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Recently, I've been searching far and wide to collect, in digital form, the exact games that I owned as a child, or had temporarily, or rented/borrowed/played at somebody else's house, or never really got to play but stared at magazines screenshots of for hours upon hours and always dreamed of one day being able to get my hands on. Since I have no money or even the ability to buy things from auction sites and physically get them shipped here, there is no chance of me collecting the actual cartridges/floppies/discs/machines.

We're talking NES, SNES, N64, Game Boy, Saturn, PlayStation, Tiger Electronics, PC (DOS + Windows), Amiga, Mac, arcade, Mega Drive/Genesis, GBC, GBA, Atari XEGS, Master System...

I've looked through numerous ROM archives, and individually hosted ROMs/disk images. My conclusion is that they are very bad.

Frequently, there is only an NTSC version of a game available even though a PAL one was released, or there's only a v1.1 version available (not v1.0), or the other way around, or it's a "dirty" ROM which is not a clean representation of the physical cartridge, but contains "extra data" and potentially modifications.

Oftentimes, games I know exist are just missing entirely from the collection.

Note that I'm not saying anything about the difficulties of actually running these, which is a whole different topic. I'm just trying to "prepare" for the day when I will find a way to properly run these games with some kind of future, unified emulator or hardware device which plays anything correctly. This question is solely concerned with the low quality of all existing "ROM sets" or collections of games.

I very much realize that this is a thankless and massive undertaking for an individual to sit and do for "ungrateful" people like me to complain about, and they of course can never make any money from it, since it's very illegal to make these available, which also puts them in serious danger of getting personally sued and having to pay money to Nintendo or others. I get it. I realize all of this, but still can't help but get annoyed that still, in 2020, there aren't 100% verified and vetted ROM archives with every single game for a specific console, with clean, unmodified ROMs/images, named consistently, not leaving out any version, and complete not just for NTSC region but also PAL, etc.

I've spent so much time now on this, and yet I'm sitting here with ROMs that don't seem to hash-match what appears to be verified hashes, and they aren't consistently named, and not all from the same source (since each set always misses various games), or, especially for arcade and PC games, it's highly doubtful that they are the "real" dumps and not some kind of modified or broken version.

If they are able to host all these archives on "Internet Archive", as they are, and have spent so much time compiling the collections, why not go the extra, final mile to actually make them complete and not include "dirty" (modified/incorrectly captured) ROMs?

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    If you think the world needs such a collection, and if you*re not happy with the ones that exist, why don't you simply create it yourself? I can very well understand your annoyance when the internet doesn't give you the freebies you'd like. – tofro Oct 7 '20 at 8:08
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    So you know this is illegal, and you still ask why nobody has done it so it can make your life as a pirate easier? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Oct 7 '20 at 8:15
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    Another socket puppet for questions to rant and ask for opinions, supporting a pattern of entitlement? – Raffzahn Oct 7 '20 at 8:37
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    @Raffzahn I'd actually argue that this question is a good one. There are expressions of frustration, but it doesn't read as that entitled to me, and – most importantly – it's fuel for an excellent answer. – wizzwizz4 Oct 9 '20 at 20:37
  • @wizzwizz4 Well, I don't now what fit's more the definition of entitlement than complaining why others haven't done the work that one wants to get served for free. Frustration IS opinion. Further the exzellent part of the answer (which I see as well as such), is pointing out exactly the shortfalls of the question and why it isn't a good one in any book. – Raffzahn Oct 9 '20 at 20:39
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You've answered your own question:

  • this is a thankless and massive undertaking
  • they of course can never make any money from it
  • it's very illegal to make these available, which also puts them in serious danger of getting personally sued and having to pay money to Nintendo or others (this depends on the reader's jurisdiction, but it's a safe assumption)

I'd add:

  • It requires knowledge of and access to every game either in the hands of one person with the suitable equipment to make the images and record all the necessary meta-information (mappers, board revision, expansion chip revision), or co-operation between multiple people who have agreed precisely on a format and methodology over a long period of time. If any two people disagree, now you've got two collections with conflicting headers and layouts just as you've observed.

It's like asking 'Why is MobyGames incomplete?' or 'Why is Wikipedia incomplete?'

Knowledge of every game might sound like a strange requirement, but new games are sometimes discovered that were thought to never have existed. Cooly Skunk is a PS1 platform game, but there was a precursor of the same name available through the Satellaview on the SNES as a limited demo. It was only this year that a BS-X unit was discovered that held the Cooly Skunk SNES image that could be dumped, but it was later found that the entire game was present, just not accessible. Prior to 2020, Cooly Skunk might as well have never existed.

The fact that you've discovered unsatisfactory and incomplete databases is proof people are working on the problem despite all the above. They just haven't finished.

You might also be interested in Byuu's project to make a perfect dump of every SNES game for the purposes of hashing, and the intense frustration and great amount of personal expense and effort involved for all the participants - A shipment of games worth thousands of dollars was shipped and then lost for months, and was only recovered after media exposure and constant queries.

This led to my most ambitious goal yet: to buy every single SNES game ever released in every region. A task that to this date has set me back by over $30,000 of my own money.

I successfully completed the ~725-game North American collection, scanning and documenting every single game and revision for it.

I was then able to fund much of the Japanese game collection through the rather famous eBay auction where I sold off my complete North American SNES collection. That was fun.

Thus I successfully purchased the ~1,450-game Japanese collection, which is to this date still a work in progress, with the most expensive 100 titles already completed, and the rest in queue.

And thanks to kind folks lending me their European games, I’ve completed around ~300 of the ~550 cartridges for this region as well.

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There was a very unfortunate incident in late-2016 where a package containing 100 PAL games valued at around $10,000 was lost in the mail due to damage during shipping. After several agonizing months of waiting and trying everything possible to escalate the case privately, I had no choice but to take the matter to the public.

It generated far more press than even I had anticipated, which successfully caught the eye of a manager at the USPS Consumer Affairs department. His team helped locate the missing package in the Atlanta Recovery Center, where it was slated to be auctioned off as undeliverable mail in the near future.

Thankfully, the games were recovered. I was able to preserve all of them, and then return the games successfully to their original owner.

We learned a valuable lesson, and I no longer accept any donations unless they are 100% fully insured. I also have a strict limit of 50 games at one time so as to further minimize any potential losses.

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