Retro FAQ: Sony PlayStation 2

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by elvis, Aug 24, 2018.

  1. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    This is a partner series to our Retro Let's Play FAQ, aiming to assist people finding ways of playing old games from these old systems. All talk of resolutions, PAL vs NTSC and upscaling are covered in the Retro Display Solutions thread.

    The Sony PlayStation 2 (or "PS2") was released in all regions between March and November of 2000. It still retains the world record for being the most popular video game console of all time (155 million units shipped, followed very closely by 154 million for the Nintendo DS), and for being the console in active production the longest (with sales closing in March 2012, a full 12 years after release).

    The initial "fat" model was shipped with a tray-loading DVD-ROM drive, and an upgrade slot that could take a Hard Drive addon for adding a standard Parallel ATA hard disk, which also added a 10/100 network port for online gaming. The fat model had an internal power supply, which means that caution is needed in ensuring the right voltage is sent to it. US and Japanese models require 100V, and plugging them into an Australian 240V power point can cause permanent damage.

    Years later several "slim" models would be released. These would feature a top-loading DVD-ROM drive, built in 10/100 Ethernet, no ability to add the hard drive option, and an external power brick with DC converter, which meant it was much safer to use a US model in Australia.

    The PS2 saw an explosion in console game development. Best estimates put the official games library at 3,874 titles, but it could well even be higher than that. The sheer variety of titles, from indie developers to high-budget Triple-A titles of the day to obscure Japanese arcade ports made it a must-have console for a wide variety of game tastes.

    The system itself spat out the standard 480i (NTSC) / 576i (PAL) resolutions native to standard definition CRT TVs, however the internal GPU supported resolutions all the way up to 720p/1080i. The console required RGB SCART cables to spit out 480p (equivalent to VGA resolution) over RGB, but annoyingly featured what's know as "sync-on-green" (described as "RGsB"), where the composite sync signal was embedded in the green signal, rather than a separate csync signal like SCART, or separated hsync/vsync signals like VGA. This made it especially tricky to feed 480p RGB into displays, as RGsB is quite uncommon (although scalers like the OSSC can handle it).

    Alternatively, the PS2 also supported component out, which did allow for all video modes from the standard SD resolutions right up to 720p/1080i, if the game supported it. A list of games with officially supported high resolution modes are here:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_PlayStation_2_games_with_alternative_display_modes

    There are ways to force higher resolutions, which will be covered in the modding section below.

    All models of the PS2 also featured full PS1 backwards compatibility. Original models featured 100% hardware backwards compatibility (with Sony doing what many vendors did - using the PS1's original hardware for lessor tasks like IO inside the PS2). Later models with consolidated chips emulated some of the PS1 hardware, resulting in occasional compatibility or accuracy issues.

    PAL vs NTSC

    Unlike earlier generations of consoles, the speed difference between PAL and NTSC consoles are almost entirely gone on the PS2.

    The systems do feature regional lockout, however. If your system can be modded (hardware and software options available, depending on model), that's by far the easiest way to bypass region restrictions. However if you're against the idea of modding for whatever reason, you'll need to purchase a console that matches the region of the games you own.

    Mentioning once again that fat PS2s from the USA and Japan require 110V input, and will be damaged by Australian 240V power. For slim PS2 models, just ensure that the DC voltage and amperage out from your power brick matches what the console expects.

    Playing the original system today

    PS2s are still readily available second hand, and hardware supply is good. Buying units from Japan can often be cheaper, but again be cautions of region locking if you do.

    There are also a few models of PS3 that are backwards compatible with the PS2. Again, region protection is an issue (and harder to bypass). Some models are 100% hardware compatible, some use a percentage of emulation. Later models including the PS3 Slim had this feature removed all together.

    MLIG covers a wide array of playback options, focussing on picture quality, in their excellent video. They also have great advice on playing some of the brilliant lightgun games the PS2 had to offer:



    Official re-releases

    Sony have done quite a good job of offering PS2 games on their more modern PS3 and PS4 platforms, albeit digitally only. So if you've got original discs, you'll need to find another way to play them (see above). However if you've got a more modern Sony console and want to purchase old PS2 games, you can do so online:

    PS3:
    https://store.playstation.com/en-au/grid/STORE-MSF75508-DISCOVERPS2ONPS3

    PS4:
    https://store.playstation.com/en-au/grid/STORE-MSF75508-DISCOVERPS2ONPS4

    As always, if you have this ability, please do so as it encourages game companies to know that there is commercial value in keeping old games alive.

