Run Your Own Phone To Bring The Dreamcast Back Online

Playing a video game online is almost second nature now. So much so that almost all multiplayer video games have ditched their split-screen multiplayer modes because they assume you’d rather just be alone at your house than hanging out with your friends. This wasn’t always the case though. In the early days of online multiplayer, systems had to rely on dial-up internet before broadband was readily available (and still had split screen if you didn’t even have that). Almost no one uses dial up anymore though, so if you still like playing your old Dreamcast you’re going to have to do some work to get it online again.

Luckily for all of us there’s a Raspberry Pi image to do almost anything now. This project from [Kazade] uses one to mimic a dial-up connection for a Dreamcast so you can connect with other people still playing Quake 20 years later. It’s essentially a network bridge, but you will need some extra hardware because phone lines use a high voltage line that you’ll have to make (or buy) a solution for. Once all the hardware is set up and working, you’ll need to make a few software configuration changes, but it’s a very straightforward project.

Granted, there have been ways of playing Dreamcast games online before, but this new method really streamlines the process and makes it as simple as possible. The Dreamcast was a great system, and there’s an argument to be made that the only reason it wasn’t more popular was that it was just slightly too far ahead of its time.

Thanks to [Rusty] for the tip!

15 thoughts on “Run Your Own Phone To Bring The Dreamcast Back Online

    1. Apparently modem adapters are super cheap, but the lan adapters are super expensive/rare.

      The main problem I have with the usual available Chinese-Sourced Modems, is that they’re based on an odd winmodem chipset that only has Linux 2.6-era drivers, or Win 7 drivers at best. It can be a real challenge finding the right modem dongle and drivers to go with it.

      I’m going to read the article now :p

      1. As someone who’s watched this stuff off and on over the years way back to when the hottest way to get a Dreamcast on a modern LAN was a Windows 98 box and PCI modem to dial into, here’s the gist of what is going on:

        First is all Dreamcast’s came out of the box with a dialup modem which was a first for its time. There were optional ‘LAN’ and Broadband adapters (two different models with different game and homebrew compatibilities! The ‘Broadband’ adapter was the more common one supporting up to 100Mbit and had much better compataibility. The LAN adapter was 10Mbit only and common knowledge indicates it only supported a Japanese web browser disc) but were and still are very hard to find or expensive to get a hold of.

        The good news is since the dialup modem was provided out of the box and was the way 99.99% of connections were likely made, all games are designed around its speed and latency so it is not a drawback.

        To get the Dreamcast online now, the DreamPi images above is the best way to do so compared to the old days of trying to set up a PC to allow dialing in and trying to find an appropriate modem that will do the business. The dude behind DreamPi provides prebuilt images for the Raspberry Pi that just works out of the box and is ready to dial in. A compatible USB 56k modem for this is cheap as chips and easy to find day in and day out. And the only extra ‘hack’ needed is to get voltage on the line. I’ve had luck personally just tapping a 5V source into the ‘ring’ or ‘tip’ lines with no caps or resistors and it permitted a working connection with no perceivable issues.

      1. Every Dreamcast HAVE modem. Not every Dreamcast have 56K modem, of cause (European Dreamcast have only 33.6K), but modem WAS INCLUDED. If you not have one, they stealed it from box and cheat you.

  1. high voltage on the phone line 90 volts ac is used to make the phone ring.

    i did not know the console had to answer the phone it isnt like a bbs.

    most devices call up a server even dialup (unless it that was part of it’s security where it had to call back to make sure you was calling from the phone number registered to the game ( but that could be a security problem in it’ self where hackers could call up a game device to hack it))

    1. That could be useful to reduce costs. You call service provider, are billed only for making short call and then provider calls you and uses their discounted prices to keep connection for you.

  2. The Broadband Adapter released for the Dreamcast is only compatible with about 3 games, whereas the dial-up modem works with all the online games.

    The “line voltage” necessary on the phone line can be as little as 9VDC for North American modems and 18VDC for European modems. When I set up mine, I used a 5V->9V buck converter and soldered it into the USB modem (works well and is cheap). As far as I know, the modems are region-free, so you could snag any modem you find, add the proper voltage to your USB modem, and you’re set.

  3. Not to undercut what an achievement Kazade’s DreamPi is in making this accessible to the Dreamcast fanbase, but it should also be noted that Shuouma and others have done amazing work in the Dreamcast online community by reverse engineering the Dreamcast game servers. Previously, the Dreamcast’s online abilities were limited to the web browser, Quake 3, Starlancer, 4×4 Evo, and Phantasy Star but within the last few years, over half of the original online library has been brought back online with perhaps more to come. pcwzrd13 also deserves a ton of credit for developing an excellent space for the online Dreamcast community at https://www.dreamcastlive.net/ and dreamcast.online. I’ve been a Dreamcast fan for about 10-15 years now, and it was really unexpected to me and quite amazing to see some of my favorite games come back online in the last couple of years.

    1. Thanks for the info, I knew that Phantasy Star<s server had been reverse engineered and working for a few years now but I ha\d no idea about current effort to make other game playable. I feel like trying to get back online but I fear that there will never be any player when I try to play:(

  4. What would be great for Dreamcast is figuring out a way to modify the 10 megabit LAN adapter to work with BBA supporting games, or hack the games to support the LAN adapter for running off a GDEMU or other GD-ROM replacement.

    WTH was SEGA thinking with the LAN adapter, making only a Japanese language web browser work with it?

    At any rate there’s only one Dreamcast game that really benefits from better than dialup network speeds, Quake III Arena. If SEGA had offered a special package deal of BBA+Q3A there would’ve been a lot more BBAs sold. Should also have offered a deal of a DC+BBA+Q3A at a lower price than buying the three individually.

    After the success of beating the Super Nintendo in the 16 bit console wars, it’s like SEGA’s marketing team got stupid.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.