Retro FAQ: Sony PlayStation

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by elvis, Sep 23, 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 (sometimes referred to as the PS1, PSone, or PSX) was released in Japan in December 1994. The west would not see it until almost a year later with US and EU releases in September 1995, and poor old Australia waiting until November 1995 for theirs.

    This was Sony's first solo effort at a console, after a few hardware partnerships designing chips and components for other companies (and the notoriously sour deal with Nintendo). They bypassed the 2D generation all together, and would be the words first true 3D home console. Unlike Sega and Nintendo, the current market leaders, Sony wouldn't bother aiming at a younger audience, and marketed their console hard at gamers who were younger during the 8-bit era, having grown up and wanting a more "mature" offering.

    The console saw a few different hardware revisions. The first units were the classic squarer shape, with some having additional RCA audio plugs at the rear (these models tend to ask a high fetching price today for their extremely high CD audio playback fidelity). Later Sony would release the "PSone" slimmer unit in a smaller packaging with a rounder shape.

    All PS1 games are standard definition, with no options for higher resolution output on real hardware. The PlayStation hardware itself could spit out a few different resolutions within the general SD range (various 240p/288p/480i/576i modes, with slight changes to horizontal resolution even within those). These can be a little tricky to run on modern displays, as some games will mode switch (say, 240p for the game, 480i for cutscenes). Even with the console being 3D, playing a PS1 on real hardware today is simpler on a SD CRT than it is directly to a flat screen, although the "Retro Display Solutions" thread linked at the top of this post can assist you with scaling hardware if you want to play it on a modern flatscreen TV.

    The units were region locked, so playing US or Japanese games on a PAL unit required modding of the console. Over the course of its life, the PS1 would see a huge amount of titles released in all regions, however there still were some notable titles missing from both US and PAL regions.

    The PS1 opted out of the more common cartridge format of games, going with only an optical drive. This resulted in far cheaper game printing, which meant quite an explosion in "experimental" type games that were too costly to risk on expensive ROM cartridges. On top of this, Sony were well aware of Nintendo's strict publishing limits on their consoles, and coaxed many developers over with a cheaper licensing system and fewer limits. As a result, more developers would try new styles of games on the PS1, making it a very interesting system.

    PAL vs NTSC

    This generation of hardware did suffer PAL slowdown for many games. NTSC runs at around 60Hz in progressive scan mode, compared to PAL's 50Hz. If games weren't specifically designed to be sped up for the PAL release, this would result in a 17% gameplay slowdown in all parts of the game, including gameplay, animation, sound effects, and if the unit used the internal midi/soundfont audio system, the soundtrack too (this didn't affect games with "red book" CD audio streamed from the disc).

    Typically, higher budget titles would see re-tweaking for speed optimisation. Smaller developers would do direct ports, resulting in many games slowing down on PAL re-release. The ratio isn't as bad as the previous 8 and 16 bit generations, but still nowhere near as good as the PS2 era and on.

    Here's an example of a game where the speedup didn't happen - Medevil:



    Compare to a game where efforts were taken to get the PAL version closer to the NTSC version, like Crash Bandicoot:



    Playing the original system today

    PS1 consoles are still fairy readily available today, although prices are starting to rise like all retro hardware. As mentioned above, playing a PS1 on a modern display can be tricky, as the 240p/480i style resolutions are often dealt with quite poorly by modern TVs.

    Similarly, the PlayStation light guns all used a sync-measuring system that required a lag-free 15KHz CRT. Even upscaling to a 480p CRT or HD CRT TV wouldn't work, as the sync signals were modified an incompatible. If you want to play the PS1's excellent light gun games today on real hardware, you'll need an older SD CRT to do so.

    The first model "fat" PlayStation 2 offered full hardware backwards compatibility with the PS1, using the PS1's main CPU as it's IO controller in PS2 mode, and using it directly in PS1 mode. Later revisions of the PS2 would begin to software emulate part of the PS1's hardware, but still offer full backwards compatibility.

    The PlayStation 3 offers 100% software emulation backward compatibility for all PS1 original discs.

    Worth noting that the backwards compatibility in all cases is region locked (including the PS3, which is only region unlocked for PS3 games).

    Soft-modding a PS2 via FreeMCBoot or FreeHDBoot won't allow PS1 backwards compatibility to work.

