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BEPL continued CD-i support up to 2000

>> Monday, April 30, 2007

Robin Back and Johnny Byrne started the company BEPL in 1989 to make interactive stories for television initially hosted on CD-i. BEPL is short for Backs Electronic Publishing Limited. Their first published CD-i title was "Anne Willan presents the Food of France". When it was first released in 1992 in the USA, it broke new ground with animated DYUV sequences, attract-mode programming, and interactive credits. BEPL was credited with its first EMMA award in recognition of these achievements. Ofcourse now we remember BEPL for offering the community two free prototype CD-i games, Solitaire and Tic-Tac-Toe. More on these games later; now we have a look at the background of BEPL.

The disc "Foods of France" is in two parts, each linked with the other. On the one hand there are the recipes themselves, carefully divided into categories such as main dishes, soups, desserts and so on. Each recipe is illustrated and Anne herself discusses the qualities of each ingredient in turn and talks the viewer through every stage. The viewer can jump from page to page, recipe to recipe, category to category and also straight to the regional tours, the best thing to do whilst something is cooking!

In 1992 BEPL was commissioned to engineer two CD-i titles for Philips "Schools 2000" project, covering aspects of science and mathematics related to Key Stages 1 and 2 of the National Curriculum. "Space Safari" teaches about animals and plants. It requires the user to help the captain of an alien spaceship in collecting plants and animals from Earth, classifying them and then finding them suitable habitats on a new planet.

The RNIB project was to create a pilot, digitised (CD-delivered) alternative to the Talking Books on tape that RNIB members have known and loved for many years. In essence BEPL packed some 16 hours of continuous audio tracks onto one CD-i formatted disc. However, access to this material is governed by special copyright considerations so we used special infra-red commands on a remote controller to makes sure the discs could not be heard by anybody who shouldn't. Clever programming but it was a bit too close to a retail format to satisfy the rights holders and so we understand a different digitising formula from Sweden, has been adopted.

In 1996, plans were made to update the then current visitor's centre interactive laserdisk programmes as these were getting a little long in the tooth and in some areas were no longer accurate. The kiosks had been enthusiastically received by visitors, especially school-children and others on formal educational visits, so the challenge was on to do better! In conjunction with First Information Group plc (regrettably now defunct), BEPL decided the most efficient method of achieving the required upgrade within budget was to use CD-i as the host platform and integrate Microtouch controllers into the existing Sony touchscreen monitors. The programme starts with a silent rolling demo of what is on the disc, including the 'board' game and detailed question sets, and invites users to touch the screen to start the programme. Once this happens, the user is introduced to the various methods of generating electrical power with particular emphasis on the requirements, benefits (and pitfalls) and implications of nuclear power generation. The dice game invites users to reply to questions correctly and moves their counter round the board appropriately. If questions are wrongly answered - you're out!

From the Philips Magazine, 'CD-i Matters', Issue 6 September 1997: "...BSM's 'Qualified Fleet Driving Training Programme' on CD-i sharpens drivers wits with simulations of real-life motoring hazards, in which they can interactively take part. Drivers can train anywhere, anytime and the player stores information on the driver's reactions for later evaluation..."

Measurement and evaluation of results are a key part of all BEPL training programmes. The old adage: "What gets measured gets done" applies even more strongly when Training budgets are under pressure to produce quantifiable results. Whether on CD-i or CD-ROM or even on bespoke games kiosks such as the Mouseketeers programme for Whitbread Family Inns, it is important to be able to see how programmes are used in the real world. It is of course possible to have someone sit and watch what's going on - but its much more effective to have the machine do the measuring. Anyway - what are machines for? The clever part about this programme and its first cousin completed in July 1997, is the timing of the hazard recognition 'windows'. Users have almost exactly the same time as they do in real life to identify and react to a potential hazard on the road. As we all know these can range from routine traffic lights to small children suddenly running out in front of you. The programme certainly keeps the viewer alert as well as keeping track of how good he or she is at recognising danger.

In 1997, BEPL developed and remade a CD-i promotion disc for Antec International, who are important suppliers of pesticides, virucides and disinfectants to the agricultural industry worldwide. Various foreign language versions have been added including Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin chinese. Of particular note was the creation of a Website Index - not a search engine but a real index and thus much quicker to locate things. Another first for Antec and in regular use on their site.

In 1999, CD-i refused to die despite numerous funerals. This platform was used to make an interactive discovery game for PwC called 'Pursue'. Mixing of real-time video laid over virtual reality office environments called for new programming techniques, not to mention video-making. Also in 2000, after extensive use on CD-i, BEPL remade 'Pursue' on DVD-ROM. The DVD platform itself cannot handle a tenth of the interactivity of CD-i so the DVD-ROM route was chosen but with DVD video quality.

Credits: BEPL

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Portuguese CD-i exclusives

>> Saturday, April 28, 2007

One of our members informed me about a portuguese company named CITI who developed quite a few titles on CD-i in cooperation with Philips Media. Philips was known for taking attention in local CD-i releases a lot, and every country in Europe has their own share of exclusive CD-i titles. It was the first time I heard about CITI, which is short for "Centro de Investigacao para Tecnologias Interactivas". Started in 1991, CITI was brought to life thanks to the "interactive dreams" of Philips for CD-i. Granted, we're not talking about games here, this was Philips' core business for use with their Family Entertainment brand including "The Great Art Series" and "City Portraits" which were funded by Philips in a lot of countries. The keyword here is Edutainment. I'll highlight the catalogue they offered in their portfolio and see if there's anything special.



