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Growlanser Save Game Freeze / Playstation Clock Not Saving Time
#1
Greetings,

Bear with me as this will be a tad long and it might even be completely wrong, but here are my observations on this issue...

Recently I've been playing Growlanser II Sense of Justice. If anyone has played it with the PCSX2 then they have undoubtedly run into the issue of the game freezing.

While the majority of the freezing involved in this game has been fixed there is still an issue where the game will freeze when you attempt to save your game using the in-game save system.

Whenever this occurs you are left with no choice except to load a previously successfully saved game and hope for better luck on your next save attempt.

If you use save states and whatever causes the save freeze to "trigger" was set off to occur on your next save attempt... well the save state kindly saves that as well and now that save state when loaded will always result in the save freeze occurring.

I tried looking around for a possible solution or workaround, but to no avail. I've tried just about everything from settings, to plugins, to gamefixes, etc.

I have had some remarkable luck so far in finding ways to cope with the issue and get past particularly annoying sections of freezing, but I'll save that for a section at the very end of this post.


The reason I'm posting here is that I noticed something odd, which is quite possibly just coincidence, but it seems to occur regularly when the game is in the "will freeze on next save attempt" state.

When you save your game it seems to be using the Playstation 2's internal clock to put a timestamp on the save file. This is unlike most other games I've seen which tend to use their own timer which tracks how long it has been since you started playing the game.

The majority of the time when playing my save games have the correct date shown, although the time is always way off.

One interesting thing I've noticed though is that so long as my save file is showing the correct date the in-game save system tends to work without a hitch. So long as I see the date showing I can play for hours and save countless times without incident.

However, when the save freezing creeps in I've noticed my save games show everything in their time / date stamp as being 0. So literally the game save shows as being (0/0/0000 - 00:00).

Initially, I though that this was occurring because attempting to save and having it freeze would somehow error out the time stamp on that save slot.

After a bunch of playing and observing though I've noticed that this doesn't seem to be the case. I'm somewhat starting to think it may be linked to the cause of the issue in some way.

I've noticed that the zeroed out timestamp occurs even when the game saves just fine without a freeze. However, when you see this you're in for a hair tearing session of save game freezes in your immediate future.

In an effort to further test my theory that the timestamp was somehow linked to the save freezing issue I set PCSX2 to load without a disc in and changed my playstation 2 clock.

Unfortunately, I ran into another issue when I did this, specifically, the issue being that the time does not save properly.

I can change the date and that will save. I can also toggle between a 12-hour and 24-hour clock. All of these will be the same when I run PCSX2 again without a disc and check the clock settings. Except of course for the time itself... which always seems to be set to exactly the same time every single time I load up the systems settings to change it.


So in short... my post here is to ask these questions...

Is it possible that the Growlanser save game freeze could be linked to the fact that it uses the playstation 2's clock which doesn't save properly?

Why doesn't the playstation 2 clock save the time even though it saves the date? Is this a glitch or oversight or some such? Is it possible that somewhere the time is being set to a certain time at every launch and therefore overwriting any changes that are made to the clock?

Is there a way to change and actually save the clock setting? Even something like editing a file would suffice.

Where is the playstation clock information being saved / stored?

Is there a setting or something that I can use to have PCSX2 show me the playstation 2s clock information while I'm running a game? For example, is there an option that will cause it to post this information to the log or some other way to view this clock through PCSX2 while a game is running?

Thanks in advance for any assistance or information that can be provided.




As stated earlier in this post I've managed to do pretty good with dealing with the save freezing so far so I figure I'll share what I know to help others who are trying to play to cope with this issue...

Turn off the Speedhacks. All of them. Its unlikely that this will cause any change what-so-ever in the rate at which the freezing occurs, but it won't hurt to be on the safe side. You're not likely to notice any performance hit in this game by turning them off either.

Stop worrying about your graphics settings. The freezing will occur in either software or hardware mode. Additionally, don't worry about your games speed either as that doesn't factor in. The game will freeze regardless of if you are playing at the standard 60 fps or have it on turbo and are hitting around 120 fps.