    Yes, a softmodded PS2 can play PS1 games via POPStarter. Many thanks to Thalyn for the writeup here:
    https://forums.overclockers.com.au/posts/18106631/



    Official re-releases

    Sony offer quite a number of PS1 games under the banner of what they call "Classic Games" on their PlayStation store. Most of these are only available for PS3 or PSP, sadly, with little love for their recent PS4 or Vita consoles playing older titles:

    https://store.playstation.com/en-au/grid/STORE-MSF75508-GAMECLASSICGAMES/1

    At time of writing, Sony have also announced a "PlayStation Classic" console to be released in December 2018, with 5 of the 20 built in games announced so far. The linked thread will stay up to date with more news as that is released.

    Third party hardware

    Due to the shared serial device input of the PS1 and PS2, most non-USB PS2 controllers will work in the PS1, and vice versa. You can happily plug in your PS2 Dual Shock 2 controllers (including third party devices) and they'll work fine in a PS1.

    Similarly the PS1 shares the same SD multi-out connector as the PS2 and early model PS3s. This will enable AV cables for composite, S-video and SCART/RGB to work with your PS1. Note that the PS2's Component YPbPr cables WILL NOT work with the PS1, as the PS1 only supports RGB.

    "HD Retro Vision" is a company out of the US who make cables with in-built transcoders that will take RGB from older consoles and convert that to YPbPr in-cable. They have a special setup for the PS1 (it uses their Megadrive/Genesis cable, with a converter plug on the end to work with the PS1):
    https://www.hdretrovision.com/playstation/

    Sites like eBay and AliXpress still ship a huge amount of cables and connectors for the PS1:
    https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesal...=SB_20180922223613&SearchText=playstation+ps1

    As well as memory cards:
    https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesal...223822&SearchText=playstation+ps1+memory+card

    Modding

    A few options exist to modify an original PS1 for region-free or homebrew. Sadly all involve some sort of soldering (not too complex - generally half a dozen wires or less). The usual modding places around the country will often do this for a reasonable price.

    There is one other option called the PS-IO, which plugs into the PlayStation's rear serial port and allows homebrew software to be loaded that way. Again, some soldering is required, however, to add a chip to the motherboard to enable it. The PS-IO is also notoriously low in stock, and waiting lists of over 18 months are common:
    http://ps-io.com/

    And a second mention for running POPStarter on a modded PS2 to allow PS1 games to play:
    https://forums.overclockers.com.au/posts/18106631/

    Emulation

    Thankfully the PlayStation's simple hardware design has allowed emulation to exist for quite some time, and with quite a few options around. MAME and MESS will emulate it very accurately, although not offer any 3D acceleration, meaning no higher resolution options and quite a grunty CPU is required.

    Other emulators like Mednafen's Beetle (available in RetroArch) and ePSXe allow hardware 3D to assist with the emulation process. This often results in "inaccurate" emulation, but with the side effects of better blending effects, transparencies, and much higher resolutions on offer. This is particularly nice if you're playing on a HD or UHD/4K screen. How the game looks does depend entirely on its art style, with some looking terrible in higher res, and some looking great.

    Here's the brilliant and quirky "Sheep Dog 'n' Wolf" running through ePSXe at 720p, and thanks to the cell-shading used looks pretty good for a title of its age:



    And some more tests with RetroArch + Beetle HW:

     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
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  2. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    Still have my original PSX , chipped in its heyday. Remember the original Driver and Driver 2... Just phenomenal.. and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2... soo much goodness..

    [​IMG]

    And ofcourse....

    [​IMG]

    Man, that Driver 2... I'd hate to think how many man hours I sunk into that puppy..
    Just for shits and giggles I thought I'd add that when the PSX first came out, and we (at our squadron) all got hooked on Grand Tourismo.. we all went around with on one side this one.

    [​IMG]
    And on the other shoulder of our flight suits the XO[]∆ image patch.
    Lol.. ahh good ol days. ;)

    [​IMG]
    There was something magical about this game, for me it really was the top version of all the Pro Skater games that came after it. Loved it. Amazing game for its time, I had it lateron for the DC too, but that never inspired as much as this. Sitting around with a bunch of friends and "Slabby", music way too loud for the health of your hearing and playing this until the wee hours of the morning.. Perfect controls, (at the time) and great visuals. and soo many secrets... Didn't hurt either that TH was one of my heroes growing up.

