The new online revolution that never really hit the Dreamcast. - Editorial By digitaltaco
When the Dreamcast was first announced, it was touted as the machine that would finally take console gaming online. And it did. But we were also promised a future of broandband gaming; Instant access times, low pings, large downloads, and fast web browsing were the dreams of console gamers that Sega was to turn to reality. And hence, the Sega Broadband Adapter (BBA) was born. The beautiful little device sat in the same port that the Dreamcast modem did, except instead of the standarand phone modem jack, this one had the super-speedy, RJ-45 ethernet jack. And I fell in love...
You see, though narrowband online gaming may have appealed to some, to me, it seemed utterly useless. I made the move to broadband on my PC long ago, and was I left without a narrowband ISP to access the Internet on my Dreamcast. Also, after you've used broadband, you don't ever want to touch dial-up again. When Sega announced the broadband adapter, I knew I had to have one. I didn't intend to play too much Quake 3 Arena or Unreal Tournament on the Dreamcast because I already had the PC versions of both games, but the future of online console gaming just seemed so bright. I mean, now we could finally play games that would never show up on a personal computer with people we'd never ever meet. And the proof was in the pudding. And the pudding was Phantasy Star Online.
I've been known to shout out about my love for broadband gaming in PSO.
I bought PSO and fell in love with the game's addictive play structure instantly. At the time of the game's release, I had already ordered a broadband adapter but not yet received it due to high demand and backorder problems. So I began to play the game with my parents' dial-up connection (I no longer live at home). This was a hassle for me, my roommate, my parents, and I'm sure their ISP. While gaming with the modem was fine usually, the occasional disconnect, lag, and the fact that our only phone line was constantly in use proved to be annoying for myself and my roommate. So when the broadband adapter arrived I was happy to say the least. But, as you know, Sega had bunked out and not included support for the BBA in PSO.
So I began doing research online trying to find a way to get the sucker to work with the only online game that I wanted to play with my Dreamcast. I understood that all I really needed to do was somehow get my network settings stored into my Dreamcast. I did this by getting my hands on the Japanese broadband passport disk with shipped with their edition of the BBA. After making my way through the setup procedure, I was able to surf the Internet with the Passport disk, and thought, "Hey, I'm in business..." I placed my PSO CD into my Dreamcast, turned the machine on, clicked "Continue," and loaded my saved game. Then I faced the moment of truth; it was time to try to connect. I clicked "Online Mode" and clicked through the next two screens which deal with connecting to the online network... and do you know what happened? After about 15-20 seconds of loading I was online. No hassle. No waiting. And I there was one less screen to click through than when I was using narrowband. And everything I love about broadband connections was apparent in PSO. Clicking through the server lists was fast. I never waited for the ship lists to pop up. I never got disconnected... not once. Anybody who connected to a game I created received a noticeable speed increase in terms of connecting to the game. And best of all, I didn't have to worry about my roommate's phone calls disconnecting my game. This was the way the game was meant to be played.
It was around this time that I started to get really angry with Sega about their support of broadband. Sure, they released the BBA. But it was only available through their online store in very short supply. Though maybe that's a good thing considering that beyond the first-person shooters available for the Dreamcast, very few other games even support it. You see, the BBA works so well in PSO it really is a crime that it wasn't even supported in the game. It's a crime that some of Sega's other big name titles like the 2K1 series and Daytona USA didn't support the adapter. And it's a crime that the passport disk (which is necessary to make your broadband connection your default connection for the Dreamcast) isn't even included or available in the American release. Those who bought the BBA got screwed by lack of support. And those who didn't buy it were robbed of the next evolution in online gaming.
UT is one of the few Dreamcast games that supports the Broadband Adapter.
I know that I should have been wary when picked up a 70+ dollar (after shipping and tax) peripheral. I mean, in the history of console gaming, not one add-on has ever really succeeded. But I thought that the BBA actually had a chance. The fact that it was constantly "sold out" at the Sega store was proof that people were buying it. And my experience with the adapter in PSO, Q3A, and UT proved to me that the device was almost necessary for proper online play. But Sega simply shafted us in terms of support.
And now, the future looks even worse for Dreamcast broadband gamers. With the current state of the Dreamcast getting dimmer and dimmer, the idea of a game that supports the adapter being released seems like a mere dream. Will Outtrigger or PSO v. 2 support the BBA? It's highly doubtful. Will any of the upcoming 2K2 sports titles support the BBA? It's unlikely. Sega has pulled the device from their store, making it only available through other less reliable sources such as Ebay auctions. And with that, I think that I can safely say that broadband gaming on the Dreamcast, much like the console itself, is coming closer and closer to its death. But unlike the Dreamcast as a whole, broadband gaming was never even given a chance to shine. As a console gamer, I can only hope that the other contenders in the current console war will give broadband gaming a brighter chance then Sega did with the Dreamcast. If not, the next revolution in online gaming may not be as important as it should be.
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