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OtherOS: From The Mind of A Hacker

April 16, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

I am a software developer. I got my first computer in 1982 (I was 2 years old) – a VIC-20 with 3.5k of RAM. In those days, computers came with manuals which tought you how to program in BASIC. The systems were not locked down and anyone could learn to program without any extra purchase or licensing. Most of the machines also let you program in assembler, and as 1990 rolled around, C compilers became freely available as 16-bit machines came into force.

In those days, people often wrote games for fun. One person could stretch the ability of the machine to the limit, and no modelling or complex graphics or sound was required. The very important point is, many if not all of today’s best programmers taught themselves at home on their 8-bit computers. They did not come from Universities.

If those machines hadn’t existed in an open architecture, we would not have the games we have today. I strongly believe that. We would also not have an internet that is mature as it is, or many other programs and devices we now take for granted. Ask almost any game developer how he or she got started, and they will most likely say, in the 1980s, on their home computer.

For hobbyists, and people who want to tinker in this day and age, setting up is complicated and expensive. Programming is a lot more tricky than it used to be, and the development tools are insanely complex for a beginner. Unlike in the old days, it is also extremely difficult to do anything unless you are programming for a popular platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) because everything is locked down.

Some of you may remember when PS1 was released, you could buy a home development kit called Net Yaroze. It wasn’t a full-blown product to let you develop commercial games – it was for homebrew hobbyists. It did not have a significant impact on the level of pirated PlayStation 1 games and was available throughout the lifetime of the console.

If you want to get your foot in the door of something other than writing Windows applications and you have a healthy interest in proprietary platforms, the PS3 was a very compelling purchase. You could do something completely different: learn to program basic assembler using the Cell architecture. IBM published a free SDK (software development kit) especially for PS3 users wanting to experiment with this, and have a large collection of tutorials on their web site. For me, that is an excellent precedent to set to young programmers in this era of encrypted filesystems, locked down custom application install and DRM craziness.

There is no doubt in my mind that PS3 has already been reverse-engineered plenty of times by bright minds. GeoHot made a stupid mistake by going public.

While GeoHot was naïve to post his work on his blog, I have to take issue with the people telling him he’s an asshole and that he should be sued. It’s very important to realise that genuine hackers (not the people who steal Warcraft accounts) are the backbone that created much of this industry in the first place, including the internet, and the PS3’s security.

In order to improve the security of a device, it has to be tested and pushed. Smart companies always hire the hackers – which is what Sony should do at this point – and I have proof.

My time at News Corporation

Not a lot of people know this, but in 1997 I reverse engineered the current Sky card of the time and let the code leak out via other pirates. I’m very familiar with piracy, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. It was the first dual-processor smartcard ever manufactured and I was 17. It took me about 8 months to crack it. As with the GeoHot farce, this led to months of cat-and-mouse between myself and Sky as they issued updates to the genuine smartcards over the satellite and I had to produce countermeasures to keep the pirate cards working. And as with the GeoHot farce, it was in the newspapers and led to a flood of worshipping fans; however I remained anonymous and used tons of pseudo-aliases.

I did it, not for the fame, or for money, or for free TV, or to please my fans. Indeed, several pirate card companies took the designs and software I had published, copied them and sold them for hundreds of pounds a pop. They made millions of pounds from my work. On my part, that was completely expected. If I had been out for the money, I could have done that myself. But I didn’t, because I did it for the challenge of proving it could be done. There is nothing like a company claiming a product is unbreakable to give inquisitive minds the momentum to break it.

What happened as a result of that? I gained an exquisite knowledge of cryptography, security, set top box and smart card design. I learned several new programming languages, new techniques and new algorithms which can be applied in every day work.

One day, NDS (a branch of News Corporation) – the designers of Sky cards – caught up with me. They tested me on my knowledge to make sure I was the real hacker, and then hired me to provide information. The next card released was the result of a £21 million redesign and redistribution. This was already well underway by the time they talked to me, but I was given the opportunity to stand in front of some engineers and highlight what was wrong with the existing card. The replacement was never reverse-engineered publicly. I privately reported several vulnerabilities in the new card including how to dump 1k of memory which contained the addresses of all the main over-the-air data processing routines, and they were patched via satellite before anyone else figured out how to take advantage.

Among other things, the new cards also had the two processors glued together top-to-bottom, so you could no longer melt the card in acid and extract the two processors and probe them separately. Separating the processors in the new card destroys them both. I raise this point because it demonstrates that to be a successful security expert, you need knowledge of both software and hardware exploits, and the best way to gain that knowledge is to hone your skills by hacking something that hasn’t been publicly hacked before. This is exactly what GeoHot has accomplished with the iPhone and PS3.

A real hacker will never bother to get into someone’s Facebook account. It is boring and there is no challenge in it, and it’s been done over and over already. These are not the people I am talking about. They are parasites to the industry. The real hackers are future assets and should be treated as such.

Did all of my mischief make me a bad person? No, actually it put me at the top of my field. It was a well paid job, Google wanted to hire me without interview but I said no because I didn’t want to move to California. I would not have the skills I have now if I hadn’t been allowed to carry out that hacking exercise, and because it had never been done before, it is the sort of thing that earns you a lot of respect among your peers. Sky also saved a lot of money on piracy in the long run into the bargain.

What did NDS actually employ me to do? Sit in my University dorm and hack their products. A few weeks after SkyDigital was launched (1st October 1998) I presented them with the first firmware dump of the set-top box. That was quite the vulnerability for them, not least because the box could record upto 25 PPV purchases before phoning home, among other reasons. Future set-top boxes were modified to make it harder to dump the firmware. If someone else had got there first, they could have made a complete farce of the pay-per-view system – which ultimately, as the bankruptcy of other European satellite networks due to piracy such as FilmNet shows, will affect the quality of programming legitimate customers receive eventually. Satellite networks facing massive piracy turned to NDS and became their customers, because they had ultimately designed the most secure system – and a high proportion of the developers were former hackers. The result? We now have a better satellite TV delivery network.

There is nothing wrong with hacking for the sake of hacking. People need to understand that it leads to the output of some of the most skilled people in our industry. Don’t knock it. Hacking requires skill and dedication, and most hackers stop hacking when they get out of school and learn that the real world places too many demands on their time. I have seen this over and over again. Then they get good jobs and produce products that benefit and entertain you and me.