    Just an totally amazing experience that PSX, I think it re-equianted a lot of older people back into the video game past time, after a lot of older generations would have left it. Well played Sony, well played.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
  3. badmofo

    badmofo Member

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    Yes I've been playing a lot of PS1 lately, a great machine. I foolishly pawned my boxed original back in the mid naughties - I needed cash for a music festival ticket from memory. Yes the early 3D has aged but the controller is great and it's still an affodable unit. Lots of fun to be had.
     
  4. BuuBox

    BuuBox Member

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    Great memories. I wasted a lot of time on the Gran Turismo series (going for 100% completion) as well as the original Driver.

    I also sold mine when the PS2 came out, but hung on to a handful of games.

    A bit painful to play today graphics wise. Back in the day I was playing on a 51cm CRT after all.
     
  5. power

    power Member

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    I never did own a Playstation 1, was right into Saturn and then PC. One thing that strikes me about PS1 is just how many titles suffered extreme texture warping (beyond what you saw on most other platforms) and just how damn hard it is to collect for it now.

    huge amounts of garbage were purchased by the gaming public (sports, rhythm, all the casual shit etc) and most of the good titles are almost impossible to find and expensive to boot.

    I know not everyone is a fan but you guys should checkout some hidden gem PS1 vids with Metal Jesus and Reggie.



     
  6. OP
    OP
    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Still got my original PS1, bought and chipped in the same day.

    Some years ago we got our upstairs floors polished, and a whole bunch of varnish spilled down on my console. Now it's a total pain to either eject the CD, or put a CD in and keep the lid shut. At some point I'll do a case swap, but I was hoping to find a nice third party clear case to do that with.
     
  7. WuZMoT

    WuZMoT Member

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    probably my favorites after FF7:

     
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  8. OP
    OP
    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    The ultimate "Hidden Gems" guides belong to the original RacketBoy. He did this stuff in a pre-YouTube world, and rates right up there with the HG101 guys for retro excellence.

    These new-generation YouTubers are OK, but they're about as deep as a wading pool compared to RacketBoy and HG101. Stick to the folks who know their stuff, not folks who are all "OMG Bushido Blade and Ghost in the Shell", which were common as mud (and even get mentioned in "Defining Games" by others, which cements that fact even more).

    * http://www.racketboy.com/retro/best-undiscovered-playstation-ps1-psx

    * http://www.racketboy.com/retro/games-that-pushed-the-limits-of-the-sony-playstation-ps1

    * http://www.racketboy.com/retro/games-that-defined-the-history-of-the-playstation-ps1
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019
  9. OP
    OP
    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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  10. WuZMoT

    WuZMoT Member

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  11. power

    power Member

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    Vanne and WuZMoT like this.
  12. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    lols...
     
  13. Jumpingmanjim

    Jumpingmanjim Member

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    I've got a PSIO and the playstation is hooked up to a framemeister via RGB cable #heaven
     
  14. greencamel65

    greencamel65 Member

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    How do you find the game compatibility on the PSIO?
     
  15. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    It's in the psio site. Check Thier forums.
     
  16. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    Can you give us a review of the psio. Including how well it works/loading times/game successful working. And if you have any issues?
     
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  17. genxor

    genxor Member

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    I just got back into the original PS but found my laser didn't want to work. Not easy to find a genuine Sony replacement so fingers crossed this eBay one works when it decides to get here.

    Also need to rework my RGB cable which means waiting for resistors and LM1881 to arrive.
     
  18. badmofo

    badmofo Member

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    Ordered myself a PSIO yesterday, the order status is still sitting at 'Processing' and might for a while from what I understand. Sounds like a great thing though.
     
  19. Camm

    Camm Member

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    I've got a 5903 sitting here waiting to be recapped, modded, PSIO'd and csync'd.

    Need to find someone else to do the work as the arthritis means my soldering skills have gone to shit > <
     
  20. Thalyn

    Thalyn Member

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    On request, I'm going to add a bit of information here for emulating the PSX on PS2 hardware using the official, mostly-built-in emulator. It's a bit of a pain (IMO - hence the word count) to get it started, but the results do speak for themselves.

