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Romhacking => ROM Hacking Discussion => Topic started by: Brittany628 on June 17, 2019, 08:01:25 am

Title: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Brittany628 on June 17, 2019, 08:01:25 am
It seems like the popularity of rom-hacking has declined since I joined. Now I don't know the statistics, but it's pretty evident that the number of new hacks being pushed out is slowing down lately..

You'd think the hacking community would be flourishing considering that the process is easier than ever. Yet, it seems like we're on a steady decline. It's hard to believe rom-hacking is just a fad that will eventually fade away, so I wonder if there are any specific reasons we're seeing less activity from the community.

Just curious what your opinions are?



Moderator Note: It became apparent that OP was a spammer on the sly, but feel free to continue discussion of the topic if you want.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Avicalendriya on June 17, 2019, 01:16:39 pm
Between the time that you joined today at 07:55 am, and the current time, 10:16 am, most people were probably drinking coffee and trying to wake up. Thus ROM Hacking was most definitely on the decline. Fear not, it will be on the uprise once the caffeine kicks in.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: cccmar on June 17, 2019, 01:25:49 pm
I don't think it's on the decline. Lately there have been tons of translations into languages other than English, and the hacking quality has only gone up for the most part. It's just that there is a certain niche for every console, so to speak. For example, there are quite a few homebrews and general improvement hacks for the MD; lots of translations for the Nintendo systems, and so on. Also, there has been some interest in systems which aren't very popular/known in the West, such as PC-98. If I'm not mistaken last year saw the highest number of translations, for example. So, I wouldn't sound the death knell for rom-hacking yet. ;)
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: PowerPanda on June 17, 2019, 05:28:09 pm
Just take a look at the Hollow Knight modding community, and you'll see that romhacking is just fine. It's just shifting to newer games. For most hackers, there's about a 10-year window between when they graduate and when they start a family that they are active. People tend to hack the games they played endlessly as kids. For many of the really active hackers these days, that's just not NES/SNES games anymore. By my best guess, that's somewhere between PS1/N64/Saturn and Gamecube/PS2/Xbox/Dreamcast. That's the era that we saw game development slow down, as games became bigger and more complex. I think that's what's happening with romhacking too.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Celice on June 17, 2019, 08:55:52 pm
PowerPanda, can you link to some of the Hollowknight modding communities? I googled a little but only found a moddb page and a speedrunner post where you can get new skins for then main character.

As for the topic, I started following romhacking back on acmlm's board about 17 years ago. I definitely feel like the main momentum and life of romhacking is gone. That is not to say the idea of fans tweaking and modding their favorite games has died--but it feels much more niche, and something more like a personal pet project. There seems to be less of a scene or community in general compared to a decade and some ago.

Being decentralized isn't a bad thing, but it definitely makes discovering cool new hacks very difficult unless you already know about a specific game community that is working on something.

Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Jorpho on June 17, 2019, 11:48:42 pm
People seem to be pumping out new and innovative hacks for SMW and SMB3 at a furious rate, even now that Super Mario Maker has been released.  There's probably too many of them for this site, though.  This Ryukahr fellow is just racking up the hits.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY5m-r-Zqg0

Pokemon romhacks also still seem to be very much enduring, especially with how relatively easy it is to get them running on an ordinary 3DS.

So, no, I'd say romhacking is alive and well.  Maybe with so many options available people are less interested in trying to tackle some ridiculously-intricate game that no one's ever heard of and that isn't particularly fun.  But so it goes.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: PowerPanda on June 18, 2019, 12:28:25 am
PowerPanda, can you link to some of the Hollowknight modding communities? I googled a little but only found a moddb page and a speedrunner post where you can get new skins for then main character.

Lightbringer is a pretty big mod also. Most of the modding scene happens on their discord channel. They have a link on the channel to a Google Drive that has tons of mods in it. Here's the discord channel: https://discord.gg/9u7enu (https://discord.gg/9u7enu)
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Jeville on June 18, 2019, 04:51:45 am
Randomizers.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: chillyfeez on June 20, 2019, 12:03:15 am
It's probably worth mentioning that a lot of in-depth, specific game hacking discussion seems to have moved to discord and independent wikis over the last couple of years.
Rhdn remains a place where the general practice is discussed, and where people go to show their finished or near-finished work off to the world, but if you want to talk the nitty-gritty of a particular game, you go seek out the modding community for that game.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: FAST6191 on June 20, 2019, 06:09:59 am
Is Discord really that popular for this sort of thing?

I generally refuse to join a chat protocol with a proprietary protocol that also won't let me run my own servers, much less one with moderators as suspect as I have seen Discord have.

To that end I have missed most such things that happen on it (it does not even have a decent web viewer, or one that searches land on).


