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Author Topic: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?  (Read 5863 times)

prototector

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Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« on: September 12, 2015, 01:56:19 pm »
I have some protos of Contra/Probotector games on SNES, GB, GBA and DS. I was hoping there might be interest in looking through at least some of these to see exactly how they differ from the final versions. I've been trying to get help on this for over a year; I admit my extent is limited to just playing the games side-by-side to find differences. I already did this and have uncovered what I believe is as much as can be done in this way.

Don't worry - I'M NOT ENCOURAGING PIRACY. I just want that to be clear and don't believe I'm breaking any of the rules. I just want help in analyzing some games.

These are the ones I need help analyzing:

GB:
-Probotector 2

GBA:
-Contra Advance

DS:
-Contra 4

SNES:
-Super Probotector
-Contra III

FAST6191

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2015, 02:22:14 pm »
I am not sure to what extent the eventually released games have been disassembled and/or documented. Contra is popular but it does not have the largest or most dedicated hacking following.

Do you know what level of prototype/beta these are? Later ones might be closer to the final product and that can make things easier -- it might even allow you to perform a basic file compare, or slightly more advanced relocation style compare.

For the DS you have file names and file hashes you can look at -- any extras, missing or not matching the hashes would then be worth looking at in more detail. Though not impossible for the DS I would be surprised if the binary was not different.

For the others then you are really going to have to start by documenting one of the versions of the games, probably the final release unless the beta is markedly a superior version (I have seen this before) if only so those that follow you can build off that work. Even a decent ROM map is a long process, a fully commented disassembly is a serious project that few games ever see. Do you have anything from your play testing that you would like confirmed or to be told it was all in your head -- fully commented disassembly is one thing but something like http://www.dragonflycave.com/rbycapture.aspx is far more doable.

prototector

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2015, 03:25:25 pm »
Hi, FAST6191, thanks for the reply. I forgot to mention that I have at least done a file compare with some programs and there are differences beside the header. Unfortunately for me, that's as far as I know about the data.

Most of these are close to the final, though the extent and characteristics vary.

Probotector 2 plays like the final, but file comparing shows that there are quite a bit of differences. I can only imagine some hidden features (like one or more cheats, or debug or something) are present.

Super Probotector is also mostly close to the final; its differences (that I found, at least) are cheats enabled by default and the part really close to the end is somehow scrambled (not a backup error).

Contra III ones are mostly final, but the proportions of data differences don't seem to match with what I actually found (again, could be some hidden features?).

Contra Advance and Contra 4 are the earliest among the whole group, with the latter being much much earlier.

I wouldn't mind looking into the DS game files and comparing between versions. The thing is, I don't know about which tools to use to begin with. That would be a good start and I can perhaps work from there.

I am way behind a beginner when it comes to looking at the data, but also documenting game mechanics. It's definitely a weak point of mine. Some things I would like to confirm that I suspect are, for example, with the GBA proto. During random play-throughs of the beta, some sprites erroneously appear that are never seen in the final. Are these removed for the final release, or are they still present and just the glitches simply fixed? This is just an example.

obscurumlux01

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2015, 03:32:12 pm »
You could try contacting 'Lost Levels' and see if they'd be interested in poking around.  They seem to be adept at this type of thing.
But if you want to do the work yourself then having programming/disassembly knowledge will help.

Since prototypes of games are (usually) different from the final product in noticeable ways and were not officially released to retail then there is no 'piracy' involved.  Copyright infringement perhaps (at worst) but no piracy.  I don't really think Konami cares at this point since they're just turning all their IP into Pachinko machines (HIT THE LEVER!).

Chpexo

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« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2015, 04:20:48 pm »
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« Last Edit: January 01, 2016, 12:46:24 pm by Chpexo »

prototector

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2015, 05:55:54 pm »
Why do you want to know the differences? Are you documenting the differences on a website or is it out of curiosity?

Both, actually :) A really big fan of the main Contra series. Trying to avoid just flat-out plugging my fan site, though.

... I don't really think Konami cares at this point since they're just turning all their IP into Pachinko machines (HIT THE LEVER!).

I noticed this since last year. I put several of these out there online, including ones not listed which are much more recent, and in some rather public gaming sites, and it seems they really have no concern. This was all before their drastic shift in focus into Pachinko.

FAST6191

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2015, 06:54:53 pm »
For the DS then anything that will explode the DS ROM into the files that make it up will do. There are any number of these tools, most commonly seen would be ndstool (frontends in DSLazy and DSbuff if you do not fancy a command line/batch file) http://filetrip.net/nds-downloads/utilities/download-nintendo-ds-rom-tool-ndstool-1-50-1-f29352.html , crystaltile2 (not many people use this function of it but if you click on the DS filesystem window it should have a split ROM function) http://filetrip.net/nds-downloads/utilities/download-crystaltile2-2010-09-06-f23649.html and tinke http://code.google.com/p/tinke/ . I cover various things in http://www.romhacking.net/forum/index.php?topic=14708.0 if the links themselves can not get it done for you.
Once you have all the files then you can compare them however you will -- a basic directory listing (dir /b /s on the command line on the folders in question) will hopefully allow you to get names in text form which you can do much with. Comparing files themselves. You could hash everything and anything with a different crc32 would hopefully pop out, or you could go a bit further and use a duplicate file checking program (the are just files on your hard drive at this point so anything that works at file level will perform here) on both folders.
If you are lucky the beta will have some non game files that did not make it into the final -- we have pulled all sorts of things, up to and including near full source code for games (princess maker 4 if you are curious), out of DS ROMs before. I can only imagine what might have crept into a beta.

