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DP Wire Homebrew Scene - NUON
Originally appeared in the DP Wire, Vol 1.04, 11/13/04

NUON Homebrew is kind of an anomaly if you think about it. It's a very obscure platform with downright difficult development hardware for most would-be homebrewers, and yet there remains a small, but very talented and loyal group of coders and fans who support the system. Not to mention, homebrew games do not even work on all NUON machines (sorry Samsung DVD-N2000 and Toshiba SD2300 owners). For those of you following along with your DP Advance guides, turn to page 277 for an overview on the history of NUON, but for now continue on to learn about the efforts of those who refuse to let their game-playing DVD players die.

Back before VM Labs (the company behind NUON) was bought out by Genesis Microchip, someone behind the scenes had the foresight to get a public Software Development Kit (Download - 32MB) out to allow fans to write their own games and applications. One caveat, though - the only way to debug your programs is to compile your code, burn a CD-R or -RW, pop it in your NUON player and load it up to see if it works. You can just imagine how difficult and time-consuming this process is, which makes it all the more impressive that there are any homebrew games at all.

There are a few helpful resources for developers, though. Most notably the NUON emulator for PC's, Nuance (Download - 1.6 MB) allows developers to test code on their PC's, bypassing the compile-burn cycle. The only drawback is speed - currently the framerate can be counted on less than one finger. For those curious, yes the emulator will run commercial and homebrew NUON games, but the speed issue keeps them from being enjoyable. But if you're curious, it's a way to try things out if you're without a NUON machine.

Official NUON dev kits also help, but are rare and the hunt to turn up any remaining kits has been fruitless for the most part. A prototype RS232 adapter does exist, which would allow direct uploading of data to a NUON machine, but no one has been able to successfully reproduce a similar device.

One final obstacle to getting full-blown DVD based NUON homebrew is the authentication/encryption process. For you Atari Jaguar fans out there, it's similar to what the Jag community had to deal with in order to get games running on that system. For NUON, in order to access full DVD capacity and bypass the warning screen that gets attached to each homebrew app, a game needs to be authenticated using a program that is currently in the possession of Genesis Microchip. Again, efforts to retrieve the elusive key have been unsuccessful to date.

All obstructions aside, there are some great homebrew apps, all freely downloadable and playable on your compatible NUON player. Here is a list of what's currently available, with a short description of each program. Screenshots and downloads are available by clicking on the game titles.

Ambient Monsters - a "relaxation program" which displays nice, high resolution images of underwater scenes with accompanying sound effects. Programmed by Tim Prezzano.

Atari / C64 Video Game Music Player - This disc plays a selection of old Atari & C64 video game music classics. Enter the song selection from the menu, and listen to the sounds you'd almost forgotten. Created by Tim Prezzano.

Atari 800 Emulator - An emulator of the Atari 800 computer, with an image of the game "MULE" included. Currently there is no sound and the emulation is quite slow, but could be improved with some tweaking. Programmed by Mark Manyen.

Atari 2600 PacMan - This is an adaptation of Chomp, highly modified to re-create the Atari 2600 version of Pac Man. Features artwork and sound effects directly from the 2600 game. Programmed by Tim Prezzano.

BOMB - A clone of the classic game "Bombuzal". It uses the basic idea and most of its artwork. However, BOMB is different in quite some respects. Also has a graphical level editor available for users to create their own levels to add to the game.

Breakout - A completely original NUON game, based on the arcade classic Breakout. Programmed by Stephen Anderson, with help from JustClaws.

Chomp - This simple PAC Man clone game was included with the release of the second NUON SDK. It provided the foundation for PAC Man and Atari 2600 PAC Man to be developed down the road.

Decaying Orbit - Decaying Orbit is a space action game centered around your war against the Liaobec Empire. As the game opens, you are all alone deep within enemy space. Your first order of business is to get home. You must navigate your way through levels filled with planets, nebulae, enemy emplacements, and who knows what else. Created by Scott Cartier

Doom - A port of the open-source Doom code for the PC, as a demo in the early days of VM Labs/NUON. Was reportedly ported in just one weekend's time as a way to proving to developers how easy it was to get games on the platform.

PacMan - Tournament Edition - A modification to the Chomp code which adds the graphics/audio from the arcade version of PAC Man, and adds features such as Pause, random graphics, etc. Original code by Andreas Binner, contributions from Skah_T, Stephen Anderson and Kevin Manne. Features a Tourament Mode, with which you can post your high scores to this web page to see how you rank amongst the best!

SameGame - The first downloadable NUON game ever, SameGame comes in two variations - Shapes and Colors. Both are similar to the Dreamcast/PC game Sega Swirl in which you match up similar items to eliminate them all from the play field.

Snake - A NUON version of the classic Snake game where you run around, grabbing dots while trying to avoid running into walls and yourself as you grow with each dot eaten. Features a two player mode, high scores, and in-game music. Programmed by Chad "BeefMan" Tindle.

Synth Demo - Another demo from the early days of VM Labs that demonstrates the NUON Synth. The two versions have different MIDI files which are copyright their original owners, but were downloaded from the web at the time. This program is worth a look as it sounds better than many PC wavetable synthesizers. It uses only one MPE and a 1.5MB wavetable. Coded by Francois Souchay and Andreas Binner.

Not bad considering the situation, eh? And more is on the horizon. Scott Cartier of DragonShadow Industries has decided to go ahead and continue work on the recently-release Decaying Orbit in order to properly release the game with more content and proper packaging (if you're interested in this, check out the proposal and fill out the survey). He also plans on supporting the scene with new releases, which he'll start on after completing DO.

If your interest is piqued, get to downloading some of the games and the emulator if you need it to check them out. And be sure to head over to NUON-Dome for tons of info on the NUON platform including news, media, articles and information.

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