As for the main question of the topic. No. Still got plenty of people doing top tier work, knowledge being generated and the practice expanded to new games and new systems. Going by certain numbers then there might be something, and good games or "as I am hacking it anyway I might as well fix it and make it a good game" are becoming fewer leading to fewer high profile releases or some of the more popular older systems but that matters little.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: PowerPanda on June 20, 2019, 09:37:53 am
Is Discord really that popular for this sort of thing?

Yes, it has basically replaced forums for newer mod projects. I personally prefer forums, but I have to admit discord has been a really great source of community info.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: FAST6191 on June 20, 2019, 10:11:00 am
Ew. So nobody will find it from a casual search and when Discord goes tits up in a couple of years (they are already showing signs, and one does not do things like turn your chat company into a game store if you see a long term future in it) then loads of data will be lost. What little might be saved will probably not even be done in a terribly nice to read fashion either.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Heaven Piercing Man on June 20, 2019, 06:38:06 pm
I'd say we're in a golden age. Stuff both unthinkable and long-desired is being achieved after years of being stuck with the vanilla ROMs.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: FAST6191 on June 20, 2019, 07:08:52 pm
I'd say we're in a golden age. Stuff both unthinkable and long-desired is being achieved after years of being stuck with the vanilla ROMs.

I am not seeing it. Compared to early NES days when people were still fumbling with basic tile mods* then things are different but as soon as people decided to take a look at opcodes and spin up the idea of tables, tile editors and emulators with basic cheat and debug functionality we had pretty much arrived. While I am glad for the increase in power and space of systems and it has allowed me to do a few fun things with whole ROM sets, and the tools themselves are a bit more stable (which might be to do with visual basic being jettisoned as much as anything), then any hack done today could probably have been done happily enough with the old tools and systems. I am similarly not seeing some kind of great awakening in abilities, be it them going widespread or the top tier hackers of the day being or becoming able to do things unthinkable in years past**. Possible exception being some of the mapper conversion hacks for the NES being a thing people do rather than consider crazy amounts of effort but that might just have been a NES hacker hangup (several other systems saw equivalent conversions).

*and if I went and looked at what was going on with old BASIC based systems or the Amiga at the same point in time (if not earlier) then they were doing things plenty recognisable to us today, give or take maybe needing a hardware addon to do it.

**if I look at things like compiler development this last 20 years, or things like the creation of return oriented programming then ROM hacking has no real equivalent "leap".
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Jorpho on June 21, 2019, 12:47:04 am
Come to think of it, would things like the SMW Jailbreak (https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/05/hackers-jailbreak-permanent-mods-onto-super-mario-world-save-files/) or the SMB3 Wrong Warp (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxZuzos7Auk) have been possible in a bygone era, or are such discoveries reliant on more recent software?
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: chillyfeez on June 21, 2019, 01:04:37 am
Ew. So nobody will find it from a casual search and when Discord goes tits up in a couple of years (they are already showing signs, and one does not do things like turn your chat company into a game store if you see a long term future in it) then loads of data will be lost. What little might be saved will probably not even be done in a terribly nice to read fashion either.

Well, one can go on discord and search existing channels for a specific game, so it can be found in a casual search if one knows to look within discord. And the search tools within a given channel are pretty useful.

Regarding what happens if discord goes "tits up," well, that could happen anywhere on the internet - I'm lookin' at you, slick productions!  :banghead:

I will say, though, I have no clue how it has managed to stay afloat. It has no ads, doesn't charge for membership, and AFAIK it doesn't cost to host a channel.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Special on June 21, 2019, 01:22:03 am
I will say, though, I have no clue how it has managed to stay afloat. It has no ads, doesn't charge for membership, and AFAIK it doesn't cost to host a channel.

The cost is your privacy, they sell your info, much like Google and Facebook.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: FAST6191 on June 21, 2019, 05:53:03 am
Well, one can go on discord and search existing channels for a specific game, so it can be found in a casual search if one knows to look within discord. And the search tools within a given channel are pretty useful.

Regarding what happens if discord goes "tits up," well, that could happen anywhere on the internet - I'm lookin' at you, slick productions!  :banghead:

I will say, though, I have no clue how it has managed to stay afloat. It has no ads, doesn't charge for membership, and AFAIK it doesn't cost to host a channel.

Nowadays between archive sites, personal archives and things being cross pollinated then while things could be lost it is not as great a worry for plain old web.

"if one knows to look within discord"
That is almost as bad as facebook groups -- I had thought we had all learned that walled garden web was a bad idea back when AOL and compuserv still came on floppy discs but apparently I was wrong. Though the popularity of proprietary protocol IM services you can't run your own servers, and seeming lack of open ones other than the few crazies still rocking xmpp setups and the continued wonder that is IRC, probably says most of what I would need to know there.