    The end result, should you be successful, is a PS2 which can load PSX games off non-optical media. This saves you from having to find your discs, saves wear on the PS2 and prevents the risk of damaging your original discs.

    What you'll need:
    - A PS2 with either soft- or hard-mod (I use FreeMCBoot)
    - An internal PS2 HDD, SMB share or USB drive (I've successfully used all bar the SMB)
    - POPStarter software (final version is r13 RIP 06)
    - CUE2POPS software (included with the quickstarter packs for POPStarter)
    - CD imaging software of choice (I used ImgBurn)

    Optional:
    - A recent Open PS2 Loader nightly build (I'm using 20681ff from January 4, 2019)
    - OPL Manager (I used v21.4)

    First thing first, I'll provide a couple of links which contain the information I used like to get going.

    ShaolinAssassin's pages regarding POPStarter: https://bitbucket.org/ShaolinAssassin/popstarter-documentation-stuff/wiki/Home
    PS2-Home's POPStarter tutorials: http://www.ps2-home.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=144

    I'm bound to miss something or use too many words, but between these it covers covers about 98% of what you'll need or want to know, plus links to almost all of the software you'll need. I say "almost" because it does require some files which contain Sony proprietary code, so neither I nor either of the pages linked to can provide it. You'll need to source these on your own.

    So let's begin.

    First things first, if you don't have a modded PS2 then this won't work. Stop now, save yourself the hassle of trying this and failing, and just play the games from the original discs. It works just fine.

    Now, if you do have a modded PS2, start out by grabbing a copy of POPStarter. ShaolinAssassin has been kind enough to provide "Quickstart" packs which include (almost) everything you'll need for your chosen method of storage, assuming you've already imaged your discs previously. NB His tools are for Windows-based systems - I have heard they work in WINE, but I've no idea when it comes to MacOS.

    https://bitbucket.org/ShaolinAssassin/popstarter-documentation-stuff/downloads/

    Your next step is to convert your existing CD images to the appropriate VCD format. The CUE2POPS tool provided in each of the Quickstart packs, or separately from the aforelinked page, is used to do this via the command line. Simply run the program from a command prompt using the name of the CUE file as the parameter, and it will spit out a VCD with the same name.

    eg: CUE2POPS.EXE "Crash Bandicoot (AU).cue"

    If you have a large number of images in the same directory a FOR loop can deal with them all in one go.

    eg: FOR %A IN (*.CUE) DO CUE2POPS "%A"

    Do keep in mind that POPStarter has a limit to the maximum filename length of 31 characters, including extension (and prefix where applicable). Anything longer than this will refuse to execute. Rename your files after the conversion for simplicity, since there's no CUE file to edit.

    Now comes time to sort out the directories. What these directories are will depend on your chosen storage method, but there are a few commonalities which make the setup easier:

    - A "VCD Directory"
    - A "Global Directory"
    - Multiple "Game Directories"

    The VCD Directory is pretty straight forward - this is where you will place all of your VCDs in order to execute them. The Global Directory is where any global settings are stored, including cheats and mods, but is also where the required Sony files are kept. Game Directories are generally stored within the Global Directory, with each game having a directory which corresponds to its VCD name (sans extension) where you store game-specific VMCs (Virtual Memory Cards), cheats, mods and other settings.

    NB All filenames involved are case sensitive, to the best of my knowledge. If something doesn't work check that you've got the right case!

    USB
    https://bitbucket.org/ShaolinAssassin/popstarter-documentation-stuff/wiki/quickstart-usb

    Directory summary:
    VCD Directory: mass:/POPS/
    Global Directory: mass:/POPS/
    Game Directory: mass:/POPS/<VCD Name>/

    If you're using USB storage, ensure your drive is formatted to FAT32. The PS2 cannot read other formats via USB (FAT12 and FAT16 probably work, but will be prohibitively small - especially the former). A UFD (USB Flash Drive) or harddrive can be used for this purpose. I've used a 32GB UFD for this just fine. The PS2 only features USB1.1 ports so ultra-high-speed drives aren't necessary, but it is still faster than the PSX's 2x CD-ROM drive so load times are good and videos run fine.

