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Old 03-14-2009, 02:44 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 1,489
Default On The Essence of ROM Hacking

This is something I wrote a few years ago. Based on a couple of current threads, I thought it might be a good idea to repost it on this forum.


Often times, people ask for help on a messageboard and donít understand why the answers they seek arenít placed in their lap, wrapped up in a nice, neat package with a shiny silver bow. These people only see the end result of romhacking, they miss the underlying process that is the very essence of romhacking.

What many people fail to realize is that hacking is all about the process, not the outcome. Hacking is a journey, not a destination. Itís about figuring out technology, not manipulating it. Downloading a level editor and using it to modify a game is not hacking, no matter how great the final result.

Hacking is about taking a piece of technology, a game for instance, ripping it to shreds and figuring out how it works. The person who uncovers the data used to build a level editor is a hacker. The person who uses that editor is not. At best, theyíre a low-grade designer, a tracer of someone elseís art.

Iím not trying to rip on people who like to use level editors, do whatever it is you enjoy. Iím just trying to show you the viewpoint of the average romhacker and explain why they expect you to put some effort into finding the information you need to do whatever it is you hope to accomplish.

No successful romhacker was taught how to romhack. They may have received personal lessons on a specific subject, but nobody babied them through the entire process with step-by-step instructions on what to do. Learning to hack requires, above all else, a desire to figure things out for yourself.

This isnít to say youíre on your own. On the contrary, learning to romhack is now easier than ever before, thanks to a wide variety of tools and tutorials. The first thing you should do is get a good tutorial and read all of it. Once youíve done that, then feel free to ask questions about anything you donít understand. If you havenít read a tutorial and at least attempted to figure it out, however, any questions about what to do will invariably result in being told to read such-and-such tutorial.

Hacking requires a particular mindset. A hacker must be capable of figuring things out on their own and must have a burning desire to learn. Without these qualities, youíll never make it far, either losing interest or just treading water in the shallow end with the most basic techniques. Not everyone is capable of being a romhacker, no matter how badly they might want to be.

Thereís an old joke that goes ďHow do I get to Carnegie Hall?Ē ďWith lots and lots of practice.Ē Well, you learn to hack by hacking. You might wonder how you can do something if you havenít learned how to do it yet, but thatís the very nature of the beast. When you were a baby, nobody taught you how to walk, you just kept trying until you figured it out. And just like youíll occasionally trip and stumble as an adult, even the most accomplished romhacker will routinely screw something up or run into a problem when hacking a ROM. No matter how advanced your skills might become, when you stop learning new things, you stop being a hacker.

So decide what it is you want to be. If itís a hacker, then get out there and hack. If you just want to design games, then do so. But remember: You couldnít do what you do without romhackers, but they hack to satisfy their own pursuits. So feel free to ask for a particular bit of information, but remember, no one is obligated to find it for you.
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