1993: First they introduced the portuguese attribution of "City Portraits", with "Lisboa" a sort of enhanced Photo-CD should promote this beautiful city. Second: A presentation ordered by the Commissariat of Expo 98 in four languages (Portuguese, Korean, French and English). For use during the Exposition of Tajong in Korea (Nice road for CD-i in the far east!). Last, CITI produced a disc about the insides of the strategy advertising executive “Hour of Summer” for Renault, the car brand. this was distributed to all employees of Renault in 1993.

1994: An edition to "The Great Art Series" was released with "The Baroque", carried through the Program IMPACT 2, of the DGXIII of the European Union; This record gained a price of the "Jury Möbius Multimédia", in 1995. Second: A CD-i of the "Direcção de Serviços de Scientific Informação and Technique" presentation, of the Ministry of Jobs and the Social Security, dedicated to the "Fair of the Technological Modernization of the Portuguese Public Administration";

Third: IPPAR ("Instituto Português do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico"), CD-i about the "Portuguese Institute of the Architectural and Archaeological Património", the State secretary of Culture, especially made for the "Fair of the Book of Lisbon". Fourth: Karaoke of the Portuguese Popular Music, a CD-i integrated in the international catalogue of Philips Interactive Media Systems, “Karaoke Classics”;



1995: CITI issued the CD-IN Multimedia Magazine to promote CD-i in Portugal, together with Philips Media Ibérica. I wonder if this is about the original CD-i Magazine of Portugal; maybe you know the answer? Let me know, I'd like to make some scans of the inside papers, and I count these regional magazines to be pretty rare: at least I've never seen one. It would be great if we could add these issues as a PDF file in the Philipscdi.com Press index, where you can already find the dutch editions of CD-i magazine!

They also produced a nice Music CD-i about Pedro Abrunhosa (a famous portuguese singer), "Talvez" is about his music (from "Viagens") including digital video.

1996: CDi for the Ecological Park of Lisbon, in order of the City council of Lisbon for the new installation of the Park of Monsanto; Like many companies, CITI moved away from CD-i and concentrated its new products on CD-ROM and the internet... The biggest reason for that is ofcourse Philips stopped the money flow to fund these titles. When all these projects were in fact funded by Philips, I can imagine the loads of money the CD-i format had caused! Nowadays these titles are real collector items and due to the fact they have only been released in Portugal it won't be easy to get hold of a copy.

If you browse the website of CITI you can also find a few videos of these CD-i projects. I highly thank you all for your contributions, and let us create the biggest "regional CD-i exclusives" index, just like our previous French CD-i exclusives thanks to Le Monde du CD-i. (We have more about CITI to post in the following weeks.)

Credits: CITI, Carlos Correia

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Accelerator: the more you drive, the more fun you have

>> Friday, April 27, 2007

Racing games are a rare breed on CD-i. The only 3D Racing game CD-i has to offer is Video Speedway, which was rather slow and repetitive, and not really recommended for a cool fast experience. Codemasters produced the excellent Micro Machines, which unfortunately also suffered a low framerate. 2D racing was obviously handled by CD-i better than 3D racing. A Traineeship at SPC Vision resulted in the demo Accelerator, which was bundled with the Gold Club Disc. In 1997 (four years later, mind you!), SPC Vision released the eventual game. Ironically, the title above is exactly what Accelerator is all about. When you first play the game, you'll feel empty thinking this is a bad product. After a while you'll be addicted and forget the game its shortcomings.

The game itself is very simple actually. What mostly bothered me was the car movement which is limited to only 12 frames. You can imagine this does not justify a smooth car movement at all, and every turn feels like a block missing frames. In the beginning your car moves slow, and the races are slow. But this is a key factor of the game. After you win a game, you get awarded with money plus the money you found on the way during the race. It is very important you try to get the money that is lying on the tracks because after every race you are allowed to upgrade your vehicle with more speed, grip or acceleration, or even buy weapons. With the weapons you can shoot at your enemies just like the tanks in Micro Machines. Excellent feature. The game itself has 10 tracks in total and after these you replay the first one. I never managed to finish the game, but I doubt there is actually an end. I've played a double run with all tracks and I admit I don't know what's going to happen after that ;)

Another plus for this game is the animation. Strange, because I just flamed at the bad animation of the character movement. But the rest of the game, including the presentation itself, is handled beautifully. Thankfully the game makes use of passwords which saves memory on your precious 8kb memory of the CD-i player. And they work rather well. After a race you get a generated password which holds up your stats. Remarkable is the soundtrack which is of excellent quality. It seems unlikely SPC Vision put so much attention (or money) to the music, or they just used some tracks lying on the shelf, who will tell. The music is on par with other SPC titles, which all have great soundtracks.

Accelerator on CD-i is small and effective. Those who love the SPC Vision games on CD-i will without any doubt feel the charm and love in this racing game.

Gir Draxa from The CD-i Collective sums up a few bad points in the gameplay in a way I couldn't describe any better: "The often touchy colision detection is still a case for attention, made worse by the enlargment of the vehicles. This makes it so darn easy to dammage your car just for getting close to the wall. Also, if you turn and slide next to it, the minute you try to turn away, the rear of your car will bash into the wall. Stopping you and doing more dammage than if you ran headlong into it. Sad. Adding even more frustration is the fact the computer can drive through some of the walls in the game without getting dammaged. Making the old 'Bash Them into the Wall' technique hit-and-miss at best. Even the few weapons offered for the cars don't make it any more intresting. Cost to get them isn't the overall issue, its really just how easy the sketchy collision detection makes them worthless." Read his full opinion here.