Don't use save states. It can be tempting due to all of the multiple choice situations the game gives you, but its pretty much a guarantee that you won't be saving your game after you load that save state. The games actual save system allows you to save at any map location and during battles so you can still use the in-game saves to cherry-pick your game choices if you so choose.
(Alternatively, if you don't care about actually having a physical save on your memory card and are willing to risk the chance that your save state will become corrupted in some fashion you can choose to avoid the save game freezing all together by playing entirely using save states. If that's the case... then just ignore this whole post and hope your save states don't get messed.)

Use more than one save slot. In general I'd recommend that you use at least 3. One save slot that you save in whenever a major event occurs such as moving on to a new "chapter" in the game. One to use as your general purpose saving while on the games map. And, the other slot to use for in battle saves. This should give you enough flexibility that you can get around even the most stubborn save freezing.

Save like you have OCD. One of two things is going to happen when you attempt to save your game... it will either work and all is well in the world... or the game will freeze. If you are saving often you have a greater chance of having a more recent save to fall back on. There is no good reason to hold off on saving as it will not in any way lessen the chances of a freeze. In fact it will just cause you to lose more progress... whenever whatever it is that "triggers" the game to freeze on your next attempt occurs it will not go away so don't avoid saving.

Pay attention to your time stamps. So long as your save game is showing a date and time you're likely going to have smooth sailing. If you notice that the date and time is all zeros then you're in for a roller coaster ride of save game freezes.

So... what do you do when you run into a save game freeze?

First, don't panic. Your save game isn't ruined... well the one you were trying to save at the time is gone... but the save slot itself won't be corrupted or anything. You can safely load that slot and play from it although you will have lost any progress since you last successfully saved, which is why you need to be work pre-emptively and save often.

Second, try to find the "trigger" that causes your next save attempt to freeze.

If its something specific like a certain event that after seeing you can't save then try doing things and saving a bunch and coming back to it. Many times you can get past it by doing this. For instance you could sleep in a towns inn, fight a battle, gather information (even if you already saw it before), etc. Sometimes just doing any other activity will allow you to save afterwards and when returning to the event you may be able to then save after it is done.

If you're on the games map and just about anything that you do (sleeping at inns, triggering events, etc...) seems to result in your game freezing afterwards then your best bet is to save a game in battle. Usually after the battle you can save on the map again, though as mentioned above avoid having all your saves be in battle.

In the event that you end up in a really rough patch where your game constantly seems to be freezing when attempting to save the first thing you should do is check if the timestamps are zeroed. If they are then fight a random battle and try saving in battle, then try saving on the map. Keep repeating this process of saving in battle then on the map until your save games start showing an actual date and time. If sleeping at an inn won't let you save after then avoid sleeping at inns and just continue this cycle. Once you see the time and date on the save slots again you should be mostly past that big block of save freezes and it should be moderately safe to continue on with the rest of the game an events.

That's everything I can think of off the top of my head. I hope this helps anyone else who is trying to play.
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#2
I believe the internal clock of the emulated PS2 is set to your system clock's time by PCSX2 every time you launch it. That would explain why it doesn't save your time change. What that has to do with your game IDK.
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#3
(04-09-2014, 09:56 AM)Blyss Sarania Wrote: I believe the internal clock of the emulated PS2 is set to your system clock's time by PCSX2 every time you launch it. That would explain why it doesn't save your time change. What that has to do with your game IDK.

Just checked that out and you are quite correct. It is setting the time to whatever your systems clock time is. That would explain why it constantly reset my time when I was testing it.

I'm somewhat curious to know why its being done that way though. It seems to me that the emulated PS2 clock would be something that you would configure during initial setup and have it handled separately in much the same way that an actual PS2 would.

As for what it has to do with the game... not sure if has anything to do with it as of yet. Still trying to track down when a save slot gets it time zeroed out and try to figure out if there is a specific trigger that's causing it and why it can take countless saves after that before the save slot starts recording a date.

I wouldn't be surprised if the time issue is entirely unrelated to the save game freezes, but through all the testing I've been doing I have noticed that when save slots start showing a zeroed date and time stamp that you're pretty much guaranteed to be in a state of save freezing hell until you can get the times showing up again.