Why saying “it will blow over” is bad for you

Turning political, consider this argument which I have seen on TSA several times: “why the fuss? This will all blow over, Sony will release some cool upgrades and everyone will forget about it, it’s only a tiny minority of users affected,”. That kind of thinking is a microcosm of why you don’t live in a free society anymore. According to the National Autistic Society about half a million people in the UK suffer from autism. That’s less than 1% of the population, so, maybe we should just not give them the facilities they need? Which is exactly what happens. What excuse does the government give for why the NHS is so shoddy at dealing with minority disorders? Cost-cutting. A certain ring of familiarity, no?

Is one of the cool content upgrades Sony will release something that lets me tinker around with the Cell processor again? No it isn’t. Will cross-game chat and 100 free Blurays make this problem go away for me? No it won’t. Is it fair that I should be able to stand up for my rights and keep what I paid for? Yes it is, so stop bitching that I’m in a minority, therefore I don’t matter.

An apology from Sony doesn’t cut it. That is the corporate way of fobbing off the consumer.

Over in the free world

I live in Norway. When the iPod was released, the Norwegian Supreme Court declared it to be an illegal device. The reason? Norwegian law states that you should be able to export purchased media from any device to any other device. Videos, music and photos. The iPod was temporarily banned while it was modified to comply with local laws, and the public were in favour of the ban, because they believed they had a right to control their own media and pushed for their rights. They could have let Apple get away with it, but they didn’t. The result? A fairer, less DRM-riddled marketplace.

Sony audio CDs with certain copy protection on them were also banned here as a result of consumer protests, and were re-released without copy protection.

In other, less related examples, the FBI tried to prosecute Norwegian cellphone network provider NetCom because they refused to release the contents of SMSs sent by a suspected terrorist. It went to court, and NetCom won the case. Personally, I applaud that decision. It shows that NetCom respects its users’ privacy and gives me more confidence when I use my phone.

Viasat – one of the two main satellite networks here – decided to get rid of MTV from its channel line-up because people basically didn’t like it or want it. MTV Networks drove vans around Oslo with megaphones and loudspeakers in protest, and they were ignored. The general public consensus was that the world was a better place without MTV, and it was the public who got rid of it from our airwaves – not a forced decision by a company. What is the effect of getting rid of MTV? Less children watching immature irresponsible crap on TV.

What does all this mean? It means that in civilised society, the consumer has the final choice, as it rightly should be. But you must stand up and speak out to avoid your rights from being eroded away.

If a group of Scandinavians came together and sued Sony over the OtherOS removal, Sony would get their asses kicked. It is practically beyond doubt. I hope it happens soon.

Top Ten: When The Game Beats You

April 12, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Thanks to TSA reader deadpixel for inspiring me with this idea a few weeks ago.

Hardcore gamers can be spotted from miles away by the way they react when they get stuck on a video game. Like the honey badger – known for its testicle-eating abilities – gamers give off signals to the rest of their species, and over time they develop a fixed set of responses to cope with any tricky gaming situation that may arise. Let’s take a look at what happens when a gamer is defeated in battle.

Cuss wildly – usually the first port of call for the disgruntled gamer, stringing together a succession of the worst words you can conjure up is a natural stress reliever. A few deep breaths later and you’re prepared for the next bout. Swearing quantity and volume increases proportionally to the number of defeats, and if there are too many of these said defeats, may be accompanied by a short break and the lighting of a cigarette by the less health-conscious player.

Assault your peripherals – stage two of your rage can be fulfilled by the swift ejection of the controller from your hand in a quick downward thrusting motion. Often combined with cussing wildly for added effect, we have all come to expect that controllers are basically indestructible – my main controller alone has been thrown onto the floor at least 17 million times. And that was just in my last four or five FIFA 10 matches.

Have… just one more go – you know the syndrome. This time I’m gonna nail that little b*stard. I’ve learned from my mistakes, I’ve memorized the route, the map, the timing, the button pushes. This time it’s gonna be perfect! Repeat a dozen times. Two dozen if it’s that bloody Astro Tripper game.

Enter Focus Mode – focus mode is what separates the hardcore from the casual. In Focus Mode, you sit at the edge of your seat, lean forwards, sit right in the center view of the TV, re-position the controller slightly in your hands, stare in tunnel vision at the screen and put your mind in “extra-hard concentration mode”, hoping that reducing your screen distance by 2 inches and the reduced viewing angle will make all the difference. It doesn’t, of course. Yet we never learn.

Google “Name of game + walkthrough” – face it, we’ve all done it: “Mirror’s Edge mall level walkthrough”. We wouldn’t tell anyone though. Personally I’m a n00b – I’m interested in the journey, I have no interest in repeating the same section over and over, so when trouble arises, I will have no compunction to sheepishly resort to gamefaqs.com and find the walkthrough. Besides, if I didn’t, I’d never complete anything.

Change the difficulty level – one for the real pussies, and it raises that awful dilemma: what about those elusive gold and platinum trophies? If I drop down to Only Slightly Hardcore difficulty, I’m screwed for XP. Wimps like me have these days resigned to starting on Easy anyway and begrudgingly sacrificing the silverware, but I certainly don’t expect that kind of slack behaviour from readers of this esteemed publication. Only beta testers and reviewers can be that lazy.

Bust up some n00bs in another game – getting your ass handed to you on a plate in COD: World At War? Try Peggle instead. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of making it personal: some revenge payback at innocent bystanders in another game will refresh you, restore your confidence and give you that impetus you need to go back and wipe the floor with them.

Lie – an excellent way to look good, if you’ve almost finished the game but can’t nail that last boss, just say you completed it anyway. Hell, what are they gonna know? I did 48 of the 51 events in GRID and couldn’t be bothered with the last three. I said I completed it anyway. “Couldn’t be bothered” is a good PR spin too: instead of saying “I sucked too much to finish it”, you’re saying “I’m so good I don’t need to prove my worth; I have more important fish to fry”.

Cheat – SingStar has a trophy for scoring over 90% on hard on 5 songs. Screw that. If I wanted to witness my ex-boyfriend’s balls shrinking to the size of shriveled little peanuts as he squeals out Leona Lewis’s cover of Run I would just fondle him with some ice cubes. Instead, I took the professional approach and let someone else log into my account to do it for me. I still get PSN mails to this day asking “wow, how did you get that trophy?”. Changing the date and time is good for cheating too.