Come to think of it, would things like the SMW Jailbreak (https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/05/hackers-jailbreak-permanent-mods-onto-super-mario-world-save-files/) or the SMB3 Wrong Warp (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxZuzos7Auk) have been possible in a bygone era, or are such discoveries reliant on more recent software?

The Mario save stuff. Most of the old console save mods or control input driven homebrew demos are more party tricks than anything terribly practical -- emulators, cheat devices and flash carts were commonplace long before then so there was less need for such things.
For the input stuff it is usually a fault condition that sees a game jump to a piece of nominally non code. If they can control the destination or the destination is somewhat user manipulated then the rest is so much abstract assembly, possibly a bit more still if you are having to work around some binary combo not being easily made within a game. Analysing the fault condition can be done with fairly basic debugger tools. I imagine the later prevalence of save exploits and return oriented programming promoted some of the ideas that led to all this but at the same time take anybody that could code in a proper variable width font (not sure of the exact timelines here but it was not a radical new invention of recent years) and find a suitable candidate for said fault condition and I would expect them to make some decent headway if you asked them to do it.

Maybe some aspects of tool assisted speedrunning, however most things there still seem to be discovered by accident and then refined. Even then savestate editing will probably get you most places there, even if it takes a whole weekend to do what might take a few hours with a full bore Lua supporting TAS focused emulator.

I like big data approaches*, I like things wherein we see a neural net playtest something or exhaustive input done by automated program. Haven't seem individual hacks benefit really, just things where people find oddities. Similarly have not seen some kind of great leap in mindset or abilities. More hackers, possibly even more up for a bit of assembly fiddling, more polished tools able to change more about a given game and more documentation but not great leaps in ability or technique, or tools that somehow increase base level (how many high school athletes today with modern gear and training would do spectacularly in the 50s or something?) or were the results of some unexpected skills/serious investments/crazy discoveries.

*choice link of marginal relevance here but probably of general readers of this forum https://towardsdatascience.com/tagged/gaming?source=post
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: chillyfeez on June 21, 2019, 05:51:41 pm
The cost is your privacy, they sell your info, much like Google and Facebook.
Eh, I forfeited my right to privacy decades ago. What are they selling? My email address is about all they have. Good luck making any coin off of that.
Nowadays between archive sites, personal archives and things being cross pollinated then while things could be lost it is not as great a worry for plain old web.
Well, you're talking to someone who had about eight years of very valuable research and not the forethought to back it up on a hard drive, which was not captured by the wayback machine and is likely now lost forever. So as far as I'm concerned, nothing is safe.
Quote
"if one knows to look within discord"
That is almost as bad as facebook groups -- I had thought we had all learned that walled garden web was a bad idea back when AOL and compuserv still came on floppy discs but apparently I was wrong. Though the popularity of proprietary protocol IM services you can't run your own servers, and seeming lack of open ones other than the few crazies still rocking xmpp setups and the continued wonder that is IRC, probably says most of what I would need to know there.
Well, I don't dictate the trends, I just follow the community where it goes, and discord is where it's been going more and more lately. Maybe it is a bad idea, but I have neither the time, knowledge nor inclination to come up with a better one.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Special on June 21, 2019, 06:37:35 pm
Eh, I forfeited my right to privacy decades ago. What are they selling? My email address is about all they have. Good luck making any coin off of that.

That's sad, and double sad you think it's "just my email" they have... Discord scans your computers hardware, and all programs installed, knows your IP and ID's you as such, they also log everything you say and the links you click and no doubt learn certain keywords you've used in their chat, then associate those things to Mr.ID=3244743523 (that's you), sells your profile off to whoever because apparently someone is buying up profiles of middle aged men who hack Final Fantasy II.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: chillyfeez on June 21, 2019, 07:48:17 pm
Sure, but the first sentence says it all.
Who among us thinks anybody with any internet presence has a shred of privacy left?
It's not sad. It's the way things are.
What's sad to me is that you just became the first person ever to address me as a "middle aged" man.
 :huh:
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Special on June 21, 2019, 08:01:21 pm
I've been around long enough on these boards, and I'm sure I've seen somewhere you mentioning you were your 30's, are you not? 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, what is your age range? I'd say most long-timers here on these boards are in this age 30-40 range, sounds pretty "middle aged" to me. Not sure how you find that sad.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Isao Kronos on June 21, 2019, 10:09:12 pm
all you kids get off our lawn?
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: chillyfeez on June 21, 2019, 10:39:24 pm
I think you missed my sort-of joke. I'll be 40 in a month and a half. That much is completely public by clicking my name and viewing my profile. I had assumed you'd done so. Anywho, I'm kinda struggling with the notion on its own, and I have never had anybody call me "middle aged" before. It's not that it's not true, it just kind of brings it all home.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Special on June 21, 2019, 11:33:22 pm
We're all middle aged here, hope that helps you deal with it. :beer:
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: Kallisto on June 22, 2019, 03:52:07 am
If I may I believe that CD-Based Hacking is on the decline, and while Cartridge Based Hacking has risen up a lot. Nobody really messes with the Sega and Turbo CDs game anymore as a few examples.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: FAST6191 on June 22, 2019, 12:00:45 pm
If I may I believe that CD-Based Hacking is on the decline, and while Cartridge Based Hacking has risen up a lot. Nobody really messes with the Sega and Turbo CDs game anymore as a few examples.

