Last Updated: 2/6/2021 by Old Kid
The following is a guide for those looking to get their Dreamcast online in 2021 (and beyond). The Dreamcast still has a small but passionate community that regularly meet up to play Phantasy Star Online, Quake 3 Arena, Ooga Booga, Alien Front Online, Worms World Pary, and more!
An up-to-date list of online games can be found here: https://dreamcastlive.net/games/
Dreamcast online compatibility is possible due to the the work of dedicated and talented enthusiasts. Join the community at Dreamcast-Talk.com and Dreamcastlive.net!
out and meet up with other Dreamcast / PSO fans on Discord:
Dreamcast-Talk.com Discord Invite: https://discord.com/invite/ZzyQB7r
Dreamcast Online Discord Invite: https://discord.gg/QG67CuMQ
Sylverant Server Discord Invite: https://discord.com/invite/R2ATFFm
The Dreamcast was the first video game console with built in online capabilities. Back in the day, there were two options to connect your Dreamcast to the internet - the built-in 56K dial-up modem, and the broadband adapter. While the broadband adapter was a faster means of connecting to the internet, it was not adopted by every game developer, and only a handful of games supported it. Another strike against the BBA is that in modern times it has become a rare commodity, and can cost over $150 used!
Thankfully, every commercially released game in the Dreamcast's library with online functionality supported the 56k modem. For these reasons, the 56k modem is the more popular means of getting online, and this guide assumes you'll be getting online with the original factory-installed modem.
While it is still technically possible to have a telephone line in your home and a dial-up ISP service to connect to, it was already becoming an outdated way to get online when the Dreamcast was new! More than likely, you have a broadband or DSL cable modem with a WiFi or wired Ethernet router in your home. This is what we will be using in this guide.
Another obstacle with trying to connect today is that the servers for online play and DLC extras for Dreamcast games have long been shut down. For many games to work properly, either custom online servers are required, such as Sylverant Server for Phantasy Star Online (more on this later), or the hard-coded addresses that the games try to connect to need to be changed or redirected.
Each game has a unique situation that needs to be resolved, and as mentioned earlier, the folks at Dreamcast Live have made a great list of online games and outline any obstacles for each game.
Don't let any of this scare you off, however, as most games have a plug-and-play solution that requires very little fuss from the user.
DreamPi is the most up-to-date, simplest and feature-rich solution for getting your Dreamcast online. DreamPi is software developed by Kazade that runs on a Raspberry Pi single board computer. It uses a USB dial-up modem to connect to the Dreamcast's built-in 56k modem.
DreamPi solves both sides of the "connecting in 2021" problems at once by
passing your modern network's WiFi or Ethernet connection to your
Dreamcast through the USB modem, and uses scripts to handle routing for
specific game connection requirements (such as Maximum Pool and Alien
Front Online). A steadily growing number of folks playing the Dreamcast
online are using the DreamPi as their primary solution.
Unless you already own a Raspberry Pi and are handy with a bit of soldering, you should consider purchasing a DreamPi kit from here: https://dreamcastlive.net/shop/
If you are interested in saving money by doing it yourself, there are resources at Kazade's blog here: http://blog.kazade.co.uk/p/dreampi.html
Kazade outlines and provides links to the finer points of burning the DreamPi image to an SD card, finding a compatible model USB modem, and making a line voltage inducer. These tasks are outside of the scope of this guide. I strongly recommend to just buy one and support Dreamcast Live!
Note: PAL consoles require a different version of the Line Voltage Inducer to operate correctly. See Dreamcast Live's notes on the purchase page for more information. This guide is assuming you have a NTSC console, but aside from this one difference I assume everything else should work the same (untested as I don't have a PAL Dreamcast).
Also, in this guide if I am referring to "The DreamPi", I am
typically referencing the entire kit, including the Raspberry Pi,
DreamPi Software and USB Modem.
- Sega Dreamcast (This guide Uses a NTSC console)
- Windows PC (Linux or Mac will work fine, but not to follow along with the guide)
- CD-Rom Burner
- Blank CD-R Discs
- DreamPi Kit: Raspberry Pi, DreamPi software, USB Modem, Modded Modem or Line Voltage Inducer, Rj-11 Phone Cord
- Wired Ethernet or WiFi connection for DreamPi (Wired Ethernet connection is ideal)
- Cat 5E/6 Patch Cable to connect Raspberry Pi to your router (if you are using A wired Ethernet connection)
As a bit of a departure, I want to start this guide with a basic primer on burning discs for the Dreamcast. Custom software such as the 'Sylverant PSO Patcher v2.0' may be required for online play, and anyone using a Dreamcast in 2021 who doesn't have an alternate solution for running custom software should seek to get the means to burn Dreamcast discs.
Infamously and to its detriment, the Dreamcast could run normal CD-R's without any hardware or software modifications, so we can get custom or pirated software running on the Dreamcast without much work or cost.
If you don't have a CD Burner, you'll have to pick one up.
If you want a smaller USB solution, most reputable external combo units should work, such as this external Dell - Amazon Link Here.
I am personally using an Asus full-size drive in my PC for this tutorial.
Amazon Link Here.
You will also have to pick some CD-R's up. There is some debate on the internet as to the quality of this brand or that brand, but I have had good luck with Verbatim 700mb discs.
You can currently get 100 Verbatim CD-R's for 15 dollars: Amazon Link Here.
We will also need a specific CD burning software called ImgBurn. ImgBurn can run on any version of Windows, Windows 95 and up.
We need an add-on to ImgBurn so that it can burn .CDI
images, the most common format for Dreamcast software intended to be burnt
to CD-R's. Thankfully, a copy of ImgBurn with the add-ons is hosted at
Download Dreamcast Live's ImgBurn for Dreamcast Here.
With the file now downloaded, we need to extract the "ImgBurn-18.104.22.168-DC.zip" to your preferred folder and location. Note: If you need help understanding how to zip and unzip in Windows 10, check out this help guide Here.
Once you are done, you should see the following files:
Now need to run "SetupImgBurn_22.214.171.124.exe".
Once open, We can click Next, then hit the checkbox to accept the license agreement and click next again. Click next once more to accept the default install options. We should now see a screen that shows us our default install directory.
Now is where the rubber meets the road. Pop the disc in and power on your Dreamcast. If all goes well, you should see the XDP Dreams startup screen:
Dreamkey 3.0 (Europe)
PlanetWeb Browser ver 1.x/2.x/3.0 (North America)
XDP Browser Pack
4x4 Evolution (NTSC-U/C)
NBA 2K1 (NTSC-U/C)
NFL 2K1 (NTSC-U/C)
POD Speedzone (NTSC-U/C)
Quake 3 Arena (NTSC-U/C)
Unreal Tournament (NTSC-U/C)
(This list borrowed from https://dreamcast.onlineconsoles.com/phpBB2/guides_getonline.php)
Google around for examples of how to set your dial-up settings from the software you have from this list. We will continue on as if your XDP Web Browser burn worked, but as long as you get the correct fields of information set, your DreamPi will work.
Now with XDP Web Browser booted, use the left/right arrows to select "Custom Planetweb 2.6X" and press start to launch the software.