The Frustration Of A Quiet eBay

I’ve generally been buying my arcade / JAMMA games through eBay for a number of years but, recently, there seems to have been a very dry period for anything interesting.  It’s all still out there being listed BUT it’s all coming on as Buy It Now and for a price that’s probably close to double what the item would fetch if placed up for auction or even it’s probable forum sale value (probably a 1/3rd more on average?).

I get why people do this.  They have an item and a perceived value and want to get that value for or they are running a business and are charging premium retail pricing (often without the premium product).  However it seems to have had a sideeffect in that no one is putting items up for genuine auction any more as the same items appear in BIN format all the time (i.e. perceived as nothing selling) discouraging sellers.  It can’t be that, compared to 18 months ago, every game ever on all systems has suddenly become super rare?

The only exception to this seems to be vanilla JAMMA boards. There are still loads of them flying around.  I just with the market for MVS / STV / F3 / Naomi etc was a little more interesting at the moment.

I guess I’ll keep looking…

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Novus is Amazing (Removing Plastic Bezel Scratches)

When I got the Blast City cab there was an annoyingly large scrape mark on the top left of the monitor bezel.  Annoying but not exactly detrimental to the performance of the cab, so I lived with it.

However, it has always bugged me and  I do want to restore the cab to full glory as much as possible.  I just didn’t know how to fix THIS issue.  I was reading a Pinball forum one day and people were talking about a product called Novus.  A three stage  “Plastic restorer” product that is, supposedly, awesome.  I figured I’d give it a go as no one reported major issues using it.  The results (shown below) are amazing. I could even get the final marks out with a bit more time but this is the result of a little work (and a lot of elbow grease).

NOVUS

Before Application and after

This is after a short 30 minute application of the products in the order they specify:

3: Abrasive heavy scratch remover.
2: Medium light scratch remover.
1: Polisher and shine solution.

As you can see, there are still a few scratches that show up under camera flash but it’s way, way better than before and  this was my first time using it.  Brilliant product. recommended to anyone with plastic issues!

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Changing The Backup Battery ON Neo Geo MVS (1 Slot)

I recently picked up this Neo Geo MV1FZ single slot board off eBay for a reasonable price (So many seem to be up there for £65+ and anything on an auction has a problem). simply because I have one working MVS board already but it’s got it’s original battery and MVS board batteries have a nasty habit of leaking and destroying the PCB leading to the dreaded “Calendar Error” message that I’ve had happen to a board of mine before.

It came, it was a little dusty but it worked. Nice.  Now, my soldering skills are a bit suspect and I killed the last thing I tried to fix so this board was bought as an insurance policy in case I messed up again.

MV1-FZ

MV1-FZ

Taking off the cover of an MVS board is dead easy.  4 screws (3 in this case) and the plastic lifts off to reveal the PCB.  Again. it’s a little dusty but actually in pretty good shape for a old PCB.

A Bit Dusty but pretty good!

A Bit Dusty but pretty good!

Usually around the backup battery RAM area (where the battery lives) there is fur from where the acid has leaked from the button cell.  Amazingly this wasn’t the case on this board!  Looking at this and my existing MVS I think this one is actually in better shape so I thought I’d change the battery on this one and make it my main board.

Old battery area

Old battery area

The batteries on MVS boards look like Lithium Button Cell batteries but these are rechargeable.  I have heard of people removing the originals and then cutting the recharge circuit to enable the replacement with a regular 3V battery that doesn’t recharge.  I’m more of a purist so I don’t like to hack off bits of an original board for no reason and I do like to keep things as close to functional as possible.

With that in mind I found this little beauty! It’s made by Panasonic, has a sealant around the edge for safety and, crucially the legs are exactly the same distance apart as the holes on the motherboard so it’s a drop in replacement.  Overall it’s a little smaller in size but I believe the capacity is roughly equivalent to the old, original battery.

The only place I found them is RS components. This is the link to the product. At this time they are a a reasonable £3.07 each.  Cheap for another 20 years of battery backup on your MVS.

