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Bootlegs and guff

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, May 28, 2023.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    At some point soon-ish I'm probably going to get very bored of this topic, so Education Yourself: Russian bootlegs:


    Before it developed a new hobby of targeting civilian infrastructure with unmanned aerial drones, Russia decided it would reinvent the Sega Mega Drive for the 21st century... by copying the designs of the 20th and pretending they were new and cool. It soon reached a state where a massive library of Russian-branded games were available for a massive library of Russian-branded consoles, and now it's a rabbit hole that doubles or triples in depth every time you look down.

    There were so many Russian bootlegs that I had Sega Retro devote entire pages to them, until it became clear not all of them were Russian.


    As a recap, most bootleg games come from South-East Asia, with most of the 90s Mega Drive carts originating from the likes of Taiwan. The really old stuff is therefore quite easy to spot:

    [​IMG]
    Slightly broken English titles, some traditional Chinese, and not much text to describe what the product is (which includes indications that "this is a Sega Mega Drive game"). These products could then be shipped all over the world without having to worry too much about language barriers, and I would expect the oldest bootlegs you'll find in Russia are identical to those you'll find in Taiwan, or South America, or whevever. You can apply similar rules to the consoles themselves, although in those cases there's a concerted effort to make the packaging resemble the real thing.


    At some point, probably around the turn of the millennium, there was a push to actually localise these titles. Or at least the packaging:

    [​IMG]

    This is from a company known as Gastin. We know this because it says so on the box (Гастин) and even gives a telephone number, because this is legitimate business guys.

    What follows is the first wave of pain: the Mega Drive library is vast, and a good chunk of it was being reproduced in Taiwan, shipped to Russia, and stuck in custom boxes. We also don't know how many companies were doing this, but enough so that these new "Russian" bootlegs outnumbered the standard "Taiwanese" ones (both of which outnumber legitimate Sega cartridges imported from elsewhere).


    [​IMG]

    At some point Simba's Video Games would become a big force in the market, both creating knock-off consoles, and rebadging knock-off games. This company likes to pretend it's Sega, so it's not always clear what the origins are, but again, their produce is everywhere.

    [​IMG]

    Not helped by the fact that Simba's started re-releasing their own games in this "silver" (or gold) attire. The problem with Mega Drive games is that most of them are in English - they'd sell better in Russia if they were translated into Russian... and so they were hacked, translated into Russian, and re-released on cartridge. As far as I'm aware, this hasn't happened anywhere else in the world, probably because by the time it became feasible, the console had been out of production for years and nobody else cared.



    [​IMG]

    This isn't communism anymore, so we need markets and competition and whatever. New Game was just as prolific at bootlegging Mega Drive games. And then bootlegging the same games again with (often different) Russian translations... or because they had a new box style... or just felt like it.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    You could buy that horrible unlicensed Bugs Life game in both English AND Russian! What a world.


    It's hard to date these things precisely, but I think both the Simba's and New Game sets have been out of print for at least a decade, which means they're no longer the most common Russian bootlegs out there. This is because K&S turned up with much sleeker box designs:

    [​IMG]

    These aren't the only sets out there, but they are the most prominent, and among the few we vaguely understand.


    It's also unwise to make assumptions. For example,

    [​IMG]

    This style, notable for always including a K-A ESRB rating on the front for some reason, is Ukrainian. Russian cartridges did make it over the border back in normal times, but Ukraine had its own business going on. Whether you get similar stories in other former Soviet states is still a mystery.



    The other thing to bear in mind is that as far as these bootleggers go, the Mega Drive library was defined in Taiwan, not the West. That means garbage like Squirrel King is treated just as legitimately as Sonic the Hedgehog, hence crap being re-released in fancy boxes, and some games being completely absent.


    But what's the situation in 2023? Well Mega Drive clones are still made en masse, but there's less of a need for individual games on cartridge anymore. Instead you either get hundreds of games built-in to the console itself, or supplied on one cartridge (or something like an Everdrive where games live on an SD card). Sega Retro might have played an indirect part in this - the internet will tell you the above carts are fake, and I'm going to guess importing real Mega Drive carts to build a collection might be a challenge if you're in Russia.


    There is one other terrifying thing to come from Russia:
    [​IMG]
    The Mega Drive Portable, i.e. an unofficial handheld Mega Drive with its own special cartridges.
     
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  2. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Game Gear unlicensed multi-carts

    There are far fewer Game Gear multi-carts than Mega Drive ones, but there's still more than 100. The curious-but-not-really story here is that most of the games included are actually Master System ones, specifically those distributed on card, because at 32kB a piece, they're tiny.

