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Fenix SDL Loader

icon A historical page for the menu system that included the runtime required to create compilations of Fenix games and other Dreamcast homebrew software.

 

The Fenix SDL Loader (FSL) is a small menu system containing the runtime required for Fenix games, it also has the facility to run Dreamcast homebrew binary files. The first release of the FSL was in early April 2004, closely following Chui's Fenix 0.84b CVS port to Dreamcast the month previously. Initially, the Fenix runtime and the data files for a game were compiled together into a single binary file, five games compiled this way were released in March 2004 as examples of the Fenix port. Without a menu system this procedure would have had to be carried out for every further game, which would have put the Fenix port beyond the reach of most users, the FSL was an attempt to make Fenix on Dreamcast accessible to everyone.

To demonstrate the FSL Chui released Pack 1, a compilation featuring nine Fenix games that he had adapted for the Dreamcast, seven additional homebrew creations by various authors were also included. Source code for the FSL and the Fenix ports for both Dreamcast and GP32 were released simultaneously with pre-compiled runtimes for both consoles, Windows and Linux runtimes alongside compiler tools for Fenix were also released.

FSL screen 1


Creating a compilation using the FSL is a fairly easy process, an XML file is edited with the content name, author, description, and executable path to the game. Screenshots can also be added to the menu, a default picture of the Dreamcast swirl is displayed if no screenshots are included with the entries. If the XML file contains only one entry, that game will auto-load after briefly displaying the Fenix splash screen and playing the musical jingle included in the menu system.

In April 2004 DC Evolution edited the FSL binary for the first time, utilizing the homebrew file loading facility to create a menu loader for Beats of Rage mods, two versions were released in consecutive days, allowing users to fully customize the menu. Edited versions of the Beats of Rage game engine were included and up to nine mods could be added to create a compilation CD, the menu system was simply titled 'FenixBOR'. The only real drawback with the first FSL release for Dreamcast was the menu system being PAL only, which limited its use within the homebrew community.

FSL screen 2


An update to the FSL was released by Chui in August 2004, both PAL and NTSC versions were now available as separate binary files to cater for all Dreamcast users. A third version was released in November 2004, the FSL now had a region auto-detect feature, the menu system would boot in 60Hz automatically on an NTSC console, and on a PAL console the option to load the menu in either 50Hz or 60Hz was available. A region auto-detect had already been used with Cryptic Allusion's Feet of Fury, which had been an independent commercial release in July 2003, but the auto-detect feature from the FSL would soon become standard with all further homebrew software developed with KallistiOS (KOS).

Following the November 2004 update to the FSL, DCEmu.co.uk created an official Fenix for Dreamcast sub-forum and small sub-site to host the games ported to the console, both no longer exist but an archive for the releases has been created here. The Fenix programming language became popular in the GP32 homebrew scene with dozens of games being released, these games were easily adapted for the Dreamcast but incompatibilities between the two consoles resulted in many games having bugs, with some games being partially broken due in part to the control mapping differences.

In November 2004 DC Evolution edited the FSL binary for the second time, once again utilizing the homebrew file loading facility to create a replacement menu loader for Beats of Rage mods. A Fenix Collection CD compilation project was also started with a further edited version of the FSL. Neither project was released.

FSL screen 3


Another port of Fenix 0.84b CVS was released by Chui in August 2005, two versions were included: the FSL menu system and a standalone binary to load a single Fenix game without the need for an XML file with the executable path details. A Fenix VMU save test application and source was included with the release, as VMU saving with Fenix games developed for Dreamcast had previously been unavailable.

The Fenix 0.84b CVS port was updated by Chui once more and released in March 2008, again two versions were included: a fifth version of the FSL menu system and a standalone binary to load a single Fenix game. With this release the menu data files were not compiled within the FSL binary, allowing users to easily modify the menu with custom background art and module music. The major drawback with Fenix is backwards incompatibility with executable files, to date most games had been compiled to DCB (Fenix executable file) 0.2, the newer CVS ports required games to be compiled to DCB 0.3, many games had been released without source, rendering them incompatible with the later Fenix ports on some platforms.

FSL screen 4


Chui's second compilation to use his FSL menu system was released in March 2008 with two Fenix game ports included, the FSL used is slightly different to the 0.84b CVS releases from the same month, and was most likely compiled specifically for the EmuForge 2008 compilation. The binary file for the FSL release from November 2004 is included within the compilation, it is used to load the game Camelot Warriors Remake.

The IberDC 2009 compilation released in March of that year for RetroMadrid uses a further update by Chui to the FSL menu system, this time browsing up and down within listed sections had been added to the usual left and right browsing of listed entries. Eight Fenix game ports are included, the binary file for the FSL release from November 2004 is also in this compilation, it is once again used to load the game Camelot Warriors Remake.

FSL screen 5


In March 2010 a second IberDC compilation was released for RetroMadrid, containing the same eight Fenix games as the previous compilation. Another update of the FSL menu system is featured, and once again the binary file for the FSL release from November 2004 is used to load the game Camelot Warriors Remake.

FSL screen 6


All eight known releases by Chui of the FSL have limitations with the Fenix runtime, although there are no real problems with loading most homebrew binary files with the menu system. Both Fenix 0.84b CVS and the final 0.84b versions have a number of bugs, coupling these with the resource limitations of the Dreamcast can make developing or porting games a bit of a challenge. Fenix itself was updated several times, but the final releases of the FSL remained with the more stable 0.84b version. Bennu Game Development (a fork of Fenix) led to further updates and bug fixes, eventually superseding Fenix by featuring various enhancements and becoming even more stable, and as a result Fenix is no longer used, with Bennu becoming the preferred programming language.

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