Retro Reversing 2020 review and future plans

Edit on Github | Updated: 31st December 2020

Review of 2020

In late 2019 when we set out the goals for 2020 we focused on what we thought would be the biggest drivers in terms of user engagement, however 2020 has other plans.

We smashed the twitter follower goal thanks to all of you, which has meant an increase in traffic to new posts on the site, allowing us to experiment with new content and find out what users want next.

The goal to increase quality of all existing pages was a bit vague and more work than a year would allow when factoring in new content, but we made great strides on this front including merging smaller pages and removing content which does not meet quality standards.

The Youtube documentary didn’t pan out but was started multiple times throughout the year but never managed to meet our expectations.

Pokemon Mini content was created along with a reversing emulator core, currently not stable enough to release and a few changes to libRetroReversing will have broken it after adding Game Boy and Game Gear support in 2020. However releasing this along with a few other cores will be top priority for 2021.

We also did not manage to refactor N64RE to use libRetroReversing but again this will be covered as part of our Reversing Emulator work in 2021!

Now onwards to what we actually archived this year..

Development Hardware

In 2019 one of our most popular posts was on the Playstation One development hardware, this was helped greatly by the leaked PS5 development kit images that were circulating at the time.

Official PlayStation 1 Development Kit (Hardware)

For more information on PS1 Development Hardware check out this post.

Development hardware is close to our hearts as a rare glimpse into what it was like developing for consoles back in the day. It is also hard to find good sources of information, with much of the information scattered around the net on twitter or old AssemblerGames posts.

This gave us an opportunity to collate all the information from around the net that we can find and put it in a single place for anyone interested in getting a brief overview of all the development kit options, including 3rd party and consumer development kits.

The most interesting in-depth posts we created this year were on the NES and SNES development kits and these tool a while to create due to lack of information.

SNES (Super Famicom) Development Kit Hardware

For more information on SNES Development Hardware check out this post.

The most disappointing was the attempt to create a post for the SEGA Master System as there was pretty much no information we could gather about 1at or 3rd party development kits.

Although we did manage to get some details together about the Game Gear devkits, and it is likely that developers used the same hardware due to the similarity of the two systems.

Sega Game Gear Development Hardware

For more information on GameGear Development Hardware check out this post.

Disassembly & Decompilation

In May 2020 Ars Technica created an excellent post about the Mario 64 decompilation project, this not only linked to our site but also raised interest in people searching google for how to decompile N64 games, many of which ended up on our site.

Ars Technica - Beyond Emulation

This was great at getting users in to the site but we will admit our content for N64 decompilation is severely lacking, this is something we want to fix in 2021 which also ties into the N64 Reversing Emulator.

We also used this as an opportunity to create a post on all the known decompilation/disassembly projects for retail console games, as far as we could tell there was no list of this nature available online.

Decompiled Retail Console Games

Check out the post here

Reversing Emulators

This is a big part of the site that people don’t see, yet anyway. We spent time in 2020 building out libRetroReversing and adding support for Game Boy, Pokemon Mini, Game Gear and the Sega Saturn.

Game Boy (DMG/GBC) Reversing Emulator

Check out a few details about the upcoming GB Reversing emulator in the post here

These are not ready to be released in 2020 and still require a lot of work before being released.

However when they are they will play a big part in the “reversing” part of the site, such as tutorials and projects.

This will allow us to create content to introduce complete beginners into romhacking and decompilation and hopefully grow the community of passionate reverse engineers.

Nintendo Leaks

We can’t talk about 2020 without mentioning the Nintendo leaks, from January all the way to December there was a leak almost every month.

All Nintendo Leaks

Check out details about the main Nintendo Leaks in this post

The biggest leak in terms of content that is interesting to use was the Gigaleak 1 and 2 as these contained the original source code for SNES, GB and Nintendo 64 games!

Gigaleak 2 Electric Boogaloo - N64 Source Code Leak

Check out details about the N64 Gigaleak in this post

We have created overview posts on all of these leaks, but we need to revisit this in 2021 to go more in depth in what was contained in each leak and how to compile the source code.

The Nintendo leak posts were by far the most popular on the site in 2020. The approach we took was to give an overview of each archive to explain what the content was and why it is interesting. This allows readers to decide which parts of the leak they are interesting in downloading from other websites, as we will never host any leaked material.

We realise many users download the leaks and have no idea what they are looking at, so we try to keep the post as beginner-friendly as possible so people can learn how games were developed by Nintendo.

Capcom Leaks

Nintendo wasn’t the only Japanese game company to have a data breach and source code leaked in 2020. Capcom had a huge amount of data stolen and some of the data was uploaded to the dark web.

Unfortunately it wasn’t just source code leaked and in fact employee personal information was also uploaded.

However we took care to only document source code for what we consider to be retro consoles:

  • The Misadventures of Tron Bonne (PS1)
  • Devil May Cry 2 (Ps2)
  • Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles (Wii)

Capcom Leaks

Check out details about the Capcom Source Code leaks in this post

2021 & ahead

Like most site we want to increase engagement in the new year with a focus on introductory reverse engineering posts and our reversing emulators.

Goals for 2021

  • Release pre-compiled Reversing emulator with at least Pokemon Mini and Game Boy core included
  • Twitter followers to 500 (from 365)
  • Create a video tutorial for GB Reversing Emulator
  • Create posts on SDKs such as GBA and N64
  • Create the remaining development hardware posts

The focus on producing a stable version of our Reversing Emulators will shift focus from creating posts to programming and learning about the hardware details, but this will pay off in the long run in terms of content.

Development Hardware Posts

We aim to add new posts to cover some of the consoles we have not yet covered the development hardware for:

  • Wii & WiiU
  • DS & 3DS
  • Vita
  • Xbox & Xbox 360

Introduction to Development Kits (Hardware)

click here to see the existing development kit posts we have

Cleanup & Quality

We aim to cleanup some of the older posts, including removing posts that are no longer up to the same quality of the newer content.

Since writing some of the posts other sites have covered the same topic in a much better way. For example has added some excellent console hardware architecture posts in 2020 which we should link to instead of having our own inferior pages on the hardware architecture.

We are after all just trying to give users a list of the best content available no matter which site it is on. The initial aim of the site was to create an “awesome list” for reverse engineering retro games and we still intend to do that, only providing our own posts for content that is not available elsewhere or we believe we can give a different perspective on.

Thank you

Thank you everyone for making this year special, despite all the difficulties of 2020 the community has been incredibly supportive.

Hopefully you will all have a happy 2021 and let us know if there is anything you would like us to cover this year.