2021 plans

I wanted to post an update regarding my projects (and projects I’ve been involved in) and what will happen to them in 2021. Of course it’s hard to predict how the whole year is going to turn out, but at least I wanted to give a rough estimate of where thing are heading.

The overall direction is shifting from making mods to research and making tools, streamlining existing projects (can’t do so much these days!) as well as writing tutorials and updating/rewriting existing mods and tools to make them easier to understand. There are also projects I’m burned out on or don’t find much interest in anymore, so those will be in maintenance mode without active development.

Here are the projects I want to talk about in detail:

Dreamcast Conversion
There will likely be a Dreamcast Conversion update about as major as Update 11 was.
1) While the overall experience won’t be noticeably different, it will be reworked internally with better solutions for problems it’s trying to fix. For example, problems with transparency will be resolved in a more elegant way than they are now, and a lot of code will be rewritten for better readability for anyone interested in learning how to make mods. The new code will use labels from leaked X360 symbols wherever possible. This will be accompanied by Mod Loader updates as well, which will enable other people to use original structures and function names in addition to what’s available in the Mod Loader at the moment.
2) I’m also setting a new goal – I want to restore ALL of the object models. There are about 2720 non-level models in sonic.exe (plus several hundred in the DLLs), and DC Conversion restores about 800 of them at the moment. The goal is to get all of them.
3) There will also be some bugfixes and minor feature updates. If I figure out a good way to do it, I might add a separate config file “for nerds” that would allow to customize every single aspect of the mod.
4) Another big change will be related to file structure, as I will try to match the source file structure we managed to recreate for SADXPC this month.
5) There may be a big Chao-related update based on the work done by Exant earlier this year. It may be a separate mod, or a part of DC Conversion. We’ll see.

SA Tools
Since mid-2020 I’ve been updating various aspects of SA Tools to make them easier to use, and I want to do more of it later on. I’ve also made a few tools myself, such as the object scanner. There will probably be more tools made by me in the future. I want to make a Dreamcast Chao editor and recreate PL Tool in C# at some point, though these are only ideas at this point.
Lately I’ve been working a lot on researching and recreating the original SADX source file structure. With the help of other x-hax members, mainly ItsEasyActually, this will likely continue with relevant updates to the tools and possibly the Mod Loader. The main goal of this work is being able to extract most (ideally all) data from the game’s binaries to a set of files/folders with names resembling the original source assets. I must say though that I’m not interested in SA Tools’ project system (not in its current form at least) so this won’t be compatible with automatic/manual mod building, and figuring out how to put all this data back into the game as a non-DLL mod is a completely different story. But there are some starting points, and someone else will probably figure it out eventually.

SADX Mod Installer
I think 2020 was a very important year for SADX Mod Installer. It got a new website, a new configuration tool to replace the one that comes with SADX Steam, and a lot of language translations. I’d like to thank everyone who contributed a translation.
The installer is a project I’ve sunk a lot of time and effort into, and I think it’s solid enough now to feature freeze it. Sadly there’ve been some rare but persistent issues with Steam to 2004 conversion I’ve never been able to reproduce, and overall developing and supporting the installer has been more of a chore than an enjoyable experience. I don’t think it will have as many updates as it did in 2020. I’m still open to language contributions, but otherwise the installer will be in maintenance mode from now on.

Other projects
Unless significant progress is made in related areas in the Mod Loader, HD GUI and Sound Overhaul will be in maintenance mode. I want to continue my investigation into MLT soundbanks and sequenced sound – maybe someday we’ll be able to imitate it the way it was on the Dreamcast. Also, I wanted to make a new page on Dreamcastify that discusses some SA1- and SADX-related myths and also new information we got from the leaked X360 build, but it’s been increasingly difficult to find motivation to work on it. When I made the blog in 2017, I wanted to make a difference by letting people see how much of a letdown SADX was in comparison to the original game, and I think my attempt was fairly successful. Since then, my focus has long shifted towards research and tool development rather than trying to bring SADX issues to public attention. So, no guarantees but I do want to update the blog when I have the energy.