    More concerning is that
    not
    a
    single
    one

    has been dumped. Now fair enough in some cases:

    [​IMG]

    Many have physical switches to switch games, rather than a bespoke menu. This is the most exotic example, and you know it's going to be a faff to create something emulatable, but... this is still gaming history. If people are willing to remake Sonic 2006 in their spare time, there's got to be someone who cares about this.

    The other reason it might matter is we have no idea what's on some of these cartridges:
    [​IMG]
    Mega Drive carts are big enough for artwork and often came in sturdy boxes. Game Gear carts often have to many games to list, and came in flimsy bits of cardboard. Does "Supreme Gear 60 in 1" have 60 unique games? I mean, probably not, but it would be nice to know!
     
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  3. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    [​IMG]

    Dreamcast now, and hey look, another task that won't be completed in my lifetime. But at least the Russian bootlegging community was a bit more organised this time around - we even have precise release dates for some of them, which is only slightly crazy.

    Others have been leading the charge on this, and with 300+ box scans I figured we'd have pretty decent coverage, albeit hiding on single Dreamcast bootleg games page. Turns out we're missing quite a lot, though I'm not surprised - I can imagine it becoming overwhelming to document the almost the full Western Dreamcast library four or five extra times. We might need a smarter approach to work out what's missing.

    What's more problematic is the... other software:

    [​IMG]

    It's not really a multi-cart if it's on a disc. And yes, Quake and Quake and Quake and Quake could all be bought separately (even though three of them were free mods), so they're all probably going to get pages on Sega Retro. It's not ideal, but the Russians are quite good at making a mess of things.

    Also commercially-sold emulators and "might not actually be video CDs" video CDs
     
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  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I have heard of this happening on other platforms, but not the Dreamcast:

    [​IMG]
    "Озвучено Актерами"
    Roughly translates to "voiced by actors". And I assume Russian actors.

    i.e. it's an unofficial Russian dub.

    Tell me when you care:

    [​IMG]

    Time to make some crazy money?

    [​IMG]

    To protect the lifecycle??

    [​IMG]

    Are those guys sailors???

    [​IMG]

    Found you, faker????
     
  5. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    Jack shit.
    Russian dubs are pretty prolific actually, especially in this age of online content.

    I've seen YouTube series where a creator will put something out and within hours have a Russian dub with consistent casting. Don't underestimate the Ruskis and all that jazz.
     
  6. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    ... probably should have got to this sooner.

    [​IMG]

    I'm on a vague mission to debunk a theory: "the Dreamcast was killed by piracy". This is version 1.1 of the Dreamcast CD Loader, released by hacking group Utopia (and "Wildlight"?) on the 22nd June 2000.

    Utopia are credited for discovering the Mil-CD exploit, allowing all Dreamcast consoles to run software from CD-Rs without modification. To capitalise on this, they released this boot disc to the general public - burn it to a CD-R, and then you can use it to run other software burned to CD-Rs. And then nobody bought an official Dreamcast game ever again and Sega exploded. Maybe.


    Well first off, until this thing was put online, piracy was effectively impossible, so Sega had all of 1998, 1999 and half of 2000 without any issues to contend with.

    Sorry, it wasn't viable until the 23rd, when Dead or Alive 2, first Dreamcast game to be ripped in a way that you could burn the contents to a CD-R, showed up. While the expectation is that pirate copies wouldn't be too far behind the real thing, it was an active console with a backlog, so it's going to take some for a sizable software library to become available. It was certainly not guaranteed you'd be able to get new software on launch day (note: you can probably find listings of when games were ripped).

    And also since this is mid-2000, at a time where not everyone had (easy access to) the internet, the news takes longer to travel, and interest is predicated on whether the game you want is up there. I'd also contend that for most of us, this wasn't a viable option at the time. Not everyone had a CD burner, nor the ability to download hundreds of megabytes worth of game rips. You could buy the parts, but that's an expense, and the idea here was to save money.

    Personally, I never experienced Dreamcast piracy at the time, and that's probably because the console was bought by loyal Sega fans, who both understood the need to buy real copies, and... wanted real copies, because they were real. More importantly, Dreamcast games were cheap, and would be getting cheaper as retailers tried to clear stock - it was just far less of a faff to go down the official route, something that might not be said of the original PlayStation, of which I did see chipped consoles and "copies" back in the day.

    No, I'm of the firm belief that the Dreamcast was killed by Japan solely due to failures in the domestic market, aka "we've run out of money".