I'll finish with a few words from the original developer: "Accelerator has a very convoluted history. It was initially written in the summer of 1993 during a "working holiday" at SPC. One guy wrote the game and most of the surrounding stuff, but did not finish it. This was done by others at SPC in their "copious free time", needless to say this didn't go very fast! During the summer of 1994 a first version was sent to PIMC for testing. It came back with a load of bugs which was a real problem because the original programmer had long left SPC. So the title lingered for a while. The bugfixing was ultimately contracted out; a fixed version was delivered somewhere at the end of 1995. This was again sent to PIMC and came back with new bugs, but nobody wanted to touch it anymore! Since there was no publisher yet, there was no great hurry and it was shelved for more then a year. The title was ultimately finished internally at SPC in the second half of 1997 and released to the market. I can't remember if SPC published and distributed it themselves or worked with someone else."

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Tecno Plus: original third party CD-i controllers

>> Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back in 1995 TecnoPlus produced the TP521 CD-i joystick. The one and only 3rd party manufacturer of CD-i controllers until now. It´s the only availabe joystick for the CD-i system as well; while Philips had an original CD-i joystick in prototype form, they eventually cancelled the joystick in favor of the gamepad (The Logitec design with the thumbstick). The TecnoPlus CD-i Joystick offered fully microswitched actions, A, B&A and B fire buttons, 3 speed settings (excellent for games like Chaos Control), maximum stability at 4 points, an ergonomic design and unique biogrip action provide precise control and smooth flowing movements (yes yes, Tecno Plus sales points for CD-i!)

Please click on the thumbnails to view the high-res images! I don't want to take away the other 'advantages' of this CD-i joystick: Extra long cable for maximum convenience; Color co-ordinated to match your CD-i system; High quality durable construction; Nice! Unfortunately, it's a pretty rare item and personally I don't like to use these types of joysticks. The only fun way for CD-i would be to control Atlantis: The Last Resort. Or The Lost Ride, as in these games you have your own control in movements.

Tecno Plus didn't only produce the joystick for CD-i though, they also created the CD-i gamepad. This features the original Philips CD-i gamepad (the one that followed up the Logitec touchpad). Now, who owns the design? It's obvious one party took a license of the other! However, a few days back Omegalfa from Le Monde du CD-i posted an interesting picture of a Tecno Plus Super Nintendo (SNES) controller (Posted on the right of the next column).

"Do you recognize this one? It has the same shape as the "CD-i 3-Button Arcade Pad", wonder why they stole that design? They have placed the L and R beside the other buttons which make this one pretty lame, perhaps it's good in some fighting games though. It's a really weird one with an unknown background. Even though it's pretty ok to play with and has turbo & autofire for each button and even a slow switch.

This one is made for the Philips CD-i system that came in lots of different versions. The most console-lookalike was CD-i 450/550. The joypad has pretty thick ends and a thin centre which makes the grip really nice. The three buttons to the right is called dot, double-dot & dot+double-dot (which means that it has the same function as pressing the first two at the same time). It also has a speed switch on the side where you can select N, I & II. It controls the speed of the steering cross, a weird but nice function. The "CD-i 3-Button Arcade Pad" was not the original joypad released with system, but the orginal one was pure crap so this is preferred by most of the CD-i gamers (if there are any...). The cord is 310 centimetres long."


Now, except for the Tecno Plus CD-i controllers I'm aware of the Gamester CD-i gamepad, which had some extensive play-tests by Devin and he was very enthusiastic about it: "I knew they were bad but not THAT bad!! Recently got my hands on a Gamester joypad controller for the CD-i and the feeling playing with it is 100% better than any other official device i've ever tried! It's really that good and puts Philips CD-i controllers to shame, with the Gamester I can even pull off The Apprentice cheat codes in the first go. Before due to the cumbersome nature of Philips devices it was very hard to input precise directions to activate the cheat. Just knew this was going to be a treat to use and it didn't disappoint, if you can find one buy it straight away. One highly recommended device."

Credits: Syntax Error

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Do not underestimate the power of Magnavox in CD-i

>> Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The return of Magnavox in the videogames market with CD-i was for some people a major event. While we normally associate Philips with the CD-i format, Philips used a lot of knowledge of the Magnavox past with CD-i. Magnavox was the worldwide first manufacturer of the video console with the Odyssey. Even Nintendo started their business by selling Magnavox systems to the Asian market. The role of Magnavox ended with a library full of videogame patents, which generated a lot of money out of licenses including Pong and the lightgun peripheral to second party developers.

Magnavox was acquisited by Philips in 1974, mainly to get feet on the ground in the USA. However, Magnavox was more than just a manufacturer of audio and video, and it's no surprise they put out an early game system called the Odyssey in the States (The Videopac in Europe). While the system might not have been the most advanced system of its time (1), they developed several models (2) and licensed the system to other brands (3). Three aspects applicable on CD-I as well!) Last but not least the Magnavox game system was the start of an important library of patents.

These patents were so significant that later when Philips applied pressure to other companies, concessions were made. For example at one point Philips owned 10% of Activision (the software company). Activision had its roots on the original Atari 2600 unit which really started off the videogame revolution in the US. The Odyssey might have been first, but it was poorly marketed (just like CD-I). The Atari 2600 was the king of the scene, and it was all way before the Nintendo and Sega era. Just think of the history of Donkey Kong …

Something else that might be of high interest is the fact that Nintendo's first venture in the console world was selling the Magnavox Odyssey in Japan, before the company introduced its own consoles. The essence why Philips was granted the use of Nintendo's characters in CD-i games is merely a result of this war of (Magnavox) patents and patent violation, rather than negotiations of the SNES CD-ROM deal.

