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We like to characteristic visitor articles right here on the Junkyard, and are all the time eager to listen to from readers who wish to submit one thing for publication. Here, Laurence Goodchild (aka Lozzdude) takes a have a look at the burgeoning business indie scene that has furnished the Sega Dreamcast with among the best examples of independently developed video games on any system. Lozz, over to you…

When Sega pulled the plug on the Dreamcast in 2001, few would have predicted that our beloved little white field would nonetheless be pushing out new titles 20 years later. Flicking by the pages of the multitude of gaming magazines that have been vying for market share on the time, readers have been offered with a journalistic consensus that the Dreamcast was properly and really useless (be aware: for youthful members of the viewers, magazines have been bounded sheets of paper with writing and art work printed on them).

Of course, by business requirements, this evaluation was bang on the cash. The gaming reporters might properly have identified {that a} trickle of official releases would proceed to see the sunshine of day for a couple of extra years, or had an inkling {that a} sizeable portion of the Dreamcast’s enthusiastic fanbase would proceed to help homebrew initiatives, a few of which might conceivably be launched in bodily kind on a small scale. In the phrases of reference that mattered to the business and the broader public although (income, revenue, viewers measurement), the writing had already been on the wall for a while.

Where all of it started…

Although by these requirements the Dreamcast’s new releases are nonetheless undoubtedly small fry, the business Dreamcast indie scene has been by an astounding increase in recent times; one which is turning into exhausting to disregard. The tongue-in-cheek opinion shared amongst Dreamcast fanatics for a few years that “the Dreamcast is a present gen console” is getting much less and fewer absurd by the day. What started with the discharge of Cryptic Allusion’s Feet of Fury in 2003 (extra information right here) has snowballed to a degree the place 14 indie video games have been launched in 2021. Furthermore, there are as many as 30 Dreamcast video games forecast for launch on a business foundation in 2022 and past – a determine that’s edging near the 50 or so formally licenced releases seen in Europe in 2001, and which far outstrips the 9 launched in 2002.

Of course, the rocketing amount of releases doesn’t single-handedly uphold the declare that we’re in a “golden age” for the Dreamcast indie scene, however there are a lot of different indicators that accompany this pattern. For one, the number of video games obtainable is wider than ever, placing to relaxation the persistent trope that every one the Dreamcast indie scene has to supply is shooters (which to be truthful, had some validity within the mid to late noughties). Everything from platformers, fighters, puzzlers, RPGs, racers, and visible novels are discovering a house on a professionally printed Dreamcast-compatible MIL-CD today. Furthermore, there was a diversification of contributors who’re throwing their hats into the ring. Longstanding Dreamcast builders with a mountain of credibility saved up, corresponding to Senile Team, are fortunately nonetheless right here, however they’ve additionally been joined by a brand new wave of builders and publishers which can be quickly incomes their stripes, together with the likes of PixelHeart/JoshProd, LowTek Games, RetroSumus, The Bit Station, and WAVE Game Studios to call however a couple of.

What actually provides weight to the speculation that the Dreamcast indie scene is getting into a golden age although is the standard of most of the video games – one thing which is undeniably extra subjective and more durable to pin down, however which will likely be recognised by many. Throughout the lifespan of the business Dreamcast indie scene there have all the time been standout titles, corresponding to Wind & Water Puzzle Battles (2008) or Sturmwind (2013), which drew worthy reward on the time. Dreamcast lovers would usually wait in anticipation for years at a time for these gems; video games that had clearly benefitted from the good care and a focus to element of their builders. Yet in 2020 and 2021 we have been spoiled rotten with the discharge of three terribly good titles in Intrepid Izzy, Xenocider and Xeno Crisis. These have all been extensively reviewed elsewhere too, so I received’t pour out my adoration right here. Suffice it to say that they every set a excessive normal which others needs to be aiming for.

Three of the current ‘huge’ indie releases on Dreamcast

So, what precisely is driving this increase? Through the extremely scientific technique of poking across the web, chatting with fellow religious Dreamcast followers, and mulling it over while munching on Hula Hoops, this is “what I reckon.”

First and foremost, there’s a longstanding wholesome demand for business indie releases. Folks are keen to half with their chilly exhausting money for these video games, and basically that’s what makes it viable for them to be launched, particularly in a bodily format. Many indie video games that see the sunshine of day in a business kind on the DC are undoubtedly labours of affection and have had numerous hours of voluntary or underpaid labour poured into them. Yet, nonetheless a lot these improvement prices will be saved in verify, and irrespective of how less expensive printing a CD is in comparison with producing one other medium (corresponding to a cartridge), it nonetheless requires funding, and so an inexpensive stage of demand is important. 

Sales range closely from sport to sport, nevertheless it isn’t uncommon to listen to of indie Dreamcast releases promoting over a thousand models, whereas people who promote properly have the potential of reaching far past this over the course of their shelf life. For instance, we all know that Intrepid Izzy quickly bought out its preliminary 700 copy print run inside weeks of its launch date, whereas the numbers proven on the PixelHeart web site indicate {that a} sport corresponding to Arcade Racing Legends has bought 2,500 copies of its PAL variation alone to-date. To put this into perspective, Radilgy, one among few remaining formally licensed Dreamcast video games, was presupposed to have a print run of simply 4,000 copies. When you add extremely priced collectors’ editions into the combo – one thing {that a} part of the Dreamcast scene’s sizeable ‘adult-with-disposable-income’ demographic keenly purchase into – then breaking even is a sensible, although not assured, objective.

