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Writer Questionaire

Form handler now fixed



So, it transpires you're interested in the ROM writer. Good good!
However, I'll need to collect some information, so I can make this project
actually useful.

Remember, this is a UK-originating project, so replace "Megadrive" with
Genesis where it occurs, if you're from the US.

Your name (or Furry alias)?


Your e-mail address, AIM, ICQ, etc?
This is a furry-read form -- it is not automatically processed, and
will certainly not be entered into any database! The only person who should
see this information is me. It is required so that:
A) I can identify unique posts
B) I can contact you when the writer is ready (put "do not contact" if you
don't want that to happen!)




Tell me a bit about yourself and your interests in Emulation --
for instance, are you developing for the Megadrive? Hacking games?
Include website or hacking group, or whatever if you like...
Try and touch on your past experience with:
-Hacking
-Programming
-Megadrive developing
-Electronic design
-Electronic construction
As always, keep it short!
Remember to state which country you are from!




Are you...

A furry?

No Yes


A Sonic fan?
No Yes


Know what you are doing when it comes to hacking?
No Yes


Know anything about Electronics?
No Yes
Bear in mind that if you are planning to construct any part of this project,
it will make fairly extensive use of Surface Mount components and custom
etched PCBs with fine pitch tracks.



On we go...here are the main questions.



Do you have a MegaCD?
Yes No


A 32X?
Yes No


Which Megadrive model do you have?
If you have multiple Megadrives, then pick the most common of
all the machines -- for instance, if you have a Megadrive II and a
MultiMega, pick Megadrive II. This is used for compatibility information,
not for showing off your collection of rare consoles! =P
Pick the TOPMOST option which you own.




Would you like to see compatibility with more than just
the Megadrive 1 and 2?

Yes No


Would the ability to play/develop 32X games be useful?
Bear in mind that you will still be able to play 32X cartridges, even if there
is no 32X support; you just won't be able to write 32X ROMs

Very! Not amazingly useful


What is your desire to have a ROM writer?


How do you expect this system to work?



Before answering the following, realise that ROMs will typically be hundreds of times more expensive than blank CDs!


Which would you prefer?
A system that can burn a cartridge like a CD-R, but might
be hard (impossible?) to erase, and slow to burn.
This is referred to as "The Cartridge Burner", and consists
of blank cartridges, and a ROM writer unit.
This will be developed *AFTER* the project below is complete.

---
A system that can quickly upload ROM files to a cartridge,
and erase them, but might be more expensive, but better
for development, and one cartridge lets you play most of
your ROM collection.
This is referred to as "The DevCart", and is a single piece
unit -- it can be used for playing ROMs or developing.



How desirable is SRAM support?
Without this, games that make use of save RAM (Sonic 3, RPGs, etc)
will not be able to save games.



In the case of the Burner, would you be willing to pay more
for a blank cartridge that includes SRAM?





--------------------
Q U E S T I O N S . S P E C I F I C . T O . T H E . R O M . B U R N E R
--------------------
Note: This unit will probably be in the form of write-once, erase never cartridges. If you would
like the ability to rewrite cartridges, then look at the DevCart below, instead.

What kind of case would you expect on the blank cartridges,
and how accurate to a real Megadrive cartridge do you expect them to be?

Note: The closer the replica needs to be to the original, the higher the
price will be



If you require an accurate replica, the other alternative is
to use a real Megadrive cart. Is this acceptable?
No Yes / Don't mind Very desirable, even with second hand carts



How desirable would it be for the ROM burner unit (not the cartridges) to be mounted in an enclosure?



Cost: how much would you expect a blank cartridge to cost?
Does 15 pounds (~$23USD) sound reasonable?
Remember, it probably will not be rewritable, but at least
it is cheaper than the DevCart...

Comment:



Does 25 pounds (~$39USD) sound reasonable for the required ROM burner?
Ja! Das ist sehr gut!
Nein; der ist ein schrecklicher Preis.

Would you like to see a service offered where cartridges can be
pre-burned, saving you the cost of a ROM burner? Comment:



Would it be handy if the ROM burner included ROM copying functions too?
Bear in mind, most ROMs are available on the Internet these days
No, a total waste of time
Might be handy
Pretty useful
Yes! Very useful!



Would you like to see a system where you could use your
Megadrive as the ROM burner, rather than a separate unit?

No, that would be terrible
No strong preference
Yes! Much better than a stand-alone unit



Would you like to build the burner all yourself, order a pre-
made board and partly build it, or would you like a pre-built
system?




Same question, but relevant to the blank cartridges.
Comment on both the blank cartridges and the writer, and how you'd
like them supplied




To regain some of the lost money in burning carts, you can
burn fake beta cartridges, and sell them at a huge profit on
eBay (disclaimer: I didn't say this!)



** please answer the DevCart section as well! **



--------------------
Q U E S T I O N S . S P E C I F I C . T O . T H E . D E V C A R T
--------------------
This unit, by nature, allows fast rewrites of cartridges, saving you a huge cost

How long would you like the cartridge to
retain its contents after turning the Megadrive off?

(bear in mind longer times might be more expensive)



How desirable is it to have the DevCart mounted in an enclosure,
rather than a bare board sticking out of the Megadrive?




Another option is to use the MegaCD expantion port on the side
of the Megadrive to connect the DevCart to, instead of the cartridge slot.