The importance of Magnavox in the life of Philips CD-i is highly underestimated. To name a few more examples: Magnavox proved that consoles for the home could be designed. Magnavox also won a court case against Nolan Bushnell for patent infringement in Bushnell's design of Pong, as it resembled the tennis game for the Odyssey. The Odyssey was successful enough to support an add-on peripheral, the first-ever commercial "light gun" called the Shooting Gallery. This detected light from the TV screen, however pointing the gun at a nearby light bulb also registered as a "hit".

another one, perhaps way more interesting: Ralph H. Baer (born 1922) is a German-born American inventor, noted for his many contributions to games and the video game industry. In 2005, he was named a recipient of the National Medal of Technology. He invented the home console for video games. Baer is best known for leading the development of the first home video game console with the Brown Box. He sold his idea to Magnavox who came out with the Magnavox Odyssey, which was introduced in 1972. Baer, who has a background in television work, developed the system in 1966 for the defense-electronics company Sanders Associates in Nashua, New Hampshire (now part of BAE Systems). It was licensed to Magnavox and for a time was Sanders' most profitable line, even though many in the company looked down on game development.

1972: Magnavox Odyssey - The First Home Video Game System

Production of the Magnavox Odyssey began on January 27th, 1972, with sales starting in May 1972. The Odyssey was a primitive video game system by modern standards, only being capable of generating a few moving elements on the television screen. The system used the plastic screen overlay method that originated with Winky Dink to add colored play fields to the games that came packaged with the system. The system was programmable, but achieved its logic entirely from discreet electronic components- there was no microprocessor and the cartridges were merely jumpers that reconfigured the electronics inside the console. The Odyssey was poorly marketed, with some dealers even claiming the unit would only work on Magnavox TV's, a claim they were able to get away with as the concept of attaching a device to the television antenna terminals was novel. The Odyssey was withdrawn after about a year on the market.

Engineer Ralph Baer originated the design of the Magnavox Odyssey system, and he later went on to work on the prototype ColecoVision expansion module that would have permitted RCA's SJT400 interactive VideoDisc player to communicate with the ColecoVision game console via the control port. The Dutch electronics giant Philips later acquired the Magnavox company, so they would have an American infrastructure to market DiscoVision LaserDisc players that were being jointly developed with MCA.

Here is a quote from "The Coleco Story" written by Ralph H. Baer in May 2000 concerning a five-inch CED he suggested to RCA: "Another invention of mine which I had taken with me to demo at that same meeting in 1982 also resulted in an instant license agreement with Coleco. I had a demo promoting the idea of using a video-disc under control of a ColecoVision game (and presumably ADAM, later on) for interactive game use. To make this scheme economically feasible, I had discussions with Jon Clements - who headed the videodisc program at RCA - about building a 5 inch version of their Selectavison 12 inch video disk unit... shades of computer and game systems using shiny, round 5" CD-ROM disks for interactive games... only twenty years too early. Coleco started to negotiate an agreement with RCA and all went well until the ADAM fiasco put a halt to this development effort. That was too bad...and nearly twenty years would go by until fully-digital versions of that system would reappear in the video game world. As for myself, I went on to develop interactive video-disk-based systems at Sanders which were used for military training-and-education purposes with considerable success. Coleco recovered courtesy of the ugliest dolls in the world - the Cabbage Patch dolls - Although I tried a few times, I would never be able to place a product idea with Coleco again; electronics had become at no-no at Coleco. The company finally went out of business in the late eighties. ColecoVision games continue to have a loyal following in the Classic Games community... I'm still waiting to see one of the retro-game designers interface it to a CD-ROM to extend the machine's capabilities. That would complete the circle I started in 1982 and never quite closed. Is anybody out there listening?"

This article is an altered and updated version of the Nintendo story originally published March 1, 2006 @ Interactive Dreams. Credits: Cedmagic

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Getting started with the CD-i Emulator

>> Monday, April 23, 2007

Emulating the CD-i is a complicated and difficult process. Luckily, there is only one working emulator available, which narrows things down a bit. In Retro Gamer Magazine CD-i Emulator was highlighted with a clever article about how to get the emulator working. I want to join in and show some help on emulating the CD-i. The unlimited version is available for a fee, but a limited version you can download for free to play CD-i games on your PC. Since September 2005, version 0.52 has been released to public which you can buy here. Let's have a look how to get the CD-i emulator working on your computer.

Step 1. Head over to http://www.cdiemu.org and click on the "downloads" link in the left sidebar. Click on "cdiemu-0.5.2.zip" to download CD-i Emulator version 0.5.2 (Limited edition). Yes, it's the limited version, which means it will only work for a period of time. But it's fully functional to play around with. This way you can make your decision if you want to purchase the full version, or stick with this one. Now extract all the files to a folder on your computer (I used "C:\cdiemu").

Step 2. Now we need a BIOS ROM. To answer the first question about "why this CD-i Emulator needs the internal BIOS system of an original CD-i player" in the first place, we head over to the author himself, cdifan: "It would be easier for users, of course, and in a sense more "elegant" [if the emulator wouldn't need the extra BIOS system]. There's between 300KB and 500KB of software in most CD-i players making up the CD-RTOS operating system and its drivers. Most of it is written in assembly language and thus very compact. It would need to be essentially rewritten for a ROM-less emulator and thus introduce a quite significant amount of extra work, in addition to all the work of emulating the CD-i player hardware that would still mostly need to be done. There are also compatibility and reliability issues. The software interface available to a CD-i title is large; most titles use only a small part of it, each in its own way. Debugging a CD-RTOS rewrite would thus be very costly and frustrating, each new title would probably expose new bugs. [Moreover,] using the ROMs guarantees the "real" CD-i experience. The software running inside your emulator is *completely* identical to what runs inside your player. As a fan of the platform, I find this very appealing."