    You'll need to acquire the file "POPS_IOX.PAK". This has an MD5 of a625d0b3036823cdbf04a3c0e1648901.

    For USB drives, the VCD Directory and Global Directory are one and the same. You'll want to create a directory called "POPS" (mass:/POPS/). All of your VCDs, together with "POPS_IOX.PAK" are stored here.

    You now need to make a copy of POPSTARTER.ELF with the same name as each VCD you want to execute, and the prefix "XX.".

    eg: "XX.Crash Bandicoot (AU).ELF" belongs to "mass:/POPS/Crash Bandicoot (AU).VCD"

    This ELF seems to be able to go anywhere on the USB drive - I've used it successfully in the root directory (mass:/).

    This method should also work using a drive plugged into an ABitTop USB2 adapter, but I cannot verify that.

    Internal HDD
    https://bitbucket.org/ShaolinAssassin/popstarter-documentation-stuff/wiki/quickstart-hdd

    Directory summary:
    VCD Directory: hdd:/__.POPS/
    Global Directory: hdd:/__common/POPS/
    Game Directory: hdd:/__common/POPS/<VCD Name>/

    Using an internal PS2 HDD is possible, but awkward; or at least more-so than a USB drive. The drive must be formatted by the PS2 itself into its proprietary PFS format, which you'll already have if you've used HDLoader or OPL previously.

    You'll need to acquire the files "POPS.ELF" (MD5 355a892a8ce4e4a105469d4ef6f39a42) and "IOPRP252.IMG" (MD5 1db9c6020a2cd445a7bb176a1a3dd418).

    For an internal HDD, the VCD Directory is a separate partition called "__.POPS" (hdd:/__.POPS/ - two underscores and don't forget the period). You need to create this partition yourself using either a modified or recent version of uLaunchELF - older/unmodified versions will put a "+" at the start of new partitions which doesn't work. All of your VCD files then go in the root directory of this partition, so make sure you resize it from the default 128MB after creation.

    You can upload these files via network, using FTP and uLaunchELF. You can also do a transfer from a USB drive. My preferred method, however, as it's substantially faster than either, and infinitely more reliable than the FTP method, is to connect the drive to a PC and use "PFSShell". Just don't let Windows initialise or format the drive, otherwise you're in for pain trying to get the PS2 to format it again.

    The internal HDD Global Directory is called "POPS", and needs to be created within the existing "__common" partition (hdd:/__common/POPS/). Into this directory you want to place "POPS.ELF" and "IOPRP252.IMG". You also want to copy the "POPSTARTER.ELF" file into here with the same name as the VCD file.

    eg: "hdd:/__common/POPS/Crash Bandicoot (AU).ELF" belongs to "hdd:/__.POPS/Crash Bandicoot (AU).VCD"

    SMB (Samba share)
    https://bitbucket.org/ShaolinAssassin/popstarter-documentation-stuff/wiki/quickstart-smb

    Directory summary:
    VCD Directory: smb0:/<Share Name>/POPS/
    Global Directory: smb0:/<Share Name>/POPS/
    Game Directory: smb0:/<Share Name>/POPS/<VCD Name>/

    I cannot say I've used this method successfully, so I'm only including this as an indication that it is, or at least should be, possible. I believe it requires SMB 1, which is not installed by default under Windows 10. Ideally it should be the easiest to maintain, can be stored easily alongside PS2 images, plus it's compatible with both fat and thin PS2s, but you'll have to work out how to use it on your own.

    It requires the same "POPS_IOX.PAK" as USB mode, together with some file editing. Generally it's just a pain in the butt. As is the case with USB mode, both the VCD Directory and Global Directory are the same, once again being "POPS" (smb0:/<Share Name>/POPS/), and it seems another directory is required; likely on a memory card (though possibly on a USB drive).

    Launching the games
    Launching the games is then a case of running the correspondingly-named ELF file. If they don't already exist, POPStarter will automatically create the appropriate Game Directory and two empty VMCs. POPStarter will only load and save from and to these VMCs, so you'll need to transfer saves across manually if you have physical memory cards (uLaunchELF can mount VMC files to aid the transfer).

    MemCardRex can also be used to do save transfers PC-side if you've been playing with an emulator (such as EPSXE) previously. A USB drive is the easiest way to transfer the VMC files between the PS2 and your PC for such purposes.

