OmniFAQ 1.2

Buy This Item This guide was created and edited by Scott Langlais. It was written by Scott Langlais and Chris Larson, with contributions from Brian Mastrobuono. Chris Larson gave it the slick HTML panache. It is not to be distributed or reproduced elsewhere in any form. Stage Select is the only site legally allowed to post this document.

This is version 1.2, December 18, 2003. The major framework is in place, but more questions will be added in the future and existing answers will be expanded upon. Also, it's in no particular order currently.

The purpose of the OmniFAQ is to serve as a general reference to videogame collectors and players. We've tried to cover many of the questions that are asked over and over again on the message boards and news groups. Questions about individual games, codes, walkthoughs, and the like are outside of the scope of this project.

Questions by Topic:

1. History

2. Definitions / Technical Info

3. Collecting

4. Troubleshooting

* What do NTSC/PAL/SECAM refer to? (back to top)
-These terms describe the most common video broadcast standards around the world. For the gamer's purposes, it is necessary to note that games are typically found in either NTSC or PAL format. These games can only be played properly on a television AND game console that utilizes the same broadcast standard (i.e. you need an NTSC television and NTSC Master System console to play an NTSC Master System game).

NTSC is an acronym for National Television System Committee standard. This is the format used in America as well as in much of Asia, including Japan.

PAL stands for Phase Alternating Line. It is the format used in most of Europe. This standard uses a wider channel bandwidth than NTSC, thus delivering a better picture.

SECAM stands for Sequential Couleur Avec Memoire (Sequential Colour with Memory) and is used in France primarily, but also in some Eastern Bloc countries. SECAM and PAL are similar, though not identical. A SECAM broadcast on PAL equipment (or vice versa) will usually work properly except it will be in black and white.

* What is a prototype? (back to top)
-A prototype is an early version of game software or hardware which is not intended for commercial release. Some prototype games contain incomplete or differing programs from those that are eventually released. Prototypes are used by developers for testing purposes and some are sent to reviewers. Because they are not commercially available, they are very rare and are greedily sought after by collectors, particularly those prototypes that differ in a significant way from their released versions (ie. Extra levels, different music, etc).

* What is a beta? (back to top)
-A beta is an early version of a game program. This is typically the stage of a game’s development where play testing and debugging occur. Some prototypes contain beta programs, but betas do not necessarily make it onto actual physical media.

*What does it mean when software has "gone gold?" (back to top)
-Software that has "gone gold" has completed the testing and QA process, and is being shipped to production facilities.

*How can I clean my carts? (back to top)
-A cart cleaning kit is the most popular way, however isopropyl alcohol can also be used. The best method is to open the cart (if possible) and clean both sides of the contacts with a white eraser. Extremely stubborn carts, that refuse to work despite any other cleaning attempts, can sometimes be brought back to life with the gentle application of some fine grit sandpaper. Using a gentle circular motion, rub some 600--300 grit sandpaper over the contacts. Follow these with a swabbing of alcohol to remove any residue. Continue swabbing until the Q-Tip comes away clean. This method is recommended only as a last resort. It's just as easy to permanently ruin a cart with this method by rubbing too hard as it to clean it properly. But if it comes down to sandpaper or the trashcan, it's worth a shot. I've used these methods successfully many times in the past.

*How can I clean my discs? (back to top)
-Using a clean soft cloth and some lens cleaner (for glasses), you can clean compact discs or DVDs. Use a wiping motion from the inside of the disc out in a straight line. Cleaning a disc in a circular motion can lead to track damage - you're far less likely to damage the disc using a straight wipe.

I have also used toothpaste, believe it or not, to polish out small scratches on cds. Use an EXTREMELY small amount on a clean, lint free cloth and wipe from the inside of the disc out in a straight line. Yes, it really works.

Devices such as the Spin Doctor will get your scratched cds playable again, though they do leave an extremely noticeable and undesirable pattern etched into the back of the disc. While this may not be a bad way to go if you just want to get an old disc to play again, most of the collecting communtity would severely frown upon "Spin Doctored" discs being traded/resold without notifying the buyer of their history.

Some used game or music stores will professionally resurface a cd for a small fee. If the amateur methods don't work, this may be the only way to go.

*What is better: RGB/component video/S-Video/etc (for gaming)? (back to top)
-In order of preference, based on picture quality and compatibility:
***1. Component Video
Features: Separate Red, Blue, and Luminance signals
***2. VGA
Features: Separate Red, Green, Blue, VSync, HSync
***3. RGB (common connector is called SCART in Europe/Japan)
Features: Separate Red, Green, Blue, Composite Sync
***4. S-Video
Features: Separate luminance, Chrominance, ground wires for each
***5. Composite Video
Features: All signals carried by a single line, sound separate
***6. RF Modulation
Features: All signals, including sound, carried in a single line

Generally speaking, the more you separate color channels, the better the clarity and definition you'll get from your game system. Likewise, it's important to choose the connector that will work with your television - this guide assumes that you're a North American.