Never admit defeat – last but not least, this is in fact the very First Commandment in true gaming. Never, never, EVER admit you couldn’t do something. Always have excuses ready for why you only got the bronze trophies. Say you’ll come back to it when you have time. Say your console broke, or the dog ate the controller. Say anything, just whatever you do, don’t admit failure or weakness of any kind. Your street cred will be destroyed instantly – more specifically, you’ll become a gay n00b.

Have a great weekend everybody!


Review: Aqua Panic

April 10, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

This first impression is based on the first 25% of the game.

It’s colourful, it’s mind-bending, it’s going to remind you of that awesome LSD trip you had that one time, it’s got the one-more-go factor, it’s going to make you throw your controller across the room, and if you’re not already a smoker, this will probably get you to start. Welcome to Aqua Panic.

The best way I can describe this game is as a sort of Lemmings vs Loco Roco, with the colours of Finding Nemo and a funky house soundtrack with chipmunks overlaid on it.

The aim of the game is to navigate your way down a series of vertical levels, controlling the flow of water from the top, catching the fish in the water streams and guiding them to safety. Sounds simple? It isn’t.

When you start the game, the difficulty curve is very smooth and well-structured, with one-screen tutorials introducing each new gameplay mechanic between levels. At first, all you’ll have to do is blow up chunks of landscape with bombs, or block the water’s path with flowers (similar to exploders and blockers in Lemmings). The fish come out of the same tap as the water, and you can more or less consider them one and the same. You don’t have a character as such – you click on the map with the cursor to perform an action. However, this simplicity quickly changes.

Each level has 100 fish, and you have to save a varying minimum amount depending on the level. The first 15 levels are fairly trivial, but once you hit about level 20 or so, the difficulty ramps up quickly and you soon realise that sometimes you need to make the water go in a different way to the fish. Enemies are waiting to eat your little fishies, yet they are often placed strategically close to turbines you need to pour water through to open a passage elsewhere in the level. There are stop valves, automatic valves, flowers which spawn in specific places after a specific time to block a path, indestructible rocks, eggs which can be used to fill holes or make water overflow, and so on. With just three tools at your disposal – bombs, flowers and the harpoon for taking out enemies – the deceptively simple-looking levels become rapidly more challenging.

The levels look almost randomly slapped together, but in fact the design is nothing less than ingenious. This is not a case of, set up everything right and you’re done. You will have to chain quite a few actions with deft timing to guide those fish down safely, and with ground surfaces and chasms created with just a certain height or depth to make a particular route easy or very difficult, you will be replaying the later levels many times to perfect your strategy. Sometimes you will, for example, have to carefully adjust valves repeatedly to avoid the water level getting high enough to wake up a nearby sleeping enemy.

Often it is best just to start the level and see where everything goes to get a grasp of what you need to do. Once you’ve figured out the right strategy, you’ll probably save some but not enough of the fish. Then you can work on your timing. So the process of finishing a level is actually somewhat multi-layered in approach.

So, the game is solid. The graphics are lovely, simple and crisp. The interface is very well-designed for console use, and the menus are simple and functional. The sound is amusing at first but the music will drive you bananas after a while; fortunately it does change every so many levels.

Besides the main adventure mode described above there is also Free Play mode (play any level) and two different survival modes, one with sequential levels, one random. These are unlocked as you proceed through adventure mode, along with bonus levels and extras every so often.

I am not sure if it is actually possible to save 100 fish on every level and I’d quite like to hear from developers Eko about that. The help states that the extras can help you to save more fish but I wasn’t able to experiment with that in time for this article. It’s not a problem, but you’ll definitely need a lot of time on your hands if you’re looking for the perfect score.

There are, however, a few problems. By far the biggest issue is that the cursor changes colour depending on the selected tool, and as the backgrounds are so bright and varied using every possible colour at full saturation, it can be hard to see the cursor, especially when it is green to place flowers. In that case it can be almost impossible to see and many times on my 42in HDTV I was frustratedly waggling the left analog stick trying to see where it was, which can make you lose a time-sensitive level. Less of a problem but also quite significant is that, even on such good equipment, the red text for how many fish have died so far, and the white on green text telling you how many uses you have remaining of each item is very difficult to read at times. A different choice of font and background colours would solve this.

Both of these problems are easy to patch, and they have a not insignificant negative impact on the gameplay, so I would definitely like to see some colour/size options added.

Aqua Panic is a single-player only affair with no multi-player or online play – however it wouldn’t make sense anyway so this isn’t a problem. There are online leaderboards, and while the global leaderboards worked fine, in my copy the friend leaderboard caused my PS3 to crash every single time I tried to open it. Hopefully this will be patched too – it is a minor issue.

Those of you who have played Lemmings on the PS3 may be concerned that the interface can’t match up to a PC. Don’t worry – Aqua Panic’s controls are slick and responsive, and you’ll have no problem whizzing around. Some actions also don’t require pinpoint accuracy, which is a plus on a console game of this type.

Regarding the length, it took me about 3 hours to get 25% through the game – however at least an hour of that was spent on the last 3 levels I finished, and I am a puzzle veteran, so I suspect the full game will take quite a while to dominate.

Pros:

  • Lots of levels, will take plenty of time to complete
  • Excellent, easy to use interface
  • Lush colourful graphics, good overall presentation
  • Has the ‘one more go’ factor when you get stuck on a level

Cons:

  • Significant cursor visibility issues
  • Difficulty curve is smooth at first but gets suddenly quite tough
  • Patience is required: you will get frustrated

Like poker and chess, the rules of Aqua Panic are easy to learn, but the art of winning takes a long time to master. There aren’t many puzzle-slash-action games of this type on PSN, and if you like the solo gameplay experience, at £7.99 Aqua Panic represents good value. It has some flaws that would benefit from being addressed, but overall, this is a charming and entertaining little game.

(Note to editor: 7/10 if you want to assign a review score)

 

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Top Ten: Obsolete Devices

April 9, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Good news! I’ve been fired from writing Top Tens. Or at least, I will be soon. Just three more weeks of torture after this and Peter will be back with the old format. Fans of controlled rage can read my new column ‘The Rant’ on Fridays instead.