Basically, I just wanted to post my observations here in the hopes that it would in some way be useful or at the very least might give me some information about stuff I wasn't sure about, which you did by telling me why the time appears to be getting reset.
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#4
The real console has a battery that keeps the internal clock running.
We use the closest thing to that available to us: your PC system clock.
If we didn't set the time each time on startup, then time would essentially freeze
for the VM PS2 as there is no mechanism to keep it updated.

You might be right with the saving failures. My guess is that the function to access the system
time is failing randomly and that crashes some of the saving code with it.
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#5
After testing this game for several hours, which btw is a truly remarkable game, I must admit I cannot reproduce the freezing issue you are having, however, with 1.2.1 r5875, i can at least state that there are random PCSX2 crashes to desktop. I don't think the system / PS2 system time is the cause here as I am unable to reproduce this error on the same game. My crashes are completely en random and happen usually during game play.
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#6
(04-10-2014, 10:58 AM)Jwalters0814 Wrote: After testing this game for several hours, which btw is a truly remarkable game, I must admit I cannot reproduce the freezing issue you are having, however, with 1.2.1 r5875, i can at least state that there are random PCSX2 crashes to desktop. I don't think the system / PS2 system time is the cause here as I am unable to reproduce this error on the same game. My crashes are completely en random and happen usually during game play.

Crashing to desktop sounds like a more serious issue going on than just a game related error.

In previous version of PCSX2 this game was incredibly finicky and would freeze up at the end of battles, during saving, or just whenever it damn well pleased.

I'm currently running the game using PCSX2 1.3.0.r5919 available from the Orphis buildbot site. I have not experienced any crashing to the desktop in any of the games I've tested with this version.

Without knowing anything about your hardware specs or emulator settings the only real advice I can give you would be...

* Try testing other games if you can and see if you experience crashes.

* Update your computers drivers and try again.

* Try a different revision of PCSX2 and see if you experience these issues.

* Try disabling speedhacks, especially the MTVU one that allows the use of multiple cores and see if that fixes your crashing.

* Ensure that you're using the right processor / graphics plugin setting. What I mean is the SE1, SSE2, SSE3, or whatever stuff. Make sure you CPU supports the option you are trying to use and if not be sure to choose one it does support.

If the above fails, start up a thread here on these forums to post about your issue. Be sure to include the PCSX2 versions you tested, your PCSX2 settings, and also your hardware information. You are almost certain to get a response and its likely that someone can help you out. I, sadly, can't though... that kind of issue a bit beyond my ability to help with aside from the advice above.


(04-10-2014, 09:23 AM)rama Wrote: The real console has a battery that keeps the internal clock running.
We use the closest thing to that available to us: your PC system clock.
If we didn't set the time each time on startup, then time would essentially freeze
for the VM PS2 as there is no mechanism to keep it updated.

You might be right with the saving failures. My guess is that the function to access the system
time is failing randomly and that crashes some of the saving code with it.

A PCSX2 coder replying. I'm honored. Allow me to thank you for all of your hard work! You've all been doing a great job and I greatly appreciate all your hard work!



As for you post itself...

Dah! I'm complete idiot!

I know that computers use the CMOS battery on the motherboard to allow them to "remember" their BIOS and system clock information while they are off or without power. I know that other devices that need to "remember" things like that do the same thing.

Excuse my idiocy there... of course it would make sense that a "fake" playstation that only exists when you tell it to wouldn't have any actual way of keeping track of the time while its not in existence.

As for the time issues and the game...

After Blyss Sarania pointed out the fact that it was using my system clock to keep time, I did a bit more digging into the situation and experimenting.

I found that the .NVM BIOS file is where the time, time zone, date, and various other BIOS settings in the Playstation 2 are saved. I also read that PCSX2 is able to create this file if it isn't found.

By deleting the .NVM file and redoing it I could have complete control over all the time and time zone settings in the PS2 which combined with the fact that I can change my computer system clock however I want I was essentially given free reign to ***** with time as much as I wanted to test things out.

