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Keeping the Dream Alive: The Men Behind Dreamcast Homebrew
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Keeping the Dream Alive: The Men Behind Dreamcast Homebrew


May 12, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

Publishing is only one part of the equation, though. NG:DEV.TEAM, the developers behind Last Hope, soon decided to publish their games themselves. Last Hope was quickly by a revised "Pink Bullets" edition, and then a spiritual sequel called Fast Striker.

Timm and René Hellwig are the sibling co-founders of NG:DEV.TEAM, and it was SNK's NeoGeo system that inspired them to produce arcade action games of the high quality the system was known for. "Initially we started as a hobby project; two brothers who wanted to make quality games for our beloved NeoGeo," says Timm. "But later on, with the... success of Last Hope for Dreamcast, we started growing to become full-time game developers." From one passionately-loved system to the next.

The Dreamcast offers more for hobbyists than just nostalgia, though. Practically all Dreamcast homebrew development is accomplished through KallistiOS, an open source development environment with the express purpose of making Dreamcast games without Sega's official tools, which sidesteps copyright issues and other legal concerns (versions of KallistiOS also exist for the PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance).

It's what Redspot's developers and NG.DEV:TEAM use for building their games, and it seems to have worked out, although the OS is not exactly on par with Sega's in terms of tapping the maximum potential of the hardware. Still, KallisitiOS is unique in the way it fills the void left by the lack of an official dev kit.

For the homebrew scene, making games for much older systems usually necessitates a wide variety of separate tools and utilities. A one-stop option is very nice to have -- especially for a system from the post-16-bit era, when venturing into development without a comprehensive dev kit can be daring, if not crazy (though Scharl noted that a few indie Dreamcast games were written in pure assembly language).

And certainly, when you're not only developing Dreamcast games after its death, but also turning them into physical products, support for all this has to come from somewhere. The men behind both Redspotgames and NG.DEV:TEAM funded their companies out of their own pockets on the sales of their games, and remain private entities.

Independent publishing on marginalized game systems is inherently risky, but NG:DEV.TEAM recognizes the challenge.

"Nowadays we don't see much future in these niche systems, as the markets are [steadily] declining," said Timm Hellwig. "We still love them, but we're a business that makes money to fund our projects, after all. To date, Fast Striker only sold 60 percent of what Last Hope sold on Dreamcast, which is kind of disappointing [considering] the quality of the game... we also try to expand to more active and profitable platforms like iPhone and WiiWare."

The lesson might be, then, would be to seek diversity, to prevent a niche from turning into a rut. But Scharl disagrees with NG:DEV's assertion that things are declining, noting that the Hellwigs "rarely do promotion for their titles," and that Redspot's next Dreamcast game, a striking shoot 'em-up called Sturmwind, quickly gained nearly as many pre-orders as Last Hope.

Regardless, it helps that both companies' games are appealing to the type of super-hardcore players that kept the spirit of the Dreamcast alive in the first place, are passably playable at worst, and can get a fair amount of publicity on the web when a new one is announced -- just by virtue of being the potential last Dreamcast game, yet again.


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