News/Project Deluge: Xbox 360 and Wii

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Project Deluge - Microsoft Xbox 360.png
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Project Deluge (Lot Page)

Project Deluge - Microsoft Xbox 360 (List)
Project Deluge - Microsoft Xbox 360 (Matched List)

Project Deluge - Nintendo Wii (List)
Project Deluge - Nintendo Wii (Matched List)
Discuss this release on our Discord server!

Merry Christmas, everyone! And a Happy New Year too!

It’s been a very long time since the last time we did anything with Project Deluge. The truth is we never stopped working on it, but life always takes its toll and we needed a short break from it all.

Continuing with our efforts with Project Deluge, today we present 207 Microsoft Xbox 360 prototypes and 114 Nintendo Wii prototypes! While there aren’t as many unreleased games in this part of the lot, there were many early builds of many games this time around.

This is a good time to announce that we now accept Xbox 360 prototypes for submission! The console is now 15 years old, and is now a legacy/retro console in its own right.

As a recap, Project Deluge is an ongoing project to archive and assess all of the items featured in a lot of video game development material that has been gathered over the course of many years. This has been made possible through the dedication of only one extremely kind individual, who has taken on the herculean task of dumping every single thing in the lot by themselves. Each item in the lot was assessed by a team of dedicated individuals for playability and integrity on both software (via emulation) and hardware when necessary. Each item was then lightly documented and given a general overview of some of the main interesting facts about the item in question.

In the beginning, we released almost 800 unique prototype builds for the PlayStation 2. Following that, we released over 500 PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, Microsoft Xbox, and Philips CD-i prototypes. As of writing, we have currently gone over almost 5000 discs.

This time around we had to contend with Nintendo Wii prototypes that are stored on recordable media known as RVT-R discs. These discs are nothing more than plain DVD-Rs with specific PFI/DMI information created when being manufactured that allow them to work with RVT-R Readers and RVT-R Writers. RVT-R Writers are nothing more than commercial DVD drives flashed with specific firmware that can burn and read scrambled data onto NR and RVT-R discs. RVT-R Readers are developer consoles that can only run developer-signed code and RVT-R discs. Because retail consoles can’t read RVT-R discs, RVT-R Readers along with a version of CleanRip and the Homebrew Channel had to be used in order to dump them. We utilized a custom version of CleanRip that allowed us to save the disc in specific directories, as the default CleanRip build would’ve taken a long time to get through if we haven’t. To make things easier, we created composite checksums of each disc while also hashing the h3 hash table. We were able to eliminate a lot of finals this way.

Thankfully, Xbox 360 prototypes aren’t as proprietary but are much more inconsistent when it comes to how they are mastered and stored. The majority of retail Xbox games are mastered on dual-layer DVDs consisting of a DVD-VIDEO partition (that plays when an Xbox 360 disc is inserted into anything but an Xbox), and a proprietary Xbox “game” partition. This is a consistent partition layout that exists in every retail Xbox game, as far as we know. Prototypes are an entirely different story, however. Possibly because the Xbox platform wasn’t thoroughly established yet, many prototypes are mastered inconsistently. To give you an idea of just how inconsistent, here are the variants in which Xbox prototypes can be mastered.

  • Prototypes can be mastered on either a DVD-R single layer or DVD-R (or pressed, like retail) dual layer.
  • Prototypes on any of these discs can be mastered with the following partition schemes:
    • One blank DVD-VIDEO partition followed by an Xbox game partition.
    • One Xbox game partition.
    • A UDF partition for storing game data, equivalent to just burning the files directly to a DVD-R using a separate program.
  • Prototypes can be launched in the following ways:
    • Straight from the default.xex embedded in the Xbox game partition, if present.
    • From a stray .xex located on the root of the disc or inside a separate folder, common if the disc used UDF.
    • Forcibly installed onto an Xbox’s hard drive using the game’s own installer.
  • If prototypes are mastered on a pressed disc (like retail), they are presumed to work on even retail hardware.
  • If prototypes are mastered on recordable media, they will most likely need to be played on an Xbox Developer’s Kit.

These inconsistent conditions made going through the discs a bit more of a hassle as each game had to be treated in a different way. While most games can work on retail hardware if put directly onto the Xbox’s internal hard drive, some games require developer kits to work. These prototypes featured in the lot are all from recordable media, with about one or two from pressed media as well.

This also made assessing the games with our scripts more challenging, as each of these case scenarios had to be covered in order to scan every item in the lot. We also had some difficulty in acquiring data from Redump-style dumps of retail games as we do not have access to an up-to-date complete set to work with. Xbox discs that utilize the proprietary Xbox game partition utilize a unique file system that doesn’t include timestamps on any of the files. Fortunately, every Xbox game utilizes one or several executable files called .xex’s that contain very in-depth metadata for every game disc. We were able to utilize this metadata to determine build dates for discs, game IDs for matching, and more. We continued to utilize our composite checksum method for this part of the lot in order to find games that match the final. However, given that games can sometimes be mastered in ways that are different from the final retail version, in the event that we had a game that contained an executable build date timestamp that matched an equivalent in our final data set, we manually by hand investigated the game to determine if it was actually unique. In most cases, most builds that didn’t have a composite checksum match were different due to watermarks or quirky mastering differences that included directories that were removed from the final pressing, or other inconsequential changes that can be noted somewhere else.

This brings us to the last part of our evaluation - play testing. As mentioned before in our previous announcement articles pertaining to Project Deluge, we invested a lot of our time playtesting every single unique prototype in the lot and wrote a basic summary of notable differences we encountered during playtime. We do this to ensure the games are preserved in essence that they can be played somehow. In the past, we predominantly utilized emulation to run each game for the sake of convenience and in most cases debugging, and this part of the lot proved no exception. Given the inconsistent nature of this part of the lot, testing on actual hardware proved to be quite difficult, especially considering only one or two of us have retail hardware to play with!

While we aren’t affiliated with any emulator developer (nor is anyone affiliated with us), we were very impressed with just how far Xbox 360 emulation has come in just a few years. While Xbox 360 emulation has been around for a few years now, it’s only been recent that most games can be emulated with a relatively comfortable experience. About half of the Xbox 360 lot could be played comfortably with Xenia. During play testing, we kept notes on every prototype we ran on any issues we encountered that hindered our experience. We would not have been able to do this even five years ago, which is a true testament to just how far Xbox 360 emulation has come.

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As always, we would like to thank all the members of the Project Deluge team for helping us with this project so far. Without your help, it would’ve taken eons for anything to come about. We’d like to thank Jason Scott from the Internet Archive for giving us an opportunity to go through this journey and for providing the hosting for this ongoing project, and Iniche for working with the owner of all of these wonderful builds to make it all happen. Special thanks to Master Emerald for once again creating beautiful art for us to help make each of our releases something special (especially on short notice!). We’d like to thank drx and ehw for writing the scripts and helping get the project initially off the ground, and Sazpaimon for taking everything much further by expanding the capabilities of the script, running some of the builds on hardware, the streams, and so much more. And last but certainly not least, we’d like to thank all of our researchers (Zoda-Y13, GopherGirl, Xkeeper (TCRF), Rusty (TCRF), Shoemanbundy, Hwd45, SolidSnake11, DigitalWarrior, Nex, and Drac for taking the time to help us go through every single build in this lot so far.

This project is far from over! Stay tuned!

Until next time! Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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(NOTE: Please do not bother any developers for support for any of these games. They will not help you.)