Where the kids of the 90s could only dream of taking their virtual pet online, those picking up a V-Pet now can do it with ease. Projects like W0RLD and DMComm add unprecedented depth that the baseline V-Pet experience just doesn’t have by default.
The hundreds of hours that Digimon fans have put in over the years have had a transformative effect on the relatively simple hardware it's built around. However, as the community around that hobby has grown in size, it has also faced challenges around how it deals with topics like cheating and piracy.
The line between an ethical or unethical V-Pet mod is a blurry one and this has put many of those who work to moderate that community in a weird position.
According to Humulos, the need for etiquette “has only arisen recently, as most mods can’t really do enough to have serious negative impacts.”
“That being said, cheating when it came to online battling was a concern, as it’s very easy to modify the code being sent by the device after it reaches your computer and before you send it to your opponent.”
He said that he held off releasing the full documentation on how code signals worked until they had a way of dealing with this in place. For the most part, the Digimon modding community sees itself as sharing territory with that of the wider video game emulation world.
BladeSabre said that there's still some trade-off between information sharing and cheat prevention.
According to BluDragon, keeping piracy to a minimum is in both their best interests and those of Bandai Namco.
Humulos said that his community is very careful not to provide guidance on the hardware that enables one to extract and write images.
“We also don’t want to promote mods that would provide an unfair advantage by allowing directly increasing stats on the Vital Bracelet BE or removing intended timers.”
The Vital Bracelet V-Pet is an odd case because it is in some ways the most mod-friendly V-Pet Bandai Namco has ever released.
From the perspective of some fans, the company hasn’t exactly been the best steward of the franchise over the last twenty years. Prior to the Vital Bracelet, Digimon fans got a single model with a colour screen whereas Tamagotchi players got dozens. That reluctance to offer hardware improvement to fans who would happily pay the premium has made it easier for the likes of BluDragon to make the device their own, but it also has its downsides.
The Vital Bracelet V-Pet was a complete departure from the expectations set by this status quo.
A hybrid of a traditional Digimon V-Pet, and a fitness watch, the Vital Bracelet represented something of a quantum leap in ambition over prior devices. For the first time, feeding your Digimon was replaced with reading biometric data. More than that, The Vital Bracelet was also the first Digimon V-Pet with online battles and a modular flash memory system.
For decades, fans have been adding their favourite or alternative Digimon where Bandai wouldn’t. Now, monsters could be stored and saved to a proprietary memory standard called DIM. The Vital Bracelet even supported firmware updates that could add new features and quality-of-life improvements, some of which were directly inspired by the work of modders.
As BluDragon puts it, this felt like a challenge to the modding community and a demonstration of just how much you could do with this particular device more than others. She feels like the firmware support here is less there for the company’s ends and more of a way to make it their own.
Despite that, there was some hesitation about modding the Vital Bracelet.