That’s it! 2021 will be an important year for me in real life so I don’t know how much I can commit to all these projects, but I will try to make or contribute to stuff when I can. Happy new year!

My comments on Cybershell’s video on SADX downgrades

Youtuber and streamer Cybershell, who is known for his Sonic videos from a few years back, has made a comeback with a video on SADX downgrades, which you can watch here:

It’s a great video and I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. At the same time I feel the need to highlight several very important points that weren’t mentioned in the video:

“Dreamcast Conversion” is the name I chose for my mod. It’s a total conversion (hence the name) for SADX PC that restores Dreamcast levels, special effects, object models, textures and a lot of other things, fixes several bugs in the PC version and so on, but it doesn’t include two important aspects of the original experience: Dreamcast lighting and Dreamcast characters.

I understand that “Dreamcast Conversion” sounds like an umbrella term for all projects restoring Dreamcast stuff in SADX, which can be confusing because there are Dreamcast projects for SADX made by other people. With this in mind, I feel it is incredibly unfair to the developers of those other projects, whose authorship doesn’t belong to me. So let me clear up the situation and give shout-outs to the people whose efforts should be acknowledged just as much as (if not more than!) mine:

SonicFreak94, the developer of the Lantern Engine (palette lighting) mod. I want to make it clear that, while I helped around with research and testing SA1 lighting, the actual implementation of authentic Dreamcast lighting in SADX PC is his work. It was his incredible insight and dedication that inspired me to work on Dreamcast Conversion in the first place. I’ve contributed to several of SonicFreak94’s projects, such as SADX: Fixed Edition and the Input Mod (and he did some work on Dreamcast Conversion as well), and I am very proud to have been involved in the development of his Lantern Engine to some degree, but overall my contribution to the actual implementation of it in Direct3D was minimal, and I wouldn’t have been able to restore Dreamcast lighting on my own. So the full credit for Dreamcast lighting on PC goes to SonicFreak94, not me.

ItsEasyActually, the developer of the Dreamcast Characters mod. It’s his mod that restores original character models, and it is not part of my Dreamcast Conversion mod. While I did help with the development of this mod here and there, as well as made some minor contributions to it, it is overall a completely independent work with a ton of research and effort put into it. So we need to thank ItsEasyActually for putting all that effort in restoring Dreamcast character models in SADX PC.

MainMemory and SonicFreak94, the main developers of SADX Mod Loader and SA Tools. The Mod Loader and its mod framework make it possible to develop mods for SADX PC with different levels of complexity, from simple file replacement to custom code that rewrites parts of the game’s programming. SA Tools let us work with data from both games and are extremely useful for making comparisons or converting assets between different versions of the game. Without the Mod Loader and SA Tools it would’ve been much more difficult to develop all these mods, to the point that I probably wouldn’t have started work on Dreamcast Conversion if those tools weren’t available.

So yes, while I did have some involvement in all of these projects to some extent, it is important to understand that the restoration of Dreamcast assets in SADX PC is a combined effort of many people, and much of that effort went towards reverse engineering the game’s internals and making tools long before I came to the scene to make Dreamcast Conversion.

To sum up:
1) My Dreamcast Conversion mod is one part of the Dreamcast restoration, which includes multiple mods and is a combined effort of many people, not just me;
2) SonicFreak94 and ItsEasyActually should be credited for Lantern Engine and Dreamcast Characters respectively;
3) The Dreamcast Conversion mod is built using MainMemory and SF94’s Mod Loader framework. “PkR’s Mod Loader” is actually my Mod Installer, which installs MainMemory and SF94’s Mod Loader and a few mods.

If you want to learn more about the mods and the people behind them, I recommend TheArcadeStriker’s interviews with me, SonicFreak94 and ItsEasyActually for further reading.

First post

This is the first post on this blog, which I set up after the decision to quit Twitter.

I’m not sure whether this blog will be just like Twitter with frequent updates, or I will just dump some info here occasionally, or this will be the only post on it. We’ll see.

In the meantime you can use the top menu to have a look around.