    Using OPL to launch
    This is the method I use. You'll require one of the more recent daily builds of OPL (the 10th anniversary releases), but it does simplify the process of both uploading and executing the games somewhat. I recommend using this method in tandem with OPL Manager v21 or higher.

    The VCD files in this case need to be named with their Sony ID as a prefix, only with an underscore instead of a hyphen between the alpha and numeric portions, and a period after 3 digits. OPL Manager can automate this, reading the ID from within the disc image and applying the new name to the file (anything it can't figure out will be assigned an ID with the format FAKE_xxx.xx, which corresponds to the same ID that OPL will give it). While this prefix is 12 characters long, it does not contribute to the 31-character limit.

    eg: "Crash Bandicoot (AU).VCD" becomes "SCES_003.44.Crash Bandicoot (AU).VCD"

    You'll still need to create the same VCD Directory and Global Directory as before, with one minor caveat: if you're using an internal HDD to store your games, the Global Directory is now split in two - the default hdd:/__common/POPS/, which has the Sony files and Game Directories, and hdd:/+OPL/POPS/, which will have POPSTARTER.ELF and any global cheats, mods, etc. The same files go into the same places with one key difference: instead of creating multiple re-named copies of POPSTARTER.ELF, you instead need only one copy in the Global Directory.

    NB I have been having issues with global cheats applying when placed only in hdd:/+OPL/POPS/. Sometimes they seem to work, sometimes they don't. The quickest, easiest work-around I've found for 100% success is to simply put an identical CHEATS.TXT into both hdd:/+OPL/POPS/ and hdd:/__common/POPS/.

    Now just set your OPL to either manually or automatically show PS1 games, navigate to the right-most menu tab, and launch them as you would a PS2 game. If this right-most tab is "Apps" instead of "PS1" (or similar), you're using an older OPL instead of one of the newer daily builds required.

    Multi-disc games
    https://bitbucket.org/ShaolinAssassin/popstarter-documentation-stuff/wiki/multi-disc

    POPStarter does support the ability to switch discs while a game is running, but only if you've predetermined what discs will need to be switched to. It also doesn't allow for more than 4 discs per "set"; though I don't know of any games for which that would be insufficient. I suppose if you really wanted to you could associate unrelated games together in this way, but that would only really be useful for, say, changing the music being played or causing the game to crash.

    To use this, create a file called "DISCS.TXT" and place it in the Game Directories which correspond to each disc. This file will contain from 2 to 4 lines, and each line will point to a VCD file by full name.

    eg: "DISCS.TXT"
    Disc 1.VCD
    Disc 2.VCD
    Disc 3.VCD
    Disc 4.VCD

    If you don't put this in the Game Directory for every disc you will have to always launch from the disc which has the file so you can switch. Unfortunately, POPStarter is also not smart enough (perhaps because people use it for music?) to automatically group titles with this file into common VMCs, so you will likely want to do that as well.

    Following this, button combinations are used to manipulate the "drive". While holding down Select, L2 and R2 (sadly this appears to be a hard-coded combination), use the following:

    D-pad: Select disc as per the DISCS.TXT order (Up = 1, Right = 2, Down = 3, Left = 4)
    Triangle/Square: "Open"/"Close" the drive (some titles use these events to determine when to check for a new disc)

    NB According to the documentation this isn't 100% compatible. Final Fantasy IX and Grandia are mentioned specifically. "Combination VCDs", which effectively use over-sized VCD files that contain more than one disc's worth of data, may work instead, but I've not personally used these and they have a size limit of 2GB.

    Multi-disc memory cards
    https://bitbucket.org/ShaolinAssassin/popstarter-documentation-stuff/wiki/vmc

    I'm separating this from multi-disc games because there may be situations where you want more than one game on a single memory card. Maybe you like Psycho Mantis "reading your mind" to see that you also "like Castlevania", or a title can import data from other version/prequels. Maybe you're just stuck that badly for drive space and can't afford the extra few kilobytes for an extra VMC.

    It is, of course, also useful (almost essential) for titles which span more than one disc.

    To use this, create a file called "VMCDIR.TXT" and place it in the Game Directories which correspond to each disc. This file contains a single line which specifies the directory name which will be used for the VMC files that disc will use, and does not have to correspond to an existing directory or VCD file.

