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Ecernosoft

Atari 7800, 5200, and 2600 flashcart copy-protection (And maybe emulator detection?)

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Hi!

So this is my first topic. (Yay me!)

I realised that many flashcarts (Including the harmony and Concerto) load the game you want to play into RAM. (Duh) But, I realised, you can write to that "RAM" and it will succeed, ONLY ON THE FLASH CARTS. This doesn't work on emulators, and I know who would pirate such a game, but I wanted to put that out there. After writing to a memory address ($1000-$1FFF for 2600, $4000-$BFFF for 5200, $4000-$FFFF for 7800), you can check if it changed. If it failed, the copy is legit, and the game can run. If not, the game won't run. OR, you can do some sneaky things, like disabling gameplay past a world, making the experience wonky, and so on. 

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If you know how to test Pokey RND you can block almost all emulators as well :D but why....?

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1 hour ago, Ecernosoft said:

JS7800: Atari 7800 Emulator (raz0red.github.io)

I noticed this emulator has supported all official atari 7800 homebrews from Atariage!

 

Please take notice this isn't a bad emulator, it just is seemingly a little illegal..

It may be advisable to become more familiar with the place and circumstances before presuming anything, whether first topic or first post.  There's a coincidental curiosity posting on or about arguably controversial topics, at least a couple of those threads are many years old.  Not a bad thing necessarily, just an observation.

 

Respecting the hyperlink posted (https://raz0red.github.io/js7800/?cart=https://atariage.com/forums/applications/core/interface/file/attachment.php?id=926309), it connects the emulator to a publicly released ROM by the developer on these forums. 

 

Thought that may already be realized though, considering a post to the same thread where the ROM is provided.  The developer's own original post provides a link of their ROM running under the emulator in addition to the more recent link.

 

Any internal homebrews ROMs 'built into' the emulator itself, all received the respective developer's approval before being included in the emulator's list.  Some even provide specific ROMs for the emulator to run as well.

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1 hour ago, Ecernosoft said:

JS7800: Atari 7800 Emulator (raz0red.github.io)

I noticed this emulator has supported all official atari 7800 homebrews from Atariage!

 

Please take notice this isn't a bad emulator, it just is seemingly a little illegal..

99% of these homebrews are tested and built on emulators and flash carts because almost no one has a real 7800 dev environment, and all of them have been released in completely free public demos. 
 

best thing about the 7800 homebrew community is that it’s not filled with paranoid, selfish devs like other homebrew platforms. 

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30 minutes ago, John Stamos Mullet said:

filled with paranoid, selfish devs like other homebrew platforms.

Ah, the not-so-subtle art of accidentally-on-purpose shade. Can you elaborate though? I'd love to hear some examples.

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59 minutes ago, Trebor said:

Any internal homebrews ROMs 'built into' the emulator itself, all received the respective developer's approval before being included in the emulator's list.  Some even provide specific ROMs for the emulator to run as well.

This. 👍

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Posted (edited)
58 minutes ago, youxia said:

Ah, the not-so-subtle art of accidentally-on-purpose shade. Can you elaborate though? I'd love to hear some examples.

Not accidentally at all. The 7800 homebrew scene has great, generous devs who share their WIP demos as they develop, and in return sell through their final physical releases very well.  Some other platforms have nasty, sarcastic devs who don’t share their progress, make empty promises and never deliver, and bake DRM into their homebrew that in reality has a maximum audience of 500ish people, total - thus turning off a large percentage of their potential audience, and then blaming “pirates” for poor sales instead of realizing it was their own behavior that drove people away.

 

and no - I’m not going to provide examples because I’m not here to pick fights. Those of us who have been around this retro console scene for thr last 20 years or so know exactly what I’m talking about and there’s no need to rehash it. This post was more of an appreciation to how great this 7800 scene is. 

Edited by John Stamos Mullet
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32 minutes ago, John Stamos Mullet said:

Some other platforms have nasty, sarcastic devs who don’t share their progress, make empty promises and never deliver, and bake DRM into their homebrew that in reality has a maximum audience of 500ish people, total - thus turning off a large percentage of their potential audience, and then blaming “pirates” for poor sales instead of realizing it was their own behavior that drove people away.

