What was Bleem!?
Bleem!, LLC was a company that made a series of commercial Sony PlayStation emulators. Bleem! was also the name of their first product, a PlayStation emulator for the PC.
For the purposes of this FAQ, Bleem! the company will be the non-italicized version of the name, and Bleem! the PSX emulator for the PC will be italicized.
What does "Bleem"
mean/stand for? Why did it have an exclamation mark?
Bleem officially doesn't mean anything or stand for anything. When asked about this, the creators simply responded "it was a fun nonsense word". The design style of Bleem! was to use bubbly fonts and lowercase lettters with bold, vibrant colors, not unlike the scheme of laundry detergents. Someone came up with the acronym "Best Little Emulator Ever Made" but this was not the "official" name. Also, it has been pointed out that the character Mork from Ork on Mork & Mindy (played by Robin Williams) used the word Bleem in some capacity. Bleem is also apparently an actual last name, as this funriture restorer will no doubt attest to.
What was Bleemcast!?
Bleemcast! was a Sony PlayStation emulation product for the Sega Dreamcast. The original idea was to produce a series of discs that would play 100 PSX games each. When this proved to be too infeasible, the idea was pared down to one game per disc. Three discs were released this way before Bleem, LLC went out of business in November 2001.
What were the Bleemcast!
Gran Turismo 2, Metal Gear Solid and Tekken 3.
Why did Bleem! go out of
Bleem! was amongst the first to release a commercial software based first party emulation product, and they were also among the first to be targeted by Sony for a lawsuit. Their ongoing legal battles cost them quite a bit, financially, and they went out of business due to debt. A blurb on the matter is here.
Sega devised a format method for the Sega Dreamcast called MIL-CD, allowing for CD-ROM based content to be run on the system. The Dreamcast ran off of proprietary discs known as GD-ROMs (Giga Discs) but MIL-CD's were standard issue CD's. Once this format was reverse engineered it paved the way for independent content to be produced.
When Bleem came up with the idea to switch development to the Dreamcast using the MIL-CD format in early 2000 the Dreamcast had sold 2 million units in North America and was looking to be a very popular console, a contender to the upcoming consoles. By May 2001, when the first Bleemcast! disc was released the Dreamcast sales had long since levelled off, the PlayStation 2 had come out and sold several million units despite production difficulties, and Sega had announced plans to abandon the console and become a platform agnostic software developer by March 2002.
Bleem's ability to even be able to sell Bleemcast! discs became hindered considerably when Sony wrote a letter to the heads of most retailers urging them to not stock the product, insisting that by doing so it might "damage [the retailers'] relationship" with Sony if they did. Electronics Boutique and Fry's ignored the letter but Babbage's, Etc. - the biggest software chain in North America - heeded the advisory and sent their shipment back to Bleem!, reportedly saying "We know it's wrong... but Sony's just too big." Electronics Boutique could sell the disc easily to people who were within living distance of one of their stores, but those who weren't (and didn't live near a Fry's, which are even less widespread) had to order it online. At $5.00 for shipping the price of the $5.99 Gran Turismo 2 disc nearly doubled in price. To make things worse casual retailers like Wal-Mart and Target were doing their best to get rid of Dreamcast products from their shelves to make way for PS2 and other consoles.
Bleem did start their own online store, BleemDirect, which sold the discs (the last two of which were $1 cheaper each than EB sold them for), along with plans to make Bleem T-shirts (one of which proclaimed "F**K S**Y"). However, the profits on the sales of the discs were (presumably) insufficent to keep the company alfoat or place a dent in the debt they had incurred.
Why didn't Bleem! just come out
with a disc that could play all PlayStation games?
Anyone who is familiar with emulation knows that it is not a perfect process - few if any emulators can claim a 100% compatibility rate and as a result on open platforms like the PC or Macintosh emulator authors are constantly coming out with new versions and patches to existing ones. However on a closed platform like the Dreamcast, where there is no easy way to patch or come out with new versions of a program (and such a practice would be frowned upon) an emulator would have only one chance to work correctly. Furthermore the market for a commercial console product is considerably less forgiving than that of a freeware PC program, so the emulator would have to work perfectly. However ensuring that every PSX game (of which there are thousands) would work perfectly is an infeasible task, so the original idea was to pare that number down to 100 games at a time. However even this idea proved unviable, since there seemed to be no way to get 100 games working simultaneously. In addition, the amount of testing involved to make even one game work (GT2 has over 500 cars and dozens of tracks - do the math) made the numbers boggling, so the move to a single game per disc was the only way any Bleemcast releases were going to be able to happen.
What games were in the works for
The only confirmed title in the works for a future Bleemcast! release was WWF: Smackdown! 2. They were still toying with the idea of having a disc that could play both that game and its prequel, WWF: Smackdown! but nothing concrete was confirmed. At least one frequenter of the Bleemcast Forum at DCEmulation.com stated that he had personally played a work-in-progress version of this title at the home of Rand Linden, lead/sole coder at Bleem!, so the title was fairly far along, if not finished, when Bleem! went out of business.
On the Bleem! website, there were a few screenshots at one point showing comparisons between a PSX screenshot and its Bleemcast! counterpart. One pair of shots showed GT2 and Final Fantasy IX, making for the strong rumor that that RPG was to be the next title. However the only hinting of an RPG as a Bleemcast! disc was a discouraging note about the sheer volume of testing involved.
Some titles, such as entries in the Castlevania and Mega Man series were bandied about by Rand, but he was careful not to "announce" anything.