The three weeks after this will have my usual top ten style before normality returns, but this week sees a temporary return to normality as I forgot to write something up and it’s now 4am on Friday morning. So without further ado, here are my top ten favourite owned obsolete devices:

Palm m500 – where would I have been without it, especially the 3-way folding full-size keyboard that let you clip the tiny screen on. We were extremely impressed with its crisp monochrome display and the fact you could read offline web pages on it!

Sky analogue box – a set top box for real men. You could move your satellite dish round and pick up free Hungarian TV. Ah, glory days *shakes her head slowly*

MP3 CD player – oh yeah, these were gonna change the future. I had the very first model released, it was incredible how much music you could get on it – unfortunately the interface was as awkward as trying to wallpaper your living room with beans on toast.

Dot matrix printer – ah my beloved Panasonic; there’s nothing quite like 4 minutes of screeching noise late at night when you’re trying to print out a 1-page letter. Followed by the 4 minutes of noise I made when the paper inevitably got jammed and you spent eternity trying to fix it, carefully balancing and uncreasing each sheet with infuriating futility.

5.25in disk drive – for my beloved BBC Micro. EEE EEE!! Click, click, click, click, click. EE EE!! What was really cool about this was you could tell how many kilobytes the game was from how many times the drive clicked as it was loading. 4 clicks? A pretty small game. 8 clicks – that’s an AAA title. 10 clicks – woah, they have totally MAXED the machine out here. It was rare to get a 10-click game, those were awesome.

ZX Spectrum – come on then who remembers it? Loading a game: J, Symbol Shift + P, Symbol Shift + P, Enter. Usability in its truest incarnation. Like the disk drive it also made a great sound, I just loved those yellow and blue jiggly bars when the game was loading. You know what I’m talking about.

RS-232 cables – seriously, how cool were those? You could hook up two computers and send tiny amounts of data to each other! Who needs the internet when you’ve got RS-232 – with RS-232 you’ve got no spam mail, no advertising and most importantly of all, no Twitter.

Channel 36 – not a device as such, but you’ve got to love channel 36. It is the backbone of modern communications. If you want to watch your VHS, play on your computer or watch Sky, channel 36 was the place to be. Until Channel 5 pissed all over it, of course.

Texas TX-82 calculators – if you’re old enough to be a parent, then face it, you owned one and you loved it. You could code in BASIC on it for goodness’ sake! If you were one of those rich upper class types you bought a TX-85 and could do assembler as well. I was well jealous of you guys.

DJ Hero turntables – sorry, it had to be said. They weren’t even that good to start with. Therefore, please overlook my ironic signature below.

Have a good weekend everybody!

Review: FirstPlay

April 9, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

Wotta already did a nice First Impressions of FirstPlay yesterday. I’ve now watched two beta episodes and the first official release; here’s my quite different take.

FirstPlay is Future Publishing’s attempt to create an interactive gaming magazine for your PlayStation 3. Veteran gamers may already be familiar with Qore – also an interactive gaming magazine – available on the US PSN store.

FirstPlay

FirstPlay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re not reading this in the UK, you can stop now – or you can make a UK PSN account. FirstPlay is temporarily only available in the UK – though see the end of the review for more information.

So, what’s it all about? Well, each week there are four sections: HD Reviews & Previews, Network Highlights, Screenshot Galleries and Featured Downloads. The names pretty much speak for themselves. Comedienne Lucy Porter is the narrator, and I’m pleased to say the scriptwriting has improved considerably since the beta – although there are still problems. Unlike Veronica Belmont and Audrey Cleo in Qore, Lucy doesn’t appear on camera which makes things feel a little disconnected.

The Reviews section includes game reviews as you would expect, and also the odd Bluray movie review. Screenshot Galleries shows concept art from various recently released or forthcoming games, with narration for each picture. Featured Downloads has items for download – naturally – and the Network Content section is broken up into round-ups of minis, PSN games, top LittleBigPlanet levels and, pleasantly, a summary of what’s currently on the video store.

Is it any good then? Well, my impression is that the content is generally out of date. Reviews of Just Cause 2 and God of War 3 (released 26th and 16th March respectively in my territory) do not exactly make for timely viewing on 8th April when we’ve all already read the reviews on TSA, and maybe guiltily snook over to a rival web site to check out the free video reviews. This leads to another problem: it is clear that Future are inexperienced in TV production. The visuals are excellent and sharp, however the script has obviously been designed for print, which leads to a situation where the humour doesn’t work so well when spoken, and the reviews are shallow because you’d normally see them in a 2 or 3-page spread in Official PlayStation Magazine. The reviews are short and certainly don’t go into the kind of depth you’d see on for example on a GameSpot video review.

Even the ads are out of date as I was informed that Final Fantasy XIII would be ‘coming in March’. The level of ad annoyance has been ramped up since the beta; you can now no longer skip the ads until you’ve seen them all, and they appear before every article and when the magazine first loads. There are handy links to the advertised items on PSN though, where applicable.

The Network Highlights section is probably the most interesting due to its varied content that you may have missed elsewhere. One of the beta episodes had a SingStar Top Ten videos of the week and that was certainly entertaining. The various round-ups here are helpful and well thought out, and I really enjoyed this part.

The featured downloads were grossly out of date in the betas; in episode 1 you get a FirstPlay theme and a Just Cause 2 mini-add-on. I am not quite sure what we should expect of them here, but for me it was rather uninspiring. It has potential, but I think if we can’t come up with a more interesting selection, it might just be better to drop this section altogether and consolidate the others.

One missing feature I would like to see is the ability to just simply watch it like a TV show. FirstPlay and Qore both suffer from this: you can’t just sit and watch it all the way through while you eat your dinner; you have to click often, and the articles are short.

The interface itself is smooth and well-designed, although I do wish the left and right arrow buttons were reversed because everything always seems to scroll the wrong way in the menus.

One very worrying thing I noticed is that during one of the game reviews, a little overlay video of one of the developers making some comments on the game appeared in the corner. Developers should not be involved in reviews in any way. If a review publisher goes to a developer and asks them to say something about the game because they’re writing a review, are they really going to give it a bad score?