NOTE 1: It's important to note that sound also plays a role in which connector you choose (for new systems). 5.1 Surround Sound and above must be carried by a separate digital sound "wire" - sometimes built into the system (as is the case with the PS2), and sometimes built into the connector (XBox). Older systems don't support surround sound, so it's not that much of a concern.

NOTE 2: There is a "mystery connector" not listed above: DVI (and if you want to get REALLY technical, HDMI, or high bandwidth digital video). Digital Video Inputs --should-- be the best quality video possible, but as of this writing, it's irrelevant: no video game systems support DVI, and very few televisions support DVI (in fact, only a limited amount of computer monitors support DVI).

As for the "known" video signals:

***1. Component video allows for enhanced resolutions through HDTV sets, and high picture fidelity. Generally, this will produce the best possible picture for the latest game systems. With Component Video, you can display games in HDTV resolutions. There are some notes, though:

  1. Component Video INPUT is not available on older TVs, and component video OUTPUT is not available on older video game systems. Talking about component video may be a moot point for you and your situation.
  2. You can only take advantage of the higher resolution picture with a HDTV set, even though some standard TVs ship with the component input.
  3. There are a --few-- occasions where VGA might give you a better picture. The XBox and Dreamcast specifically, but there are other requirements to bear in mind for VGA signals.
  4. You can convert a VGA signal to a HDTV component signal. It'll cost you about $200 to do so, though.

***2. VGA is theoretically a FANTASTIC connection to use for gaming, since the color signals are separate and the picture isn't interlaced.

However, VGA is a computer signal - hence, it follows that to display VGA, you need a computer monitor. Recently, there HAVE been some special TV/HDTVs made that will take a VGA signal, such as a RCA brand rear-projection HDTV, or many varieties of plasma and LCD TV/HDTVs. However, modes of display could be quite limited (say, to 640x480) - check your TV manual to find out more. ALSO NOTE: You CAN convert VGA to the more common Component Video. It's expensive, but pretty.

Another downer is that most game systems don't support VGA natively. Typically, the picture will come from an "adapter" - this adapter takes a good analog signal and "up converts" it to the VGA signal. This means that it's not a "true" VGA signal, and hence, quality is affected. There are two notable exceptions to this sad fact:

  1. Through the use of a special XBox-only VGA adapter, you can get HDTV resolutions on a computer monitor, in native VGA format. It may be the best possible format for your setup.
  2. The Dreamcast can output native VGA signals, making its VGA adapter second to none, and makes VGA the best way to play a Dreamcast.

***3. RGB video is the gaming world's greatest tragedy. Where most game systems support RGB output (with composite Sync), very few televisions or EVEN computer monitors in North America support RGB input. Our game systems have a wonderful, color separated signal... that virtually no one can use. There are conversion kits that will take RGB and convert it to VGA - however, the most common way for gamers to use RGB signals is to buy an old Commodore Amiga monitor. The advent of HDTV has meant that more connector options are coming out - the most promising being a converter from RGB to Component Video. Basically, the picture quality of an RGB signal is on par with that of Component, or dare I say, VGA (REALLY good), and if you're lucky enough to have a European SCART TV, you can get the best picture possible out of your game system. If I get a chance to play with a RGB to VGA or a RGB to Component Video, I'll try to supplement this FAQ with more information about cost, and results.

***4. S-Video separates the Black and White signal from the Color signal (luma and chroma), and hence provides a good picture. The connector is a small, usually black, circle with 4 wires and a plastic square in it, and these cables usually have 2 sound wires, red and white. On a standard TV, S-Video is -almost- on par with Component Video. However, if you have a REALLY good TV, like a HDTV, there's no way you want to be using S-Video, unless it is your best option, given the game system you're dealing with. That said, S-Video wins in several areas:

  1. Most of the systems in the past 10 years (if not more) have S-Video adapters.
  2. Most TVs produced in the past 10-15 years have S-Video inputs.
  3. S-Video "switchboxes" are cheap - so you can easily connect multiple systems to one input on your TV. S-Video is about as good as it gets for many people's system / TV combinations. This will change in the next 4-5 years, as HDTV becomes more of a household standard.

