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Old December 30th, 2008 (09:36 AM). Edited January 1st, 2009 by Quacker.
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Introduction to ROM Hacking

Part of Hacking Library

Welcome to this document. I'm Quacker, and I doubt you know me. I'm here to help beginners with basic aspects of hacking and show them ways to creative development. In this series, called Hacking Library, I will encompass basics and also some more advanced areas. Don't worry, it won't be that hard to get over those parts ;) For convenience, I bolded the keywords so when you don't want to mess with whole text, you can read the parts that

ROM hacking is altering the game's code to change appearance of game's elements, altering the areas of gameplay (maps), background music, the events happening in game (scripts) and overall plot. Everything mentioned can be altered using one or two (maybe even more) methods. We will speak about the first two - hex editing and tools usage.

Hex editing is a process of editing hexadecimal numbers that represent the actual ROM. This ROM stores important data in header for making it possible to launch the game, graphics, scripts and more, what makes the game code. By changing right values at right places, hex editing may become an ultimate hacking technique. By hex editing, it's possible to change basically every aspect of the game. Coolboyman's Pokémon Prism is a perfect representation of such radical changes.

And although hex editing may be great help, it is not easy to master. Some tasks are repetitive and may become boring. That's where the tools come into the play. The tools actually edit the data by editing hex in a same manner we would do, but they offer you a more friendly interface and visual representation of the numbers. Take a map as an example. When you open it in a map editor, it looks like a town or a route. But when you see it in a hex editor as a bunch of repeating hex numbers, it may get annoying to change each and every tile by rewriting the value. Therefore it's quite convenient to use the tools. Sometimes, hex editing is really needed. For example, before palette editing tools, people used to change palettes ussing VBA's palette viewer plus a hex editor. I am still used to change my palettes this way, when I don't want to mess with APE.

We won't go much deeper because now you know what is ROM hacking and how the games are hacked. More detailed guides can be found all over this forum.

This document shows the pros and cons of tools. Tools are really convenient, but you see, it all comes from hex editing. Therefore you should know a bit about hex editing so you don't get scared by numbers when there isn't any tool for desired task.

The tools are also a bit "addictive" so you must be sure you don't rely on them completely. For example, how would you write scripts with tools? It's hardly possible, even with so-called helpers. You must believe in your own skills and imagination, don't be shy, use "trial and error" technique and don't forget to make a backup ;)

So, I hope you enjoyed reading this document/artice and you will read more from Hacking Library ;)

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