Some of you may be wondering how FirstPlay stacks up against its more expensive but monthly ‘rival’ Qore. Not that well, unfortunately. Over the course of a month, 4 episodes of FirstPlay are going to pile up more content than one episode of Qore, but the content is comparatively weak. There are at this time no early release demos or betas on offer, but most importantly, there are no real features or interviews to speak of, just reviews. One of the things that makes Qore worth looking at occasionally is they have developer interviews, they visit the studios and show the production process in action, and so on. In other words, real features that cost real money to produce. So far, FirstPlay has none of this. Except for the 30-second aside I mentioned above, all of the articles are composed entirely of gameplay footage with Lucy’s voice superimposed on it – there is no camera work at all.

Pros:

  • Network-related feature articles are excellent
  • Good if you’re a more casual gamer who doesn’t rush out for the latest releases or visit gaming sites regularly
  • Very cheap

Cons:

  • Out of date if you do buy new releases and read gaming sites
  • Featured Downloads are very weak
  • Reviews are light on content and detail

FirstPlay won’t take you more than half an hour or so to watch, which makes the repeated clicking even more troublesome. With only 3 game (p)reviews, 1 movie review and the 4 network features to hold your interest each week, it will take some of us longer to download than to enjoy.

The huge benefit of FirstPlay for the non-hardcore, is that it is dirt cheap, and comes often. I resist the urge to write a joke where this sentence is. At 99p an episode or £8.99 for about 12 episodes over 3 months (Qore at $2.99/month or $24.99 for a year equates to £2 or just over £16 for 12 episodes per year), it is absolutely worth buying a single episode just to see if it is to your taste. This leaves us wondering exactly who the intended audience is, though. The only people likely to pay for what is essentially highly glorified trailers and advertising are the enthusiast gamers, and they have probably already seen most of the content for free on the web. When you consider that many developer diaries, producer interviews and other interesting material is now being pumped out regularly on PSN for free, Future will be under some serious pressure to up their game over the coming months.

On the subject of regional limitations: I would like to note that Future invited me to the second beta of FirstPlay after I lambasted them on TSA a few weeks ago, then told me I couldn’t have it because I lived in Norway; so I simply usurped a copy from one of my colleagues, as I did with the launch episode. Then they sent me several emails reminding me of the release date and encouraging me to make the purchase. Not good form – I would have paid if given the opportunity.

Future have, however, stated they are hoping to bring the service to other countries soon. We waited about 8 months for VidZone and we’re still waiting for the video store, so let’s hope they can overcome any logistical hurdles as quickly as possible.

In summary: buy one episode and see if you like it – it’s so cheap you can’t really go wrong for a one-time purchase. For me, I think the publishers have overstretched themselves by trying to create a weekly edition; the excellent interface and visuals are outweighed by thin content, short articles and advertising, which it made it a completely average experience.

5/10


 

Review: Blue Toad Murder Files Episode 4

April 9, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

The residents of Little Riddle are back for three more instalments, completing the raft of six episodes in this mildly Cluedo-like series of PSN titles.

If you haven’t been following along, the rules are simple: 1-4 players take turns solving various numerical, logic and memory puzzles which very loosely relate to the story played out by cut scenes in between. Or more specifically, the puzzles come between the cut scenes as they are long and unskippable in story mode.

Each episode’s story is based on a separate murder in the town of Little Riddle. The locations and residents remain the same across episodes and that theme remains unchanged in episode 4 – which is not necessarily a bad thing. The cut scenes are fairly simple 3D storytelling – they do their job without fanfare. The narration is something you’ll either love or hate. The characters speak with exaggerated accents and language style.

That is basically all there is to it. Each episode has about a dozen puzzles, and at the end you have to try and figure out who committed the murder – which is worth some nice virtual silverware. Once you’ve completed the story, you can play the puzzles separately again without having to go through the cut scenes, but if you failed to collect all the trophies on your first playthrough, you’ll be forced to sit through story mode again to collect them.

The tasks you will encounter are classical problem-solving puzzles: find the shortest route; arrange objects in a certain pattern; deduce information from cryptic written clues. The puzzles are entirely discrete from the cut scenes – you simply watch, then play, and repeat. The game is completely linear except for one or two ultimately insignificant choices, so the problems and locations essentially come in the same order every time.

Episode 4 has the same flaws as the previous releases: the puzzles themselves are always the same, with the same solutions, and so is the murderer. Therefore, there is absolutely no replay value except for trophy collecting. In its favour, I will say that I played through episode 1 with the same friend as episode 4, and we both enjoyed the new one more as a result of the new puzzles being much more demanding. We were left scratching our heads at seemingly obvious conundrums and feeling quite stupid when we finally got the answer right after several attempts. The difficulty curve has gone up steadily between episodes 1 and 4 and that does make it a little more compelling to try your hand at each new episode. Ultimately though, we still talked over some of the cut scenes and were kind of glad when it was all over. There was no compulsion to play any more.

Pros:

  • A nice social way to pass an hour or two with friends
  • Some puzzles in episode 4 are more taxing
  • Easy trophies for the completionist

Cons:

  • No replay value (puzzles and solutions are always the same)
  • Cut scenes can become tedious and can’t be skipped
  • Extremely short with only a dozen puzzles to do

It is hard to justify £4.79 on such a short and relatively shallow experience. For £9.99 you can pick up three episodes, and even then it is hard to justify. For your money there are plenty of more engaging, deeper PSN titles out there.

Blue Toad Murder Files isn’t a bad game – it’s just not a particularly good one either. It will find a niche following who enjoy each new episode, but ultimately, it’s too expensive for what you get. The earlier episodes probably merit a 5, I have marked this one up slightly on account of the more time-consuming puzzles.

6/10

 

The Gaming Rant 5

April 2, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Note: Contains strong language and drug references, but strangely no sexual references this week. This article is satire and does not reflect the opinion of TheSixthAxis or myself. The truth is, I’m deeply in love with all the people mentioned below.

Choosing between Labour and the Conservatives is like having to choose between Tetris and a hooker. Tetris is familiar, but eventually spirals out of control and you get bored of it. The hooker is exciting and initially pleasurable, but can have deadly consequences. Overall, they’re both risky choices, and all things considered, you’d probably rather be playing Modern Warfare 2 instead – and that’s where Lib Dem comes in. No I’m just kidding, they’re more like Noby Noby Boy: mildly amusing for a short period, but unlikely to ever gain significant market share. They’d probably ban violent video games too.

So on that tenuously constructed link, let’s proceed with some common all garden controlled rage.

