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So you want to search the insides of a game to see if there is any content suitable for TCRF. That's great! Here are some helpful tools, guides, and tips.
- Memory Watcher/Editor
- This is normally included with most emulators, for old games. For recent games, try Cheat Engine. This will allow you to edit values in the game's memory, like your health and ammo, but it can be used for much more.
- Hex Editor
- This will also allow you to change memory values in the game, but on the hardcoded stuff, not when the game is running. Though hex editors are mostly used to search for strings. Optionally, but strongly recommended for newer disc-based/PC games, one can use an extractor for finding files in common formats (i.e. Ogg Vorbis files, .PNGs, DirectX textures). An example of this type of program would be Game Extractor. Also optional is the use of fan-made editors or viewers for specific games. These can help look at resources directly from the game.
- On top of being able to watch the memory, debuggers are typically used for error tracking in a game's development. They can pause a program at a particular point. Single-stepping is also often possible in these programs, allowing one to go through a program's procedures step by step. Sometimes, these can even step backwards in a program's execution.
- In the most extreme cases, one may have to reverse engineer the game. These will take a binary and produce a listing of all of the functions found within a program. This is not recommended for those not familiar with assembly languages.
Add a guide with platform/toolkit-specific tips: with Flash, you can right-click, zoom out, and find off-camera content; with arcade titles, you can use MAME's tools; with SCUMMVM games, you can use the program's built-in tools, etc.
Here are a few helpful guides that will teach you on how to search for unused levels, hidden comments, debug modes, and more! Of course, not every game is quite the same, so the information here won't always apply to your hunt for content. Nonetheless, perhaps it will be of use!
| Getting Started|
The basics of digging through games.
| Finding text|
How to find hidden text, from unused dialogue to angry comments.
| Finding menus and areas|
How to find unused menus or areas, like sound tests and debug menus.
| Finding items|
Some of you might use this to hack your inventory...
| Finding graphics|
Stuff that wasn't for show.
| Finding audio|
Let's hope we don't find just garbage and assume it's garbled audio.
| Compression Algorithms|
Find about all the various compression methods and how to decompress particular algorithms.
| Genesis research guide|
How to find and access debug programming associated with text strings
| Opening archives|
How to open archives/file containers.
| Memory editing guide|
How to use a memory watcher/editor.
| The little things|
Easy stuff that isn't as interesting, but is still worth pointing out.
- Always look for content inside "first time games". These are flagship projects created by a publisher or developer, and usually have a lot of content. Examples:
- Write down everything you find. Later, you can go back and analyze what's good and what's not, and spot connections you may have missed.
- If you need ideas of things that might be inside the final game and unused, check the manual and cover of the corresponding game. Some of the screenshots or text could contain an element that was present in an earlier version of the game, and sometimes, it can also be found hidden away in the final version (Examples: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess's magic meter, Sonic the Hedgehog's 1-up sphere in Special Stages).