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Homeland was developed by Chunsoft, using a third party Network SDK by the name of MPS (Mass Player System). It used a standard Master List just like your typical online game, where hosts could advertise their game in the list allowing up to 35 players to connect, or join another users game as a client. On May 7th, 2007 Chunsoft terminated the Master List. Homeland was no longer functional online.
At the time I assumed it was the end, and rightfully so. Neither the game manual or official website showed any indication of alternate connection methods.
Fast-forward almost a year later...
I constantly research the network connectivity of game consoles. I often run search quieries and save potential leads to text files for further review. These tend to pile up, and a few weeks later I go through them one by one looking for pertinant media or text to be archived.
This past Sunday I was running some Japanese links through an online translator, when I noticed an article dated May 11th, 2007 titled "The homeland is permanently immortal". This was suprising, because it reads exactly like the montra started here at OC to describe a title with independent networking functions: "Online Forever". After about 8 more hours of research and testing, I was able to confirm that yes Homeland was indeed Online Forever. I sat here with a big smile, walking around a Japanese hosted server, with the online symbol blinking yellow/orange in the lower right corner of the screen.
It turns out, Japanese players have been taking Homeland online independently since mid-May of 2007. Homeland can be networked entirely independent from corporate control both on a LAN, and Online, by initiating a special in-game function to redirect players to an individual host rather than the Master List. When you load up your game, and talk to Tenshi in your closet, you are presented with 5 options. The hot pink option on the far left normally does absolutley nothing. However if you type a specific string of Japanese text into this menu, and hit "OK", Tenshi will then allow you to enter the address of a specific IP the next time you sign online.
Here is the text that needs to be entered:
I never would have figured this out, had it not been for one Japanese site posting actual screenshots of this process from start to finish. If my only lead was Japanese text in HTML, it could have been months or even a year before I sorted this out. To clarrify: I am not fluent in Japanese. In one hand I would have the japanese text in HTML, and in the other partially legible english from an online translator. There is no way I would know to enter these specific japanese characters, in a specific menu, without the aid of the following screens:
So if the above string of text wasn't in the manual or on the official website, then where did it come from?
It is my understanding that this originated from someone within Chunsoft's sphere of influence. It could be a developer, a tester, or maybe someone from MPS. The string of text was first posted in the following article, before it filtered its way to a few other japanese blogs. The author describes a situation where he was adventuring in a certain land in the final days of Homeland's online service. He was approached by an individual, who passed on to him a "word of magic". It is also stated that the code word was listed on a persons blog for a limited time, authored by the same person that passed along the word in the game server. The person who posted the article at homeland-kitsune.seesaa.net, made it a point to stress his reluctance to haggle this mysterious messanger, as he did not want to cause him/her any trouble. This further supports the possibility that an insider at Chunsoft passed on this information.
It was depressing reading the all too familiar reactons of Japanese players to Homeland's innitial termination. They used words like "sad" and "painful". The same types of emotions that players in North America and PAL Regions have expressed when these types of console games go offline. Here we have a situation where someone on the other side of the fence at Chunsoft felt the same way. Apparently they planned ahead, integrating a code into the game to enable direct-IP connection support for independent networking. The really interesting part is how the "string of text" was leaked so secretly to the diehard fans of this game in japan.
For more information on Homeland:
Imporant side notes:
Homeland is not network compatible per say right out of the box. You need to complete part of the game in order to unlock the ability to go online for the first time. Then, you need to play even further to unlock "God Mode" which allows you to host a server.
Booting Homeland up on a North American/PAL GameCube with FreeLoader has some unfortunate side effects. The Japanese character sets do not render properly and look garbled just like a Japanese website would when your PC is not setup with asian language packs. The game is still playable, but you will have to cope with text looking messed up and running off the screen sometimes. Obviously this could pose big problems with entering the code to enable a direct-IP connection. To help fix this, we will be providing a screenshot tutorial in the near future showing each key entry step by step.
(Want to know something really weird? 4 years ago, to the day, on March 26th, 2004 I had first announced this games pending release. Bizarre.)
Director / Founder
Homeland Character: トライジール (TRIZEAL)
PSOEP1&2 Character: lordnikon - Lv57 HUcast