The secret story of a bug that almost sank the release of Dreamcast in North America

© Nintendo Life

Sega may now be Nintendo’s ally, but at the turn of the Millennium, it’s still very much with the final game console Dreamcast joining the N64 in a market dominated by Sony PlayStation. It was a rival.

Dreamcast may have been Sega’s last die in the hardware sector, but the console enjoyed a fairly successful launch in North America before the company unplugged it into a third-party publisher- John Bird, release itself, according to former Sega technical staff Almost It didn’t go as planned.

Bird talks to the Retro Hour Podcast about a bug that has never been talked about. A few days before it was launched in North America in September 1999, he received feedback from journalists that a particular game randomly crashed the Dreamcast console and that the game in question was all created by publisher Midway.

Bird was swiftly sent to Midway’s San Diego office to find out what the problem was, and he said it was specially developed for the North American market and included in the Midway game “Audio. I thought he had something to do with the “64” driver, so he was the developer of that driver, and a few days later he decided to flee the scene and take a vacation, leaving Bird to solve the problem. In his own words, he realized that if the bug wasn’t resolved, the responsibility lies solely with his shoulders.

Only midway games were experiencing crashes, but if Bird couldn’t find out exactly what was causing it, there was a danger that it could be done. Potentially Participate in other launch games or future games. Until the cause was discovered, the risk of Dreamcast being branded as buggy and flawed was always imminent. This is what Sega naturally wanted to avoid with such a high-profile release.

Ready 2 Rumble Boxing was one of the midway titles that crashed Dreamcast
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing was one of the midway titles that crashed Dreamcast (Image: Midway)

As Bird told the Retro Hour team, the millions spent on launching Dreamcast in North America would be at risk if he didn’t work with the Midway team to resolve the bug. Would-that was true. Heisenbug in that it seemed to be completely It is random and cannot be debugged and modified properly. Only when Bird unplugged the console modem in a frustrated bout, he ran into an important tip – The game has crashed.

Bird knew that the modem was connected to the G2 bus, similar to the Yamaha AICA sound chip. The sound chip has a MIDI input pin, which was connected to ground in the Japanese model. On the North American model, the pin in question remained “floating”, which was found to be the cause of the system crash.

However, according to Bird, the crash was caused by a number of unpredictable factors, from room thermal noise to sun height and moon position. Due to one of these random elements, when the chip determined that the pin was getting MIDI information, the Audio 64 driver crashed and the entire system crashed.

solution? A revised version of the Audio 64 driver was quickly created and included in the remastered version of the Midway game, greatly avoiding disasters. The affected game was recalled and replaced with a modified disc (with the “Hot!” And “New!” Logos on the cover), but about 10,000 to 15,000 copies were released. , These can be collector’s items. time.

Dreamcast wasn’t the success Sega wanted, but it certainly didn’t prevent the company from leaving the hardware sector, but Bird’s story proves it could have been a lot. First, Lots Worse; if the bug had been found and not fixed, the Dreamcast launch would have been some sort of disaster.

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