apart from the fact that the arcade board had twice the system memory (32MB) and twice the graphics memory (16MB). GDRom support was not introduced to the Naomi until the second release in 2000, so initially it used a ROM board able to hold up to 168MB of data, along with a 6MB ROM for sound. Naomi arcade cabinets could take up to 16 boards in a parallel processing format for games that needed more than the capacity offered by the usual single ROM.
There were around 50 arcade games created for the initial Naomi board including Crazy Taxi, Dead Or Alive 2, Ferrari F355 Challenge, House of the Dead 2, Virtua Fighter 3 and Virtua Tennis.
Find out more about Naomi by visiting this website:

Cryptic Allusion were a group of coders who had collaborated with three others (Moving Target Software Design, Ganksoft Entertainment and AndrewK of Napalm) to create an attractive CD which could be handed out at the 2001 E3 show, the first of its kind.
The disc, named DC Tonic, contained homebrew software and applications produced with the KallistiOS toolkit and was burned to either a red, orange or violet cd and had a custom printed label.
Not only were the games and demos bootable from the disc on a non modified Dreamcast, but the source was also available for all to see.
To try and promote homebrew coding even more the latest source code of the compiler was included, and with the games and demos made a complete homebrew development kit on a cd.
Since the E3 in 2001, Cryptic Allusion have gone from strength to strength and have recently released the beta of Feet Of Fury, much to popular appraise.
You can still download the contents of the original cd by visiting the website at:

This DivX player has been coded from the core of the ProjectMayo project named the “Pocket DivX Player”.
A group of DC coders have taken the ProjectMayo code and used it as a backbone for the port to Sega’s console, using Dan Potters KallistOS tools to compile and produce the player.
It currently supports the following codecs:

Audio - OGG, MP3 Layer I & II with MAD MP3 Decoder
Video - OGM, V3P, DivX 3.xx, 4.xx, 5.xx, 5 Pro, Open DivX, Xvid & Avi

Although format support is good, you will no doubt have to re-encode your movie and audio files so that the Dreamcast can play them fluidly at full screen.
It’s not all bad news however as DCDivX has a few features not found in other Dreamcast media players.
Firstly, it is possible to have the player on one disc and the movie files on a separate disc, thus allowing disc swapping.
Secondly, the player supports themes so that you can customise the look of the GUI that you are presented with when you boot the player.
To see a selection of themes visit:
And to see how to create your own, as well as a general FAQ and usage information visit the main DCDivX website at:

History of Dreamcast Homebrew
Pin it

DC Playa
DCPlaya is a freeware music player for the Dreamcast.
Supporting the ISO9660 level 2 file system this program supports the following music codecs:
MP3, OGG Vorbis, Soundtracker, Sid Miscc, SC68 and CD Audio track.
This program also supports disc swapping and therefore your music files can stay on their original discs and will not need to be burnt again just to be used with this player.
What makes this player special is the fact that it can play both SID (Commodore 64) and SC68 (Amiga & Atari ST) music, so if you are into 8 and 16bit music, this is the player for you.
To get more information on DCPlaya point your browsers to:

This little program, coded by CHN has to be the ultimate in retro music playing.
SidPlay does exactly what it says on the tin, it plays SID music, or rather it plays Commodore 64 / 128 music that utilises the SID chip in the original computer.
It does this by emulating the MOS 6851 sound chip and the MOS 6510 micro- processor unit.
Unlike DCPlaya, SIDPlay is a SID specific player and has been coded by a quite gifted coder, who not only has a passion for music but also in retro hardware, emulators and the retro scene in general.
Check out his website here:
And for SID music collections check out:

DC Linux
The Linux mob have been out in force and have managed to port over a version of the operating system to the WinCE console.
Requiring a keyboard (naturally), an optional DC mouse, and preferably used with a VGA box on your PC monitor as opposed to the TV output of the DC. DC Linux is mainly a text based environment, however X Windows can be run from the command line. If you have the DC broadband adaptor you can even use FTP and HTTP commands too.
The bootable image can be downloaded and burnt to disc from: super-h/dreamcast/
And for more information visit: &
Hardcore Dreamcast enthusiasts only!

