Last updated: June 26th, 2008
: StillAliveDS. The thread is also still alive.
Okay, so this got brought up in the other DS thread and I think it deserves its own place. Now [strike]I'm[/strike] I was
kind of new to this whole homebrew thing; I got my flash card [strike]earlier today[/strike] almost a year ago.
Anyway, without further ado:
What is it?
Homemade software running on your DS.
Is it legal?
I don't see why not. We're not talking about piracy here (note: we are not
talking about piracy here, or the mods will rightfully ban you forever), we're just talking about people writing code for a particular platform.
What do I need?
A homebrew device, which is basically a cartridge that you can write stuff to. These come in two types, slot-1 devices and slot-2 devices.
Slot-2 devices plug into the GBA slot and have either internal memory or a space for a CF or SD card. To run DS homebrew off of them, you also need a special card called a NoPass in the DS slot, because otherwise the DS would just boot into GBA mode, which is not nearly as cool. Slot-2 devices are basically obsolete. I don't even know if you can find them anywhere anymore. They still work for new homebrew stuff, though, so if you can find one cheap it might be worth it.
Slot-1 devices plug into the DS slot and usually have a MicroSD card slot on them, although a few exist that run with built-in memory and a mini-USB jack or something. You can't run old GBA homebrew off of these, but you don't need to screw around with NoPasses, either. These are basically the only kind of devices that you can find anywhere anymore.
As of today I am the proud new owner of an [strike]EZFlash V[/strike], which is a slot 1 device, but this particular model comes with this nifty expansion pack that I can write GBA homebrew to. This expansion pack also claims to function as a Rumble Pak (for rumble-enabled games) or Memory Pack (for the DS Browser and homebrew stuff that needs the extra RAM) but [strike]I have nothing to test that with so I can't vouch for that.[/strike] it seems those functions only work for homebrew or pirated games, unfortunately. Still, the RAM sure is useful for Quake II (see below)
Update: Turns out that the EZFlash V is a piece of shit and it just decided to stop working entirely for no reason. I now own a DSTT, which is the cheapest flash card that isn't a Datel-made piece of crap. If you also own a DSTT, you may have noticed that whoever wrote the card menu was smoking crack. Get a replacement named YSMENU here: http://home.usay.jp/pc/etc/nds/
(the site is in Japanese, search it for the word "YSMENU").
What's this DLDI crap I keep hearing about?
Well, in the old days, homebrew that created files would need to be written specifically for each different device, and for the most part, everything that didn't use a gigantic CF card was unsupported. A guy called Chism wrote a something called DLDI
to solve this. Basically, you get a DLDI library for whatever card you have and run the homebrew through a patcher, which patches it so it can use the filesystem on your card. Lots of stuff supports this now, so you don't need to worry that you won't be able to use homebrew if you don't get an M3 or Supercard, like everyone was worried in the last thread.
What can I do with it?
Good question. Here are some programs, and if you guys find any other interesting ones out there, post them in this thread.
: A basic file browser, music player, and movie viewer for your DS. Plays damn near any kind of non-DRMed music and plays specially encoded DPG video. Includes an encoder but a better encoder can be found here
. Works with nearly any flash card and it's probably the most widely used piece of DS homebrew. Many flash cards (including mine) have a modified version of it built-in.
: DSOrganize is a really cool PDA suite for the DS. You can draw pictures (but Colors! is much better, see below), keep a calendar and address book, it has a scientific calculator, etc. It has a file browser that can function as a music player, too. And an IRC client. And an online homebrew database that will let you download nifty programs right to your DS, although the database isn't always kept up to date. Also, as of a couple months ago, it includes a web browser that doesn't require a RAM expansion pack
. One that can store six Wi-Fi connection entries instead of Nintendo's usual three. Nice!
: As with pretty much every Turing-complete device, the Linux geeks have ported Linux to it. It's command-line only, so outside of Linux geeks like myself I don't think many would find it useful. Still, it's pretty interesting: it can use the microphone and Wi-Fi and everything.