GBA prototype being earlier... in some ways that probably does not matter as much on the GBA. I mainly asked as most older systems had a lot of assembly programming and changing file locations (especially when everything after it is set) is a pain, see also pointers as that is the underlying concept. The GBA was fast enough/new enough that games could be compiled rather than straight up assembled but it is still worth a look as locations can be quite fixed still.
On random play throughs and sprites appearing, can you trigger this event at least somewhat consistently? Random glitches are a pain to debug/analyse. Even a savestate that can reasonably reliably produce it would help.

prototector

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2015, 07:57:19 pm »
Thanks a lot for pointing me to these tools for DS ROMs. I'm going to give them a spin once I get a chance.

For the GBA glitch, it only happened twice and both times were last year. It's a bummer that it occurred extremely rarely, and I'm not sure how I triggered it; it wasn't intentional when it happened, so I wasn't paying attention to what I did specifically. Tried testing afterwards many different things, reaching the spot faster vs slower, doing certain actions, but hasn't reoccurred. I might give it a go again later to test some more.

Kallisto

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2015, 09:47:49 pm »
For further comparion of prototypes I suggest you check out the guys running the site called "The Cutting Room Floor". They are dedicated to this kind of stuff, and probably would benefit from prototype analysis.

Chpexo

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« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2015, 10:51:20 pm »
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« Last Edit: January 01, 2016, 12:46:08 pm by Chpexo »

prototector

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2015, 11:45:55 pm »
Been posting occasional reminders at the TCRF forum since last year (actually, one dates all the way back to 2012) about possible interest in looking into these protos; haven't gotten a single response. Plus it seems people are more responsive on the main site than the forum, though it's really not an efficient way of looking for help.

Seihen

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2015, 09:05:19 pm »
Have you contacted the people on ASSEMbler Games? (http://assemblergames.com/)
They seem to be pretty big in the proto scene.

prototector

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2015, 10:15:00 pm »
Also a member there and, yes, have asked there, too.

MontyMole

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2015, 11:00:53 am »
You tried posting to LostLevels, they do that sort of thing.
A log of some kind.
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prototector

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2015, 01:33:45 pm »
Yeah, they're one of the forums I need to post requesting help.

Xkeeper

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2015, 02:38:32 pm »
Been posting occasional reminders at the TCRF forum since last year (actually, one dates all the way back to 2012) about possible interest in looking into these protos; haven't gotten a single response. Plus it seems people are more responsive on the main site than the forum, though it's really not an efficient way of looking for help.
The forum is pretty quiet; generally the wiki and especially the irc channel are more active. Though just from looking at your posts there, I couldn't actually find any of said prototypes. The only one I could find (without digging beyond "contra 3 prototype") was this which was linked from an early 2014 Lost Levels thread. There aren't any links or anything else to them that were obvious.

In general people are a lot less willing to help if you say "Is anyone interested in..." because even if they are interested, there's no hard time on when they will actually be able to help (and they might lose interest if it takes too long). People are generally more willing if you say "Here are some prototypes, I already found XXXXXXXXX but I can't dig too deeply into them".

(The "Is anyone interested" thing works a little better if it's an instant medium like chat, though.)



TCRF is a good site content-wise but the community as a whole is very similar to rusted logic. Basically it's drama land.
You may find this useful, hth.
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Chpexo

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« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2015, 04:20:58 pm »
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« Last Edit: January 01, 2016, 12:42:50 pm by Chpexo »

prototector

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2015, 06:13:13 pm »
The forum is pretty quiet; generally the wiki and especially the irc channel are more active. Though just from looking at your posts there, I couldn't actually find any of said prototypes. The only one I could find (without digging beyond "contra 3 prototype") was this which was linked from an early 2014 Lost Levels thread. There aren't any links or anything else to them that were obvious.

In general people are a lot less willing to help if you say "Is anyone interested in..." because even if they are interested, there's no hard time on when they will actually be able to help (and they might lose interest if it takes too long). People are generally more willing if you say "Here are some prototypes, I already found XXXXXXXXX but I can't dig too deeply into them".

Thanks for the info. I post at the tcrf forums under the username iniche. But yeah, I've never posted direct links to the protos. Perhaps I should do that for starters, maybe pass by the IRC channel; hoping it'll get at least something going. I've definitely found a bunch of things in the protos, but I didn't want to straight-up link to the pages on my fan site since, again, I think that kind of advertising is frowned upon. But if it isn't, I'll be sure to link to my findings.

Though I gotta say that since around last week, my motivation has really hit a deep end due to another related matter.

Xkeeper

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2015, 07:19:04 pm »
Linking stuff that's relevant isn't really frowned upon, especially if you're not trying to sell something :P

The biggest problem is that, really, research like this is a labor of love, and if someone isn't interested in the game they probably won't try digging through it. It sucks.


Don't worry I found another solution so I don't need that.
Clearly not, since you seem to still be whining about it.
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prototector

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Re: Anybody want to help compare some prototypes?
« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2015, 10:25:29 pm »
Well, that's it: all depends on interest. Always hoping that someone one day turns to these protos when they choose a game to analyze next; either that, or another big fan of the Contra series who's good at looking through data comes out of the wood works.