Despite using various time zone and time settings between the PS2 and my PC, sometimes matching them up and other times making them be days apart into the past or future from each other, I was not able to cause or prevent the save freezing from occurring by doing so.

I did notice though that even when you are able to save your game successfully so that it shows a time and date stamp there is still some major deviation.

For example, my PC clock and PS2 clock are in sync currently with their time zone, daylight savings, and time / date settings. If I tell PCSX2 to run without a disc they are matched up exactly.

However, when I call up Growlanser and save my game in it so that it shows the date "properly" the date and time it shows don't match up to what my PC and PS2 are. The save slot shows a date / time stamp that is 13 hours ahead of what my PC is at and what my PS2 should be at.

Without a way to see what time and date the PS2 has on record while in a game I can't really do more testing in this regard.

Another thing I noticed during these tests was that the games own playtime counter, which also gets recorded in a save slot, doesn't track time properly. Its as if the game doesn't update the playtime counter correctly, because often times even if I've played the game for a half hour (and did many things like fight battles, do events, buy and sell, etc... ) my save slots may still show the same playtime amount. Eventually the playtime will show as increased as I play and save but when and how often this occurs seems to be completely random.

As for your comment about how it may be possible that the function that checks the system time may be hiccupping a bit and crashing the save process... I couldn't even fathom a guess at that. What actually goes on programming wise in PCSX2 is like quantum mechanics to me, I can hardly even imagine understanding it. Although, it would be pretty bitchin if my random ranting about time and things I noticed could actually lead to a solution.

On the bright side...
While I can't actually say if the timing is related to the cause of the problem, I can say for certain that the timestamps on saves are an indicator that a save freeze will occur.

In my recent testing I've got a save game I can repeatedly cause the save freeze to occur and can also get past it and allow the game to save normally.

In the test I would start without PCSX2 launched. I would launch PCSX2. Then boot up Growlanser (boot type is irrelevant as both fast and full freeze the same).

When the game loads I would load the saved game in the 1st save slot which had a "proper" time / date stamp. What I mean by proper is that it showed an actual playtime as well as a date and time, even though the date and time showing were 13 hours ahead of what my PC shows. (My PS2 time would match my PC time exactly when I'd boot without a disc.)

So immediately upon launching, and booting, I load the 1st save which shows with this playtime/date/time stamp.

034:00:58 (04/10/2014 07:23 PM)

As soon as the save finishes loading I would immediately call up the save menu again and save the game in the 2nd save slot. In ever test I did using this same process the first attempt to save the 1st save slot in the 2nd save slot after a fresh launch would produce an errored out save slot that showed this impossible date/time stamp.

034:00:58 (00/00/2000 12:00 AM)

I'm not sure where the game is coming up with this date / time information, but it did it repeated without fail.

If I immediately try to call up the save menu and save again, after seeing this errored out information, the game will freeze when attempting to save. After repeated tests like this it froze ever single time when trying to save after seeing an error out stamp like this.

I even tried not saving the game again immediately after seeing this errored out stamp. I playing for varying amounts of time and doing things like fighting battles, starting events, just letting the game sit for 20+ minutes, etc. Whenever I went to save though it froze. Every time... without fail.

The 2nd saved game slot that shows the errored out stamp itself can still be loaded though. If I reboot the game I am able to successfully load the 2nd save slot and play from it.

However, when I try to save again after loading this errored out slot it will do one of three different things...

~70% of the time it will result in a save slot that shows an errored out date / time stamp.

~25% or more of the time it will result in a freeze when attempting to save.

~3% of the time it will save and produce a "proper" date / time stamp.

In the event the save it creates is errored out, then that save will behave exactly as stated above by freezing if saved immediately or if loaded doing one of the above three things.

If the save that was created has a "proper" date / time stamp showing then it will work out fine for the most part. You can usually play the game for hours and save countless times and it will work fine so long as you always make sure that any new saves you create aren't showing errored out information.

So... having found out above stuff from my testing I set to work on finding a way to get past the save freezing.