: Colors! is an amazing paint program for the DS. It lets you use the DS as if it were a drawing tablet, and actually detects how much pressure you're using
. It's the best paint program on the DS; if you still have Phidas installed (or if you're using DSOrganize to draw things) get this instead. I've heard that the official Nintendo devkit (that Nintendo gives out to real game companies) can't even do pressure-sensitive touchscreen stuff, so that's really impressive.
: As the name would imply, this is an AOL Instant Messenger client for the DS. I'm using it now and it works perfectly (edit: well, semi-perfectly. It can choke if someone IMs you a huge block of text, but then it's only a beta), although typing out IMs with the keyboard on the touch screen could be better. Still, handwriting recognition is difficult, so this is more than forgivable. In any case, it works great. It even imports your buddy lists, aliases, etc. I find that the latest version can be a bit sketchy on some cards, so if it doesn't work, try tracking down and downloading version 0.02 instead.
: Check the weather.com forecast anywhere you have WiFi access. Can store up to 20 locations so you don't need to type in your ZIP code every time you use it. Quite useful.
: This is an FTP server for the DS. "Wait, what?" I can hear you ask. "Why would I want my DS to be a fileserver?" Well, this way you can transfer files to it wirelessly instead of moving a tiny, fingernail-sized MicroSD card to your computer and back all the time. It's kind of slow, however, but once you get it set up, it works well enough. The newest version uses DLDI, so it will work with most flash cards.
: This is a customized firmware for the DS. Originally, in the days before the NoPass existed, this was the only way to run homebrew without having a giant Gameshark-like PassMe sticking out of your DS. Now the only purpose of it is to remove the "Health and Safety Warning" that pops up whenever you start your DS, but that's still really damn useful in my opinion. It also has a recovery mode to fix your DS if something goes wrong, and the newest version even supports recovery from slot-1 devices (disclaimer: I have not had to test this). EDIT: Proper link posted, now that the guy's site is up. The current version is FlashmeV8. It supports the DS Lite, don't worry. For a walkthrough, see the next post.
: Okay, this one's [strike]not done yet, but it's progressing really well[/strike] basically finished, and it's completely awesome. It runs every level (except one single level that has a weird edicts bug) with a decent framerate. It has working netplay! (Currently it requires an access point in the vicinity, unfortunately.) I, personally, love it; as soon as I picked up Metroid Prime Hunters, my first thought was "damn, iD should really put Quake on here," and it looks like the homebrew community (or, specifically, Simon J. Hall) has picked up the slack.
: Ho-lee shit. I didn't even think that this was even possible
, but the guy who got Quake working on the DS also got Quake 2 working, using some kind of strange voodoo magic programming skill. I mean, there was a YouTube video of his early attempts a year or two ago, and it was at like one frame per minute. Now it's at about thirty frames per second. Playable, definitely. The catch? This requires 16 MiB of RAM in the GBA slot.
If you bought the Opera DS Browser, you're shit outta luck, as it only has 8 MiB. You need the EZ-Flash Expansion Pak or a Supercard or something.
: A DS port of the SCUMM Virtual Machine, allowing you to play old LucasArts adventure games. If, like me, you never really got into those games back in the day and don't own any, you can download Beneath a Steel Sky
or Flight of the Amazon Queen
for free, legally, from here
. It runs everything up to and including Day Of The Tentacle
, which I played through entirely on my DS. It does not run The Curse of Monkey Island
, The Dig
, or Full Throttle
. There just isn't enough memory in the DS to do it. The author is working on using a RAM expansion cartridge to get those games to work, but estimated time of arrival is "not soon".
: What's this? A 2D, Portal-type game? Hell yes! It's a bit
heavy on the references and in-jokes, but it's fucking Portal, man! And to make things better, there's a map editor (that you use on your PC) so you can make custom levels for on your DS. Maybe we'll swap a few in this thread, if anyone has anything interesting.
! Okay, so Sony owns Psygnosis and therefore the Lemmings license, and so Lemmings ends up on the handheld least suitable for it. All is not lost, however, as a completely goddamn perfect port of the Amiga original appears on the DS for cheap as free! The controls work great and it's really a joy to play. Get it.
