should be backed up. There, this lesson is over. What, you want
to know why a prototype should be backed up? Are you sure? Things
can get a little frightening. If you really want to press the
issue, read on. As a warning to people with heart conditions and
women who are pregnant, you may wish to skip ahead to the next
section. For everyone else, don't say I never warned you.
you will, this scenario: After years of dedicated searching, you
finally have a complete collection of NES games at your disposal
to play. Well, that's not so scary, is it? It's an NES player's
dream come true! Now imagine one day you decide to sit down to
enjoy the fruits of your labor. You choose a favorite game and
turn the system on.
comes up on the screen.
You take the
game out, blow on it a little, and then try again.
but the vast darkness staring back at you (or the vast blueness
if you're using a top loader).
You give up
and go on to another game. This time, a screen does appear, but
the graphics are so blocky and glitched that it's impossible to
tell what's going on. You push a button and suddenly the game
You try a
third game and a fourth and a fifth, and the sun is going down
now, while the piles of unplayable carts are mounting up on the
floor. As the night lurks on, the realization of having wasted
thousands on games that no longer work drives you to madness and
you begin tracing on the walls with your bottle of Nintendo game
cleaner: ALL BLOW AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY. Lightening
flashes from outside of the bedroom window, illuminating your
You go out
and kill a man that night. In the morning, the police are at the
door knocking because your name and phone number are written in
black marker on the murder weapon: a non-working Hydlide
it not? Fortunately for you (and that man you would have killed),
this scenario is implausible. With enough cleaning and care, your
regular game collection will always be safe for you to play.
though! Prototypes are a different story. With a prototype collection,
this nightmare could very well become a reality because of one
thing. One terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing.
I joke by
telling you this exploitative, fear mongering story, but bit
rot is real and something to certainly be concerned
about. In the first lesson you learned about EPROM windows that,
when exposed to UV light, will gradually erase the data stored
inside. Placing a sticker over these windows and keeping prototypes
in a cool environment will help to keep the data safe, but no
amount of care will prevent the inevitable: Even the most protected
EPROM will experience bit rot.
into the highly technical explanations of memory cells and transistors
and other things a guy with an English Master's degree will never
understand, just know that data is transferred onto EPROMs via
electrons where they are kept until, over time, they leak out,
carrying the data with them. EPROMs are said to have a guaranteed
minimum of ten years life. That's a given. The survival rate after
that can range from another ten to fifteen years and even longer.
The problem is you'll never know until bit rot occurs. There are
no warning signs.
backing up, or dumping, comes
in and saves the day. You'll sleep well at night knowing that
bit rot won't rot your prototypes after dumping them.
you say, "I don't have to back up my prototype because I
couldn't find any differences during my many playthroughs of the
game. It's probably the same as the final retail, so it's not
worth the trouble of dumping."
You shut your
damn mouth right now! I mean, I'm sorry. I would have to politely
disagree with you there. Even if you thoroughly play a prototype
to death (pun intended), from beginning to end, and can't find
any changes, there still might be differences that the naked eye
can't see, like unused graphics or hidden game code.
I played my Three Stooges prototype more than any human
being should ever play that game, and I could not for the life
of me find any single change from the released version. One dump
later, and I find out that the prototype has a subtle tweak in
gameplay that would have been near impossible to spot during a
playthrough. This just goes to show to always consider the possibility
of there being differences until proven otherwise. Don't wind
up with banana cream pie all over your face like Curly! You won't
know if there's something unique to your copy until you dump it.
you say, "but I think my prototype has already been dumped
before. I downloaded this prototype ROM online, and it plays just
like the prototype I own."
take for granted that a ROM of your prototype has already been
dumped because you've seen one floating around on the Internet.
Don't go by available ROMs or misleading cartridge labels alone
to determine if your prototype is dumped or not. Unless you know
the entire history of your prototype by contacting the previous
owners, or the person who dumped the game, you will never know
for sure if your prototype is the same.
The best way
of truly confirming if it is the same or not is by first dumping
and then putting it through GoodNES (which will be demonstrated
in the next lesson). Until you can do that, consider your prototype
undumped, not backed up, and at risk.
Do not worry.
There are many honest and knowledgeable people who would be more
than willing to help you back up your prototype.