    But what about these Russians? Well here's the rub - Utopia's disc loader led to organised bootlegging operations, but from what I've seen, none of them started operating until after the Dreamcast was axed. Most bootleg Russian software seems to have arrived in 2001 and 2002 - not much of an effect on Sega's bottom line because a) they weren't selling Dreamcast games in Russia, and b) they weren't selling Dreamcast games at all. And remember, Russia actualy had an incentive to be quick and pirate the crap out of the Dreamcast library - there were no official alternatives.


    tl;dr, prior to the Dreamcast's discontinuation, piracy was probably just a curiosity. Afterwards, it became a business. Today it's the only thing keeping the system alive.
     
  7. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    I remember that reindeer well. I never owned a Dreamcast but my friend did and I first played Sonic Adventure through his rip when I was 10, so sometime in the 2000s. I know Sonic Shuffle hadn't yet come out though.
     
  8. Nik Pi

    Nik Pi

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    Oh god, this thread was made for me :psyduck:

    In Russia and post-soviet countries Sega Mega Drive and Dendy (Famiclone) still popular because of nostalgia and some youtubers, like Kinaman (Russian AVGN, in good meaning) and PixelDevil


    Also, here in Kazakhstan still A LOT of cartridges for smd, but most of them is umk3 :colbert:

    Also, I have a lot of them.. but covers on cartridges I changed to more pretty things.. my SMD 2 is a bit broken, but if I'll get enough time- I can post them here ^_^
    P.S.: Russian language pirate games are crap, even some video (again, in Russian, but maybe auto-translator can help:
     
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  9. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Fun fact: Dreamcast homebrew history is disappearing off the net and nobody seems to care.


    nana nana nana nana
    nana nana
    nana nana
    [​IMG]
    Batman.


    Here's an issue: one of the first games ported ot the Dreamcast after the system had been "cracked" was Doom. Not long after that, people were sticking Doom WADs on Dreamcast discs, and the bootleggers were selling them. There's quite a few and I'm not quite sure how to handle it all yet. This particular one's up on archive.org though, so it's a decent place to start.

    [​IMG]

    First, "Consolevision" and now-dead homebrew site. Okay.

    [​IMG]

    Then this noise. An Xbox-esque front-end translated into Russian, and something identifying itself as "Batman and Robin". Except it's actually "Doom DC", a now-obsolete(?) source port pf Doom II.

    [​IMG]
    ...or nxDoom beta 2. Which has its own menu. And yes that's a full version of Doom II that's here for... some reason.


    [​IMG]
    It's a hacked up version of Batman Doom, a total conversion from 1999. Robin isn't in this game as far as I can tell.

    [​IMG]
    Delightful. Also the wrong aspect ratio.

    They all have stories to tell.
     
  10. Nik Pi

    Nik Pi

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    WHAT THE F*CK IS THIS?!?!
    I EVEN HASNT KNEW ABOUT IT
    Seems like Sonic CD Majin found a good opponent...
    Russian bootlegs continue screens


    Also, here is the site/database of games for Dreamcast with Russian translation (pirate and fan included, but only info, no ISO/ROMs)
    http://rgdb.info/games/dreamcast-dc



    UPD: K, game over screens even was a memes for a while, probably, I'll put this shit in my next Russian translation of Sonic game XD
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2023
  11. BSonirachi

    BSonirachi

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    Wouldn't you know that I do happen to own one of those Game Gear multicarts, specifically Gear 30 in 1:

    20230608_170718.jpg

    My Game Gear's screen no longer works so I can't exactly check the cart right now, but I do remember some of the games that were on it, including Sonic 1, Columns, Pengo, Pac-Man, Woody Pop and Super Tetris.
     
  12. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    This is what we've been using, though there's a fair number of localisations that weren't commercially released, which we don't care about.


    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Resident Evil was apparently huge in Russia, so it makes sense that its pseudo-precursor, Alone in the Dark, got a million (re)releases. And this isn't just "remove the Sega logos" like on the Mega Drive, these are separate translations of the game. Do you pick a 4-disc version with a new Russian voiceover, or a 2-disc one, which almost certainly had content cut to fit the game on CD-Rs. Which is the most accurate? Are any better than the English version? (spoilers: no)

    I would hope there's a central repository of dumps somewhere, but archive.org has a grand total of... five? As in five games total, not versions of Alone in the Dark 4.

    We need a name for this. When people in gaming only want to talk about the super duper hyper mega mainstream, you get side effects like preservation and emulation centering itself soley around playing popular games people like. I'd instead argue the focus should be to preserve things that will be forgotten - nobody likes these Russian bootlegs, even the Russians, which is exactly why you need to care, because you can't rely on "someone else" to do it.

    Or in other words, Redream should be able to open any disc, not just known software. The current version can only run 2/5 discs, even after converting from wacky old formats, and that's presumably because they have fake headers. Real hardware will give anything a go.
     