This program-ette allows you to view Jpeg files on your console, giving you the ability to browse both backwards and forwards throughout the pictures.
Coded under the GPL by Nathan Whitehead, the viewer also allows you to change directories (so you can have individual collections of pictures), zoom in and out of the pictures and also pan around.
The nice thing about this program is that any discs you burn with jpegs on them are useable in a PC as well as the Dreamcast.
There are many features to this viewer including aspect ratio correction, gamma correction, fading between pictures, rescan cd to allow disc swap and many more.
Unfortunately the website no longer exists but you can download the program from the site mentioned on the next few pages.

This amazing Commodore 64 emulator has been ported over to the Dreamcast by Tolga Abaci using the KallistOS.
Emulation of the C64 is mostly at full speed and is pumped out to your TV at a resolution of 640x480 with 44.1khz 16bit audio.
It comes packaged in a nice user interface that allows you to change the emulator settings and also load both tape and discs.
Save states are also supported via the VMU, and you can even assign certain keys to the triggers and buttons on the DC controller.
It can be used with either a real DC keyboard, or Frodo’s own virtual keyboard.
Get more information here:

This is a relatively new emulator to the homebrew scene but has already caused a stir amongst the DC faithful.
A port of the successful WinUEA, this is still in its infancy and is no where near complete, however it is definitely looking promising so far.
It currently only runs as an Amiga 500 with 1mb of ram, however the coders are the same team behind DCastaway, the amazing Atari ST emulator for the dreamcast.
Currently supporting around 50% speed, a menu system, virtual keyboard, joystick and mouse emulation and sound (although not that well) this emulator needs the Amiga Kickstart 1.3 rom to work.
Get more information from:
Definitely one to keep your eye on.

NesterDC is arguably the best NES emulator for the Dreamcast.
Coded by Takayama Fumihiko (formerly Ken Friece) it currently supports almost full speed emulation, complete NES sound emulation, savestate to VMU, screen adjust / size and a customizable GUI.
In addition to this NesterDC also supports GameGenie codes and themes.
What is nice about this emulator is that not only does it allow multiple emulators on one cd, it also has a feature where you can create a one game emulator.
This will then boot, and run the game without any interaction from you, and without having to navigate the menu. Great if you want a collection of one game cds.
Get more information by looking at:

If you remember the likes of Maniac Mansion, Zak McKracken, Monkey Island and Loom, you will have to try out the Dreamcast post of ScummVM.
SCUMMVM is the “Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion Virtual Machine” and was the utility used to create the famous LucasArts point and click adventure games.
The utility was initially used in 1987 for the Maniac Mansion game, and modified later for the creation of Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders.
After the success of these two games development on the SCUMMVM utility continued until it has now become the application we know it as today.
The Dreamcast port of SCUMMVM was coded by the SCUMMVM Team and information regarding compatibility can be found at:

Where do we begin? There are countless ports of emulators over to the Dreamcast, along with single game emulation programs too.

Here is a brief list of other emulators available:

Multi Game Emulators:-

(These emulators will play most normal game roms, however some may not run at full speed and / or with full sound capabilities)

Apple 2
Atari 800
Atari 2600
Atari 5200
Atari 7800
Atari ST
Atari Lynx
BBC Micro
BHole DC (DOS 386 Emulator) Colecovision
Commodore 16 / Plus 4 CPS1 / CPS2 (Arcade) Gameboy
Genesis / Megadrive Intelevision
Master System
Neo Geo
Neo Geo CD
Neo Geo Pocket N64
Odyssey 2
PC Engine Playstation
SG 1000 / SG 3000 SNES
System 16 Vetrex Wonderswan

Something for everyone there we bet. Single Game Emulators:-

(These emulators need arcade roms to play correctly)

Arkanoid Bubble Bobble Contra
Double Dragon Galaga
Gradius 3 Paperboy Rastan Robocop Shinobi
Space Harrier Street Fighter 2 Super Sprint Wonderboy
Yie Ar Kung Fu

For more information please see:

This article was originally published on RETRO REVIVAL, Issue 3, March 2005.

← previous
next →
sending ...
New to Neperos ? Sign Up for free
download Neperos App from Google Play
install Neperos as PWA

Let's discover also

Recent Articles

Recent Comments

Neperos cookies
This website uses cookies to store your preferences and improve the service. Cookies authorization will allow me and / or my partners to process personal data such as browsing behaviour.

By pressing OK you agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge the Privacy Policy

By pressing REJECT you will be able to continue to use Neperos (like read articles or write comments) but some important cookies will not be set. This may affect certain features and functions of the platform.