Arcade Racing Legends

On the opposite aspect of the coin, there are a lot of elements that assist facilitate the availability of video games. Front and centre is the truth that Sega have up to now been very liberal (contact wooden!) of their stance on the Dreamcast indie scene. Perhaps there may be simply no legitimate enterprise rationale for them to dedicate assets to creating issues troublesome (versus real goodwill), however a laissez-faire perspective from multinational firms underneath circumstances corresponding to these isn’t all the time a given. Pair this with the Dreamcast’s functionality to play video games pressed to common CDs with out modification, and the relative ease of growing video games for the console when in comparison with different platforms (usually cited by builders of their DCJY interviews), and we’ve the foundations of the entire business indie scene.

Another duo of intertwined elements that are maybe extra pertinent now than within the early days are the potential for multi-platform releases, and the feasibility of ports. Although there may be nothing fairly like getting a real unique, the truth is that planning for the Dreamcast to be one among many platforms {that a} sport releases on permits builders the chance to achieve a broader viewers and doubtlessly safe a bit further earnings. This is now the default working mannequin for almost all of latest indie Dreamcast releases, most of which don’t essentially look misplaced on Steam or a current-gen console’s digital retailer because of the rehabilitation of small-scale 2D video games and pixelart which has occurred during the last decade or so. And the place would we be with out ports?

4×4 Jam was ported from the Sony PSP

A hearty chunk (certainly in all probability a majority) of current Dreamcast indie releases are ports of video games that started off on the NES, Neo-Geo, PC and even PSP (see 4×4 Jam). Whilst some ports require larger intervention for them to run easily, lots of these from the NES and Neo-Geo are in essence usually little greater than ROMs being emulated on the Dreamcast. These forms of Dreamcast releases definitely aren’t to everybody’s tastes, however when they’re executed with care and are fairly priced, they are often crowd pleasers.

Last, however removed from least, is the dedication and utilized talent of the builders themselves. While the low(er) obstacles to entry and potential for monetary viability are elements that act as attracts, likelihood is that what’s basically motivating lots of them to place their efforts into creating Dreamcast indie releases is a passion for the console and its fanbase. 

So, all’s cushdy within the indie Dreamcast scene the place sport improvement is a breeze, and punters are determined to half with money from their overflowing wallets, proper? Well no, not fairly. There are undoubtedly some black marks on the record-book and challenges that have to be contended with.

There’s nonetheless hope we’ll ultimately see Sl@ve on Dreamcast

Although an enormous variety of Dreamcast indie video games make it into the fingers of paying clients, there are additionally a lot that have gotten caught in limbo, disappear off the face of the earth, or have been acquired with disappointment. Jay Townsend’s Sl@ve, initially revealed in 2014, has been stalled in improvement hell for the previous few years of its gestation, however to their credit score the writer Goat Store has been forthcoming with refunds for pre-orders. Those who’ve backed different video games, corresponding to Elysian Shadows or Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs whose builders have seemingly acquired substantial sums of cash and gone silent after delivering nothing, haven’t been so lucky. 

The Textorcist reached the fingers of those that pre-ordered it throughout the house of 6-months from its announcement to launch, but gamers rapidly realised that the sport was awash with bugs that rendered it nearly unplayable, a nightmare state of affairs that seemingly arose from insufficient testing of the ultimate product (alternative discs are reportedly due shortly). These experiences will not be distinctive to the Dreamcast indie scene by any means, however dangerous information travels quick inside our area of interest neighborhood, and so when Dreamcast lovers get their fingers burnt it may injury belief and heighten cynicism, doubtlessly dampening the prospects for future releases. 

Developmental agonies and downright unethical behaviour apart, there are additionally some bumps within the street that even essentially the most proficient builders can face. With so many new titles hitting the cabinets of the (now principally digital) retailers, we might hit some extent the place the market turns into oversaturated. If this ends in the better-quality video games profitable out (the “cream rising to the highest” as Macho Man Randy Savage would put it), then that might arguably be truthful, however there may be additionally a danger of first rate video games from proficient builders getting misplaced within the crowd, failing to select up momentum regardless of their underlying high quality.

Taken after a very strenuous Samba de Amigo session

Fortunately the institution of well-oiled publishing homes and distribution networks might reduce the probability of this, however these will not be complete of their protection, and there may be already a precedent of proficient builders leaving the scene (corresponding to Orion and NG:DEV Team) and promising titles failing to boost ample funding (In the Line of Fire). 

Another problem that builders are starting to grapple with is the availability of digital variations of their video games, one thing which is necessitated by the unrelenting rise of Optical Disc Emulators (ODEs) as a most well-liked alternative amongst Dreamcast house owners. The overwhelming majority of those that need to play these video games are in all probability delicate to the necessity to materially help indie builders, but the convenience of piracy in terms of digital Dreamcast releases may very well be a fear. 

Elysian Shadows promised a lot, but delivered nothing

Despite these difficulties, the indie Dreamcast scene has reached a exceptional standing in the present day, one which can justify the definition of a “golden age.” Dreamcast lovers are blessed to have a bountiful platter of recent business indie video games to select from, complementing the nostalgic again catalogue of formally licensed titles in addition to innumerable non-commercial homebrew initiatives – one thing which warrants an article of its personal. The alternative to obtain an enormous hit of serotonin that accompanies the ripping of cellophane off a brand-new sport is one thing which we are actually operating into on a frequent foundation.

Things might get higher nonetheless if we start to obtain indie releases with on-line gaming capabilities (is a “platinum age” a factor?!), or come crashing down if we’ve to endure many extra Drascula’s (OK, this can be a tad hyperbolic). For now, let’s respect the video games we’ve been blessed with, and regulate DCJY to see what’s coming down the road.

Once once more, big because of Lozz for this glorious evaluation of the business Dreamcast indie scene. If you’d prefer to to submit one thing for publication, please be happy to get in contact by way of our Discord or Twitter.



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