The FreeDO FAQ

maintained by awright69 with input from FreeDO developers

First, the obligatory copyright notices:
3DO, and their respective logos, Interactive Multiplayer, Portfolio, Toolkit, and others we may not be aware of, are trademarks or registered trademarks of The 3DO Company in the U.S. and other countries.
FreeDO is copyright (c) 2002, 2003 et. seq by participants of the FreeDO project.

Document History
2002/4/17 - first release.
2002/4/18 - minor additions, typo corrections.
2002/10/1 - major revisions, more info on our project

2003/4/17 – beta release update (one year FAQ anniversary!)

This FAQ is dedicated to the awesome "fathers" of the 3DO:
David Morse, RJ Mical, and Dave Needle, and many others at NTG/3DO who really tried to make this thing a go: Trip Hawkins (you tried, man, you had the vision and tried to see it through), Phil Burk, Joe Buczek, Andy Finkel, Leo Schwab, Dave Platt, and many, many others.

I - Introduction and Platform FAQs
II - FreeDO Project FAQs
III - Non-FreeDO (but related) FAQs

I - Introduction

The FreeDO (closed-source) project exists to bring about an emulator or simulator capable of playing content originally made for the now-defunct and no longer commercially available 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, a 32-bit video game console that was licensed to manufacturers and developers, and marketed worldwide in the early to middle 1990s. For related FAQs on this console, see

II - FreeDO Project FAQs

How did the FreeDO project get started?
A. awright69 got the inspiration to form the FreeDO project in early 2002 after his wife, a former 3DO gamer, persuaded ( some would say nagged ) him into finding and buying a used Panasonic FZ-1 and some games for it on eBay. awright69 fondly remembered playing some of the cool titles then available for the system in-store, and after looking at the quality of the console he’d purchased secondhand, which was ahead of its time in many respects, he decided to form FreeDO to enshrine and memorialize the hard work of the visionary folks at NTG (and ultimately 3DO Corp) through emulation. Being the mentally feeble type he is, and not having the extensive electronics and C/Assembler programming skills required to undertake such a task, awright69 floundered around for a few months studying the work that had been done a few years prior by troosh in Russia and kashi in Japan. awright69 had also managed to contact 2 other authors of previous 3DO emulation projects, but was unable to get any useful information out of them, and they were unwilling or unable to assist for fear of legal problems.
Then, one day in early April 2002, a mad genius named felixl contacted awright69 and offered to lead the coding. With felixl's fierce determination, and pulling together some other coders (troosh and jsammons) who shared the vision and skill, the FreeDO project has taken form in code. Within weeks, the first CELs began being displayed, code snippets began running on felixl's core app, and the coders have been building on it ever since.

Q. But what is the FreeDO project for? I can still buy 3DO equipment through the secondary market (auctions, used game dealers, etc.)
A. Look, 3DO consoles are no longer commercially available. The market was rather unceremoniously dumped (some would say dumped on) by 3DO in 1996. We certainly see no potential for lost sales to 3DO due to the creation of this emulator, because there are no sales to be made. 3DO could care less about the console or the market it left behind. We are aware that there is a large secondary market for 3DO and software; however, our aim is to preserve the legacy of the console far after the hardware is no longer working. CD-ROM drives and joysticks do not last forever, and it's not like you can just go out and buy replacements at your corner store. There will always be people who will want to have the actual hardware, and the emulator is not going to be a perfect substitute for it. It's more of a hobby, a passion, a love of seeing just how it can be done rather than an exercise to destroy primary or secondary markets.

Q. What happened to the Open-Source FreeDO Project, located at
A. While I (awright69) would have liked to have kept the project open, I was shown by felixl that we couldn't legally do this. The 3DO architecture is very well isolated by cryptographic protections in hardware and software, and also by patents and IP laws which prevent the public disclose of much of its inner workings, and revealing those would have left the project far too open to legal action. While it can be argued that the 3DO or its technologies are outdated, patent and IP law simply does not allow for that.  (Thanks to ewhac for pointing that out. You’re right, I was naïve.) If someone wants to find a way to do this without stepping on anyone's legal toes, please go ahead. The FreeDO open-source page will remain only as a marker for historical purposes, with a link to the closed source page, and no code or methods from the 3DO or this project was ever, or will ever be, hosted there.