DJ Hero pricing

This week Activision briefly remembered they had a DJing game out a few months ago and released some DLC. £6.29 for 3 songs, not available singly. What kind of music? A little dance, house, trance, techno or drum & bass you say? No. It was Jay-Z and Eminem.

Again.

If I wanted to shake yo ass, I’d put you in a washing machine and set the spin cycle. If I wanted to bust a cap in yo ass, I would take the aforementioned garment, roughly insert it into the aforementioned orifice, then proceed to cut the protruding section in half with a knife (I’ll wipe my hands on a copy of Guitar Hero Van Halen afterwards).

When I am spinning ch00ns, that’s exactly what I want to do: spin CH00NS. Phat beats. Driving basslines. A woman high on ecstasy singing about how beautiful the world is. I do not want to hear how bootylicious you think you are in the rhythm of a drunken cow with one prosthetic leg walking down a staircase.

I also don’t want to pay over £2 per song. The makers of DJ Hero did explain some months ago that the reason it costs more is because their in-house team of super-expert DJs who we’ve never heard of making “teh master mixez” makes it take longer and cost more. Perhaps if you licensed songs people wanted to actually play rather than spending a fortune on licenses for crap, they would be cheaper?

SingStar … the saga continues

Wow. The arrogance is staggering.

The SingStore update was finally released – 12 days late – on 6th April. I’ll say that again: twelve days late. When it did go up a couple of songs were in the wrong place or misnamed, and all songs were locked against purchase for some hours that evening – the classic SingStar QA process in full effect.

On 28th March I wrote on the totalmusicgaming.com forum:

“Who wants to wager a bet that if this update doesn’t get pushed by Tuesday that they won’t be ****ed to release anything on 8th? I’ll start the bidding at $100.”

Well, somebody at London Studio owes me 100 bucks, because on 6th April, SingStar Team wrote on Facebook:

“Okay sorry guys but the April 8th update will now be released on the 22nd of April. We are still not quite meeting your expectations I’m afraid. :(“

Gotta love that euphemism, quite. Saying you’re not quite meeting the customers’ expectations is a bit like giving North Korea a nuclear warhead with the uranium removed and saying, meh, you can have the payload later. When we can be bothered. Only in business hours. Not over Easter, we’re on break then. Then, when they get the uranium, it turns out that it’s old and stale and they just use it to grit the roads instead.

Content Manager Nina Scherer said she couldn’t comment on the delays but “let’s just say things have been at a standstill over the last few weeks”. Nina, how many times have I told you not to give the staff weed during work hours. Try Speed instead, maybe they’ll get something done then.

It was, however, their response to the subsequent complaints that was truly awe-inspiring:

“We didn’t like to give you too much good stuff in one week :)”

I shit you not. They actually had the audacity to say that. For those of you not in the know, the 25th March delayed update included such classics as Edwin Starr – H.A.P.P.Y. Radio and Kisschasy – Opinions Won’t Keep You Warm At Night. Yeah, I know, I haven’t heard of them either. That is some seriously depleted uranium right there.

8th April was supposed to see the release of – among other things – a Lady Gaga song pack, announced over a month ago, and would have put them on par with Rock Band which, as a testament to how bad the SingStar licensing team are, already has more Lady Gaga tracks than SingStar.

At the same time, they told us there would be an “exciting announcement” on 8th, which turned out to be the online battle beta. Nina no doubt wasn’t too impressed when I said the only announcement that would excite me right now would be some involuntary redundancies. Pretty strong coming from a staunch SingStar lover.

A lot of people are excited about the beta. Hold your horses. Do any of you remember a time when SingStar Team released a feature that worked properly? Think hard… no, that’s right, you can’t. That’s because they never have.

Voice control made you turn it on or off every time you went to sing, which wasn’t fixed for 6+ months, and ultimately the best use for it was to swear into the mic and see what song it selected. The video editor crashed people’s machines, wouldn’t save, corrupted people’s videos or wouldn’t upload for a further 8 months. SingStar Clubs is missing most of the features that would make a guild feature useful. The PS2 disk compatibility patch didn’t actually make all the PS2 disks compatible – that one took a year to fix. The 4.3 patch, billed as the answer to all our problems, locked people out of singing portions of their DLC for several weeks, with a “no access rights”-type error when selecting a song.

Imagine how happy I was to load SingStar and find that I couldn’t sing 140 of my paid downloads, then multiply that by a couple of million users. That’s a lot of uncontrolled rage my friends.

If you really think they are going to do a good job of this new feature, well, let’s just say I admire your optimism.

Beta buffoonery

What is going on with the beta scene this week? First of all Future gives me a FirstPlay beta after I ravaged them on TSA last month, then says I can’t have it because I live in Norway even though I had the previous one. Then Ubisoft has the gall to tell me I have to download the R.U.S.E. beta from Steam.

Steam? STEAM?! Do I look like I have a PC that can play video games to you? I spent all the upgrade money on Ubisoft games for my PS3, so now I have a P4 3.2GHz, which is a technical way of saying I have at my disposal the processing power of a small calculator that can also fry eggs as a bonus.

The last time I upgraded my PC to play video games was in 2005 when EverQuest 2 came out. I know, I know, I should’ve bought Warcraft. I knew VHS was gonna win, but I had to support Betamax anyway. Bygones. Eventually I realised it was much better to sit on a sofa which a huge f*ck off TV and home cinema sound, and bought my consoles instead.

And besides, there’s something sort of pride-damaging about being told to go get the beta from where all the other plebs get it. I feel demeaned. This must be what it’s like to be a ‘normal’ user. *cries* Yes, I know, QQ Katy.

Blur beta only on 360, and not really a beta

The real kicker this week though was the Blur beta not being released on PC or PS3. Here it is the use of the word beta itself that bothers me, since Activision were kind enough (ie. they made an administrative error) to send me 2 beta codes for the 360 version.

The purpose of a beta is to test a game for bugs and get user feedback. The Blur developers stated that their purpose with the Blur beta was to profile player activity. Well, not really a beta then is it? There was no channel to give them feedback on the game itself or report bugs.

I also took exception to the fact they stated they used the 360 because it was the biggest platform. So there are more 360 gamers than PC gamers? Excuse me while I go back to primary school, I obviously need to learn to count again.