In case you wan to search elsewhere or that link breaks the  description is “Panasonic 3V, VL2020 Lithium Vanadium Pentoxide Rechargeable Coin Cell Battery, PCB Pin Terminal, 20mAh”

New Rechargable Lithium Battery

New Rechargable Lithium Battery

To remove the existing cell from the PCB we must first deal with one of my most hated things….  STICKY BACK FOAM PADS!  these things are horrible to remove as foam rips and gets stuck to the board.  This time I’m going to be really, really careful.

Sticky Foam

Sticky Foam

And, even after 5 careful minutes of pulling, I still didn’t manage a clean job.  However, the old battery terminals are now visible and clean enough that I can get to the  solder points.  I’m holding the pad back with Sellotape and I think there’s enough stick left to get the pad back down again once finished.

Taped Back Foam

Taped Back Foam

To remove the battery is pretty simple.  Take the soldering iron that’s warmed up and melt the solder on the two joints shown (one at a time).  Have one hand on the battery so that when the solder melts you can pull the battery leg through the PCB.  Doing this one at a time should make the job easy.  Once the battery is out you can clean up the left over solder with solder wick or similar.

img_0945

I didn’t take any pics of actually removing the old cell as I was concentrating too much on not breaking anything this time. However, above is with the old battery and below is with the new one.   Attaching the new battery is as simple as placing the feet through the PCB and then soldering down.  It’s a fairly big solder joint so is pretty easy to do.   As you can see, the solder joint closest to the board edge is a bit poor but I’m happy enough with the other one.

I hate this stuff

Flipping the board over this is what the new battery looks like in place.  Nice and secure and, if it turns on, ready for another few years of operation whilst being as close to stock as possible.

The new battery in place

The new battery in place

Connecting the board up and turning it on reveals success!  Games boot and settings can be changed.  I left the system running for 20 minutes as the recharge rate on these batterys is really slow.  turning it on later I still have my single high score and settings backed up.

Working after the surgery

Working after the surgery

I’m pretty sure this is my first 100% successful solder job. Even the foam pad whent back down again.

Protective foam pad

Protective foam pad

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Troubleshooting Crashing / Noisy Naomi 2 Motherboard

I recently bought a new NAOMI 2 motherboard to replace the one I currently have that only plays Naomi 1 games (I dropped it and one of the GPUs de-socketed itself).  This board was sold as working and, well, it kinda is…  It has two main issues:

1. It sounds horrendous! Whiny, rattly and grindy at the same time. Horrible to even have switched on. Check out the video below to see / hear what I mean.


2. It keeps freezing after an unspecified period of time in a game.  Complete lock up.  Instantly is fine when reset.  Obviously makes it all a bit useless for actually playing games on.

Naomi 2 Fan Replace (2)So, having cleaned one of these before and noticed the difference I thought I’d do the same here and see if I can work out why it is constantly crashing along the way.  My guess is that it’s clogged up to the heat-sinks with a decade of dust!  First things first, flip the board over and remove the 8 recessed screws holding the plastic case in place.

SCREW

Unscrewing the Board

Below is a pic of the boars as I opened it up.  Surprisingly it was really rather clean inside which actually worries me as I was expecting a big gain from a quick clean

CASE OFF

Full shot of the motherboard with the case off

Whilst I had the cover off I can check out the BIOS to see which version I have.  It’s a EPR-23608B revision which is, apparently, and ‘ Export’ BIOS which supports both the GD ROM and cab linking.  If you have a BIOS and want to know it’s features Sega-Naomi.com have the full list.

BIOS

Bios for the NAOMI board

So, in order to see why it’s so noisy I turned on the system with the covers off and the case fan on it’s side.  The video below shows that I pretty instantly got lucky with two of the noises!

1. The whining and some of the rattling is caused by the case fan.  With it  outside of the case it runs nice and quiet without any trouble (it’s loud ish by default).
2. The grinding and rattling is caused by one of the GPU fans.  It’s really on it’s way out!  Sounds horrid and really isn’t performing well.

Luckily I know the fan for this GPU on my half broken NAOMI 2 board works so I can quickly unscrew the dead fan and replace it with one from the other system. I believe that when the half broken system boots and doesn’t see the second GPU it just turns itself into a NAOMI 1 system.  It seems to run fine with only one fan covering the one working GPU.