The SegaCD was a flop and the PCE/TG16 stuff (I am guessing that was the PCE/TG16 CD that "turbo CDs" refers to) was niche on top of an already pretty niche system. There are certainly some interesting games on the PCE-CD but the sort of thing someone will have to drum up interest in really rather than get discovered by default.

On the other hand PS1 and PS2 stuff is going from strength to strength, Saturn is getting looked at a bit, Dreamcast maybe not as much but could pop at any point (and people have been fiddling with things for many years), PS3 and 360 have had bits and pieces going on for a while now, PSP if you want to count that has been pretty good since it was current and ever since, gamecube is getting some stuff (even if by osmosis), xbox people seem more interested in trainers and cheats but they are doing some things, wii has been going fairly strong since about the time the so called trucha bug was released and kicked of system level (as opposed to DVD level) modding, Wii U even has a few things. Indeed most of those would be where I look for the shiny future of ROM hacking.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: PolishedTurd on June 22, 2019, 04:33:52 pm
For most hackers, there's about a 10-year window between when they graduate and when they start a family that they are active. People tend to hack the games they played endlessly as kids. For many of the really active hackers these days, that's just not NES/SNES games anymore. By my best guess, that's somewhere between PS1/N64/Saturn and Gamecube/PS2/Xbox/Dreamcast. That's the era that we saw game development slow down, as games became bigger and more complex. I think that's what's happening with romhacking too.
I think this is on the money. And these systems have not aged well. It's something like the uncanny valley, where the razor sharp edges and harsh textures are too realistic to have the charm of a crude analogue, but too coarse to be enjoyable now.

Older games, having simpler resources, focused on gameplay. You can fire up Skydiver on the Atari 2600 and begin playing within 1 second of turning it on, as opposed to 3 splash screens, a title screen, an intro movie, and a loading screen. It was fun to play over 3 decades ago, and it's fun to play now. Towering Inferno, Missile Command, Mario, Zelda, Tetris... Games accessible to all ages and skill levels. As a curmudgeon generalizing broadly, there have been fewer revolutions in game design in the last 20 years, and games have mostly just gotten prettier, while becoming harder to hack.

Hacking for more modern systems takes deeper skills. A kid can understand how to draw a 16x16 bit tile, but if you want to change graphics after the mid '90s, you need a 3D modeling program and the skill to use it; you have to make a shader in Photoshop, with UV maps, bump maps, MIP maps... Then the assets have to be transmogrified and imported, etc.

Modding newer games takes more specialized tools. You can edit the map of a NES game with some tile swaps or hex edits. If you want to change something on a post-'90s console, pray the dev team releases its tools, as Valve did for Battlefront 2 in the mid 2000s.
... And pray that the console hasn't been rigorously designed to thwart hacking, like the Xbox 360.

In a nutshell, the games from the childhood of hackers now in their heyday have not aged well and are harder to hack.
Title: Re: Is rom-hacking on the decline?
Post by: goldenband on June 22, 2019, 09:20:56 pm
The SegaCD was a flop

That's probably putting it a bit strongly -- I think it was at least profitable.

In any event the total lack of Sega CD/Mega CD fan translations is a real shame. Other than Game no Kanzume (which is basically a compilation of enhanced MegaNet ROM releases) and an Arabic translation of a soccer game, there's nothing to speak of.

I made some preliminary efforts on Cosmic Fantasy Stories (which is super-easy to hack), and that sparked some additional work from others who got quite a ways into it, but didn't get close to finishing the job. Shadowrun's been a WIP for something like a decade now. I think someone was working on Funky Horror Band (Spinner 8, maybe?) but didn't get beyond the first few steps.

There are some really interesting-looking games on the platform, so whoever completes the first "real" translation (no offense to Game no Kanzume) will have a feather in their cap. Heck, the 3DO has a bunch of fan translations already (one complete in English, a few others in progress, and a bunch in Russian).