***5. Composite video is the generic adapter of choice. This is the standard "yellow/red/white" wire set that comes with most systems. If you have a really old TV, or if you are connecting your system through a VCR (for whatever reason), or don't want to spend a dime, you'll probably only have the choice of composite video or RF video. The picture isn't terrible, but it's a FAR cry from S-Video, and makes VGA or Component Video look like a distant dream.

***6. RF Modulation. You know you're using RF Modulation if your game system connects to a box that screws into the TV, and you have to turn to channel 3 or 4. The picture is bad. The sound is bad. The connector probably is one of those "push on" types that you have to jiggle to get a signal at all - heck, you might even see it falling off the TV occasionally. There is simply no reason for a modern OR retro gamer to tolerate this connector style. There are better adapters for virtually every system made - try to find one.

* What do the terms NIB/CIB/OOP/etc refer to? (back to top)
-These are terms you’ll frequently find used in online auction and sales listings.
NIB=New In Box
CIB=Complete In Box
OOP=Out of Print

*Is it legal to own ROMs? (back to top)
-Maybe. Some ROMs have been released to the public domain. The original GCE Vectrex ROMs fall into this category. It is legal to own and trade them, but they are not to be sold for profit. Many home brewers also allow (and encourage) distribution of their ROMs.

Popular Internet lore has always suggested that it is legal to have a ROM on your computer as long as you owned the original (i.e. an original game cart, or arcade PCB). This idea is still under question however, and many websites that used to host large amounts of ROMs have succumbed to legal threats from original manufacturers and removed the files from their sites.

Another site has recently appeared in which you can purchase legal copies of ROMs for a small price. The site's owners have gotten the rights to these games from the original manufacturers so it is perfectly legal to buy and own them.

* What is emulation? (back to top)
-An emulator is a computer program that mimics the processor of a game console. Using an emulator one can play Atari 2600 games on a PC for instance. Emulators are a great help to the homebrew scene as they allow programmers to test their games out without needing to actually burn the data to an EEPROM. Emulators exist for practically every console (and arcade hardware) at this point.

The emulator itself is only half of the equation however. You also need the data from the original games themselves, which are stored in ROMs. The legality of owning ROMs is still hotly contested and is at best a legal gray area. Some ROMs have been released into the public domain, but most are still owned by the original copyright holders.

* What games/power supplies/controllers interchange between systems? (back to top)
-Without modification or adapters:

  • Atari 2600 games will play in an Atari 7800. There are a few games that will not work, such as Robot Tank and possibly some Tigervision titles.
  • All GameBoy games are backwards-compatible with games released for its prior iterations (i.e. GameBoy Color will play original GameBoy games, GBA will play all prior GameBoy/GameBoy Color games (with some exceptions).
  • Playstation games will work on a Playstation 2
  • Genesis games work on a Sega Nomad.

-With modification or adapters:

  • Famicom carts will play in a standard NES console with the use of a 60-to-72 pin adapter.
  • GameBoy games will play on a SNES with the used of the Super GameBoy adapter.
  • GameBoy games will play on a GameCube with the use of the GameBoy Player peripheral.
  • SMS games (carts, not cards) will play on a Game Gear with the use of a Master Gear converter.
  • SMS games will play on a Genesis with the use of a Power Base Converter.
  • Atari 2600 games will play on a Colecovision with the use of Expansion Module #1.
  • The Tristar 64(?) adapter allows the use of NES games and SNES games on an N64 console.
  • Genesis controllers work on the Atari 2600 and the Atari 7800. Genesis controllers also work on the Master System. It's my assumption that SMS controllers also work on the 2600 and 7800.

*How can I tell if I have a real prototype? (back to top)
-There may not be any 100% foolproof method to determine the legitimacy of a alleged prototype, but there are some things to keep in mind that will decrease your chances of buying a fake. Most of this stuff is common sense:

  1. If the ROM has not already been dumped, chances are better that it is a real prototype.
  2. Research the seller as much as possible. Check their Ebay feedback and see what kinds of items they typically deal in. Someone who regularly deals in rare or unreleased game software/hardware is going to be more likely to know a real proto than a guy selling baseball cards.
  3. If the person selling the proto is a former programmer or employee of the company that created the game, odds are good that it is legit.
  4. EPROMs are often found in prototype carts, but be aware that some officially released games also have EPROMs inside (such as NES carts manufactured by Color Dreams or Panesian).
  5. The cart’s outer plastic case may be cut away to show the EPROMs inside, but this is not always the case.
  6. Use a little common sense. If the board came from a common game and has an obviously hand-soldered EPROM in place of the original ROM chip and looks otherwise “home made,” than proceed with caution.