Back to step 2. Legally the BIOS files can be obtained from your actual CD-i player, though various BIOS images are available if you search online, although we can't give any links due to legal reasons. If you are going down the route of downloading the BIOS directly from the CD-i player, you need a Null Modem cable. You can easily build one yourself by following the instructions on the CD-i emulator site, under CD-i Link, in "cdilink-0.5.2.zip", CD-i Link 0.5.2 executable and documentation. Ofcourse, you can also buy one online in the Black Moon CD-i Store, check the Hardware tab.

Step 3. Retrieving the BIOS using CD-i Link. Now it's time to connect your PC with the CD-i player by using the CD-i Null Modem Cable. Download the CD-i Link 0.52 from http://www.icdia.co.uk. Look for the link "PC/Windows Downloads" and head to CD-i Communication Tools. Or download it directly by clicking here. Unzip the CD-i Link to any directory. Now open the MS-DOS Command prompt and change directory to where you unzipped CD-i Link. Use the command "CD C:\cdilink" if you installed it directly on drive C:\. Execute the CD-i Link program to view all options available with the command "cdilink.exe".

Use the command "cdilink -roms" to start the upload. You will need to reboot the CD-i player to begin this process. When cdilink says "Waiting for stub", turn on your player. The program should recognize your player and start downloading the information, which it will write to a text file in the current directory. CD-i Link uses a 'stub' protocol which in some cases you need to use an actual CD-i disc containing the CDi_stub to initiate this program. The CD-i Stub Disc is available from the ICDIA as an ISO (download here). The process of uploading the CD-i ROM/BIOS can take up to several minutes to get the 512kb file so please be patient; the CD-i Link program will inform you when the procedure has finished. cdifan about the need of cdi_stub: "Most Philips CD-i players support a subset of the "stub" protocol called the download subset, consisting of just the messages needed to download data and/or programs into the player and execute programs or continue the player startup process. This subset can be used to download one of the full "stub" programs. For CD-i players without a download subset implementation an actual CD-i stub disc has to be used. A disc image of such a disc can be found in the Downloads section; it should work on any CD-i player with a serial port."

Step 4. See the results. When cdilink has finished the uploading process you should be left with the 512 kb ROM/BIOS file, named "cdixxx.rom" where the "xxx" stands for your CD-i player type. If you also have the Digital Video Cartridge" installed you'll notice cdilink has also downloaded a 256 kb file identified as "gmpega2.rom" or a similar name. You can ignore this file for now. As of today, the CD-i emulator does not support the Digital Video Cartridge, although it does support the 1 MB extra memory of it. (like used in The Apprentice). If you've installed the CD-i Emulator in the C:\cdiemu\ directory simply move the ROM/BIOS files into the rom folder (C:\cdiemu\rom\). The CD-i Emulator program should recognize the file automatically.

Please Note: If you didn't get passed Step 3: I suppose the CD-i Null Modem Cable is attached to Port 2 of the CD-i player and the Serial connection on your PC. However, the CD-i players from series 4xx and 5xx (450, 550, ...) lack the second controller port, requiring a CD-i splitter. Another issue is the phasing-out of the serial connection on PC's. Luckily you can buy a "USB to RS232" cable so you can use the USB port for this.

Step 5. Getting the CD-i Games. The CD-i Emulator does not support CD drive emulation. You need ISO files of the games you want to play. Most games can be extracted using programs like CDRWIN. However, some games are written in the so-called CD-i Ready format. Most programs can't handle this filesystem, which means you can't create an ISO of these titles. Fortunately CloneCD is capable of reading the "pregap mode 2 data" that is typical for CD-i Ready discs. However, you need a CD-ROM player which is capable of reading the disc in the first place. If CloneCD doesn't work, you should try a different CD-ROM player! In CloneCD, select the option for copying a "Game CD" and tick the boxes to "Read SubChannel Data" from both data and audio tracks. Then start the process to create an ISO. Check this link to see which titles are in CD-i Ready format.

Step 6. Getting started with CD-i Emulator. If you've installed the BIOS ROM in the rom folder of CD-i Emulator and you have ripped an ISO of your game of choice, you are ready to go. Execute the "wcdiemu" file to load the CD-i Emulator. Under "File", you can open the game ISO. Then click on the "Emulate" tab to start emulating. To optimize your experience, you might adjust the PAL to NTSC switch for superior screen size or faster emulation (Check "Options"). Have fun!

Thanks to: Black Moon Project, ICDIA, Retro Gamer, CD-i Emulator Home

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The CD-i defective NV-RAM Timekeeper Battery issue

>> Sunday, April 22, 2007

From one day to another, some people might experience a problem with their CD-i player: at start-up, the player prompts the user to delete some items from memory (NV-RAM), but the player refuses to actually delete the selected item(s). As a result, the player does not load the player shell and cannot be used anymore. This article describes why the player behaves this way and how the problem can be resolved. The pictures are downsized thumbnails of Richard's Repair Guide, a french guide to repair several CD-i parts.

Every CD-i player is equiped with at least 8 Kbytes of non volatile memory (NV-RAM), that is used among others to store game scores, player shell settings, favourite picture selections, etc. One other important usage of the NV-RAM is to store the CSD (Configuration Status Descriptor). When a CD-i player is turned on, the operating system kernel is initialized and one of the startup routines includes the creation of the CSD. The CSD contains information about a certain CD-i system, such as the amount of NV-RAM available, which kind of pointing device is connected, the version of CD-RTOS used, but also wether a floppy disk drive is available, if a printer is connected, etc. If the CSD cannot be written, for example when the NV-RAM memory is full, the player should presen the user with an option to delete some items at startup, and should then proceed by loading the player shell.