The really annoying statement though was lead designer Gareth Wilson’s: “Really because when we were doing the beta it’s hard enough to try and get a beta out that doesn’t crash every five minutes while trying to finish a full game. Trying to do that on multiple platforms at once, so trying to do a PS3, Xbox and PC beta release at the same time, it just isn’t possible.” – “It was enough of a distraction doing it for one platform,”.

Orly? Cry me a river Gareth, no offence intended of course. I know it is such a hassle to prepare something for three platforms for simultaneous release, it really does make you wonder how Assassin’s Creed 2, Borderlands, Modern Warfare 2, Aliens vs Predator, Dragon Age Origins, Bioshock 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2 to name just a few recent releases managed to get published on the same day for all platforms. They must be miracle workers! Or, maybe their lead designers are just better at giving interviews.

I also love the idea that their code was crashing every 5 minutes, therefore they only felt it necessary to make a beta for one platform. No need to test the PC or PS3 versions – we’re sure all the bugs will be found in the 360 beta and that there are no platform-specific issues with the other two. Mhm. Anyone remember the 360 release of Need For Speed Shift? That tried to sign into PlayStation Network to download content. I rest my case.

Gareth will come back on this and say that the purpose of the beta wasn’t to test bugs. So, don’t call it a beta then. Thanks.

LG5Tool sucks

If you don’t know what LG5Tool is, I’m not going to tell you – although Google probably will. Suffice to say it was clearly put together by a script kiddie still in nappies because it doesn’t work for more than 5 minutes at a time and fails 100% of the time when you change PSN account. And it runs on circa-1995 Visual Basic DLLs. A genius h4x0r, this guy is not.

As luck would have it, my personality is based on being evil and having no moral compass, so I made my own solution. Being evil is, of course, a pre-requisite to getting the original features from a device that you paid for, because obviously no good person would ever take steps to prevent a corporation from illegally removing functionality from a device they paid good money for.

Cable Management

Speaking of Sony insulting me, today I just learned that I have less than 64 USB ports on the PS3. I had to resort to an 8-port USB hub and it’s woefully insufficient. Consider what you’re asking me to do here: keyboard, mouse, EyeToy, steering wheel, charger, Buzz dongle, SingStar dongle, DJ Hero dongle, GH3 dongle, GHWT dongle, drumkit dongle, headset charger, PSP data cable, external hard drive. These are all basic human rights and you deny them. 2 USB ports is like saying you can only have half a shandy when you’re out on the razz, or you can only eat one frozen pizza per week. Shambolic.

And why wasn’t all this stuff built into the PS3 in the first place? Everyone knew we’d be spinning on our plastic turntables 4 years ago, I don’t believe for a second that DJ Hero has been in development for less than 4 years – especially given its superiority compared to games like Uncharted 2, God of War 3 and so on. This is nothing but a conspiracy to make me spend money on accessories. If you wanted me to do that, maybe you should’ve thought about that and released the hairdressing game before I went to the salon eh?

The PSP should come with the PS3 and be built into a little flap next to the Bluray tray that pops out. The guitars and drum kit should be inflatable, and the headset should be like an ear piercing: staple that sucker in once and forget about it. Finally the plastic skateboard should rise up through the living room floor when you want to use it. In fact it should be on a CD-style changer along with my Wii Fit and dancemat, and all this should come free with the console. We all know how poor value for money the PS3 is after all.

Also, why do some things work in the USB hub but others have to be plugged directly into the console? What is the point of a USB hub that only works with 75% of the devices? That’s like giving me a kebab from one of those dodgy downtown shops that’s just a front for immigrant cocaine dealers and saying ooh well, I wouldn’t eat that last 25% if I were you. Also, why aren’t all the dongles a standardized shape? Terry’s Chocolate Orange wedges, lollipops and the SingStar wireless one, well, it’s curvy, it doesn’t stand up straight, and it’s a huge empty box with a tiny chip inside. Very badly executed, much like the SingStore updates. At least they’re consistent.

So, with more cables on my floor than in the Large Hadron Collider, and more flashing dongle lights than a Las Vegas wedding chapel, I decided to clean up. Why the hell aren’t there any USB ports on the back of the PS3, or on the side? Imagine if my TV and home cinema amp only had inputs at the front. Getting to the sofa would be like trying to walk through the Amazon basin in flip-flops. People would mistake my amp for a heart and lung machine. Step 2: Range. I press blue, red, blue, orange, orange. Rock Band says: blue, orange. Now I will admit, there’s a lot of RF noise in my living room, but 10 feet? Come on people. When I come to power, my law will be that if a wireless device has a range less than the distance a drunk man can piss, it shall be deemed illegal.

The Sadness of Finishing A Game

Some games – like Echochrome – you finish triumphantly, throw your controller down and proclaim: “I am NEVER playing that <long string of expletives> game again!”. Other games, you kinda feel sad when it’s over.

I went back through a few of my older games this week to finish them off – in particular Mirror’s Edge and EndWar. EndWar is an under-rated game by the way, if you haven’t played it before and you’ve got a microphone it’s a fun little purchase (it’s a voice-controlled RTS). Of course I spent 75% of my playing time cussing out those damn near-impossible wall-run jumps and the fact I could win 4 matches in a row on EndWar and still only be controlling the same amount of territory. Yet, when each game was over, I took out the disk and a little part of me died inside as I put it back on the shelf knowing I would probably never take it out of its box again because I’d seen all there was to see. Fortunately I have a lot of parts so I probably won’t run out until next year at least. I’m keeping my boobs til last, they’re too much fun.

So, will I trade them in? Hell no, don’t be ridiculous. That would be blasphemy. A true gamer never trades in her games no matter how broke she is. It’s a status symbol thing. I even still have all my Wii games and that went obsolete 20 years ago – just on the off chance I ever want to play them. Which I won’t, obviously.

Finishing off all your old games also raises new dilemmas. Now you have to start a new one from scratch. But when you have every major Bluray and PSN release between the release dates of Dead Space and God of War 3 to mull over, that’s an agonizing decision. Do I slap in Oblivion for a quick fix, to look cool on my friends list with the latest games and know that it’ll be over in half an hour or so? Or do I try to catch up by finishing my oldest games first that I paid £50 for and are now worth £5 so I feel like I got value for money? Or do I get my teeth stuck into something really long and involved like God of War 3, knowing it has at least 100 hours of gameplay and this will delay my ability to finish some other games? Or, do I just give up and play Uno?