Q. Isn't it possible that your product will encourage piracy or cause the 3DO used game market to shrink or collapse? (This was actually asked; no, we do not have large egos)
A. It is our intention for users to be able to play the titles they own themselves, not to encourage piracy or shrinkage of this active and dedicated secondary market. We are aware of the potential of abuse, but we see no way to curb it. Pirates are going to do what they are going to do, regardless of any actions we could take to prevent it. Of course we do not condone piracy, especially piracy for profit, in any way. Also, there are methods by which we can detect and disable running of CD-R copies, if we choose or are told to do so by copyright holders.

Q. Are you going to need any kind of ROM or BIOS from the 3DO console to make the emulator work? Will your emulator use protected code from the original console?
A. We are not going to use ANY 3DO original code in our project at all when it is released. We may reference it (require that it be provided in file form) in the final implementation; therefore, it is possible that we may require users to obtain the ROM from their own machines, but we will not provide or incorporate it. We are not saying that you _will_ have to use a ROM; it is still too early in development to tell whether all Toolkit and BIOS functions can be implemented without it. So it’s really hard to tell at this point. But it is our intention to try to avoid having to use this ROM at all; in other words, to emulate the functions of the BIOS, bypassing the need for it completely.

Q. Is there a time table for release?
A. The first betas were relased April 17 2003. We anticipate that we’ll be in limited beta for the next few weeks, then general beta after that. As for the emulator attaining “release” quality, as evidenced by the following milestones: 1 – stability, 2 - accuracy and 3 - compatibility, it’s anybody’s guess

III - Non-FreeDO (but related) FAQs

Q. I want to develop games for your emulator, or for commercial consoles, or both. Where can I get the rumored 3DO SDK?
A. You can't get it from us. You will have to find or buy it yourself. I suggest the local software developer's trash can. ;-) If you do not like the smell of garbage on your body, just call 3DO and order a development station. They will be glad to sell you one for around US $15000. Seriously. Last time we talked to them, that's the going price.

Q. OK, I dumpster-dived (or was strange enough to spend the money to buy a developer station), obtained the SDK, and wrote a game/demo/application, even burned a CD with the game/demo/application on it. But it won't play in my 3DO console, or in your emulator! I found out that games need to be encrypted so it can be authenticated for play on regular consoles (or your emulator). Can you guys encrypt it so I can sell/give away/lease/rent it?
A. No! We are not in the business to encrypt 3DO discs. For the up-front sum of US $70000, plus the current royalty or $3 or $6 per disc, the 3DO company will be more than happy (I am sure, ecstatic) to encrypt your disc. Again, seriously.

Q. Can you give/burn/lend me a copy of XXXX game? Do you know where I can download it? Are there ftp sites for old games?
A. No! No! I don't know! We are attempting to make this project work using software and hardware that we OWN, things we have in front of us. We are not in the piracy/distribution/warez business, and we do not condone these actions. You will have to find this junk, if it exists, for yourself.

Q. Where can I buy/lease/rent 3DO games? Where can I buy a 3DO console?
A. Look in your local telephone directory or news outlet for advertisements of used video game dealers. There are 3 separate dealers of used games in a 10-kilometer radius of where I live, and 2 of the 3 sell and/or rent 3DO used games. So they are not that hard to find. Second, try online auction sites such as ebay or yahoo auctions. There are many people buying and selling a variety of common and hard-to-find software and hardware there.

Q. I found/stole/bought the 3DO SDK! But I do not have a Macintosh to run the development software on, yet I would like to use the emulators available for the Macintosh to do so. Can you give me a Mac emulator or ROM?
A. No! I personally, legally own ARDI's excellent Executor emulator; this one needs no ROMs. I also own actual Macintoshes, which can be had for less than US $20 on online auction sites. You should do the same thing. FOr the record, Basilisk II works well with the SDK as well, for all tools that do not access the NuBus optical 3DO interface card (because it obviously is not present on your PC)

Q. Can you give me (name other illegal stuff)?
A. No! Find or buy this stuff yourself. Leave us alone to develop this emulator!