*What is an EEPROM? (back to top)
-Electronic Eraseable Programmable Read Only Memory

-It’s erased by shining high intensity UV light throught he Quartz Window at the top. There are non-ceramic variations made of plastic with no window on them as well, usually with ‘P’ as part of the part number (for plastic). Because they have no window to erase them (obviously they can only be programmed once). Part numbers for EPROMs are usually 27xxx where the number XXX when divided by 8 then multiplied by 1000 gives you the capacity of the device. 2764 for example holds 8k of data. 25xxx is also common in Atari 2600 protos and old arcade games.

*Will EEPROMS last forever? (back to top)
- 10-15 years half-life is probably a safe estimate for EEPROMs, but in reality they can last much longer than that (just like batteries in some game carts).

*Is there a way to prevent “blinking” on the NES? Other systems? (back to top)
-There are a few common steps you can take. The easiest solution is to get a top-loading NES. They are extremely reliable, having a redesigned pin system, however, they lack AV output (RF only) and the video quality is noticeably inferior to the standard “toaster” NES deck, displaying vertical lines in the picture.
-The second method you can try is to remove the 72-pin connector and gently bend the pins to create a tighter connection. Some people swear by this method; it didn’t work for me. It’s free to try it though, so it’s often the first line of attack.
-The third method is to replace the 72-pin connector altogether. They can be purchased for about $7 at the time of this writing and installation takes about 15 minutes. There have been recent findings suggesting that the 72-pin connectors manufactured by MCM Electronics do not give a good connection. In my experience, changing the connector made my NES work on the first try 99 times out of 100. Others still report problems. One important aspect of the cart-console connection that is often overlooked is the contacts within the game carts themselves. These should be kept clean at all times. Likewise, anytime you remove the 72-pin connector, it would be a good idea to clean the contacts on the NES motherboard.

* How do I get the best picture from the older consoles which used the RF modulator? (back to top)
-You don't need to use that TV/Video switchbox at all. You can either buy a straight cable from an aftermarket manufacturer (with RCA jack on one end and coaxial on the other) or run the original system cable with an F-type adapter (RCA-to-coaxial). These adapters are about $3 at Radio Shack and will improve the picture quality vastly.

* How can I play Japanese games on my American systems without modifying the system? Which systems support this? (back to top)
-Here's a list:

  • American, European and Japanese Vectrex all use the same carts. Since the monitor is an integral part of the console itself, the typical NTSC/PAL debate is avoided altogether.
  • Japanese Famicom games can be played on a US NTSC NES with the use of a 60-to-72 pin converter.
  • The XBand modem allows Japanese SNES games on an American SNES.
  • There is a difficult to find type of adapter that will let you play PC Engine HuCards on the American Turbo Grafx. It goes by several names/styles - Kisado being one type.
  • The first generation Genesis does not have ANY lockouts, although the shape of the cart is different, so popping the cover may be "necessary" to play imports. It's difficult to tell the difference between the first and second Genesis model - the model being referred to here is 1601.
  • Virtual Boy has no lock out. Jaguar has no lock out. Turbo CD has no lockout.

* How do I know if a game is a "pirate" game? (back to top)
-Most are fairly obvious. They usually do not look the same as an official, licensed release. They may have different artwork, be retitled, are come in a different style cart case. There are often spelling errors (the majority of pirate/bootleg carts originate overseas). Copyright information is often altered, or absent altogether. Common sense will be your most useful tool here. Your best bet is probably to find a list of official releases from a source you trust (such as Stage Select, etc) and see if the suspected game is listed. Then compare the information listed (pictures, manufacturer, date of release) and see if they match up.

*Are "pirate" games worth anything? Are they collectible? (back to top)
-Typically, the collector’s official stance is that pirate/bootleg games have no real monetary value. In actual practice however, there will always be someone willing to buy them if the price is right. While a multicart of hacked common titles may not merit much attention, a pirate release of a game that was never officially released for the system, or a translated foreign game, can be quite desirable to the right party.

* Is a repaired system still collectible? Does its worth drop? (back to top)
-It would depend on the type of repair. I doubt most repairs would even be detectable by most people and thus would have little bearing on their collectibility/resale value. Obvious or poorly done repairs will definitely turn buyers off (like replacing an Atari 2600's difficulty switch with a wood screw).

Modding hardware can affect value more. Painting the case of a Vectrex might be seen as detracting from its value, while modifying a US Dreamcast to play import games could enhance it.