In most Philips CD-i players, the most widely used NV-RAM IC is the M48T08 by STMicroelectronics. This chip, which is also called TimeKeeper, contains the real-time clock, a quartz cristall, a lithium cell and 8 Kbytes of static memory. The 'CD-i defective NV-RAM issue' occures from a problem in the lithium cell. According to documentation of the M48T08 provided by STMicroelectronics (which is available for download at the CD-i Technical Documentation / Hardware section on this site) the cell should be able to keep the stored data for at least 10 years, or even up to 25 years under optimum temperature conditions.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are various factors which can affect the life time of the battery cell, which in such cases will be dramatically reduced. When the lithium cell does not function anymore, a tension difference will be detected and the memory will be turned into a 'write protect' mode. When the CD-i player is powered on, it cannot write the CSD and hence it presents the user with the memory screen. Of course the user will not be able to delete certain items because the NV-RAM can not be written to anymore. Hence, the player will become useless.

There is only one solution to fix this problem: replace the entire M48T08 IC with a new one. The M48T08 (official catalogue number: M48T08 150 PCI) can be ordered from virtually any electronics store for about US$ 25.00. Please note that this can only be taken care of by a certified electronic engineer or a truly skillfull amateur electrician, since it is a rather complicated operation. Also note that making any modifications to the player will permanently violate your garuantee.

The various Philips CD-i player models are based on different Printed Circuit Boards (see comparison table of all Philips consumer CD-i players on this site), and hence there are various implementations of the method used to mount the NV-RAM on the board. You might have to search for the location of the M48T08 IC. Please check if the identification of the IC states 'M48T08 150 PCI'. If not, your player might be equiped with a different NV-RAM module which cannot be replaced with a standard M48T08. You can use a soldering bolt to melt the tin that is used to fix the IC on the board. Be very carefull not to damage the board itself or other components. It might be best to use a pair of tweezers to undo each pin of the IC from the board after heating it with the soldering bolt. After you have removed the IC, make sure that there is no tin in any of the holes on the board where the NV-RAM was located so that there is no problem when placing the new one. Use the soldering-bolt and a tin piston to remove the tin that was left behind.

It might be best to mount a suitable IC socket on the board instead of directly putting the new NV-RAM on it because of these two important reasons: 1. Some CD-i boards have components and silicon tracks on both sides (like the Roboco board that is used for example in the CDI 450). When you use an IC socket it's easier to notice wether both sides of the board have tin on them in such a manner that the silicon tracks on both sides are connected to the IC holder. 2. When you are experiencing similar NV-RAM problems in the future, it's far more easy to replace the IC with a fresh one.

When the IC socket is mounted on the board, you can carefully put the M48T08 on it. Make sure that the IC is inserted correctly, take care of the pin that is marked 'pin 1'.`When the IC has been replaced correctly you can turn on the player. The CSD can now be written (you won't notice this) and the player will display the player shell. You can now use the CD-i player as before. Of course you'll have to replay all of your games to make sure you're number one at the high score lists again! :-)

As stated previously, this is a rather complicated operation. Do not take any actions if you are not completely sure what you are doing! Instead, contact your local Philips service organization or local electronics store and let them take care of things for you.

Interactive Dreams won't accept any responsibility from any damage to your equipment or any personal injuries that occured from carrying out these instructions!

More info here. Credits: ICDIA. Pictures: Topxicemu's Repair Guide.

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15 years and we still don't have the ultimate multimedia machine

>> Thursday, April 19, 2007

CD-i was meant as a standard for multimedia to compete with the PC CD-ROM standard, to watch movies on, play games, use it as reference, and so on. None of this came to be, and we waited patiently for a sequel. Philips didn't want to, and DVD only brought a part that was interested: Movies. Now it's 15 years later and we struggle with the same issues as CD-i: Video on Demand, Internet on your TV, High-Definition (Even at the time of CD-i a hot item!), Digital movies, pay-per-view. Everything that was supposed to be the key-factor for CD-i, now is used to promote the next generation. Apparently the developments go too fast and they want to implement new ways to get more money too soon. And we, the normal people, aren't really too excited about all these new things. Perhaps mainly because it cost a lot of money, and it doesn't even get better immediately. Too much, too fast?

Sony follows a remarkable trail of developments which let it compare with CD-i pretty good. Not set as a pure games machine, also Playstation 3 is put to release as a multimedia machine you can use for downloading, watching movies, internet, etc. The high price adds to the start of CD-i: sales are low and people are wondering why this happens. The introduction of yet another video standard could be the bottle neck. Video CD, at the time, couldn't convince people because it was expensive and not a wide standard. Will Blu-Ray change this?

Maybe. Perhaps 2008 will proof the CD-i was indeed far ahead of its time.

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The Dame was Loaded - another CD-i game cancelled

>> Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's the 1940's and you are Scott Anger private detective. You recently failed one job (and lost a beautiful client) and so have been boozing it up lately. Just another detective having a run of bad luck. Business had been slow lately but this dame walks into your office and starts you on one of your biggest cases. She gives you an advance and asks you to find her brother. And then, damn, Philips cancelled the CD-i version of this promising detective game.

Nobody knew what happened with the CD-i version of The Dame was Loaded, until The Black Moon Project, thanks to Merijn and Bas, contacted some old Beam colleagues. Beam Software was the producer of "Dame", at that time set to release on both CD-i and Mac, too.