FANN02

Unscrewing the GPU fan on a Sega NAOMI 2 Motherboard

Shown below is my sanity test with the new(ish) fan on the GPU and the case fan on its side.  The system is much, MUCH quieter now and it no longer crashes mid game so I think that was down to the faulty fan on the GPU causing a fault or flip out.

N2CF

The Case Fan Off and spinning quietly.

Putting the case fan back in its slot and powering on the system proved another thing.  The sound from the slot in case fan is not damped at all.  In fact, the speed of this fan causes the mount to vibrate on the upper and lower parts of the plastic housing causing a horrible noise.  Granted, it’s much quieter than the GPU fan but still not much fun.  I decided to try out a slightly bodgy solution to prove the point.  White tack!  In theory this should provide a cushion between the fan mount and the case reducing the vibrations and, thereforem the noise.

CFC

Temp Fix for the noisy case fan

It did!  Well, it did for a time.  The fan still vibrates quite forcefully so the effectivness of the tack actually went from “very good” to “meh” in the space of half an hour.  The video below hilights the difference between the board when I first got it and the board now.  Much more playable in the living room but still needs some work to get the vibration gone for good.  I’ll add another post when I work out a solution. Currently i’m thinking thin foam strips or silicone. Silicone is easier but a little more perminant. Foam could be a job to fit and fix but can easily be taken out to return the board to stock.

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Game Pickup – Tekken 3 (Namco System 12) [Video at end of post]

Picking up Tekken 3 in the UK isn’t as simple as it is in the USA.  There are many listings on eBay from the USA but the postage is almost as much as you’re paying for the game and that sucks.  Luckily there are forums out there and I stumbled upon someone selling a minty condition Tekken 3 board for a reasonable price.  So I got it!

System Board

Tekken 3 – System 12 JAMMA / JVS

I bought it as I saw that it was JAMMA compatible and thought it would be plug and play.  I’ve always been a Virtual Fighter man and never really played Tekken much in the arcades the first time around. Now is the time to fix that! Namco system 12 boards are, indeed, JAMMA but they are strict JAMMA (Unlike MVS).  So, upon hooking it up, the game boots as expected but with only the punch buttons working.

Tekken, it seems, uses buttons 1 and 2 for punch and buttons 4 and 5 for Kick. Although I have button 4 working in MVS games via JAMMA that’s not the case here (should have thought about that really).

JAMMA

JAMMA and EXT connectors

The connector on the left is the standard 56-pin JAMMA connector supporting 2 players and 3 buttons each.  The additional buttons are connected via the 48-pin Namco specific connector on the right. I don’t have one of these connectors.  Luckily System 12 is both JAMMA and JVS compatible and the JVS connectors are on the other edge so i shouldn’t need to get this additional wire harness.

JVS Side

JVS connector side with Dual Audio and VGA (15Khz) out

Here we have the JAMMA Audio amp and volume control wheel (far left) followed by USB JVS I/O, two Audio outputs via RCA, two D-SUB connectors for Video out and then the JVS Power connector. Slightly odd here is that there are two audio and video outputs (which both output at 15Khz ONLY, there is no 31Khz output on this board).  I remember seeing BIG instillation of other Namco System 12 games back in 1995 that had the second outputs wired to really massive video screens and sound system for onlookers to watch (those were the days).  I guess now they are more useful for doing video and sound capture and streaming (a nice plus).  This, I thought, meant I could use the Sega JVS – JAMMA I/O converter to get buttons 4 and 5 working in the Blast City.

Sega JVS IO Rev B

JVS-JAMMA I/O (Rev.B) Sega SP5001-B

This takes the USB and video output from the JVA interface and converts the I/O to the JAMMA standard. When used with My NAOMI 2 this actually allows for full 640×480 31Khz output via the JAMMA connector and the standard (non D-SUB) monitor connector in the cab.  As the output from system 12 is 15Khz only I am hoping it still works.  The board is powered via the JAMMA interface so, essentially, the game and the I/O board are powered separately. Connecting everything up is a bit of an untidy cable mess but it serves its purpose.