So I did what all the most intelligent people do: nothing. I procrastinated, didn’t select a game then realised it was after midnight and I couldn’t play my drums either.

Some days later: In the end the choice was made for me, much like in the case of Goza The Destructor. The merciless slave-drivers at TSA Towers ordered me to review Resonance of Fate; hopefully it will taste as good as a marsh-mellow man. I can’t refuse free games of course – when a TSA editor asks if you’re a God, you say YES!

Categories: Satire (Mature Content) Tags:

Top Ten: April Fools Jokes (Previously Unpublished)

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a previous unpublished article originally written for another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

IMPORTANT: Do not attempt the technical tricks described in this article unless you are sure you know what you are doing. Neither TheSixthAxis nor myself accepts any responsibility for hardware or software you break or brick, whether you followed the instructions properly or not. Some of the items below are quite irresponsible and should be handled with extreme caution.

As we all know, there’s nothing funnier than annoying another person and wasting their time, so here are some quick April Fool’s Day tips for you:

System Failure: The PG Version

Make a file called index.html and upload it to a web server with the following content:

<html><head><title>PlayStation 3 System Failure</title></head><body style=”background-color: red”><div style=”font-size: 72pt; font-weight: bold; color: black”>WARNING: A fatal system error has occurred. Please contact your nearest Sony representative for assistance. Error code 4PR17-F001.</div></body></html>

Open your friend’s PS3 web browser to the site you’ve uploaded to then turn the TV off. Enjoy the look on their face as they come home for some nice gaming and switch on to see the failure message.

System Failure: The Hardcore Unrated Version

Install Linux on your friend’s PS3. Set Firefox or Opera to start by default and set the homepage to the same page as above. Set the OS to auto-login. Remove your friend’s keyboard.

Result: every time he turns on his PS3 he’ll be greeted with the failure message with no way to start any games or other applications. To put the machine back to normal, type “boot-game-os” at the prompt when it is turned on.

Screw up PSN connectivity

Add a entry in your friend’s router or firewall to block “*.playstation.net”. Or you can just go into your friend’s PS3’s network settings and change the static IP to something random. However the first method works best as he will check all his PS3 network settings and be unable to find the problem.

Result: all the other machines on your friend’s LAN will work but his PS3 won’t be able to log in.

The Modern Warfare 2 variant

This is a classic if your friend is a Call of Duty whore. Simply block port 3074 on his router. His PS3 will go online and all the games will work but he won’t be able to find any matches in Modern Warfare 2.

Force firmware update on every boot

Make a series of directories in the root of your web site (usually httpdocs) as follows: /update/ps3/list/eu. Replace ‘eu’ with ‘us’ if you’re in the US. In this folder, make a file called ps3-updatelist.txt (case-sensitive) with the following text:

# EU

Dest=85;CompatibleSystemSoftwareVersion=3.1500-;

Dest=85;ImageVersion=0000948f;SystemSoftwareVersion=13.3370;CDN=http://deu01.ps3.update.playstation.net/update/ps3/image/eu/2009_1210_54ee80e14e479f8351a988eb9a472072/PS3UPDAT.PUP;CDN_Timeout=30;

Replace the number 13.3370 with any number that amuses you.

This file tells the PS3 what the latest firmware version is and where to download it from. Now you need to trick the PS3 into checking this file instead of the official one. For that, install ettercap on a Linux box or use a program like PS3.Proxy.GUI for Windows.

Spoof fus01.ps3.update.playstation.net to point to the IP address of your web site. Tutorial here (just replace ps3news.com’s IP with your own, the rest of the instructions are the same):

http://www.ps3news.com/forums/ps3-guides-tutorials/ps3-firmware-version-check-bypassed-thread-55789.html

Result: every single time your friend turns on his PS3 he’ll be made to download a firmware update (the file above will just cause firmware 3.15 to be re-downloaded) – which will no doubt drive him crazy.

The AV Scrambler

Does your friend have a TV with multiple inputs, or an amp? Re-arrange every video and audio cable arbitrarily. I have 8 inputs on my TV and 11 on my amp, and they’re all used. That would drive me absolutely crazy. For added effect, make sure to mismatch the audio and video cables for different devices so that when he changes input he gets the video for one device and the sound for another. When he detects the ruse, tell him his girlfriend was trying to get the Wiimote to connect.

Parental lock

Set the parental lock to its highest restriction level with a random PIN code. A quick solution to preventing many of his games from working.

Change background

Another easy classic, change your friend’s XMB background to porn or something equally offensive for when he switches it on in front of someone else.

Set system language to Japanese

Speaks for itself.

The Disk Scrambler

My personal favourite. My initial thoughts here were to use the grouping options to completely mess up the location of your friend’s PSN games. But then I had a better idea. It only works if your friend has a lot of Bluray games, say more than 40.

Assuming they are arranged horizontally on the shelf, take each disk out of the Bluray case and place it in the Bluray case 4 items to the left. Put the left-most 4 in the right-most 4 cases. In other words, all of the game boxes should remain in the same place, but all of the disks inside should be rotated left by 4 places.

See how long it takes your friend to figure out the “code”. The best part about this is, if he has as many games as me, it may be months of amusement for you before he bothers to put them all back in order again. Enjoy as he decides to play a game, goes to his shelf and you see his finger count 4 places to the left to find the actual game he wants to play.

Delete the Game Data

Ok first a word of warning. Do not delete the game data for LittleBigPlanet or any music game as it contains user-created level data and downloaded songs. Do not delete the game data for other such games, and definitely do not delete the save data as that is really cruel and not recoverable.

Result: every single game he tries to play will need to re-install and re-patch.

User account chenanigans

Make a new user account with an almost identical nick to your friend’s. Set it to auto-login. When he turns on his PS3, he will think he has lost all his settings, friends list and trophies. It will take him a moment to realise it is not his account. Priceless.

Remove the hard disk

Simple enough. Get a small watch screwdriver, unclip the panel, remove the HDD, hide it somewhere and re-attach the panel. His PS3 will epic fail to start every time. Replacing the HDD will put everything back to normal with no ill consequences. Just be careful not to ruin the heads on the screws as they are very soft.

Happy April 1st!

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