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Useful Notes / PlayStation 2

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The original "Fat" SCPH-3000X PS2 & SCPH-7000X "Slimline" PS2.
"Live In Your World. Play In Ours."
Original PlayStation 2 marketing slogan.
The second generation of Sony's PlayStation console, and Sony's entry in The Sixth Generation of Console Video Games, which continued Sony's lead as the top console maker. Instead of the ordinary gray color scheme and top-loading CD drive of the original, the PS2 featured a sleek black body, a front-loading disc tray, an optional vertical stand, and a much more substantial cooling system.
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It also made use of the emerging DVD format, which was still in its infancy (having only launched, at most, four years before the PS2).note  These factors, coupled with backward compatibility (the games, controllers, and memory cards released for the original PlayStation could be used with the new system, since its IO processor was an original PlayStation on a chip) and a relatively-low pricetag (cheaper than most dedicated DVD players released at the time, in fact), made the PS2 an extremely attractive system for both players and developers (the system was actually the hardest of its generation to develop for, but offset that by also being the most commercially enticing platform). What certainly didn't hurt was that it was the most powerful gaming console on Earth at the time of its release (or at least the most powerful gaming console people cared about; the Nintendo GameCube, released a year later, was more powerful than the PS2 but set back by its use of a lower-capacity storage format) and one of the first to truly compete with the processing power of PCs, which helped to generate a ton of excitement on its own, especially for those too young or too technophobic to understand the significance of the DVD format and just cared about gaming. The machine had the highest consumer anticipation in the history of video games at the time — its mere announcement two whole years before release was one of the causes of the Sega Dreamcast's death (and by proxy, the end of Sega's console business) in its infancy.

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The PS2 was powered by a proprietary processor known as the Emotion Engine. While impressive and complex for its time period, it caused a lot of headaches due to the system's non-standard hardware setup and lack of documentation. Several developers would vocally lambaste Sony over the PS2's hardware design, though they learned to live with the issues due to the console's clear market lead making it difficult to ignore. This lack of foresight on Sony's part would end up heralding the problems that most developers had with the PlayStation 3 and its Cell processor.

Of particular note was Squaresoft's continued presence in Sony's lineup. Since the days of the original PlayStation, Square had devoted itself to the CD-ROM format, and the PS2's new DVD-ROM capabilities proved even more versatile. While they would end up reconciling with Nintendo during the PS2's lifetime and return to releasing games on Nintendo systems, Square's most prolific titles would stay with Sony. Many of the PS2's best-sellers were Square games, with Final Fantasy X in particular being an early Killer App.

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The system proved popular among consumers. In fact, the only substantial lasting complaints about the console itself appeared to be the apparent "noisiness" of the large cooling fan, which would later be corrected during a re-release featuring a redesigned, much slimmer PlayStation 2 console. The disc drives of early runs of the console also became infamous for technical issues which lead to "Disc Read Errors" caused by the laser assembly falling out of alignment easily due to the absence of a safety mechanism, and that prompted a class-action lawsuit. The first attempt by Sony to fix this issue in the final "Phat" and "Slim" revisions resulted in a bug in the MechaCon controller that would result in the system freezing and the laser burning itself out completely or even completely frying the controller chip with badly scratched discs or poorly burnt home discs. Ironically, these models were the first to support home made DVDs. Later hardware revisions would, again, prove to be considerably more reliable (although the ghost of "bum drives" would continue to linger throughout the console's run).

The most important part of the system was its longevity — there were still games being made for it well into the PlayStation 3's life, and after a great deal of thought Sony decided to continue making the system (now available in white). This was due to the combination of its incredibly high install base and the ease of porting PlayStation Portable and Wii games to and from the console, and in Japan both systems were doing better than the PS2's own successor and the Xbox 360.

The early 2010s marked the death of the PS2, with only seven games released in North America in 2011 and three in 2012. The only American-released games during the 2010s with enough reviews to make it on Metacritic were Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The final title released for the PS2 was FIFA 14 in September 2013, three months after the PlayStation 4's announcement. Around this time, Sony decided to market a Bravia TV with a PS2 installed in the base; it was only released in Europe, however. Additionally, the final servers for the PS2 note  weren't shut down until March 31st, 2016, 16 years after the system's release!