System 12

System 12 connected via JVS / JAMMA

Video and USB I/O go to the I/O adapter board, the sound is routed via the main loom in the cab (it’s Sega’s -001 loom that has the ability to switch between line level (JVS) and amped (JAMMA) audio inputs via switching an inline connector).  Power is also supplied via this loom via separate JVS headers.

Happily this all works perfectly with all 6 buttons being recognized via the  I/O board and the game looks and plays great.  There’s an option in the service menu to switch between interlaced and no interlaced video 0utput. I need to play around with that to see what works best…

Until then, here’s a quick video of it all running from boot up, through the full attract sequence and demo fights and, finally, on to the Intro movie (which was way shorter than I remember it being).  NOTE: The artifacting on the screen is the camera being odd (and constantly adjusting focus)

I think I still prefer Virtua Fighter though…

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eBay and the Wave of “BIN” Only Listings

Well, summer has been amazing so far. The sun is out and there’s nothing better than a bit of BBQ weather. Consequently, the Blast City hasn’t really had a lot of work put in to it or play time. All I’ve managed to achieve is my goal of getting a legit, non over priced, copy of Puzzle Bobble for the MVS.

eBay seems, at the moment, to be full of MVS carts but hardly any of them are in auction format. Most seem to be listed with Buy It Now pricing that can’t be considered anything other than “high” or with auctions that start above what I’d think the cart is worth.

This brings be to Puzzle Bobble. It’s a fantastic game but there are a billion carts out there and most of them are bootleg. It’s one of the cheaper MVS games and for most of 2013 you7 could pick one up for under a tenner. No guarantee of a legit one but, you got the game. Recently BIN carts of this game are all listed at £19.99 and Auctions for the cart are all starting at £14.99. This is WITHOUT postage included and some of them are obvious boots! I know the price of MVS carts is going up as more people have the means to collect and play them but this is silly there are loads of PB carts out there!

Anyway, I finally found one that was an auction listing (but ending at a silly time at night) and got it for £10.50 + reasonable postage (seriously, it does NOT cost £6 to post an MVS cart in the UK. 90% of sellers take note!). The best thing about this find (apart from finally having the game)? It turned out to be a legit cart.

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The Original Control Panel Rescue (Part 1)

So, when I got the Blast City, the control panel it came with was “OK”.  Quite dirty but overall fine from the outside.  However, when it came to fully populating the CP with 6 buttons (instead of 4) and switching the colours over to the original type. It became clear it really wasn’t OK at all…

hmmm

Doesn’t look TO bad from here…

See, this looks OK.  Its got a lot of dirt and it’s well used (scratched). The problem is it’s not dirt. It’s rust and the scratches are really quite bad with a lot of the surface worn off from years of service (kinda to be expected given its age).  The camera flash below shows the extent of the issue quite well.

CP LEft

Filthy and Rusty

So, now to turn it over and see what it’s like behind.  Can’t be THAT bad can it?

Rust Riught

This… Isn’t good….

Yeah, it can.  This is an original Sega Panel so two things stand out. 1. I’m not totally sure it should be painted at all. 2. That’s really quite a large amount of rust!  It’s even in the edges.

I have already got a new repro panel in the cab at the moment for germ free gaming (which looks great). But you just cant get the official ones any more (with the Sega Logo on them, front and center) so I feel like this is worth trying to save  from the bin or, at least, try to make it less shitty than it is.

I have a plan.  I want to save this panel. and I think it’s mostly doable.  The back should be simple enough.

  1. Scrub off the glue residue from the cable tie pads that should have been holding the CP cables to the panel (they dried out years ago by the look of it).
  2. Remove the white paint and see if this really is original (should have a “Sega HOTxxx” part No. if it is).  Probably going to use a sander for this with course grain to start and then fine to remove any scratches etc before polishing it out.
  3. Get rid of the rust.  This, I fear is going to take a long time as it’s everywhere. The back should be OK but the button holes and the CP edges are precision stuff and it looks like the rust is really deep.  Dremmel time perhaps?
  4. Get the front overlay looking better.  Clean first with something non abrasive and then try and see what I can do to remove the scratches.  It’s never gonna be mint but it can be better than it is now.  Perhaps Novus plastic cleaner and mild scratch remover?

Only time will tell….  Fingers crossed

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