* Does playing my old / older systems reduce their collectibility or value? (back to top)
-Most collectors buy used hardware. From that standpoint, no, I don't think playing the older systems will decrease their value. A collector is almost certainly going to treat his hardware with more respect than the average consumer. If your hardware is still factory sealed, then opening it to play would definitely reduce its resale/trade value however..

* Can I leave my old systems plugged in? Will this increase the likelihood of them breaking? (back to top)
-Yes, you can, and yes it will. The MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) for older systems approaches infinity, if the system is taken care of. In my case, I have several systems that have been plugged in for years with no discernable negative effects. However, if you don't plan on playing your systems for some time, it will reduce wear on components (like the power supply and associated internals) to unplug them. It will also be your best protection from irregularities in your power lines, like lightning or brown outs. Use "common sense" - if you play a system once a week or less, unplug it when you're done.

* Is a game with a partial / torn manual better than no manual at all? (back to top)
-From a collectibility standpoint, a torn manual’s value may be negligible in all but the rarest cases. However, to someone who just wants to know how to play the game, even a trashed manual can be an excellent resource.

*Is it better to have one system with converters for other systems, or all the older systems? (back to top)
-This is strictly personal preference for the most part. Almost every adapter or backwards-compatible system has at least one game that will not work properly (or at all) on it, so if that is a concern to you, you will want to keep the original systems. Others feel the space gained in their entertainment center by consolidating their systems. will more than make up for the 2 or 3 games that they won’t be able to play.

* What are the rarest/most expensive games for any system? (back to top)
-There are several prototypes of which only one is known to exist. As far as actual production numbers go, the Nintendo World Championship 1990 gold cart would have to be the rarest. Only 26 were produced by Nintendo to be distributed via a contest held in Nintendo Power magazine. This cart also is typically regarded as one of the most expensive cart amongst collectors, with at least one copy reputed to have traded hands for around $6500. As far as games that were actually SOLD, the Europeon version Ultimate 11 (Super Sidekicks 4) for the Neo Geo is said to have had only around 100 carts produced. The European test cartridge of Kizuna Encounter (NeoGeo) is reputed to have sold for 9,000 Euros (around $11,000 USD at the time of this writing) the last time one popped up for sale. It was never released officially and only three copies are said to exist.

* What is the best-selling game/console of all time? (back to top)
-While companies don't release many "total game sales" statistics, and usually twist console sales statistics, it's apparent that either the PlayStation or the NES rank as the best selling console, and Super Mario Brothers / Duck Hunt is probably the best selling game (given it's close association with the sale of the NES). I welcome any hard numbers that might disprove or help to clarify this further.

* What was the first video game? (back to top)
-Tennis for Two is commonly considered the first video game.

* What was the first home video game system? (back to top)
-The Magnavox Odyssey, released in 1972.

* What was the first handheld game system? (back to top)
-The Milton Bradley Microvision, which first debuted in 1982.

* What is the difference between vector and raster graphics? (back to top)
-Vector graphics are graphics consisting solely of lines. Asteroids is one popular vector game, and the Vectrex is a system that displays nothing but vector graphics. For "true" vector games, a special monitor is used to display the games. Raster graphics are made up of tiny squares, called pixels. This is the type of graphics we're most familiar with.

*Are posters and / or other game schwag worth anything? (back to top)
-Yes. Just about everything is “worth” something if you can find someone who wants it.

*Goodwill / Salvation Army; just for bums? (back to top)
-Unless you have a huge bank balance, you’d better become familiar with your local thrift/junk stores and flea markets. They are typically the prime source for finding vintage gaming hardware and games. Their stock changes daily so you are advised to check back often.

*Garage Sales; just for grannies? (back to top)
-Like thrift stores, garage sales can be a gold mine for finding gaming stuff of all kinds. The key is to get there as early as possible. You might want to check the paper for yard sales the night before and map out a route of local sales so that you can search them out efficiently.

* Do I need to store games that have battery storage in static bags? (back to top)
-No, this was never a manufacturer's intention.

* Do I need to store EEPROMS in static bags? (back to top)
-It's wise to store all chips in static free environments

* How do I replace a game's battery? (back to top)
-Battery for Sega Saturn Consoles, Dreamcast VMUs, Sony Pocketstations, NES Games, and SNES Game replacements: CR2032

*How do I open games? (back to top)
-Nintendo , Turbografx-16 , Turboduo , Gamecube , NES , SNES , Dreamcast , and Gameboy cartridges: 3.8mm security bit
-Genesis carts, misc hardware: 4.5mm security bit
-Triwing Screwdriver for Nintendo GameCube Controllers, Gameboy SP and Gameboy Advance Systems and Games

Copyright 2003,2004 by Scott Langlais and Chris Larson

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