Please note the screenshots and cover-art are taken from the CD-ROM version!

"Here goes - It was such an intensive and fabulous time for all of us making The Dame was Loaded we have never really lost touch. Beam Software hired my company to produce the video material and me to direct it - the actors. They also had me consult on the script as it was important characters had all the things real characters should have - like motivation, reason to be this way or that, jealousy, envy, greed, kindness etc etc... Beam did not know even how to go about finding actors (casting) or camera people or set designers etc etc - it sat squarely in the realm of a film production company for this aspect. SO they asked their media lawyer to help them and he put Beam onto myself and my partner. We made TV commercials, documentaries and had a number of feature film scripts in development. "

-On what other cd-i titles have you worked on before or after 'The Dame Was Loaded'?

None before or after. Not only had I not directed a cd-i project - I had never known the notion of multipath story telling. It was a baptism of fire. The script writer stayed with us at all times on set to answer such importance questions like "if the guy had been here before and she had not been home and he broke in would the box of cigars still be in the side cabinet??" All of this was incredibly important of course for gamers who needed to have the right 'object' in an out of the scenes depending on what they had done previously. Luckily our lead actor who played 'Scott Anger" was one of the most entertaining hilarious fellows that we all regularly burst out laughing at some of the mystery of the process.

I have since gone on to be a Producer of web media and have done many ground breaking projects in the field if I say so myself. At the same time as this project I was introduced to the internet and totally fell in love with it. After having 2 more internet companies - selling 1 during the dot com boom and selling my share of the next because I want more freedom, I am currently putting all of Melbourne and Victoria's public transport system on the web for uses to source their travel information - it's nearly as complicated as Dame was to make!


-What was the stage of 'The Dame Was Loaded' (on cd-i) when it was cancelled, and what was the reason to cancel it?

I think it was completely finished and Philips decided to drop the cd-i platform. I have a Mac version though which was completed and it is FABULOUS and nothing's ever been done with it. It really is a most extraordinary thing to play. I believe now it's in no man's land as to who owns it.

-What kind of difficulties did you have while working on the title?

Ohhhh Getting the best colours out of a scene with the compression issues - particularly skin tone and all other tones of sets... Remembering what was where for why and when!! Although we had the script of course - He had it all in his head and regularly we would huddle and brainstorm some hugely complex play activity while all the actors and crew would stand around waiting for us to come up with the next shot... Being brief but satisfying as all the video files had much editing and compressing to be done... Keeping the flow of the character's performances. PLUS - I wont begin to tell you of all the editing, sound and programming that was done to complete it for publication.

When 'The Dame was Loaded' was cancelled, do you know for how long it was in development, and how far it was from being completed?

We finished the PC version and the mac version but only the pc version was released. We may have had the CD-I version running but Philips pulled the pin before it was finished. As it was an FMV game all the assets had to be captured for the game in a one month shoot. As the sets were built and then demolished we couldn't go back and re shoot if we missed anything. Luckily we planned it all very carefully so we didn't miss anything.

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Games 0-F

3rd Degree - PF Magic
7th Guest, The - Philips Freeland Studios
Accelerator - SPC/Vision
Adventure of the Space Ship Beagle, The - Denshi Media Services
Affaire Morlov, L' - Titus
Alfapet - Adatek
Alice in Wonderland - Spinnaker
Alien Gate - SPC Vision
Alien Odyssee - Argonaut
Aliens Interactive CD-i - Dark Vision Interactive
Ange et le Demon, L' - Smart Move
Apprentice, The - SPC Vision
Apprentice 2, The - Marvin's Revenge - SPC Vision
Arcade Classics - Philips ADS / Namco
Asterix - Caesar’s Challenge - Infogrames
Atlantis - The Last Resort - PRL Redhill (Philips ADS)
Axis and Allies - CapDisc
Backgammon - CapDisc
Battle Chess - Accent Media (for Interplay)
Battleship - CapDisc
Big Bang Show - Infogrames
BMP Puzzle - Circle (for ZYX)
Brain Dead 13 - Readysoft
Burn:Cycle - Trip Media
Caesar's World of Boxing - Philips POV
Caesar's World of Gambling - CD-I Systems
Cartoon Academy - Bits Corporation
CD-i mit der Maus - SPC Vision
CD Shoot - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Change Angels Kick-off - HMO
Chaos Control - Infogrames
Christmas Country - Creative Media
Christmas Country - The Lost Levels - Creative Media
Christmas Crisis - DIMA
Clue - 3T Productions
Clue 2 - The mysteries continue - 3T Productions
Connect Four - CapDisc
Creature Shock - Argonaut (for Virgin)
Crime Patrol - CapDisc
Crow, The - Philips POV
Cyber Soldier Sharaku - Japan Interactive media
Dame was Loaded, The - Beam Software
Dark Castle - Philips POV
Dead End - Cryo
Defender of the Crown - Philips POV
Deja Vu - Icom Simulations
Deja Vu 2: Lost in Las Vegas - Icom Simulations
Demolition Man - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Demon Driver - Haiku Studios
Discworld - Teeny Weeny Games
Dimo's Quest - SPC Vision
Domino - Wigant Interactive Media
Down in the Dumps - Haiku Studios
Dragon's Lair - Superclub / INTL CDI
Dragon's Lair 2- Time Warp - Superclub / INTL CDI
Drug wars - Crime Patrol II - CapDisc
Dungeons & Dragons - PF Magic
Earth Command - Visionary Media
Effacer - CapDisc
Escape from Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Evidence - Microids
Falco & Donjon & The Sword of Inoxybur - BMi / Zephyr Studio
Family Games I - DIMA
Family Games II - Junk Food Jive - DIMA
Felix the Cat - Philips Sidewalk Studio
Flashback - Delphine/Tiertex (for US Gold)
Flinstones Wacky Inventions - Philips Funhouse
Fort Boyard: The Challenge - Microids
Frog Feast - Rastersoft

