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Recently, I've been looking into developing games for Nintendo 64 emulators, and modding existing ROMs. I wanted to know if there is the possibility for any legitimate tools out there which can be used to write the code for the emulators or if all of that is off limits.

I heard that the Nintendo 64 SDK has always been sealed by an NDA limited to the game studios, years ago; however, I'm curious about where all the current ROMs that are available came from. Mainly because, unlike discs, cartridges are not typically supported by standard hardware.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You're not going to find any "legal" tools. \$\endgroup\$ – Tetrad Jul 14 '11 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're right about the NDK being sealed. This does not mean, however, that it didn't leak in the past and thus if you search and ask around enough, you might get it :) Google yields n64dev.50megs.com though, seems like a step in the right direction. I have no hands-on experience with the N64, can't give a conclusive answer. But it shouldn't be hard. \$\endgroup\$ – njdw Jul 14 '11 at 13:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah thanks very much for the info. By any chance is there still a serious reason why the tools are still sealed? I understand for more modern systems like the PS2 and PS3 but for dated platforms like the N64, SNES and the like, is there any serious threat to their companies by having very obsolete software released? \$\endgroup\$ – theonlylos Jul 14 '11 at 23:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there any benefit for them to do so? \$\endgroup\$ – Tetrad Jul 28 '11 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Particularly Nintendo keeps its systems alive far longer than people expect - the N64 is still being actively "sold" via the iQue Player; the SNES was produced until 2003 and repaired until 2007. It's not exclusive to Nintendo either - the Mega Drive has been in continuous production in Brazil since its 1988 release. \$\endgroup\$ – user744 Jul 28 '11 at 20:27
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I'm curious about where all the current ROMs available came from (mainly because unlike discs, cartridges are not typically supported by standard hardware).

There are basically two kinds of ROMs -- images of commercial titles obtained through questionable legal means using cartridge dumping hardware, and images of homebrew titles that are written directly from your PCs memory to disk via the homebrew SDKs that are floating around. Most of the ROMs you are probably thinking of are the former kind. Cartridge dumpers are essentially hardware, sometimes custom-built, that copy the read-only memory chips on a cartridge to disk in some format.

By any chance is there still a serious reason why the tools are still sealed?

There is no business advantage to Nintendo to make the tools available. They would turn no profit from it. Plus, especially for older consoles, many of the older official SDKs talk with proprietary hardware (dev kits) that may not even be in production any longer, so there's very little you could likely do with the toolchain from Nintendo.

Homebrew console SDKs produce ROMs because emulators already exist. It's unlikely that most official SDKs produced ROM images that could be consumed in exactly the same fashion.

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