As with many consoles some years after original release, there exists a spirited community of modders and hackers who have written various pieces of homebrew software for the console, including a handful that exploit the untapped potential of the Expansion Bay to allow installing games onto a compatible hard drive of capacities up to and including 2TB. This can significantly decrease loading times and is especially useful on older consoles which have aging DVD drives that skip or don't function at all. The most popular and compatible is Open PS2 Loader, which supersedes the first effort HD Loader. In addition, some titles can be forced into HD resolutions (720p and 1080i) using GS Mode Selector, which can drastically improve the visuals on certain games such as OutRun 2006, Fight Night Round 3, Bully and God of War. In summer 2020 a new exploit was discovered in the console's DVD Player to allow homebrew or backups to run off a burnt DVD much like the aforementioned Sega Dreamcast. In early 2021 a new exploit known as MechaPwn was released which allows you to convert the last PS2 "Phat" revision and all PS2 "Slim" models into region free consoles without needing to go through the arduous process of installing a mod chip to the system.

The abbreviation PS2 should never be confused with IBM's attempted successor to the IBM PC, the PS/2 (note the slash), or the mini-DIN keyboard/mouse interface it popularized; nor with Phantasy Star II.

Late in the system's life, it got a pink colored version in some regions.

The end of the line for the PS2's lifespan finally came on January 2, 2013, when production and distribution of the console ceased in Japan. Sony announced on January 4th, 2013, that production had stopped worldwide, making it the fourth-longest lasting console of all time (the third being the Atari 2600, the second being the Neo Geo, and the first being the Famicom) in terms of its production timeframenote .

As of August 31, 2018, official repair and support services have ended for the console. Which means that anyone who wants to repair it will need to go to a third-party repair shop, though with how cheap the PS2 is on the second-hand market it's probably cheaper to just replace it.

In some fun trivia, the PS2 is the best-selling video game system of all time with around 155 million units sold, topping the previous holder which was its predecessor. The amount sold was enough to beat its competitors combined a little over three times.


Specifications:

Processors

  • The "Emotion Engine", clocked at 294.912 MHz is an amalgam of other processors.
    • The main processor is based on the 64-bit MIPS R5900 CPU.
    • Two Vector Units called VP0 and VP1.
      • VP0 was meant to assist the CPU with tasks that vector calculations. This could either run small programs sent by the CPU or run a single instruction at a time.
      • VP1 is a more advanced version of the VP0, capable of handling complicated math. In the processing pipeline, it sat between VP0 and the GPU, so if VP0 wasn't being utilized, VP1 couldn't be used. Also because of this, it had to be pre-programmed before being used.
    • Lastly, there was another CPU dedicated to handling data transfers called the DMA Controller or DMAC.
      • Part of what made the console hard to program was the processor was heavily reliant on the DMAC feeding the CPU and two VPUs. In addition, the developer had a lot of control over the VPUs and Sony's initial libraries didn't offer any help to developers on how to use them. Curiously, this has a lot of similarity with how the Cell Processor in the PlayStation3 operates.
    • The main CPU, VP0, and VP1 have 128-bit Single-Instruction, Multiple Data (SIMD) instructions. However, these don't work on 128-bit values, but either 4 32-bit values, 8 16-bit values, or 16 8-bit values. For a while, Sony misadvertised the console as having a 128 bit CPU to give themselves a lead in the console-bit-wars as the common thought at the time was "higher bit count equals more realistic graphics," and to counter Sega, who also (inaccurately) advertised the competing Sega Dreamcast console as 128-bit.
  • The "Graphics Synthesizer," clocked at 147 MHz.
  • Two audio processors, SPU1 and SPU2.
  • A MIPS R3000A (the main CPU of the original PlayStation) as the I/O processor.
    • The MIPS R3000A CPU would be replaced completely in the SCPH-7500X and SCPH-9000X revisions with a custom PowerPC 401 based chip known as "Deckard" which would emulate the IOP and make the PlayStation backwards compatibility completely software based at the cost of a much reduced compatibility rate of both PlayStation games AND PlayStation 2 games due to how games abused the IOP outside of Sony's guidelines.
Memory
  • 32 MB main Random Access Memory, and 4 MB Video RAM, with a maximum bandwidth of 3.2 GB/s. This is one of the points where the PS2 faltered, as it used more expensive Rambus DRAM, and ended up with half the RAM, and half the bandwidth on it, of the Xbox's SDRAM.
  • 2 MB for sound memory.
  • 2 MB I/O memory.
  • 8 MB memory cards. Other sizes are available, including up to 256 MB, though officially the maximum sizes available are 8 MB for those made by Sony themselves and 32 MB for licensed ones.
  • 40 GB IDE Hard Drive (optional and requires the Network Adapter)
  • Games either came on 700 MB CD-ROMs (which have blue backs) or 4.7 GB DVD-ROMs (which have silver backs). Also produced were 8.5 GB Dual-Layer DVD-ROMs (which have gold backs). PlayStation format CD-ROMs (which have black backs) were also supported for the most part. The advent of the DVD format mostly eliminated the need for multi-disc games, but very few titles still came on multiple discs (though in most cases, the second disc contained bonus features).
    • The optical drive is rated for 24x read speeds, a drastic improvement from the PS1's 2x speed CD drive. However, only CD games were actually read at this rate. DVD games were read at 4x speed, which sounds bad until you realize that DVDs can have much more data read off of them at the same RPM of CDs, and in fact DVDs have a read bandwidth of 5.28MB/s at 4x speed compared to CDs' 3.6MB/s at 24x speed.
      • PS1 CDs were still read at 2x speeds, but this can be doubled to 4x speeds by pressing Triangle on the BIOS and setting the disc speed under "PlayStation Driver" to "Fast". However this causes issues with some games, so it always defaults back to "Standard" when the console is reset.

Graphics

  • Both the VPUs and the Graphics Synthesizer work to generate the graphics. The VPUs handle geometry processing (where the 3D models are and how they are shaped) where the Graphcis Synthesizer generated the pixels.
  • Theoretical polygon count is around 75,000,000 polygons per second. In real-time games, the count would be around 15-20 million per second, which is 500-650,000 polygons per frame at 30 fps and 250-325,000 at 60 fps.
  • The GPU could output resolutions up to 1280x1024 pixels. However, Gran Turismo 4 and Tourist Trophy note  were capable of 1080i output by essentially rendering half of each frame and then combining them together to create a 640x1080 image at 30fps.
    • Recent homebrew hacks have enabled the output to even produce 720p with seemingly little, if any, performance loss.
  • Sony effectively took the opposite approach to Sega with regard to GPU design, as the Graphics Synthesiser excelled at generating lots and lots of polygons very quickly (even being competitive with the much more advanced GPU in the Xbox in that regard), but had no anti-aliasing support and delivered absolutely horrible performance when any level of texture filtering was involved. As a result, the console's games generally looked very similar to those on its two main competitors (it helped that most developers designed their games with the PS2 in mind and didn't bother to upgrade them for the other two systems), albeit with a noticeably more "jagged" look and slightly blurrier textures.