I am happy to report that I was able to find a way to repeatedly get around the save freeze and cause the save game being loaded from the 1st save slot to be able to save a game into the 2nd save slot and have the 2nd save slot show a "proper" date / time stamp.

As stated at the start of this rant / observation... if I start fresh by calling up PCSX2 and launching the game, loading the 1st save slot and saving it into the 2nd will always produce an errored out time stamp.

However, after I go this and see in the save menu that the 2nd slot shows that error, all I need to do is call up the load menu and reload the 1st save slot. Then immediately try to save into the 2nd slot again. If the 2nd slot once again shows the errored out stamp then I just repeat this process of reloading the 1st slot saving it into the 2nd slot.

Often it took anywhere from two to ten cycles of this to finally get the 2nd save slot to show a "proper" date / time stamp. In this case it showed this date / time which was still 13 hours ahead of what my PC is, and my PS2 should be.

034:00:58 (04/11/2014 09:24 AM)

Once I get this to occur though I'm pretty much good to go. I can save countless times into any save slot and it shows correctly, I can even reload the 1st save slot at this point and resave it and it shows correctly.

That's not to say that you won't eventually end up getting another save that has an errored out stamp. It seems that certain events occurring in the game can cause a hiccup and make your next save show the errored stamp, but so far as I can see you shouldn't actually have the game freeze up on you during a save unless you try to save after a save attempt produces an errored out stamp.

I think the whole launching PCSX2 fresh had a lot to do with when the saves would error out. As in my testing I found that the first save after launching was virtually guaranteed to cause an errored out slot. Even just hitting escape to halt the emulation and then resuming it would almost always result in causing an errored out slot. So I'm under the assumption that any time that PCSX2 has to load up its information again is a major trigger that can cause an errored out save.


I intend to do a good bit more testing before I feel that I can officially say I've found a workaround to the save freezing, but so far the testing has been repeatable both in causing the error and getting past it. I'll post more information when I feel like I can do so without completely inserting my foot into my mouth.



In short, as it stands currently, it appears that you can get past the save freezing by simply taking a proactive approach to saving.

When you first call up the game to play and load your saved game you should do nothing but reload and save (into a different slot than you loaded from) until you manage to get a saved game that shows date and time that isn't zeroed out or impossible like 00/00/2000.

After you manage to get a save game that shows a reasonable date and time stamp then you can play the game as normal.

However, while playing you should be sure to save often and save in a different slot each time you save. (I have about 6 slots that rotate through as I save)

Every time that you save be sure to go back into the save menu and look at the date / time stamp on the save slot you just used. If you notice that its zeroed or impossible then reload a previous save and try again until you get an acceptable one.

Be especially observant when events are triggered in the game as these seem to increase the odds of you getting a messed up save slot started.

If you ESC out of the game, change plugin settings, or do anything that causes the PCSX2 to have to "reload / refresh" itself then you should treat this like you just fired up the game and keep loading and saving till you get a slot that's right. I recommend saving the game and making sure the save is good before you do anything that would cause PCSX2 to have to refresh itself.


I'll continue looking into and testing this a bit longer. While I sure as hell won't be able to track down the cause or solve it I may be able to provide information to cope with it.

Alright enough ranting and rambling from me. I'm out. As always thanks to everyone who replied.
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#7
was finally able to reproduce and just when i had a workaround, today it froze, hmm interesting indeed. wish this was open source so i could look into this.



1.3.0 rev 5927 the issue is fixed by and IPU freeze fix.
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#8
(04-11-2014, 07:29 AM)Jwalters0814 Wrote: was finally able to reproduce and just when i had a workaround, today it froze, hmm interesting indeed. wish this was open source so i could look into this.

1.3.0 rev 5927 the issue is fixed by and IPU freeze fix.

When you say you were able to reproduce, you mean that you got the save freeze to occur, correct?

Also I see you say you had a workaround. If you were referring to the save game freeze would you mind sharing the workaround you were using?

As for the open source comment... if you're talking about PCSX2 and not the game, I'm pretty sure PCSX2 source code is available. The old SVN builds and the current GitHub builds need to compiled by the user so far as I'm aware. If you need to compile them yourself I was under the assumption that that meant you would be able to see the code as well.

