Category Archives: Nintendo

Of or pertaining to the Big ‘N’

My Very Own Search Engine

Back in 1998, I started a web project called the Internet NES Database to catalog information about games for the greatest video game console system of all time, the Nintendo Entertainment System. I reasoned that a web database needed to be searchable but I couldn’t find any literature on exactly how to create a search engine. So I sat down and thought about it and came up with a solution. I eventually refined the idea and later wrote this article about the design decisions I made but never got around to publishing it anywhere. I came across the article on my hard drive recently and figured I may as well publish it in case someone, somewhere might find it interesting.

8-bit NES

It’s weird to think that I was building an elaborate search mechanism to index approximately 760 items (the total number of games in the database), though I had hoped to expand the database into something MobyGames-like in due time. Keep in mind that at the outset, while the data was managed in a MySQL database, the data was exposed online through a series of static HTML pages; this was 1998 and it was a little difficult and expensive to get database hosting on the internet. Thus, I could not directly query a database, and I had limited CGI scripting facilities.


I present the approach that I took in developing a simple search engine for the Internet NES Database as well as the thinking and reasoning behind the design decisions. It’s not highly sophisticated, but if you don’t know anything about search engine operation, this should give you a starting point.

When I started developing my video game database in early 1998 I knew that it would be much more usable if it featured a search engine. I had no idea how to write a search engine. Web searches on topics such as “search engine theory” turned up thousands of pages claiming to reveal the secrets of getting high ranks in popular search engines. I realized that I was on my own. So I sat down and thought really hard about how to write a search engine.

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GameCube CVS

When I started mounting GameCube disc images with my gcfuse utility, perhaps the strangest thing I found (apart from 11,500+ Ogg Vorbis files on one title) was intact CVS directory structures on a number of discs. Of course, CVS directories don’t give away much interesting detail; it’s not like there’s leaked source code living inside. Perhaps the most interesting thing is comparing the CVSROOT strings to information found in the MobyGames database. So, Yasunari Soejima, Hiroki Sotoike, and Fumihisa Sato: I just wanted to helpfully point out that you neglected to delete the CVS directories before creating the final disc images for certain GameCube games.

Magnifying glass

gcfuse, With Executable Support

I upgraded my gcfuse utility tonight. The main change was to expose the primary game executable file when browsing a GameCube filesystem. The primary executable is stored as an implicit part of the filesystem, separate from the directory structure. Being able to easily read this file is a useful feature if, for example, someone wishes to get at these executables for the purpose of disassembly.

For example, when mounting the first disc image of one of my few GC games that I have actually completed, Metal Gear Solid:

$ ls -al mount/
total 1
dr-xr-xr-x 4 melanson users         0 Jul 15  2005 .
drwxr-xr-x 7 melanson users       760 Aug 26 21:48 ..
-r--r--r-- 1 melanson users        95 Jul 15  2005 .metadata
dr-xr-xr-x 4 melanson users         0 Jul 15  2005 audio
-r--r--r-- 1 melanson users 426387456 Jul 15  2005 demo.dat
-r--r--r-- 1 melanson users   1988128 Jul 15  2005 metal-gear-solid-the-twin-snakes-exe.dol
-r--r--r-- 1 melanson users      6496 Jul 15  2005 opening.bnr
dr-xr-xr-x 3 melanson users         0 Jul 15  2005 shared
-r--r--r-- 1 melanson users 198715392 Jul 15  2005 stage.dat

The executable file is metal-gear-solid-the-twin-snakes-exe.dol. The filename is a little long, which can happen since it is derived from the game title in the disc metadata, which can be nearly 1000 characters long. The GC executable format is known as DOL, probably short for Dolphin which was the codename of the GameCube during development.

I recognize that I’m likely the only person on the planet who cares about this utility but, hey, it’s my blog and what are blogs for if not to tell the world about the tedious minutiae of an individual’s life?

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