The history of "No-Intro" as narrated by xuom2
In the summer of 2002, I idled in a small and funny Italian IRC channel, called #*******e. In that channel there were for example KiVan, future founder of GBAtemp.net and Pie, future founder of GBArl.it. The first site is now one of the biggest online communities about Nintendo hand held systems. The second is similar to the first, but not so big due to the language limit, although it is internationally well known because it is always updated in a flash with fresh news about emulation progress, hardware updates and Scene releases.
In that IRC channel some of us were a bit bored due to the lack of updates of Skybaby's GARP (Game Boy Advance Redump Project) dat. GARP was a catalogue of "pure" dumps that was updated very slowly, plus, the maintainer was stressed by all the lame kiddies that always pretended to release new versions of his work. He often stopped the project when he got too stressed. We didn't want to depend to his humour and problems, so Pulciaro suggested to me: "xuom2, why don't we start our own dat?". Initially it was only an idea, a joke, but now that dat is part, with dozens of others, of the well-known "No-Intro set".
After some months from its start, GARP had halted progress again: someone (Bluehawk?) seemed to leak Skybaby's work. I don't know what really happened, and I don't care. The dat was near release five hundred, with only a few automatically removed intros included. After GARP was officially finished (no more updates), I decided to continue the work, rewriting most of the names and making the dat something new, giving it a new life. One of our goals is in fact giving the perfect names to the ROMS, spelling them exactly how they are on the box art or in the title screen.
I did daily updates, and this generated an affectionate public that gave suggestions too. Skybaby never contacted me, and I never had problems due to where I started, all my work was based on information that was well known to anyone.
The first intros were added automatically to ROMS and it was easy to automatically remove them. An intro is a code that runs before the original game: often with music and animations, it often displayed the release groups credits and greetings to their friends. We consider intros to be something that adulterate the original dumps and we are against any modification of the original code. That means that we don't like intros, cracks, trainers, etc.
There are dats that list every known dump, like Cowering's GOODTOOLS, including tons of alternative versions like bad dumps, translated, hacked and so on. Other dats list Scene-only releases, like the GBAREN dat, which includes only the first version of the dump that was released. We are maybe closer to the public and to the collectors, as we prefer the clean dumps of commercial titles.
Removing an intro, from this our name "No-Intro" was derived from, is considered by the Scene an act of disrespect, removing the art that proves the hard work in pirating that title. We respect and like the art and efforts included into an intro, but we would prefer a patch provided with the release that is able to add or remove the modifications to the dump.
Our different attitude often brings hate and malice thoughts against us, but we never cared and we used all of those flames as marketing to increase our popularity. We centred this objective: we grew very fast and the list of contacts that we have access to is quite impressive. I maintain the website keeping an informal style, making humorous observations as well as the occasional malignant comments here and there, but we always treat others with respect. We don't consider ourselves to be absolutely serious, we all love to have fun and the jokes can often be seen on the main site. I personally flood IRC with nonsense pr0n chats...
"No-Intro" was hosted by the Pulciaro's ROMS web site. To avoid "problems", I rapidly decided to move to the actual address on 1st January 2003, using the place initially only for the GBA dat. The initial crew that formed to help me was in large part thanks to an American guy named Zikronix, and two Dutch people called Saibork and Bacokarel. I updated the dat and the web site, collecting the huge amount of their suggestions.
There are no leaders and no one is more important than the other in our group, the secret that allowed "No-Intro" to survive throughout these years is that every dat has their own maintainer that decides and is helped and supported by the other members or by the users. The staff and the supporters may change, but the maintainer's core will be behind the project.
A Spanish guy, A600, was our first ace in hacking ROMS. Every time coders tried to write more complicated versions of "irremovable" intros, but all that can be added can be removed, and A600 was great at doing that.
In fact, after we got some popularity, a sort of little competition was born: intros were not added only in an automatic way, but they were added with some hack tricks, to make them more difficult to find and remove - there was nothing that we weren't able to hack. Our first move was always to hack the introed ROM. We understand that this was not really the correct and the smartest move, because sometimes the hacked file was not 100% clean, but for the second time, we provided the real dumps from the original cartridges. ROMS were always hacked first to create a clean ROM, but a redump was always needed in order to verify our hack.
We hacked around forty introed ROMS, cleaned tons of save-patched and redumped bad dumps. This generated a lot of new alternative versions, but we still sleep with no nightmares anyway. A couple of intros were removed with patches provided by members of rival groups!
In September 2003, Coolhj wrote a fantastic all-in-one tool: GBATA, which provides services as an IPS patcher, trimmer, overdump fixer, SRAM patcher, header viewer and more.
Gamer-X wrote an intro-remove tutorial, that we had to remove from the site because it was immediately used by others to code something against our methods, finding ways around it to make intros more difficult to remove. That was an awakening that everyone had their eyes on our little project.
We have always had good friendships with Asian guys, even before WRG; Madcell launched at the end of 2003, a Chinese mirror of "No-Intro" hosted on emu-zone. It didn't have a long life because the work behind keeping that updated was a bit too much. But it was a good way to let us know about the status on the Asian side of the world. Several months later, the mirror appeared again, hosted on ouroad, with the support of Coolhj and Love77.
The project had caught an impressive interest and near the end of 2003 I am proud to have got in touch with wise guys like the Germans Bigfred, Dopefish, NGEfreak and SolidSnake. When the original members receded more and more into the shadows, we were flooded by European and Asian guys, which all of whom had an impressive background in coding and handheld specifications. A lot of forum users helped us in finding errors in the dats, providing solutions and always encouraging our "hated" work.