You mention that 1.3.0 rev 5927 the issue is fixed by an IPU freeze fix. Are you referring to the save game freezing? Because if so I don't believe the IPU freeze fix was the cure for the save game freezing.

So far as I'm aware the IPU freeze fix was in place in several revisions of PCSX2 for quite some time and to my knowledge the purpose of it was to fix the random freezes that would occur in the game. Specifically to address the freezing that took place at the end of a battle right when the "mission complete" message would show.

Its quite possible that something in revision 5927 has fixed the save game freezing though. If you continue playing using that revision please post here if you encounter the save game freeze or even if you don't. I would be good to know.

I would test r5927 myself, but the Orphis buildbot only goes up to 5919 as being the latest. I assume you got this 5927 revision off of the GitHub? I haven't gotten around to using the newer version from there yet myself as the idea of having to compile them myself seems like something I could screw up quite spectacularly.


As for my continued testing...

I just recently beat Growlanser II - Sense of Justice. I played the game from start to finish using the in-game save feature the entire time. It was a hassle at first, but after coming up with a workaround method it was smooth sailing.

I've also found that the only thing you need to pay attention to on your save slot to see if it is bugged out is the actual date stamp. The playtime and time stamps are funky too, but they aren't an indicator of the save freezing. In fact even when the game is saving properly (date showing) the playtime and just the time stamp will only randomly show updated information on the save slot. For example, I played the game for about two hours straight on the play session when I beat the game and despite saving countless times the playtime showed as being the same amount of time until the last few saves. Likewise the time stamp would only update whenever it felt like it since it would show the time as being 10:50 PM for several saves in a row despite almost a half an hour passing.

Having beaten Growlanser II - Sense of Justice I decided to move onto playing Growlanser III - The Dual Darkness.

Growlanser III uses the same engine as the 2nd game and it also has the exact same save freeze glitch going on. It was rough getting started in the game because there is a long intro section to the game before you can get to a save point... and the first time you save in the game its pretty much guaranteed to error out. After about 5 restarts I finally had a save slot that saved properly. Since then I've just been using my workaround method and I haven't yet encountered any save freezes or errored out save slots, aside from the errored out save slot that will occurred whenever you first launch PCSX2 and the game for a playing session.

I figure I'll leave all these rambling posts up for awhile incase anyone wants to revise or refute my workaround in any fashion. Or in the event that there is an actual fix to the problem or a verified working revision of PCSX2. After awhile I suppose if no new information has come up I'll update the thread to include a short and concise guide for setting up and playing the game using my workaround method. I'm long winded so that'll be rough for me, but I think I might be able to pull it off.
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#9
Yes I was able to reproduce the freezing issue on rev's 1.2.1 and earlier. The workaround became invalid even after 12 hours of testing

So far rev 5927 has had 0 freezing, going 2 days strong and not a freeze yet. 5927 has also fixed xenosaga's saving error problem as well. So a lot of work seems to have went into 1.3.0
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#10
(04-12-2014, 04:58 AM)Jwalters0814 Wrote: Yes I was able to reproduce the freezing issue on rev's 1.2.1 and earlier. The workaround became invalid even after 12 hours of testing

So far rev 5927 has had 0 freezing, going 2 days strong and not a freeze yet. 5927 has also fixed xenosaga's saving error problem as well. So a lot of work seems to have went into 1.3.0

I checked the Orphis buildbot after seeing your post here. Oddly, it now shows as being up to revision 5932 for me and the date of its release was from a month ago.

I check that site daily... not sure why it only ever went up to revision 5919 for me. I suppose it could be that I just cleared my cache earlier... maybe my browser thought it would be a good idea to use my old cached version of the page instead of showing me the actual up-to-date one.

Downloading 5932 and setting it up at the moment. I have a memory card with a save that I can reproduce the save freeze on demand so it shouldn't be hard to check this out.

I'm hoping these higher revisions truly do solve this issue... although it will sadden me a bit since I kind of enjoyed wasting my time finding a reliable workaround. Tongue
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