: You draw stuff on the screen and it moves and interacts with other drawn objects. Simple concept. Completely addicting gameplay. Get it. Get it now.
: Absolutely perfect port of Doom, Doom 2, Final Doom, etc. to the DS. You need to provide your own .wad, of course, but if you don't own Doom you can use id's free shareware one.
: A port of Descent to the Nintendo DS. Alpha 3 actually works, so yay. You need the original PC version of Descent to play (or rather, you need the descent.pig and descent.hog files from the original PC version, patched up to version 1.4a). Descent is possibly the best game of the DOS era, so if you don't have your disks anymore, track it down somewhere. I'm serious, this thing is better than Starfox.
: Awesome rougelike with controls much more streamlined for the DS/GBA than, say, Nethack. Really much easier to get into. Very addictive.
: DS game that works much like Harmonix's Amplitude. I never played Amplitude, myself, but this is a pretty fun rhythm game. Now with a remixed version of the Super Mario theme.
: Blocks with letters on them drop; form words before they fill the screen and make you lose. Pretty straightforward and damn fun; this thing could be a commercial game and people would buy it, I'm sure.
is a chess program for the DS. Either the AI is really quite competent or I suck. In any case, the controls work really well with the stylus and even if you get beat it's an enjoyable game of chess.
: Tetris-clone by an absolute obsessive compulsive. Do you know the difference between the rotation system used in Tetris DS and the system used in Sega Tetris from the Genesis? Do you feel the need to custom-configure the randomizer? Does anything about any Tetris game piss you off? Lockjaw probably allows you to customize everything you could possibly need. A PC port also exists.
Much more fun, in my opinion, is LOCKJAW: The Overdose
, formerly known as Tetanus On Drugs and the main reason why I wanted to make sure I got a flash card that could play GBA games. This is a traditional Tetris game except the screen gets wavy and distorted. The amount of distortion is dependent on how close you are to losing. It's an excellent game, really, but it's GBA-only so people with just a slot-1 might not be able to play.
: Remember Chip's Challenge? This is the same thing, but with more levels and better graphics. The default language is French. Don't panic. Go into the options menu and switch it to English.
: A long time ago, the company that is now famous for Unreal and Gears of War brought to the PC an amazing SHMUP. It's a western-style SHMUP, with a life bar and upgrades and the whole shebang, similar to Raptor if you're more familiar with that. Oh, and it's fuckawesome. Anyway, Epic actually released the source code to this game (why haven't they done that with the Unreal 1 engine yet?) and some intrepid programmers ported it to the DS. Also, Epic released the game assets as free, so unlike for Quake, you don't need to have already bought Tyrian back in 1995 to get this game to work; just download the zip file at that link, unpack to your card, and play.
Rise Of The Triad
: Another classic FPS ported to the DS. In case you've never heard of it, this one was originally made by Apogee Games, the people now known as 3DRealms (and now famous for delaying Duke Nukem Forever), but a long time ago, they licensed the Wolfenstein 3D engine, modified the hell out of it, and made one kickass FPS. As usual, you can play for free with the old shareware version (also downloadable at that link in a nice convenient package) but you need the data files from the full PC version to play the full version on the DS.
Motocross Challenge (GBA Only)
: It's like what Excitebike would be if Nintendo ever made a GBA sequel. DHG Games couldn't find a publisher, so they released it for free. You'll need a GBA flash device to use it, though.
Luminesweeper (GBA Only)
: This is actually a piece of GBA homebrew, but I'll put it here anyway because it's awesome. I guess it's a Lumines clone, but with Minesweeper elements? I dunno, I've never played the actual Lumines. But this is great stuff.
Anything else? Where did you get most of this, man?
I've been lurking around GBADev a bunch lately, which was this website that used to deal largely with GBA homebrew and has now largely moved on to the Nintendo DS. Their "Homebrew Announcements" forum, here
tends to have some interesting stuff on it before anywhere else does. (note to mods: that forum's anti-piracy rules are as strict as the ones here.)