The archive of v2 (the second generation of) Sifteo Cube games at https://doctormikereddy.com/sifteo-resurrecting-a-legend/ has an Application folder, containing the .elf compressed game files, and a Brochure folder, containing images and HTML files, which server as the banners, as well as instruction pages inside the Sifteo Sync App. However, the games (and accompanying files) I managed to retrieve, and get permission to upload, was sadly incomplete. Notably, the game icon (thumbnail) for the Sandwich Kingdom sequel, Ice Palace; two detail/instruction images for Word Caravan; similar files and images for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game, Ninja Slide; and other so called “landing pages” for a couple of other games. Although, I did, in the end, get access to a more complete archive of the Brochure files (via a fan on Reddit, called mechafroggie), I did manage to reconstruct the missing images from a set of nefarious places on the Internet. This blog post tells that story…
Firstly, let’s work out the missing icon for Sandwich Kingdom, Ice Palace. This was relatively easy, because some of the old Sifteo web site is preserved on the Wayback Machine at http://web.archive.org/web/20150329211129/https:/www.sifteo.com/games and while many of the games landing pages, etc, are missing, the navigation strip is complete. A quick Save as… and we had our first missing image:
This needs to go in the brochure in a specific location, in a specific format: icon.png in the folder com.sifteo.skicepalace inside the Sifteo Sync AppData folder at C:\Users\<insertID>\AppData\Local\Sifteo\Sync\Users\firstname.lastname@example.org\Booklets\com.sifteo.skicepalace and needed to be 96×96 pixels like the one for its predecessor:
Here is the resized version, ready to go in the right folder:
and in the context of the navigation strip, before:
Not too shabby 🙂 After this, until mechafroggie got me the complete files – even his archive didn’t have the Ice Palace icon – I had the following files missing from the Brochure folder:
word-caravan-0.png and word-caravan-1.png from C:\Users\<InsertID>\AppData\Local\Sifteo\Sync\Users\email@example.com\Booklets\com.sifteo.wordcaravan\images
tmnt-1.png, tmnt-2.png and tmnt-4.png from C:\Users\<InsertID>\AppData\Local\Sifteo\Sync\Users\firstname.lastname@example.org\Booklets\com.sifteo.ninja_slide\images
So, we had a complete Word Caravan and Ninja Slide brochure folders 🙂 Incidentally, the files that mechafroggie provided were – because I was judging by eye, sometimes with a fleeting glimpse of the target image in a YouTube video (!) – almost identical to the ones I recreated. However, in the accompanying archive update for the v2 games, I have (with the exception of the first icon.png file) used the reclaimed original images, rather than my Gimped versions; it’s nicer to have the authentic files 🙂
I have also recently upgradedmy twlve year old iMac to a shiny M1-based MacBook Pro, and straight away noticed that SiftRunner (which still runs on a PC using Windows 10) is definitely dead in the water. I had been told of this in earlier builds of MacOS, but didn’t have the hardware to test or fix. So, I will (in my <ahem> spare time, try to work on reverse engineering SiftRunner to get it to work on modern Macs. This is only needed for the V1 cubes (the ones with the charging case) but running these as slave devices from a more powerful machine might possibly be a good thing to resurrect. Not to say that this functionality wouldn’t be good for the V2 (base station) cubes as well. JoysCubes, the modern reimplementation, are also Bluetooth devices, and so this should be much easier, but PC <–> base station communications would be nice too.
A friend and colleague managed to do a proof of concept build using node.js to communicate with the original Sifteo Cubes, so I know it is theoretically possible. However, I will have to investigate. These V1 cubes have also been reported more frequently as having battery death – they are probably getting old enough for this to be likely – and while none of mine have succumbed yet, it is probably inevitable. When this happens I will do some surgery and open one up, to see if we can do a battery replacement to keep the original cubes running. I lost a V2 cube – always check your batteries are removed before long term storage :’-( or you will get acid damage, as happened to the one cube I forgot to empty – and have opened it up to see if it can be repaired, but there is a lot of corrosion inside. My heart sank when I went to use them again and saw that one still had the AAA battery inside; I knew it was going to be a goner. So, still resurrecting. Hope that this site is still of use to all you Sifteo fanatics, and if you did see me at EMF Camp this year, give me a 5 star review. Maybe I will have more news for the next one!
It’s been reported to me that SiftRunner no longer works on some newer versions of MacOS (probably as it is a 32 bit application). I don’t have hardware to investigate this right now, but it still works for Windows, if you have access. I know that there were rumours of a standalone Android version of SiftRunner that would allow the devices (via the dongle) to run without a PC at all; there are videos of David Merrill (I think) showing an Android tablet controlling the cubes. And a fan has gotten node.js to communicate between a PC and the cubes, so some form of replacement SiftRunner App might be feasible. I will have to wait until I have newer kit, to be able to explore this. Hopefully one day 🙂
I have rewritten the hacked regedit file to be bespoke generated for you on Windows machines; I still have to do the same for Mac users, so please be patient. Commenting below will motivate me. As would PayPal donations 🙂 which would help me cover the £00s it costs me to host files and this blog, and keep research into this wonderful toys (and other ‘dead’ tech, like the Pleo Dinosaur – coming soon!)
