Creator Interview with the Developers of Seedi, the CD-Based Retro Gaming System
As a gamer who spent his formative years relishing the magic of the compact disc, retro gaming has always had a missing link to me. Consoles have been made to allow you to play cartridge based classics on modern televisions, but early retro CD consoles have often felt overlooked. There are plenty of Genesis emulation devices out there, but my Sega CD games have sat and collected dust. Sure, people "in the know" might know ways to recreate these experiences on their PC, but the layman who simply wants to run their copy of Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side had to dig out an old unit, plug far too many wall warts in, and hope their television had classic plugs on it. There hasn't been an easy way to recreate these systems, up until now.
Seedi is a CD based retro gaming system with about a week left on it's indiegogo campaign, and is still in need of a little under half of it's campaign funds. The company is dedicated to bringing a modern way to bring classic games back. Check out our interview below, and then head over to the Indiegogo campaign page and help them achieve their dream!
1) Hello! Thanks for taking the time to run through this interview. First off, what's your name and position within the company/group? Is this your first foray into video games, or do you have a history in the industry?
A: Thanks for reaching out! I am Bryan Barnes, a co-owner of Seedi LLC. I am the lead software engineer on Seedi. My partner Chris and I share ownership over the product design as a whole.
I have always been a gamer, and have had a little professional involvement in that industry specifically (if you count an internship at an indie game studio ;) ) - but most of our experience comes from working at a large consumer electronics company.
2) Companies like Hyperkin have addressed the cartridge-based emulation of consoles for a while, but you are one of the first CD-based units I've seen. What challenges have you faced getting this up and running?
A: We thought it was about time for CD based systems to become available, and to be honest I am really surprised that there haven’t been more before now.
For Seedi we have decided to build the product heavily based on existing open source software, and integrating it all together with original additions from us. For example, some open source emulators have support for physical optical drives, but most have abandoned that in favor of just working with CD images (rips). We have created a solution to this problem that streams data from the CD in a generic way. We have also vetted/qualified tons of parts to use - not all optical drives, adapters, controllers, etc. are the same! The challenge here being to make a high quality and affordable device that we can stand behind.
3) Emulation is one of those fuzzy parts of legality. Reading your indiegogo page shows that you do have to locate emulation software yourself, but you speak of certain software licensed for commercial use. What kind of licenses have you acquired? What in historical lawsuits makes you feel confident that there will be no issues involved with distribution of the Seedi system?
A: Yes indeed. There are two sides to this - the licenses of the open source software being used, and the stipulations around BIOS files that must be acquired to use some of the emulators.
So, I will give a two part answer…
Part 1. Most of the software we are using on Seedi is using the GPL license which explicitly allows it to be used in products (provided we also follow the license and our modification are made available - which we will). The Sega Genesis/Sega CD emulator we are using however does not have a license like this, but we were able to agree to a commercial-use license with the authors, that once funded, a portion of our funds will be used for.
For the full list, please read this page: https://seedisystem.com/about/seedi-open-source-software-information/
Part 2. These original CD systems include a nugget of code called the “BIOS”. Most CD system emulators require a copy of this to operate. However you can currently find some of these emulators for sale on the Play Store, etc. Similarly, Seedi will require that the customer provide a copy of this file.
Given that these physical systems are aging/dying, we just feel that there is a need for more options to help preserve these games. And all of that being said, we are exploring additional options in this area.
Part 3. (Surprise part!) The concepts of emulation/reverse engineering as a whole have been further divulged in Sony v. Bleem and Sony v. Connectix - please take a look. And of course, there is always some risk.
4) I do see a menu of sorts on your main screen showing many disc-based games at once. Does the unit burn games to a hard drive, and if so, how much will you be able to fit on a system/will there be expansion options? Will you require the disc to play? Do you have safeguards to detect between original CD games and burnt copies? Would it play a ROM directly?
A: We want to provide a variety of options to gamers:
-Ability to play original games right off the discs
-Ability to rip games to the system and play from them
-Ability to copy rips from the system for further storage/archiving
-Ability to burn backup discs
-Ability to play ROMs for other systems (NES, Atari, Genesis, etc.)
These older original CD systems had little to no DRM, so computers really can’t tell the difference between original discs and copies - Seedi is no different!