    There are also a huge array of PS2 games that have been remastered for PS3 (and sometimes even PC) in HD re-releases. Always worth keeping an eye out for those if you're after some of the better games from the PS2 era.

    Modding

    There are a range of modding options for the PS2, both hardware and software. Hardware generally involves soldering a chip to the board, and due to the component size and number of pins/wires required, is best left to experts (plenty of people around Australia offer modding services, best to ring a local group up and ask for pricing and options).

    Software modding is another option, but note that compatibility is limited (generally all fat models can be software modded, but only earlier slim models can). The most popular software mod is FreeMCBoot ("MC" standing for "Memory Card"). It uses a boot-time memory card exploit to hijack the PS2's bootloader, and inject custom code. Installing FreeMCBoot is a bit of a catch-22 (it requires an already modded console), however penty of eBay sellers offer memory cards with FreeMCBoot pre-loaded, allowing you to boot from that and create more/newer FreeMCBoot tools.

    From here, a variety of secondary tools can be loaded. Of these tools, some useful ones are:

    OpenPS2Loader, aka OPL: https://github.com/ifcaro/Open-PS2-Loader

    This allows you to rip disc-based games to files (either on the PS2 itself, or on your PC), and load them from a hard drive (using either the official fat PS2 hard disk addon, or third party models), USB thumbsticks and hard drives, or even from an SMB share off a computer or NAS on your network. Speeds vary (the hard disk is the best, while network is limited to 10MB/s, and USB is a very slow USB1.1), but the main benefit is that even a PS2 with a faulty laser/drive (generally the one component in a PS2 that fails) is still fully functional and can play games.

    PS2 GSM (Graphics Synthesizer Mode selector): http://www.ps2-home.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=12

    Most games on the PS2 support the standard SD resolutions, with a handful supporting extra modes. GSM can be loaded via homebrew tools to force the PS2 to spit out video modes not normally native to a game. These can be everything from forcing games to 240p (great for retro and arcade gamers), to forcing games up to 720p and 1080i (great for HD TVs). Compatibility is highly dependent on games, and there's quite a lot of discussion in the link above as to what games work, as well as hacks and patches to make games perform better under custom modes.

    Third party hardware

    As always, the Chinese hardware hackers ensure we've got plenty of options for hardware addons. Whether it's as banal as video cables and controllers, or more interesting like:

    Memory cards - PS2 standard memory cards for saving games are 8MB, which can be annoyingly small. Third parties go much larger sizes like these 64MB cards:
    https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?catId=0&initiative_id=SB_20180823214939&SearchText=ps2+64mb

    There are also 128MB and 256MB models, although from my experience going too high reduces compatibility. Given their cheap prices, if you're buying these for use either in games or via FreeMCBoot, I recommend buying a couple of different ones (brands and sizes) just in case.

    Hard drive adaptors for fat PS2s:
    https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?catId=0&initiative_id=SB_20180823215134&SearchText=ps2+hdd

    Including newer models with SATA support (yes, they support SSD too):
    https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?catId=0&initiative_id=SB_20180823215201&SearchText=ps2+sata

    Just be wary that many of these DO NOT come with a functional network port (often there's a hole for one, but nothing inside). However if you just want to add a hard disk to your fat PS2 for loading games without disc swapping, these are a great option. If you want a network port option, make sure to read all of the descriptions and reviews.