So, the installation of software, editing the Registry to avoid the “login problem”, and installing all the official commercial games released by Sifteo back in the day, has all been automated 😀 thanks, in part, to the people who brought you the Bluetooth-enabled clone cubes, over at http://www.joyscube.com/ who took my hack without permission, attribution, or acknowledgement 🙁 and posted it, with the games I actually had permission to host (again without permission, I suspect, but I guess that as long as we all get to enjoy these little devices of joy, that is ALL that matters).
This lack of attribution irked me, as I put in a lot of time reverse engineering the Apps to get them to run without the now defunct remote servers. However, they have come back to me with an offer of sending me a base station and three of their cubes, which I think is a fair exchange for the work I did to keep these things alive; this is ALL that matters in the end. And, to give them their due, they did create a nice .bat file to smooth the install process, even if it was only for Windows, and only for the v2 cubes they had copied. So, in the spirit of <ahem> being “inspired” by them being “inspired” by my reverse engineering, I have fixed their script, made it more streamlined, and separated out the v1 and v2 cube softwares into two new installers. See all that below, in the downloads section. And now, semi-rant over, back to your regularly scheduled programme…
You want to get to the download stuff, right? (and why the Hell not?) There will always be updates, but it IS useful to know a little history behind these lovely toys, isn’t it?
Please note, this is a stub growing resource right now. Here will be important resources for all versions of the Sifteo Cube, and its software. All this exists to revere a ground breaking product innovation, and with thanks to David Merrill and all at Sifteo!
So, what are (or were) Sifteo Cubes? (and why do they need ‘resurrecting’) There are probably better sources of the whole story – Dailytekk, blueprint and wikipedia for a start – but briefly… Sifteo Cubes started out in 2008 as Siftables, an MIT project for the young David Merrill (archived link).
He did a TED Talk that blew people away. I saw it, back in 2009 and thought “Wow”, and then “Will never happen…” and went on my way. Then in the middle of last year, I was watching an old Extra Credits YouTube video about Games You Might Not Have Tried and when I got to 6:45 I literally dropped my coffee cup… “Shit,” I thought, “I’ve seen these… Years ago!” And what’s more, after cleaning up the coffee 🙁 I felt the displaced Geek Shame of those who discover something that has existed for years, and it passed them by; Sifteo first came out, with the first generation in 2011 after a post-TED Talk VC fundraising, launching at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), then a subsequent version, with some ‘improvements’ came out the following year.
“How did I not hear about these?” I muttered, longing for the lost caffeine. “Right, credit card out… I’ll go buy some RIGHT NOW!” exclaimed I! Ahhh… “What!” I had not only missed the boat – Sifteo had stopped selling these in 2014! – but I had just missed the sifteo.com web site being shut down for the last time in August 2015. After some alleged cash flow issues, the company – mostly its incredible engineering and software talent – had been bought out by 3D Robotics, a drone manufacturer, for whom Sifteo staff skills would be perfect.
While the promised support didn’t last too long – A Redditor announced all the games were free for a short while – the web site itself was gone in mid August 🙁 However, the software (not the games!) for the V2 cubes was made open source, even if there was little documentation; this was announced in December 2014 amidst discussions of the company finances, and as is often the case, ‘open source’ was the precursor to worse times. So, not only was most of the software now unavailable, I thought it was unlikely to get hold of either version of Sifteo Cubes – searches on eBay and the Internet at the time revealed dumped stock in ‘completed sales’ 🙁 or people asking STUPID prices D: I’m looking at You and YOU and other greedy Amazon sellers…
Just for the record, I have seen prices of over $1000 for a set when I first looked last year. However, eBay.com (and sometimes eBay.co.uk although most listings are for screen protectors on there; there must have been the assumption that these would do better than they did, so there is a lot of old stock of Sifteo screen protectors) have much more affordable sales that come and go; right now (My 2020) there are quite a few on sale, for example. I’ve been lucky enough not to pay too much for my own cubes. And now, of course, you can buy NEW ones, with added Bluetooth (!) from Joyscube!!! See this link:
But (and it’s a big BUT, I cannot lie) you don’t NEED the physical product to enjoy the games. That is what this page is for 🙂
See below for download links for the various bits of software needed to install, run and make your own Sifteo Cube games, for both versions: the V1, the ones that needed a PC/Mac dongle to run the SiftRunner software remotely, and the V2, which had a standalone base station and touch screens, etc, but still used Sifteo Sync to download new games.
NOTE: Please DON’T link to the download files directly, or rehost them on another server. I do this out of love, and want to see people coming here for the information and resources that I (and others) have worked hard to achieve. Also, I may need to update and move files around a bit. And the 0.00000001p I might get from adverts doesn’t really work if people don’t visit here. I’ve had one or two PayPal Donations – one for $150 from one of the v2 developers a while ago! – which is really nice, especially from people who bought Sifteos (often second hand) only to discover that the web site NEEDED to activate the software is long gone. This site is for them, and now for you! However, it costs me £00s per year to keep hosting these files, and this blog, so If you feel the need, please consider donating 🙂
Right, let’s see what we’ve got done already…
What we’ve got so far? As I flesh out these pages, they will provide more specific support material for playing and making Sifteo Games. Right now, there are just some (very useful) download links.
