According to my research, this is a game that has only been ripped once. It was the USA version, (which is the only version), by ECHELON. Now ECHELON were great hackers and crackers, but judging from many of their releases, sometimes they would absolutely fail at common sense. This game was one of those times.
1) Now keep in mind, this is a total re-rip. I extracted the full image from my legit copy using my serial cable. I admit, I'm still terrible at hacking copy-protections, but qfx8001 guided me through the process, and this game was easier than most. The main reason I ripped the entire game from my legit copy, rather than ECHELON's, is because of the flaws I found in three of the songs in their rip, mentioned below. This makes me think the release took some kind of transfer damage during its very first upload, which couldn't be fixed before the release had already spread like wildfire. Who's to say that files OTHER than those three songs didn't take any damage?
2) ECHELON used a beefy, healthy dummy file, but guess what? They placed it a moronic position. Due to the file structure being lost in their methods, the game's files were placed in ABC order. ECHELON gave the dummy a filename of "dummy". Yes, you heard me. That places the dummy file about 1/5th down the list of files, which actually does more HARM to the release than good. This is because, despite 4/5ths of the files being pushed into a heavier position of the disc, the remaining 1/5th are separated from the others, which then causes an extra second of load time to every single point at which the game needs to load a file beginning with A-D. This can occur very, very often. This was most likely the cause of massive load times and stutters in gameplay. I've now labeled it as 000DUMMY.DAT, even though the name of the dummy does not matter, now that the file order is genuinely copied from the real game. It is also slightly larger than before, giving the tiniest boost. This release will require an 80-minute CD-R of course.
3) As I said, I have re-ripped and repacked this using the original TOC order from my legit copy of Alien Front Online. If you read this release in a program like IsoBuster, you will see the files being ordered in a very unique way, based on LBA. This is the way the developer intended the game to be ordered. This further enhances load times and performance.
4) Some of the songs in the ECHELON rip have horrible clicks and pops in them, namely Army 1, Army 2, and Army 3. This was most likely caused by packet loss or other online-transfer imperfections during their initial uploading. You may have heard them during gameplay. These songs, and all others have been replaced by freshly ripped ones from my copy.
5) I ripped the IP.BIN from my legit copy, to replace ECHELON's, if only to replace their logo in the ID. I have patched the IP.BIN to be region-free. Unfortunately, ECHELON's BINHACK.EXE leaves their name in the IP.BIN and I'm not sure if the release will work if I remove their name afterwards, so I didn't chance it. I also replaced the CD label.
6) On the ECHELON release, sometimes the game stuttered so badly that it would trail well into the beginning of the match, and the music would completely lock up, and 5 seconds later it goes mute and never cames back during the match. The problem does not appear to happen in my release.
Now the bad news:
Even a legit copy of this game stutters in the menus. My copy was bought new and sealed a year ago. It's flawless. It still stutters for a full second before the VMU screen, and at a couple other points in the menus for about 1/4th of a second. To expect a pirated copy to perform any better would be crazy. Having said that, there are still a lot of stutters in the menus, but not as many that the ECHELON release had, yet much more than on a legit copy.
To summarize, this is a cleaner, healthier rip than the ECHELON version. It performs better, though not perfect. It has the three repaired songs. It has the in-game music freezing bug fixed. If anyone knows how to improve this rip even further, let me know how you did it, and where I can download it. Until then, I feel that it's impossible to create a rip of AFO that's as good as the real deal.
Steve aka "Mozgus"
March 14th, 2007