Translation: I can't possibly name one platform which would be actually "filled" with the type of devs I describe, and I don't have the balls to name names, therefore I will continue to use vague & subjective accusations, and at best, if pushed, bring up one or two examples which will be supposed to represent entire communities.

 

Sorry, but this is not only cheap but also quite nasty, because there's no need to denigrate other communities  while praising the 7800 one, wonderful as it might be. While there certainly are/were some bad pennies on "other platforms" they are mostly exceptions from a rule. In my experience most (if not all) of other homebrew scenes are filled with "great, generous devs" too, just the same as this one.

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1 hour ago, youxia said:

Ah, the not-so-subtle art of accidentally-on-purpose shade. Can you elaborate though? I'd love to hear some examples.

Yeah. It's not like people on Atariage are like "FEED ME MONEY 'CAUSE I'M THE BEST AND YOU ALL SUCK!". People on Atariage actually care about their work. It's not nearly as easy to say, make something on Scratch compared to programming an Atari. Especially the 2600, due to it's insanely limited specs.

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We care. They care. And also, no-one really should act like that or say any group of devs acts like that. They might be like that because that could be holding their life up as their source of income. However, seriously, don't act like that. 

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Ok, I might need to apologize for the post above the post above this, because it doesn't make much sense. (Sorry, I have gone a little stir crazy!)

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11 minutes ago, youxia said:

Translation: I can't possibly name one platform which would be actually "filled" with the type of devs I describe, and I don't have the balls to name names, therefore I will continue to use vague & subjective accusations, and at best, if pushed, bring up one or two examples which will be supposed to represent entire communities.

 

Sorry, but this is not only cheap but also quite nasty, because there's no need to denigrate other communities  while praising the 7800 one, wonderful as it might be. While there certainly are/were some bad pennies on "other platforms" they are mostly exceptions from a rule. In my experience most (if not all) of other homebrew scenes are filled with "great, generous devs" too, just the same as this one.

You seem insistent on picking a fight. 
 

I’m not interested. 

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1 minute ago, John Stamos Mullet said:

One of them. Yeah. 

 

Now,  personally I agree with you.  The point was not to start fights or name names,  merely pointing out some of the bad things that happen and seem to happen more in other communities...I can even remember being in "Chat" BITD when we had that and let's just say a dev or 2 were ganging up on a 3rd to point out how bad a certain game was,  and this was a game everyone seemed to love,  so I think it was just sour grapes, ...anyway...

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My larger point was - the retro gaming market is pretty small as it is. When you whittle it down to specific consoles, it gets exponentially smaller. So if you willingly alienate an already microscopic audience with condescension and arrogance while trying to promote your upcoming release, and then throw DRM at them when it does come out - when you’re talking primarily about working adults who clearly have plenty of money to invest in their hobby - lots of people will avoid it. Kids? Kids don’t care and want the latest cool thing. Adults are different. You have to trust and respect your audience, or you won’t have one.

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How important is videogame history really? Outside of the hobby no one really cares in even the slightest. It isn't history like normal societal things like world stuff in the news. But yes those in the hobby often get things wrong. Too often.

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2 hours ago, John Stamos Mullet said:

You have to trust and respect your audience, or you won’t have one.

Absolutely. It's not like we're all pirates dressed in 70's and 80's garb wielding blank disks..

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Posted (edited)

I'm going to regret this...

 

Piracy exists in two main flavours that I'm going to call freeloaders and chancers. Freeloaders aren't going to buy your stuff regardless, they just want shit for free. These people are not a market for homebrew and never will be. The next are chancers, these are the people who want to make a quick buck out of someone elses work by selling it to someone else. These people also won't buy your stuff because they're thieves. The problem is that people who would by your stuff might buy the pirated one on eBay rather than the officially released one. These are people who buy games, and they are impacting the people who make the stuff.

 

This brings us to a couple of complications: Preservation and collecting. Preservation becomes more and more relavant as time goes on. Ultimately there won't be any original hardware left, or it will become prohibitively expensive. It's already happening with a few platforms. FPGA and software based emulation will be how you have to play old games in the future and unless those ROMs exist, that isn't happening. I'm not advocating piracy here as it is possible to buy ROMs from the developers in some cases, but ultimately piracy goes hand in hand with preservation. Because without piracy, there wouldn't even be the possibility of emulation. Collecting is an issue when limited or rare games that are simply unavailable to those who would want to buy them. The completly valid argument here is that you don't have any right to them whatsoever, but collectors hoarding and scalping removes games from the market to people who want to play them leaving piracy as an option.