  13. Nik Pi

    Nik Pi

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  14. Nik Pi

    Nik Pi

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    Ok, some stuff, guys!!
    (Here will be 0 people who want it, but anyway)
    Well, my MD completely died, and doesn't give any signs of living, so I can't make any shoots for games, like menu, and other things.
    Anyway, I'll try to retell you all by words.
    First: Mega Drive consoles
    Sega mega drive 2
    20230609_154837.jpg
    20230609_154852.jpg
    20230609_155043.jpg
    Empire Mega Drive 2 (same concole as previous, but newer):
    20230609_154902.jpg
    20230609_154915.jpg
    20230609_154948.jpg

    Booth plays in PAL 50hz, booth has the same set of games, that you can run without cartridge. It's Sonic 1 (hasn't any changes), asteron, block-out, and some kind of football, I guess.. I don't remember, but this set is mostly sucks.
    Also booth of them has same menu.

    Next, cartridges:
    4 in 1:
    20230609_154111.jpg
    All is on cover. Batman game hasn't intro.

    Next, a lot in one (8 if I remember correctly):
    20230609_153953.jpg
    After Burnet here is after burner 2, and here is no sonic spinball, but it has Rambo III in Japanese.

    And last one:
    20230609_154019.jpg
    Formula one F1, As I remember, here is another race game, not F1, and it has a option "load" in menu, but cartridge hasn't battery.


    I have more, but I changed labels on it to make them more nice looking. Maybe I'll show them the next time, when I'll get working Mega Drive.
     
  15. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I've reached a limit



    They say one of the reasons the PlayStation 2 succeeded where the Dreamcast failed, was that it could play movies on DVD. And yeah, that's probably right - even though Sega Europe attempted to have Dreamcast consoles bundled with DVD players for a short period, it was an obvious advantage. There were no films being sold on GD-ROMs - the Dreamcast can't be used to play movies.

    [​IMG]

    Except it can. And it was.


    Software exists to let your Dreamcast play other types of disc. One such example is Dreammovie, that came with a remote and everything:

    [​IMG]

    Our coverage isn't very good because this was used for Video CDs (VCD), and nobody in the Western world gives the slightest damn about VCD. It's not through lack of trying - Sega Europe notably shipped a Video CD card for the Sega Saturn, but the format never caught on - we were happy with VHS, which could net you a better picture and didn't require swapping mid-film. As such, any attempts to get game consoles to play VCDs was mainly to appease Asian markets.

    Now here's the part where I get really freaking confused.

    Before Russia embraced the DVD, it took an interest in VCD, and if you can get the Dreamcast to play VCDs in addition to all your knock-off CD-R games, hurray. But the Dreamcast is capable of more, and so there were discs written to take advantage of Sofdec technologies, and DivX, and god knows what else, which could in theory provide you with better picture quality. These were also presumably burned to CD-R and loaded in a similar way to games.

    The problem is

    I have no idea how this all worked. I can't find decent photos of boot discs, let alone dumps if the software - there's a whole load of freebie downloadable homebrew applications that achieve the same purpose, but unlicensed commercial releases for the Russian market are proving elusive. Maybe like most of the later games, the discs could self-boot - perhaps players took up space on the disc as well as the films themselves - I just don't know.

    There are a lot of Dreamcast-branded video discs, and while we have a pretty decent list, I've now found three different copies of Shrek, none of which have been documented, and the years start coming and they don't stop coming, fed to the rules and I hit the ground running.


    On the plus side, I found a solution for dealing with all the Dooms and Quakes. Commercial releases of Doom weren't viable until 2002 (our earliest dates are from October).
     
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  16. Nik Pi

    Nik Pi

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    Here is a lot of people who can tell you more:
    https://www.emu-land.net/forum/index.php
    It's a Russian forum about old games and emulation, as I remember, there was a thread about this discs. Or you can make your own thread and ask your question.

    P.S.: Once I saw Moonwalker cartridge with AVGN's picture as his sticker, like this:
    Screenshot_20230610_074522_YouTube.jpg
    I hasn't know who it was, but if only I knew that this is real shit- I would buy or at least shoot that cartridge, lol.
     
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  17. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Sega Retro has gone from "not much" to "maybe the best" in terms of Dreamcast bootleg coverage (at least in the English speaking world) in the span of a week or two. I'm reasonably confident we have the most scans if nothing else, so that's a thing.

    So what now?

    Well again, the archivists and emulator developers need to get their houses in order so we can emulate the software. I don't know how likely that is given the current climate, but we have decent lists of software now, so at least they know where to start, should anyone want to care.