One of the PSX games prominently on display at E3 2001 was Omega Boost, but this game was never seriously touted as a possible release (nor was it asked for)
Why was the first Bleemcast!
disc called Bleem! for Dreamcast
As closely as I followed it, The first reference to "Bleemcast" was when Bleem registered www.bleemcast.com as a domain name just prior to E3. The mock-up DVD cases referred to it as "Bleem! for Dreamcast", and only the press used the Bleemcast name. Consequently, when the first disc was released it continued to use the "Bleem! for Dreamcast" name. Only the second two discs used the "Bleemcast!" name.
How was Bleemcast!
Bleem's policy was not to discuss how they did things from a technical standpoint. However, they did mention some general things. For starters, they used no licensed code or tools - both the source code to Bleemcast! and the tools they used to compile it, as well as anything else (coder's cables, etc.) were reverse engineered and devised in house. They wrote their own compiler and environment. They did not use Windows CE to develop it. Beyond all that however, anything is speculation. The popular theory is that the code had to be written in a low level language like Assembly, which is how it obtained its speed (by comparisons, most homebrew ports of emulators for older systems written in a high level language like C/C++ to the Dreamcast have not been able to attain full speed). It is also sumised that there was one central program that could be modified to some degree with an INI file by someone intimately familiar with how the code works. The final builds of Bleemcast! that were released were coded in such a fashion as to only accept certian games.
Where can I buy Bleemcast!?
The only "brick and mortar" chains that carried Bleemcast! were Electronics Boutique and Fry's Electronics. On the last two discs, Fry's was slow to get stock, so it stands to reason they will probably have the better chance of still having the discs in stock. In addition, some independent used game stores may carry it - check in your area.
As for online, there were only a few places to get it. As was mentioned previously, Bleem had their own separate online store, Bleem!DIRECT, but that site went under along with Bleem!. The only major website to buy it from in North America was EBGames.com, the online face of Electronics Boutique, who as of the time of this writing still had discs in stock.
In addition, for those in the U.K. there is a site selling Bleem there as well:
But understand that once Bleem! is gone, it's gone for good.
How can I back up my Bleemcast!
You can't. Seriously. Bleemcast! employs stiff copy protection - all you have to do is look at the underside of the disc to see this. The disc structure is difficult if not impossible to reproduce with a CD Burner, and the program specifically looks for this identical arrangement. To date no one has successfully cracked the program or backed up the disc. Technically speaking it would be legal for you to make one backup copy onto identical media, but no one has been able to accomplish this and if they have, they have not made the information public for obvious reasons.
What's all this about non-MIL-CD
As mentioned previously, Sega saw fit to include a format in the BIOS of the Dreamcast that would allow for code to execute from a standard CD-ROM (not a GD-ROM) through the clever use of sessions and bootstrap files. Supposedly the plan was to allow for record labels in Japan to make their CD's bootable on the Dreamcast for interactive content (like an Enhanced CD on a PC). However, when it became apparent that not only was this going to happen, but that the MIL-CD format was being exploited for piracy, Sega announced that the MIL-CD format would be removed from future Dreamcasts. Nothing happened on this for a while, but then people started to notice that there was something different about Dreamcasts manufactured on or after October, 2000. What exactly was different, however, varies with whom you talk to. It could be that these Dreamcasts:
The problem is that, in so far as I have been able to tell, people's reports have been inconsistent and, in some cases, purposely erroneous. Initially Bleem heard that MIL-CD's simply wouldn't run at all on Dreamcasts made after 10/2000, so they made a disclaimer to the effect on the packaging of the GT2 disc. However, they began to get reports that people whose DC manufacture dare was after 10/2000 had no problem running the game they amended this claim on future discs to say that the program would only run on MIL-CD compatible Dreamcasts, leaving the burden of proof to the end user. It is possible that these 10/2000 Dreamcasts would not run a MIL-CD on a CD-R but had no problem with a MIL-CD on a silver disc, which would explain why people who could not run homebrew emulators could run Bleemcast discs. Still another theory insists that people who can't run MIL-CD's on CD-R's but can run Bleemcast discs either don't have a CD burner that can handle multiple sessions or do not know what they are doing when they are making their MIL-CD CD-R's.
The one thing that is generally agreed upon is that a batch of Dreamcasts in Asia with the "Sakura Wars" logos on them (tie in to an anime cartoon) have any and all MIL-CD capabilities stripped out of them. If you are a North American customer (as most Bleem customers were) you're in little danger of coming across one of these models.
What was the Bleempod? Were these ever produced?
What is the "saving
bug" in Bleemcast! for Metal Gear Solid?
What is the way around it?
When you save a game to a VMU in Bleemcast! (and most other games for the Dreamcast, for that matter) you'll notice an icon on your VMU screen which looks like an exclamation point (!) in a spash logo flashing - this is the indicator that the VMU is saving. The VMU is finished when the icon stops flashing. In some instances in Bleemcast! for Metal Gear Solid, the icon doesn't go away after a save. What this means is that for some reason the saving session did not terminate correctly. As a result, on the second occasion you save the save will fail because there is still an active session that did not finish, as far as the VMU is concerned. The exact circumstances under which this occurs have not been determined. Since Bleem! developed the programs using 1st party (Sega) controllers, jump packs and VMU's, and they never ran into any of the problems, one theory says that a 3rd party perhiperial causes the interference. Others claim that they ran into the bug using all 1st party items, making the argument for a particular circumstance or two causing the glitch. Although it's not a good idea nor is it proper VMU usage, a way around the problem is to remove the VMU and re-insert it, re-initalizing it. Note that if you have a VMU with no screen (an MU, I suppose) then it will be hard to determine if this is the problem you are having.