Rebuilding a 3DO

I've been straying further and further down the retro collection hole this year and, after spending a couple months collecting missing handhelds, I decided to work on obtaining some of the less popular systems. It was time to add the 3DO FZ-1 to the collection.

Of course, on eBay, there are plenty of 3DO consoles available but older optical based consoles tend to be troublesome. So it was that the 3DO which I won managed to work for all of 5 minutes before failing to read discs any longer. Of course the seller has no interest in taking this unit back so I'm left with a broken 3DO. Time to bust out the tools.

So I pop off the lid, throw in a disc, and see what happens only to find that all of, well, nothing occurs. Sure, the system boots, but the disc didn't spin and the laser failed to move. Perhaps those "grinding" noises I had heard upon first using it were related? I think it's pretty clear.

Delving deeper into the system I start pulling apart the CD-ROM drive running across a "manufactured September 1993" label. Yeah, it's vintage.

Using a 9-volt battery I'm able to determine that all of the motors are in good working order. Of course, I did manage to break the solder point connecting a couple wires to the drive motor. Whoops. No soldering iron handy so I simply wrap those cables around the contact points with success. After poking and prodding it becomes clear that the issue lies with a small white gear driven by a smaller worm gear that is ultimately responsible for moving the laser sled up and down. The gear had developed a small crack which was just enough to prevent the system from smoothly moving the laser. It seems that, when the system is unable to move the laser sled, it simply stops trying altogether.

I lubricate the gear, used a little glue, and piece it all back together. I hit the power button and watch as the laser begins moving and seeking a disc. I toss a disc into the drive and...it starts spinning. I quickly rush the half disassembled tank over to my display and hook it up only to find that it still just hangs at a black screen. At least we're getting somewhere, right?

So I keep fiddling more and more until I come to the conclusion that the problem now lies with the laser itself. So I start looking into adjusting the potentiometer. This is, without a doubt, one of the most tedious processes around. With many systems you can quickly make an adjustment and test the results, but with the 3DO, you have to pull out the circuit board and lens motor every time you want access to the pot. After performing this task eight times without success and I start getting lazy and attempt to adjust the thing from an angle. I did manage to move it and tried to make changes as quickly as possible. Somewhere during this I DID manage to get a music CD to read (with heavy skipping) and Road Rash DID start once again. Unfortunately, this

Unfortunately, my lazy method of adjustment did not end well. I completely broke the potentiometer screw itself off of the cable. Oops. As you can imagine this pretty much ruined the laser and side lined the whole project. Think I'm going to grab another broken 3DO on the cheap and attempt to combine the two.

Fun fact about the 3DO: the system only outputs video at 480i. My retro setup uses a Sony standard definition monitor which provides the most accurate image for 240p (low resolution) retro console games (which are mostly running RGB to that monitor). So the 3DO actually only delivers 480i despite rendering everything at a lower 320x240 resolution. Why on earth did they think this was a smart move? It's basically an early take on upscaling and it results in additional flicker with less overall sharpness. The games would look much cleaner running at a proper 240p. Very strange.

6 Comments
7 Comments
Posted by dark1x

I've been straying further and further down the retro collection hole this year and, after spending a couple months collecting missing handhelds, I decided to work on obtaining some of the less popular systems. It was time to add the 3DO FZ-1 to the collection.

Of course, on eBay, there are plenty of 3DO consoles available but older optical based consoles tend to be troublesome. So it was that the 3DO which I won managed to work for all of 5 minutes before failing to read discs any longer. Of course the seller has no interest in taking this unit back so I'm left with a broken 3DO. Time to bust out the tools.

So I pop off the lid, throw in a disc, and see what happens only to find that all of, well, nothing occurs. Sure, the system boots, but the disc didn't spin and the laser failed to move. Perhaps those "grinding" noises I had heard upon first using it were related? I think it's pretty clear.

Delving deeper into the system I start pulling apart the CD-ROM drive running across a "manufactured September 1993" label. Yeah, it's vintage.

Using a 9-volt battery I'm able to determine that all of the motors are in good working order. Of course, I did manage to break the solder point connecting a couple wires to the drive motor. Whoops. No soldering iron handy so I simply wrap those cables around the contact points with success. After poking and prodding it becomes clear that the issue lies with a small white gear driven by a smaller worm gear that is ultimately responsible for moving the laser sled up and down. The gear had developed a small crack which was just enough to prevent the system from smoothly moving the laser. It seems that, when the system is unable to move the laser sled, it simply stops trying altogether.

I lubricate the gear, used a little glue, and piece it all back together. I hit the power button and watch as the laser begins moving and seeking a disc. I toss a disc into the drive and...it starts spinning. I quickly rush the half disassembled tank over to my display and hook it up only to find that it still just hangs at a black screen. At least we're getting somewhere, right?

So I keep fiddling more and more until I come to the conclusion that the problem now lies with the laser itself. So I start looking into adjusting the potentiometer. This is, without a doubt, one of the most tedious processes around. With many systems you can quickly make an adjustment and test the results, but with the 3DO, you have to pull out the circuit board and lens motor every time you want access to the pot. After performing this task eight times without success and I start getting lazy and attempt to adjust the thing from an angle. I did manage to move it and tried to make changes as quickly as possible. Somewhere during this I DID manage to get a music CD to read (with heavy skipping) and Road Rash DID start once again. Unfortunately, this

Unfortunately, my lazy method of adjustment did not end well. I completely broke the potentiometer screw itself off of the cable. Oops. As you can imagine this pretty much ruined the laser and side lined the whole project. Think I'm going to grab another broken 3DO on the cheap and attempt to combine the two.

Fun fact about the 3DO: the system only outputs video at 480i. My retro setup uses a Sony standard definition monitor which provides the most accurate image for 240p (low resolution) retro console games (which are mostly running RGB to that monitor). So the 3DO actually only delivers 480i despite rendering everything at a lower 320x240 resolution. Why on earth did they think this was a smart move? It's basically an early take on upscaling and it results in additional flicker with less overall sharpness. The games would look much cleaner running at a proper 240p. Very strange.

Posted by chilibean_3

If you end up trying to use another busted 3DO to fix this one I hope you update us. I know when your soldering and dealing with tiny, troublesome parts taking pictures isn't the first thing on your mind but snapping a few would be pretty cool.

Posted by mtcantor

This was fascinating and terrifying. I once tried to take apart a PS2 to "fix" it after the disc drive broke. I ended up bricking the system and had to go out and buy another.

Building a PC is no trouble at all, but getting this deep down the electronics rabbit hole scares the shit out of me.

Posted by dark1x

Success! I received some new parts yesterday, replaced the laser and drive rod and was met with success! The system immediately started booting games!

I might try to snap a few pictures of the hardware (left overs) in order to detail exactly what had to be done just in case someone else runs into this problem.

Posted by Bell_End

just a shame there is nothing worth playing on 3DO

Posted by dark1x

You're not entirely wrong, unfortunately. It's definitely more of a collectors piece at this point than anything else. However, I recognize that, for 1993, it was delivering some pretty impressive software. Return Fire was a brilliant capture the flag game, Need for Speed started life on the 3DO, Road Rash was perhaps the finest iteration in the series, Policenauts was an original 3DO release and FIFA was hugely impressive for its day. There are a lot of weird interesting games on the platform as well.

It's not a great system by any means, but it is worth exploring. It's certainly a better platform than the Atari Jaguar.

Posted by Lunar_Aura

Nice job! I've always wondered how well stuff like Samurai Shodown and Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo ran on that thing. It's so cool how you attempted to fix the laser by adjusting the pot. I almost did that with my Dreamcast but chickened out.