STOP PRESS (see at the top of the page for more details) – We now have new streamlined installers for both types of cube for Windows; Mac to follow 🙂
PC and Mac* software set ups to play v1 and v2 Sifteo games in emulation, or on hardware if you are lucky enough to have them 🙂 PC SiftRunner (V1) installer (NEW installer, as of May 2020, with all the v1 games included*, and a nice DOT bat file installer:-) | Mac SiftRunner (V1) Installer | PC Sifteo Sync (V2) installer (NEW installer, as of May 2020, with all the v2 games included*, and a nice DOT bat file installer:-) | Mac Sifteo Sync (V2) installer[NOTE: These will need a few tweaks to get running properly, as the verification server disappeared (see below)] [NOTE: The NEW installer batch file takes care of all of this now 🙂 and I am hoping to do the same for Mac owners, once I have my hands on a new enough machine to check the latest OS issues, reported to me few months ago. Mac users will need to download the games separately, for now (see below)]
All the available V1 games* that were first party published, including the hacks (preference or registry files) needed to run the above software offline+, thanks to David and Eric at Sifteo, who very kindly donated what they had: All the V1 games released (and PC registry hack for SiftRunner) PC games now included in the installer above | All the V1 Games* released (and Mac hack)^ | All the V1 Games* unpacked ready for the Siftulator (PC and Mac) [The latter of these links is primarily of use to people who want to just run the simulator, called Siftulator, as it requires art assets to be defined in order to run properly, which isn’t possible with the packaged Apps; these were decompressed using the AppPackager tool, available in the PC only version of the V1 SDK. NO idea why this wasn’t a thing for Mac developers 🙁 unfortunately.]
All the available V2 games* that were first party published, including the hacks (preference or registry files) needed to run the above software offline+, thanks to David and Eric at Sifteo, who very kindly donated what they had: All the V2 Games released (and PC registry hack for Sifteo Sync) PC games now included in the installer above | All the V2 games released (and Mac hack) [NOTE: In February 2017, I noticed that some of the v2 ‘brochure’ files, which provide background/instructions when viewed inside Sync, are missing. (This is one of the ways I knew that the Joyscube people took my reverse engineering work, without proper attribution; see Stop Press above, but it has all worked out, in the end.) As of May 2020, I have now tracked all of these down, and will be posting a revised version of this archive at some point in the near future. here: https://doctormikereddy.com/2020/05/26/sifteo-detective-work/In the meantime, I will be writing a “How to…” fix the files post, as it is useful to know if adding your own, or homebrew, games to the convenient Sifteo Synch software, which is MUCH nicer to run than ‘swiss’, the command line executable. There are no unpacked or disassembled versions of the V2 games, as they are compressed as .elf files. However, if you can help us to reverse engineer the compression method, we’d love to be able to look at/reuse the V2 game assets; personally, I’d really like to try implementing some of the V2 only games on V1, so that everyone can share them. However, unlike the V1 Siftulator, this one is more sophisticated, and can run games by double clicking the files, which works really well.]
* I was given permission to upload the commercially released Sifteo games by the IP owners, but all rights are reserved, and theirs, even if they do only make drones now! Please don’t upload these elsewhere, or think that they are public domain – Joyscube people take note – or that I have any claims of ownership. It was very good of David Merrill to give us all access to these games, and we should not abuse that privilege. Thank you… + Getting the Apps to run offline involved the most hacking for this project. It is an interesting story in itself, which I will tell on a separate page, sometime. ^ Alternatively, use Daniel Owsiański’s Sifteo v1 redux for Mac, which allows you to install SiftRunner, an already hacked preference file and all of the version one games that we have; most if not all of them 🙂 Incomplete, or coming soon…
Reverse engineering SiftRunner to work on newer Macs, as the 32 bit nature of the original means it won’t run with recent versions of MacOS. This might allow us to have a development route for modern Macs too, as it is likely that the current dev tools for V1 cubes won’t run either anymore
Getting official and homebrew V1 games working with Siftulator; that is, upgrading them to worm on V2 cubes, which could be a LOT of work!
Links to other third party developers and media related to the launch, development and ultimate demise of this unique and sadly missed platform
How long? Now!!! All this has taken months of reverse engineering, trawling through the darker edges of the Internet, and ruthless eBay purchases. However, having now cracked the Mac version of the software (for v1 at least) both PC and Mac versions of both V1 and V2 software, we will be going live by the end of January 2017 went live in early February 2017. All the usual suspects (i.e. reddit) will be have been informed. Thanks for your patience. As of May 2020, in light of the re-release (?) of the Joyscube version of Sifteo cubes (with added Bluetooth, which IS cool!), I feel it is right to have done an update. Getting my domain back from cyber squatters was an expensive, but interesting, story for another time!!!
Given that I am going to talk at EMF Camp it is likely that there will be renewed interest in this, and I can afford to spend some Summer time working on more updates!
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