Hacking the Game Elf

Tacitus

FUCKSTICK MODERATOR., Misanthrope, ,
Staff member
I picked up a game elf at Tmg last weekend. I've always been a bit curious about it and since it was cheap, I decided to take the plunge.

First thing I noticed was that it runs off of an SD card and appears to be running a highly customized Linux backend.

Being technically proficient in the area, I began working on figuring out exactly how this thing works. I dismounted the SD and imaged it.

Mounting it in a windows machine will give you nothing. There isn't a valid windows partition on it.

Performing some advanced analysis on it began to give me some results. Searching for hex code 55 aa is always a good place to start....


Well, it looks hack able. There is an old file system/partition that wasn't properly scrubbed from the card and there is plenty of file structure in unallocated space. I'll be reconstructing the content tomorrow via file carving and partition/FS rebuild. I can tell you that the partition is a Fat16 volume and has several gzips present.

It presents as a 50m volume initially which we know isn't correct. Without giving too much away, I think I've got that clocked as well. With any luck, I'll be able to get this thing fully mapped out and booting else shortly.
 

Xian Xi

JammaNationX,
Oh shit, I'd love to hack mine and put games I actually want on it. If you figure out how to get a better CPU in there or overclock let me know.
 

kruuth

Neo Bubble Buster
I posted a thread on hacking these. CPU upgrades aren't optional but you can add games. Hopefully someone will get into hacking the IO a little more.
 

Lemony Vengeance

Mitt Romney's Hairdresser,
normally when I see the word "HACK" I scoff.


When I see it coming from VT, I KNOW it's legit. Good luck brotha!
 

wataru330

Mr. Wrestling IV
I should let you look @ my PGM3. Would be sick to load ALL PGM family games on the SD card-if that's even possible.

I have an ELF too...keep us posted! ^_^
 

Jonmkl

Rasputin's Rose Gardener
This is relevant to my interests.

Would love to see a Jamma multicart that is customizable and doesn't completely suck.
Anyone know, are the elf and the other similar boards, like another pandora's box, pretty much the same internally?
 

MtothaJ

Host for Orochi
I have one of those also, and find the whole experience strangely dissatisfying. Its not like your getting a bad deal with the amount of games available but bar the most simple stuff most games seem to have one issue or another - Final Fight and Ghouls 'n' Ghosts suffer from dodgy visuals when the screen is scrolling, System 16 titles are totally unplayable, the later Capcom and Neo Geo stuff is riddled with slowdown etc. Guess it would be cool to be able to put your own games on it and effectively its still a good value proposition for a cab but the hardware doesn’t seem man enough. Going to see if I can swap mine for a few MVS carts.
 

GutsDozer

Robot Master., Master Tasuke, Eat Your, Heart Out
Crazy I had no idea it was using Linux. GL VT I'm sure you can do it.
 

Tacitus

FUCKSTICK MODERATOR., Misanthrope, ,
Staff member
normally when I see the word "HACK" I scoff.


When I see it coming from VT, I KNOW it's legit. Good luck brotha!

Much progress has been made. ;)

I'll be posting some info later and yes, you'll be able to do some pretty rad stuff with it.

Another member generous "donated" one in the sense that it's on loan so I have two to work from (and compare)

This is one of the most interesting (both foolishly put together and clever, depending on your way of thinking) things that you will get to play with.
 

Tacitus

FUCKSTICK MODERATOR., Misanthrope, ,
Staff member
VT will blow it wide open and game elfs will sell for 1,000 usd on feebay :lolz:

Heh... not quite.

Interesting thing to note... you can mess with the monitor refresh and settings via the SD.

FOR EXAMPLE: Edit the refresh settings on one card, take it to another board and it'll work just fine. ;)

Some other nuggets I'll "let out"

1. All cards work across boards. If you can find the image of one, it will port directly over to another. You could potentially maintain multiple SD cards with different game loads and swap on demand.

2. There was not a whole lot of mame/xmame optimization done for the games. If you knew what you were looking at (heh) you could make the games run better.

3. The chinese pirates were worried other people were going to pirate their work, so they worked up a pretty laughably pathetic system to prevent messing with it. It took an extra 5 minutes to beat. lol


...more to come...
 

Tacitus

FUCKSTICK MODERATOR., Misanthrope, ,
Staff member
Right now, I'm working on successfully duplicating the cards in an easily repeatable manner.

With that, I'll remove the infringing (roms) bit and make it easy for someone to load it up with stuff.
 

Kid Panda

The Chinese Kid
Right now, I'm working on successfully duplicating the cards in an easily repeatable manner.

With that, I'll remove the infringing (roms) bit and make it easy for someone to load it up with stuff.

So I'm assuming whatever "encryption" they used is all on the card then? No chips on the board that might be a security key? I find it ironic that some Chinese developer is trying to keep his work under lock and key :)
 
Top