    For light guns games, arcade hardware manufacturers Ultimarc have an excellent product called the Aimtrack, which includes support for the PS2. Unlike the original Guncon controllers that required an all-analogue SD CRT, Aimtrack devices use a system similar to the Wii with IR-LED tracking sensors, so you can use this on any HD TV, including LCDs and OLEDs. It also supports PC (which means PS1/PS2 emulators work with it too).
    https://www.ultimarc.com/aimtrak.html

    Emulation

    PS2 emulation has come leaps and bounds in recent years. PCSX2 had a tough time with some internal fighting between developers in years gone by, but thankfully that's behind them, and the tool is now very much compatible with a huge number of PS2 games. The best way to play the emulator is of course from your original discs in your PC, and from there you can enjoy all sorts of extras like save states and beautiful, crisp, high resolution graphics. The team recommends and i7 or equivalent CPU at around 3GHz with a DirectX10 GPU for best results (at time of writing, my Intel Core i7 3632QM laptop with Radeon HD 7670 DX9 can hit 100% speeds in most games with a bit of fiddling per game).
    https://pcsx2.net/
    https://pcsx2.net/getting-started.html

    The official compatibility list is here:
    https://pcsx2.net/compatibility-list.html

    And the team maintain a YouTube channel showing off games in 1080p and higher resolution in full speed:
    https://www.youtube.com/user/PCSX2team/videos

    As with GSM (see the modding section above), keep on the lookout for game patches that offer things like fixes for 4:3 to 16:9 gameplay to keep aspect ratios correct.



     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
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  2. OP
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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  3. OP
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    If you're running FreeMCBoot on a real PS2, you can copy save file data back and forth from a PC without too much hassle.

    I played about 30 minutes of Silent Hill 2 on PC via PCSX2 to test that out for the Retro Let's Play, and used PCSX2's Memory Card management tool to convert the memory card image to a folder.

    From there, I coped that folder to a USB stick, put that in my PS2, copied it to the physical memory card via FreeMCBoot's file browser tool, and then that loaded up fine on the real game on the PS2. Going back the other way should work fine too, if I want to move back to the emulated version for any reason.

    That also means you can back up your saves from a real PS2 as well. Handy if you have a lot of hours or unlocks in a game, and want to either keep that backed up, or share it with friends.
     
  4. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    Lol just thought id add the recent convo about the PS2 to this thread.

    And said kit..
    [​IMG]
    Lol funny you mentioned about unplugging it, box has huge warning on front to do so. Would have thought that was self explanatory. Lol guess not ;)
     
  5. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    Vanne said:
    Def going the HDboot way, lemme see I can sort it out, (I should be able to install FreeHDboot from being inside FreeMcboot right? )or ill hit you up for some help. Ill probably attempt that tonight.. late as I am still a bit trashed from my Boston trip.

    WuZMoT said:
    *** make sure the PS2 is not plugged into mains when inserting/removing the HDD adapter ***
    it's really easy to kill it because of how small the contacts are on the connector. I've never done this but read about someone doing it.

    from memory you may need to initialise/format the drive with ulaunchelf first. Then use winhiip or hdldump on pc to set up the partitions. You can possibly skip the ulaunch step but ulaunch will install system partitions.

    Then FHDB can be installed via the FMCB installer (i think its just a seperate tab scrolling sideways from the main FMCB installer screen) FHDB needs the drive initialised with system partitions to install.

    If you've done everything right there should be some default partitions made on the drive and when you run OPL it will make an OPL partition - make sure you do this before you start to load on games.

    each time you load on a game it creates a partition for that game, you want the OPL partition to be at the start of the drive.

    use ulaunchelf to copy the OPL executable to the OPL partition. you can copy multiple versions here if you like and just configure multiple shortcuts in FHDB. This is also where you want to put your covers.

    you can be super lazy and just run OPL from USB and install only the games to HDD but if you end up wanting to play something that uses USB peripherals such as light guns etc you will only have 1 USB port free.

    that's the basics of it, I'll be able to look at my own directory structures and things when I'm at home to give you more specifics.

    EDIT:
    Winhiip is really easy to use but has a 256 game limit. you can start with winhiip and if you hit the limit you can switch over to HDLDump to add more beyond that.

    EDIT2:
    if ulaunchelf doesn't detect the drive you might need a newer version, I'd suggest sticking to 1TB HDD realistically.
     
  6. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    Perfect, got myself a 1TB wd blue drive sorted. That's should be plenty.. Ill stick to winhiip for the moment, but just came across something that mentioned that running freeMcboot from the Mem card is much faster than starting up from FHDB? is that the case?
    and if so , whats recommended for the best setup?
     