Add-ons and Expansions

  • DualShock 2: The controller used in the console's entire lifespan, it is nearly identical to the original DualShock in almost every way, except it's black and all four face buttons and the shoulder buttons are pressure sensitive.
  • Multitap: Just like its direct predecessor, the console only came with two controller ports by default, necessitating the need for this accessory to allow for more than two controllers. Frustratingly, the original multitap built for the fat models is not compatible with PS1 games, meaning one would need two different multitaps if they wanted to play with 3+ players across both generations. The multitap built for the slim model is compatible with both, but the two variations of the multitap are not compatible with each other's counterpart version of the console. On a side note, the PS2 is something of an odd card out for being the only console in the generation to not have four controller ports as the standard. Also similarly to its predecessor, the lack of such in addition to its weaker specs meant it was a less popular option for four player support, as even some multiplatform games of the generation (such as Star Wars: Battlefront) would forego 4 player support on the PS2 version while including it on the others.
  • On the front were two USB 1.1 ports and one IEEE 1394 port (dubbed i.LINK, though commonly known as FireWire).
    • The USB ports were used by special controllers like Namco's GunCon 2 and the EyeToy digital camera as well as specific printers for games that supported them.
    • The IEEE 1394 port was used as A link-cable. Notably used for Time Crisis 2 and Time Crisis 3 to allow two player mode without split screen. This port was removed in the final revision of the "Phat" model (SCPH-5000x) and completely absent on the "Slim"; the port was replaced with an integrated IR receiver for the DVD remote on these models.
  • The "Phat" models had a 3.5" IDE hard drive upgrade with Ethernet (early North American networking/HDD adapters also had a dial-up modem included). With some modding, any 3.5" IDE hard drive could be used. A adapter also exists to convert the IDE interface into SATA for modern HDD's up to 2TB in size. While some games could be installed onto the hard drive, the only game to really need it was Final Fantasy XI.
    • The very first "Slim" revision (SCPH-7000X) still has a full Network Adapter on the motherboard and with some extensive hardware modifications can restore hard drive support to the console for certain games and homebrew.
    • A version of Linux based on Red Hat was released early in the PS2's lifecycle, mainly for enthusiasts. The kit required a hard drive, USB keyboard (with a USB mouse optional if running in the command line interface, and required if using the graphical shell), and a "sync-on-green" VGA monitor for higher resolutions.
    • The "Slim" models still retained an Ethernet port for games that could use them. Early "Slim" models in North America also had a dial-up modem, but as dial-up became less prevalent and increasingly more ill-suited for gaming, it was dropped in later revisions.
  • Most PS1 accessories (with some exceptions, like the serial cable) were also compatible with the PS2, but many of these accessories only worked on PS1 games. Most PS1 controllers will also work with the PS2 and vice-versa, but the memory cards are not cross-compatiblenote 

Games/Series:

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Tropes associated with the PlayStation 2:

  • Early Installment Weirdness: Many early titles were still printed on CD-ROMs instead of the then-newly released DVD-ROM format, but as games continued to grow in size, the DVD-ROM format soon became the format of choice for most developers.
  • Evolving Credits: Notice all those crazy blue tower-block things whenever you turn on a PS2 with a memory card inserted? Those actually measure how much you have saved on your card, and increase in number. Each block represents a save file, and the block can be rather long if you've played the game for a long time.
  • Not the Intended Use:
    • According to memes, anyway. Since barely anyone used the HDD tray for its actual purpose (as there was only one game on the system that needed a hard drive, and said game was also available on PC and probably better off played there), it's grown to be almost universally known as "the weed compartment". Needless to say, this was not an officially sanctioned use of the machine...
    • The hard drive itself also was frequently subject to this. Since only a small handful of games even supported it at all, and the enhancements minor at best in most cases, it gained a lot more traction when people figured out how to use it for installing homebrew and storing backup copies of games. This might have had a hand in why Sony dropped it entirely on the slim model.
  • Product Facelift: The redesigned slim model, SCPH-70000 series, significantly shrank the size of the system and included a built-in ethernet port instead of needing an addon, at the cost of omitting the rarely-used hard drive expansion option.
  • Truncated Theme Tune: When playing a PlayStation 1 game on the system, it omits the first part of the logo animation (with the Sony Computer Entertainment logo), and skips to the PlayStation logo. This is because the first part of the logo animation is how the PS1 checks to see if the console BIOS boots up properly; because this check is already performed at the PS2 startup screen, doing it a second time is unnecessary.

 
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That's what backups are for!

During his review of Kuon, Nitrorad's disk suddenly gave out within minutes of starting the game. He then whips out a backup copy and discusses how playing legitimately nowadays is shelling out more than a thousand dollars for a disk that he just showed would most likely fail to play in a decade or so. This gives a good lesson on why people keep circulating the tapes.

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