 

Personally I have issues with DRM in a modern context. My Xbox One for example irks me. I've got something like 300 games installed on that thing spanning from the OG Xbox to now and every single one of them is bound to a connection to  Microsoft. As we've seen with Nintendo and Sony, their attitude towards their older games and our rights to play them are somewhat anti-consumer. They'll happily turn off servers and remove games forever. You can even have the physical disk and hardware (again this is the case of the Xbox One) and if they switch of the servers, all your games and the console after a while will no longer work. Of course this is because they want to rent you the games now by getting you to pay a subscription. It's all about ongoing revenue and they're conditioning people to do that. But for preservation this is terrible as you don't actually own any of the games any more. Certainly when this becomes the norm, and it will...

 

An example of DRM that really bugs me is one of my favourite games is Oids. The original author ported it to the Mac (PPC) back in the day and I bought it. It's the best version of the game by far. But it has DRM that locked it to the CPU ID. I changed Mac a few times and the first two times he sent me new versions of the game for those machines. My last (and current) PPC Mac doesn't have Oids on it because he stopped responding to e-mails. That game is now gone other than the demo version you can find online. I've got my binaries somewhere, but they're tied to machines I no longer own. This is where DRM ruins preservation and essentially breaks a game I bought. I've other examples on PC: Company of Heroes, I've got the original on a shelf but I can't install it as it tries to connect to a server that's no longer there to validate it. I've a few instances where I've got the boxed games like this and the cracked version installed on my PC. Indeed I only buy games on GOG now and have a massive archive of the installers downloaded.

 

But, to prevent chancers profiteering from your own hard work creating a game, I can completely understand the reasoning behind them using DRM. My problem is that in the long run, it will absolutely impact the preservation aspect of all this.

 

That was a really long post that could be summarised as: The whole thing is complicated, but ultimately how a dev/publisher decides to distribute their work is ultimately up to them and there's not a damn thing any of us can do about it. I know FOMO is a thing, but it doesn't give us the right to impose our views on them in what they do with their own property, and we should probably just accept that as it's been this way since the creation of copy protection.

Edited by juansolo
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Well one thing is I try not to develop any sentimental attachments to anything DRM-enabled. It's just gonna go away anyways.. Also don't let FOMO bother me much anymore either. Got several lifetimes' worth of stuff I hope to eventually go through. At least some of it.

 

If I have to work harder or work around DRM or devise ways to nullify it or simply not use software (that has it) then so be it!

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On 5/22/2022 at 12:39 AM, Ecernosoft said:

But, I realised, you can write to that "RAM" and it will succeed, ONLY ON THE FLASH CARTS.

No, the write won't succeed (at least in the case of Harmony/Concerto). The console has no access to the ram in the cart. Only the arm microcontroller has.

The console's data and address bus are connected to I/O pins of the arm chip, which keeps checking them and responding (by driving the data bus when necessary) to emulate the behavior of the real cartridge hardware for each game.

 

So, if you're playing a 2600 game that's supposed to have rom at $1000-$1fff, writing to one address in that range will just result in bus contention (exactly like on a cart using a mask rom or an eprom): both the 6502 and the arm will put data on the data bus at the same time: the data to be written and the content of the rom respectively.

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Posted (edited)

This probably won't happen:

 

In an alternate reality where trust is lost and free will is discouraged, physical copies of intellectual properties are accompanied by a micro-robot with advanced AI which guards that copy and ensures that it is only used in a manner consistent with the author's wishes. Imagine a spider tag on your Atari cart with a 360 degree camera on a stalk and a direct link to Skynet.

 

This probably will happen:

 

All games will be stored in the cloud. You will have to pay to visit the cloud where you will have closely supervised fun and your play habits can be analyzed to determine how to get you to visit the cloud more often.

 

Why?

 

Masses of spider tag bots cost money and you risk loosing them if you send them out into the world. Clouds are relatively cheap and kept in tightly controlled secure rooms.

 

The future is secure. Enjoy the security.

 

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go do my security updates.

 

Edited by SIO2
Adding to the dream
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