Seedi includes a 32GB SD card for storage, and it will be possible to attach other storage devices, as well as network storage.
5) What else can Seedi do now, and what do you want it to do in the future, with various software updates?
A: Seedi is first and foremost a retro gaming device, the unique capability being the CD support.
By default it will have aspect-ratio correction enabled, and you will easily be able to add video filters to soften the image (makes a big difference in 3D PS1 games).
Seedi will also be running Kodi (formerly XBMC), so it has a lot of media center potential.
It is also a general purpose computer with a CD/DVD burner. It won’t be locked down into our software - the customer can load up their own OS/software as well!
And if there are any breakthroughs with emulators (for example Sega Saturn or 3DO) we would absolutely make them available - no promises though!
Finally, if there ever was interest we would LOVE to put out limited runs of indie games on CD-ROM for Seedi!
6) Many indiegogo campaigns come out with great ideas, but don't show solid working designs. I see you recently have sent out units to a few review teams with the beta software installed. How will you go about keeping people updated from here? Do you plan on doing regular updates to those consoles' software and pushing out more videos, doing things in house, or some other way?
A: We are doing our best to inform people about the project and it’s status. Project backers receive updates via Indiegogo, and we also have a Facebook page where we have a collection of Live demo videos!
Our main focus currently is getting the project funded - and we have a long way to go with only two weeks left. For the finale of the campaign we will actually be present at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo where people can come and check it out!
We love communicating with our customers, and you can certainly expect more video and other updates.
7) CD's are really starting to show their age. Sadly, through scuffs, cracks, or just general degradation of the medium, we're really at a crucial time for CDs and preservation of the games. Do you feel that your system can help in any way? What are your plans upon funding? Online sales through your site, Amazon, brick and mortar?
A: We absolutely want to make a difference here. Our mission is to provide more options for gamers so they are able to keep playing their games. As stated above, Seedi will have features to help preserve these games!
Post-funding we will have to see just how much interest there is. We would obviously love to put our product in the hands of more people that it will be useful for. One step at a time!
8) A lot of people I asked for questions boiled down to "If I can get a Pi for $50 and poke around on emulation with it, why should I bother with a Seedi?" What do you feel makes your system unique, or a "must-buy" for people in the retro gaming community?
A: Seedi will ship basically ready to go (aside from the BIOS files), and pass through our QA process before getting into your hands. It’s not just as easy as connecting an optical drive to a RPi.
That being said, if you love to tinker and have an RPi then by all means power to you - we won’t force you to get a Seedi ;)
9) Which games inspired you to craft this system? What are your favorite titles from the generation this unit can play? What games do you want to "rescue" from obscurity? What games on these systems (that you can't get as a downloadable on modern systems, mind you) would be "must plays" for a new generation of gamer?
A: Great question - the first answer to this is - ALL OF THEM. There are thousands of games for these platforms. None should be lost.
A few interesting titles though:
-Tail of the Sun (PS1)
-Rise of the Dragon (Sega CD)
-Aquanauts Holiday (PS1)
-Viewpoint (Neo Geo CD)
-The X-Files (PS1)
-Nuclear Strike (PS1)
-J.B. Harold Murder Club (TGCD/PCECD)
-Beavis & Butthead in Virtual Stupidity (PC, compatible via ScummVM)
-Night Trap (Sega CD) (This one has an amazing new remaster!)
I am going to decline suggesting any must plays - my advice is go to your local used game store, look around and follow your instinct! Don’t just take other people’s words for it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Find some people nearby that are into retro games and make friends! You can get their opinions/suggestions first hand and trade/borrow/lend!
We love old school sharing ("sneakernet") - not enough of that these days.
10) What from that generation of gaming is missing from today's gaming? What do you feel we've lost through the years?
A: This is tough, because modern games have a lot to offer, especially in the indie scene.
My broad feeling on this though is Substance and Heart - a lot of mainstream games today lack emotion, fun, and spirit in a way that older games just nailed. A lot of stuff today is just recycled.
All the units that Seedi plays are integral parts of gaming history. The PS1 redefined graphics, audio, and gameplay, but just as much the Sega CD added new things, such as FMV gameplay and expansion of old units. This is a generation that must be preserved, and I'm glad you all are doing it.
A: THANK YOU!!! Peace & Love :)