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The Plight of Dreamcast Networking in Third-World-Net Cities:
An Editorial




Obviously, the internet capabilities of the Dreamcast—combined with its superior processor apparatus—give it an edge far sharper than any system to break in the last forever many years. You thought, perhaps, that you had maximized the possibilities of your couch when you finally found the Dukes of Hazzard TV tray you had been looking for the last ten years, or installed the Molson-stocked mini-fridge next to your remote control caddy. But now, Sega has introduced the possibility of leisurely strolling through the internet from that selfsame couch, not to mention given you the option to play console games on-line with friends who are similarly devoted to their domestic sitting arrangements.

And all of this is well and good. Sort of.

The obvious deficiency so far is of course the lack of any real networking capability in the DC games to date. This can be reasonably excused by the newness of the system, and the remaining bugs in the interface, as well as the fact that the first issue titles, at their heart, were designed to show off the specs of the system’s internal hardware in a sort of market-grabbing pyrotechnical display. This of course worked to greater (Soul Caliber) and lesser (Hardcore Heat) extents. The point, however, is that the on-line capacity of the DC title will become more relevant and prevalent over time. Update downloads are already available for Sonic, and that feature of the setup looks solid enough. The future holds good things for Sega as far as the DC Network is concerned.

Another problem is that the Planet Web browser for the DC cannot handle some functions on the internet. If you hit a site with Javascript on it, you're out of luck, which happens occasionally, like every second site you hit. Also, if you have an internet-based e-mail account (read: hotmail), you probably won’t be able to access it, and will have to rely on the hideous and obnoxious account provided for you by Sega.

What I came here to talk about, however, is the network setup in general, and AT&T WorldNet in particular. The company behind this thing, Sega's "preferred network server," has conveniently modified any useful information it might have pertaining to the DC into an automated info system that is about as streamlined and efficient as the DMV, and about as worthwhile. So, in case there is anyone out there still trying to set the damn thing up, let me troubleshoot the major problems for you.

1. First of all, on the "display settings" window set "verbose messages" to "on." This will allow you to see what number your modem is dialing, a feature that can help identify a great many problems you might be having, particularly if you keep getting that obnoxious "There is no answer at this number. Check your ISP Phone #…" message. Make sure AT&T downloaded a local number into your "basic info" "ISP#" slot, so your modem is not dialing a prefix. If it is, it is because you turned "dial long distance prefix" to "on" on the "dialup options" menu. If you have a long distance number (more on this later) from AT&T, make sure your "dial long distance prefix" is turned "on," and the prefix is listed in the space a few lines above the option (1 is the default, but you can set it to 10-10-321-1, or even better 10-10-811-1).

2. If during the registration process it keeps telling you that your "address information is incomplete" it is probably because you didn’t click on the "X" after you used the triangles to select your state.

3. Refer to the manual that came with the DC Network software if you have call-waiting, voice mail, or other phone perks. The text actually deals with these pretty well.

And now, for those of you who are not in the AT&T local calling area:

For God’s sake, don’t subscribe to this service! Repeat: under no circumstances should you do this! It is the worst thing you can do! Worse than kicking a crippled monkey, worse than calling your grandmother a bitch, worse than buying Hardcore Heat!

And the reason of course is that it will make you penniless in months. You, like Dan Quayle, will have to drop out of every race you can think of (the rat race, the human race, etc.) You see, the plans are as follows: 1. $21.95 for unlimited service, 2. $19.95 for 150 hours a months, plus .90 for each additional hour, 3. $9.95 for 10 hours, and .90 for each additional. Which of course aren’t really all that bad, considering the network is pretty fast, reliable, and, of course, it is the "preferred server"…

But this, my friend is the merely the tip of the iceberg for you. This is merely a taste of the fleecing to come. You will also be charged an additional per-minute charge to access your AT&T sever long distance. AT&T graciously provides 888 numbers to cut your regular long distance rate to .10 a minute. Ten cents a minute, that's not bad, right? Wrong, buddy. I’m no math wizard either, but I figured this deal out last night at three o’ clock in the morning—allow me to share my results:

1. Plan 1 (21.95 for unlimited access). Because this plan is given as an alternative to the 150 hour plan, let’s assume a modest time share of 200 hours. At .10 a minute, or 6.00 an hour, this means that your 21.95 unlimited access is actually costing you 1200 dollars a month. Even if you wise up and use 10-10-811 for .05 a minute, you’re still looking at 600 a month. Plus 21.95. Not a stellar deal, even if the figures were in pesos.

2. Plan 2 (19.95 for 150 hrs, .90 each additional). 150 hours on AT&T’s 888 server will cost you 900 dollars, 450 on 811. If, say, you used 200 hrs, it would cost you an additional 300 for the AT&T server, plus the additional 45 service charge. Plus 19.95. For a total of 1264.95 for AT&T or 664.95 for 811.

3. Plan 3 is probably the most reasonable (who spends 200 hours on the internet a month? But, with on-line gaming, the figures could justifiably be pretty high). Say fifty hours a month on this plan, and you have 300 AT&T/ 150 811, plus 36 service charge, plus 9.95. Or, 345.95 ATT/ 195.95 811. Even this, as you can see, is a ridiculous and unconscionably high rate for simple internet access.

If this hasn’t made the point, then so be it. Maybe you could meet someone in a 4 dollar a minute IRC room, breed, and thoroughly corrupt your corner of the gene pool for generations to come. But if you have been scared out of making a colossal mistake, then here are some solutions:

1. Get another local ISP account. No matter how much the monthly rate is, you will save at least a rent payment over long-distance AT&T.

2. If there is a University nearby, get an account with their network. It will be slower, and your hours will be limited, but really…

3. Forget about it altogether.

4. Wait for AT&T World Net to get to your area. Yeah right…

--Brandon Hall