CD-i Games Index G-M

Go - CapDisc
Golden Oldies - SPC Vision
Golden Oldies II - SPC Vision
Golgo 13 - Japan Interactive Media
Great day at the races, A - CD-I Racing, Dove Films, Total Vision
Guignols de l'Info, Les - Canal+ Multimedia / INTL CDI
Heart of Darkness - Amazing Studio (for Virgin)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The - Philips Kaleidoscope
Holland Casino CD-i - HMO
Hotel Mario - Philips Fantasy Factory
Inca - Coktel Vision
Inca 2 - Coktel Vision
International Tennis Open - Infogrames
Jack Sprite vs. The Crimson Ghost - PF Magic
Jeopardy - Accent Media
Jigsaw - Novalogic
Joe Guard - DIMA
John Dark: Psychic Eye - CapDisc
Joker's Wild!, The - Accent Media
Joker's Wild Jr., The - Accent Media
Kether - Infogrames
Kingdom - The far reaches - CapDisc
Kingdom 2 - Shadoan - CapDisc
Labyrinth of Crete - Philips Funhouse
Laser Lords - Spinnaker
Last Bounty Hunter, The - CapDisc
Legend of the Fort - Microids
Lemmings - DMA Design / Psygnosis
Lettergreep - Wigant Interactive Media
Lingo - SPC Vision
Link - The faces of evil - Animation Magic
Lion King, The - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Litil Divil - Gremlin Graphics
Litil Divil 2: Limbo Years - Gremlin Graphics
Lords of the rising sun - Philips POV
Lost Eden - Cryo (for Virgin)
Lost Ride, The - Formula (Lost Boys)
Lucky Luke - The video game - SPC Vision
Mad Dog McCree - CapDisc
Mad Dog McCree II: The lost gold - CapDisc
Magic Eraser - Circle (for ZYX)
Mah-Jong - Japan Interactive Media
Making the Grade - 3T Productions
Man Before Man - Cryo
Marco Polo - Infogrames
Mario Takes America - CIGAM
Master Labyrinth - AVM AG/HQ
Mega Maze - CapDisc
Memory Works, The - Compact Disc Incorporated
Merlin's Apprentice - Philips Funhouse
Microcosm - Philips Freeland Studios
Micro Machines - Codemasters
Monty Python's Invasion from the Planet Skyron - Daedalus CD-i Productions
Mutant Rampage - Body Slam - Animation Magic
Myst - Sunsoft (for Cyan)
Mystic Midway - Rest in pieces - Philips POV
Mystic Midway 2 - Phantom Express - Philips POV

Compact Disc Interactive

Compact Disc Interactive

Games N-Z

Name that tune - Philips Fantasy Factory
New Day - Bits Corporation
NFL Hall of Fame Football - Philips POV
Othello - HMO
Pac Panic - Philips ADS / Namco
Palm Springs Open - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Pool - SPC Vision
Pinball - CapDisc
Plunderball - ISG Productions
Power Hitter - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Power Match - Two's Company
Pursue - BEPL
Pyramid Adventures - Compact Disc Incorporated
RAMRaid - PRL Redhill
Return To Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Riddle of the Maze, The - Fathom Pictures
Riqa - Bits Corporation
Rise of the Robots - Mirage Technologies
Sargon Chess - Spinnaker
Scotland Yard Interactive - AVM AG/HQ
Secret Mission - Microids
Secret Name of Ra, The
Shaolin's Road - Infogrames
Skate Dude - Viridis
Smurfen, De - De Telesmurf - Infogrames
Solar Crusade - Infogrames
Solitaire - BEPL
Space Ace - Superclub / INTL CDI
Space Ranger - Studio Interactive
Special Operations Squadron - SPC Vision
Sport Freaks - SPC Vision
Star Trek - Philips POV
Star Wars: Rebel Assault - LucasArts
Steel Machine - SPC Vision
Striker Pro - Rage
Strip Poker Live - Greenpig Production
Strip Poker Pro - Interactive Pictures
Super Fighter - The Super Fighter Team / C&E
Super Mario's Wacky Worlds - NovaLogic
Surf City - Philips Sidewalk Studios
Tangram - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Taco's Toyroom Troopers - Creative Media
Tankdoodle - Creative Media
Tetris - Philips POV
Tetsuo Gaiden - Creative Media
Text Tiles
Thieves' World - Electronic Arts
Tic-tac-toe - BEPL
Tox Runner - ISG Productions
Treasures of Oz - Philips Kaleidoscope
Ultra CD-i Soccer - Krisalis
Uncover featuring Tatjana - SPC Vision
Uninvited - Icom Simulations
Video Speedway - ISG Productions
Vinnie the Pinguin - Pandemonium Labs
Voyeur - Philips POV
Voyeur 2 - Philips POV
Whack-a-Bubble - Creative Media
What's it worth - Marshall Cavendish Multimedia / Spice
Who shot Johnny Rock? - CapDisc
Wordplay - BEPL
World Cup Golf - US Gold
Zaak Sam, De - Toneelschool NL
Zelda - The wand of Gamelon - Animation Magic
Zelda's Adventure - Viridis
Zenith - Radarsoft
Zombie Dinos From The Planet Zeltoid - Philips POV

  © Interactive Dreams Version 5 by The Black Moon Project 2013

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