This will pose several advantages:
+Might (repeat: might) allow ROM copying by plugging the cartridge
into the Megadrive, and dumping through the MegaCD port
+Much neater case design -- no difficulty making it fit the cartridge port
But there are downsides:
-You'll have to unplug the MegaCD to use it, unless a through-port is used.
This means more wear and tear, and no ability to use MegaCD-enhanced ROMs (rare).
-No 32X compatibility (may not be anyway) since it goes into the Megadrive directly

Comment on your preference. Even if you'd prefer a cartridge-based
system, would you like to see MegaCD enhanced game compatibility?
If you are in favour of the MegaCD port idea, would you like to see a through-port,
so you can connect the MegaCD?




Back to the cartridge idea, would you mind a big parallel
socket sticking out the top, or would you prefer a smaller, lighter, less
obtrusive round DIN connector, like a PS/2 keyboard, which can be covered
by a label?
A smaller connector would be desirable because...

Pick the subject that's most important to you from the above,
or pick parallel if you don't think it's worth it at all



How desirable is it to have a cartridge which can hold a full
4Megabytes, rather than 2Megabytes, considering it will cost
25-60% more?


Be aware that huge >4MByte games are bankswitched -- compatibility
cannot be ensured anyway, and the price of such large chips will be
very high



Tell me a bit about your reasoning behind picking the above --
for instance; is 2 megs really enough for all the games you intend to play?
Which games do you mind not working? Do you really need 4 megs?
It would be very helpful if you could make a list of all 4 megabyte games
you know about.


Sonic games that exceed 2MB that I'm aware of:
- Sonic 3 and Knuckles
- Sonic 2 and Knuckles
- Sonic 3D Flickies' Island
- Some bootleg FanROMs in the future


How desirable is complete compatibility with all games? Do you
mind if a small minority of games don't work?


Be aware that some games *require* SRAM, require odd bank switching,
odd hardware on the cartridge, or require a processor on the cartridge, so
complete compatibility can never be gained
Problem games are likely to include: Sonic 2 + Knuckles, Virtua Racing,
>4MByte games (48Mbit, etc), and other "tricked" carts

Having said that, Sonic 2 and Knuckles can work under Emulation, so it is
possible to get this working. And yes, you *can* burn a copy of Sonic 2
and lock it onto Sonic and Knuckles to make it work.



How desirable are fast uploads? 0 indicates you'd be willing to
wait a minute or more for a write to happen, and 10 indicates
you want the write to be as quick as possible, at any price
within reason




How desirable would it be to be able to write cartridges
*without* the cartridge being plugged into the Megadrive?
Normally, the cartridge would have to be plugged into the
Megadrive and plugged into the PC in order to write.
NOTE: once the cartridge is written, you can disconnect the PC



Tell me more about your above choice. Bear in mind that
writing cartridges without being connected to the Megadrive will involve
the need for an extra power supply.
Two options really -- either use extra components (more cost) on the cartridge,
and plug a power supply into it, or plug the cartridge into the ROM burner -- but you'd
need to buy a ~25 pound ROM burner to write carts.
Moreover, if I design the cartridge to be written *outside* of the Megadrive, then
it might mean that you can no longer upload ROMs to the cartridge with it still in
the Megadrive -- a real pain for developers.




How desirable would it be to allow programmes you develop on the
Megadrive to be able to talk to the PC via the port -- ie, write
variables to the PC for display on the screen




If the above was at the cost of having to keep the cartridge
plugged into the Megadrive while writing, and slightly reduced
compatibility (maybe 2% of games broken), how desirable is it?




Answer the following with text:
How near is your Megadrive to the PC?
Is it near enough to run a parallel port extender lead?
Is it near enough to press RESET every time you want to upload
a ROM?
Can you move it near to the PC?




How much bother would pressing the Megadrive's RESET be each time
you want to upload a ROM? Would you prefer if the software could do
this automatically, even at an increased cost?




If automatic resetting is desirable, how important is it that
software on your PC doesn't accidently reset your Megadrive if
you do something like run a programme, boot up an OS, or reboot
the machine?

Note: unplugging the PC from the cartridge stops this from
happening




Cost: how much would you expect the entire development system,
with the special cartridge, short parallel port lead, and software to cost?
Does 35-45 pounds (~$50-70USD) sound reasonable for a 4 Megabyte unit?




Would you like to see development tools included with the above?
Would you mind this pushing the price up slightly?
* said tools will include freeware tools, combined with custom
software, not available anywhere else, including instructions,
a graphics library, and graphics tools



To put the price in perspective, that's less than a Megadrive game
when they were still popular. This will allow you access to a
huge library (most of the Megadrive ROMs) of games, and let you
develop your own games or hacks on the real machine, using similar
hardware to the professionals




Considering the cost of this unit, I'm assuming that each person
will only want one unit. They will upload ROM files to it,
and use it for development, rather than building up a collection
of cartridges, like you would with CDs.
Likewise, it is unlikely that they will send cartridges to friends,
although you can unplug the DevCart and use it on another Megadrive, as
long as you're quicker than the maximum memory retaining time, which you
answered above!)

Do you think this is right, or do you think differently?
Also, use this area for any final comments of your own

Also mention your desire for SRAM support here -- for instance, you
might want to see SRAM on the burner, but what if you decide that the burner's write-once
erase never system isn't for you? Do you still want SRAM on the DevCart? It is very
difficult to get SRAM working for all games. It seems a bit of a waste to implement
SRAM just for the only Sonic game that uses it -- Sonic 3(K) -- which could possibly be hacked
to get SRAM working anyway (but hey...we all know the cheats to that game anyway; so why?)

Record your thoughts on this matter!





One last thing: what is your preferred method of payment?
Pick the TOPMOST option you'd be happy with

Any comments on this should be put in the box above.



That's it!
Thank you for answering this questionaire; without this information, it would be impossible to create a ROM writer.