  7. WuZMoT

    WuZMoT Member

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    running it from the card would theoretically be faster and it's by no means necessary to run from the HDD. Actually I'm sure it's faster, but the HDD is hardly fast anyway... I mean when you actually run OPL you still have to wait a bit.

    I set it up that way so that if the PS2 dies I can just unplug the drive/adapter from it and put it into another one and it just boots like it's the same PS2.

    but if you put it on the memcard you can still have that easy transfer you just have to include the memory card too.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
  8. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    Got freeHDboot setup on a 350 giger, that works fine, so I can now boot with either of the HD or the men card (the latter IS quicker) and I've backed up a few of my originals to the HD..

    Thing is, and maybe I am doing something wrong.. but quite a few of the iso's are hit and miss playing from HD, where as from USB, they would all load perfectly, just not play well due to stuttering..

    Wondering why an ISO from USB would play , and when installed with Wiihiip. It doesn't?
     
  9. OP
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Have you tried ripping the ISO straight from the PS2 itself?
     
  10. WuZMoT

    WuZMoT Member

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    which games?

    compatibility list that might help indicate required modes to be set in OPL:
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1A9QXwng28pEt-fl_x-sc13MtyWb-b5qDNJgM_xSzQ6o/edit#gid=0

    explanation of the modes:
    https://bitbucket.org/ShaolinAssassin/open-ps2-loader-0.9.3-documentation-project/wiki/game-settings
    http://www.ps2-home.com/forum/app.php/page/opl_modes

    I'm trying to find a guide i saw once but if i recall mode 2 and 3 were most commonly used - as in it specifically said try mode 2, then try 3, then try 2+3. then it started suggesting other modes if a game still didnt work.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
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  11. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    [​IMG]
    These spankers arrived last night. ;)
     
  12. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    Thx, I'll have a play around with the OPL game list settings. Looks pretty promising actually. ;)
     
  13. WuZMoT

    WuZMoT Member

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    I found many games said they needed mode 3 in that list but in my experience most games don't need any mode change.

    once you've played with them a bit you will become familiar with the common signs and know immediately "oh i probably need mode x to fix this one"

    NICE!
     
  14. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    Pl
    Played around with that list settings.. GREAT SUCESS.. I can now play my fist full of broomstick iso that I ripped from my original.. Perfect!!! :)
     
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    A useful tool for managing PS2 save files and memory cards (both virtual inside emulators, and real via FreeMCBoot)

    https://github.com/thestr4ng3r/mymcplus

    Appears to have cheat support, which I've never tried. Might attempt to muck around with that soon.
     
  16. Camm

    Camm Member

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    Thought I'd chime in.

    The composite encoder on the PS2 is a bit shit, but RGsB can have issues around sync (and forcing higher than 480p on RGsB is somewhat fools gold, with it technically capable but breaking all the time). I've seen mention of being able to mod the PS2 to use csync, which could possibly alleviate the issue, but who knows.

    Furthermore, if you want to play online, only SCPH-30000+ models had the required expansion bay. Furthermore, ilink support (if you wanted some locl link play action) was removed from the 55000 series. 70000 series and up are slimline, and introduced compatibility issues not just with PSX games, but with a few PS2 games. So you'd probably want to track down a 30000 series.
     
  17. OP
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Yeah, that whole situation is a bit frustrating. PS2's native YPbPr/Component out is muddy as hell as well (at least it is on the models I have). It looks intentional - like a low pass filter in the encoder that you can't remove.

    RGB is by far the clearest, but as you mention it has issues for 480p and above users. I've also looked at the csync mod which would be the best option. I'm fairly sure you can use an lm1881 to get separate h/v sync (or close to it - I think you get csyc and vsync, but some monitors can take csync on the hsync input).

    Getting RGBHV out of a PS2 would be ideal. That would mean VGA out with the GSM tool (requires a modded PS2), but that would get it to Dreamcast level visuals, which the PS2 is more than capable of achieving.

    The fact that it never had this natively is weird, to be honest. Real missed opportunity.
     
  18. OP
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Filed under "things I wish were released commercially", this crazy hacker/modder crams a PS2 that can FreeMCBoot and network load games from an internal RPi board over SMB, all into a standalone portable shell.

    If Sony released this for real, they could print money.

     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2019
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