Our first forum was hosted by Pulciaro's website. We moved it rapidly on an altervista address, with a board completely hand-coded by a friend, Darkrock. We moved back to something professional later, at the end of 2005, on a board maintained by Yakushi~Kabuto.
October 2003 is the date of our first dat that wasn't GBA related. It was the GBC set by NGEfreak, followed later by GB, N64, VBOY, WSX and SEGA dats. In two years the dat set grew a lot, with 8 datters busy opening new fronts of preservation (like N-Gage, GP32 and e-Reader dats) and catching the attention and the help of various dumpers around the world.
We supported both RomCenter and ClrMame formats. Initially, the Game Boy Advance dat set was converted for OfflineList and GBAFront too. Later, an OfflineList sub-site with all the sets was born (thanks to [F1]) and one of the GBAFront mantainers (Connie) founded a site, EmuConnie, with artworks and other nice dats. From October 2005 we support ClrMame's WWW-Profiler feature.
Long live No-Intro!
Everything that happened from the beginning seems to have happened so quickly that is quite impossible to remember all the moments. I got constant support from the members that always maintained our dats at a high level of quality. Currently, we follow more than thirty dats and we will see what the future reserves for us.
The IRC staff (Bacokarel, Duncan, Lessram, Lukeage, Yaocrash, and so on) keeps our channel alive and well maintained, and that's where you can find most "No-Intro" members. The forum is maintained by Yakushi~Kabuto, a French member, who is doing great work managing it and in May 2006 we reached the "1000 members" milestone, despite most of them being leachers and lurkers. We can't pretend they be more active: we understand we have to continue with our own forces and this means a lot of personal money is spent buying cartridges, and a lot of time sacrificed.
Other tools were coded by "No-Intro" members during throughout the years, excluding GBATA there are: NDSTS (by Coolhj), eNDryptS and MGSE (both by SolidSnake).
We are proud of the work done on the e-Reader device: the entire American set of cards was dumped, and we opened "e-dia", the e-Reader encyclopaedia, with tons of information about the set. This costs a lot in terms of time and money, but the result is very exciting. In particular it was funny to get messages from an elite coder that told us that we obtained his private dumping tools. This was not true, but breaking the balls of the hoarders is always a pleasure!
The Scene doesn't apparently care about us, except the occasional messages of hate. Some groups gained our respect, like Caravan, and others are very close friends: Trashman and WRG. Those guys are always available for help and they don't care how old a title is. Plus, they have no moral problems in giving redump information. Maybe making good relations with us doesn't help a release group to enter the "Olympus of the Warez", and that's why our love for them is so big.
Initially, we did not provide support to Nintendo DS ROMS. Initial stages of NDS Scene were homebrew researchers, fakes, dozens of nukes and so on. Dumps were not "perfect" and there was no standard for dumping. In January 2006 we discovered how to encrypt the secure area on DS ROMS. Okay, maybe it was already discovered, but "No-Intro" work was given to the public. These ROMS are considered "almost clean" (as clean as possible for now). Thanks to the work of SolidSnake, Bigfred and Lukeage, we are happy to finally be making the Nintendo DS dats official.
"No-Intro" is against piracy
Some people around the world started their Scene lives by releasing GBA games, tagging them under the name "No-Intro" (Independent), as thanks for what we are doing. At the time of writing, these Independent guys have released over one hundred GBA dumps, over thirty GBC dumps and tons of GBx redumps, which are useful to recheck the CRCs of Scene releases. These guys come from almost all the continents, including old / rare titles and hardware dumps.
We stand separate from any piracy activity done by third parties using the name of this project. We consider their releases "our" work anyway. Someone from the Scene told us that he appreciated the "No-Intro" way to pack and release stuff as Independent. Well, this should explain one more time the respect that we have for the Scene: removing their hacks is not an act of war. Though a couple of our members wanted to found a group, it was the best decision as we are no sceners, we have no top site access, we code no trainers or intros, and we never claimed to be in the Scene. "Our" releases don't fit the Scene quality standards, and often some lamers repacked them for fun.
With the above said, there was no point founding a "new" release group, as Independent dumps are mainly meant to cover the undumped lists. Ignoring pre-store and world-first titles, for which we are not organized (no parents that own a game store!), we are specialized in region- or serial- dupes, which for us are incredibly important as a major release. We are labelled as "store pick-up-ers", but the goal is preserving the whole set of cartridges, not gain Scene credits. We do this for getting information, not for credit.
We keep updated some lists of undumped titles. We don't want to encourage dumpers around, but if someone wants to do that at his own risk, our lists may show the information that we are missing.
GBA Hall of fame#0459 (by A600)
#0785 (by unknown)
#0818 (by unknown)
#0834 (by unknown)
#0863 (by Zikronix)
#0896 (by A600)
#0917 (by A600)
#0925 (by A600)
#0938 (by A600)
#0940 (by Mupsy)
#0942 (by A600)
#0998 (by A600)
#1004 (by A600)
#1010 (by A600)
#1012 (by A600)
#1056 (by Binx)
#1060 (by Smix & A600)
#1084 (by A600)
#1102 (by A600)
#1126 (by Gamer-X)
#1131 (by Gamer-X)
#1135 (by BigFred)
#1138 (by coolhj)
#1140 (by BigFred)
#1143 (by BootCableUSB)
#1145 (by coolhj)
#1146 (by coolhj)
#1147 (by coolhj)
#1168 (by BigFred)
#1229 (by coolhj)
#1258 (by BigFred)
#1266 (by BigFred)
#1267 (by coolhj)
#1281 (by coolhj)
#1284 (by BigFred)
#1287 (by coolhj)
#1321 (by BigFred)
#1338 (by fREEwILL)
#1473 (by coolhj)
#1474 (by coolhj)
+ GBC intro remove by BigFred, #1189.