"The Dreamcast is alive and kicking in the emulation and home development scene." - by Retrovertigo
For a long time, video game emulation was a PC specific genre, mainly because the PC was easy to develop for. Anybody with knowledge of a programming language like C++, could easily create their own programs. Individuals or small groups of people who know a thing or two about computer programming and the ins-and-outs of classic video game consoles, are the primary developers behind most video game emulators. It is rare to see a company, like Bleem the creators of the PlayStation emulator for the PC and Dreamcast, support the development of emulators, because of the moral and legal issues surrounding emulation. Because emulation is more of an "underground" project, most emulators for the PC are not 100% perfect, as necessary resources are not readily available, and the programs are constantly evolving and being patched and updated.
One problem with console emulation on the PC is that the main input device is the keyboard, and it makes sense that a video game console would be one of the most ideal devices for emulation. The Dreamcast is just that system. Did you know that the Dreamcast is capable of reproducing some of the emulation you can find on the PC? It's true! Well, read on, my friend, because this $50 console that many claim is now "officially dead" still has a few surprises up its sleeves.
If you are not familiar with the video game emulation scene on the Internet, it's no surprise -- not all of it is exactly legitimate, and therefore, not widely available. Emulators are usually pretty easy to find, but because of legal issues, the games (called ROMs) are difficult to find. Downloading of commercial ROM files is technically stealing, and many sites that offer commercial ROMs - to cover their own butts - insist that you own the actual game before you can "legally" download the ROM version.
Not all ROM files are illegal, though. Some developers have used their knowledge of ROMs to create their own games, including mixing characters and settings from different commercial games. Curious to know what a game like Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. would be like if you could play through it with Samus from Metroid instead of Mario? If you are good at finding things on the Internet, you might just find out!
A short time after the Dreamcast was released, some really smart people figured out how to "hack" into the Dreamcast console, and create their own programs and software for the system. Albeit, many of the early programs available for the Dreamcast were used to assist in playing illegally copied Dreamcast games, the focus eventually spread out to completely new mediums of entertainment, which helped the Dreamcast "unofficially" surpass the initial claims of the PlayStation 2 as being the first complete home entertainment system.
If you followed the early Internet buzz and rumors circulating about the PlayStation 2 before its release, you may have heard statements claiming that the PlayStation 2 would be the ultimate home entertainment system. Theoretically, with the PS2 you could download movies and demos from the Internet, check e-mail, browse the Web, and play DVDs. So far, the PS2 has only delivered on a few of those ambitious ideas. However, the Dreamcast can provide many of these functions - with right software.
You might be surprised to know that while the Dreamcast can't play DVD movies like the PS2 can, it can play VCD discs. With the purchase of a program simply called Dream VCD Player by SRC, you can watch VCD movies on the Dreamcast. Also, there are a couple DIVX players in the works so you can play DIVX encoded movies on your DC! They are currently in early development but are playable. Hit these links for more info - Dreamcast Media Player, Pocket DIVX for DC.
With the assistance of a program called MP3 DC by Pelican, you can turn your Dreamcast console into an MP3 CD player. You can even customize your own playlists onscreen. If you have your Dreamcast hooked up to a sound system, you might be able to show your friends how chic it is to be geek when you use your Dreamcast as a jukebox at your next social gathering.
While these programs are interesting, the most popular "unofficial" aspect of the Dreamcast is the ability to play classic video game games on your little white machine!
Next: Wolf 3D, Doom, and Quake on the Dreamcast?