    I wouldn't want to claim I fully understand this, but the process seemed to be:

    1) A warez group rips the original Dreamcast software from GD-ROM in a format that can be used by the general public.
    2) A translation or hacking group goes in, fiddles with the code and assets so that the game can be burnt onto a CD-R.
    3) A distribution group prints off some fancy covers and disc labels, puts the game in a box and has it sold on the grey market.

    I'm sure online records were kept for 1. 2 and 3 are sometimes the same people, but it's also confusing because multiple distributors might sell the same translation, or there may be further edits, or whatever. One of the issues is that Russian databases tend to group by translations, and it's not always clear which ones were sold commercially.

    It also seems like sometimes the "distributor" is actually a website. So you'd have multiple groups translating games simulatenously, but they'd all be sold in similar boxes, and only the website would claim credit. I don't really understand. And as an aside, almost everyone involved in Dreamcast bootlegging also did the same for the original PlayStation (and everything shipped in standard CD jewel cases).


    Anyway, the obvious groups:

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Kudos was probably the most organised, and stuck their logo everywhere. If it wasn't for (often) low resolution artwork, misplaced ESRB icons and screenshots with IGN or Gamespot watermarks, you could almost believe they're the real deal. I have seen worse boxes for official games (though the rarely seen style used for NBA 2K1 there is pretty bad).

    Kudos (I think) translated most of the games on their own, and also show up in Mega Drive bootlegging, later as "KDS". Though it's difficult to tell on that front.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    RGR Studio also stuck their (not quite as interesting) logo on games they published. Nothing really thrills me about this operation - it's just "copy the US box design" with varying degrees of success. It's a bit odd when you consider most of the consoles in the region were PAL machines, and so the blue Dreamcast swirl would be more dominant.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Vector (company) were also prolific, sticking their ugly logo on things. This group seemed more keen to change the artwork, and re-released games when their logo was updated.

    [​IMG]

    Paradox did their own thing. The covers are cheap as all hell but they're something endearing about orange. The above three were much larger operations than this (and those below) though, so you'll never get a full set of Dreamcast games.

    [​IMG]

    Not sure I'd say the same about Playzero. It's hard to tell from scans alone, but these almost look like they were printed on newspaper.

    [​IMG]

    For those mourning the collapse of the Soviet Union, but not enough to buy Japanese products, RED Station.

    [​IMG]

    Nautilus has a fun logo. A very small operation tough with only a handful of (known) games.

    [​IMG]

    Pinachet Game seems to have struggled with the bezier curve tool. They also made video CDs as... "Pinachet Video".

    [​IMG]

    And finally, no frills, no fun Playbox (company). They have nice matching discs, but if you're going to invest in knock-off video games, it's not the same without wacky covers.




    As far as I know, Russia was the only country in the world where bootleg Dreamcast games thrived. I've not seen these kinds of operations elsewhere, but if they exist... do tell
     
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  18. Nik Pi

    Nik Pi

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    I'm glad, if I helped you. And yes, Kudos, probably was a most popular company, and yes, they gone to mega drive bootlegs after PS/DC era (they produced bootlegs like Chip 'N Dale and Felix and etc)
     
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  19. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Last night I cross-referenced some official lists from the Kudos and Vector websites. We're missing ~20 games:

    (I left the spelling in-tact)

    I can't prove physical versions of these games exist. Not that I have a reason to believe they're not out there, but proof would be nice before committing this knowledge to the wiki.

    "Requiem" is probably the 1997 Doom WAD.
     
  20. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    13 years ago I made a mistake:

    [​IMG]

    I had this listed as the "Russian version" of Sega GT (on the PC), and while yes... it is a Russian version, it's not the Russian version, because Sega lacked any official distributors in Russia at the time. In fact, you can bet any Sega-related PC game sold in Russia at the time was a bootleg.

    The other clue is it's depicting a McLaren F1 LM on the surface of mars.

    [​IMG]

    Somehow I managed to find another photo of one in a quarry. They only made six of these, most in McLaren's favourite colour, "Papaya orange" and none appeared in Sega GT.

    This is the work of "7 Wolf" (7-ой волк) prolific distributor of dodgy Russian bootlegs in the 1990s and 2000s. I came across this well before I understood how professional bootlegging operations could be... or had any idea of what I was doing. Spoilers: I still make it up as I go along.


    Historically, PC gaming has been huge in Russia... so there's going to be a lot of PC bootlegs aren't there?... yeah.

    Have 11 different versions of Condemned. Though I think one is the official release... and one is actually Ukrainian. This will be a subset of what's out there, and it's just one game.

    ...
     
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