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an extremely obscure 1st-party "Noughts & Crosses" SNES game designed to only be playable in hotels/airplanes has been mysteriously uploaded online

Krvavi Abadas

Mr. Archivist
Pronouns
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(how exciting this happened a week after Pico Pico Pirates was found.)
the situation is that a completely anonymous Discord user uploaded it (compressed in a LZH archive) to a server devoted to game preservation and left immediately afterwards.

we've known about it for quite some time, the story goes that it (and various other simple games) were created for the Nintendo Gateway System. a terminal system designed to be placed in hotel rooms and airplanes, you might be most familar with it's N64 Lodgenet variant (which didn't have it's own custom games made for it, only the SNES received them from what we can tell.)
LodgeNet-Nintendo-N64-Controller.jpg


a cartridge containing the game was known to exist, but it was never dumped at the time of it's discovery.
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info found on the rom suggests it was made by a group of western developers. multiple devs listed (Claude Comair, Raymond Yan, Mark Trono.) were later credited in various Nintendo Software Technology projects. while the audio is using the SLICK/Audio driver created by Bitmasters.
my speculation would be that a former dev has decided to get it out there, with the file getting stored in the ancient LZH compression format being because it was taken from an old storage device they rediscovered.

notably, there looks to be assets from the other Nintendo Gateway System-exclusive games in the data. so we now have a bit of info on those as well.
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this is an actively developing situation, with the rom getting out there a mere 1.5 hours ago. so keep an eye on any further news.
 
I remember seeing that N64 Lodgenet controller in hotels as a kid! Never played it, though.

Very cool that this SNES game has made it out there! I hope that they're able to find the others. Such a weird and obscure part of Nintendo's history.
 
Didn't even know this existed, but it's always cool to hear about stuff like this.
 
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I don't think we got any hardware like this over here, only remember a PSX variant in some hotels back then, but I've always been fascinated by them because of how weirdly obscure they are for something that was literally out there. Someone developed this on the side, with a mix of existing and new work done on it, and it was relatively widely available, yet it remains weirdly not well documented, like some sort of weird collective dream.

Didn't even know there was exclusive software for it, so that's pretty interesting.
 
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massive collection of info relating to various aspects
alright, since it's been a few hours. i was able to compile a bunch of extra details.

What happened to the cart?

as it turns out, the original owner (DreamTR) sold it off. and the new owner imprisoned it in a WATA shell.
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thankfully, checking the MD5 hash of the leaked rom confirms that it's 1;1 with the cartridge version.

the unused content

you already saw part of the Hangman image in the OP, but it turns out the full version is shockingly grim for an SNES game designed for casual players.
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the "coming soon" text seems to suggest that it would get added to the Gateway system later on. even though it never properly displays in-game.

in less creepypasta-esque content, there's also an alternate version of the UI which uses the more standard name of "Tic-Tac-Toe".
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as well as an unused music track, maybe it was intended for one of the other games?

the origins of Nintendo Software Technology

the earliest evidence i could find of them was in a May 1998 press release at E3 mentioning their formation.
Nintendo of America Inc. continues to strengthen its internal development capabilities. Previously, Nintendo announced an increased stake in U.K.-based Rare Ltd., developer of the recent million-seller GoldenEye 007™ and developer and publisher of the blockbuster Diddy Kong™ Racing, and a significant investment in Left Field Productions, Inc., the Los Angeles-area developers of the newly launched, fast-selling Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside (published by Nintendo).

Nintendo also has created its first internal games development group in Redmond, Washington, Nintendo Software Technology Corporation.
what's not mentioned, however. is it's ties to the DigiPen Institute of Technology. Nintendo had a close relation to the university starting in the 90s, with a new school opening in Redmond, Washington (the future location of NST) a few months prior to E3.
Recognizing the need for new, creative talent in the video game industry, Nintendo of America is supporting DigiPen by providing guidance, technical expertise and the donation of hardware and development tools. Nintendo and DigiPen are also working together to create a Nintendo Laboratory within the school giving students the opportunity to focus on Nintendo technologies.

"The video game, computer animation, and special effects industries are thirsting for new talent," explains Howard Lincoln, chairman, Nintendo of America. "We are pleased to join with DigiPen to foster growth in the video game and computer fields through provision of a Nintendo technology lab, and supporting industry-wide efforts to encourage today's youth to continue excelling in math and science."
Nintendo having a small internal group at the university was not new for the time, with evidence suggesting they previously operated under the names "DigiPen Computer Graphics" and "DigiNin".
of particular historical relevance was the university's policies (circa 1996) on how projects made by their students could be used.
In two years, the students have produced 30 products, with names like "Dungeon Madness," "Star Fighter" and "Fate of the Heroes." All remain in the students' portfolios and can be sampled at DigiPen, but none will be sold or licensed to commercial interests. (That's to allay suspicions that the students are being exploited.)
we don't have an exact date on when Noughts & Crosses was made, but it was likely a huge turning point for Digipen as a whole. with the advancing rate of the internet, Student projects could go from being perpetually locked (mostly, the official site for the school allowed students to share info about what they made. but no builds were allowed.) inside the halls to being shared online. allowing general audiences to see the germination of creative gameplay mechanics and unique voices before they hit a major commercial title.

the other Digipen Nintendo games

with the note about their close partnership, it's not surprising to learn that other students at Digipen would get the chance to work with SNES dev tools.
projects such as "Disposable Heroes" and "OCOWA" would be created for the hardware, never to be seen outside the classroom.
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the possibility of those students still having a build lying around is reasonable, and as such it seems like a worthwhile project to look into.

however, the DigiNin group also got their hands on the then-new N64. and created a tech demo you've almost certainly never heard of.
during my research into various employees at NST, i stumbled upon this unique note about DigiNin from an employee.
DigiNin (Spinoff between DigiPen and Nintendo of America):
• 2D/3D content creation
• lead artist, story-boarding and game design for prototypes and pilot projects.
• game-designer, level-designer, lead artist and art director for a prototype N64 game “Human-
Motion”, featuring innovative character animations and technology.
this is all the info we have currently, but whatever it is sounds vastly important in Nintendo's history.
 
Nintendo Lodgenet/Gateway stuff fascinates me so much. Playing N64 games on vacation is what got me into gaming as a whole
 
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