    You can also place this in the Global Directory to force every game to use the same cards. But do keep in mind this won't allow you to bypass the 15-slot limit per card, so doing so would effectively limit you to two 15-slot memory cards for everything.

    Troubleshooting

    Windows refuses to format my drive to FAT32
    Newer versions of Windows have a software limitation which prevents the default tools from formatting large drives to FAT32, citing that they're "too large". While the format itself is capable of supporting drives up to 2TB (approximately 3,000 full-size CD images), somewhere between 32GB and 1TB (or possibly on non-flash drives in general) Windows simply starts refusing to do anything other than exFAT or NTFS.

    3rd party tools are required to bypass this limitation. An older version of the CLI Format may also work but I can't verify this. Other operating systems should also be able to format the drive without issue.

    Blank screen
    If you launch any game and, like me, find that you get the Sony logos and then a blank screen, you'll likely need to activate a "cheat" to get it to work. The issue is that not every modern digital TV likes being told to run in low resolution modes (eg 240p), nor do some devices like the PS2HDMI adapter (which I use).

    Games that run in high resolution, like Tobal, can still be run without this. You just won't get anything which uses lower resolutions, like FMVs.

    Create a file called "CHEATS.TXT" which contains just one line, reading "$HDTVFIX" (without the quotation marks). This file then goes into the Global Directory to apply it to everything, since just about everything is going to need it (and so far I've found no incompatibilities; though I have read some analogue TVs don't like it).

    Internal harddrive won't stay formatted
    If you initialise your PS2's harddrive on a PC using a tool like WinHIIP, it's possible that the PS2 won't believe it's formatted. So it will try to format it, claim it's successful, but when you try to use it again it will ask you to format it again. And again. And so on.

    To get it to hold a format, hook it up to a PC (any kind should do), partition and format it to something native to the PC instead. I used NTFS on MBR for this purpose, but FAT32 should work, as should HFS+ or EXT3, etc. Then re-install it in the PS2 and re-format it once more. It should take this time. I don't know why this helps (it shouldn't) but it does.

    NB I have now also seen a harddrive become "unformatted". I couldn't even begin to imagine what caused this, though I suspect it may have been related to the SATA conversion kit I applied to my official network adapter. HDD recovery tools were still able to find the NTFS details so this may have been a culprit.

    This time I re-initialised by partitioning to exFAT on GPT and, between that and modifying the EMI shield on the network adapter to no longer put pressure on the SATA mod's crystal, I have yet to see a repeat. YMMV.


    Game starts to load, crashes out almost immediately
    This one is easy: the filename is too long. The VCD filename cannot be any longer than 31 characters, including extension. Shorten it and it should work fine.

    It's also possible you've got a bad image, but it's worth checking the filename first since that's quick and easy to remedy.

    Game loads for a while before dropping out (typically to uLaunchELF)
    Similar to the above, this is likely to be either a naming convention issue or a bad image. The first thing to check is whether the VCD's extension (.VCD) is in upper case or not. Lower case will still attempt to launch but won't work.

    Game loads, displays, and runs, but doesn't work properly
    Unfortunately, POPStarter isn't 100% compatible. I don't know whether this is the program itself or the PS2 (I suspect the former). It does include some compatibility features to attempt to correct things, but it's limited in scope so you may still need original hardware.

    Lists of compatibility flags and games can be found at the following locations, but may or may not be complete and/or valid:
    https://bitbucket.org/ShaolinAssassin/popstarter-documentation-stuff/wiki/compatibility
    http://www.ps2-home.com/forum/page/popstarter-compatibility-list-1

    ---

    If someone wants to re-word all this to be clearer or more concise, be my guest. My brain doesn't work like it used to so I wouldn't be at all surprised if parts of this weren't as understandable as they should be.

    *ed: Added disc swapping controls. They're in the link, but it's easier if I include them here.
    *ed2: Rewrite in progress. I'm not happy with this and I think I can get it to make more sense.
    *ed3: Rewrite done. Might be better, might be worse. I feel it's better, but...
    *ed4: Small correction in OPL instructions for internal HDD.
    *ed5: A few additions and corrections.
    *ed6: Added compatibility lists.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2019
    Vanne, genxor, Grant and 2 others like this.

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